The Fine Art of Noticing

No matter how hard I try, I find it a challenge to make my mind, my body, my life s-l-o-w down and be in the moment. The inevitable “to-do” list of my own making drives my day and I have even found my cherished meditation time getting shorter and way too rushed.

Always being the problem solver and solution finder, I decided that I would adopt a “no matter what” attitude around my meditation time and also to work on developing that old muscle memory when it comes to being present. I recently purchased a small, point-and-shoot style camera (without the point-and-shoot price tag….when did they ever get so expensive.)

On my morning and evening walks with the pooch I have slowed my stroll to a snail’s pace just to notice the details in life. A man shuffling up a walk to grab his morning paper, an especially colorful delivery truck, toys in a front yard and the anatomy of the trees and shrubs.

The image associated with this post initiated a story in my head around self healing and self love. This tree (without overthinking it or seeking professional help) begins a process of healing itself right after storm damage. No one tells it to do this, the tree does not have to seek advice on how to do it, it just starts the process. This is what nature intended. We have the power to do so much for ourselves if we just let it happen. If we just allow and embrace what comes naturally to us.

Noticing happened in an instant, lesson remembered for a lifetime.

I Didn’t Do It!

It’s a rough life for those of us who spend a lot of our efforts attempting to “get it right.” Just as soon as I think I have beaten off this monkey riding on my back, the little critter pops up again to either blame me, shame me or send me running into that dark hole of perfectionism. Mostly the monkey walks alone these days.

Recently I traveled to Berlin, Germany for a long-awaited street photography workshop with the wonderful Valerie Jardin and Martin U Waltz. I arrived a day early to do some shooting on my own and thought I would easily navigate the transit system (which, by the way, is fantastic.) Without knowing a word of German, I purchased my tickets for travel on the railway ticket machine and jumped aboard. Little did I know that there was an extra step-punching your ticket in yet another little gadget on the platform prior to boarding.

I learned quickly that the undercover transit authorities ride the trains looking for dastardly offenders such as me. I was approached by one such menacing looking gent, asked for my ticket (that was my guess as he spoke in German) and then promptly escorted from the train at the next stop and brought before the station master. The trail commenced and I was found guilty for violating the rigid code of ticket fraud. Welcome to Berlin!

Immediately, I sunk to that dark place of being shamed and feeling guilty for not getting it right. The transit agent and the station master had nary a smile on their faces and mostly certainly didn’t respond to my explanation that I didn’t understand the system. GUILTY! Pay the 60 Euro fine.

Fairly quickly I had the internal heated discussion with myself…..would I let this destroy my visit to this beautiful city or could I laugh it off as one of my faux pas as an innocent abroad and consider it an experience to be savored. Yep, the latter.

Since returning home I have navigated a German language website to argue my case in fighting the ticket (along with a photocopy of my purchased ticket minus the requisite stamp.) We will see what transpires. But the result? A silly story for me and another monkey slayed successfully!

The Impostor Zone at 12,000'

Impostor is defined as “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.” Surely someone other than me will ‘fess up to feeling this from time to time. I have found that I can completely be oblivious to this feeling and cruise along “acting as if” and then BAM it hits me. I may not really know what I am doing, talking about or pretending to be. Those who have heard me speak about claiming a new identity know that I have dragged this pop up feeling around most of my life. I can be oblivious to the simple fact that I should be cautious about assuming what I can and cannot do. It’s not unusual for me to charge off into some new adventure believing that anything is possible. Suddenly I’m slapped with a dose of reality that maybe I might be in over my head.

As an optimist in myself as well as others, I stay firmly convinced that we can do anything we set our minds to do. In 1997 I became enamored with the idea of climbing Mt. Everest after reading every book published or documentary filmed. I continued to hold this belief until 2013 when I actually signed up to do an Everest trail trek. After arming myself with the requisite gear I found myself huffing and puffing all the way to Namche Bazaar and realized that this was W-A-Y outside my comfort zone and ability. But finish the trek, I did. Over time, I have tempered my belief that anything is possible with the realities of physical ability, age, education and resources. Nope, not everything is for me.

But I do continue to be certain that we can live up to our potential which is limitless. The wisdom I claim which has been developed through decades of absolute glorious living now points me in very reasonable directions. I continue to have hope and inspire hope so that we don’t place ourselves so far outside reasonable zones of ability. Not just comfort, but true passion and ability. Still working on that impostor zone that lurks in the shadows. If I don’t believe it, how will anyone else?

