Happy Missteps & Glorious Mistakes

Have you ever lost a job? Lost a love? Lost your mind and tore your world apart to “get right” again?

Did you get a little distance from the situation and think, “Oh, THANK GOD!”

You’re my people.

There are several events I look to as pivot points for my life. Situations where – to my liking or not – I had to pivot and find a new path, a new outlook, a new way of doing things.

I won’t lie – in the moment, those events left me awash in waves of hot, dark hell crying for mercy.

But I did what I do best. I took the next breath . . . and the next . . . and the next.

Eventually all those breaths added up to minutes. Minutes turned into hours. Hours, days. Then, one day, from far away, I could look back at the man, the job, the meltdown, the (fill in your own blank) and say, “Damn – I didn’t like it in the moment, but that really changed me for the better!”

How do you navigate the change that comes from tough times?

Do you let it mold you and sculpt you into something better or do you get bitter?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about overcoming my Bitter-B tendencies:

I have to stop myself from making up a different story. I’m a writer and I’m southern, which means embellishment is one of the things I do best. So, when I’m going through a tough time, I remind myself to recite the facts, only the facts – without any “supporting details.”

Once I get my story “straight” I ask:

What am I REALLY upset about?

A lot of times, it’s not the actual thing that I’m upset about. It’s the ideas/dreams/stories I told myself about the thing that I’m upset about losing.

Now that I’ve reframed, do I want what I lost? OR, do I want a different/better version that’s more in line with my dreams and ideals?

This is where I’m able to gain footing. Most times, I don’t really want the actual thing I lost. I want the version of the thing that I had in my head.

What action steps can I take to bring me closer to what I REALLY want?

I’m a list-maker, so I pull out a pad and get to listing. Some of my ideas are shit. But, sometimes, I come up with something brilliant. (PSA: If you’re applying these steps to your breakup – stalking, whether online or in person, is NOT an action item. I repeat, stalking is bad, m’kay?!?!?!)

Of course, sometimes, I continue spiraling. And, when I look at it, it’s because I’m ruminating. That’s when I make a deal with myself to step telling myself “the story.” (Yes, read that again.)

I’ve noticed that it’s worse when I’m in the car. I’ll be driving down the road and my monkey-mind will be on chattering away going over and over and over what happened, what I did wrong, what they said, what I said, what I could’ve done differently, what they should’ve done differently, what I wished I would’ve said . . . and on . . . and on . . . . and on. Seriously, it’s like the crazy train pulls into the station and blows the whistle for all the nutty thoughts to come aboard!

So, I redirect my thoughts when I find my mind winding up the story box. Even if it’s just 15-minutes at a time. I’ll sing along to the radio or put on a podcast – I’ve noticed that when I engage with words, I disengage my internal monologue. But, if you’re in a story spiral, you’ll have to experiment until you find your key to stop the self-talk.

Finally, I seek forgiveness.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an apology – or even a conversation – to forgive someone. I simply get quiet and picture them in my mind and I say to them, “Person’s Name, I forgive you and release you. I wish you nothing but the best.” Then, I picture them getting lighter and lighter and lighter until they turn into a fine mist and they’re gone.

This isn’t a one-and-done practice, though. Sometimes, it takes several forgiving and releasing visualizations for me to let peoople go. But, that isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is to forgive and release myself. I let go of the ridiculous expectations I had for myself, I let myself off the hook for saying horrible things, I just let it go and feel the freedom from being released. When I’m able to do it, it’s quite a remarkable experience. I urge you to do the same.

Finally, I take responsibility for my story and my life moving forward.

Yes, that last chapter wasn’t so lovely, but I can turn the page and start penning something marvelous now! After all, I’m in charge of my experiences and you are responsible for yours! That’s why I’ve started making plans – both professionally and personally – to be active in drafting a bright future. Grab your calendar and put some fun outings and challenges on there! It’ll give you something to work toward and look forward to conquering.

