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100 Days of Light

There are two things that make me feel uneasy when I see them on Social Media (aside from hatred, violence, abuse, intolerance, and things that would rightfully make one feel uneasy). The first is 100 day challenges. 30 day challenges. One day challenges. Any challenge whatsoever. The second is posts about how people try to make everything look picture perfect on Social Media.

Challenges make me squirm. I don't like being told what to do and I don't like recurring commitments. Admittedly, not my best qualities. If I were my therapist, I would guess that taking on challenges translates as yet another way to let myself (or others) down and I hate letting people down, so no challenges. Easy peasy.

I hold authenticity with such high esteem that it sometimes gets me in trouble. Sometimes, a girl doesn't need to say what's on her mind, you know? Sometimes she does. Sometimes it's a fine line. When I see a post about how "we" try so hard to show our best angles on Facebook or Instagram, I feel prickly. I consciously try to be real with what I share (I even wrote a rather raw book about GRIEF, of all things!), and choosing to acknowledge and celebrate the brighter moments in my life doesn't feel like curating to me, but I get it.

I know posts about trying to make things look perfect make me uneasy because they cause me to wonder about the stories I'm telling about my life on Social Media. And, I get that when I'm having a bad day or just a day, and I see all the "life is perfect" posts on Facebook, I can feel like a complete loser because my life is not perfect. I love my life. It has taken me a long time to feel safe admitting that. It is a lovely life and it is far from perfect. I know nobody's life is truly perfect, but there is this sense that maybe somebody has it all figured out when she posts a photo of all her people smiling like angels at the camera and my people scowl at me when I ask them to smile.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

He is right and most of us are quick to compare, especially when someone else appears to have the answers we are seeking.

With that, I give you 100 Days of Light.

Yep, I am taking on a 100 day challenge. And the intention behind it is to share the story behind the story. The real story, not just the one you see in the picture.

Choosing the light - the sunshine, the rainbows, the smiles, or the celebrations - doesn't always come easy to me. When I was a little girl I read a lot. I had an active imagination. I more or less lived with one foot in reality and the rest of me in a daydream. I preferred the daydreams - the Secret Gardens and the doors to Narnia. I'd take fairies and angels and portals to other lands over my everyday reality any chance I had. I was shy, but mostly smiley and happy as a kid. Around the end of eighth grade the portals closed. People had become accustomed to me being happy so I kept wearing that smile. It was more of a mask though. I was often dying on the inside. Navigating life was hard for me. My feelers are hardwired for maximum feeling capacity. I was born to feel the feels and that's cool, except I didn't know how to feel them when I was younger. I did know how to smile and to pretend that everything was okay.

Much later, in the last several years or so, I found that everything could only be okay for me, if I stopped pretending. I learned to feel. It's still not easy! I am committed to being true to myself though and to do that I must feel. Sometimes it's a struggle, like a wrestling match kind of struggle, and sometimes it's not. It varies. It can be SCARY! But when the feelings have bubbled up and out of me, I can make a choice about where to go from there.

I try to choose the light. 

Since I've begun to feel, I can honestly say that I appreciate the sunshine and rainbow moments in a much different way. I find them in places that were previously hidden. Since I am being honest though, I will share that lately the sunshine and rainbow moments have been less clear to me. The air is heavy with election drama and trauma, with hate, with fear, and dread. I can feel it all around me and my kids are feeling it too. Even if you don't watch the news and do unfollow unsavory posts on Facebook, the reality that we are living in trying times is hard to avoid. It's challenging for a big feeler girl like me. I want to choose the light and yet the space between feels is getting smaller. So, this is my challenge: to find the light. To share the light. Ultimately, to be the light I want to see in the world.

Be the change you want to see in the world - Mahatma Gandhi 

Will you join me? Again, I'm not advocating for avoiding the darkness altogether. I'm saying: GO THERE. But let's not stay there. Let's not stew there. Let's feel all of it, hold it, wrestle it, and turn it around and around, and THEN make a choice about what to do next. Maybe sit with it a little longer? Maybe integrate it into action? Maybe let that shit go.

I'll be posting on Instagram for 100 days (seriously? holy crap!). I may use filters because they are so fun. Actually, I'm not going to make a lot of rules because rules...make me squirm. My practice will be to share a moment in my day that feels like light to me and in the caption I will talk about why. Almost as simple as avoiding a challenge altogether.

I think I'm going to appreciate the breath of fresh air in all this heaviness I've been feeling. Please jump in if you feel called.

