Asking the Questions

“Asking the proper question is the
central action of transformation…

Questions are the keys that cause
the secret doors of the psyche to swing open.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
Women who Run with the Wolves

New Year’s Day is fast approaching. Weather notwithstanding, it is one of my favorite times of the year. While I do not think one particular square on the calendar is more conducive to setting the intention to do better than another, I do love the way January 1st kind of stands there, hands on hips, giving a great reason to try the hard things that shove us out of our comfort zone. In fact, it almost demands that we do so.

Over time, the dance on January 1st has had the tendency of being more cliche than the Electric Slide at a wedding reception. We all know it’s coming, we all know the steps (eat better, exercise more, quit a bad habit, pick up a good one, turn, and repeat). But most of us love it (at least until mid-January), get excited at the first beat, kick our shoes off, and jump on the dance floor. There are the others that refuse to participate. Their resolution on New Year’s Day is to make no resolutions. In a move that has become almost as banal as joining the fray, we sit in our chairs and side-eye the uninspired choreography.

I have been a proud member of both those groups. I am still super supportive of both approaches. I do love a line dance (even a really old one), and am one of the easiest people on the planet to get out on the dance floor. The need to do what makes us comfortable is not lost on me. When we do the best we can with what we have, we are living our best life.

But am I doing the best I can? And there it is. That was my one question that birthed a wealth of questions that, like January 1st, demanded attention. In truth, I have been asking that question my whole life. However, I was asking it from a place of fear. That place would only allow me to ask it in a shallow way and give the “well of course I am” answer. But of course I wasn’t. Once the question became, “Am I really doing the best I can?” things changed.

Today I want to encourage you to ask questions. Are you a “get up and dance”er or a “chill out and watch”er? Does that change? Why? Maybe your questions are completely different than mine. Maybe you need to create some new ones, revisit some old ones, phone a friend. But ask the questions. There may come a time when the answer makes us question the asking. The answer is hard and the work to process it is real. And, as in most things, the rewards for that kind of effort are great. We got this.

Thanks for the coffee,
~A

Avoiding The Crack Up

[…] the test of a first-rate intelligence is
the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind
at the same time,
and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Crack-Up

This, one of my all time favorite quotes, read like the first time for me today and became new again. I love it when they do that.

When I first came across this Fitzgerald gem, it resonated quickly as I was engaging in a civil disagreement over matters of social and political opinion. I really enjoy those types of conversations with people who know how to have them; people who can hear and consider the idea of another yet still hold their own thought and give both their just due.

A few days ago I had a really rough time finding my center, my groove, my chill – whatever it is you call it when you are overall really fine, there is no major or even minor, crisis, but something about your day is just a tinky bit off kilter (I’d love to hear what you call that).

After some really involved, and frankly overly dramatic, self “what if” statements, I determined I was feeling over stimulated. And bored. And resentful. And thankful. And neglected. And cared for. And lonely. And loved. My hitch was that I had found myself unable to retain the ability to function while evaluating the truth hidden in the myriad of opposing feelings. I was unable to give myself permission to have conflicting feelings at all.

I do not believe all feelings are truth. I do believe all feelings are indicative of a truth. There’s a difference. I had gotten so caught up in defending the need to feel centered and “normal”, that I had became unable to process the alternative idea that there was a bit of internal information processing that really needed to happen. The harder I was on myself, the more I berated myself for being ridiculous or too much, the worse the situation became. The opposing idea was not just going to go away. It was there. It needed to be heard, understood, and moved through.

Today I want to encourage you appreciate your ability to consider opposing ideas – may they be yours or someone else’s. The act of doing so does not make us weak, wishy washy, soft, manipulable, too much, uncommitted, or any other manner of discreditable thing you may say to yourself. Being able to function while doing so creates space for relationship, connection, and growth – may that be yours or someone else’s.

Thinking Deeper

Dig a little deeper.
Think of something we have never thought of before.

~A. A. Milne (1882 – 1956)

It is no secret I am a huge fan of social media. I have engaged online since the very early offerings. It has been a lot of fun connecting with old friends, making new ones, learning about different places, and finding new ways to photograph food. I enjoy almost everything about it – almost.

With this ability for virtually anyone to say anything to anyone anywhere, there has also been a few setbacks in our growth as people. I blame the meme. Don’t get me wrong, I love most of them. But this trend toward the bumper sticker, shallow idea has begun to thwart our vision of our best selves and hindered real connection with others.

