Cheer Up and Just Pull Over

“Life is simple. You just have to stop trying to figure it out.” Marty Rubin

Question: What do you do with a blue monster?
Answer: Cheer him up!

This is one of my favorite jokes, told to me over 30 years ago. Obviously, I’ve never forgotten it.
Why? Because it cheers me up every time, even when I’m not blue. And because it reminds me how easy it is to make things far more complicated than they really are. After all, the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s not a trick question. But I’ve never found a single person who could answer it.

Muhammad Yunus said, “Things are never as complicated as they seem. It’s only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems.”

I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. I like to think it’s due to my natural ability as a project manager, rather than arrogance. However, I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy dose of that character flaw mixed in as well.
Once, I took one of those Facebook quizzes to determine what type of “seeker” I am. My results showed that I’m a seeker of knowledge, that I need to know all answers to everything NOW.

I already knew this about me.

One other thing I already know is that, when we pass over to the Other Side, we will have access to the Akashic Records, which can be equated to the universe’s supercomputer system. This system is the central storehouse of all information for every individual who has ever lived upon the earth. More than just a reservoir of events, the Akashic Records contain every deed, word, feeling, thought, and intent that has ever occurred at any time in the history of the world.

As a seeker of knowledge, I’m really looking forward to browsing this cosmic supercomputer because I have more than a few questions. And I need answers, especially to life’s more complicated problems.

However, I must admit that there are times when I’d like to know the answer to some great mystery that I’m witnessing NOW. Not only am I arrogant, I’m also impatient. So given that I plan on living many more years, and given that I’m a seeker of all knowledge, I’m afraid there are times when I can’t wait that long for the answer.

Take, for example, someone who drives well below the speed limit on a road with no passing lanes, but plenty of places to pull over—and a string of cars have piled up behind, whose drivers are praying that the person will suddenly become enlightened, look in the rearview mirror, see all of us behind, and courteously PULL OVER.

These are times when I want to follow the person until they finally do pull over somewhere and get out of their car. I want to go up to that person and say, “I believe that the Akashic Records will be open to us, and I will know the mysteries of all things when I pass over. But, I’m afraid I can’t wait that long. So let me ask you this: Why didn’t you pull over?”

This doesn’t seem like a trick question, either. Perhaps some darker force is at work here? Somehow I doubt it.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, “I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.”

I might add, pull over when you’re holding everyone up. Seems pretty simple.

And, don’t forget: the next blue monster you run into, just remember to cheer him up!

This, and No More

Ernie Zelinski said, “To get what you want out of life, you’d better be clear about what you want.”

I’d go one step further and say you’d better be equally, if not more, clear about what you don’t want.
I believe in the power of intention (don’t worry, this isn’t a woo woo post, so stay with me). In 2015, while I was job hunting, I confidently asked the Universe each day, “Please bring me my perfect job.”

I was clear about what I thought I wanted: a 100% remote position that paid a reasonable salary and provided independence (meaning I wouldn’t be micromanaged). However, it never occurred to me to consider what I didn’t want: no support, no adequate training, a “throw-you-to-the-wolves,” sink or swim attitude shared by my managers and so-called mentors.

And within just a few months, the perfect job arrived–and I hated every minute of the five months I stayed in that job. Why? Because that job checked every box not only on my do-want list but also on my don’t-want list–although I didn’t even know those boxes existed until I took the job.

One of my favorite book titles (not to mention favorite books when it comes to job hunting) is I Don’t Know What I Want But I Know It’s Not This by Julie Jansen. One thing she said really resonated with me: “It takes much more psychic energy to do something you hate than something you love.”

Another box checked. It’s much easier to show up and do whatever needs to be done when you know that what is most important to you AND what you’re simply not willing to do is being addressed.

But where to begin?

Identifying what’s in your best and highest interest, regardless of your present circumstances, starts with taking stock—identifying your needs and wants, values, natural abilities, passions, interests, and skills—in order to align your present circumstances with what matters most to you.

Why is taking stock so important?

Because your ability to make informed choices about anything you must do, you would like to do, or you are even willing to do depends on who you are as an individual.

