Sunday, January 27, 2013

What Comes Easily

My friend Garry said to me on the phone the other day, “It seems like writing comes very easily to you.”

I cackled and nearly fell off the couch. But it did get me thinking that, from the outside, our perception of everything is very different than the reality of it for those involved.

There are times when I work all day and scrap what I’m doing in its entirety. And trust me, you should thank me for that. But there are times I can be so engrossed and energized by what I’m working on that eight straight hours have gone by before I realize I’m starving. (By the way, I have to be really, really, really engrossed not to realize I’m hungry.)

This past week has been sort of a mind blowing one for me. I watched 3 singer/songwriters I know perform on The Tonight Show, and their appearance carried with it a multitude of thoughts and a range of emotions I’m sure not only for me, but for them as well, and for all of us who at one time or another have harbored that same particular dream.

While I don’t know how they procured their spot there with Jay Leno, I do know that I would never say it came easily, because I know that it was preceded by years of work, by dreams and desire, by heartache and disappointments, by passion and purpose, by unflinching hope and maybe even by more than a few prayers.

It is an amazing thing to bear witness to people’s dream fulfillment (especially if you like them). But not everybody revels in the experience, because watching others fulfill their dreams does one of two things: it either depresses the hell out of you, because you don’t see yourself living your dreams, or it inspires and reinvigorates you to pursue the desires of your own heart with new purpose.

But I think maybe it also does a third thing – it begs the question of our basic life philosophy: Is there enough to go around? Is anything at all, no matter how outrageous, really possible? I mean, we say it is all the time. But what do we really believe?

I’ll be honest with you, in the not-too-distant past, I would have only been able to muster about as much excitement as an agnostic at a revival meeting. Oh, I really wanted to believe, but on some level, I just didn’t. And the profound truth is that you can’t receive a gift – even if it’s offered to you on a silver platter and even if it’s everything you said you ever wanted – if you do not believe you are worthy of that gift at your core.

(Wow, I had no idea I was gonna go here when I sat down to write this, but since I just went there, I’m gonna keep on going, cause what the hell, I’m on a roll.)

We have a million ways to distract ourselves from the bigger questions. We drown out our unhappiness with TV and video games, iPods, the internet, gadgets and gizmo's galore, because God forbid we should be alone with our own thoughts. But somewhere in the silence we don’t allow ourselves, lies the answer, if we’re willing to ask. And knowing the answers, it is impossible not to act on them. And once acted upon, you can’t help but get different results. And then, funny thing, our lives change for the better.

Trust. Ease. Unstoppable. This is my mantra for this year. And while I’d like to tell you that I have been the model embodiment of these three words, it turns out that trust, much like tap dancing, requires practice in order to get proficient at it. So I’m reminded that there’s a difference between work and struggle, and I happily withdraw my participation from the latter. And I know that ease is a state of alignment and not of laziness, and that energy in motion, whether in unseen thought or visible action, is unstoppable.

This week, before I tuned in to watch Thursday’s Tonight Show, I’d had an inordinate number of happy “coincidences,” unexpected opportunities, and new people crossing my path, so much so that I knew something big had begun to shift on the inside of me.

So as I watched these three amazingly talented and nice people known as Blue Sky Riders sing their hearts out about “Feelin’ Brave” on The Tonight Show, I bore witness with the fervor of a true believer in the good and unending possibilities that abound for us all. It felt like I was watching my team score the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl in the last seconds of the game. Ah, sweet victory.

Does it come easily? I’m not sure that matters as long as you love what you’re doing. I read this great quote today attributed to Nelson Mandela:

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

So here’s to us all passionately living the lives we are capable of, and knowing that what we are capable of is anything we choose.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

a heckuva second half!

I just saw someone's Facebook post, and it said, "It's gonna be a heckuva second half!" ...which got me thinking - first, that I had no idea which sport it was the second half of, and second, that on the eve of President Obama's inauguration, this might be a good time to think about second halves.

The news, or at least CNN, has made a simultaneous fuss over both how much money is being spent for the inaugural festivities as well as how much less excitement there is this time around compared to last. I suppose it is the nature of our attention deficit oriented society that we are not able to sustain either our excitement or disdain for people, though we seem, on the whole, to enjoy the disdain a lot more.

