life advice

Giving up good for great.

The only constant is change.

If we want better, we need to be willing to give up good, often really good, for great.

Sure. Sounds like a cliche inspirational meme, right?

But what about when we have to go there and face what it truly means? When we have to risk the cost, the sacrifice, the sheer terror involved in not only overcoming denial to face reality but then actively choosing to do something to change? 

It's why most people are terrified of change and avoid it at all costs. We worry about the lack of control. We fear The Great Unknown.

Maybe we resent the work involved. It's easier to do nothing new. 

We don't ever know the answers until we take action, the very action that terrifies us. So we cling, with a fierce mental grip, on things or people or places, sometimes dangerous or toxic, sometimes just uncomfortable. We stay and it keeps us stagnant and safe. Safe and stuck. Stuck and settling.

But we aren't meant to settle. Deep down we know that. We're meant to thrive. And eventually something might leave us or we decide to leave because we realize it was no longer meant for us. That it served its purpose and our clinging to it creates suffering. If it was really good, we can be grateful.

I think this as I sit in my new home which is back "home". As in the state of New Jersey where I was born and raised, but now living on the Jersey Shore for the first time. I landed here after a challenging, life-changing summer spent wandering and wondering. It was the next phase of my personal growth, of my evolution, that I live out loud as an example of the professional work I do in the world as a coach.

Walking my talk, day after day.

I sit and breathe in the salty sea air and feel the mist on my face as I jog along the boardwalk each morning, fighting with fierce compassion to bring my body back into shape after a year spent first in unintentional retreat and then intentionally adrift. 

I come home and take off my shoes. I breathe in gratitude and exhale the familiar twinge of grief. I pause and close my eyes. It was this day a year ago that I drove a moving truck through the congested highways of Boston and up the winding dirt roads of Vermont. I unpacked all my worldly belongings, significantly reduced from many moves over the last five years, into a renovated barn where I settled for the next 8 months.

I miss that barn almost every day since I left it. It was the perfect home I'd wanted and needed and every day felt like a precious gift. Every morning, I'd rise early and meditate and then trot downstairs from the loft to make a fire in my small wood stove. Then coffee. Breakfast. Music of my own choosing. Days spent doing only the work I wanted. I rose with a smile and fell asleep with a smile every single day for eight glorious months.

It was the wood stove was what called me there. From a deep knowing that refused to be ignored. With ten days left on my lease in Boston, right down to the wire, I found my perfect next place. When people asked me why I moved there of all places I replied, without skipping a beat, "my wood stove."

And then in April. a new landlord removed the stove. The insurance was too costly, he said. And when I saw the extensive renovations he immediately began on his own small house thirty feet from the barn, I understood why. I tried to reason and it fell on deaf ears. 

It was time to go. I heard the voice actually say it. "Your time here is done. You've gotten what you needed. It was good. It was wonderful. It was the long retreat you needed to heal. And now it's time to get back out into the world." Who's voice it was, I'm not sure. My intuition perhaps? Or maybe that of my friend William, who died within days of me moving in there, urging me to move up and out to shine my light in the world again.

I didn't want to go. I didn't want to leave something that had been so, so very good. But I knew in my deepest knowing that it was time. I was time to seek and find something just as good, or great.

And so I packed and grieved as I moved among the boxes, cherishing each moment I spent in solitude staring out the massive picture window. The way I'd painted the entire place with the property owner before I moved in, using colors I chose to make it feel more like mine. Decorating it to match my very heart's desire. Cooking robust meals to feed my body. Making new friends. Walks I took in the dark. Hooting owls waking me at midnight. The babbling brook that thawed in spring, and woke me in the morning through my cracked window.

The way I cried when the anger came up and out in March. Anger that had been shoved deep down for three years. Anger that finally had room to breathe and be freed into the crisp mountain air. Anger that dissolved as soon as it felt seen.

It was time to go.