OH! Also, this idea was inspired by the fabulous Christianne Squires at Bookwifery  She has been celebrating her launch with 100 Days of Love Notes for Writers! She sheds such beautiful light on the process of writing. I love her words and her work. Check her out.

With loving kindness, xo

#100daysoflight #gowherethelightis #bethechange #bethelight

Who Is Served By My Silence?

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

When I registered to vote I was proud of myself for registering as an Independent. I thought I was pretty cool. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seemed to represent me completely. Plus, I wasn't political so I didn't want to be affiliated with a political party. Or, so I thought.

As I shared this with one of my dear, wise friends shortly after she also registered to vote, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Anna, you are political whether you believe it or not." We Americans, we are all political. Politics impact us at every level of our existence. We live in a country governed by a political system. Essentially, we are the system.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I registered as a Democrat after that conversation. Of the two main parties, I felt my values were most aligned with Democratic values.)

When I hear people say they aren't voting in the upcoming election because they "don't like either of their choices", it is like hearing my 8 year-old say she isn't eating dinner because she doesn't like what I made (only she is 8 so she doesn't yet know any better). Many factors merge together to make it possible for me to serve a meal to my family. Farmers, animals, truck drivers, sun, dirt, the person who stocks the shelves at the grocery, the cashier, my husband, his employer, and me. Meals don't just magically appear on our table.

The same is true for voting. The blood, sweat, and tears of many, many people built and sustain this country. Wars are fought. People die. All so we can vote. The freedoms we enjoy as U.S. citizens didn't just magically appear on our table. It is disrespectful not to honor the essence of this country by not voting. It is essential that we do our civic duty.

Let's be clear about what that duty entails. Our job is not to choose between two dudes we'd like to meet for drinks after work. We aren't looking for someone to meet us at Starbucks to discuss recent episodes of the Walking Dead. We're not hosting this person for Thanksgiving dinner. You and I, we might not ever truly "like" our presidential candidate. How can we? We don't KNOW them. We probably never will. Our duty is to use our votes, our voices, to hire the most qualified person for the job of President of the United States. We are not choosing a new friend, we are making a hiring decision. This is serious business. Now is not the time to stay silent.

And as for the candidates representing the two main parties in this election, I'm not here to share statistics or a political analysis. I'm only here to share from my heart. My opinion of Donald Trump is not born from news reports, allegations, conspiracy theories, or speculation. I base my opinion of him on the words I have heard come out of his very own mouth. Granted, there could be a little of what my dad used to call "TV magic" at play, but regardless of how Trump is portrayed in the media, I think he gives us a crystal clear picture of who he is. As much as I dislike him and all the hateful things he says, I must give him credit for bringing America's demons to light. He embodies every awful aspect of mankind.

My opinion of Hillary Clinton is somewhat shaped by the few moments we shared together when I met her earlier in the election. She was kind. She looked me in the eyes when we shook hands and I knew by the way I felt with her that I could trust her with the job President. Plus, I got a glimpse of her great sense of humor. And, whoa, with her years of service, expertise across the board, dedication, and ability to take command of a room, we should be thanking her for giving us the opportunity to elect her as our President. Have we ever had a candidate apply for this job who was as qualified as Hillary Clinton? No. I could go on and on. 

It is obvious that many, maybe even most, Americans are desperate for change in our political system. We would probably be better off turning it all on its ear and rebuilding it from scratch at this point. Much of the system is antiquated, and it doesn't work for a lot of people as it stands. We don't have much time though, so for now, let's do the best with what we have.

For the most part, there are two kinds of people are expressing the need for change. There are the people who say they want "things" to change, but they don't want to change along with the things. These people benefit from the systems that keep oppressed people oppressed and marginalized populations in the margins. That is, our entire system, by the way. These are the people who say they want change, but they actually fear change. What they really want is for everything to stay as it is, or worse, to go back to the way it used to be. 

Then there are the people who don't want to be part of a system that holds others back and keeps them down. They are not afraid of change because they believe there is a place at the table for everyone. They believe it's a really big table.  They see that the faces around the table now all look the same and the insights coming from the table lack perspective. They want to hear more voices and see more faces around the table.