Only you can know what will work best for you. Only you can know what you truly need and want your life to include and what you’re willing to do to meet your needs and wants.

When you can confidently state what you want, why you want it, and what you’re willing to do or even try to do, you free yourself to at least consider alternatives. Ideas that might not have occurred to you in the past now might occur.

So why did that 5-month job turn out to be so perfect? Because I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. The next time I confidently ask the Universe for what I think I need, I’ll be equally confident about stating what I don’t need.

Interested in doing a deep dive into your needs, your wants, and what is most important to you right now? Check out my book, Will Work to Feed Dogs. The focus is on helping you recognize or reaffirm what you already know about yourself, whether consciously or unconsciously, and will provide you with a framework within which to make more meaningful choices and take consistent action. Available in ebook and print from Amazon and Smashwords.

Message Received

“If you start to look around, you will start to see.” Anne Lamott

At times throughout your life, you might look around and see that where you are is not where you want to be. But now what?

In order to see ourselves and our place in the world with new eyes, we need to have some understanding of how we perceive our world and our place in that world right now.

And for me, there’s no better place to discover this than in Nature. Because Nature is constantly showing us all the signs we need to know in order to open ourselves to new possibilities.

Signs, which can include objects, images, sounds, thoughts, or feelings, often go unnoticed simply because we have not learned to watch for them and to make them meaningful in relation to how we navigate our daily lives. And you don’t need oracle cards or a crystal ball or a magic wand to learn to see the signposts along the way. You just need to notice what’s right in front of you and then – and here’s what might be a challenge–take a leap of faith that what you’re seeing is being presented to you and you alone for a reason. And then, if you choose, take action based on what the sign means for you.

How we interact with and react to the environment says a lot about how we perceive the world around us. Each of us interacts with the world from our own unique perspective. This interaction is built up of all our past, present, and even potential future experiences and dictates how we navigate our daily lives and take action. However, for most of us, we can be out in the world but not actually aware of it.

Try this experiment the next time you’re out and about, even just taking a walk: Stop, turn in a circle, and look around. Without thinking too hard about this because there is no right or wrong answer: What is the first thing you focused on?

Now ask yourself this: Why did you focus on that thing? For most people, the first thing they notice is a result of their five senses. Maybe the object is your favorite color or you saw a bird you liked or you noticed a dog because you heard it barking. Why is this important? Because how we construct our initial perception of the world is usually determined by our sensory organs and nervous system.

But now let’s go a step further and look a little deeper. Focus your attention again on the object. How does the object make you feel? Now we start to get out of our heads and into our hearts. Is this warm fuzzy? Or anxious, sad, elated? We tend to recognize the sense of a thing, but not the feel of the thing. But the feel of what we’re focusing our attention on is what often drives us to some kind of action. If you feel safe and happy, maybe you’ll walk further. But if you’re feeling anxious, you might decide to cut your walk short, go another direction, or just stop walking entirely. Your action is a reflection of your perception of the world around you and, in this case, how it makes you feel.

Here’s an example of how this works for me. One of my dogs is leash reactive. When I take him for a walk, I first see whether there are other dogs around. If not, I feel pretty calm and confident, and we’ll start walking. But if I suddenly see dogs, maybe on leash or, worse, off leash, now I feel anxious. So my perception now is that this place isn’t safe for us, and I leave. My action is driven by the feel of the place, whether conscious or unconscious.

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” Madeleine L’Engle

So, how might we become more aware of our current perception of the world and how this is driving us to action? And more importantly, how might this new awareness help us choose a new course of action to get from where we are to where we want to be?

Remember the movie, “Close Encounters of a Third Kind”? Richard Dreyfus points to the mountain he’s carving into his mashed potatoes, and says with some anguish, “This means something. It’s important.” At that moment, he doesn’t know why it’s important, only that the feel of it is, and as a result, he’s driven to action. How he perceives the world—and how he ultimately comes to navigate through it—has fundamentally and irrevocably changed.

Let me give you an example that just recently happened to me.

Day One, I see a hawk perched at the top of one of my trees, not 50 feet away. I’m mesmerized and feel blessed that the hawk is there and close enough for me to really look at it. I do notice that he seems to sit there for quite a long time, but again, I’m simply thrilled.

