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In the wake of the Orlando Shootings, the latest massacre of innocent victims, I turn my attention not to the victims, but the shooter. The person who was so filled with hatred, that he opened fired upon unsuspecting human beings who were simply out to enjoy themselves. How does one go from an innocent baby to a mass murderer? How does one acquire so much hatred in his heart that he unleashes his fury upon not just one, but hundreds of others? These are the question we need to keep asking ourselves.

Most can not help but focus on the victims.  They are the ones who suffered.  They are the ones whose families are going through shock, disbelief and unbelievable grief.  It is the same way, I turn my attention towards my son when he has been bullied on and off this year.  It is natural to turn our attention and our hearts to the victims, not to the offender who somehow, someway, turned his feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness, self-hatred, anger and self loathing upon others. So why am I focusing on someone who committed such a horrendous act?  Why would I want to help a bully?

It is a not a new saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” And there are a lot of “hurt people” walking around our world.  Thankfully most of them do not unleash their pain on others with semi automatic rifles.  But all we need to do is to look around to see the pain in another’s eyes, the disconnect and loneliness so many people feel who walk upon this earth. Forget loving ourselves, most people don’t even like themselves.  Is this shooter just an extreme example of how many people feel in this world?

In order to stop the hurting, we need to face our own feelings of self-hatred. So many of us search for so much in this life. We search for money, fame, relationships and achievements, yet all of this leads us down a path away from ourselves. So we keep searching and we don’t even know what we are searching for.  And when we come up empty. We drink, we work too much, we become addicted to pain killers, we worry about our weight or how we are aging. We dye, nip, tuck, and hide. And we still come up empty.

What we are searching for cannot be had, obtained or kept. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be taken. It cannot be felt by hurting another.  What we are searching for is love.  More specifically, self-love.

You do not need to be religious or to be in a relationship to understand what it means to feel loved. This is temporary love, the kind that disappears when the person or object goes away. Most never know what that feels like – to love themselves.

What does that even look like?

I saw a post the other day by Anita Moorjani , a woman who became physically sick with cancer, and was given a few days to live. That was ten years ago. The post read, “How well does love thy neighbor as thyself work, if you don’t even love yourself?” How Anita is still alive today? The lymphoma had spread throughout her body, and on the eve of her inevitable passing, she had a near death experience. You can read about it in more detail here, in her book, Dying To Be Me.  Anita defied all medical knowledge. Within weeks her cancer was 50% resolved, and within months, not a trace of cancer found within her body.  The message she received was “Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!” She speaks today about the importance of loving ourselves. That is why she is still here.

And I cannot agree more. We need to love ourselves beyond what we think we deserve.  And then when we are spilling over with love, well beyond our expectations, then we give this love away to others, well beyond their wildest expectations.

This is not about becoming self-centered, but performing self-care.  What is the difference? Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do. Being honest when we feel jealous, angry or sad. Feel them all and allow them to come and go without lashing out. Self care is about taking care of our hearts, bodies and soul on the deepest level imaginable. Self centeredness or narcissism is an inflated sense of someone’s own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. There is a big difference.

Are we loving ourselves enough?

Enough to find time to meditate so we can feel the rhythm of our own breath?

Enough to feed our bodies nutritious foods?

Enough to find balance between work, play and family?

Enough to say no when we are asked to stray from our truth?

Enough to stand up for what we believe even in the face of opposition?

Enough to come out of the closet?

Enough to set boundaries with others, especially those we love?

Enough to be honest with our how feel?

Enough to speak kindly to ourselves?

Enough to realize that we are good enough, just the way we are?

Enough to listen to our bodies when we are thirsty, hungry or tired?

Enough to say to ourselves what we never heard from another?

Enough to love ourselves no matter what we have done, said, or thought?

We Matter.

You Matter.

I Matter.

If we all loved ourselves beyond our expectations, our hearts would be transformed; our lives would be transformed; our world would be transformed.

This is dedicated to anyone who never felt they were good enough. Even those that pulled the trigger.

 

Moment by Moment

 

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Moment by moment.

The moment when you stop trying to be somebody else, and begin to just be yourself.

The moment when you stop caring what others think.

The moment when you realize it is okay to ask for help.

The moment when you realize if you stop running away from fear, it stops chasing you.

The moment when you remember that laughter is fun, and smiling is contagious.

The moment when you know you are being guided by something greater.

The moment when you find your voice.

The moment when you are touched so deeply, your heart feels like it will split open, and this feels so raw, yet so incredibly human.

The moment when you realize endings are just the next step in whatever life will bring.

The moment when you realize love is all that matters.

The moment when you understand that everything in life is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped.

The moment when competition comes in second place to cooperation.

The moment when whispering words of wisdom has more impact than shouting words of hate.

The moment when the fight for your religion is not going to matter.