Those two things – vision of best self and connection to others – are, in my opinion, where nearly all the magic happens. It is where challenges are overcome, goals are realized, new adventures take shape. It is, essentially, where life happens. When we give in to less than in exchange for the easy, when we allow the fluff to take the place of substance, we zap all the amazing out of what it could have been. Kinda like window food. Sure, some of it is great, fast, and easy. But it can’t begin to compete with the smell that comes out of a kitchen when someone is wearing an apron and the anticipation of what is coming next.

Today I want to encourage you to think a little deeper. Pick any topic you want. Current events, social issues, a work project, a recipe, anything. Take a minute and consider all the things you think are a given about that idea – no white after labor day, salting the water before the potatoes, why democrats are considered liberal – you get the idea. Think about those things and consider them in a new light. What if we turned them around just a bit, maybe attempted to imagine our background was different, our worldview was altered, anything to adjust the thought and dig a little deeper. We may still think the the original thought, but the practice of thinking actual thoughts and having actual conversations will encourage our best self and greater connections. Promise.

Thanks for the coffee,

~A

I am not Defined by Lost Stuffing

Success means doing the best we can with what we have.
Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.

**************

The real test in golf and in life is not in keeping out of the rough,
but in getting out after you are in.

– Zig Ziglar

A few days ago, I found a very sad three year old at my knee. “Momma, my bear has a boo boo.” Indeed, the beloved bear had a small rip in the seam of her leg and the stuffing was ever so slightly poking out. I am not surprised. This bear, loved daily, has seen her fair share of tea parties, swing sets, rescues and other amazing adventures. The fact that this small tear was all she had to show for it was, in itself, impressive.

After I assured her the bear would be fine after a little “surgery” that I promised would not hurt, she placed the bear in my care and went back to her play happy enough. Looking at this bear, I can’t help but be encouraged.

This little bear is not perfect. It can’t be. There is room for improvement in the design, material and manufacturing. Then, even if all those improvements were made, all we would have is a bear few could afford, few would enjoy playing with and minute details would still just miss perfection.

Because it is not perfect, the discussion must be when it fails, when it breaks, when it lets down – not if. That is, if the discussion really has to be had at all. The truth is, the bear is quite capable of fulfilling her role as my daughter’s playmate without considering the “what if” of either of their short comings. My daughter my be careless or overly aggressive. The bear may be poorly designed or equipped for the task.

However, this never prevents either of them from enjoying the relationship or their roles in it. In fact, there is no focus at all on the brokenness until the brokenness effects the situation. Even then, there is no judgement in the deficiency of the bear, no statement of character made about the child. There is concern for the injury and graciousness in the attention to the need. The shortcoming is brought to the one who can fix it and the issue becomes solution based and challenges are overcome. The lost stuffing defines neither the bear nor the child.

Today I just encourage you. In a climate of perceived or actual scarcity, unknown and fearful, accurate or sensationalized, be encouraged. We are all broken people that sometimes find ourselves in broken situations. This does not make us less than or speak to a hard wired character flaw. It makes us humans interacting with other humans in a meaningful way. It makes us a community. It makes us great because these interactions create the humanity that brings about all good things. I, you, are not defined by lost stuffing.

And as always, thanks for joining me for that cup of coffee…

*Originally published as a Turn Around Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Start Reading Fairy Tales Again

Some day you will be old enough
to start reading fairy tales again.

~C. S. Lewis, 1898 – 1963

If it feels like change is occurring at a pace faster than before, you would probably have most folks agree with you. The development of technology, change in the social landscape, and general sense of “when I was growing up” is happening so quickly and often that many of us are looking around trying to maintain some concept of balance.

Of course there are a few folks that will say the idea of accelerated change isn’t a thing. If you take certain statistics from certain benchmarks, turn them a certain way, and look at them in just the right angle, there is a case to be made that things are evolving at the rate they always have. It is just you.

There has always been lots of opinions on things like change, seizing the day, living life to the fullest, bravery for the unknown, and acting your age. These discussions are all too often coated in fear and judgment. From the very earliest fairy tales we read as children, there is an adventure to be had, change to be made, naysayers and villains attempting to thwart the path. We read these as children and knew the adventure was good and worthy, the path worth walking. We knew the hero would be better for the journey.

Today I want to encourage you to recall the courage you had when you read those fanciful stories.  Maybe, if you are feeling particularly defiant, pick one up and read it. Cheer for the underdog. Embrace the silly and be uplifted by the sheer joy we often allow only in children.  Let yourself get to the place where you knew slaying the dragon was not only possible, but a foregone conclusion.

