I've been called a Pollyanna. A lot. Apparently being called a Pollyanna is a jab, yet I take it as a compliment. Look at her story more closely to see the power in positivity and perseverance. She was a gal who went through A LOT in her young life: orphaned, pawned off on various people, left to fend for herself, constantly in transition, poor, hard working, no guarantees of security and a lot to withstand. Through every experience, she chose to see the silver linings. She slowed down and savored the details. She was grateful for what she had even with so much uncertainty and despair. Pollyanna was a trooper, a pioneer, an avant garde, a light bearer. She flummoxed those around her who were driven by fear, trying to look good to everyone around them at all costs (ego), at the same time inspiring many to stop and smell the roses with her choice to be simple and sincere. Pollyanna had her priorities straight. She knew what she stood for and had her bottom lines. She might not have had a lot in the physical realm, yet her spirit was full and she had everything to gain. What about that is a turn off? Seeing the world through rose colored glasses more than many and holding vision for potential where it might not be present today is inherent to who I am. I've been through a lot and choose to keep going. If that makes me a Pollyanna, I'll take it with a smile.
I see the power of Pollyanna. One of the lessons she teaches is this: With every moment, every uncertainty, there is one choice to make: will I choose to be grateful for what is here and open to what's possible, or will I curse the world for what it's not giving me and play the victim role? She had many reasons to whine and say "woe is me." Being a victim or martyr is easy, it's convenient, it's a trap. Rising into gratitude and staying curious about what is being grown might not be easy. It is worthwhile though. Pollyanna rallied an entire community, uniting people who were insistent on being enemies, even bringing a smile and laughter to the biggest curmudgeon ever.
Pollyanna danced to her own tune. She was willing to look silly in the name of authenticity. She shared herself generously with other people and questioned the status quo. She connected rather than isolated. She paused to get to know herself even in the dark times. She felt her feelings and moved on when drowning in sadness, anger or blame were viable options. She was real. What about that isn't attractive? It wasn't easy to understand from the outside and many judged her for how she was, who she was. Undoubtedly this hurt her and she accepted it, staying true to herself through it all. She was the one she had been waiting for all along and knew it as she veered off her own course and found her way back. She took responsibility for her life and refrained from blaming Life for screwing her over. She dared to embody gratitude and live fully each day to the best of her ability.
Staying stuck in the blame game is where disdain, anger, rage, addiction, depression and apathy are bred. Gratitude turns darkness into light, bridges worlds, creates doorways of possibility where few options existed. Gratitude transforms black and white living into full color. Gratitude or blame? I choose the former. It's more pleasant to live with and much more attractive. Audrey Hepburn said it simply and clearly: Happy girls are the prettiest. Gratitude might not equal happiness all the time, it does make it possible to feel free and content in whatever circumstance. Clinging to blame and pessimism keeps familiarity, allows there to be a stance of "I'm right." What is looked for will be found. Will you look for what's right or what's wrong? Either way, you'll find it.
Pollyanna didn't have all the answers. She lived in the moment, recognizing that the future isn't for us to see yet. Being right here and now is where the magic happens. Being fully awake to the reality of today with the lens of "how amazing is this" is revolutionary. Others might judge, saying it's stupid/silly/unrealistic/idiotic/counterintuitive/ignorant to be positive when things seem to be going down the tubes or much of life is a big question mark. It's at these times, when the opinions of others are tempting to drag you into fear and worry, that turning inward, or to those close by who hold the light and also choose to see the silver linings, is imperative. Dare to be grateful in the midst of everything. I dare you.
When all else fails, when the mind is going into fear mode, when there is a grasping at something to rely on, pause, literally, to stop and breathe in more deeply. Get out a piece of paper or the phone and get to gratitude. Asking "what has gone right? What brought joy or delight? If I looked back on today in a week or a year, what would I wish I had stopped to say thank you for?" This shifts fear into freedom and invites delight/peace/humility in. With every "thank you" a "fuck you" is quieted. The world, both inner and outer, is a more pleasant place to inhabit with the "thank you" record playing. This practice is so simple. Simple and transformative. Try it.
Be a Pollyanna. Take the challenges facing you, in your head or household, and choose to see how Life is inviting you to grow into the next greatest version of yourself. Stay a victim or join this tribe, I bet you will have more fun and be challenged in ways that satisfy beyond measure. The choice is yours.
