Shine Brightly in Darkness
My son likes all different kinds of music. Pop radio stations top the list when we are in the car. Sometimes, though, he’ll opt for rock. At home, we are always listening to jazz, except for this month when we put on the holiday channels. On my phone, he has his own music jam. Among the songs on that list is one called Scared of the Dark by Lil Wayne and Ty Dolla $ign. Hip Hop isn’t routinely my choice, but these lyrics grabbed me. Why? Because the words sung in the refrain are so very true: “I’m not scared of the dark…why would a star ever be afraid of the dark?”
If you find yourself having a tough moment, if you think you are in the dark, try to remember this truth: you are a star, a beautiful, shining star. Your brilliant light cuts through the darkness…always. Gremlins – all negative emotions – dim your brightness. However, you can control those Gremlins. Push back using your Sprites – all the positive emotions and forces in your life.
When you allow yourself to shine brightly, you will never be afraid of the dark.
Embrace Your Strengths.
What are your greatest strengths? What is it that you do well, almost without needing to think about it? What task or process or action can you perform with ease?
Hold that thought. Keep it in mind as you review the following questions:
How many times have you apologized for that strength? How many times have you downplayed your strength(s)? How many times have you felt that you could not celebrate what you did because someone else responded adversely?
If you’ve experienced any of the circumstances listed above, you aren’t alone. Many have felt like you do. I certainly have felt like this. When that happened, I downplayed what I did. I minimized my strength to make the other person feel better. You know what resulted? Nothing beneficial. It didn’t work, and you know why. We can only control ourselves. What that person feels when you display a strength is up to them, not you.
Celebrating your strength(s) is a wonderful way to acknowledge your accomplishment(s). It allows you to look at what you’ve done, or what you are doing, and congratulate yourself for your progress. In that space, confidence is built. Resolve is solidified. Your core of strength is fortified.
If you think such a celebration is arrogant or unnecessary, I suggest you rethink your position. You deserve a moment to revel in your strengths. You don’t need to scream your achievement from the rooftop, but if someone tells you that you did well, thank them. If someone tries to downplay or belittle your achievement, let them know you disagree. Then, go have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or an ice cream and celebrate yourself.
You are worth it.
Yes, I Can.
Historically, when people make reference to “three little words,” “Yes, I can” aren’t the words that come to mind. Recognizing that those words are important, I posit that these three words - YES, I CAN - are similarly as important, if not more so. Here is why.
In your life, you will face many challenges. Some you will choose to take on. Others will be visited upon you. When the path gets difficult, the easy choice would be to quit, to walk away, to let the challenge overtake you. However, if you decide that you CAN, that you will deal with the challenge no matter the level of physical, mental or emotional difficulty, you will succeed. Your path may not be even, or balanced, or straight, but you will reach the finish line.
Whether you repeat these words out loud or in your head, with the repetition, you will begin to believe it. It worked for the Little Engine that Could. It will work for you.
You’ve got this.
Life isn’t a simple, direct path from one point to the next. We can plan the path, but as we cannot see the future, there is no way to absolutely determine what will happen next. Twists and turns show up, sometimes without any notice. Every time we navigate something new, I believe we develop a new layer of ourselves.
Perhaps you’ve dealt with a difficult relationship, or have taken on a new responsibility, or you’ve gone back to school. Perhaps you’ve become a mother, or a spouse. Perhaps you went outside your comfort zone and accomplished a task you never thought possible. Your layers are made up of these experiences. Each layer is unique. Each experience educated you.
Be proud of your layers. They are your roadmap to the past, and can serve as your guide going forward.
I’ve been asked why I use flowers. This is why.
Three years ago, I started working on Power of the Flowers. Motivated by my own challenges, I wanted to find a space to communicate with other women who had dealt with similar things, to find a community who understood what I’d been through and how I felt. As I worked to construct the site (www.poweroftheflowers.com), I kept bumping up against a concept that has been repeated in many poems, songs and other works of art: women are like flowers. Each one is different, and yet each one is beautiful.