The Impostor Zone at 12,000'

Impostor is defined as “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.” Surely someone other than me will ‘fess up to feeling this from time to time. I have found that I can completely be oblivious to this feeling and cruise along “acting as if” and then BAM it hits me. I may not really know what I am doing, talking about or pretending to be. Those who have heard me speak about claiming a new identity know that I have dragged this pop up feeling around most of my life. I can be oblivious to the simple fact that I should be cautious about assuming what I can and cannot do. It’s not unusual for me to charge off into some new adventure believing that anything is possible. Suddenly I’m slapped with a dose of reality that maybe I might be in over my head.

As an optimist in myself as well as others, I stay firmly convinced that we can do anything we set our minds to do. In 1997 I became enamored with the idea of climbing Mt. Everest after reading every book published or documentary filmed. I continued to hold this belief until 2013 when I actually signed up to do an Everest trail trek. After arming myself with the requisite gear I found myself huffing and puffing all the way to Namche Bazaar and realized that this was W-A-Y outside my comfort zone and ability. But finish the trek, I did. Over time, I have tempered my belief that anything is possible with the realities of physical ability, age, education and resources. Nope, not everything is for me.

But I do continue to be certain that we can live up to our potential which is limitless. The wisdom I claim which has been developed through decades of absolute glorious living now points me in very reasonable directions. I continue to have hope and inspire hope so that we don’t place ourselves so far outside reasonable zones of ability. Not just comfort, but true passion and ability. Still working on that impostor zone that lurks in the shadows. If I don’t believe it, how will anyone else?

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I never watched Mr. Rogers on tv as a kid and probably missed out on some great life lessons. But maybe not. Teachers, mystics and mentors appear in our lives when the time is right and when we are ready to listen. And it is only now at a most wonderful adult stage of life that I am really hearing the messages that Fred Rogers had to deliver.

What does the word neighbor mean for you? I always thought of it as someone who lived within close proximity of one’s house as in “neighbors in the neighborhood.” But the term is so much more. A very loose translation of neighbor in the Bible even has Jesus speaking with a learned man about the meaning of being a good neighbor. His example was the Good Samaritan, a vilely shunned member of the people who inhabited Samaria who was “unclean.” To even think of this low of the low being considered a neighbor was pretty revolutionary.

I believe that the term neighbor has a much deeper meaning. Yes, neighbors may inhabit residences near ours but they are also the drivers of vehicles in traffic (road neighbors) and they are all of the people who live in our chosen community. They are those with whom we work either in close proximity in an office building or globally those whom we serve or sell to, order from, collaborate with. Neighbors live in countries to our north, south, east and west and across oceans. Our neighborhood of humanity includes everyone.

And how do we treat a neighbor? With hospitality, with respect, with caring, with love. We are all neighbors within this short time we have on earth and being neighborly is key to the success, joy and progress of our humanity. We give and we receive. Whether it is a deep and profound honoring of all or simply donating a cup of sugar when asked. Loving our neighbors as ourselves.

PHOTO CREDIT: Deborah Cole, Cuba 2019. A culture that is the epitome of neighborliness.

Thanks Ann Lamott

I learned many, many things while earning a Master’s degree at Seminary of the Southwest, but one valuable tidbit which affected me the most and has stayed with me firmly is the concept which was shared by Professor Claire Columbo in the most amazing writing class. Claire drove home the importance of the SFD aka Shitty First Draft. In Ann Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, the author presents the idea of getting comfortable with getting the ideas down on paper when doing any form of writing project especially a lengthy work such as a book. First run through, just write it all down. Get it out. Put it out there on paper no matter how yucky, crummy or embarrassing. The shitty first draft. Don’t edit and don’t correct. I repeat (for those of us who are sometimes anal about editing) don’t look back. March on.

Right now I am calling these words to mind as I struggle to avoid changing or correcting the first draft of the book I am writing. I go back and reread what I have written and I cringe, but Sister Ann is speaking in my ear, “Don’t touch it!” I have forced myself to just throw the jello up against the wall. Most won’t stick, but the idea is there.

I continue to resist the urge to rewrite and clean up the awkward mess that is my second book. No, no, no. Leave it. Wait. Don’t touch. Don’t worry. It will be just as it is supposed to be, I just know it. Being uncomfortable with the uncomfortable. Another of those life lessons, right?

Never Too Old To Screw Up!

