Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Thanksgiving Story: What If Life is Working FOR You?

This Thanksgiving story is from my book, "How to Choose Love When You Just Want to Slap Somebody", and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy a beautiful holiday!

Consider this: Life is working FOR me. Life is working FOR me? What a concept! Have you looked at my life? All the petty inconveniences of life like missing car keys, being late for work, only finding one sock, PC crashes — as well as the struggles, pain, and loss—all working FOR my benefit? And the benefit of others? How could that be? As long as I was focused on the drama of the day, this certainly didn’t seem possible. When I consciously choose love as my guide, however, it’s an accepted - and expected - way of life. It took an interesting trail of events to help me realize the truth of this statement. Here’s how it happened.

I’ve been contemplating this very principle and working (yes, working…it didn’t come easily) to allow myself to truly believe that whatever happened, appeared to happen, or looked like it might happen was all for my ultimate good. When discussing this with a few close friends, several had the same question: “Are you nuts?”

Regardless of my skeptical buddies, I was determined to explore the idea. I must admit it was much more of a challenge than I anticipated.

I had been introduced to this theory several years ago in the writings of Louise Hay. I had just begun to discover metaphysical/spiritual literature then and was reading everything I could to understand how my actions and thoughts did indeed create my own experience. This little gem of wisdom must have slipped through the cracks, only to be reintroduced when I attended a five-day “Coaching Success” program with Dr. Robert Holden in New York.

In the safe but intense environment of Robert’s workshop, we delved into the meaning of success, happiness, and yes, the concept that “Life is working FOR you” and how shifting your belief to accept this can positively shift your experience of life. It was a busy, fun, and eye-opening five days! All this was well and good and totally believable as long as I was in the group environment with like-minded folks who were willing to give it a shot too. Then I went home.

I’ll never forget the next several days—when I first realized Life was working FOR me. Robert’s program had ended on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving 2012, and I spent that evening relishing the new concepts I’d learned and how I’d incorporate them into my coaching practice. I boarded the train home on Monday, still full of excitement. The next two days were filled with clients as I played “catch up” in the office after being gone for a week.

In a moment of “Why did I do that?” I suddenly realized on Wednesday that I had volunteered to bring a pumpkin pie to my brother’s house, where my family would gather for our Thanksgiving feast. Maybe I was nuts! I’d just come back from a week of training and was working long hours to see a week’s worth of clients in two days. Now yes, I could have purchased a pumpkin pie from the grocery store, but I had gone into great detail with my family about the merits of my recipe and how we simply must have a homemade pie. My sister really should have stopped me, but she didn’t. Now I was fretting over the stupid pie, and anyone who understands the importance of a good pumpkin pie to the overall success of Thanksgiving knows this was close to a full blown crisis.

Then I remembered.

What if Life was working for me? Yeah, I had momentarily forgotten my new mantra: “Life is working FOR me!” OK, it’ll all work out I thought. I surrendered to this truth and decided I’d finish with my clients and proceed to the store. At that point, I’d assess how tired I was and either purchase a “store bought” pie or the ingredients to make one. I felt the stress leave my body.

Then it happened—my first miracle. One of my favorite clients came in for her session bearing a huge pumpkin pie made by our local five-star bakery. This was the same pie that had been awarded “Washington DC Area’s Best Pumpkin Pie” only days before by a respected regional magazine. Oh yeah, crisis averted! While the irony and timing wasn’t lost on me, I, being human, still needed a bit more convincing.

By Thanksgiving morning, I was in a panic as I prepared for what would be a new tradition for my family. After a year of serious health issues, my Dad was now living in a memory support unit at a local assisted living facility and unable to travel even short distances to be with the family for Thanksgiving. Mom died a few years before and I wanted to see my Dad on our favorite holiday. I was determined to see him in the morning, but I still needed to prepare my side dish for the dinner I would share with my husband, adult children, brother, sister, and their families. Of course I was running late. I’m a “planner” and had meticulously planned every minute of the morning to coordinate all my activities but failed to schedule time for “issues.” Suddenly the ultimate planner was having issues!

I was working on the side dish I was slated to bring to dinner along with my fabulous pumpkin pie when disaster struck again…no lemon juice. Crap! We live almost 15 miles from a grocery store, and there was simply no time to make the trek to town, purchase lemon juice, get back to the house, prepare the dish, go see Dad, and get to my brother’s in time. Now I know to the untrained eye, this looks far from a disaster, but to a stressed, overwhelmed working woman, this is just the tiny issue that can put us over the edge. To add to my stress, I had chosen a recipe from a friend who had died two years before as a way of including her in our celebration. So I probably pissed off a dead woman by forgetting the lemon juice. What was I thinking?