Day Two, I glance back at the tree—and he’s there again. And again, he’s there for a long time. Now I ask myself, maybe this means something? So this time, I pull out my “Animal Speaks” book to find out what “Hawk” might mean from a “maybe it’s a sign” standpoint. Ah, there it is–Hawk reminds us to keep an eye on the big picture. It just so happens, I’m about to be laid off, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I should do next. So I think, “Got it, I need to consider all of my options when looking for another job.”

Day Three, I look up—and lo and behold the hawk is back. I think, “Okay, maybe I’m not considering other options, so now I’ll expand my job search criteria. Got it—thanks!”

In my experience, Spirit is not subtle. When a sign appears and a message is sent, it’s meant to be heard loud and clear. Just because we do not get it at first doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Sometimes these messages will be sent repeatedly until we do get them.

Day Four, and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Because there he is again. So, this time, I go back to the book to see if I missed something—and there it is. Hawk reminds us to see the big picture in order to stay grounded to find what we need. The hawk scans the world around it until it finds its prey on the ground. Why is this significant? Because right before the hawk showed up, one of my spiritual advisors told me that I needed to start doing daily grounding meditations because I was allowing the big picture to overwhelm me. I looked up at the hawk and said aloud, “Okay, now I get the message.”

Now, you may or may not believe that the hawk was a sign meant just for me. But to that, I can only say that for me, I took a leap of faith and believed that the hawk was a sign, and the message I received led me to decide that what I needed at that moment was to NOT find another job. My perception of the experience and my “feel” of it drove me to a new action.

Day Five rolls around, and the hawk is gone. Message received.

Now, you don’t need a mountain of mashed potatoes or a persistent hawk to put this to the test. You can simply try these few simple exercises to see for yourself how you might incorporate taking your own leap of faith into the unknown.

Spend the day paying attention to anything that resonates with you beyond the typical five senses: What do I mean by resonate? Something about the object seems “meaningful” in a way that can’t be explained by your senses alone.

Practice for a day what one of my other spiritual advisors, Sundae Merrick, calls drive by intuition. “Drive by intuition occurs when we are driving on the street and something draws our immediate attention. We don’t necessarily know why at first, but as we are looking around, we suddenly see it. It resonates with us.” What appeared to you? What caught your eye? Do you think anything had a special meaning for you? Remember that this isn’t about consciously looking for something. Let your intuition guide you. Ask yourself whether it’s possible or even conceivable that this might be a sign and a message just for you? And if so, might this help you change your perception of the world and how you navigate your daily life going forward?

“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.” John O’Donohue

Incoming

 

“I read a lot of things. You never know where the big idea might come from.” Meg Ryan, Working Girl

As a Therapeutic Storyteller, I’m always on the lookout for my next big idea. As many of you know, I’ve written five books, all intuitively channeled to me from my Team in Spirit of the Highest Light and Resonance. My books are a “collaboration” with Divine Source. Each book begins as an experience or an encounter in my daily life that provides new ways of thinking, which are to be brought forth and shared with others. Once the message is received, the book essentially writes itself. Divine Source holds the wisdom. I am simply a grateful messenger. Message received and delivered!

In order to make this symbiotic relationship work, I need to be open to whatever method the Universe chooses to present the message. It could be a conversation with someone, which was the inspiration behind my last book, The World is More Than We Know. Or, it could be a series of events that resulted in a new way of looking at something, which I wrote about in Will Work to Feed Dogs: Seven Steps to Identifying Meaningful Life-Work. It’s up to me to pay attention to the signs and synchronicities that Divine Source puts in front of me.

Since then, the biggest fallout from COVID for me has been the dearth of daily life encounters. I’ve lived largely in self-isolation since the beginning of the pandemic. My day job is entirely remote, I live in the country, I have little reason to drive into town. Which means that close encounters of any kind are pretty much non-existent these days.

No close encounters mean no stories to share. And no stories to share means no new books.

So where does a Therapeutic Storyteller go to look for signs and tune in for inspiration now?

Walmart, naturally.