Do you have any deep held fears? Of course, we all do. Although I feel extremely comfortable traveling alone and doing some semi-risky things on the road in search of an adventure, I always feel that I can extricate myself from most anything as long as I have my phone or way to contact a friend, a credit card and my ID.

Recently I found myself in a sticky situation which later caused me to chuckle after about a 2 minute period of OMG, how do I get out of this one…….I found that taking a moment to breathe, to be grateful for what was certain and then taking action righted my course.

I had traveled to Cuba to meet and work with a photographer for 12 days. The first 2 days were on my own, 8 days with my host then a final 2 days again on my own. Short of a minor few hours of unsettled stomach, my first 11 days were without a hitch. On my final day and on my own, I was feeling pretty feisty and confidant. Why not grab a pedicab to an unknown area to explore and search out interesting subjects to photograph? Again, all went well until I was ready to head back the 5 miles back to my little casa. Money for a pedicab? Nada. I must have flipped out the small wad of cash when I removed the 5 CUC note to give to someone. So here I am in Cuba with no more cash, US credit cards do not work, cannot use US bank cards at ATMs, and as I mentally listed my options also reminded myself the US Embassy was closed and vacant.

What to do? How about sitting down on a nearby bench, breathing in the sea air and loving where I was and doing what I was doing? What a privilege? And the money I had flipped out onto a dirty street? I imagined it being found by someone who really needed it. Long food lines and little on the merchandise shelves had given me a sense of gratitude for what I have-way too much. So in my hot, humid revelry I imagined the cash finder walking into a Mercado and buy chicken. And everything else his/her family needed. The amount I lost was not much for me, but for a Cuban family was the equivalent of 2 months wages. Suddenly all seemed better.

I still had a 5 mile walk back to the casa and a period of digging into my bag looking for my small stash of American dollars. My host gladly exchanged the dollars for CUCs, enough to get me to the plane the next day. Whenever I get too smart for my britches (my dad’s famous phrase) I just remember that I have a lot for which to be thankful. And at the end of the day, I am happy to share no matter what the situation.

Did I Miss the Selfie Train?

I’m currently spending a few days in San Miguel de Allende during the largest celebration of the year for this town-SantaSemana aka Holy Week. Actually, the party goes on for two weeks and includes parties, music, food, parades of statues from local churches, visitors……and selfies.

I know that I am not a young adult who grew up in the cell phone/camera era and that selfies are not my way of life, but I’m suddenly worried. Yes, I have heard and read about our addiction (I include myself on the fringes of this category) to our phones, but the selfie bug has never bitten me. I am 100% old school and use my sweet little Fuji camera to capture moments although I do whip out the iphone to catch a quick image from time to time.

But here in San Miguel, the selfies and selfie poses RULE. I have been told that most of the people in town are tourists from other parts of Mexico with the occasional American/European tossed in for good measure. I have found this to be true. But the HUGE surprise for me is the crazy amount of selfie takers. It seems that this most sacred of weeks surrounding Jesus’ death and crucifixion has become a time to capture yourself with anything of local interest in the background. Yes, I am officially out of the loop on what is hip and trendy.

While looking for moments to capture with my camera (and I noticed very few of us doing this) the vast majority of the visitors were posing in front of churches, crosses, statues, floral tributes and anything that wouldn’t move for selfies. A large number of the young adult posers were somewhat provocatively dressed and striking Beyonce poses. You know, leg popped, hip out, chest out.

Interestingly enough, I had heard an interview just this past week on NPR with a psychologist who was studying how self-esteem indicators can relate to the number of posts and likes on Instagram and Facebook. His research showed that habitual selfie-posters spent increasingly larger amounts of time studying others’ selfies, posing options for selfies, etc, etc in order to post more of their own with a goal of increasing their likes. And that all of this exercise in seeking out approval is adding to growing depression.

Not sure if I was glad that I had heard this interview prior to noting the large number of selfie takers, but I did find myself getting a little sad noting the large number of young girls posing in tight dresses and jacked up heels in front of a reenactment of Jesus’ trial on Good Friday.

Sorry to judge. I admit that I am old. And just a little concerned.

Impostor-Again!

It happened again. I thought I had worked through that idea of being a “fake photographer” but the evil notion raised its head once again. Skip to the happy ending….I squashed this feeling down like the Beelzebub that it is. In the meantime . . .