I took a deep breath and repeated “What if Life is working FOR me?” several times until I truly felt a sense of peace and acceptance. I knew whatever came would be perfect for all involved (living or dead). Within minutes, my husband, Joe, appeared in the kitchen and asked how I was doing. 

I told him my recipe was “ruined” because I had failed to buy lemon juice. He looked puzzled, and then with a gleam in his eye he said “I’ll be right back!” Within five minutes he was back in the kitchen with one perfect fresh lemon!  “It’s November in Virginia…. where did you get that?” I asked in amazement. He reminded me that my friend Robin had given me a lemon tree the previous April for my birthday. He’d noticed it wasn’t doing well in my office and had taken it to his private sanctuary, “Manland,” which is in a building separate from our house.  I never go there—it is Manland after all. The lemon tree had revived, and he’d noticed just the day before that it bore one perfect lemon. I juiced it, and, of course, it yielded exactly the amount of juice needed for the recipe. I finished mixing my dish and popped it in the oven while I jumped in the shower to get ready. Another crisis averted! I was really starting to like this “Life working FOR me” thing.

Life was not finished with me just yet.

As I was getting dressed, I noticed my pants were a bit baggy…YAY! I remember thinking that I wished I had a pair in the next smaller size to try. Too bad. As I was looking for the perfect Thanksgiving blouse, I noticed a bag on the floor in the back of my closet. What was that? I looked inside and found three pairs of pants in the next smaller size. What?! I never bought these and didn’t remember where they came from. I quickly found a pair that fit nicely.

Life is working FOR me…I repeated it over and over as Joe and I drove to see my Dad in his new “home.” While the visit was far from the holidays I remember in the past, I can truly say I enjoyed it. I consciously stayed in the moment with him, where he was mentally and physically at that time, and accepted it for the gift that it was: another Thanksgiving with my Dad.

The rest of the day flowed beautifully, and we had a fun day feasting with family, laughing, and telling stories that began with, “Back in our day…” to our adult children. As I related my amazing few days to my sister, she reminded me that she had given me the bag of smaller pants a year earlier. I had totally forgotten! The news just added to the magic of the day.

A free pumpkin pie, a lemon, and even smaller pants couldn’t beat the miracle of accepting my Dad where he was and truly being grateful for the gift of another day with him on the planet.

I get it. I really get it. Life IS working FOR me, and whenever I open my eyes, I see it in action. And Life is working for you too. And each of your family members, and your neighbors, your boss and every single person who is currently feeling frustrated by life. They just don’t know it yet.

Now will you have lemons and pants magically appear just when you need them? I’m not sure of that, but I am sure you’ll handle any situation better when you remember “Life is working FOR you.” And yes, even painful and challenging life events will be easier to weather.

Remember to Remember
So how can you remember that “Life is working FOR you?” Begin by saying it over and over as a mantra or affirmation. Say it in the morning when you get out of bed. Let it be the last thought you have a night and repeat it as many times in between as you can remember throughout the day.

Keep a note taped on your bathroom mirror. Make “Life is working FOR me” scroll across your computer screen. Put the phrase in your car where you’ll see it often and use it.

The key with this concept is to accept that Life is working for you and everyone else without trying to figure out the how. That’s not your job. Yours is to trust the Divine Source that creates life itself, makes the sun rise, the tides come in and the flowers bloom is orchestrating all on your behalf whether you understand it or not.
When you trust that all is ultimately working for your benefit, your perspective instantly changes. You relax. You can weather situations more easily and with more clarity. Instead of feeling like a victim, you open up to possibilities. Again, believing Life is on your side doesn’t exempt you from sadness, grief or tragic events. It does help you see with more loving eyes, hear with more loving ears and feel with a more open loving heart.

Life is working FOR me. What a concept!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Surrender Rock

I often know exactly how to approach an issue. What coaching technique to use, which book to read, who to call for advice or the perfect website that holds all my answers. And sometimes I don’t. I don’t have a clue. Not even a little one. That’s when I use my “Surrender Rock.”

On my desk is a river rock that I selected and on top I carefully wrote “This I Surrender to God.” When I simply can’t see a solution to an issue, or at least one I want to consider, I note my issue or concern on an index card, fold it in half and place it under my rock. It’s sort of my mailing system to God. Yes, I certainly pray about (and for) the people I love, world issues and other problems but sometimes I’ve learned I have to move aside and allow God the space to take care of the issue.

