Walk Away From The Spectacle

blog pic1-1The Tao Te Ching is rich with wisdom on many topics, including peace. For instance, there is a verse in the ancient Chinese classic that offers advice for peace seekers. Loosely translated it goes something like this: Walk away from the spectacle.

This can be interpreted to mean walk away from the drama—choose peace.

It’s profound advice and one of the many reasons I love the jewels of wisdom buried within the Tao’s pages. But finding pearls is very different from actually wearing them,  or so it is in my experience.

In other words, it’s not always so easy to walk the talk.

Relationships at work, at home, with family, friends, are fertile soil for conflict. How often do we get sucked into a vortex of drama in our daily lives?  How often do we choose to “say our piece,” how often do we righteously cling to our version of truth, be it political or faith-based–no matter what the cost?

It takes great discipline to disengage or walk away from spectacles. Sometimes spectacles come up unexpectedly, like a summer storm they rain down particles of anger and other emotional debris. It can happen in conversations without warning and in every day human interactions because, well, we’re human.

But, we can chose peace. We can choose to set grace in motion and walk away from spectacles.

It’s not always easy. I work hard not to be baited into political discussions that I know will end up south of nowhere. So I typically walk away from the spectacle to guard my peacefulness.

In personal relationships, it is even harder. The truth is, sometimes our wounds get triggered. But sometimes, the spectacle or drama that is inches away from vaporizing a relationship can be avoided, if we consciously choose peace.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

I recently walked away from a spectacle. And I mean this figuratively and literally. It had all of the makings of a Class A Spectacle triggering issues of family wounding, pride and pain. The brittle branches of a painful part of my family history were being rubbed together and sparks of anger and disappointment were creating a combustible mix.

Without sharing the particulars, at a recent gathering I heard people I care about discussing a situation that had caused them hurt. They felt wronged by a careless and seemingly cruel comment that had been made by another person not present at the gathering. Someone in the group told me I should also be angry at the person, baiting me into the circle of hurt.

And as they continued to share their anger, I took a step back. Literally.  I acknowledged the group pain (including my own because I certainly felt it)  and then said, “I’m going to choose peace.”

In that moment when old wounds momentarily came unstitched, I chose grace as an ointment.

I didn’t pull out a match or add gasoline to a fire, I chose peace. I didn’t fan the flames, I didn’t heighten the drama, I stepped away from the spectacle.

And on this day, feeling equal part hurt and proud, I was in sync with myself. On this day, at least, I was congruent with my values. And if felt really good.

These moments, these tests of grace, await us on a daily basis. And we always, always get to choose: peace or spectacle.

Peace or spectacle? This is my latest mantra for dealing with difficult situations or frustrations. Just asking the question slows me down long enough to consider the choice.

Affirmation: In times of frustration, I choose peacefulness over righteousness. I choose to walk away from the spectacle.

 If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

Sharing My Writing Process

Here I am in my home office. But truth is, much of my work is written on a laptop in my bedroom.

Here I am in my home office. But truth is, much of my work is written on a laptop in my bedroom.

I was invited to a party I couldn’t resist: a blog roll entitled, “My Writing Process.”

A new online friend Walker Thornton, extended the invite. My first instinct was to say no because I made the mistake of reading the bios of other writers who had participated in the blog roll. But then I said, “Shoot,” because that’s what we Southerners say. “Shoot, why not?” Because if there is one thing that’s supposed to be good about midlife, it is the ability to care a little less what people think about you.

But, I do care sometimes. Just not as much as I used to. But I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this blog roll, and the chance to reflect on why I write what I write. If you’re curious, read on. Thanks, Walker.

 1. Why do I write what I do?

From the time I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I grew up with cane fields in my backyard and I would hide there sometimes with a book or a diary to escape a noisy household. Later, I wrote poetry and read lots of Nancy Drew books and eventually buried my diary to keep it safe from prying eyes because my musings were sacred to me. (I never found that diary again, by the way.) I have always loved the written word.