The moment that you realize that being prettier, smarter, faster, is not going to matter.

The moment when you realize you are perfect just the way you are.

The moment when you realize that being the answer to someone else’s prayer, is far more rewarding than getting your way.

We live.

We learn.

We love.

Moment by Moment.

 

Coming Out of the Closet

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Closets are for more than just hiding from the world who we choose to love. They are about how we choose to keep secret a thought, idea, feeling, wish and belief from the world, for fear of disapproval. It is where we hide, until something or someone cracks open the door. We may decide in life to no longer play a sport we have been driven to play our whole lives. Perhaps we desire to engage in an alternate profession, dissolve a marriage, or worship in a different sanctuary. Maybe, we can see “dead” people or communicate with animals, and we worry that people will think we are crazy. We may be wanting to act, think and feel differently than we were taught, but be afraid to say, hey world, this is me. And yet when we have the courage to push open the closet door, we say I love myself enough to shout it out to the worldTo be true to who I am now, or maybe who I have always been. 

Some of us have elaborate walk in closets with tons of stuff hidden that we haven’t put on in years.  Others, have simple shelves, open for everyone to see. Regardless of what is in our closets, it feels so good to open the door and clear the shelves of old clothes that are no longer us; shoes with holes, and those damn wire hangers from the dry cleaners that always sneak in when we are not looking. All this stuff that has gathered in our closets is just taking up space. It is simply fear and doubt that we have gathered over the years; denial and the need for approval, collecting dust.

One morning, a few weeks ago, my son wanted to go off to school with his nails polished. HIs sisters did him the honor of painting his nails, each a different color. He also had his hair slicked up into the greatest Mohawk I have ever seen, and put on his best button down collared shirt and khaki pants. He was so proud of how he looked, and so was I. For him, there are no closets, as is the truth for many children. For they do not see labels, only what is on the inside.

It was not to long ago, my daughter was able to choose any doll she wanted from the shelves at the toy store for her fifth birthday. There were hundreds of dolls to choose from.  It took her awhile, and then she chose the doll she wanted.  She chose the only African American doll on the shelves. Our of curiosity, I asked her if she noticed anything different about the doll.  Her reply was that the doll was really cute and the other dolls, not so much. It brought tears to my eyes, how innocent and loving children can be, how they view the world with love, not appearances. Our children have so much to teach us.

Yet, somewhere along the way, when children grow, labels become more  important, insecurities emerge and there is a desire to fit into a box instead of being different, being themselves. Yet, is it not how we learn, how our world has become more beautiful, when we are able to be ourselves, love who we are unconditionally?  It is the true key to happiness and life where our hearts are open, our days fulfilled.

I would be lying if I said we were not worried the morning, that our son went off to school with polished nails; concerned he would be made fun of, laughed at. But he did not think twice.  Off he went with an air of confidence you always want for your child. When my son came home that afternoon, nothing really came of his wearing nail polish.  For this, I must thank those  brave souls who had once been able to open their closet door, be themselves, love themselves, and honor  themselves. To say, I know this is different from what you see, but it is not wrong. It is me. Perhaps one day there will be no more closets, no more labels.

It is never too late! The next time one of your closet doors becomes unhinged, take a leap of faith.  Remember what matters most is that we honor and we love ourselves for who we are.  We can believe whatever we choose, simply because it is what we believe. We can decide who to love today, regardless of who we loved yesterday. And perhaps, someday, instead of defending our religious and political beliefs with bloodshed, we can simply choose in that moment, what to believe and where to worship. We will be free to be you and me.

Since that morning, the polish has faded, along with Drew’s interest in it. Maybe it will return, maybe not.  Perhaps things become more of a big deal, when we make it that way. We judge others, put labels and attack those that are different, until they have no choice but to rally, fight back, or sneak back into their closet. If we accept everyone as they are, whether they dress differently, pray differently, speak differently, look differently, perhaps nobody will need to come out of the closet.  There will be no doors shut around them, no labels needed to talk about who they are.  We will not be Muslim, Jewish, smart, poor, overweight. We will just be human.

What’s in your closet? What words are you hiding beneath that old suit? What idea is hanging beside one of those old bridesmaid dresses? What creation is tucked away behind that box of old pictures?

When we come out of the closet, we are taking a step not only down the road less travelled, but but a giant leap for humanity. We need to ask ourselves, in the end, does it really matter what other people think?

I will end with a quote from the amazing, Bruce Springsteen.  The boss sings praises in one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all times, Rosalita:

Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor
Oh, closets are for hangers, winners use the door
So use it Rosie, that’s what it’s there for

Let’s all begin to use the door.  That’s what it’s there for.

 

 

 

 

A Whole New World

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What if when you woke up this morning, you found a whole new world?  What if the magic carpet ride with unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings was real, and you could climb aboard anytime.  Would you come along?