Of course, if you’ve tried everything you can think of to get out of your own head and can’t stop the cycle, consider talking to someone. Do your research and choose a life coach or a counselor to help you identify some strategies that will get you through this roadblock and on the path to a better life.

At the end of the day, though, what matters most is that you’re able to learn and grow from your experiences. Life should make you better, not bitter! Let’s drop our sad stories, let’s stop being victims and let’s embrace lasting change and renewed strength.

Cheers, dears, to the happy missteps and glorious mistakes that make us our most glorious selves.

How To Celebrate the Everyday

Get up. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed.

Get up. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed.

Get up. Go to work . . .

Do you relate? Do you feel like your life is on autopilot and that one day runs into the next, into the next, into the next?

Have you ever thought about slowing down and celebrating the everyday? (Yes, even the mundane!)

It occurred to me one night when I was making dinner. (Which I do NOT love to do, btw. I’m much better at making reservations.) I’m in the kitchen and think – I hate this, but it’s necessary. What can I do to make this hell task more enjoyable? How can I celebrate this moment, because THIS very second is all I have.

So, I went to the living room and brought back a candle. I poured myself a glass of wine and turned on some music. I took a couple of sips and by the end of the bottle I FREAKING LOVED cooking!!! (Kidding.)

I settled in and tried to find pleasure in the task – the colors, smells, movement, textures. Which, overall, made it more enjoyable than cursing every step of the recipe and my inability to “throw something together” like some people do.

Then, I wondered about the rest of my life and the 3,000 mundane things we all do on the day-to-day. How could I make each “chore” a little less “chore-ing” and a bit more enjoyable?

I added podcasts and audio books to my daily walks, because I never feel like I have enough time to read and listen to all the things I want. I turned on the deck lights every night – even if I don’t sit outside, I can see them through the windows and they make me happy! I threw things away and started a donate bag, because clutter makes me crazy. I painted my nails for #manicuremonday – because I like the way pretty polish looks when I type on my keyboard.

Basically, I’m waking up to the gift of each moment and encourage you to do the same. This is NOT a dress rehearsal, kids. And nothing brings that home more than the big birthdays and milestones. So, I beg you . . . use the “good” plates, take the bath, light the candles, drink the wine and soak up every minute of your gorgeous drudgery.

Because, celebrate it or not, one day it will be over. And, right now, I’m pretty confident that as you draw your last breath, you’ll never regret having made the most of every single moment.

> Me

Lost health.

Lost friends.

Lost family.

Lost jobs.

Lost loves.

Lost trust.

Lost expectations.

Lost hope.

One thing I haven’t lost? Faith.

I don’t believe in me. I believe in a power and purpose greater than me. And this power isn’t one that protects me from feeling pain, fear, scarcity, lack and so on. It’s a power that uses the unfortunate things that happen to make me a better person.

If I listen, I’ll learn. Even if that means the bad thing that happened to me was of my own stupidity . . . and NOT the devil.

How am I here?

The hard way.

I’ve never been one to read a book or listen to sage advice and course correct. No . . . hell, no. I have to learn through skinned knees, a bruised chin and a bloody nose that if I hit my brakes and slide on the gravel the road wins. Road: 1, Bike/Brandy: 0.

So, through a series of painful, personal experiences, I’ve learned to lean on the Bible. Especially in times of trouble – aka: I thought I knew better and acted on my own, now I’m on my knees. Help me, please.

Some of my favorites?

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:14

“God is greater than our hearts.” I John 3:20

And, then, there are the times when my doubt and insecurities start to scream. When the ghosts of boyfriends past start to chant, “What if he cheats?” And the ghosts of bosses past hit the hook, “What if your new boss acts inappropriately?” And friends past sing the refrain, “What if she stabs you in the back?”

I simply sing louder:

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Mathew 6:27

“The TRUTH will set you FREE.” John 8:32

“He will BE your peace.” Micah 5:5

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18

Greater Than crossDoes it always work? No. My mind is a vicious beast that’s slow to taming. But, it works more than it doesn’t. And, in those times, when I spin myself up, I know who to call to bring me back down.