It was time to give up good for great. I didn't know what would happen but I knew it was time to find out.

When something feels good and right, it is so hard to know when or how or if we should give it up. It's so hard to trust that something better is meant for us and waiting. Do we just need more tenacity? Are we being selfish? Too impulsive or non-committal?

What's wonderful is our freedom to explore these questions and find answers that feel right and true for us. We're blessed with this thing called life that's the ultimate adventure game if we'd only learn to live it that way. If we gradually released our expectations and attachments gently so we could drift more easily from thing to thing as the wisest sages suggest.

How can we embrace this?

What can we practice each day to do it better?

When can we tune into our intuition and trust, as we have so many times before in our lives, that the message is the right one?

We must practice giving up good for great, even when we have no idea what great might be.

Why Everyone Needs to See 12 Years a Slave

I'm a health and transformation coach. So why am I writing a movie review? Well, it's not a movie review. It's life advice.

I highly, highly recommend you make time to bring a friend, partner or family member to see Steve McQueen's latest film, 12 Years a Slave. I'll tell you why.

I was raised to know very little about slavery as it actually happened. I only knew the little I learned in school, which was hardly anything at all. When I began reading more books to prepare lessons as an 8th grade school teacher, my eyes were really opened. Now that I knew more, I considered it my duty to talk about it.

I often read the novel Roots, by Alex Haley, aloud to my students. They sat on the edge of their seats, "this is so real. It's so sad," they said. When they connected to the suffering of the characters, they were learning, really learning, in ways their carefully edited textbooks could never teach.

 

I've seen many movies and read many books about slavery. None of them compare to 12 Years a Slave, based on the true life story of a free New York citizen named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years. While this was the fate of so many people, he is only one of a few people to be returned to freedom.

 

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This film was excellent. I could expound about the cinematography or the actor's performances, the set design, the costumes or the brilliant screenplay. But I won't, because that intellectualizes the experience. It was excellent because it told the truth in ways Americans, including me, need to see with their own eyes if we are ever to heal as a nation.

 

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From the opening scenes, I knew I was in for a spiritual journey. I was going to put my life worries and concerns to the side and be present to the stories of human beings who suffered tremendous terrors and injustices. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, I was bearing witness to my country's history and honoring the truths, however ugly, of the past. I was going to sit with my discomfort, grief and all the other feelings that come up when faced with the truth.

This, I believe, is the path to transformation. When we repress pain and avoid grief, true healing never happens. We are inauthentically 'dealing' with life. When we confront and accept what is with humility, compassion and forgiveness, we heal and evolve.

The more we do this as individuals, the more we can do it collectively as human beings.

I felt such awesome respect for the actors who portrayed the devastating lives of their characters with brutal honesty, profound skill and unrelenting passion. I felt grateful for the director who has provided us with a true masterpiece of cinema and art to capture and create what books could never evoke. It felt like a prayer--a prayer to the many who perished during this period of history. This prayer said, "we see you, we honor you, we remember."

While most movies are full of fantasy and sensationalized depictions of reality and suspended belief, this film was not. It was frame after frame of reality as it was lived.

During the most graphic and painful scenes, I kept my eyes glued to the screen. I wanted to honor the actors for their hard work, their own suffering and the suffering of those they represented. I sat in my seat, counting my blessings and privileges, and wondering how, in 2013, many Americans continue to live as though this history didn't happen and endure into our present.

In our lives, there are many things that we don't know that we don't even know, about our own selves and the lives of others. As painful as the awareness may be, ignorance is no escape. Awareness can bring reverence, respect and a shared sense of humanity. When I began to know more, only then I could initiate the process of forgiveness from a place of real understanding.

Everyone should see this film to dig deep into your own suffering and share in the suffering of others.

Find the connections. Experience authenticity and healing.

That is where you will find true love.

 

Have you seen this film? What was your response? What did you learn about yourself or this piece of our nation's history that you didn't know before and what will you do with that new knowledge?