Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finding Yourself

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
~Henry David Thoreau~

We've all heard the term "finding ourselves."

I'm backpacking through Europe to find myself. I'm going to drop out of school to find myself. I need a break from this relationship get it.

So where are we? Where did we go?

In a way it reminds me of toddlers who feel like just because their hands are covering their eyes they are now invisible.

I do get the concept. I'm going back to school AGAIN. I've decided I'll be that person with a boat load of skills and maybe someone will pay me for one of them. But does that mean I'm lost?

I've been a journalist, a nanny, a farm hand, a riding instructor, a preschool teacher, a museum school teacher, a martial arts instructor, a self defense instructor, and a coach. That doesn't include all of my years as a waitress. My resume is all over the map. I get confused reading it.

I'm adding Vet Tech-possibly large animal-to my resume. Why not? What's two more years of school when I have jobs and kids. What I've come to realize is I don't need another job-I need a career. Preferably one I love.

So what is finding yourself? Is it finding the right job, the right mate, the right lifestyle or hobby?

I'm not sure we ever are satisfied. That's why my dad is learning the banjo in his late 60's. Why my mother started a business last year. I guess that isn't finding yourself as much as keeping life interesting. Finding new things to learn or accomplish keeps our minds sharp, our motivation up, our lives fresh .

So maybe the toddlers have it right. Maybe the next time you feel lost put your hands over your face so no one can see you and think of the first thing that makes you happy. What you would most like to have, do, or be when the world can magically see you again.

Maybe that's where you are.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Knowledge is Power

"I don't even call it violence when it's in self-defense; I call it intelligence."
~Malcom X~

This week in a class at Direct Action Tactical called Kid Fit and Aware it was painfully obvious that one of the children was very bothered by the recent events in the news. She has been inundated with stories of children being the victims of violence.

Shortly after that, a few parents I know were also asking me how to handle their fear of even letting their kids out of their sight.

My disclaimer before I begin this is that this is my opinion. My experience or ideas come from what I instruct, what I've read and from being a parent myself.

There is no reason children should be exposed to the news on a daily basis. I understand wanting them to be aware of the world around them but national news is horrifying. Terrible things happen every minute all over the United States. It's a huge country! The media makes it sound like it's in your backyard.

Don't misunderstand me, it can be in your backyard. So when that fear presents itself do you change your life?
But not in a way that incapacitates you but instead strengthens you.
The best thing you can do is add knowledge to your tool belt.
Think of it as knowing CPR and never needing it. Putting your seat belt on but never having an accident. Having a fire extinguisher but never having a fire.

We can give that to our children as well. We teach our kids to eat vegetables, tie their shoes, wash their hands and do their homework. We can teach them about stranger danger and the buddy system. We can not put their name where people can see, have a safety word, make them aware of the world around them without taking away their basic right to go through their day without wondering when the Boogeyman will attack.

Fear is not a bad thing. A fantastic book on this subject is Gavin De Becker's The Gift of Fear. Fear is what drives that little voice inside of you that says something feels wrong. It's what makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and sometimes alter what you're doing as a safety measure.

But you can't be ruled by it. You can't put your kids in a bubble or lock yourself away from society. Your children can play on a playground, go to school, ride their bikes and be children. If fear is destroying the quality of your life, the joy in your children, then the Boogeyman has already taken something. You're already a victim.

Two things I've learned in my seven years working with children in this respect:

1) They think the bad guy will look like a bad guy. I set up one of my Youth Impact classes with a test. They were to walk around the building and a police officer friend of mine was in plain clothes "working" on his car. He asked each kid for help. One of my students GOT IN THE CAR. Why?? The guy was so nice.

2) Kids have a strange illusion of grandeur that they will go all Jackie Chan on a bad guy because they have a blue belt in Karate, do it in a video game, saw it in a get the idea. Kids need to know that they are no match for an adult. They need to yell and run and if that doesn't work they need to bite, kick, gouge, throw up, wiggle, do whatever it takes to get away from that person. They need to realize that they are to never stop fighting.

Let yourself believe that most people are good. The crazy, violent or sick are the rare exceptions. Chances are that most of the students that come through our classes will never have to use what we give them. But if they do they'll have the knowledge, the intelligence to do something about it.

I'm not saying our program is the answer but simply having the question will open your eyes and have you on the right path.

Remember School House Rock? Knowledge is power!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Succeed or Fail

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
~Winston Churchill~

How do we define success and failure. I think we all have different ideas of those two words. They are extremely personal.

