Let it be funny.

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Life is funny.

If we let it be.

Everything we see, everything we feel, everything we think, everything we think we think, may not be how it is. It may be something totally different. Resting on, "I'm just this way. It's how I am. It's my personality. It's how I was raised. I took this test and I'm an ENFPJRTIKGNQ234$#1@) decider #2 on the PLANE scale passionate surveyor quick-start." That's a lot to be and keep up with.

Sometimes, the things I think and do are so ridiculous, and I'm most likely taking it sooooo seriously, that I have to stop myself and say,

"Hold on there hot stuff. Who do you think you are? Listen to that back. That last thought. That's f*cking hilarious. Let's lighten that up a bit and try again. Why are you believing that shit? Go outside and stand in the sun. Put your feet in the grass. Take a really deep breath. There....isn't that better?" (That Voice swears a lot. It's helpful and lightens things up. I'm also pretty sure she wears a black leather motorcycle jacket and has a tattoo. I'm fine with it.)

And then I laugh out loud at myself. On purpose.

And I know, I KNOW, for these people that live with me in my house that I love more than anything, it's so much better for them when I can see some humor in everything. (Scott, I promise you are funny.)

Adding some lightness to who we are being, automatically lifts some of the pressure off this big computer in our skull we call a brain. That thing, when operating unsupervised, will run off in all sorts of directions. It's just doing it's job. If we could delete all the old, non-performing programs up there, our lives and relationships would undoubtedly function with higher performance. Smooth. Efficient. Light. Happy. Powerful.

With Ease.

Today, I'm hitting delete whenever possible.

Love,

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"It is achievable."

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Sunday morning, Dr. Tererai Trent, Oprah Winfrey’s favorite guest of all time, stepped onto the stage of Emerging Women Live in Denver, Colorado. She was the last speaker and closed the conference.

Chantal Pierrat, founder of Emerging Women, introduced Dr. Trent as a true queen, and defined a queen as a woman who, “steps into her own power and reminds all of us we are only one step away from our own.”

Yes.

I cannot do the story of Dr. Trent justice in one short blog post. Nor relate just how powerful it was to be a room with 400 other women, somewhat tired from a very busy weekend and at the same time exhilarated from all that we had learned, as we were taken on a journey of perserverance, dreaming and humanity.

One of the main threads that came out for me during this talk, and the entire conference, was one of the dream.

When Dr. Trent was a young girl in Zimbabwe, she met Jo Luck, a white woman who at the time was the CEO of Heifer International. Little Tererai shared with Jo her dreams of coming to America to get an education. Jo Luck looked into her eyes and responded, “It is achievable.”

Tererai then shared her dreams of education with her mother, who told her to write down her dreams on paper and bury them, so they would plant seeds in the earth and keep her connected to her dreams and her community. Her mother also said that Tererai would have to come back and share with her community once she achieved her dreams.

“Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community. They have to be tied to the greater good.”

It can’t just be about you.

The sacred dream connects humanity.

During Dr. Trent’s talk, there were lots of tears. And an equal amount of laughter. Deep emotion for her presence, and her story of commitment, dedication, hardship and victory against every imaginable odd.

And I would also speculate, tears for our own dreams.

Dreams that were never realized. Never written down and buried and sprouted to life. Never spoken aloud to take flight. Never given a chance.

Why? Because they were too big? Too scary? Not realistic enough? People will think you’re crazy?

Many of us are walking around, holding on to past and current dreams like a trapped secret, never to be shared for the fear of .... what exactly? Or they are casually thrown about with a laugh, downplayed as silly or nonsensical.

But what if?

It took Dr. Trent 8 years just to graduate high school. She brought her 5 children to the United States and went to college. With nothing. With no one to support her. She went on to receive a Master’s degree. Then finally her PhD.

Oprah gave her 1.5 million dollars to open a school for girls in her Zimbabwe village.

It is achievable.

What if we got back in touch with our dreams? What if we spoke them and wrote them down and buried them and watered them and fed them and paid attention to them and one day… one day… there is a green shoot. A sign. A signal of the possibilities to come.

Possibilities for a new world.

And what if we continued in our commitment, no matter what, to our dreams? Even in the midst of our daily actions of doing what we do in our “normal” life. Also making the tending of dreams a priority -- watering, feeding, paying attention. And what if they grow? What if they happen?

We don’t have to know the exact steps of how they will occur, or what the process will look like. We just have to keep them present. Keep them nurtured and cared for, like they matter.

Every woman on that stage over the weekend came from a dream. They took care of their dreams. They didn’t back away from their dreams.

They are creating a new world with their dreams.

It is achievable.

Love and big dreams,

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P. S. Oh, by the way, on Friday night, we walked on fire...

It is achievable.