“If you start to look around, you will start to see.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

In July, I was a guest on the podcast, “A View Beyond the Ordinary.” The podcast focuses on transformational stories of people who have taken the leap of faith into the unknown to pursue their calling, dream, or intuition. The goal is to provide a spark, wisdom, or inspiration to others to follow their heart’s calling.

I wasn’t feeling especially inspirational or transformative that morning, and I was more than a little concerned that the audience was not going to find me spark-worthy, wise, or even entertaining. But I was feeling hungry, so I made a quick run to Walmart.

Now I happen to hate the music that’s piped into stores. It’s usually too loud and just generally obnoxious. I’ve learned to block it out so I can hear myself think.

But THIS morning, when I went in, and before I had chance to put on my mental earplugs, I realized they were playing the theme song from the movie, Flashdance. And what was that movie about? A young woman who dreams of becoming a dancer, but gets tripped up along the way while she’s just trying to make a living. But the choices she makes – like becoming a steelworker whose boss happens to know someone on the board of directors at the dance school she wants to attend – get her an audition, which she never would have gotten based on her application alone.

Okay, I thought, message received and delivered! Granted, I’m not sure if I managed to sound inspirational on the podcast later that day. But I was grateful for the sign I was given.

Today, I’m at a crossroads. The means by which I’ve earned a living for the past 19 years is coming to an end in a few short weeks. And, as of this moment, I have no big idea what I’m going to do next – literally, no idea. I’m trying to stay optimistic and know that everything’s going to be okay in the long run. But I have my dark moments and my doubts. This is new territory for me. I’m a planner by profession, and not having a plan for what could be the next great leap of faith I’m about to take is unnerving to say the least.

But not so unnerving as to make me lose my appetite. So, once again, I head off to Walmart.

And once again, Divine Source is playing loud and clear. This time, they’re playing, “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

“If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone”

I just stood there in the dairy aisle and laughed. Have faith – everything IS going to be okay. Message received and delivered!

And maybe this experience isn’t book worthy. But it’s certainly blog worthy.

Which I wrote as soon as I got home. Here it is.

Want to know more about transforming limited thoughts and beliefs into limitless possibilities? Check out my Examine–Envision–Emerge Personal Transformation Book Series. Each book explores a particular aspect of thought healing. Find yours online at Amazon and Smashwords!

Perception is a Matter of Choice

From 2002 to 2012, I shared my life with the love of my life: a plush-coat Czechoslovakian Shepherd named Kona. He meant everything to me, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

He wasn’t the dog I was “supposed” to get. I wanted a solid black male. When the litter that I had placed a deposit on was born, there were two males, and one of them was all black. See, I told myself, it was meant to be. I had first pick of the males, and so I chose Black Boy. Fortunately, the Universe knew better than I did.

About a week after the puppies were born, the breeder asked me if I would consider taking the other male. Apparently, the family who had also placed a deposit on a male from this litter used to have a solid black that had passed away just a year before, and they were still heartbroken. “The kids have their hearts set on getting another black Shepherd,” the breeder told me. “So would you consider taking the other male?” I certainly wasn’t going to add to some child’s heartache, so I agreed to let them have “my” puppy.

And so, in the end, I got the dog that I really was supposed to get. Because he would turn out to be the dog that would change my life.

I love dogs. Charles Schultz said it best when he declared, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Although in my case, “happiness” didn’t begin to describe how I felt about my Kona. Because what I felt for Kona took my breath away.

At night, I would lay next to him, listening to his quiet breathing, and sometimes stroking his long, soft fur. Every single time, my heart would fill with joy and gratitude that such a wonderful dog had come into my life.

Kona, on the other hand, didn’t feel quite the same way. He would sleepily crack open one eye and give me that look that said, “Yes, Mommy, I love you to the moon and back, too. But, I’d like to go back to sleep now, if you don’t mind.”

Life was unendingly good.

But then, in 2008, Kona was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. The prognosis for dogs with Kona’s diagnosis was bleak at best; one vet told me that the longest any of his patients had lived after the diagnosis was three weeks. He also said that the dogs usually died instantly and with no warning—sometimes in their sleep or, more often than not, while playing or even just taking an easy walk around the block. He warned me that the only chance Kona had of surviving was to keep him quiet, avoiding stress, stimulation, excitement, and exercise of any kind. And he cautioned me not to get my hopes up for any reason because Kona’s situation was, in fact, hopeless, and only a miracle could save him.