A few months ago, a friend asked me to participate in a quarterly showcase she puts on to promote rising musical talent here in Austin. As an additional feature, she shared with me that she liked to include a visual artist who is also up and coming. “Would you like to participate showing your photographs?” she offered. Me, being addicted to opportunities, of course, agreed to her very kind offer.

Fast forward to this past weekend, the weekend of the event. As I was driving to set up with a car loaded with easels, matted and framed photographs and a box of supplies should I need anything, I had that panicky moment of “What was I thinking? I can’t put these images out there for the world to see….and even worse, stand next to them for 4 hours admitting that they were mine!” This thought sequence had become the pinnacle of my hesitant claim that “I am a photographer.” This phrase has always been hard for me to say. Who am I to put myself in the ranks of those who publish, print, sell, speak and have been universally accepted into the lofty ranks of those who shoot RAW?

As my impostor thoughts swirled in my head, my inner coach told me to dial it back. I have won a few competitions, have had some pro photographers tell me they like my work (surely they were fibbing.) Maybe I could put up these easels and framed images and bravely stand next to them for ALL the world to see (really, not all, just a small gathering.) I drove on.

What better way to present my work publicly (other than the safety of Facebook and Instagram) for the first time than a minimally lit lounge with a crowd there primarily for the music? Yep, I did it.

And even sold one.

Flipped Off-Thanks For That

You know, I try. Sometimes I mess up. And usually when it comes to my attention that once again I am cycling down the wrong bike lane of life, I am surprised.

As someone who has been through spiritual direction classwork, hospital chaplaincy training and umpteen listening skills classes I have been taught that we all like to be heard, to be acknowledged and to be seen. In a class a few years back, the importance of really deeply, listening when in conversation was discussed. We should not be thinking ahead to what our next comment would be. No mulling over clever witticisms that would cause our companion to burst out in a belly laugh. No. None of that. Listen. Listen with open ears and an open heart.

I try. I swear I do. But I am overcoming a few decades of being a business leader who listened but often was actually waiting until the other finished so that I could expound on whatever wisdom I might impart. And as a parent, I admit, some of my listening was accompanied by impatience so that I could grab a chance to tell said kid exacted what they needed to do. Apologies, dear kiddos.

As part of my training, I have realized that I NEVER and I mean never acknowledged the people who ask for money on the streets. Averted eyes when I walked by them. Dropping my gaze into my lap at a stop light (and someone standing next to the car) was my operating procedure. Never looking at the individual, much less looking into their eyes. So I began to right this wrong. In my egoic haughtiness, I began to not only acknowledge all of these individuals, but would greet them hello, good morning or wave when in my car at a stoplight. Then I began to feel pretty full of myself for being this better person. That became the story in my head. Oh my, I must be a good person for being so magnanimous and come off my pedestal and bid someone a good day.

So when I stopped at a 2222/Lamar stoplight recently, a man sitting on a bucket turned over holding a sign requesting money was very close to my rolled up window. I didn’t bother to roll down my window but I waved to him. No response. So I waved MUCH more vigorously. Damn it, I was acknowledging him and being a better person by doing it. No smile, no gratitude for my wave????? He looked my way with a slow move of his head, raised his hand and flipped me off! He then stood up and proceeded to walk the line of stopped cars to receive money from others behind me.

What? How could he? Those were my thoughts. I was nonplussed and offended. Here I was, in my air conditioned vehicle with the windows rolled up……and I was acknowledging him!!! How dare he?

Almost immediately, I realized what had happened. I had no more met him person to person, heart to heart than I had the sign post behind him. After mulling over the encounter, I realized that I should thank him. He was being totally real, totally there and I was being ….well, I was wrong. Not in my wave, but in my attitude about it.

Don’t know his name, don’t think I will ever see him again, but I am very grateful for the reminder and lesson he gave me. I can never be in his shoes and never know how he feels about being on the street asking for money. I don’t know his story, but I do know he and I are equals in this world doing the best we can with the life we have chosen. I’m not here to dole out waves and hellos as if I were throwing beads at a Mardi Gras parade.

He’ll never know what a teacher he was that day by giving me the bird. Best gesture ever.

Introducing Me

Ever had that feeling that something was a little off kilter in your life? Not really wrong, just slightly out of tune, out of balance or tilted slightly? Like when you see a picture on the wall that looks FABULOUS but something is a little womperjawed about it? A tiny nudge to the left and all is in alignment. That has always been my nagging notion realized at the age of 5 or 6.