I won’t take you through my entire creative history. Or tell you about the poems I submitted to Scholastic magazine that got rejected (it’s tough getting rejection letters when you’re 10). But I will tell you that one day I gained clarity about my writing interest and it helped to direct my future endeavors. I was in the seventh grade watching the television show Bewitched, when I became intrigued by what Samantha’s husband, Darryl, did for a living. If you were a fan, you’d remember he worked for an advertising agency. So I majored in Journalism and Advertising in college and over the years worked myself into jobs where I could use the written word to: Inform. Educate. Create. Motivate. Sell.

I currently work in a Corporate Communications department where I sometimes lend my words to our CEO and to our brand.

But now, at midlife, my real passion is writing to inspire women to feel good, peaceful, happy, loved, encouraged, supported. After a midlife transition, or unearthing, as I like to call it, I wrote a book,Tao Flashes, to share with other women some of what I had learned. I took the wisdom of the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching, and interpreted it through the lens of a midlife woman to offer inspiration on navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace.

I started my blog of the same name, Tao Flashes, to write regularly about themes related to peacefulness, integrity, harmony and grace.

I have finally come to the realization that a big part of my purpose/passion now at midlife is to hold up the mirror to what is good and true. I want people to see beauty around them, in the everyday, in the small things, in the ordinary. I want people to see the beauty of who they are in their authentic skin.

So I write for the one or two or ten people who are familiar with my work and trust that those are the people who appreciate encouragement or need to hear some words of inspiration.

I write what I do for them…those handful of people, and for myself. I write what I do because sometimes, frankly, I need encouragement. And when I take the time to write about someone who is exhibiting grace, I am reminded of the importance of grace. When I write about doing our inner work, cleaning out the past, that’s a message to myself as much as it is to anyone who it resonates with. When I write about the importance of prayer or mediation, I am reminding myself of their value.

I write because I want to inspire and be inspired. I write because that’s the way I figure out how I really feel. Or as the writer Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.”

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I read a lot of inspirational or motivational work; it’s become so much more mainstream. I don’t necessarily think my work is different; the originality comes from my own experiences or how I string together a thought or a sentence. But, I‘d like to think my work is heart-centered, passionate and infused with my own brand of love.

 3.How does your writing process work?

Have you seen the TED Talk Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray and Love, gave years ago? In it, she talked about her muse being a mix of inspiration and mulishness. I’d have to go with that, too.

When I wrote Tao Flashes, A Woman’s Way to Navigating the Midlife Journey with Integrity, Harmony and Grace, I did a lot of meditation. I would read chapters of the Tao Te Ching, close my eyes and feel into the message. The text in the Tao is complex and paradoxical; it’s like a mind f_ck, and I loved it. So after meditating and trying to feel into the chapters, I’d take a message from it and then write about a line or theme from the perspective of a midlife woman.

When I work on my blog (or work in the corporate environment), I sometimes get a little nudge, a whisper of inspiration from my muse. A poet at heart, I see symbols and metaphors in everything, so there’s usually a little grist for my muse to muck about in–if he shows up at all.

But most of the time, I sit on my bed with my laptop, sans muse, and my mule and I trudge along until the fields are plowed.

4. What am I working on now?

I continue to work on my blog and random requests for other work. Working full-time in the corporate world is a priority, so I don’t always have time to devote to my more heart-centered writing. I do feel there’s something germinating, trying to make its way to the surface, but right now, it’s still a seed. I’m not sure what it will grow into yet. I’m hoping, when the time is right, my muse will help me nourish it. If not, I predict my mule and I will be getting down and dirty, like two field hands ready for harvest, before too much longer.

