The Whole Mountain

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, I was driving near an elementary school when I saw two school busses. My heart felt a deep pang of missing my children. Which is funny because my kids don’t even take the school bus. But I was driving in New Jersey, not in Seattle and since this is my first trip on an airplane by myself in 7 years, I guess that my heart isn’t being picky about what triggers it.

I once heard some very sage advice about what to do when we’ve grown weary around the people we love most – back up so you can see the whole mountain. And it spoke to me because often when I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve found them to be a lot of sweaty, hard work. And yet every time I see one, especially Mt. Rainier my “home” mountain, I am struck speechless, even for just a second, by my awe.

Back up and see the whole mountain to me speaks of finding the edge where our familiarity begins. And also of being able to trace the contours of the well-worn path where we often go with our dear ones. It calls me to picture in my mind the beautiful wholeness of my loved ones faces and the expressions that I most love to see on them. And when I’ve backed up far enough, I feel the pang of my ache for my beloveds deep in my body and know where they reside in me.

I’ve had three nights away from my young children. No one has spit half-eaten food in my hand or used my clothing as a napkin (and boy, wouldn’t that be weird if that had happened on business trip?). I haven’t been called in to witness grand accomplishments of using the bathroom and I’ve been able to sleep, eat and work out without interruption.

It all sounds great except I’ve had to do all that without my heart which remains at home with my beautiful children. Like climbing a mountain, my life is a lot of sweaty, hard work. But wow, I’m so glad I backed up enough to be able to see how much I love it, them and this beautiful inspiration called life!

How do you restore your love when (or if) it ever feels a little worn thin?

(featured photo is sunset from the airplane)

When Not to Write Back

Wine had to be grapes first. Diamonds had to be rocks first. Butterflies had to be caterpillars first. Rainbows had to be storms first.” – Matshona Dhilwayo

On Monday night, my hometown football team, the Seahawks won their first season game against the Denver Broncos. It was remarkable because our former star quarterback, Russell Wilson, just traded to the Broncos and because expectations are pretty low for the Seahawks this season. Our new quarterback, Geno Smith, was the backup quarterback for three years waiting on the bench while Russell Wilson got all the limelight.

I didn’t watch the whole game but after I got the kids into bed, I turned on the tv to see the final moments and caught a glimpse of something wonderful. At the end of the game when the Seahawks pulled off a 17-16 victory, Geno Smith said to the interviewer in an ecstatic moment “They wrote me off, I ain’t write back though.

I don’t think you need to be a Seahawks fan or even a football fan to enjoy that sentiment. The pure belief to persevere when others don’t see your potential. I mean, he’s a pro quarterback in the NFL so clearly he’s a remarkable athlete but in the circles that he runs in, it’s easy to imagine that he wasn’t feeling a lot of respect.

How do we maintain our belief in ourselves when it doesn’t feel like the world is in accord? It seems like we are talking about the very source of our purpose and calling. And we are talking about deep knowing whether we are walking on the right path and sticking there in the tough moments because we have the guts to keep going. It speaks to finding our why, as Simon Sinek says and I wrote about in a post by the same name.

Perhaps the world will never value the contribution that we make in the way we envision it should happen. But time and time again I’ve found that if I stay in accord with that small quiet God-whisper and keep trying, SOMETHING will come of it.

Or as Geno Smith says, listen to our hearts so that we know when NOT to write back.

What’s your metaphor or mantra when you are sticking with something hard?

(Mark, I’m sorry that your beloved Broncos had to lose in order to inspire the content of this post. 🙂 )

(featured photo from Pexels)

Sacred Time

Although the world is very full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller

Early the other morning, my cat came in with something in her mouth. It was so small, I couldn’t see what it was. When she put it down, I tried to pick it up and it fluttered against my hand and I saw a flash of green when it did so I discovered it was a bird. This was only about a week after the cat had brought a baby bunny in and both were during my sacred time, the 90 minutes I have to do yoga, meditate and write before the kids wake up.

I was irritated because I thought she was done with the phase of life of hunting little creatures.

I was distracted because wanted to go back to reading and writing about the precious things of life.

I was annoyed that instead of finding inner peace, I was scrambling around on my hands and knees doing the quiet angry whisper at the cat.

Despite all this, I managed to get the small lump of feathers between a greeting card and a paper towel and I took it outside. I thought it was dead and my plan was to just release it into the bushes off the side of my deck.

As I let go, the small lump of feathers fell for about a foot, then righted itself mid-drop and flew away. It revealed itself as a little hummingbird as it rose higher and higher.

Stunned, I just stood there for a long moment feeling the magic of that flight course through me. It was as if I had the after-image of that free fall into flight burned into my being. I had goosebumps all over.

It was life showing me that no matter what cat has got us in its claws, there’s always a chance that it will let up and we’ll fly away.

And to see it fly was poetry in motion that even as battered as we feel, we can always rise again.