The beautiful thing about American democracy is that we get to choose which kind of person we want to be. We get to decide what kind of change we're really longing for. Independent of our parents, our children, our spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, our schools, our churches, and our places of business, we get to choose for ourselves how we show up in the face of this election. We get to be the change we want to see (thank you Mahatma Gandhi)

More and more I hear stories of people saying things like, "I never thought I would (vote for a Democrat), but I cannot bear to vote for Trump." In the face of this election, we are doing things we never thought we would do. Some of us are breaking free from systems that owned and operated us for our entire lives. We are owning ourselves now. We are visioning a world with a very big table, and with leadership like we have never known. We are rooted in love and compassion. It is astounding what kind of change we can affect when we are making thoughtful, deliberate choices, rooted in compassion.

What are you going to do? Who are you going to be?

Wait. Don't tell me just yet.

Put your hands over your heart and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself, "What am I going to do? What is my heart telling me to do? What does the world need me to do? How will I represent my own values and those of the people who don't have a voice here in this election - people like our children - on Election Day? Who am I going to be?" Wait. Listen.

Q: Who is served by silence?

A: Nobody. 



A Matter of Perspective

I am in awe of Spring.

This year in particular it seems that she has had to work extra hard to come forth from behind the dark veil of Winter. Here in Michigan, our Winter was longer and snowier than ever before - both in my opinion, and in meteorological history.

Now my backyard is an oasis of growth, a beacon of hope for what is sure to come out of the darkness, even when it doesn't seem possible.

Not long ago, I stared from inside my house out to my backyard and this is what I saw….

I took that picture during one of our last snowfalls near the end of March (March 25 to be exact). I couldn't believe it was snowing again. I didn't think any of us could tolerate another flake of snow. Even though I typically enjoy the beauty of winter, I was so tired of the colorless landscape that this snowfall was depressing. Even after the snow melted, I stared at the naked trees not believing they would ever bear leaves again. It just didn't seem possible after the brutal weather we experienced - that something so desolate could ever be lush again.

Today my backyard looks like this…

I watched in awe as the little leaf buds popped, the grass began to turn from brown to green, the sky returned to its trademark blue, and finally the buds turned to full grown leaves. It is amazing, isn't it?

Same creek in the back. Same trees. I'm looking out from the same house. The same person. And everything looks completely different.

This change in perspective is a simple yet powerful thing. Seeing these trees from Spring's window is so completely different than seeing them from Winter's. Yes, the trees themselves are different too, but does that really matter? What if when I looked out the window on March 25th, I chose to see the potential for growth I see now?

What if when I looked in the mirror this morning, irritated by the way my shirt stretched across my large chest, I saw her…

Instead of her…

Would there have been less grumbling? Would there have been such doubt in her reflection - her beauty, her worthiness, her capacity to shine?

Last week in our online coaching circle for our e-course Make Space to Shine, my dear friend and teaching partner, Libby and I began to explore perspective with the class. Libby brought her life coaching tool - her Perspective Wheel to the table and blew me away with the insights that came with it.

Surprisingly, the new insights were mostly mine. With Libby's gentle nudge, I began to see what for me was a stumbling block in growing my business from a few different perspectives - from my daughter's perspective, my future self's perspective, and even from the perspective of a painting hanging on my wall. Same stumbling block. Different perspective.

Usually our perspectives are the result of a story we have come to believe about ourselves. A story someone else may have helped us write. A story that may not even be true. Sometimes a story we carry for our entire lives was written in a matter of minutes, even seconds.

Exploring these stories - how they came to be and who helped us write them gives us the opportunity to dig deep, and sometimes we don't like what we find. The beauty in digging though is that we get to decide what to keep and what to throw away. We get to decide. WE get to decide.

The skills we lacked when the story was written are more developed now. Whether the story came into being twenty years ago or 20 minutes ago, we now have the capacity to see it in retrospect. Consequently, we can choose whether we want to rewrite the story from a new perspective or keep it like it is.

Accepting our stories as is opens us to the possibility that there were lessons learned or gifts given. Acceptance is as powerful as revision. Acceptance neutralizes what was once a source of shame or guilt. By digging into this story and accepting what came of it, we disempower it. No longer does it have a hold on us.

We can completely rewrite our stories. Or, maybe we can keep the essence of the story, but change how it impacts our lives. A story of what was lost when a loved one passes becomes a story of what was gained in knowing this person. We can decide whether we want a co-author or whether we will go it alone. We can take it slow. We can stop and start again. We can crumple up our latest draft and start fresh. All along the way, we get to decide.

I write my story. You write yours.

Where could you benefit from seeing a situation in your life through a fresh set of eyes? Will you try it? Will you choose hope? Growth? Potential? Or will you choose something different? It's all up to you.