Would I rather skip the pain to learn to trust in a power greater than me? Absolutely. But, life doesn’t always work that way. So, I’ve failed, messed up, got up, dusted off, prayed forgiveness, began again, rinsed and repeated – because, I’m human.

Pain and difficulties will come. They always do. And, in those moments, I try to remember to let my light shine in the storm. Sometimes, that feels like I’m being Pollyanna Prissypants – but I know that being positive in times of trouble feels a lot better than despair.

I know that God is a source of love and light greater than me, greater than my problems. He is NOT a force field that prevents bad things from happening to me.

So, yes, I will forget to fill my car with gas. I will release a string of swear words that’ll blister the ears of children in 5 counties and feel guilty about it. I will forget 87 things at home and have to go back 3 times before getting on the road.

But, most of all, I WILL rejoice – or attempt to rejoice – because “Jesus replied, you don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday, you will.” John 13:7.

 

Jesus Take the Wheel

My brain misfires sometimes . . . often, in the form of old song lyrics, loud and off-key, while performing mundane tasks. Read: cleaning, taxes, trips to the grocery store. (Much to the chagrin of other shoppers.) During my latest outburst, I channeled some good ol’ Carrie Underwood, “Jesus take the wheeeeeeeel, take it from my hands, I can’t do this on my own.”

And it hit me – it doesn’t matter if Jesus takes the wheel if I don’t get my foot off the brake.

Sit with that for a minute, because I’ve been sitting with it for a couple of weeks now.

Now, I know that my friends don’t procrastinate. I mean, my friends are ON IT. But, me? Well, I’m a bit of a dawdler. Especially when it comes to my “real” work. (Which, I’ll admit, I’ve yet to absolutely define, but know it has nothing to do with a 9 to 5. That’s why I’m asking for guidance from above.)

I believe we all have the capacity to hear what the Bible calls the small, still voice. In I Kings, it says God isn’t in the fire or the earthquake, but in a gentle whisper. But, in my life, sometimes it’s a hurricane of whispers. Mostly because I have trouble listening the first time. (What child actually listens the first time?!?!? “If I have to tell you one more time, I’mma come over there and . . . )

So, what’s a girl to do when the whisper is with me?

Yogi Bhajan’s second Sutra for the Aquarian Age says, “When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.

So, I start. I lace up my sneakers, I sit down at the keyboard, I go to the grocery store to buy veggies. I start. And, I start. And, I start again . . . because, I stop.

That’s why the hurricane of whispers and inklings and desires – because they’re all pushing me in the right direction. They’re all serving to steer me to the right path if I’ll stop, process and act on the divine guidance I receive.

You see, Jesus always HAD the wheel. He always steered me towards the right people, the right places and the right circumstances to get me where I need to go.

The trouble is that in the times I made the least progress, I’ve had my foot on the brake!!!

Today, I’m beginning again, and again, and again. I listen for the small, still voice and inch forward with tiny acts because I believe there are far better things before me than behind me.

If you want to go on this journey, hop in. Jesus has the wheel . . . and I promise I’ll try not to clothesline you with my arm if (when) I slam on the brakes again!

 

K.I.S.S.

In grade school, we used to seal our notes with acronyms . . . LYLAS (love you like a sister), K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) and so forth.  We were 8 – side eyes – I don’t know how much simpler we could’ve made it. Get up, go to school and let someone else make your decisions, do your laundry and put dinner on the table. (Now that I think of it . . . can I go back?)

Anyway, this idea of keeping it simple haunts me. Yes, we have bills and jobs and kids and responsibilities – but shouldn’t it be . . . simple? Maybe effortless is a better word for the synchronistic flow I’m attempting to describe.

Haven’t you had those moments when everything just seemed to go effortlessly along a path?

I find that when I’m in those moments I’m most connected to God/Spirit/Source. When I’m tapped into that Supreme Power, things seem to go a little smoother. However . . .