Most importantly, I saw that this was my sacred time. This was the beautiful beat of life coming to me to be witnessed, held and let go.

Quote comes from a Real Life of an MSW post: Overcoming.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Win as a Team, Lose as a Team

When the water in the harbor goes up, all the boats rise.” – Chinese Proverb

The other day as we were driving home from the camp Miss O is doing this week, she grumbled, “It’s not fair that we lose as a team.” She explained further that the camp motto is we win as a team and lose as a team.  Earlier that day some people on her team had not been listening to their counselor so the whole team had to sit out for three minutes.

I’ve been volunteering at this camp every afternoon this week so I’ve had a chance to observe some of the brilliant team building activities the campers have been doing. In one, they needed to traverse a course set up with strings that have bells attached. Then can go over the strings or under the strings but if a bell rings, they become “blind” and have to ask for help from someone who is doing the course but not blind to lead them to home base where their sight is restored. Then they start the course again.

Once someone gets to the end of the course, there is a bowl that they need to deliver back to home base. Except the person carrying the bowl can only hold it for 5 seconds and they can’t move their feet while holding the bowl. If they hold it too long or move the feet, the bowl goes back to the beginning and they start again.

Watching these 6-8 year olds, it was fascinating to see how they managed these tasks. First, they all seemed pretty willing to help their teammates when they were blind, even if it meant having to start over themselves.

For the bowl passing part, they clearly needed to create a bucket brigade but were too excited by the instructor counting down the seconds they could hold it, “5 – 4 – 3” that they had trouble organizing themselves. They rarely held it more than 3 seconds and everyone crowded around the bowl instead of stringing themselves down the line so that they could be passed to.

The bowl went back several times, usually because someone moved their feet while holding the bowl, once when they were just feet away from the goal  – but they stuck with it and eventually got it done. They won as a team.

But do we, in the bigger picture, also lose as a team? Climate change, poverty, drinking water for all, public health – it appears we are all affected by these issues, some more and some less. And yet we forget that we have to work together to solve these big problems. Perhaps we all need to go back to camp.

What do you think? Is it fair that we lose together? Are we remembering to celebrate our wins together?

That Tricky Little Thing Called Self-Love

Aging is the extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” – David Bowie

This spring Miss O went to a neighbor’s yard sale and came back proudly carrying a gift for me. She’d bought me a beautiful necklace, or so she thought. It was actually a lovely beaded chain for a pair of glasses. Which actually might be something that I need more than a necklace these days since I’ve reached the age of needing reading glasses most of the time.

So when I heard a podcast on Oprah’s Soul Sunday about aging well, I was inspired to write a post for Dr. Kathy Garland’s Navigating the Change blog called One Thing to Love.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Carried by Joy

Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.” – Rumi

The other day I needed a photo of myself. I used the search feature of my phone to find pictures and although I wasn’t entirely shocked, I was a little surprised that it only came up with 3 of me by myself in 7 years. Virtually all of my pictures are with one or both of my children. And a few were with my beloved dog, Biscuit.

What I like to eat, where I want to go on vacation, what I do with my days – all these things have been hijacked in my life as a parent. I wouldn’t name this time as the marker of high personal happiness in my life – but wow, is it filled with joy. And it has been joy that has carried me through times when I’m sleep- deprived, achingly tired and spent. Which is why I wrote about happiness and joy in my Pointless Overthinking post this week: Good Mood of the Soul.

Making Good Choices

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse

Yesterday we were driving to Parkour camp when Miss O said, “I really like Coach Kurt because he’s always teaching us about making good choices. Which is important in Parkour.” Then after a short pause she added, “I think it might be really important in life.”

Parkour derives its name from the French phrase meaning obstacle course. A year into the pandemic, I think I would have signed Miss O up for any in-person class that gave her an outlet to use all the extra energy building up from having to do online Kindergarten but I was fortunate enough to make the good choice of Parkour.

Watching the kids learn Parkour, it appears that they are just running, vaulting, climbing, and dodging. But what Coach Kurt as the founder of his Parkour training company and his other coaches seem to be emphasizing is that we have choices in how we navigate an environment. Social emotional learning shows up in most curricula for kids these days but as I digested Miss O’s statement, it struck me just how much she was learning… from play.

Thinking about this sent me to my copy of Gifts of Imperfection by author and researcher Brené Brown. She cites the work of psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown about the benefits of play as derived from his research and work in the fields of biology, neurology and psychology. “Brown explains that play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.”

More than that, Brené Brown’s entire book is on the choices we make in life and how cultivating the right things can help us to live more whole-heartedly, as she terms it. “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.” It is all about making the right choices in life, to build on Miss O’s statement. Here are the ten guideposts that Brené offers:

Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

Guidepost #3: Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

Guidepost #5: Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

Guidepost #6: Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

Guidepost #7: Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and ‘Supposed To’

Guidepost #10: Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and ‘Always in Control’

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

(Anyone interested in these guideposts might want to take the assessment that Brené Brown offers for free on her website.)