I have had my share of disappointments in what I perceived to be opportunities squandered by this president in his first term, so yes, I've done everything in my power to be vocal about a public healthcare option and stringent gun legislation, because these are life and death issues that matter to me. But I also know that I have not walked a mile in the President's shoes. I don't know the day to day battling with a petulant and divisive Congress that he must endure, nor do I know the broader spectrum of information that he is privy to that must weigh into the decisions he is making.

So maybe for the first time in my life, I do not look at the job that the President is doing and see it as black or white, good or bad. For all the perceived luxuries that go with the office, I imagine that it is often a thankless and lonely job, and it must feel at times as if what he does pleases no one. So I cut the man a lot of slack, because he stepped up to do the best he could with the gifts he was given at a time like this. And every day, though surrounded by Secret Service, he nonetheless risks his life to do the job of serving the people in the best way he knows how.

So what do we want both for his second term and for our second half? (And being completely optimistic here, let's assume we're actually at the halfway point instead of well beyond it in our lives.)

Have we become so desensitized to war that we think we should always be involved in at least one at any given time? Do we really think that out of the 315 million people in the U.S. we don't have enough who want reasonable gun legislation banning automatic assault weapons and armor-shredding ammunition to outnumber the 4 million NRA members? Do we really think that allowing our public schools to fail miserably will do anything other than create higher crime and poverty rates in the future? And do we think that ignoring the staggering ramifications of climate change will somehow make it magically disappear?

It is exhausting to look around and see how many fronts require our efforts and our energy. It is easier to look the other way, to say we elected people to do the work for us, but that isn't the truth. No one person, or group, or class of people, rich or poor, can carry the burden of an entire society. And whether it is our own respective lives that we are mulling over or the job our President is doing, our conclusions must include what it is we ourselves are gonna do to make something better.

If our spirits are judged by how well we've loved, then I think the measure of our time here is judged by what we made better for our having passed this way.

So whatever it is we want for our country, let's be the wind at our President's back to move us all forward to achieve it. And whatever it is we want for our individual lives, let's make it a desire worthy of our efforts. And then, as my Facebook buddy put it, "It's gonna be a heckuva second half!"

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

As a short postscript, I wanted to thank you all for the overwhelming messages and emails after my previous blog about my mother. I was so blown away by it. Many heartfelt thanks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What We Owe Our Parents

My mother passed away ten years ago today and I’ve been thinking about how inconceivable it feels that so much time has passed. Yet, I can be caught off guard in a moment and weep as if it was yesterday.

It’s a strange thing that happens when we lose our parents. We are forced to see not only the world through a different lens, but ourselves in ways we never imagined or particularly examined before.

It is easy to canonize those who have passed, but in doing so, we miss both the beauty of their humanity and the opportunity, in examining their flaws, to grow beyond our own. That is what I learned about my mother after her passing as I discovered old letters and photographs and diaries.

In many ways, these things painted a portrait of a woman I never knew, because I only saw the person that was left after certain hopes and dreams were put away forever. But to find out that this part of my mother existed, a lifetime away from the person I grew up with, made me look at how I live my life very differently, because the question I asked myself as I poured over these artifacts was: Do I want to follow in her footsteps or do I owe it to myself and to her not to?

To behave as generations past is easy…and expected. But it is not what we were put here to do. And that was very clear to me. Maybe it was her spirit whispering in my ear, or maybe it was my own soul waking up to something within me needing to be expressed.

Certainly my mother’s generation would not have talked openly about flaws, or dreams long forgotten, or their soul’s purpose. Not for women, anyway. No, there was an expectation of acceptable behavior and occupations and life choices. What one did or did not want to do did not seem to enter into the equation. And maybe we all know that in the textbook clinical sense of looking at it as history. But it is quite a different thing to actually read a young girl’s letters who wanted to go off to Europe and see the world, knowing that she never did.

I couldn’t mourn the things she didn’t do. If she did that herself, I never knew about it. What I saw was the person who loved me and never neglected to tell me so, who wanted the best for me, and who brought music into my life in ways both figurative and literal.

So as I look at where I am and where I’m headed, I can’t help but think she’d be glad for the times I’ve been bold in spite of my fears, and how she’d be cheering for me to buck convention, do something unexpected and follow every last dream until it was blissfully fulfilled. And I know that I will be honoring her memory in the best way possible if I do that.

So thanks for stopping by, and here’s to us living lives that exceed all expectations, create new definitions for what’s possible, and are most of all filled with love and happiness.