To say I was devastated doesn’t come close to describing how I felt. I barely heard a word the vet was telling me, and I cried for two days.

I kept trying to imagine my life without him, but that turned out to be as hopeless as Kona’s prognosis. After all, Kona was my protector (I lived alone in a remote area, but never felt afraid), my constant companion, my confidant. My soul-puppy.

And now he was going to be taken from me?

No, I thought, I can’t bear that.

And so, I decided that I had no choice. Whether or not I liked it, whether or not Kona liked it, we would have to do exactly what Kona’s vet said had to be done if Kona was going to “live,” even though it didn’t seem like it would be much of a life for either of us. And, having decided this, I didn’t know which was worse—thinking that I had no choice, or picturing how awful and fearful every moment would be from this moment on.

But then, something miraculous did happen. Just not the miracle I was “supposed” to get.

I thought about something that Kami Garcia wrote in Beautiful Darkness, “We don’t get to choose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it.”

And at that moment, I realized that I did, in fact, have a choice: I might not be able to change the situation, but I could change my perception of the situation. And, simply by choosing to change my perception, I could also change how I felt about it and what I could do about it.

And so, I wondered, if that’s true, then what choices do I really have?

Well, I could choose to let this news fill me with fear every remaining moment I had with Kona. I could, as the vet suggested, lock him in the house, never take him for long walks again, never let him chase birds or rabbits, never leave him alone for a single moment “just in case.” The only exercise he would have from this moment forward would feel like one slow, inexorable death march.

Or. . . .

I could choose to be grateful for every remaining moment I had with him. We could go on as we always had, him racing after the rabbits, excitedly barking at the cats next door, flushing the birds out of the trees, trotting alongside me on my morning jog—aware of the possible consequences, but consciously choosing to live our lives to the fullest.

Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” And so, I chose my second option, and decided to live life as hopefully and as free from fear as possible.

Which Kona and I did—not just for three short weeks, but, miraculously, for four more spectacular years!

Which is not to say that I didn’t have to come up with a plan for facing my fears and dealing with Kona’s condition realistically for however much time we had left together. Kona had good days and bad. He saw a posse of specialists monthly, and underwent quarterly monitoring to record the rhythm of his heart. And each time we went to the vet, each time a new test was run, and I waited nervously for the results, I was faced with the same choice: see this as a blessing, not a curse. Be glad for our time together or live in constant, never-ending dread that our time was drawing to an end.

Admittedly, I am optimistic by nature. But the choices I had to make during those final four roller-coaster years with Kona went far beyond trying to keep my cup-half-full attitude. Because there were countless days when Kona’s long-term prognosis was that his cup had run dry. Nights, when I stroked his lovely fur while he was sleeping, and my heart would fill with joy and gratitude, like it always had—except that now, it was for a different reason: simply because he was still breathing.

And when each new day dawned, and Kona had survived another night, I would chose, once again, to continue on as we had the day before.

Epictetus said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.”

Surely, there can be nothing more powerful, and empowering, than knowing we can choose how to perceive, and then respond to, whatever life throws at us. And, when things happen to us, the potential to turn them into good things is always available. Not always easy, but always possible.

Perception is a matter of choice. I have a choice every day regarding the perceptions I will embrace for that day. Learning to change my perception has helped me more readily accept and engage the difficulties of life and how I respond to the experience.

I don’t always choose wisely. But I choose. Granted, some choices are easier to make than others, like what to wear to work or what to have for dinner, than, say, choosing to quit a job or end a relationship. Choosing not to give up, no matter how dire or hopeless or just plain unmanageable things may seem.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” My years with Kona taught me the most valuable lesson I can ever hope to learn: No matter what happens, I can choose how to perceive the events that make up my life. And, it is this power of choice that makes life endurable, worthwhile, joyful, just plain manageable—or miraculous.

Today, I think I’ll choose miraculous.