Sometimes I’m working too hard on a solution, and I find the answers aren’t coming easily. There’s no flow. The energy is stuck. Usually, it’s MY energy that’s stuck as I continue to push ahead, demanding an answer, an answer that I agree with, to appear. Often I think I’m just blocking the Divine Plan and I need to get out of the way. I need to hand the issue over to God and let Him take care it. When I do, miracles happen. I had a little miracle just this week in fact.

I’ve been working to upgrade my website and use my social media platforms more effectively. Over the weekend, I was frantically trying to understand a graphics marketing program that I’ve been told is very simple. Evidently, it’s simple for everybody but me. 

While I was exploring the program, I was overwhelmed with everything on my “to do” list. Thanksgiving is at our house this year; my nephew is getting married two days later and 24 hours after that, I leave for a two week business trip to London. All great events, but the added stress was getting to me. In desperation I muttered, “God, you gotta take care of this. I’ll learn how to do this after the first of the year, but until then I’m giving this one to you.” Under the rock my problem went. And I forgot about it. 

Within 24 hours, I got an email from a client saying she was playing around with this same graphics program and wondered if she could create some content for me – for free – so she could build a portfolio. “Why YES YOU CAN,” I thought as I looked at my Surrender Rock.

Not all my issues are handled as quickly as this one. And sometimes I never find out how the issue or problem evolved or if it got “solved” as I’d expected. When I surrender the problem to God and get out of His way; I trust the Divine is working behind the scenes in ways I could never orchestrate, and miracles happen. I like miracles.

Do you have any problems or issues that could use a Divine touch? Find yourself a rock.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Perfection Amid Chaos

I get it. I'm finally able to see Divine Perfection amid chaos. Much of the time at least. Here’s a recent example.

I decided to go to IKEA a mere 48 miles away from home on a Friday afternoon and talked my strong son into coming (someone had to lift those boxes). My plan was simple: drive an hour, grab something to eat, quickly locate what I needed from my list, check out and be back home before afternoon rush hour traffic. I’d have plenty of time to go home, change and attend the visitation of a friend’s dad at the local funeral home that evening. All was good. Or so I thought.

But Life happened. We were late leaving the house, there was a problem with lunch, not all of the items I wanted could be located, and there was a HUGE issue with my intended “speedy” checkout and delivery process. Of course we were late leaving the store, which put us “smack dab” in the middle of the worst rush hour traffic in the country. Great. For a few minutes I was concerned about the snarled traffic and erratic driving style of the adjacent drivers, being late for the funeral visitation and inconveniencing my son. Then I remembered there is Divine Perfection in every moment. And I started to look for it.

Amid the chaos of the grueling traffic, my son and I had a beautiful heartfelt conversation about our life goals and what we wanted for our careers over the next few years. He shared some sensitive and loving insights about his life that touched my heart as I realized (again) what an incredible guy he is.

We had taken a back road thinking we’d miss some of the traffic, but another thousand or so commuters had the same thought, so we continued to crawl along the scenic back roads meandering toward home. We saw sparkling landscapes we’d never noticed when we typically whizzed by at 55 miles per hour. We noticed majestic trees, interesting homes, and fascinating looking people in cars next to us. We listened to music on the radio and sang along to a few familiar tunes. What I had feared would be a nightmare ride, became the best part of the day. I saw the Divine Perfection in it.

I made it home in plenty of time to pay my respects at the funeral home, and my husband and I even managed a late romantic dinner. I realized my experience of the day would have been drastically different if I had allowed anger to take over when my carefully crafted plan had been changed. It’s so energizing when a truth I’ve realized before gets reinforced on an even deeper level.  

The gift of this day was that I was able to understand how Divine Perfection exists in even the most chaotic situations, which results in deeper inner peace for me. Chaos takes many forms. What I perceived as chaos paled in comparison to someone who’s lost a child, had a job termination or other life altering event. Even in those situations, I am convinced there is Divine Perfection. In retrospect, I can see it in the death of my own loved ones and in a devastating divorce.  

OK, God...I get it. You do have this Life thing. I'm going to concentrate on allowing the good to surface in situations instead of micro managing every detail. And I know the greater good is there whether I recognize it or not. I’m trusting in the Divine Perfection of it all.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Captain D and the Doobie Brothers: A Story for Veterans Day

There it was. In the back corner of a jewelry box drawer, hidden under a ticket stub from a 1976 Doobie Brothers concert, I found the silver POW bracelet that I’d worn during my high school and college years. I’d spent a thousand hours staring at the name on the bracelet and wondering what was happening to the man it represented.

Back in those days, these bracelets were sold for a small fee to support the effort to locate and return U.S. prisoners of war from the Vietnam conflict. Once purchased, the owner vowed to wear the bracelet 24/7 until the fate of the soldier was known. I prayed for those returned, for those still missing, for those who served and made it home, for the families whose lives were forever changed. I prayed a lot. I didn’t know what else to do.