I’ve tagged a writer friend, Connie McLeod, who lives in my city and whose life has run parallel to mine until finally intersecting last year through the blogging groups Gen Fab and  Midlife Boulevard. She’ll continue this conversation next week and share her writing and creative processes. In the meantime, here’s her background:

Connie McLeod is an art director, writer, creativity coach, world traveler, and a food and wine lover. During her professional career she has worked for advertising agencies, non-profits and healthcare companies, to name a few. She is currently creating marketing videos at Greenview Designs, leading workshops, facilitating small groups and giving speaking engagements on creativity and innovation, and branding. Her writing has been published in Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, and Better After 50. You can follow her blog at My Creative Journey.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Earth Day Affirmation

blog pic1-1More than 2,500 years ago, Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, recognized the concept of green. He knew the temptations of this world and how easy it is to use it to nourish our needs without being mindful or respectful of Mother Earth.

We are the world, we are the sound of the wind, and we are the broken, tattered leaves paving the walkways. We are the acorns that fall from the trees, and in a way that is fated, we reap what we sow. If we pollute our air, spread toxins in our waters and pesticides in our soil, we are destroying ourselves.

It is easy in our day-to-day lives to lose focus on what’s out there. But ironically, what is out there is also what is within each of us. When we treat the earth with integrity, we treat ourselves with integrity.

Today, on Earth Day, lets actively look for ways to share the bounty, be mindful of resources and show gratitude for the abundance we all share on this earth.

Affirmation: I use Mother Earth’s resources wisely and respectfully. I show gratitude for her blessings.

(Excerpt from Tao Flashes, A Woman’s Way to Navigating The Midlife Journey with Integrity, Harmony and Grace.)

Dying To Be Born

front coverIt’s cold and wet here in Louisiana. I guess it’s not surprising…after all, it is winter.

The weather is forcing me inside…to a place where it’s warm, and inward, to a place where I go for illumination.

Sometimes, I hibernate in this place, my inner sanctuary, for a long time. Other times, I move in and out like a gypsy….pitching tent, picking up, pitching tent and picking up again. And other times, I’m like a tourist, an outsider visiting parts unknown. But I always find something of value, no matter how I journey.

Sometimes, when I journey inward, I don’t even know what I’m looking for in that moment. Maybe respite from a stressful day.  Maybe treasure, ancient wisdom buried deep within my soul.

Sometimes, I travel for miles, dazed, confused, directionless and purposeless, in search of a roadmap. In these times, I have no idea where I am headed….but I know I am hearing whispers from my soul, like a sweet lullaby, guiding me home.

Sometimes I wish I could hear better.

It takes great discipline to slow down so I can hear what is percolating on the inside, what is trying to be born into this outer world, or set free to roam.

I am learning (though begrudgingly at times) the soul’s schedule is not my own. I am learning there are times when I need the strength to be still and do nothing.

One of my favorite lines in the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching, asks, “Do you have the strength to do nothing until the mud settles?”

In the Western world, we value action, movement, pace, getting the words on the page before the thoughts are even crystallized in some cases, hurry, hurry, blur, white noise….output…over stillness.

Don’t get me wrong, action is always necessary at some point. In the end, it is the only way things come to life. But sometimes, the mud has to settle first so you know the right answer, or what is being called forth from the recesses of the soul, to know what is dying to be born.

If you’re in this place, in the mud, have the strength to stay there a little longer if you need to. Pitch a tent and stay. When the mud clears, you just might be surprised by what you find.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

It Was Never About Money

taoflashessoftcoverNovember is an important month to me. It’s filled with birthdays and milestones and anniversaries of deaths, (my beloved grandparents), plus a Thanksgiving holiday. Birth and death and celebration wrapped up with one big cosmic bow.

Maybe it’s fitting because most of the month falls under the astrological sign of Scorpio, the sign of death and transformation and rebirth. It’s a deeper, more reflective energy…no tap dancing around it here…it can be intense.

The people born under this sign can be intense, too. Mysterious. Yet, these are the people who have marked my life. My son is a Scorpio, my ex-husband is a Scorpio, my sweetheart is a Scorpio. My “work-husband” is a Scorpio. (Even the CEO of the company I work for, is a Scorpio.)

It’s an interesting pattern for me. A mystery in itself. But it goes deeper. Last year, on Nov. 5,  I gave birth to another Scorpio, my book,  Tao Flashes. I say birthed instead of published because it was like giving birth in all of its glory and messiness, vulnerability and joy.