Need some help becoming a Pollyanna? Contact me now & claim your space in the tribe. Learn how to thrive through every transition and finally enjoy the adventure of getting to know yourself & living your life.
With a smile,
I am in a space of flow, of success, of abundance. Every day is bringing with it more blessings, answered wishes, new experiences inviting me to step in and shine.
Life is good. Scratch that, life is great.
Amidst change, both unanticipated and long awaited, I am stepping up to the plate. I have been rolling with this feeling great-ness for a handful of days now comfortably, even happily. Claiming my strengths and learning a lot about myself as well, I have been present and vibrantly alive. To be honest, it has been surreal. Slowly and subtly I began to notice shadowy thought patterns creeping in. Do you know these with the same familiarity as I do? The sly, sneaky, passively condemning, coyly bullying gremlins” Things are good now but you know the other shoe is going to drop, don’t you? This can’t last forever…
Setting off a string of similarly negative thoughts, my go with the flow, trusting and elated self started to shift into the skeptic: This is probably too good to be true, I better not get used to this, is everything really okay or have I been fooling myself?
These thoughts, if entertained, can and will likely lead to self sabotage and a self fulfilling prophecy. I know they have for me. If, on the other hand, they are identified, questioned and called out for what they really are (just big, scared bullies), they can and will dissipate and fade away.
The truth is, the other shoe doesn’t have to drop. Things do not have to “go wrong.”
It is perfectly safe, acceptable and marvelous to experience continued success, positivity, and pleasantness even when challenges arise. The belief that after some success (in whatever ways you define and experience it) there must come drama, tragedy or lack is what I have come to call the upper limit problem. When life is going smoothly, it becomes uncomfortable or intolerable and sabotage enters in on an unconscious level. Self sabotage can happen before we know it and cause a train wreck where we had been sailing along, leaving us asking flabbergasted, “What just happened?!”
There are a number of authors, speakers, writers and spiritual traditions that speak to the upper limit problem in their own voices. I particularly enjoy how this is described in The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
The common themes that I see in these discussions on hitting an upper limit with problems include fear, faith, and choice. Disbelief that it is safe or acceptable to experience what we desire leads to behavior fueled by the depleting states of fear or even terror. When fear comes, we can either believe it without question and follow it blindly into whatever dark corners it leads, or we can choose to question it and feed the faith instead. In short, we can become conscious. With awareness enters choice. We can choose to feed faith instead once we see the thoughts or behaviors for what they truly are: fear. Choosing faith means believing in the goodness of life, in our inherent right to have positive experiences, participating in the process of learning and growing and transcending our former limitations.
As much as it can seem like there is no choice, especially when fear has a strong hold on us, the truth is, the choice is ours. The fear will come. This is just part of being human. What we do with it when it arrives is what dictates where our path leads.
As the sneaky, sabotaging, trickster of a fear came in with “the other shoe is going to drop, don’t get too comfortable here” I met it with a formula I’ll share with you here. Here it is: I acknowledged it, questioned its validity and looked for what else is true. In this brief and powerfully transformative exercise this is what I came up with: Life will bring what it will bring. Right now, life is full of blessings and I am choosing to enjoy them. Even when I get nervous that this will not last forever, I remember that change is the only constant so more new experience is surely on its way. If this, too, shall pass, well then I am going to savor it while it’s here!
After getting in touch with myself, I asked a few simple and powerful questions:
Why am I afraid of feeling good?
Is there something I can do today that will support my feelings of safety?
If I saw this success, joy, and abundance as gifts sent to me from a loved one, how would I receive them?
Am I willing to release the fear and feed the faith?
How will I take care of myself if the other shoe does drop and things go wrong?
In what ways can I love and accept myself through all that I encounter?
Lastly, I returned to the practice that grounds me and lights me up simultaneously. The Gratitude List.
Being so in my head can get overwhelming, so returning to my center is vital after this type of self exploration process. Pen in hand, I grabbed a piece of paper and started listing my “thank you, life” items. The page was full before I knew it, and not just of the external experiences I have been graced with. Interactions with family, the fragrance of tuberose at the market, fresh picked blackberry tasting on the sunset walk, the smile of that loved one and other moments filled the page, too.
