My Gratitude List

“Do not regret growing old, many are denied the privilege” ~ Irish Blessing At this time of year we take pause to consider the great fortune in our lives. Yes, I am deeply grateful for my husband, my children, my family and my community. I am grateful that I published my book this year. I am grateful for my home and our abundance.

But, as I get older, I am finding something new to be grateful for. My age.

As I putter around the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving feast, the tendonitis in my elbow spasms sharply and the ache in my back intensifies. I grumble and groan. And then I shut up.

If I’ve learned anything from what I’ve been through, I have learned that my body is merely a vehicle for carrying my soul through this life.

My vehicle has its fair share of dents, rust and parts that need oiling but, in spite of its faults, my body has carried me through life for 54 years.

And, in doing so, I have had the privilege of learning some key, vital habits that have enriched and deepened my life, that have connected my body deeper to my soul.

So, here is my expanded Gratitude List:

I am thankful for my compassion. When I extend compassion to another, I am looking into a mirror. Compassion reminds me that we are all cut from the same cloth. Just different outfits.

I am thankful for my attitude of forgiveness. When I extend forgiveness to another, I free my soul from the chains of resentment, anger and bitterness.

I am thankful for my ability to trust. When I trust that Life is on my side and wants me to succeed, I allow good to flow into my life. Conversely, when I doubt Life’s good intentions for me, fear guides my decisions and makes a mess out of everything.

So, while my body may be gaining a few more dents and bruises, my spirit is gaining more joy, more love and more gratitude.

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An Invitation

What are you grateful for in your life now, at this age, that you didn’t experience or weren’t aware of ten years ago?

Making My Life Come True

When I was a young girl I dreamed of being a writer. I never told anyone about this dream. One day I decided it was time, so I took a sheet of wide-ruled paper and started writing a story. It was about a land called Ux (or something equally similar to Oz. Yes, The Wizard of Oz was, and still is, my favorite movie. Watch it again if you don't agree. It's layered. Truly.). After just one side of one page, I gave up. I realized that I was copying the Oz story and it was stupid and dumb and if anyone read it they would laugh. I buried the page deep in a pile of papers. I didn't write again until my freshman year of college. My SAT scores sent me into English 100. Yep, remedial English. I was embarrassed about this for as long as it took to start my first assignment. I had to write about a place, so I wrote about my aunt's summer house, "the farm," on south Puget Sound. We went there every summer when I was a kid. Writing about "the farm" was the first time I ever enjoyed writing. I did what my professor told me to do: instead of telling the reader about "the farm," I painted a picture of the farm so the reader could feel, smell and taste the farm. I loved writing college papers because of this class.

But that didn't make me a writer. No, I let that dream lay dormant for many more years. I had to live my life before I could write about it. I had to accumulate my understanding about life before I could share it.

Enter two children in my mid-thirties. Enter myself as a crazy, zany mother who lost touch with herself, wondering where her life went. That's when I really started to write.

I didn't write with the intention of writing a book. That came later. At first, my intention for writing was to understand myself, my life, my challenges and my fears. Writing became revealing, cathartic, and therapeutic. It was only after I started regaining a sense of myself that I allowed that thirty-year-old dream to write a book to resurface.

Allowing myself to dream, just dream about writing a book, was huge. It took years before I told anyone my intentions. And when I did, I was very demure about claiming it as my own. Almost apologetic. But my husband and family urged me on. In the early years one of my brothers would call me occasionally and say something like, "Wow, you must be busy. You're writing a book!" I simultaneously puffed up with pride when he said this and shrank in, what, shame? Yea, something like that.

I worked for five, six, maybe seven years on writing my book. Persistently getting up at 5:30 a.m., I carved out time before the kids woke up.

People have asked me if it was hard to write. To that I answer with an unequivocal "Yes!" But, just like birthing a baby, in the after-glow of my book's birth, I forget all the hair-pulling moments, the doubts, the writer's block, and the desire to quit.

I AM proud of this accomplishment. Now that my book is out in the world, I feel empowered. Now that the secrets of my abortions are revealed, I feel free. Now that the shame of my limitations have been aired to the world, I feel liberated. And, after years of feeling alone in my story, I now feel immense support.

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Life is a series of decisions and daily actions that lead us to creating the life we want. How do you want to make your life come true? If you could create one small habit to get you there, what would it be?