 

Profound Gratitude Found

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As promised, this is the follow-up to the gratitude project started last week. Every day for 7 days we were to write down 3 things to be grateful for, or 3 blessings, paired with the question, “Why did this happen?”

First, a confession. Over the weekend, while in Orlando at a dance convention with Ellie, there were a couple of days where I didn’t write them down at night before bed, but did the next morning. Not sure if that had any effect on the result, but my desire to complete the exercise didn’t have me skip an entry.

For those of you who did, or are still doing, this exercise, I would really like to hear how it went/how it’s going for you.

This is what I found in the process.

It was challenging to be specific in the beginning, and to answer the question Why? The first couple of days I noticed the tendency to do the thing because I said I would do the thing, and the content was a little lazy. But I also realized this was quite possibly my perfectionism wanting to take control of the situation and tell me I wasn’t doing my own exercise “right.” So, I excused her from the process and kept going. Remembering there was no “right” and however I was doing it and in the way I was doing it . . . was the way.

Honestly, most days of it, felt kind of flat for me. I was surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I thought it would feel more -- electric.

And then, something did spark. Not necessarily a huge revelation of cartwheeling infinite joy that will never leave my being. A subtle, quiet, realization that was more of whisper. Like a firefly glowing every so often, in a different place in the yard each time, seemingly wanting to be followed, “Over here! No, over here. Come this way! Now look here.”

At the end of the experiment, it wasn’t about the content of what I was writing, or the exercise itself.  Although I meant every word, and was deliberate it my thoughts around what I was grateful for each day, that’s not where the magic was.

It was in between. The tiny, precious noticing.

What I see now (or what has always been and my humanness forgets…) is that gratitude is a coming from, not a place to get or a thing to do.

It’s a way of being.

If I am walking through the world coming from I am gratitude, my awareness of the preciousness of life is illuminated beyond previous recognition.

And to be clear, there’s a human being over here who gets frustrated and agitated and can have a sharp tone in her voice with her own family when she thinks she has a lot to do, or things aren't going according to plan.

Remembering gratitude shrinks frustration. And agitation. And stress. And overwhelm. And any other thing the lizard brain wants to throw in to keep me small and “safe.”

Here are a few things that came to me from gratitude, not when I was doing the exercise, but the spaces between. It’s in the wee moments of realization, when you’re most likely looking the other way, where magic is happening. It’s awareness. There are way too many of these to list. I could find 100 things in and around my desk.

When gratitude becomes a way of seeing the world, everything becomes a miracle.

  • I am grateful that in the face of 1 darkened mind, 59 deaths and hundreds of terrified, injured people, there are so many more of us humans that will open to their highest capacity for love, assistance, and humanity, instead of shrinking into fear and hate.
  • I am grateful for my daughter saying she’s glad she hasn’t outgrown wanting me to be with her. I am grateful for her dancing. So, so blessed by her having this in her life.
  • I am grateful for the man my son is becoming.
  • I am grateful for the way my house smells. And great candles.
  • I am grateful that when I make a mistake, it’s just a mistake
  • I am grateful for every minute with my children. Literally every minute. They are getting older . . . every. minute.
  • I am grateful for the relationship Scott and I have created through hard work, love, patience, more patience, and more love. Who he is for me is my greatest gift. Everything in our lives, stems from who we are together.
  • I am grateful for independence and freedom. Both in my relationship, and the great fortune to be born where I was born.
  • I am grateful for flowers. And bees. And birds. And ladybugs. And horses. And my dog. And fresh air. Nature is my greatest teacher, healer, and provider. Her intense beauty and consistency are my daily companions.
  • I am grateful for the many meaningful conversations and connections in my life. Sometimes in the most unlikely of places, like sitting on the floor of a ballroom in an Orlando hotel with hip hop music blaring in the background.

 

I am grateful every time I look into my daughter’s eyes. And my son’s eyes. And my husband’s eyes.

 

They are the windows to my soul.

 

With gratitude and love,

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The Big Deal About Gratitude

Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

The Science:

The purpose of our brain is to keep our bodies alive. Simple right? Yet, with somewhere around 200 billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of possible synaptic connections, there’s a lot of noise that can be produced by all those nerve cells communicating with each other. To put it in perspective, there are more synapses in the human brain than stars in 1500 Milky Way galaxies. Scientists now have the ability to “map” these synapses and capture them with highly sensitive, specialized imaging technology. It literally looks like stars in a dense, dense galaxy.

In order to keep the body alive, the brain is set to scan for danger. Find the negative. Find possible danger and keep you safe, no matter what. Well, danger now isn’t what it was thousands of years ago. What started out as simply being chased and/or eaten by a saber-toothed tiger progressed to include threats from other humans as well. Now, all these years later and the ability to read micro-expressions in the human face, the risk isn’t imminent death by claw or club.

Now, our greatest perceived danger is the opinions of other people.

Gut check.