Letting life be, whatever it is, is the exquisite privilege and ongoing challenge of a lifetime. Good, bad, difficult, easy, fabulous, aggravating, inspired, ho hum, sacred, mundane, the list goes on. Whatever you are going through, just remember, it will change. So why not take it for all that is being offered now? Today, this hour, this breath, will never come again. The path could turn in an instant, what I know for sure is that right now is what we’ve got. Whether the shoes are on tight and cozy or have been flung off by the tidal wave of life, hang in there and join me in the High Tolerance for Feeling Great Club. It really is the place to be.
See you there,
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is what it means to have an open heart. This is no real surprise in February, the month full of reminders about love, and that I will be leading a workshop on just this topic next week. Heart shaped everything, flowers, red and pink galore filling the aisles and inboxes. There have been many years where I am unenthusiastic about Valentine's Day, chocking it up as a Hallmark created holiday that brings more pressure than relief to people in regards to their love life. This year is different. I am noticing the abundance of love all around me. This has come with a pretty simple shift: I have broadened my love definition. The advertising and decor has not changed. My perspective has. Expanding the idea of love from the romantic kind (that this month commonly brings into sharp focus) into the universal kind has opened my heart in new ways. With this shift in focus, I am really enjoying this month with all its splendor and taffeta. Stepping back from the idea that romantic love and partnership is the end all be all for happiness (yes, I am popping that fantasy bubble yet again), that anyone not in a relationship is excluded from having fun this month (false!), is a pastime. Acting on these beliefs will surely close the heart.
It is natural to close the heart, especially when there has been hurt. I know this as much as anyone. Who hasn't felt disappointment, loneliness, heartache, sadness, despair and frustration about love? There is a time for stepping away from the buzz of the world, going within, licking our wounds, shedding tears and nurturing the inner self. Closing the heart can be an act of protection and safety. It is when the heart stays closed, caring for the self turns into hiding from the world, and the mind shuts to new possibility that life lacks vitality and meaning. From here, a closed heart becomes a death sentence of sorts. We must reopen to life, dare to experience love again, and step out from the familiar realm of isolation. When it is closed, there is no space for healing to enter. When the heart is open, healing happens and joy can flow easily.
Making peace with where you are, single (or "an individual" as my dear friend Lura once proclaimed) or in a romantic relationship or satisfying partnership with another person, is a step in the direction of enjoying this day dedicated to love. Acknowledging the pressure this season can bring about how things "should be" and choosing to see from another angle can lead to a place of softening, a liberation, an open heart. I know it has for me. This relaxing into what is has put me in the perfect position to see the many ways love is present in my life. This shift in perspective has become a wonderful game of noticing the love and joy strewn throughout the world right now. The smiles on my nieces' faces, laughter with co-workers, the curiosity of my dog, growing gardens, bundled up walks on the beach, gorgeous sunsets, jumping in puddles during the rain, the door held open by a stranger, holding my Grammi's hand, the list goes on.
In asking the question, “What does it mean to have an open heart?" these are just some of the answers that come to mind. When I look at love from the lens of daily miracles, things that bring me a sense of comfort and connection are countless. There is more than enough, more proof of love and reasons to be than I can count. There is so much love, to give and to receive. With an open heart, I am taking notice of the beauty and joyous potential in current situations and circumstances, counting blessings and celebrating the experiences within life now. From this perspective, I have stepped into a kind of romance I didn't know possible. I am letting life love me and I am loving it. I am choosing to have an open heart. What about you?
Is your heart open to enjoy how love is present in your world today? What will it take to open your heart and let luscious love in a little bit more?
If you want to open your heart more today and need a boost, here are some of my go to's you might try:
- ask different questions
- look at familiar things with new eyes
- act as if you are what you want to be
- wear something fancy "just because"
- be with animals
- be with children
- just laugh
- order something new on the menu
- move that body: yoga, dance, etc.
Living with an open heart is a courageous act. There are risks of saying Adios to shutting life out. The satisfaction, bliss and joyful play that come when we open up make the potential risks worth taking. Don't you agree?
Love is all around,
As an advocate of Reinvention + Recovery, I work with clients to achieve balance, alignment and purpose in all areas