Thanks for the coffee,

~A

Platitudes and Wherewithal

There are all of these platitudes that people use
when trying to convince us that we’re better than ourselves.
The truth is, unless you have the
wherewithal to get off your ass and do it,
you’re not going to.

~Thom Williamson, Navy Buddy, 2004 – forever

I have been getting all my past writings together in one place in an attempt to become more organized and better service folks who ask, “what have you written.” I discovered two things I found interesting.

First, I have no idea how many Turn Around Tuesdays I’ve done. However, the first TAT was published over a decade ago on April 3, 2007. Ten years, depending on how you account for time off, I have been sharing a quote, turning it around, and having coffee with you. That’s a really long time.

Second, I still have no idea how many TATs I have done. I didn’t know when I had written the first one. I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to find it. Unbeknownst to me, I was dangerously close to losing the entirety of the first seven years. I missed its 10th birthday. Realizing how flippant I have been about the whole thing is curious.

I have had a lot of support through the years. I was a better steward of some it than others. But my path always turned into a jungley mess of convoluted. There are a bunch of influences there – some ridiculous, other therapy worthy – but all topics for another day. Regardless of the ancillary, the end result has been the same; I have been blessed with a lot of convincing platitudes and still couldn’t get off my ass and do it. As usual, I am betting I am not alone.

Today I want to encourage you to consider your influences. Thought I was gonna say get off your ass? I was. In fact, I did and deleted it. In the typing, it occurred to me that’s the very thing we just discussed wasn’t enough – someone telling another what to do. The thing that moves those unfinished things we have created in or around ourselves is not platitudes, it is wherewithal. I am going to tell you that you have it, but you already know that. No amount of me telling is going to push past the absolute siphoning effect negativity or doubt has on the energy required to step into our best selves. But, when we find the thing that’s holding us down on the couch, we can start getting some work done.

Thanks for the coffee,

~A

Turn Around Tuesday Tailgate Party (aka Help!)

Nope, it ain’t Tuesday yet.
But I have some housecleaning
and decorating to do
and I need your help.
~April

I have transitioned to a full time Writer, StoryTeller, Content Creator, Consummator of Nouns and Verbs. It’s amazing and scary and wonderful and wild. Having the love and support available for this to even be an option for me is mind blowing.

I have been here before – writing for others. But it was always as a side hustle. As much as I enjoyed it, it had significant disadvantages – stress, missed deadlines, loss of focus, inability to produce quality work.

There is no more side hustle. There is only this. And I could really use your support.

1 – Let’s reconnect if we haven’t in a while. I know my life has changed a lot since the last run of TATs. I am sure yours has too.

2 – Share my stuff. The newsletters, the Facebook posts, the links. Check out other places here at See the Butterfly. You’ll see familiar stuff there as this is both a consolidation and the place for new stuff. If you enjoy it, share it. If there’s something you’d like to see there, suggest it. Subscribe to it.

3 – Recommend me. Been on LinkedIn lately? Check it out. Leave a review, click an endorsement. Met somebody who is looking for a story to be told, content to be created, copy to be produced? Let them know. Let me know.

4 – Keep me posted on how I can support you. I believe a rising tide lifts all ships.

Thanks for the coffee, the support, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

~A

Power Struggle

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

~ Alice Walker

You would think that after taking such an extended break from Turn Around Tuesday, I would be bursting at the seams with topics and ideas. You would think…

The truth is I am not. My break wasn’t intentional. The return isn’t really either. Both, when I attempt to come back to this familiar place, seem to be the exact same thing – a power struggle.

That’s never going to work. TAT has always been a place of community, support, and encouragement. While I am sure there are appropriate places for power struggles, this ain’t it. For this to work, I am going to have to keep walking through the changes that have led me from there to over there, back around there, to here. Those changes are about reclaiming my voice, in my way.

For a long time I felt that mission could only be accomplished by fighting hard and winning a battle, conquering the opposition and reclaiming the spoils that were rightfully mine. I was wrong. My voice, my power is mine. It always has been. Whether I have it or not is completely dependent on whether I have chosen to acknowledge it or forget that it is always there. And make no mistake, even on the days when it doesn’t feel like it, that is a choice.