A Leg to Stand On is Published!

I am thrilled and delighted, relieved and amazed that my book, A Leg to Stand On, is officially published today! Birthing this book has been very similar to the process I went through to bring my two children into the world. First was the interminably long gestational period in which I felt both inept and helpless and invigorated and hopeful. And then there was the sometimes arduous, sometimes euphoric, often painful birthing process. But now I hold my book in my hands and almost forget (almost!) all the challenges it took to get here.

The creative process, whether through one's own mind or through one's body, is like having a direct link to Source. My creations, be they human beings or books, are inspired from a place outside of me and have a purpose that is beyond me.

Though my children started in my womb, they are their own individual, unique beings. So, too, with my book. I lived the story, I wrote the story down on paper, and now it's time for A Leg to Stand On to do what it needs to do in the world.

I would be honored if you would help spread the word about A Leg to Stand On. And thrilled if you read it. Thank you!

A Sneak Peak

My book comes out in just one week and I'm busting with excitement! To give you a flavor of what's inside, here is a sneak peak of the first chapter.

Order your copy today!

 The Impact

“I love this song,” my sister Mary Beth said wistfully, as she navigated the snowy drive through the Chuckanut mountains to Bellingham, Washington. It was 1978, and the hit love song, “Sometimes When We Touch,” played through the speakers of our yellow Ford station wagon. Christmas break was over, and my thirteen-year-old brother, David, and I were accompanying Mary Beth back to college, then making the two-hour drive back home to Bellevue without her. I was seventeen, and the prospect of my driving such a long stretch back thrilled me but scared me, too. Though there was still plenty of daylight left, it had begun snowing shortly after we left home almost two hours prior, and the roads up in the foothills were covered in an inch of snow.

“Yeah—I like this song, too,” I said. We all started singing along, crunched together in the front seat, David sandwiched between Mary Beth and me. “I want to hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry. I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides,” we bellowed at the top of our lungs.

We were creeping along at about thirty-five miles an hour with the rest of the cars, forming a serpentine as we wove through the hills.

“Oh no!” Mary Beth suddenly shouted. A white semitruck was in the left lane, and its right turn signal flicked on. It began to merge into our lane. The giant smiling face of a child eating a piece of but- tered bread leered at me from the side of the semi, getting larger by the second. Mary Beth tapped gently on the brakes, but our car started to fishtail, like when I slam on my bike brakes on a bed of gravel. I threw my arm across David’s stomach, like my mother would do. As the car started spinning out of control, I had this crazy memory of the teacup ride at Disneyland. My stomach dropped, and I flattened my feet against the floorboard. Though I was scared, I was also aware of how pretty the snowflakes were as they swished past the windshield. I felt like I was inside a snow globe. Then we slammed into the guardrail so hard my teeth vibrated. Our station wagon came to a stop on the left shoulder of the freeway, facing traf- fic. Not one of us spoke. The windshield wipers continued their lazy swiping, the radio droned on, and everything fell quiet.

The cars in the right lane kept streaming by. We sat there for what felt like ten minutes, but was probably just a minute. We all felt shaken as we watched the snow and the traffic. Obviously we needed to do something, but what?

“I’ll get out and check the damage,” I finally said, my voice sounding calmer than I felt. I slipped out the door and took a few steps to the front of the car, my legs trembling and my breathing shallow, to see if the tire and bumper were damaged. I felt light, like I could float away, but also relieved to get a fresh breath of cold air. Unconquerable. We’re okay! I thought. And so was the car. I scurried back inside and made my report. We needed someone to stop traffic so we could make a U-turn. Why isn’t anyone helping? I thought. Perhaps it was because the road conditions were dangerous enough that others didn’t want to risk getting stuck. Then I wondered, What would Kevin do? My older brother, Kevin, was the problem-solver in the family, and since Dad’s death four years ago, I always looked to him for answers. As if channeling my brother, I suddenly knew what to do. “I’ll get out and flag down some help,” I said. The idea made me feel proactive and smart.

I got out of the car again and walked carefully around the side and up to Mary Beth’s window. She unrolled it and handed me her gloves. “Be careful,” she said. David opened the passenger-side door and started to get out. “David!” she yelled. “Stay in the car!” David quickly slipped his legs back in the car and shut the door.