In conversation with one of my best girlfriends from college about maintaining a spiritual mindset, she said that she just doesn’t have time to devote to a spiritual practice.

So, I started wondering – can our everyday lives BE a spiritual practice? Can’t we walk and talk and breathe and BE the light? And if that’s a possibility, what would that life look like?

During a completely different and unrelated conversation with a different friend I had an Oprah “a-ha moment.”

She was lamenting some relationship troubles and I asked her what she thought about ending things with this particular man and she said, “That doesn’t feel good.”

That doesn’t feel good.

The words rang through my soul and vibrated every nerve ending in my body.

What if I were to apply this concept to everything in my life? How revolutionary would that be!

The scratchy sweater? Get rid of it.

That relationship that leaves me drained? Part ways.

The job that doesn’t fill my soul or my bank account? Upgrade.

Simple.

And, yes, there are certainly things that we simply must do even if they don’t feel good – like a pap smear. But, if we can tip the scale to a 51/49 way of being, that would be nice, right?

Now, I’m practicing this super simple philosophy and smiling that, sometimes, our most insightful moments come at unexpected times from unexpected people.

That doesn’t feel good.

That does feel good.

And if God is good, doesn’t it make sense that living in a state of “feeling good” means I am in connection with the Greater within? Perhaps it’s an oversimplification. But maybe . . . just maybe . . . it’s a gentle reminder of something I think we all already knew in our souls, long ago, and chose to forget.

K.I.S.S.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One step forward, two steps back.

It’s not just a fancy little cha-cha-cha – it’s the way I live.

If I’m really honest, I feel more like a plate spinner. And, on particularly cruel days, I get all of my plates in the air and God/Universe/Spirit sends a hurricane my way. I can’t even find my damn plates – much less piece them back together. (And, if you’ve been following along, you know I lost my plates in July.)

So, I’ve been reading, churching, praying, cursing, meditating, walking the beach, cursing, going to yoga, writing, cursing, riding my bike and generally trying to figure out a different way. Because, I feel like I’m losing the same plates over and over and over again. I want to learn the lesson so I can pass the test and keep the plates. (And get my gold star on the awesome chart.)

Does that resonate with any of you? Do you feel like you keep getting the same test . . . and failing? And, Lord HELP, I’m not even a good test taker!

I’m reading Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love,” and she shares an idea from “A Course in Miracles” that “it’s not up to us what we learn, but only whether we learn through joy or through pain.”

Well, hot shit and hallelujah . . . I choose joy, because I’ve had a gut-ful of pain. Can I get an Amen?!?!?

Now, as lovely as that sounds – it’s not so easy, right? I mean, HOW do you actually engage the joyful learning experience? (That’s not rhetorical – I REALLY want to know because I’m tired of the cage match smack-down.)

Mastin Kipp talks about reframing life’s experiences in a way that sets the expectation that life is actually rigged in our favor. Now, that’s a delicious nugget!

Perhaps the lost plates weren’t really MY plates – and the hurricane freed my hands. I mean, I didn’t particularly like that color or pattern, anyway. Now, I have the opportunity to paint my own pottery! (Ladies, grab the wine.)

BUT, to make that connection, I have to be able to trust both path and journey.

Or, at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. “Trust that you’re on the right path,” they say. (Never mind I’ve skinned my shin and have a bump on my head from falling over tree roots on the path. Can one of y’all bring a saw out here?!?!?)

Or, do I have to trust the path?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

It sounds to me like I should trust the path maker – not necessarily the path. And, it just so happens that said path maker is also the potter we read about in Jeremiah.

So, if God is FOR me, he is a loving teacher. And, according to James 1:2-3, we are to count it all JOY when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

And, if I am his clay, then He can help me fire and paint and glaze gorgeous new plates . . . IF I can trust and hand over my life to him.

Trust, again . . . my Achilles heel.

So, here I am, limping towards the throne, grasping my mustard seed size faith, wondering how I’m actually going to lay down my problems and pride in order to learn my lessons. Because, I really, truly and with my whole heart want to start spinning spectacular, shiny new plates!