Although we look different, have led different lives, have been raised in different cultures, practice different religions, I believe that it is the challenges that we’ve faced, and the internal traits we each possess that helped us overcome those challenges, that can unite us.
Externally different. Internally similar.
When another has been unfair or unkind, working to respond with internal beauty, showing respect and love even when neither has been shown to you can be difficult. Rising to challenges using internal strength, and pulling from that reserve of resilience when you get knocked down is also difficult. We’ve all been there. And we will be there again. Knowing that we are different, but yet we all encounter similar challenges, is something that can, and should, bring us together.
Collectively, these are our flower powers.
Now, go forth and use them.
I have often poked fun at the men around me for being too “linear.” You know what I mean. They perform one task at one time. And. Only. One. Task. At. A. Time. Mine does the laundry (for which I am eternally grateful). But he will not fold while watching TV. I can’t answer why. I’ll fold while watching TV, or chatting on the phone. It seems natural to me to perform more than one task at a time. If we are in the car and he is driving, we cannot have in depth conversations. He’s told me such conversations distract him from driving. In the past, I used to ask him, “What are you thinking?” while we were sitting quietly. On every single occasion, he’s answered, “Nothing. I am not thinking about anything.” I stopped asking that question when I finally understood he meant what he said.
Without a doubt, men and women are wired differently. I believe the XY’s (male genetic composition) could benefit from a bit of multitasking in their lives. Certain things could get accomplished more quickly and efficiently. But, I also believe we, the XX’s, (female genetic composition) could benefit by adopting some of their linear focus.
When I started practicing law, I tried to multitask all the time. However, when you are preparing to take a deposition, or are preparing a report analyzing the potential liabilities and damages for a client, or you are in the midst of trial preparations, multitasking can get in the way of the focus necessary to accomplish the task. One of the partners with whom I work told me that he turns all else off – telephones, email, etc. – when he is preparing such a report, or getting ready for trial. By so doing, nothing distracts him from completing the task before him. I’ve adopted this practice. As he predicted, my work improved.
A similar focus should be brought to whatever inspires you, or to the goal you’ve set for yourself. Likely, you will not be able to act “linearly” 24/7, but if you focus on yourself for no less than 15 minutes per day, you will begin to see results. You can do this on your way to work, or on your lunch break, during any down-time, or at night when all others are in bed. In those moments, construct the plan you want to follow. Breathe. Think. Plan. Execute. Repeat. If you follow the XY’s thought process daily, even if the time increments are small, progress will occur.
Persistence and Love
This is my garden. When we moved in two years ago, the yard had a tarp over it. It appeared that the backyard hadn’t been used in years. Strange weeds grew up from between the cracks in the tarp. Covering no more than 20 feet by 12 feet (the whole area is not visible in this picture), every inch was covered in cigarette remnants. Inspiration took hold. I asked and received permission to “clean up” the backyard.
It took a long time. Years of neglect needed to be undone. Bags of glass and other debris went to the curb along with all the weeds. One weed in particular caused me great angst. Amazingly, the weed roots grew laterally, creating a network that were not easily unearthed. Every time I found one growing, I had to dig around the weed to reach and harvest the root system. If I tried to pull it without doing this, the weed would break off and a new one would sprout within weeks. I am still not sure if I got them all, but it looks like I made a dent.
After I got through cleaning, I tracked the sunlight that moved through the backyard to see how much light got in, and for how long. Only the west corner of the yard received enough sunlight, so I cordoned off that corner, turned over all the soil and planted Impatiens. They thrived. I still had to clean up the debris and cigarettes occasionally, but, thankfully, there were fewer than before. This year, as you can see, I’ve replanted the Impatiens, along with a beautiful hydrangea, and a few leafy plants called Hosta.
We no longer have access to the backyard, but I still do the planting. When asked by the tenant who has access to the yard why I do this, I responded, “Because the yard deserves to be reclaimed. And the flowers might encourage our neighbors to see the backyard as a garden.”