As soon as I was on the shoulder of the freeway, I felt foolish instead of in control. How do I get someone to stop and help us? I waved my arms feebly, knowing I looked stupid. Shouldn’t a seven- teen-year-old girl standing next to a spun-out car be an obvious call for help? What am I, invisible?

Just as I was about to try making eye contact with someone in a slow-moving car, I noticed a green Pacer in the left lane coming right at me. He was driving faster than the rest of the cars, too fast for how slippery I knew the road was. You jerk, I thought. You’re gonna spin out! I blinked and saw the Pacer start to skid.

Why I Write (again)

In this is a post from March of 2012, I talk about one of the reasons I wrote my book.  With my book coming out in less than a month, I want to post this again. Recently I set up a Google Alerts account with the topic “amputees,” which alerted me, through daily links in my inbox, to the latest noteworthy accounts of amputees in the news. Day after day I received articles either about über-athletes using the newest technology in prosthetics or the wounded warriors from the war, many of whom are soldiers returning to war after recovering from their amputation.  And I began to wonder, is it only through exceeding expectations that amputees are valued?  Is it only when amputees do the same as two-legged folks that we are seen a worthy?

In setting up the Google alerts, I wanted to read stories about the “average” amputee, someone I could identify with, but I can relate to these people as much as I can to an Olympic athlete.  While their stories are amazing and inspiring, these are not my stories.

According the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), on average there are 507 amputations a day in the U.S.  That’s over 185,000 people a year recovering from limb loss.  Where are the stories about them?

I receive daily posts on my Facebook page from amputees through the ACA, people who are struggling and challenged by their new amputation or their newest and latest prosthetic.  The majority of amputees in our country are a hidden population of people truly struggling.

That’s why I have written a book, to talk about the issues of living life as an amputee.  I want to give voice to the average amputee who deals with the daily challenges of ill-fitting prosthetics, and the (sometimes) life-long struggle with self-esteem. My story isn’t one of extremes; mine is the day to day story of dealing with a disability.

Overcoming My High School Angst

High school students used to terrify me. Not only have I heard warnings about them since my children were in utero—they can’t be trusted, their developing brains make the stupid, eighty percent of them will try alcohol, and they are going to assert their independence in all sorts of nasty ways—but I felt completely inept around them. It used to be that whenever I was around an older teen, I’d freeze up and act like the gawky girl I was before I lost my leg. They say that when we experience a trauma a part of our development is stunted at the age we were when the trauma happened. I was a somewhat awkward high school senior when I lost my leg and, since then, a part of me has been stuck there. So when I found myself around teenagers, I didn’t know how to communicate with them. What do I say? What’s cool and funny these days? How do I get them to like me? I know adults are supposed to assert their ‘adult-ness,’ especially around high schoolers, but for me, I felt just like I did in high school: I wanted to be liked.

When my nieces and nephews (who are all older than my children) were in high school, I reflected back to my hopes and dreams at that age. They were pretty simple, really: I wanted a first kiss, I wanted my driver’s license, and I wanted that boy to ask me on a date. In short, I wanted to grow up. And then I was in my accident and lost my leg. I didn’t want to grow up that way.

Now that my kids are both high school students—my son is a senior and my daughter is a freshman—I can honestly say that I love high school students. It’s hard to talk about them without sounding cliché. It’s hard not to compare them to a budding flower, full of promise and beauty, ripe with possibility and hope. I love their exuberant energy, how they dive into their interests head-on, and how they see their future as something to expect, enjoy and fulfill.

Life has a way of clouding our optimism and deadening our dreams. As I am embarking a new career path as a writer, coach and speaker, I am inspired and invigorated by the infectious attitude of possibility and hope that my children radiate these days.http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-invitation-word-card-envelope-invited-to-party-event-formally-inviting-you-other-special-image32727886

An Invitation

How about you? What old story lives in your bones? How can someone else’s attitude help you re-write that story?

Criticism and Praise

Tara Mohr is an insightful, wise woman. She teaches women how to play big in their lives. It was while I was taking her Playing Big course that I took a “leap.” That leap was my application video for TEDxBellingham. Which was accepted. Which led to one of the highlights of my life. In her Playing Big program, Tara talks about key issues that help women play bigger. As I near the release of my book, I need to remember what she teaches about our attachments to criticism and to praise (to read more about this, check out her article in the NY Times from a few weeks ago here).