While navigating the past several decades of a wondrous and blessed life, I always knew that there was some little nugget of something just hankerin’ to rise to the top. I felt that miniscule discomfort whenever I sidled close to that reality. Doing all of the fantastic things that made up my life (family, work, friends, activities) has been a true joy and have led me to this perfect and wondrous place in life. Yet…..that beautiful picture had its tilt. I felt it from time to time and made attempts to honor it somewhat “on the fly.” Those small forays into being me didn’t get fully acknowledged and continued to persist. Kind of like that aggravating tune that is catchy and just won’t go away.

In all my wisdom, I hadn’t realized that it might be necessary to release certain things in order to dig deeply into that space where the authentic me resided. A busy and fruitful life tends to mask some more esoteric parts of the being that are truly life giving.

Although not trained or schooled in these manifestations of my love for photography, writing, teaching and experiencing relationships, I know that through them I get closer and closer to that authentic, natural, original being that finds bliss in simplicity and well…..just being me.

I've Been Had

I like to think of myself as someone who is fairly savvy, somewhat intuitive and can smell a scam at 5 paces. On the flip side, I am a perennial optimist and believer in the goodness of all people. That being said, I cut a lot of slack for people knowing they do make mistakes and bad choices which causes them to act in less than wonderful ways. But at the end of the day, I believe in goodness (and rainbows, unicorns and love.)

This past week while beginning an Uber request at JFK airport, I was approached by a nicely dressed, articulate gentleman who asked if I needed help with an Uber ride into the city. When I nodded in the affirmative, he said that he was an Uber driver and to follow him. He helped with my heavy duffle as we walked to the parked car in the Uber parking spot. During the walk I checked the fare for the lengthy ride. $83. He proceeded to put my bag in the rear of the nicely appointed vehicle and opened the door for me to get in. As we began the ride, I asked how I logged in for a ride in progress. He said that he would log in to Uber for me as it was handled differently after the ride had begun. Off we went

Upon arrival 1 hour later at my hotel, I asked what needed to happen now. He asked for the card that I had on file with Uber and said he would swipe it and Uber would take care of the rest. As he was swiping, I noticed a Bank of America logo appear on his phone and began to question his involvement with Uber. He reassured me that he was logging in to Uber and that it would be taken care of as I was accustomed to.

Red flags, but here I was locked in his car, bag in the rear and my credit card in his hands. He handed me the phone to sign for the charge and I asked the amount (mentally calculating a tip but also thinking I had been “had.” $270 was what the phone read.

At this point, I mentally calculated my options knowing I must get away from this situation, but first I wanted to give him a lengthy lecture on honesty, ethics and taking advantage of visitors to his city. He continued to swear he was representing Uber and this was the proper fare. I didn’t argue the Uber part of the scam, but did want to share my very strong (no profanity used) feelings on his actions of the day. Could he care less? No. Did I feel like what I said made a difference? No.

Fuming, I had to wait until he unlocked the doors to let me out. I decided to allow myself a full 15 minutes to rage (in my head) and chastise myself for being taken. Then I was done. My job is not to be a victim and my job is not to try to fix this man. I chose not to let him ruin my wonderfully planned trip to NYC and I didn’t. I know that there are people in the world who lie and deceive and prey upon the trust of others. That’s what they do. And I suppose that’s what they always will do.

The man did not ruin my photography trip to NYC. And no, there was no tip.

Intentional Boredom?

Recently, a friend who was running late texted me (of course, while sitting at our table in a fancy restaurant I had my phone on the table at my side.) She said she would be about 30 minutes later than our planned meeting time. No problem, I said. The host had been willing to seat me even though my companion hadn’t arrived and I had been confident I would be solo for just a few minutes.

But wait! Now I would be sitting here ALL BY MYSELF! For 30 minutes. AWKWARD.

My first impulse was to grab my phone and head directly to Instagram, Facebook, emails, texts, etc. hoping for some human interaction or at least some interesting new posts on IG or FB. But hold on. What if I leaned into that awkward feeling of “solo diner” and just spent the 30 minutes in a form of intentional boredom? I often scoff at people who cannot resist the urge to pick up their phone with even 10 seconds of downtime, never seeming to want to enjoy or interact with what is around them. What if I spend this time breathing, relaxing into the moment, noticing people around me, noticing wait staff efficiently taking orders and delivering meals? What if I use the few minutes alone to have a brief chat with the nice man filling (and refilling) my water glass? What if I take time to quiz the wait staff about the specials he was eager to describe? Or, maybe, just maybe, how about fully embracing boredom and doing some day dreaming? I did them all. I confess, I came close to picking up my phone, but I resisted the urge.

