Live Your Verb

Become a person of action.

Tag: everything you’re running away from is in your head (page 1 of 2)

My Cup Runneth Over (I Dare Not Complain)

I’ve been beating myself up the past few weeks. I’m behind on the upcoming relaunch of Live Your Verb, behind on the corresponding ebook and not making my way through client work as quickly as I’d like. Not to mention that I haven’t seen the inside of my gym in over three weeks (I drove past twice and looked at it longingly). My failure to check everything off my to-do list has led me to some personal mental flogging and some very verbal complaining.

But it occurred to me today that all the things I’ve been beating myself up about are, in fact, the direct results of the positive changes I’ve made in my life. I’m not meeting certain goals because I’m finally achieving others. I’m behind in certain areas because I’m getting ahead in others. My body isn’t my ideal bikini shape because I’ve been getting my career and my bank accounts into top-notch shape.

In other words, it’s a trade-off.

And, in some other (more important) words, none of this is reason for me to beat myself up or complain. These are good things, things I’ve wanted for a very long time. And now I’m achieving them at a breakneck pace. Doesn’t really seem like a problem at all, does it? Nope.

These are not problems. These are pieces of my life coming together and falling into place.

I just haven’t managed to keep up with all the goodness well enough to find a balance yet. I’m off-kilter. From all the goodness. Oh darn. (Let’s all roll our eyes at this complaint, shall we?)

So this is the moment that I stop complaining about having to adjust my schedule to accommodate all the blessings in my life.  I’ve realized that my recent complaining has been out of habit, not because I have a valid reason to complain.

This is something we often do in life: complain about something that’s good for us, while completely overlooking what we really need to improve upon. The next time you complain, ask yourself: is this thing I’m complaining about a blessing, a challenge, an adversity or truly a tragedy? Figure out if it’s really something to complain about, or just one of life’s hurdles that is better leapt over by focusing past it and, in Live Your Verb spirit, by continuing to move forward.

Someone once told me the best way to keep your mouth shut and avoid provoking an argument is to ask yourself if that annoying habit, that snarky comeback, that bout of deadline-crushing forgetfulness will matter to you in five days, five months or five years. Chances are, it usually won’t. This doesn’t mean we should let others – or life – run us over. It just means we should pause to check in with ourselves and assess the long-term importance of a word, a lousy day or a fender bender before we set a complaint in motion.

Try this and you’ll find that, yes, it will help you pick your battles. But, more importantly, it helps you gain a more realistic perception of where you are, where you need to go and how to best invest your time and energy to get there. Complaining usually isn’t on that list.

So I’ll close by sharing my gratitude with you (because being grateful is the direct opposite of complaining). I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been met with, and all the success I’ve found. I’m grateful to have so many blessings that they render me overwhelmed and disorganized. I’m grateful for the people who lead me to these little moments of clarity (thanks for this one, Raquel) – and for you, dear readers, who I can share them with.

May my gratitude be contagious. May we all learn to count our blessings first, for then we would be too busy counting to ever complain.

 

What are you grateful for today? What can you stop complaining about?

 

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Reinventing Yourself

“The truth is that you have the time for anything you’re absolutely committed to.”

- Wesley Goo

 

We’re almost a month into the new year, which is just long enough for most of us to start falling off that New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon.

Wesley Goo says that most of us fail at reinventing ourselves and keeping our resolutions because we bring last year’s version of ourselves into this year – and that’s not a recipe for success. Here Wesley talks about the five most common patterns we fall into that prevent us from reinventing ourselves and becoming who we want to be, or accomplishing the goals we want to meet.

Which pattern do you tend to fall into? How are you going to commit to making your resolution a reality? Tell me below.

 

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Find Your Verb, Lesson 1: You Are Not Your Job

This is the first in a series of lessons designed to help you find your verb. These lessons were prompted by a few readers who said to me, “hey, this Live Your Verb idea is inspiring, it’s good stuff – but how can I live my verb if I don’t know what it is? What’s my verb?” So if you aren’t sure what moves your soul, body or mind, follow along and find your verb… You can do it, I know you can.
- Lis

 

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your @*&!*$# khakis.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

You Are Not Your Job

If you walk up to any adult in a social setting and ask, “who are you?”, you’ll get a reply like these:

  • “I’m Steve. I’m an accountant.”
  • “Hello, I’m Jeff. I work in commercial real estate.”
  • “Hi, I’m Kevin and I own a print shop.”

No, no, no. No.