Thinking about how we are always making choices on how to navigate this obstacle course of life, I think Miss O summed it up that it’s important to make good ones. Or at least the choices that are meaningful to us. So when I saw Coach Kurt at Parkour camp yesterday, I made the choice to pause and tell him what my daughter had learned from this company and curriculum he so thoughtfully has put together. With glittering eyes he thumped his hand to his heart a couple of times and then said, “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

(featured photo from Pexels)

Want to Clip In?

You have a gift that only you can give the world – that’s the whole reason you’re on the planet.” – Oprah Winfrey

I saw this caption on Instagram from author and climber Jon Krakauer the other day.

“Today I watched the sun come up from this perch at 12,000 feet. It’s impossible to overstate how powerful experiences like this are for me, and how grateful I am to have such opportunities on our public lands.” – @krakauernotwriting

It reminded me of a story that my friend Doug told me. Doug was 15 or 16 years old climbing Mt. Hood in Oregon with his grandfather. They reached about 9,000 feet and his grandfather couldn’t climb any further. So he asked a passing rope team if his grandson could climb with them for the remaining 2,200 feet.

They agreed and Doug had a wonderful summit with these guys in their mid-20’s. When they returned to Doug’s grandfather, he thanked them for being willing to take Doug along. The rope leader said he’d done a great job and he was welcome to climb with them any time. Then he wrote his name down on a napkin and handed it to Doug. This is how I imagine it looked:

Doug never called the team leader – who was in fact THE Jon Krakauer who went on to write Into the Wild and Into Thin Air and many other great books (and climb some great routes). But in his own way, Jon Krakauer has been taking us along on his climbing adventures for 40 years. His passion for the outdoors and for writing has combined to bring us on his rope team for many years. And even when he’s not writing, according to his Instagram moniker, he’s sharing adventure with us and inspiring stewardship of this land.

A rope team usually has 5-6 people on it. The leader is most often the strongest climber or navigator, there’s usually someone on the team that organizes and keeps people together but everyone on the team works equally as hard and contributes to the safety and inspiration of all.

This idea of how we all contribute to the rope teams reminds me of what Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology at Yale, says about his work studying the long view of human history. He’s deeply optimistic about our ability to cooperate, teach others and love because we are one of the only species that does that outside of the family structure.

As Oprah says in the quote for the post, we all have a gift we can give the world, a reason that we are on this planet. Oprah, Nicholas Christakis, Jon Krakauer – they are like the dream team of climbers reminding us all that when we share with our gifts with others, we make the world a better place. Want to clip in?

(featured photo is mine from Mt. Ixtacchuatl, Mexico)

A Kind Word

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

I received a lovely email from someone this week that was incredibly kind and complimentary. It ended with the sentence, “So, I just thought that was the sort of thing a person ought to hear about themselves.

Encouragement, defined by Oxford Languages, is “the action of giving someone, support, confidence and hope.” The word origin is from the French from en (make, put in) + corage (heart, daring) from which I draw that encourage could be “make daring” or “put in heart.”

Using either definition, I am always deeply grateful for the people who have and continue to cheer me along. It is a gift that takes just a sentence or two but has a ripple effect that lasts so much longer than a conversation.

I find encouragement to be one of the secret sauces for life – whether it’s in the giving or receiving, everything tastes better. And when properly nourished, it’s so much easier to share the love. In trying to express my gratitude for my friend’s kind words this week, I hope I’ve taken a little bit of heart and passed it on. May we all tell someone just the thing they ought to hear about themselves.

Have you given or received encouragement this week? What does it look like for you?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Try Not to Hurry

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” – The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My sister-in-law was over the other day and told me that ever since she was out sick for a week about 6 weeks ago, she’s felt like she is always running behind. Then she listed all the things she hasn’t done and it struck me that none of them had to do with being on time, but instead were all about what she wanted to do with her time.

It struck a chord in me because I’ve been reading Alan Burdick’s book Why Time Flies (thank you for the suggestion, Dr. Stein) and he talks about all the different ways we use the word time:

Duration – the ability to determine how much time has elapsed between two specific events or to accurately estimate when the next event will occur.

Temporal order – the ability to discern the sequence in which events occurred.

Tense – the ability to discriminate between the past, present, and future, and the understanding that tomorrow lies in a different temporal direction than yesterday.

The “feeling of nowness” – the subjective sense of time passing through us “right now,” whatever that is

Why Time Flies by Alan Burdick

It’s been my goal lately to try not to hurry even when really busy which speaks to that “feeling of nowness” that Alan Burdick describes. It also resonates with an idea that we need to distinguish between what is important to us as opposed to what seems urgent that Gary Fultz wrote about in his post A Good Interruption Solution?We are all in a different place between the urgent and the important. Let me suggest there is probably not enough time in life to do all of both.

With all those ideas about “time,” it inspired my post for the Pointless Overthinking blog this week: The Quality versus Quantity of Time.

(featured photo from Pexels)