Since that evening, I have come to learn that boredom, daydreaming and putting down the frickin’ phone are all actions leading to greater creativity. I won’t say that I am completely cured of the attachment to my little rectangular friend in moments of boredom, but I am really starting to enjoy my mini-breaks sliding into that space of non-attachment and creativity inside my noggin. Who knew boredom could be so nice?

Compassionate Leadership

Recently I was at a social event where the topic of effective/ineffective leadership was raised. Since moving into a work world where compassionate leadership is a “given,” I was flabbergasted that so many individuals are still struggling under the heavy burden of higher ups, supervisors and big cheeses who can’t seem to create a sense of teamwork. I thought that SURELY with all of the lecturing, youtubing, TED talking and authoring most individuals in leadership roles had gotten the memo that being a dictator, hard-ass or uncommunicative wimp was not in the best interest of a group.

Some of these same leaders who still live in the old world style of beat ‘em down or throw ‘em out wonder why other companies and individuals are more effective in achieving long term results, satisfaction and (yes) profits.

Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with a little kindness, is there? Yes, while holding all in the team to standards and metrics, it IS possible to be kind and dare I say it, even love the individuals on the team.

Those who suffer under the heavy burden of strong arm tactics wonder why leaders act as they do. Why is this guy or gal such a jerk and expect to achieve prosperity and lofty goals. The answer is pretty simple, really.

Without going deeply into this topic (this is where a therapist would help!) the simple reality is that FEAR drives individuals to act in ways less than kind. Fear of many/few things. Fear of failure. Fear of being discovered as less than competent as a leader. Fear of not living up to expectations of spouse/parents/friends/peers. It doesn’t take years of therapy to realize that fear is at the heart of most negative behavior. And the tougher the leader acts, the more fear that is buried in there somewhere.

Compassion is actually our natural state of being. We come into this world wanting to connect sincerely and deeply with others. As humans on this great planet, we live and work and play together. And compassion makes it all a wonderful life. Want your peers to work as a team in harmony and pulling together toward the same goals (as long as the goals are good ones)? Simple, but not easy. Compassion.

My Dark Side Can Be My Friend

Recently, I have heard (lectures as well as conversations) about one’s dark side or shadow side and I am here to take a stand for my bad girl persona.

I admit that I have not always acted as others might have wanted me to act and have even occasionally been intentionally “bad.” But I strongly believe that I am pretty darn wonderful. You see, I don’t think that the Creator that I consider a superhero to have made mistakes. I truly believe that we are are hurled into this human existence in a delightful form. The mover and shaker of this Universe that many people call God, some call The Divine, others call other names……only knows one direction and that is perfection.

That being said, my humanity or evolved self does have a side of me that wants to go totally rogue from time to time. I don’t mean anything really awful, just judgy or tacky or less than sweet. That’s just my shadow side/dark side that gets on her high horse and tries to run the show. I know without a doubt that this little evil (not really evil) twin of mine has been highly honed to protect me. She protects that inner child that was hurt over and over again in many decades past. But she (I think I need to name her….hmmm what should it be?) really just wants me to be strong and to survive. She’s just not very smart about it. The more authentic side of me is really the Goodness of who I am and who we are all meant to be.

Somewhere along the road of our development we get bumped and bruised and our dark side turns up to attempt to be the shero that she is NOT. But because I yearn to be so very tender with myself, giving myself grace from time to time and forgiving myself over and over again, I claim that I will also befriend that ego side that steps in with good intentions albeit wrong.

So, whoever she is, that dark side of me…..don’t worry…..I love you too and you are my friend. But just remember, you are not in charge and can only come out to play when danger is near. All other times,, just hang out in the corner and keep your worries to yourself!

Creativity Needs Silence

I recently attended a workshop on creativity, specifically on morning practices which can help to nudge along one’s creative juices. In this workshop I heard the presenter use the statement “The heart of creativity is silence.” This caused me to ponder (lots of pondering in my life these days) the deep and intense value of silence. I attempted to learn the source of these words and found that NY Times commentator, Maureen Dowd is attributed with “Creativity needs silence.” This is a brief version of the same.