Prayers seemed to be answered one day when Captain D’s name appeared on the returned list that was printed in the newspaper. I was ecstatic! I felt connected to him in some way and was overjoyed he’d be returning to his family. I remember getting an official blue sticker with a white star and placed that next to Captain D’s name on the bracelet which signified his release. Since this was before the days of the internet, I never knew what became of “my” Captain D.

As the years progressed, I graduated, got married and started having kids. Every so often, the bracelet would surface in my jewelry box, still an important reminder of those years. Captain D, in bracelet form, moved with me nine times over 40 years around Virginia and was used as a “show and tell” item several times by my kids. When I moved the concert ticket and saw the bracelet, it was like finding an old friend.

But this time was different.

I decided to try and find Captain D and offer him the bracelet. A quick Google search led me to his February 2012 obituary detailing the life of this decorated war hero who continued a distinguished military career after he returned from Vietnam. I was suddenly sadder than I should have been, considering we’d never met. Perhaps I’d been trigged by the loss of my own dad only six months before. I wondered if the family might be interested in my treasure. I called the funeral home and explained my mission. A very pleasant woman told me they’d contact the family with my information. Within an hour I got a call from Steve in Nevada.

“That’s a weird number,” I thought as I answered my phone.

“Hi, my name is Steve and I’m the son of Captain D. The funeral home just called to say you had one of my dad’s POW bracelets and you’d like to give it to us?” My heart stopped and I felt my eyes start to well with tears. It was hard to speak but Steve was patient.

We started to talk and both became very emotional. We shared the pride we felt for our fathers, how we wished our children could have known them as we did and how we missed our dads being a steady presence in our lives. We shared like strangers do when they have no fear of judgment and speak freely from the heart.

“Why did you call the funeral home?” Steve asked. “I mean, why did you call today?”

“I was cleaning out a drawer and found it under an old Doobie Brothers concert ticket,” I explained. “What? You’re never going to believe this,” Steve said. “I’m driving to a doctor’s appointment and I had this craving to hear the Doobie Brothers. I’ve got it playing on my IPod right now!” We both laughed.

I got his address and told him I’d take a few days to compose a letter describing the bracelet’s journey the past 40 years and send it to him, which I did. In addition to those details, I wanted the family to know why this project had been so important to me. Here is a portion of what I shared with Steve:

My own father died several months ago and he was my hero. As a young soldier, he had been held for a time in a German POW camp during WWII and had nightmares about it until the day he died at age 88.  Although he ran a successful business for decades, was active in local politics and sat on many community boards, he was haunted by his war experiences. My mother’s brother was shot down over France in 1944 and my mom waited to find out what happened for nearly 30 years. Although I don’t presume to understand what you, your mother and family went through, I do know how war affected my family.

I bought this bracelet as a way to support POWs and their families and bring attention to their situation. I wore it everywhere and never took it off.   I remember scanning the newspaper every time “the lists” came out searching for your dad’s name.  I first scanned the returnee list, and when I didn’t find his name there, I’d check the deceased list hoping not to find him listed. I prayed for your dad and your family every day.  The day I saw Capt. D’s name on the returnee list, I was ecstatic and hoped he was returned unharmed.  I believe I remember wearing the bracelet for a couple years more to remember the other POWs and those who were still missing in action. I am so delighted your dad came home to you. I know you must have been a young boy at the time, but I hope it helps to know thousands of people were sending love and prayers to your dad and your entire family.
With my own dad’s passing, it’s been a comfort to hear stories from others about him, to find notes in his handwriting or long forgotten mementos buried in drawers. When I found this bracelet I felt compelled to give it to him, or a family member. I am sorry I didn’t find your dad before his death, but I’m happy to have found you. If this does end up with your son as you mentioned on the phone, please tell him his grandfather was admired and respected by those who sincerely appreciate his service to our country.  Please know how much I admire the sacrifices your mother made as a military wife.

I know this bracelet has now found its way home.

I sent the bracelet off to Nevada, happy to know the family would have this keepsake. Within a few days, I received a beautiful handwritten note from Steve. He said he was going to share my letter with his mom when she visited for Easter and planned to give the bracelet to his own son, now a proud member of the military who had just the week before asked about his grandfather’s career. My tears flowed again as I felt so grateful to be a small part of this family’s story.

It is just amazing to me the way life flows, bringing people and events together at just the right time. It’s funny…whenever I think of meeting Steve this way and the stories we shared, I hear “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers playing in the background.