I'm not talking about the every day events such as passing a test or failing to get to the gym. I'm thinking about the definition of these words as to our big picture. When you look at your life do you feel like you are succeeding or failing?

This changes of course. It's how we survive. In our worst moments when we feel our world crumbling and failure like an elephant sitting on our chests we have to have some courage that it will get better. We have to hope for success.

And of course each of those moments are scarred into us where no one can see. We hold them as our personal battle wounds and hopefully learn from them.

Maya Angelou, my favorite author and inspiration since I saw her speak in 1989 while in one of my darkest times wrote: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but faced with courage, need not be lived again."

So we find that courage to try to succeed. But without those failures how do we know what we consider success. It's the dichotomy of life. You appreciate joy more if you have known pain. You appreciate warmth if you've been cold. You can love more deeply if you've had your heart broken. You can relish food if you've been hungry. Everything in our lives depend on us being able to have these moments to learn from and make ourselves better for them.

So at this moment are you succeeding or failing?

If you're succeeding keep doing what you're doing. You are in an extraordinary place in life.

If your failing grab onto what courage you have and move forward. Make a plan, make a change, make a commitment to find success again.

We have one life to live, long or short. If we can end our time knowing we were happy in our efforts we have succeeded.

I wish you the best success.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Moments in Time

"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments."
~Rose Kennedy~

With the New Year starting and big challenges ahead I've been thinking a lot about the moments of life that shape a person. The idea of your life flashing before your eyes. What important moments would it include?

I'd assume it would be the transformation occasions; graduation, wedding, children, death of a loved one, accident or great adventure.

Or even the smaller but important firsts; pet, kiss, sex, job, love, car, plane trip.

I take my moments and file them like books in a way. I have my comedies, tragedies, romance novels and a few horror stories. No one lives a full life without a whole library. Some books I love to think back on. Others I'd just assume stayed filed and dusty.

But as with all good stories I've found something to take from each one. The great triumphs have made me proud. My mistakes and tragedies have made me stronger and more empathetic. My comedies keep my humor and levity. My loves have taught me who I am as a woman. My horror stories have shown what I can withstand.

But every story is just a compilation of moments. Like an old fashioned flip book where every page must be seen quickly to get to the end result. If you skip pages the picture disconnects and you lose the flow.

So savor the small moments. Don't skip them or rush through only focusing on the next big thing or great achievement. Enjoy the in-between and always look for a way to create a new chapter in whatever story you're in. You never know how it could end.

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."
~Rabindranath Tagore~

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Freedom

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

How often does this happen to you? You say something and it sounded good in your head....but out there it comes across as something completely different.

I worry about this possibly much more than I should. I was told once that no one cares as much about the things you say as you do. But how do you know for sure when you feel like you just verbally threw up in front of someone? How do you ever know what impacts someone or simply flies by with little concern?

I have a friend who remembers (hurtfully) something I said to her in junior high. I guess I made a passing weight remark and she can still recall it vividly. I don't remember it at all and she was my best friend. I'm ashamed that I hurt her and didn't even know it. She forgave me,we were never not friends, but that's not the point: I hurt her.

She and I are very similar now in weighing our words, often obsessing after a social event over what could have been taken the wrong way or been offensive. And usually when I follow up with someone, ask if I stepped out of line or insulted, I'm given an "absolutely not" reply and a warm smile.

Yet there are those people who say what they mean and mean what they say no matter what. Some have the filter ability to keep it in check and some spew it like an exorcism.  I look at them with both envy and horror. I'd love to speak my mind more, tell people EXACTLY how I feel when I feel it. And then I cringe at the awkwardness and discomfort that can follow.

What I'd love is that perfect middle ground. That place where you can be straightforward and honest without being rude, hurtful or even ridiculous. With age I'm finding it a bit easier to navigate but I still stumble. I still miss that opportunity to stand up for myself or find I'm pulling my foot out of my mouth (even if the friendly smile is telling me otherwise).

I have a really hard time controlling my words with my ex-husband. I try so hard but he just has a way of making me see red and the sharp tongue comes out. Then there's my sarcastic sense of humor not everyone "gets."

So as I posted last year I don't make a New Year resolutions. What I do is think about what my goals are between now and January 1st 2014.  I didn't quite get them accomplished this past year so some are the same. But in many of them it will require me to be strong, outspoken and my own advocate. Say what I mean and mean what I say, as long as I think about it first. There are people that pull me forward and those that pull me back. Can I say which are which? Can I pull that plug?

I'll let you know in a year.