When am I most creative? Is it at my desk writing or working on editing images? Is it during a planned retreat where the purpose is to “get creative”? Is it sitting on a bench waiting for life to happen on the streets of another country so that I can capture something interesting with my little whiz bang Fuji XT3? Or is it in the shower, on a morning walk, sitting with a cup of coffee on my patio? YES. It is found in all of these. What do these have in common?

Although there may not be perfect silence in and during any one of them, the common factor is silence, quiet, not talking about being creative. Yes, indeed, some good ideas come during a workshop, a lesson from a pro photographer, or at camera club. But for the most part, ideas come (hence creativity) when I have my mouth shut, my ears shut and my brain mostly dis-engaged.

The value of silence is evident. Daily meditation is essential for me now. After fighting the practice for over a year, I have drifted into the numbers of the die hard and almost evangelical. I cannot live without the silence. It feeds my soul as well as my creativity.

My goals for this year are lofty and simple-but not easy. I truly believe that adding a little more silence, a little more quiet, a little less monkey mind will serve me and my creativity just fine.

What Was I Thinking?

Have you ever had that moment when in one instant you were so very, very sure of something and in the very next second, the voice in your head is saying, “WTF were you thinking DC?”

Like the time years ago when I was living my dream. I had found a women’s travel outfitter in a magazine, signed up for a backpacking trip (mind you I had NEVER been backpacking), spent a fortune at REI on a new backpack, sleeping bags, etc etc and was on my way to California for the time of my life. As I attempted to heft the loaded pack off the baggage carousel at SFO airport, I started to have doubts. The adrenaline levels were still high so I hoisted that sucker on my back and took a shuttle to a few blocks from my destination in Berkeley. As the shuttle driver dropped my backpack on the sidewalk and I attempted to get it on my back, I had that “What was I thinking?” sinking feeling. I somehow managed to wrestle myself into the super heavy pack and begin trudging up the hill to the meeting spot for the group. Now I really started to worry. I was huffing and puffing and I was still in an urban setting. I had several days ahead of me in the wilderness of California to navigate up hill and down dale with even more weight in the pack (still hadn’t added food yet.)

Fast forward a day or two and I had managed to get to the destination camp site and drop that rascal off and luxuriate in the beauty of the hills, lake, and nature. THIS is what I was thinking. I stifled my inner wimp and got the job done.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson, but this same Cheryl Strayed moment occurred several more times. A couple of years later, I found myself carrying same backpack at 3 a.m. in pitch darkness as I trudged my way up Mt. Whitney. WWIT again rose up in my noggin. As I hit the snowline with no trail visible, the WWIT feeling came on like gangbusters. Summit I did and just like childbirth, the memory of the agony getting to the top was forgotten. This hiking WWIT seemed to occur more frequently as I carried on with my fascination with the wilderness.

As I edged toward loosing my creative nature, I experienced the same thoughts as I toted camera lenses, tripod and assorted gear on my first photo outing with REAL photographers. OMG, what was I thinking signing up to shoot alongside people who really knew what they were doing? I felt like such a poser! I have come to realize that I have this little Negative Nancy voice lurking in the shadows questioning my sense of adventure, fun and learning. So now when she visits, I respond to her little voice asking “What was I thinking?” with “Hey you. Piss off. I’m one badass lady that is living a great life!”

I'm Ready To Look Stupid!

I’ve actually always hated the word “stupid.” I think it is because it was the absolute worst name to either call another child or to be called when I was growing up. And I have memories of being chastised for it (although not as heavily chastised as I was by my mom when I called a little boy an SOB in our front yard. That yielded a thorough washing of the mouth with nasty Dial soap.)

But I have come to consider that looking stupid, foolish, silly, pathetic will all really be worth it as I launch 2019 and my efforts to expose myself as a photographer. I have slinked (or slunk?) into the world by posting my images on Facebook and Instagram and in 2018 even set up this web site where my blogs reside. But now I am about to embark on a real opportunity to “out” myself in the world by actually making concerted efforts to share my creativity with others.

Not totally sure all the forms this will take; however, my first foray was to enter a local photography contest as a novice. I entered 2 pieces in the dark of night in stealth mode (email.) When I learned that the judging would be a public forum the next week, I thought, “Oh, I’m done for! Now I will have to be shown up as a fraud and a fake and a complete amateur.” Well, yes, I am an amateur…..

