Looking Up

Jim Carrey, 'The Grinch'

On my errands this week, I was just about to get out of the car when I looked up. In my rearview mirror, two women threw their arms wide open, sang that strange sound that reminds me of a violin being tuned, ran to each other and embraced as if they’d been separated for many years. I warmed at their loving energy and watched for a moment as they held each other at arms-length while rapidly catching up. Even with my windows closed I managed to hear how well one was doing after having been hospitalized.

And then He showed up to spoil it.

Five sharp horn blasts came from a Grinch of a man, angry that the women were blocking his path. Killjoy. They stepped aside to let him pass to the handicap space where he climbed from his big Buick as able-bodied as anyone. Before marching to the store, he tossed them a pinched glance as if to say, “Take your sickening happiness somewhere else.”

This didn’t bother the women nearly as much as it did me. They resumed their gushing.

I followed The Grinch inside.

He browsed unhurried while I asked myself why he’d hit such a nerve. Didn’t take me long to remember.

In my younger days, what seems like another lifetime, I was The Grinch.

Oh, I never laid on my horn to break up happiness, but I know that I’d thought about it. Even waved The Finger that I’d overheard from a five-year-old just yesterday, “ . . . means you hate God.”

Yeah. I hated everyone back then.

My life had gone in an undesirable direction – for 25 years! And I had no idea how to change any of it.  Happiness was so foreign it spoke might as well have spoken Mandurian.

It took losing everything in a fire to snap me out of it. I can look back now and be grateful for the catastrophe that burned my old life to ash. My old life had died in the fire and I got to be at my own funeral. It cleaned my slate, reset my hard drive, and opened the door to a fresh start. Because when you hit bottom, there is only one direction: Up.

Had it not been for that I might still be a Grinch, stomping around everyone else’s happiness without ever finding my own.

So I said a little “Thank You” to Mr. Grinch for reminding me that today I can only look up.






When To Say When

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Have you ever known in your gut that “the big step” you were about to take would be a huge mistake, but you went ahead and did it anyway? Like marrying the wrong person, choosing a habit or protocol out of convenience, or a logical career path to please someone. You listened to everyone else and their rationalizations about your dilemma, and all those opinions outweighed your feelings and overruled your instinct.

How many times have you gone against your better judgment only to regret it?

And how long did it take you to stand up and say when?

Still haven’t worked up the courage?

When will that happen?

After you’ve completely lost your identity to a relationship? In the middle of the Bar Exam? After your second child? On your death bed?

Every time I’ve gone against my inner knowing, I’ve paid dearly. Bad relationships, worse jobs, paths I had no intention of traveling. And I knew better. Deep in my gut, I knew. But I didn’t listen. Live and learn, right?

Standing up for yourself, what you want, what you know is right for you, isn’t necessarily easy. But if you don’t do it, who will?

Lately, I’m encountering people who are dissatisfied with their lives, but afraid to say when. They remain in situations or relationships that no longer serve and don’t fulfill any of their desires.

When do you say when?

When you feel safe? When you can afford to? When others involved will be accepting?

You know when you know. But you must be aware that you know. And you must act on what you know. Pay attention and listen to inner self, your physical body, your progress toward your desires. Take inventory. Are you where you expected to be in your life? Have you ticked off an acquisition list only to find yourself empty or even miserable with all that you thought would bring you success?

Ask the questions:

What is missing?

Why did I want that?

Who would this affect besides me?

How would I be able to manage it?

When would be the best time to say when?

Your “when” might be a year from now or ten minutes from now.

Quick story. A dear friend held a childhood dream of doing hair, yet her financial life took her on a corporate path. By her forties, she was asking when to say when. When she finally did, a health scare placed the dream on the back burner again. For another year, she questioned, “When?”

She’d already been accepted at a school but had no idea how to pay for it or how she would survive the intense schedule.  Just before Christmas she went to work and said, “I think I’m going to start school January 5th.” She didn’t know all the answers to how, but she trusted her gut that her timing was right. She scored a full scholarship at 43. I’m pleased to say that she just graduated and is now working in a salon, thrilled to pieces that she is finally doing what she loves.

Is there such a thing as perfect timing? Everyone’s when will depend on their own variables. But if you don’t pay attention to that little voice pressing you to set a time frame, you’ll never achieve a dream, or get out of your undesirable situation, back to yourself, or live to see your true potential.

Destiny won’t invite herself through a closed door. You decide when to let her in.

You decide when to say when.

You decide.

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Down Come the Walls, a Short Meditation

I saw this on My Modern Met (YouTube) and immediately found it to be a great meditation for freeing yourself from whatever you think is hemming you in.

Think of a problem or mindset you’d like to be free of – something you feel blocked about, or restricted in some way. Now, imagine that you are standing in the middle of this spiral, you can look back at the pathway you took to get there over your lifetime. The walls or fencing around you consists of all the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, anxiety, and mental self-talk you have picked up along the way. And the white pieces on top are your unproven or unresolved fears.

When you are ready, press play and imagine all those issues coming down, and see the beautiful imprint left as a result.

Relax and repeat.

What Inspires You?

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Ward Nichols, in WNC Magazine

Once upon a time I wanted to be a painter. But well-meaning folks (or perhaps fearful) instilled in me the idea of the “starving artist.”