What if your dreams are guiding you as to how to see this whole new world?  People you run into unexpectedly, street signs, weird thoughts that pop into your head are all messages on how to reach this brand new world?

What if in this new world, you find magic and miracles.  The flowers blooming in colors so vibrant, you almost need to shield your eyes, and the brilliant skies make you stop and stare in awe.

What if it is only your beliefs and limits you place on yourself that keep you from seeing this world?  We have the power to see this whole new world now, to feel the truth of how we are all capable of loving beyond borders, to understand that everyone we meet, we are to help in some way.

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I can see this whole new world, now.

I can feel the care we take in treating our animals with respect and dignity, the cleanliness and wholeness of our foods, the honor of our natural wonders – the oceans, forests and the sacredness of our land.

I see a place where cooperation and compliments replaces competition; where love replaces fear.  In this space, we love ourselves and each other so deeply, that our addictions have nothing more to teach us.  That we give ourselves everything we never received, instead of looking for it from another.  That the one who was abused, neglected, judged and taken advantage of, is loved so deeply, there is no space left for blame.

A place where all our children are raised equally, fed and clothed.  One is not viewed as being better, for being stronger or smarter.  That we look at all of our children with how we can help them have the best experience they can, for they are the ones who are already living in this brand new world, and are here to help us see it for ourselves.

In this whole new world, we know that each time tragedy and terrorism strike, we look for the helpers.  And we keep our hearts open, so there is no more need for these atrocities as a reminder to love one another with reckless abandon.  We send love to everyone, even those we feel have wronged us.  We open our hearts to the person we see crying beside their car because her mother is dying.  To the child being bullied because of how he is different.  To the person in front of us in line at the post office because we have no idea of the suffering they have endured.

In this new world, the colors are brighter, the laughter is abundant.  We trust ourselves because we know that what we used to see out there – the hatred, lies, bigotry, racism – all the labels we used to place on ourselves and others, but have no place in our brand new world. We celebrate our differences.  We love our bodies, our minds and our hearts no matter what.

Will you take the first step within yourselves, your families and communities? Is it not time to come aboard this magic carpet ride? This is your invitation.

One one heart, one light, one person at a time.

This whole new world is already here.  We just need to open our eyes, and follow our hearts.

 

 

 

The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made

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I was blessed to have grown up in the seventies.  I was able to play outside until dark, walk downtown to the local candy store, and I was lucky enough to not have a cell phone.  My parents did not know where I was or who I was with.  It was up to me to figure out how I was to act, think and feel.

Did I make mistakes?  Of course.  I made a lot of mistakes, but I am here.  I am alive.  I survived.  And I learned a whole bunch of life lessons that have served me well.

I am an adult now, and have children of my own.  Teenagers and a seven year old, to be specific.  I do not envy them, growing up in a world where safety is even a question when they go off to school or to the movies.  Where I grew up in the disco era, they have grown up in the mass shooting era. As parents, all the violence makes us want to wrap them up, keep them safe, know where they are at all times.  I get it.  But we cannot control if something horrific happens to them, or even more likely, if they make a mistake.

With the development of technology, parents have been able to know where our kids are at all times.  We are able to track their cell phones, knowing if they are where they said they would be.  Now, we can hover even more.  As discussed in the article, How to Monitor Your Kids iPhone or Android This new device created by “Teen Safe,” now allows you to know every single text they send out, even those that they deleted.

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What is the result of tracking our kids to closely?  Children do not learn how to make their own decisions, navigate the world, and yes, break the rules.  We are attempting to prolong something inevitable.  It is called growing up.  We are so laced in fear, so afraid of our child making the wrong move, becoming disappointed, or not living up to our expectations, that we want to do whatever we can to prevent this from happening.

Mistakes are our biggest teachers in life.  They allow us to figure out what we think, feel and believe.  But society does not allow us to make mistakes without paying for them.  We shame and we judge.  Remember Monica Lewinsky?  How can we forget the national stage in 1998, that showcased her mistakes.  Do you know what she said about it seventeen years later?  It was not the affair, but the humiliation she felt, the judgements and the ongoing criticism she received, that nearly killed her.  “One of the unintended consequences of my agreeing to put myself out there and to try to tell the truth had been that shame would once again be hung around my neck like a scarlet-A albatross. Believe me, once it’s on, it is a bitch to take off.”

If we release judgement about making mistakes, allowing our children to fall down, brushing themselves off can be the biggest gifts a teenager can receive.  Psychologist Wendy Mogel’s book, Blessings of a B Minus she goes on to say, “As leaders of our children, it is essential for us to step back from the urgency, the mistakes, the heartbreaks, the rejection. “By taking a deep breath and withdrawing, you make space for your child to grow.”