When my manuscript received a scathing review last spring by a potential endorser, I was crushed. But I had to pick myself back up and move forward. I had to remember that the review was not about me as a person, it wasn’t even about my story. The criticism was about my writing. I had to take a step back and remember that.

What I like about Tara’s discussion about criticism and praise is that she encourages us to take that same step back from praise. I haven’t been taught that before. My goal has always been to get praise from people and, in doing so, feeling valued, worthy and correct. This is how we are culturalized. It’s very natural for us—especially women—to want, even need, praise in order to feel worthy. And that’s because we believe what people are telling us. We believe their criticism and then feel like crap. We believe their praise and then feel awesome! I see now how that dependence on other’s opinions doesn’t serve me.

My book is not intended for everyone to read nor will it resonate with everyone. If people don’t like my book, their criticism doesn’t reflect on my value and worth as a human being. If people do like my book, their praise doesn’t reflect on my value and worth as a human being.

As I stand at this threshold of my book’s release, I need to remember that I didn’t write my book to be criticized or praised. I wrote my book to connect. I wrote my book to share not just my story, but THE story, the story we all have about forgiveness, acceptance, reliance and overcoming adversity.

So my challenge, once the book comes out and people start reading it, is to avoid being buoyed by praise and deflated by criticism. I don’t want my value and worth to be dependent on what others think of the 75,000 words I wrote.

 

How attached are you to people’s praise? How about their criticism? What would happen if you stood firmly in your own power and self-knowing and allowed the praise and criticisms to flow over you?

3 Reasons Why I Avoid Reading Blogs With Lists

3 Reasons Why I Avoid Reading Blogs With Lists I opened up my email and saw a blog post titled “3 Steps to the Life You Want!”

Oh, cool. I’ve been feeling kind of lost lately. I want to have the life I want. And there’s only 3 things I have to do? Awesome. I clicked on the link to open up this simple, easy, can-do plan. I couldn’t wait. I was ready for a life change.

What I read really ticked me off. Write out a plan, Read the Plan, Take action. Anther blog with a similar promise said: take up running, write a blog, stop procrastinating.

Seriously? These ideas are either so banal that they offer no substance or they are so lofty that we are doomed to fail before we begin.

So, to save you the same frustration, let me tell you the 3 reasons why you should avoid these kinds of posts:

  1. You are not a moron. How many times have we opened up these emails just to read obviously inane tips? Sure, we may be floundering, lost even, but we’re not stupid. Just because we’re lost doesn’t mean we need to have the most basic ideas flung in our face. Instead, I offer you this: Stay lost. When I spent a college quarter studying in London, I purposefully got off the Tube at a random stop. After the Tube doors hissed shut, I started walking. I relished not knowing where I was. Sure, there was a map in my backpack that would eventually lead me back home, but I allowed myself time to stay lost.  I discovered new things when I was lost that I never would have found had I stayed on the Tube to the same stop every day.
  2. Life isn’t a quick sound bite. The news tries to make it so, Facebook and Twitter try to make it so, and you know, you just know that when you’re up against some serious stuff in life, even your friends want to make it so. "It'll be okay,"  they say.  We are a culture that is uncomfortable with the deeper feelings, the real feelings. We’d much rather give three reasons to make it all go away, to put the glossy veneer of happiness on the situation.
  3. Life is richer, deeper and more fulfilling when we look inside for the answer. I know it’s tempting to look outside, but how many times have you said to yourself, “I had a feeling,” or “My gut told me,” or “I knew I shoulda . . .” We are not taught how to look inside for answers; we are taught to rely on influences outside of ourselves. You feel lost? The compass is your heart. You feel tired? Your soul is a pair of wings. Nothing’s really going to change just by reading someone’s list of shoulds. That’s a great list for the author. Go write your own list. And then live by that list. Living an authentic, satisfying, energetic, loving and happy life takes attention and intention. It takes getting lost and finding your way again.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-invitation-word-card-envelope-invited-to-party-event-formally-inviting-you-other-special-image32727886An Invitation

Next time you see a Facebook link or a blog post in your email box promising you a quick, easy fix, think about whether you want to spend your time on that.  Instead, ask yourself what you need in that moment.  The answers are there.