When I think about it, it is only fitting. The book was inspired by the mysterious teachings of the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching. But it was born from the rebirth I experienced after a midlife ass-whooping and a “failed” marriage of 20 years. (I put “failed” in quotation marks here because I am of the belief that the ending of a marriage is not really a failure. It’s a decision to act on an invitation or opportunity to grow, transform and evolve into a different person with an awakened sense of value, purpose and self.)

Much like the death and rebirth and transformation themes of Scorpio, I had to experience a death of my old self, my old life, my old patterns, to transform into a more centered, compassionate, spiritual being.

As I say in my book, I was kind before my midlife unearthing, compassionate, too. But my understanding of other’s frailties, including my own, is now magnified.

My focus now is on holding up the mirror to show women the truth of how beautiful they are, in their own imperfect, authentic skin. In Tao Flashes, I offer reflections, affirmations and my own intuitive guidance loosely based on the ancient wisdom of the Tao, on how to navigate the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace.

After I gave birth to Tao Flashes, I thought I was finished with some of my work. I thought my book was proof of my evolution. But I learned quickly that I had more lessons  in humility and grace to learn.

Some of those lessons came in the form of family members who didn’t support my work by reading it.  Imagine giving birth and presenting your newborn to the world, only to watch as people you love averted their eyes. I didn’t understand. I was hurt.

And then there were the times I didn’t support my work, my own baby, by not aggressively promoting her to the world. I birthed her and didn’t feed her enough. I ignored opportunities to publicize or share her. Not because I didn’t love her, but because I was too vulnerable, too uncertain of myself, to hold her up to the light.

Ugh. More work for me. More transformation. And now it’s November and my baby is turning a year old. For the record, I haven’t completely starved her. I started this blog to support her message. I learned twitter and facebook and joined wonderful blogging groups that support midlife women to introduce her work and philosophy to larger audiences.

And in the process, I began to gain clarity on what was important to me. It took a while for me to work through my insecurities and ego issues and expectations of how people should show up for me. But I’m there.

I am learning to take a page from my own book. To know that I am powerful and purposeful and authentic, and let that be enough.

My book, while not considered a bestseller by any person’s standards, has gotten wonderful reviews. But the real currency, the real gift, has been in knowing this: I honored the muse that came a’ knockin. I invested time, money and talent in myself even when it was not convenient or practical. And I created something I value more than numbers and money: a legacy of truth.

I wouldn’t trade money for the kind email I got from a stranger who said she and her friend read my book on the way to chemo treatments…and it made it better. I wouldn’t trade money for the comments I received about supporting women through difficult transitions.

These are the transformative messages that pay my tab. That keep me feeding my baby. And myself.

It was never about the money. It was never about the accolades. It was about a higher creative calling. It was about actualization. Mine and others. I temporarily forgot this, but I won’t again.

Happy Birthday my Scorpio baby. Born and re-born again…in the month of November. Why am I not surprised?

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

What Winnie the Pooh Can Teach Us

DCF 1.0When I was a child, I loved Winnie the Pooh. He was a sweet, chubby, simple-minded bear that seemd to spend his days in the pursuit of two things: fun and honey. Pooh didn’t seem to be too stressed about where his next meal was coming from, or the fact that his friends considered him to be a bit of a simpleton. He just lived his life joyfully, staying in the present, and always, always trusting that somehow things would turn out right.

Pooh, unbeknown to me at the time, was living some of the basic tenets of Taoism. Simplicity. Humility. Peacefulness.

Just recently I re-discovered Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh, and have delighted in reading it with a new understanding. Now, with many more years (and yes, sigh, maybe a few extra pounds) tucked under my belt, I understand Pooh was not so simple…he was actually wise, and what the Taoists would call an Uncarved Block.  He was living a life free of worry, free of arrogance, free of complexitiy…in other words, Pooh had discovered the path to a joyful, simple life.