Adolescents need compliments, attention and family dinners.  They need supportive, experiences of independence – taking the train by themselves, flying to another state or country, volunteering and hanging out with their friends.  Adolescents need guidance, not constant monitoring. They need to hear, “I love you no matter what,” as often as possible.

Yes, with cell phones, the stakes are higher for them to make a mistake.  In their fast paced technology packed world, they have little time to think about what they want to say before they hit send.  But that is not a reason to monitor their every move or text.  We need to reach down within ourselves, take a deep breath, and release the control.

We are trying to lock them up in a safe little box, so that we will not have to feel any pain at their mistakes, or God forbid, something worse happening to them.  But we cannot control any of it.  It is an illusion to think we can prevent our children from experiencing pain, sadness or disappointment.  We are all here to learn, grow and experience life.  It is not about good or bad, but how we grow, what we learn.  We had many years to teach our children, by the time they are teenagers we need to release our grip, ease up on the reins, give them some lee way so that they can develop their own moral compass, not continue to rely on ours.

The biggest challenge and yet most important job we have as parents is to learn how to let go.  The biggest mistake I ever made was not wanting my children to make the same mistakes I did. They just might, or even make a few of their own. We just need to love them no matter what.

 

An Angel in Disguise

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During an interview at work recently, I met a man, a very desperate man, who wanted to work for our small agency.

The interview began just as any other. Introductions were made and work history was reviewed, while the critical analysis of his appearance, age and his general fit was swimming around my subconscious.

In general, candidates tell you things you are not supposed to ask, so I simply nodded when he offered up the information that he has a wife and two children. But when he added that he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, that life has certainly handed him some challenges, I was unprepared for what happened next. Like a light bulb that blows unexpectedly when you turn on a switch, I was surprised when he began to cry.

Feeling a lump growing in my throat, I tried to ignore it. But events that come unexpectedly, especially ones that change your life, have an undeniable, underlying truth that cannot be swallowed away. It seemed that my years of soul-searching, meditating and determination to make a difference in others’ lives, came smack up against my hardened professionalism in the world of business.

My inner and outer worlds were about to crumble together in one heaping pile of tears. My heart began to speak over my head, and I found myself asking him how he managed with his plate so full. How he sounded like an amazing father with the strength to move mountains. I knew I stumbled upon not just a man, a body who needed a job, but a soul with an open heart, who was suddenly touching mine.

Through his tears, he voiced how he could not understand why nobody has given him a chance. That he was a good person and a hard worker. That being out of work for over a year was chipping away at his self esteem.

As I took a breath, I could no longer deny how I was immeasurably touched by his vulnerability. I wanted to toss my pen and paper, and reach out and hug him, thank him for his openness. I wanted to explain to him that most people who interview for a job, have created a hard professionalism, surrounding their heart with armour. They think there is a “right way” to go on an interview, and too often, it is an act, an image thrown out at an employer, fooling them into hiring a drone, one seemingly without a heart.

But life is not exactly like the movies, so I did not hug him, or give him a high-five. I simply allowed the shift inside myself to settle. And awareness came to the forefront of my mind. Life has thrown this man so many curve balls that he has forgotten how to hold up his shield, put on his mask.

Nobody had hired him, despite his good experience. Perhaps, they were afraid—their own armor snugly in place. I do not judge. It is just an observation, because that was me. In my professional life as a recruiter, I interviewed thousands of people, all with my heart deeply buried. I checked them each off my list like they were pieces of scrap metal and I was the junkyard dog. And I got paid a lot of money.

But somewhere over the course of my soul-searching, I must have woken up. And when we wake up, life gives us beautiful gifts disguised as reminders, teachers and messengers—to confirm we are on the right path. Intuitively, I knew why this man was sitting in front of me. A gentle soul, he was there to teach me to listen to my heart. To tell me that I am on the right path, that it is my mission to show others how we all need to bring our hearts back into our businesses.

It is time we start merging our outer and inner lives. To not wait until somebody shows up at the office with a gun or for terrorists who tear apart our families, shaking the foundation of our lives, to wake up and listen to one another. To allow our vulnerability and hearts to remain open, whether we are pouring coffee, selling commodities or creating websites.

After all, it is all too easy to let our hearts open in the safety of a dark movie theater or beneath the security of our blankets at night. But how does this look in real life? What about in those hard to reach places like behind a desk? What if we all began to merge this outer and inner life? To ask the person making our coffee at our local hang out how he is doing, and mean it. Instead of cursing them out silently, to see another who is complaining, as someone who needs more understanding and love, not less.

If we stop trying so hard to look a certain way, and turn inward to how we feel, might we all breathe a little easier? There are teachers and messengers everywhere we go, reminding us, we are all here to open our hearts more, and feeling is simply human. This man who sat in front of me was not just another resume, but a check mark in the employment box of life; a yes in favor of humanity.

I hired this gentle soul. I look forward to all he has to teach me, for he is truly, an angel in disguise