Peace and blessings to you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Favorite Line of the Night

I love award shows. Not all of them, but particularly the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Do I honestly care which designer anyone is wearing? No, but I can bandy about the words haute couture with the best of them. And were I to be, say, a puppy, my little ears would perk up at the mention of the name Harry Winston.

So I watch a little bit of the red carpet, where celebrities do their completely unnatural glam poses for cameras and their two second interview with Ryan Seacrest and head inside for the festivities. I do this, of course, while wondering things like how do they find the right limo among the fleet of them afterwards, and do they carry ID with them like a driver's license or is that just redundant when you're famous. These are the burning questions running through my mind. Also, at what point can the women eat a square meal again.

So the ceremonies start, and everyone begins judging the job that the host or hosts are doing. Me, I'm always rooting for whoever it is to succeed and I cut them a lot of slack, because I think it is a high pressure job to try and be funny in front of your peers on live television. And no matter how well you do, some people won't like you. (The same can actually be said about anything in life, really, but that's a topic for another day.)

So the cameras pan the audience for amused celebrity faces, of which Tommy Lee Jones is clearly not one, and so begins my search for that unforgettable line or moment of the evening, the one that is startlingly eloquent, revealing, or both.

I almost thought my award would go to Jodie Foster, but to tell you the truth, I couldn't tell what she was trying to say for most of her speech. Is she quitting the business, or just acting, or coming out, or going in, what the heck? And the affinity for Mel Gibson, God love you for your loyalty, Jodie, because the rest of us consider his bigotry and behavior to have been a deal breaker. So, moving though she may have been about her mother at the conclusion of her speech, she did not take home my prize for the evening's best moment.

The winner of my favorite line of the night goes to - Anne Hathaway, hands down, who said as she looked at the Golden Globe statue in her hand, "Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self doubt."

Now that, my friends, was the turn of phrase, the reveal, if you will, that I was waiting for.

What is our blunt object to be used against self doubt? What is our undeniable validation to be gazed upon when we are questioning our own judgment, or abilities, or direction in life?

Oh Anne, brilliantly talented and so young - I hate to tell you that the statue will not eradicate that gnawing feeling of self doubt. It might assuage it momentarily, but I'm afraid that our belief in ourselves is an inside job. I'm afraid that no amount of accolades can replace the terms we must come to within our own soul about who we are and what we bring to the table. But I also know that sometimes our talent is proportional to our level of crazy (sorry to say) at the time, and that the internal struggles we face contribute to our best work because we strive that much more to achieve it. (A cruel bit of irony.)

So I'm wishing for the kids at home and the ones in the ballroom to take with them this tidbit - there is enough room at the table for all of us, and we each bring a unique set of gifts with us to share in a way that no one else can. Our job is to honor that and bring it.

Do I want a Golden Globe? Sure. But mostly I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, like I belong in that room full of talent, and that I'm beautiful, loved, and enough just the way I am. I think that's what most of us want, but it won't ever come from a statue, golden or otherwise.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And here's to enough doubt to make us persevere toward our greatness and enough confidence to allow us to achieve and receive it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Top 10 Random Thoughts While on Migraine Medication

1. If the sound of your own whimpering has woken you, it’s time to take another pill.

2. Why did I take this on an empty stomach instead of with chocolate cake?

3. Thank God I’m seeing my hair colorist in 2 weeks. The gray is really showing.

4. Instead of the “don’t use while operating heavy machinery” warning on medication, they should tell us something useful, like “stay away from sewing needles, flat irons, and your ex-boyfriend's Facebook page.”

5. If I slept, I might save a lot of money on under-eye concealer.

6. When somebody tells you “It’s all in your head,” try and resist the urge to smack them.

7. Cloudy days are my favorite. But rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

8. Better to attend a mime show than a musical with a headache.

9. Why are they now making women’s eye shadow in colors that only a clown would wear?

10. Don't cough, sneeze laugh, or do any form of exercise other than Kegels.

11. This is not a random thought – thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Three Words

We're almost a week into this new year, and I am thinking about how to keep positive momentum going...which brings me to a telephone conversation I had this week with my friend, Debi. She was relating a story between two songwriters, which I am going to totally mess up here, so let me start with the important take away from it - three words. And actually, the fact that they were songwriters isn't really relevant here either, just amusing to me.