Wrong answer.

That’s your profession.

When did our jobs become the defining factor by which we identify ourselves to other people? When did the  essence of who we are get tied up in what we do all day, which, for most of us, is not the Thing That Lights Our Souls On Fire?

Was it when we realized that people judge us by our job titles and incomes? Was it when our dreams took a backseat to conformity and then slowly died? (Okay, I admit that was a bit unnecessarily dramatic. But I’m leaving it there because I need to be dramatic to get through to some of you. Moving on…)

Yes, we all know a lawyer who relishes the opportunity to smugly announce his vocation while he sips his gin and tonic. But most of us aren’t that guy – nor do we really want to be talking to that guy. Why? Because we can all see through his drivel. We know that what really revs his engines is making money and impressing people, not the law; the law is just what enables him to do those other things.

So. Here is one of the most important things you’ll ever hear: You are not your job.

I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating: You. Are. Not. Your. Job.

And even if you are one of the lucky few who get excited about work each day, you still aren’t your job. You’re Adam, who is passionate about photography and painting, who finds the art in even the most mundane pieces of architecture or sculpture. You’re Sarah, a chatty bookworm and shoe lover who was mothering everyone around her long before she became a mother in the biological sense. You’re Patricia, who loved ballet as a little girl and speaks with such articulation that your words sound like poetry…

Who Are You, Really?

When was the last time you asked yourself who you are? Not “what do I do?” or “what do I want to do?” Not “who do I want to be like?” But “who am I?”

I’ll go ahead and ask: Who are you?

I know, I know: this is a doozy to answer when you probably haven’t thought about it for a decade or two.

Let’s start simpler:

  • What is it that you’re usually doing when you feel most like yourself?
  • Who are you with when you feel most like yourself? What qualities does that person bring out that make you feel like you?
  • What did you want to be when you were a little kid? (Notice I said “what,” not “who” – because a profession is a thing, not person.)
  • What is most important to you in this life – money, love, recognition, legacy, achievement, faith?

If you answer these questions truthfully, you’ll get closer to figuring out who you are and what your verb is.

I’ll put myself out there, too: I’m Melissa. I’m an artist. I was first a dancer, then also a writer, and now I even try to dabble in mixed media when I’m not marketing by day. I like using my talents to connect with and help other people. That takes many forms, but it always boils down to creating something meaningful that will inspire or move someone else.

Now What?

If, after some pondering, you know who you are – or you think you do – well, good for you. If you’re still struggling with it, that’s okay. Keep struggling. You wouldn’t be here reading this unless you already had a hunch that who you are is not the IT Manager, Event Planner or Fourth Grade Teacher. You are much more than that.

So who are you? You are a whole, complete person. You are a person who has ideas, strengths, passions and dreams that you haven’t explored in years – and it’s about time you started recognizing them so you can enjoy them, cultivate them and share them.

Figure out what all those things are. Roll them around in your head. And when you get brave enough, start rolling them along your tongue. The next time someone asks you who you are, tell them that you used to study dinosaurs but now you’re plotting the great American novel in your head, or that you are a ballerina at heart who makes jewelry out of repurposed materials. They might laugh at your response, sure – but they might also tell you something more meaningful about who they are than their job title. And then there you are, connecting and having a real conversation with another real person about who you really are, one step closer to finding and living your verbs.

 

Stay tuned for Lesson 2, which will tell you how thinking like a kid will get you into a whole new mindset about both yourself and life (monkey bars not included). In the meantime, I challenge you to tell me who you are below without mentioning anything about what you do.

 

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Meditation: Sitting Still to Solve Your Problem

I arrived early at temple this past Sunday. I lolled in the main hallway outside the hondo,  which is the room where our services are held, so I could finish my coffee before entering. Noticing that a zazen, or meditation, service was already underway in the hondo, I tried to stand still so the heels of my boots wouldn’t clack against the linoleum floor and disturb the group.

As the clock ticked toward ten, the large carved temple doors began swinging open and injecting groups of chilled Buddhists, mostly elders, into the hallway. In Buddhist culture, warm greetings are common, almost expected, as people pass one another. And so the hallway was soon filled with the sounds of friendly exchanges and the unwrapping of coats, scarves and hats.

Soon the doorway of the hondo was filled with a large man wearing a frown. He sternly surveyed the crowd in the hallway and then loudly proclaimed, “People are trying to meditate in here. It would be nice if you could all keep it down next time.” The man marched back to his seat in the hondo and returned to his meditation.