It has occurred to me that most times when we are tired, frustrated, unsuccessful, or just feeling less than, it is because we have lost connection to our truth. We have forgotten that we have the ability in us to do what needs to be done at any given time. The waters get muddy when we have agreed to do those things which are not meant for us out of some false idea of responsibility or “ought” (but that loaded sentence is a topic for another day).

Today, I encourage you to remember your own power. It is not uncommon for the small things, the familiar things, to appear over whelming. It is also not uncommon for the big things to create moments of doubt, fear, and intimidation. There are most assuredly times when the effort required to simply put one foot in front of the other seems way harder than we have the mettle for. The strategies for moving through those times may vary. But the one constant advantage is knowing that the steam is yours – it wasn’t given to you and it can’t be taken away. Your power is your own. In that, there is no struggle.

Thanks for the coffee

Turn Around Tuesday ~ John Smoltz ~ Why Not?

Tuesday’s Thought

In truth, my answer to all these questions is the same, and it’s far simpler than many believe: Why Not?

Why not do what you love for as long as you are physically able? Why not take risks, as long as they are calculated? Why not chase what some see as impossible? Why not believe in yourself? Why not dare to be great…even if it means being different?

Why not?

~ John Smoltz Atlanta Braves Pitcher (ret.)

A Bit of Encouragement… (FILES) This 25 August, 2002, file photo
If you ask my husband why I do some of the things I do, he will say (with a look that may mean either compliment or criticism), “Because she is bored and she needs something hard to do.”

There is some bit of truth to that. I do tend to find excitement in difficult things that appear to have characteristics that make them possible for me. Notice the qualifier that I put right there? It’s an important one. In other words, I am not beating myself over the head trying to win The Voice (you’re welcome), but have toyed with the idea of Master Chef.

Running Ultra Marathons is hard. Heck, some days running 5 minutes is hard. And I love it not for the difficulty alone, but for the treasures found within the difficulty. There is a power there physically when I realize all my body will do. There are mental wins when I push through doubts. There’s a lot of self realization that happens when you are running 50 miles at a time.

Raising four daughters in a culture such as ours is hard. Working full time trying to make a go in this economy is hard. Working on food issues and being healthy is hard. Participating in civic responsibilities with so many other demands on my time is hard.

But I don’t need to tell y’all any of this. The folks I know do hard stuff everyday. Some of it is the same kind of hard. Others tackle their own mountains – caregivers, wellness fighters, social movers, family dynamics, professional feats, economic acrobatics. Sometimes, getting out of bed and facing the world is a major win for the day.

embrace-the-suckI also know you wouldn’t trade the rewards for the world.

Today I want to encourage you to embrace the rewards that others pass up because you will do the things that others won’t do. And I know that sometimes the hardest part is not the thing, but the questioning doubts of those around you about the thing. Why put yourself through that? Why take that chance? Why bother with the amazing when the regular is easier? Those kinds of questions can bust up the truth we already know. Let me remind you. Because you are capable. You are more than capable – you are meant to be better today than you were yesterday. We have a better version of ourselves waiting in the wings to be cultivated and explored. This is a pretty amazing thought since we are already pretty great people. But that’s why we are great – we aren’t settling. We don’t have to.

Hallelujah is Our Song

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people
and hallelujah is our song.

~Blessed Pope John Paul II

Thanksgiving is next week. I have been blessed to be around a bunch of folks who are taking this time of the year to intentionally reflect and name those things for which they are thankful. It is a glorious season.

Interestingly, this time of year also magnifies difficulties. Financial struggles become more pronounced. Estrangements and distances between family and friends become more noticeable. Fears about tomorrow and angst over yesterday occupy more of our minds.

There has been quite a bit of suffering, illness, tragedy, and death lately. I don’t know if it the hurts are increasing, if they are hitting closer to home, or I am just noticing them more.

I don’t have many words today (you are shocked I know). But even the chick who turns around Tuesdays finds some Tuesdays more heavy than others. In fact, I almost skipped today. If I myself have no words, then what is there to put out?

I can embody those things I always try to instill in others.

Today I encourage you remember the Easter, participate in the Thanksgiving, and be glad in the Advent, the new beginning that we are each afforded with every single breath. We cannot help others heal the ills that hurt our hearts if we wallow in our own. We cannot offer comfort to those afflicted if we constantly require comforting ourselves. We cannot carry on the mission of those who have gone before us if we are plagued by grief. We are human and we hurt. We are blessed and we sing the hallelujah song. Sometimes we just have to do them at the same time.