Certain things take effort. Change takes time. In all aspects of life, persistence and love can make things better. So, be persistent. Make a change that makes a difference. Imbue your actions with love. From that place, your flowers will grow.
My Kid Makes Me Laugh...
My kid makes me laugh…a lot. Not all the time, of course, but more often than not he finds a way to make me chuckle. On Mother’s Day, he gave me a book. I wanted to share this page because it made me laugh so hard I almost wet my pants (something I can certainly attribute to the kid born naturally at 9lbs 8oz). “Sometimes, I forget my shoes.” Well, yes, that has happened. But it was MONTHS ago and it only happened once, or so I tell myself.
We live in New York City, which generally means we live in an apartment (not true for all, but true for most). He has to be at school by 8 a.m., so we need to be out the door by 7:30 a.m. because we take the subway. Sometimes, the morning routine resembles a fire drill because I am still brushing my teeth or trying to put on some makeup at 7:25 a.m. (note to self: get out of bed earlier). On the morning in question, it was such a fire drill. I’d gotten myself out of the bathroom and to the kitchen (which is near the front door), grabbed my lunch, put on my coat and ushered the kid out the door. As I closed the apartment door, I noticed my pink, fuzzy slippers on my feet. I turned to the kid and said, “I don’t think these will do.” We both laughed. I ran in, changed into my shoes, and somehow, we still made it to school on time.
What is the moral of the story? Don’t forget your shoes, or anything else, because kids remember EVERYTHING.
I think I hear you laughing….
For the Love of Mommies
When everyone said she should not, my mom went back to law school. She made this choice when I was 7. You can imagine how difficult it was for a 40-year-old woman to break into law in 1980 with three children at home. Through my eyes, she made that transition flawlessly. If I could ask her, she’d probably quietly admit that it was hard. That the juggle of being a mother, wife and a law student was incredibly difficult. And then, without missing a beat, she’d remind me that it was one of the best decisions she’d ever made.
My mom was a warrior. I know she loved me. When I needed her strength, she shared it. When I needed a lesson, she provided it. When I needed a shoulder, she gave me another lesson, and then her shoulder. She was my hero. She died 11 years ago. I miss her every day.
When she died, a tree was planted in her honor. Just this week, it bloomed, and my heart with it. Even though I regularly go to the tree to speak with her, when her tree blooms, I feel just that much closer to her. While I wasn’t looking, my husband caught me speaking to her.
Mother’s Day is about relationships. It runs between you and your mother, and between you and those who you’ve mothered. Celebrate those relationships today, and every day.
Making the decision that you need to implement a change in your life is hurdle by itself. Although change is the only constant in life, generally, we are creatures of habit. Resorting to a known response, to an action that provides some comfort, but ultimately is unhelpful, is certainly easier. When you make the decision to implement a change, to reprogram the way you respond to a situation, be proud of yourself. This is step one.
Step two is a bit more challenging. In the beginning, staying the course can be difficult. Outside and inside influences may cause you to doubt your path. Your own resolve will be tested. In those moments, I suggest you use the 1% rule - - make the change 1% at a time. Small steps towards your goal are still progress. And, those small steps certainly add up.
Consider this. You’ve decided to make a change, and you’ve put in place the tools (whether they be physical or emotional) you need to make this change. You are a few days into this change and someone who is not supportive is critical of your progress. Here is where the 1% rule can help. You’ve already made progress. Don’t give up because of that outside opinion. Instead, celebrate how far you’ve come. Recognize that you’ve made progress. File away the negative opinion under the “unhelpful” category and continue on your path.
If you struggle and you find that you’ve resorted to old ways, don’t give up. Go back to the 1% rule and recognize how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ve lost a bit of your progress. But, if you look at the fact that you were 5% or 10% or 20%, or maybe even 50% closer to your goal, losing a percentage or two is nothing compared to what you’ve accomplished.
You are beautiful, strong and resilient. You have the ability to choose your own path. Make that change and move forward, 1% at a time.