This made me think about how we women spend so much of our lives in fast-motion, running, doing, tending to other people’s needs. Many of us lead lives that are far south of simple. And sometimes in the process of daily living, we lose track, we lose ourselves, we lose our way… and we trade our authentic needs to keep pace.

Other times we get caught in the trap of more, letting “stuff” substitute for spiritual or emotional substanence. In the process we exhaust our spirits and we become disconnected emotionally, physically, to the little joys that surround us. Life then becomes about the next task, the next project, the next errand, the next demand.

I believe by midlife, we deserve more. As females, we tend to be the caretakers, the wish-granters for everyone else’s joy, often prioritizing the happiness of other people before our own.

It’s time to re-calibrate. Pull the plug on your perfectionism, tear up the to-do-list, and head out in search of your joy. Your bliss. Your honey.

How do you do this? You start by saying Noooooooooooooo. As much as you want. As much as you need. And then you start investigating what makes you happy, even joyful. Maybe it’s curling up with a good book (or a naughty one like 50 Shades of Grey). Maybe it’s playing King of the Hill in your backyard with your children (or  grandkids) while dinner waits. Or maybe it’s just enjoying the simple joy of silence, the chaotic-free sound of quiet time. All to yourself. 

Trust me, the world won’t fall apart when you step forward and demand your right to bliss. (Though you might upset someone else’s applecart when you say NO, remember, it’s okay to prioritize your happiness.) The laundry can wait, but your authentic happiness can’t. For if not now, when?

In the Tao Te Ching, a basic guideline on the principles of Taoism, its author Lao Tzu talks about tempering a busy life. In his profoundly simple and yet complex verse he says, “By not doing, everything is done.”

Pooh seemed to understand this basic philosophy.

How do you do it, Pooh?”

“Do What?” asked Pooh.

“Become so effortless.”

“I don’t do much of anything,” he said.

“But all those things of yours get done.”

“They just sort of happen,” he said. –The Tao of Pooh

Looks like that silly bear wasn’t so silly, after all.

If you’d like a different view of the Tao Te Ching, from the point of view of a midlife woman, check out my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes.

Best of Boomer Blog #301

The boomer retirement crisis, the worst four letter-word in the English language (not what you think), midlife as a catalyst for positive change, fraudulent tax preparation schemes and a brief lesson on the Tao Te Ching, are just some of the varied topics for this week’s Best of Boomer Blogs.

I’m the host for this week’s Best of Boomer Blogs–a collection of blogs on Boomer-related subjects.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about fraudulent tax preparation schemes. Each year, consumers file thousands of complaints about tax preparers, so consumers should ask about the preparers qualifications, check their history through the Better Business Bureau, and never sign a blank tax return.

Laura Lee Carter asks the question, “What do you know now, that you wish you’d known ten years ago?” Time for some midlife time travel?

John G. Agno brings our attention to some sobering news on the retirement front. Boomer Retirement Crisis: 57% of U.S. workers reported less than $25K in total household savings/investments excluding their homes.

Tom Sightings was reading an article recently that discussed how we are all social beings, pointing out that as soon as we are free to do what we want, we end up imitating one another. It got him thinking, and led to a Sightings Over Sixty blog post revealing The Worst Four Letter Word in the English language … and no, it’s not the one you think.

As for my Tao Flashes blog…this week I’ll share a little about one of my favorite books, the Tao Te Ching. This ancient Chinese classic was the inspiration for my book, Tao Flashes.

The Tao Te Ching was written by Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu nearly 2,500 years ago (somewhere in the time period  604-531 B.C.) .

Translated thousands of times, second only to the Bible, the Tao Te Ching outlines a simple but paradoxal philosophy to life. Tao means “the way,” and the basic tenets for finding the way to living in unity with the universe is this: live with a spirit of compassion, humility, harmony and moderation. I find these qualities are particularly needed at midlife.

Tzu offers guidance through 81 verses, or chapters, on the art of living with integrity and encourages us to transform our consciousness and evolve with intention.