We are very, very concerned with what other people think of us. Just go check your Facebook feed. Or Instagram. Or Twitter. Or watch the news. Or talk to your neighbor.

Or listen to yourself.

So fabulous right? What does this have to do with gratitude?

The Practice:

There is also solid research out there, initiated by Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, who is considered to be the founder of Positive Psychology, about the power of gratitude. After conducting randomly-assigned placebo-controlled experiments since 2001, his team found that people were less depressed, had less anxiety, were more happy, had less stress and other positive life experiences after having a regular gratitude practice.

The practice is so simple you won’t believe it.

Write down three things you are grateful for each night for one week. Just one week! His findings concluded people were still less depressed and happier a month after only doing this exercise for seven days.

I know, you’ve heard this before. But have you done it? Every night? Write it down. Keeping it your head doesn’t count. I will admit I haven’t done it consistently.

And not only write it down, but be specific. Not just, “I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my dog…” They don’t have to be grandiose or huge, just significant to you that day.

Next to each gratitude, ask the question, “Why did this happen?” This gets the brain thinking about the blessings, the good things that happen to us each day and why they occurred.

The practice of gratitude overrides the brain’s constant danger-seeking mode and trains it to see all of the good in our lives. It brings us into the present moment. Even when we are in a good place and know how fortunate we are and feel we are grateful, there is space to uplevel our brain activity to perform more consistently from a being of happiness and calm focus.

The commitment:

I am committing to do this exercise for seven days and report back here next week with what I find in my own life.

Who wants to join me?

I’ll be posting on Facebook as well so you can follow along there.

With gratitude and love,

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What Should I Do?

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First, stop using the word should anywhere, ever. This implies that there is a “right” answer out there, that you don’t already own it, and someone out there has it for you. It also suggests the answer will comply with everyone else’s agenda around the topic. Shoulds are the work of Resistance. Shoulds are the work of self-doubt. Shoulds crush confidence. Just stop.

Instead, the question is, “What will I do?”

This is really about decision-making.

Our lives are the compilation of all the tiny decisions we make every day, all day. The decisions we make string together to form who we think we are inside of the lives we lead. We get really practiced at making some decisions, depending on where they fall in our lives.

Coffee or tea. Salad or sandwich. Left turn or right turn. Hit the snooze or get out of bed. Call today or tomorrow. Walk in or stay in the car. Ask the question or assume you know the answer. Give the hug or be too tired. Have the conversation or put it off again. Steak or chicken. Broccoli or rice. Stick with the plan or invite spontaneity. See problems or see possibilities.

One of the most meaningful distinctions in my life is between problem-solving and decision-making.

Decisions are powerful. Problems are non-powerful.

Decisions create action. Problems stop momentum.

Decisions create possibilities. Problems pulverize possibilities.

This is all about perception and perspective.

Depending on your worldview and how you “see” the circumstances in your life, situations will occur for you as problems to be fixed, or choices to be made.

Recent example from Real Life:

Earlier this month, I had 17 women coming to Daniel Island from all over the country for a 3-day Retreat. I had been planning this for months. Playlists, classes, sessions, meditations, special guests, extraordinary food, photographers and women I was ecstatic to be with and was thrilled for them to be with each other. It was going to be a magical and transformative weekend.

The day before the retreat was to start, I had to make the decision to cancel the event due to Hurricane Irma.

Done. Over. Bye-Bye. Not going to happen. The DAY BEFORE.

It was no one’s decision but mine. There were vendors and 2 of the participants in airplanes, in the sky, flying to Charleston at the time I made the call.

It was a decision. A trillion zillion things went through my mind in about a 60-minute span of time. And to be honest, it was heartbreaking. My obvious first concern was the safety of everyone.

Seeing this as a huge, gigantic problem to solve would have annihilated any chance at sound, clear, calm, focused decision-making.

I got on the phone and made 17 phone calls. Then rescheduled the entire event for January 18-21, 2018.

As it turned out, September 7th and 8th were spent pivoting in the moment, making decision after decision, and creating new possibilities with 6-7 other ladies from the original group -- 2 that flew here on the 6th and a few local attendees. We shifted, made other plans and had an extraordinary experience together. It wasn’t the Retreat. It was the perfect group, at the perfect time and was meant to be exactly what it was. It was beautiful and magical.

Because that’s the way it happened.

It wasn’t supposed to be any other way.

Hurricanes are moved and dominated completely by external forces: the wind, the temperature of the water, high pressures and low pressures and internal pressure. They are impressive forces of nature that make a lot of noise, can cause so much terrible damage and destruction, and don’t last.

A woman in her power is also a force of nature.

She is a leader who uses her voice with strength, builds up everyone and everything around her, and her impact on herself, and her environment, can cause a ripple effect that will last for generations.

 

That’s what we do.

 

{You. Matter.}

 

Love,

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