I heard things like, “You’ll starve to death.”

“Who would you run to when the rent came due?”

“It takes years to become good enough to make money with art.”

“Artists are born, not taught. You would have to have displayed an aptitude before you could walk.”

When I was very young, my grandmother rented a room in her house to a painter, whose work never showed in big galleries. I don’t even know how she made her living. I know she passed away before I graduated high school. And until I’d lost everything in a fire, I had the most exquisite realist painting of a fawn lying in tall grass that she had painted for me. I wanted to be like her and paint nature as she had. Joan Wilson was the first artist to make an impression on me. To this day, my cousin haunts garage sales and thrift stores in the hopes of discovering a piece of her lost work.

Realism done well astounds me. This weekend I walked into a small local gallery to the works of Ward Nichols, clutched my chest and gasped. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am not easy to impress. I was on a cloud, which happened to be one of his favorite subjects. This is one of the few artists who makes his living from his art. At 86, he’s now celebrating 50 years as an artist and keeps a vulture near his easel to remind him to not waste a moment.  His biography said that he knew he was born to be an artist because his name is Draw spelled backwards.

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Cohesive, on display at the Wilkes Art Gallery

The detail in tiny blades of grass and bare tree branches, blemishes in the wood planks of dilapidated barns, tire treads in snow, and the bolts on each component of a steam locomotive took my breath away. His still life metal work is so flawless that I had to study each piece to be sure it was not a photograph. This artist understands light, use of negative space, and color restraint. He documents places that no longer stand and handles nostalgia like a historian.

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Scissor table with pot

When I see work this elevated, I know in my heart that had I pursued that path I probably would never have achieved such success. So many don’t.

What made him such a stand-out?

Discipline, which is something I struggle with daily, and am intensely inspired by.

What or who inspires you?


Wearing the Clothes of a Victim is Never Fashionable

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We’ve all had the pity-party after someone we loved hurt us. But when we do it publicly, it ain’t pretty. It’s just pretty sad.

When a relationship doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you should, to quote a young woman I counselled this week, “Put myself back in a box for a couple years.”

Forgive me, but this just rolled out of my mouth. “You’ll go in a box when you’re dead. Why would you waste time in one while you’re still alive?” Bad me. But I’ve been there.

Boo, hoo. Poor you.

Emotional safety is a myth. We are alive to LIVE. That means getting out of the house (your box) and doing things that put you out in the world, among a variety of people having different experiences. Some only for the moment. Others may last a lifetime.

Taking a chance on love is a leap of faith. But if you understand the law of attraction where “like attracts like” you’ll see that you will most often attract a partner or friend of similar neuroses. Misery loves company. If you are a hot mess, you’ll attract people to you with their own baggage. If you are embroiled in lots of drama, you’ll draw other players wrapped up in their own theatrics.

Relationships begin with you. If your relationships aren’t working, begin by looking at yourself first. A little honest self-examination can save you a lot of agony.

What about me is drawing ______ (kind of person) into my life?

Even better, What about that person is me? (Hint: It is usually the part you dislike.)

This is not an easy task. You must be honest with yourself about what kind of emotionally charged energy you put out into the world. Are you angry and confrontational? Are you shy and submissive? Are you kickass aggressive? Are you pretending to be tough to deflect bullies? Are you a people-pleaser always “goes along to get along”? Are you The Walking Wounded?

What part of yourself are you compromising by not speaking up for yourself? Not asking for what you really want? Or what part of you says too much and still doesn’t get your way?

Walking around telling the world how he/she done you wrong – that you might as well “go back in your box” – could get you a little sympathy, but wear those clothes too long and you’ll look like a walking yard sale. Everyone will see you coming, want to avoid you, and pity you because you just don’t see yourself.

Clean out your own closet before rearranging someone else’s.


Ghost Team – review

When is the last time you saw a decent contemporary movie without adult language and sex?

This low-budget film didn’t get any great reviews, probably because it wasn’t full of FX or what the industry considers to be high-concept. The plot was simple and solid if you stuck with it.

Our hero wants to break the mind-numbing monotony of his print shop job. Specifically, he wants to capture evidence of paranormal activity for a contest to get on a popular ghost hunting show. But he can’t do it alone, and doesn’t have any equipment. He manages to recruit other loser types to help, one of whom helps borrow/shoplift the equipment from the big box store where he works.

Following procedures from the television show (ingeniously fictionalized by a couple of the actual Ghost Hunters), the clueless team investigates a dilapidated property owned by one of the copy guy’s customers, without permission.

I won’t spoil anything except to say that all the paranormal activity they capture leads them to a far more dangerous discovery. And it takes every member of the team facing their insecurities and weaknesses to help them get out alive.

If you watch any of the ghost-hunting shows, you’ll enjoy the parallels without having to suffer through gratuitous sex and language.




The Beatles Changed More Than Music

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Just when you think you knew everything about The Beatles…

Did you know that the first time they played Shea Stadium in 1965, and heard that the audience would be segregated, (whites in one section, blacks in another) they said they would not play the show. There was no segregation at shows in England and “we play to people” which means everybody.

There was no segregation at the show.

Whoopi Goldberg was Beatle-crazed kid who knew her family couldn’t afford to go to the show. But her mother surprised her with tickets as they got off the train at Shea Stadium.