The group was silenced for a moment, followed by a chorus of low-volume, “polite” snickers. The elders were chuckling like discreetly disobedient students in the back of a classroom.

“If he wants to learn to meditate, he might remember that it is wise to learn to meditate through the distraction,” someone said. More chuckling. Nods of agreement.

Anyone can meditate in silence,” chimed in a tiny woman who must have been in her eighties. More nods.

This was their polite way of referencing a recurring theme found in Buddhism: other people are not the problem. You are the problem.

In other words, look inside yourself for the root of any distress before you look outside. (And the wisest Buddhists would add that if you’re looking for the right thing, you will always find the root inside; it will never be outside.)

This man was missing the point of meditation. The goal is not to create a calm, peaceful sanctuary where focus arrives with ease, almost like a gift. If we meditated that way, what would be learning? After all, few things in life arrive this way.

The goal of meditation is to harness not just our nagging, unpredictable thoughts but also to harness our senses – to learn how to focus our energies despite what’s going on around us, despite the tumult of outside forces. That serves us much better outside the meditation room; that’s how we learn the skills that will help us remain steady through the ebb and tide of life’s trials, triumphs, disappointments and surprises.

In true Buddhist fashion, the elders didn’t scold or correct that man; I didn’t see anyone address him later on as we filled in for the main service or broke into groups for dharma school. Unless he asks for guidance, they’ll wait for him to get there on his own, to figure out that next time he shouldn’t break zazen, stand up, walk out, scold the crowd and then try returning to meditation. They’ll wait for him to figure out that he disrupted himself far more than they disrupted him. When he does, he’ll realize that the solution to his problem is to move deeper into his thoughts, farther from his distracted ears, until he realizes that he has the power to control his own world, that he has the solution – and he need not ask anyone else to provide it for him.

Image: Staffan Scherz via Flickr Creative Commons

 

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“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”

- C.C. Scott

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“Screw the fear.”

- Jo Leigh

 

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road trip

Our favorite place
was nowhere

in between
the past
the present
the destination

(the obligation)

We were free

underneath a square
of sunlight and

only those long lines
stretched out before us
as far as we could see

We could have gone
anywhere

on a whim
on a flick of the dial

(on love)

We could have gone
anywhere

without a map
with each other

(We could have
missed the turn)

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Gray Area

What came after is not an ending and not a beginning. Just a dull buzz, like the distant static that plays in your ears even after the television has been shut off. A succession of diluted notes echoing the sharp rise and fall of something much greater.

I love, but no longer out loud, no longer up close. Without a vessel to hold my affections, I write whimsies instead of confessions.

I dance, but the fervent momentum of my youth has wound down. This body I used to have unwavering faith in has been broken, rebuilt, broken again. My passion is brittle.

I reside in the almost, the in-between. Relishing freedom but undecided whether it is an opportunity or a chasm. And braver than I’ve ever been but suspended in this space where dreams and practicalities fail to intersect. A kaleidoscope of lives hover before me, yet I can’t bring myself to reach out and grasp one with any sense of surety. How can I choose a life when I have failed to commit to a self?

 

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree…

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home… and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor… and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America…

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

- Excerpts from “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

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Rhetoric

Words. We incessantly nitpick them. We assess the tone, the timing, the inflection in efforts to understand each other, convinced that the substance of our intentions is disguised among the syllables. We adhere to a phrase we can’t decipher, rolling it over our tongues again and again. The answers must be in there.

Maybe this why I am so haunted by all he did not say, perpetually grasping to fill in the gaps of all I still fail to understand about him, about the decline of a love that once seemed so tender: instead of a single garish flaw to dissect, there are a multitude to consider, discard, consider again, agonize over… The guesswork is exhausting.

Did I imagine it all?  Or interpret trifles as something more? Did I make the mistake of my life and build a passion out of a repartee?

I asked. I asked him as our words waned, as our touches withdrew. I asked him at the end, when the silence had become a canyon. He remained silent.

And somewhere in the silence, he lost me.

The fatigue of second-guessing myself finally conquered my ardent romanticism. The ever increasing silence only made sense when I retreated into the hollow of a shell, built a wall to keep out the sound of anything but my own footsteps.

Occasionally, a brick falls. And in the sharp stillness that follows I hear the old, familiar refrain: I love you, I love you, I love you. But it has been so long now, so long since he has said the words – and the voice begins to sound more like my own. Am I still talking?

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