The critique was thorough as a judge displayed each entry in brilliant color (or black and white) in front of the audience and proceeded to hesitate (meaning he hated the piece) or extol the wonders of the photographer and the work. As my first (and favorite) entry was flashed on the bigger-than-jumbotron monitor, I panicked. And yes, the judge didn’t like it. I was crushed. And then the audience started to complain about his critique in a most wondrous way. I slouched down in my seat hoping not to be exposed as the owner of this work,, but after the audience finished their critique of the judge’s critique, the program moved on.

Finally, my second entry was displayed. Silence. No comment from the judge until he said, “This I love.” I breathed a sigh of relief. He went on to explain why he liked it and I felt judged, but delighted. Maybe my work didn’t suck completely. As the judge came to the end of the critiques he began to announce the winners. Third place, second place and then (still pleased by the fact that he liked one of my entries) he called my name and the title of my work as the first place recipient.

No plaque, now trophy, no cash prize. But I will say that this award was one of the most prized announcements of my life! Being willing to look stupid will be my natural state of being from now on. Remember the cannonball!

The Wobble Board of Life

In continuing to think about 2019 with its resolutions, intentions and commitments I realized that I always believed that these actions were one and done issues. January 1: decide to lose 10 pounds and maybe even hit the gym more, buy a new cookbook, shop at Whole Foods for organic produce, etc. And then the first temptation arrives (“wanna go grab a margarita and wings?”) and my resolution/intention was out the window. My self talk was something along the lines of “OK, I screwed up, so forget it. I’m OK carrying around this extra weight. Maybe next year.”

As my old friend (well, he’s not old….just a friend of many years) Jim Bearden would wisely say, “If the choice didn’t work out for the good, choose again.” Somehow just recently, this really hit home. My stubbornness (aka my ego) always says that I should choose and then stick to it otherwise, I’m failing. Dying on that sword is a HUGE mistake. Life is about choices, yes I know that. But the reality that choosing happens over and over and over and over and over again. Hundreds if not thousands of times a day. Just like the wobble board in the gym.

The wobble board is that wooden circular gizmo with a semi-sphere attached to the bottom-round side down. The circular top board is wide enough for two feet to stand on it hip distance apart. Once you have stabilized yourself on it, of course, you begin to wobble. To the right….then re-stabilize….to the left….then stabilize again. Quickly, suddenly, perpetually. Just the minute you think you are stable and not wobbling, a little shift in the body happens and the wobble occurs again.

Life is just like this wobble board. We are up on top ready to stand still and straight and tall. Then something throws us off balance. We have made a choice of some sort which can be big (leave a job, leave a relationship, move.) Then the wobble starts. We continue wobbling until we are stable.

Or the choice could be small. Choose to take a different route to work, look to the left when we could have looked right, buy a blue car instead of red, etc. But the wobble can start again.

When we make a choice that doesn’t work out well, the wobble can really commence. But all we have to do is choose again. We say an inappropriate thing, we forget a commitment we have made. The trick is JUST LIKE THE WOBBBLE BOARD…..choose again, stabilize again. As humans we have been created to live in a world of choice.

If it aint working, wobble a little then choose again. That’s this wonderful life we lead.

Your 2019 Intention-Going Up or Going Down?

In a conversation with a friend this week regarding our 2019 intentions/goal setting, I realized that whatever we forecast for our future can be headed in one of two directions. Out of fear, we can set an intention around what we DON’T want which may be an inadvertent boo-boo. Or we can set an intention which is directed like a rocket to the moon.

My friend suggested that she wanted to make more money so that she could pack up and move somewhere else. No particular place, just anywhere other than where she is right now. In listening to this goal, I realized that much of the wording of the intention was around how she hated her current living conditions as well as her group of friends, her apartment, her community. It was all about the negative and what was wrong.

I found myself wondering if she turned this intention toward the future and focused on a bright new existence in a town that was temperature but near activities and even attempted some sort of visualization of such a wonderful place. Imagining, visioning, feeling the feeling of being in a perfect environment. The feelings that I got when listening to the wrongly led intention were all negative.

Although it was somewhat painful to hear sadness from a dear friend of many years, I realized that this might be a lesson for me as I engaged in creating my 2019 vision board later in the same day. As I searched for words and photos in magazines that I could paste onto my vision board, I made sure that they were all positive in nature. As a result, I found myself getting more excited than ever before about my intentions. OMG this year is going to be fun. And I’m going to achieve it all! Like the kids who run into the swimming pool yelling and creating a cannonball to celebrate the entry into the water……I’m running at 2019 and running hard. CANNONBALL! I wish this for my friend as well.