Just listen

 

 

The Missing Keys

The other morning I was rushing to leave the house for an appointment. When I was finally ready, I reached into my purse to grab my keys. I rummaged around and couldn’t find them. In my rush, I went to the jacket I was wearing the night before and searched the pockets. No keys. I went back to my purse, sure I had put them in there—as I always do. I took everything out of my purse, one by one, but couldn’t find my keys. I scurried to my bedroom and fumbled through the pockets of the pants I wore the night before. No keys. I texted my husband and son and asked them if they had inadvertently taken my keys that morning. I went back to my purse and took everything out again. I shook my purse but heard nothing.  No keys. I threw the cushions off the couch and the chair where I had sat the night before. No keys. I rushed out to my car and felt the ignition area. No keys. I checked my phone to see if I had received a text. No text and NO KEYS! I was panicked, worried about where they could be and that I would have to cancel my appointment. I went back to my purse and took a deep breath.  I took out my wallet, my reading glasses, my checkbook, my sunglasses, my journal, my pen, my lip gloss and gum. I still couldn’t find my keys. I picked up my purse, looked inside and, there, THERE were my keys. Lying there quietly, demurely, inconspicuously. I threw everything back into my purse and rushed out the door. But don’t think for one second that what had just happened escaped me. Don’t think that I didn’t feel like Dorothy Gale from Kansas in that moment.  “If I can’t find my heart’s desire in my own backyard, then maybe I’ve never lost it to begin with.”

Sometimes the very thing we are looking for, the key to everything, is right where it needs to be. Sure, sometimes we can't see it, feel it or hear it, but it's there.  Never doubt that it's there.

We haven’t lost the key, we just need to take a deep breath and be open to finding it.

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An Invitation

Do you have a missing key? Where have you looked? What would happen if you took a deep breath and looked inside?

What I Learn From Anger

What makes you angry? I mean really angry? For some people it’s injustice. For others it’s bad manners. Still others become angry when they come across inefficiency. What makes you angry? I get angry a lot – about inefficiencies, about people being rude, about injustices – and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Add overwhelm to the mix and my anger increases tenfold. I’m not proud of my anger, especially when it’s directed at an innocent bystander (my husband and children come to mind), but I do acknowledge that my anger serves a purpose. My anger has a will. My anger is true, real, and golden. My anger creates change, growth, new direction.

Growing up, my anger was a reactive, impetuous emotion. My Dad used to always counsel, “Colleen, count to ten before you get angry.” Which always pissed me off. I didn’t want to slow down my volatile outburst and count like a baby. As an adult, I see that Dad was on to something.

Since I married Mark, my opposite in how he deals with anger, I’ve come to understand that taking ten seconds isn’t such a bad idea. I’ve learned that in ten seconds I can give my brain some space. I can ask myself: What’s going on here? Why the anger? What’s really pissing you off right now? And you know what? Eight out of ten times, just asking the question brings tears to my eyes. By opening space to dive beneath the anger, I realize there is a well of sadness underneath. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve this. I’m not loved. And other variations on the theme. At first I was shocked. How can I, a strong, independent woman, be thinking such derogatory thoughts? Aren’t I bigger than this? But, deeper down, these statements resonated with the deep tone of a cathedral bell. I knew these statements were true. I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel loved. I didn’t feel deserving.

And that, my friend, is what is at the crux of my anger. Inadequacy. I’m not so much angry that I feel inadequate, I’m angry that my inadequacies feel like Truth. I am angry I have to fight these inadequacies every day of my life. I have been living with the truth of my inadequacies for so long, I don’t even question the validity of their origins. I don’t even know where they came from. My parents? Not overtly. School? Perhaps, in an off-handed way. Teasing and bullying by classmates? Most assuredly, but not to an extent to make them so ingrained. Is it possible, I wonder, I came into this world feeling inadequate? Is it possible that my life’s purpose is to not only feel adequate, but to own how fucking awesome I am?

I know. A lot to take in, isn’t it?

Imagine walking through every day of your life feeling fucking awesome.

I mean, if I believe what I say I believe—we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that my true nature lies inherently in my soul—then why the hell wouldn’t I be fucking awesome? The words Soul and Inadequate are like oil and water. Inadequacy recoils into a fine powder that can be puffed into oblivion at the mere sound of the word Soul. They cannot co-exist. Not if I’m walkin’ my talk.

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So, I ask you.

What makes you angry? Take the thread of your answer and follow it into Alice’s rabbit hole. What sadness lies beneath? What did you bring into this life with you? What is the oil drop in the waters of your Soul?