It is a beautiful book full of paradox, like yin and yang, night and day, good and evil. Much like our human existence, it points to the duality of life. Yet it continues to offer hope, inspiration and guidance for creating a more peaceful, meaningful life –especially at midlife!

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao TzuTao Te Ching

 

ONE Love

hands-holding-heart-shaped-earthWe can’t all be rock stars. But we can be activists like U2 lead singer and musician Bono.

If you don’t know Bono’s music or his activism work, let me give you the highlights of his biography. This middle aged Irish musician fronts one of the most popular and respected bands in the world.  And when he’s not making music he devotes himself to saving the disempowered of the world from hunger, poverty and disease. By his own definition he’s a “Jumped-up Jesus,” a man with a Messiah complex bent on social justice.

To give you an idea, read how Bono describes the purpose of ONE, the non-profit group he founded. It goes like this — “ONE is a hard-headed movement of people around the world fighting the absurdity of extreme poverty.”  Gotta love this Irishman’s gift with words.

But it’s more than words, it’s deeds. With the help of ONE’s more than three million members, Bono is fronting a movement to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime.

On Feb. 26 of this year, Bono spoke about the progress his organization and others have made in the fight  to end global poverty.  And the news was surprisingly uplifting. Since 2000, eight million AIDS patients have received retroviral drugs. Malaria deaths have been cut in some countries by 75%; child mortality rate of kids under five are down by 2.65 million deaths per year. And here is the kicker: extreme poverty has declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000 to 21% by 2010.

Bono thinks it is possible to end extreme global poverty in our lifetime. How’s that for a mission?

I was encouraged and inspired reading this. And I began to think…if ONE person could be the fuel that could light the fire in so many hearts, if ONE person could be the voice that sang out against hopelessness, hunger, disease and despair, what would a chorus of voices sound like reveberating in harmony throughout the globe?

It’s almost too big to imagine. And while activists like Bono bring out the best in us, I think they can also intimidate us. After all, saving the world can be a daunting mission.

But to this, I say, start small. You don’t have to be a “Jumped-up Jesus” to jump in.  You don’t have to change the world, but you can work to change your part of it. Maybe it is as simple as volunteering at the local animal shelter. Or visiting a loved one in a nursing home. Maybe it’s offering a kind word to a stranger in need of a kind word or deed.

In my humble belief system, I think we can actually change the world, save it even, by saving ourselves. It begins with changing the way we look and talk to ourselves. Are we often harsh and critical and unloving to ourselves? And through these critical eyes, how do we see the world? How do we measure ourselves; is it by our sameness or is it by our differences?

Let’s start with how we divide people into us and them, politically, religiously, socially.  That’s separatism, not oneism. In the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching teaches that we are all connected and what is done to ONE, is done to all.

Maybe now at midlife, as we shed parts of a life that no longer belong to us, we consider the value of expanding our definitions of love. Of charity. For both ourselves and others.

As I talk about in my book, Tao Flashes, love creates more space; it is as limitless as the distance between heaven and earth. Love unravels the knots in our existence and it creates the pathway to a meaningful life. At midlife, when we question our purpose the most, know that our calling is love, it is service.

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to be of service. You just need to serve.

 

Out of The Mouth of Babes

Humility is something we become well-acquainted with at midlife. Maybe it’s the first sign of wrinkling around our eyes, or the realization that we don’t move as fast on the tennis courts anymore. Or maybe the humbling happens the day we get our first AARP invitation in the mail.
 

The triggers are different for each of us, but there comes a time when we realize we are aging. Time is shrinking and we notice.

 
This can be a humbling time for many of us. But as the Tao Te Ching teaches, humility is a grace. When we see ourselves through new eyes and release old stories, even old ideas of who we once were, we paradoxically become wiser. That’s because we become teachable.
 
 

And at midlife, being teachable is an elixir. It’s the fountain of youth, the green juice that will keep you forever young and healthy.

 
So what do I mean by teachable?  I mean stretching your mind,  shuttering your ego and allowing people–particularly young people–to teach you new things.
 