*sigh*

I guess I’ll just do it the same way I’ve done everything else  . . . one step forward, two steps back, cha-cha-cha.

BOOBIES . . . and other bits

“An iced venti bold with room, please.”

I took my place in the pickup line behind four twitching, scratching souls longing for their afternoon fix. It’s hot in Florida . . . and heat makes people do crazy things. As does caffeine withdrawal. Silent prayer – please, Lord, let us hold it together a moment longer.

“Brandy,” YES!!! I enjoyed a silent celebration (and inner victory dance) as I grooved past the 6-pump, double-shot, extra hot, half-whip folks. Their eyes sliced me from the side.

I grabbed a napkin (or five, because I’m a little clumsy) and stirred in my half-and-half (don’t judge, almond milk isn’t friendly in coffee!) and THAT’S when I saw her. The girl to my right – coffee half-lifted, stir stick dangling over the trash between fixed fingers – head tilted, mouth open, eyes horrified, brow confused.

OHHHHHHHH DELIGHT!!! What horrors hide over my left shoulder?!?!?

I put the lid on my coffee and took a sip as I turned. Then, I promptly doubled over and shot coffee out of my nose. The man sitting behind me was slowly – and quite happily – scrolling through an email of various, errrrrrr, ladies . . . and their bits. Midday. In Starbucks. On free wifi.

I still roar with laughter thinking about the absurdity. I feel horribly for the families who stopped for a summer respite . . . only to end up in an unfortunate conversation with their children. And what about the ladies, themselves? Do they know about their debut? Do they care?

Walking down the sidewalk I considered, is it be better to be physically naked or emotionally exposed?

A few years ago, I took surfing lessons with some of my best girlfriends. The first couple of rides were surprisingly successful. Then, I bit it . . . in a GLORIOUS way.

Tumbled under surf, scraped by sand, wrapped in seaweed, pummeled by shells . . . tethered to a board by the ankle. (Why did this sound fun?) I slammed into the shallows happy to be alive. Nauseous and confused, I jumped up from the water with arms overhead to see the worried face of my friend Lara.

She yelled to me, but I couldn’t hear or process the words. She swam closer.

“BOOBIES!!!”

“WHAT???”

“BOOBIES!!!”

I looked behind me, completely confused, “WHAT??? WHERE?!?!?”

“YOURS!!!”

In that moment, feeling rushed back into my body. Under the churn, my rash guard and bathing suit fixed themselves around my neck. And, when I popped up . . . I stood naked in the water.

Dip. Dress.

Our stomachs ached from laughter. Tears streamed down our already salty faces. And, here’s what I can tell you – it was far easier for me to be exposed physically.

I think that’s why I put off writing for so long. To hit Publish is to disrobe my soul.

Then, I must ask, beyond writing, am I able to be emotionally exposed? You know, as I ‘do life’ with people.

Am I willing to be vulnerable and open in the relationships that matter?

Am I able to stand “naked” in front of someone and say, “These are my beautiful scars and, in them, I carry the stories of my hurt, my healing and my strengths?”

I have to admit that this is unbelievably hard for me. I don’t like to show my struggle. I want everything to appear perfectly packaged. I don’t want to show that I’m paddling furiously beneath the water’s surface to stay afloat.

I don’t want to. But, somehow, I can’t not.

I feel an incredible call to be real and perfectly imperfect. For me, to be real means to show up – with my scars and scabs – asking to be loved and accepted anyway. Because, who among us has a perfect life? Who hasn’t had bumps and bruises? Who isn’t enjoying the continuous beat of an intricately scarred heart?

So, as you go through your day, look around. Really notice the family, the friends and the strangers in your life.

Who is saying, “Here I am . . . all boogers and bruises . . . won’t you please like me anyway?”

Who stands bravely naked?

Who allows their truest selves to be seen?

Are you one of them?

(To the teacher who had to see my surfing lesson in someone’s “My Summer Vacation” report, I sincerely apologize. *facepalm*)