Okay, so one songwriter was taking up mountain biking (logical sport for an historically nonathletic group of people), and though he'd gotten pretty good at it, he was lamenting to his buddy about how difficult those last few miles were. So his buddy suggested that he should have a mantra, and that mantra should be three words that were qualities he needed to possess to get him to his finish line. They should be three words that would be motivating enough that, when focused upon, would propel him toward his goal.

I think I can safely say that neither Debi nor I will be doing any mountain biking in the foreseeable future. However, what we did discuss was what our three words would be for this year. And that was both a fun and powerful conversation.

What are the qualities or things previously lacking? What three words are inspiring enough to catapult me forward to accomplishing what I set out to do? Can a word really focus you in such a way that you can muster the necessary stuff to succeed? Really?

My words came to me immediately, which took me aback, to be honest. It was as if that part of me I had been longing to hear clearly piped up at just the exact moment and told me, in no uncertain terms, what I needed for this next leg of my journey. My words are Trust. Ease. Unstoppable.

So there you have it, my three words. And they fit my desired outcome perfectly. So I decided to trust that that inner voice knew exactly what it was saying. There was no struggle, which, though it felt completely unfamiliar and foreign to me, I've decided might be a nice and much needed change in my life - ease. What a concept. And lastly, the word "unstoppable" conjures victory and triumph in my mind, and who doesn't want to be victorious and triumphant? No one, that's who! I had my mantra.

So on this first Sunday of the new year, I invite you to pick your own three words that will empower you and set your course for 2013. It's fun and I think you'll be surprised at what you come up with if you don't think too much about it.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And may your three words help you live your dreams.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Intentions for 2013

Well, we're three days into the new year, and I thought now would be a good time to both contemplate and put forth my intentions for 2013. So here goes...

To stay open to possibilities and opportunities that are delightfully unexpected.
To listen to my heart.
To focus my energy on that which I love.
To make life-affirming choices for my physical body.
To be fully present in the present moment.
To express myself without reservation.
To receive good things, knowing that I am worthy of them.
To be of service to humanity in the ways that are unique to me.
To listen compassionately, to speak kindly, to love fearlessly, to live open-heartedly, and to trust implicitly.

Thanks for stopping by. Here's to a great 2013!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

a New Year's Blog

My friend Tanya (of which I, oddly enough, have two) calls me a “love monger.” This has both made me laugh out loud, and upon deeper consideration, actually strikes me as a really cool thing to be called. (So thank you for that, T.)

...which gets me to thinking about how we show up, both to ourselves and to others. I like to let the people in my life know what they mean to me and how I feel about them. I do this for two reasons: One is if I should get hit by a bus, then at least they won’t wonder how I felt about them. And two is why should I have to get hit by a bus for people to know how I feel about them? See my logic there?

Sure, caring makes us vulnerable, but the thing is we're all vulnerable anyway, try as we might to convince ourselves otherwise. We care. We're wired that way, so let's just say, "Thank God for that," and move on.

In the spirit of that caring, I want to say a special thank you to those of you who are new to me, this blog, and all of my writing, but who have stopped by for the first time and decided to come along for the ride. I don't take your support lightly and I hope that in return, I offer you something of value (or at least entertainment).

And for those who have been the champions of my dreams for a while, I send you virtual kisses and gratitude for making my journey so much more beautiful.

To ring in the New Year and say goodbye to the old one, I thought I'd do something I've never done before on my blog, which is to post some pictures of personal highlights of this past year.

But before I do, I want to wish you a New Year of greater possibilities than you can even imagine, love that envelopes you, blessings that chase you down, and peace in your heart.

Big hugs to you all,

Family Visit in NY
(with Dad, Steve, Narci & Sammy)

Chicago opening of Sue Fabisch's show with our song in it!
("Costco Queen")

Reunited with my dear Northwestern friends
(with Alisa Swerdlove and Chris Finkelmeyer)

Swanky NYC book party for my book!
(In Search of George Stephanopoulos)

With Tanya Leah at swanky book party!

First wedding I officiated as a minister!
(with Anthony Barone and Renato Rufino)

Parasailing in Maui
(Yes, that's me!)

Reunited with friends after too many years
(with Anthony Barone, Dora Jean Ciavarello, Zach & Loralee Janus)

College Roommates Reunited
(with Tanya Menton)
A HuffPo Q & A with Kenny Loggins

...the best night out with old friends
(Lorraine Ferro, Tanya Leah, me, and Sandra Sotero)
Gig at this stunning mansion!
Can't wait to see what 2013 brings!!!....