 

For instance, I am fortunate to work around several spirited twenty-something year-olds who grew up in the can-do millenium, who speak technology like it’s their native tongue. Not so much for me.  I admit I’m a dinosaur when it comes to anything more than the basics of technology. And yet here I am, at midlife, setting up a wordpress website and teaching myself some of the basics of this technology so I can communicate my thoughts and share my work with the world.  My young friends have served as my guides and teachers here.

 

And twitter? Thanks to my young friend Natalie, I now know the value of a hashtag, and I understand the basics of this medium. I’m also able to recognize its beauty and potential to serve as a gateway to new information–each thread of discovery unravels another thread and another in an endless stream of knowledge. It’s exciting and humbling for me to think about how connected we all are, and what I might uncover.

 
And if I wasn’t willing to humble myself and ask someone nearly half my age to sit and be patient with me, my eyes wouldn’t have been opened to new teachers, new information, new technology.
 

So I say, become a student at midlife. Be humble and be willing to learn new things. Are there areas in your life where you can step out of your comfort zone, stretch a little, discover something new? Are you willing to become a student of life, to admit you don’t know? Are you willing to raise your hand and say to someone, or to the universe, Teach Me?

 
Be teachable and weave threads of new knowledge into your life. See what humility can create in your life.
 

The Beauty of Imperfection

One of my loose, freestyle paintings.

One of my loose, freestyle paintings.

There is great harmony in surrendering to imperfection.

In my book, Tao Flashes, I talk about the beauty of imperfection. And I readily, if not gleefully confess, that I am and will always be “perfectly imperfect.”

Because the truth is, there is no such thing as perfection…it is all perception anyway. We women put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect: the perfect size 2, the perfect mother, the perfect hostess, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter. It’s as though we are auditioning for the role of a lifetime, learning our lines, living on cue, in perfect harmony with someone else’s reality. And the irony is, that while we are working hard to live up to everyone’s perception of perfect, we are actually failing ourselves.

This is to our detriment. When we silence our inner spirit, when we say no, not yes, to living our authentic–and far from perfect–lives, we risk depression, illness, anger, even.

I believe at midlife we women have earned the right to dance to our own tune, to keep pace with our own rhythm. We’ve earned the right to be authentic, to be imperfect. And we’ve certainly earned the right to close the door on the “shoulds” and the “coulds” that only diminish our spirits.

I know surrendering to imperfection is an uncomfortable thought for many of us women. Even me. But the more I do it, the more I like and appreciate myself for who I am, for what I’ve accomplished. Loosening myself from the grip of perfection allows me to fully live my life, instead of watching it play out from the sidelines.

I know people frozen by fear. I have someone close to me who can’t finish a piece of art because it is not perfect enough. I know others who have performance anxiety when given deadlines and can’t produce the work because they fear it will not be “perfect.”

I used to be this person, but she is showing up less and less. And I have found experimenting, playing even, with my imperfect self to be rewarding. For instance, I have no formal art experience and anyone who has ever played Pictionary with me knows I am incapable of drawing anything that remotely looks like the state of Florida or a simple chair or a four-legged pet. Yet, I started painting a few years ago, letting my intuitive spirit guide me, pushing the brush around until the painting morphed into its own vision of itself. And while my paintings are far south of perfect, several hang on my wall. Some are even framed. They remind me of my bravery and my willingness to display imperfection; they remind me of what it was like to be a kid, to run, to play, to live, to laugh, to have no concept of perfection.

I share this with you so that I may challenge you to look for areas of your life where the fear of being less than perfect chokes you.  What are you missing as a result ? Can you be brave enough to surrender to imperfection, to authenticity?

The Tao Te Ching, my inspiration for Tao Flashes, speaks about living with virtue, with integrity. For me, being perfectly imperfect and finding a way to accept that truth in me–in others–is living with integrity.

For some perfectionists, all of this might be hard to hear or read. But where perfection is robbing you of peace, choking you of creativity, of joy, hear this: Don’t let perfect get in the way of good, or good enough.

Now, how perfect is that statement?