Monday, December 27, 2010

Roll with the Punches or Get Knocked Out

As the year comes to a close, my reflection period begins. Like a movie on fast forward, many glimpses come to mind. One of the most significant thoughts is the concept of the K.O. (Knock Out). Did I get back up or give up when things got tough? We have all experienced tragedies, disappointments, turn-arounds, and mistakes. Although some deal with them more than others, the experience remains the same.

How we handle these hurdles and utterly painful upsets, speaks to our inner core. Do you face life's obstacles head-on? My Thai Kickboxing Teacher often says "Roll with the Punches". After a few drills you realize the goal is different from a "bob and weave" or a "slip" move. When rolling with a punch, you lessen the force behind the hit. You almost redirect the energy. You will more than likely get touched, but not injured.

So you received an injury. Perhaps your pride has been hurt. Do you go quietly into the night? No. A conqueror is not the person who comes out of the battle unscathed. He/she leaves the battlefield with something. It could be as simple as a new perspective or a lesson learned. A seemingly infinitesimal bit of "booty" (in the warrior/pirate sense), makes you the sole survivor.

The battle scars are a reminder that you have gone through hard times, BUT you are still here. Others met the sword and lost their lives and/or mind. Some became turn coats and lost their integrity. What about those who refused to change strategy and became irrelevant? Yet you remain.

In the spirit of the second day of Kwanzaa, Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), I am defining who I am and declaring I will achieve my goals. Labels others place on me will not "speak for me". I am a winner, survivor, mentor, friend, daughter full of greatness. Life may be overwhelming at times, but a loss does not wipe out a dream. I will make a path where there is none. Humbly, I will continue to learn from my ancestors, living legends, and everyday people.

I have a great deal of training to commit to before I can call myself a Mighty Warrior. My weapon of choice is my faith. I just signed up for a "Read the Bible in 90 Days program". Choose your weapon wisely and let us give it all we have in 2011!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Choice is Yours

There are days when I'd rather poke my eyeballs out than hear the rhetoric and pontificating that folks deliver on a daily basis. Days when I want to give the "you gotta be kidding me face" to everyone with a seemingly frivolous opinion or an unreasonable request. On occasion, it shows. Yes, I give the "Gas Face" to people like they have a bad case of "The Vapors". (ode to my old school Hip Hop lovers). I digress.

I would be lying if I said I've handled every situation in my life with love and dignity. I have this gift if you will...some of you may posses it as well. I have the ability to turn someones gray sky blue and frown upside down with my demeanor. I can give comfort with the tone of my voice or a few kind words. Unfortunately, I also have equal ability to harm an environment; to make folks uncomfortable, sad, and angry by my disposition.

Have you ever woken up to Monday Blues, so strong, you were of no use to anyone and vice versa? Sometimes I just do not want to be bothered. But how does that affect other people? Suppose your smile is like sunshine for the little girl in the grocery store. What if your laugh brightens the humdrum morning routine of your family? What if your friends look fwd to that phone call or social media message to spruce up their day?

I work in an environment where most people do not return my "good morning" or "hello" greeting. The sound of silence is heard walking from the parking garage, getting on the elevator, grabbing a cup of tea, walking to the restroom, kitchen/lunchroom, etc. There are people who literally work in an adjacent office or have asked me for assistance on an issue, who look me "square in the face" and do not return pleasantries. I began to see it happening to others and I winced at the defeated body posture that followed.

The other day I noticed I had a tight-lipped facial expression and made zero eye-contact with people. It was almost as if I was in "female subway commuter mode." Had I become as guilty as those accused guilty parties? Maybe organizational culture had gotten to them too. I became determined that I would not mimic the wrongdoings any longer. I decided to push myself. I will continue to greet people, strangers and co-workers alike heartily. I will not be sucked into that unhappy abyss.

It costs us nothing to brighten the day of others. Let's "pay it forward". Be what you were created to be or succumb to the system. The choice is yours, my friend. Personally, I am taking the High Road.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Shut Down Before the Breakdown

Although, I may not regret my actions, there are some issues/events I would love to have handled differently. I've learned that I cannot and will not please everyone.

In the past, I wanted to solve everyone's problem; be the bridge between every dispute, caress every ailment, kiss every forehead. The result was fatigue, frustration, and sometimes illness. Burning your candle at both ends leads to an unfulfilled "no man's land". I cringe from calling it a "the savior complex" because it gave more stress than joy. But it was superhuman and irrational thinking nonetheless.

We as human beings have enough work to do trying to get our lives in order. If you are a parent, caregiver, spouse you know the importance of a timeout. You can get your wits together or think of something worse to do, but the pause, is necessary. The best business men know the meaning of R and R, we should learn it too. This does not mean I am encouraging a week of debauchery that you can chalk up to "burnout".

When I begin to respond to daily stimuli like it's a migraine, I know I've had enough. I become snippy, intolerant, and too serious to appreciate or comprehend jokes. I often turn my office light off and allow the outside light from my window to illuminate the room. People may joke, but they realize when I don't take the bait, it is time to back away from the vehicle...beep...beep...beep.

Sometimes it's a walk in NYC, a prayer and meditation or a "mental sanity" day off. Maybe a day-cation or curling up to a good book. I have mastered the art of shut down when necessary. For me that means Social Media Block out too. Once the clouds have dissipated and my glow is back I survey the scene. I decide what, if anything to say YES to and if the answer is NO, I make no qualms about being unavailable or unreachable.

Self preservation is crucial to helping others. Just like the flight attendant who tells you to put your mask on first, if you cannot breathe, you are no good to anyone else.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Not That I'm Better Than You...But

I consider myself to be a pretty decent person. I love community service and seldom look down on people. I am Politically Correct to a fault some would argue. Ask anyone who knows me and they will say that I care for and love friends as if they were blood relatives. I treat high-level executives and cleaning service people with the same level of respect.

However, I realized just the other day that I needed a major overhaul. I will tell you why. So here goes...I judge people. It is not in the sense that you are accustomed to recognizing. However, it is often an unmoving opinion on seemingly infinitesimal issues. It is in the slightest and most acceptable of ways. I generalize and stereotype people. Yes, that is correct. I am not perfect. How about you?

For example, if you see an attractive young woman with a man decades older than her, do assume it is a "money for pleasure" arrangement. Whatever happened to two souls connecting on a level that is only for them to understand and enjoy? How about the tween toting a $800 wristlet handbag? I am guilty of automatically thinking she is the pampered child of parents who have taught her nothing of humanity and less about morality and character. Could it be possible that her father is one of the most generous philanthropists in the world?...maybe, maybe not. The reality is not as important as the gross assumptions.

Newsflash: The single mother on public assistance and the trailer-dwelling house-wife do not need our disdain, pity or a hand-out. The visually impaired neighbor does not want us to do everything for them. Instead he or she needs the opportunity to begin on an equal playing field. Perhaps a chance to see beyond circumstances and believe in the possibilities is all that is required.

I came to a simple understanding; I cannot afford even the faintest bit of judgement. I am a person who has been judged by my skin color, height, hairstyle, gender, wealth, etc... Now it is up to you to decide to forgo some of the loaded jokes and harmful persuasions of your upbringing. When you meet someone new, think of he or she as a human being first. Acknowledge that you have more similarities than differences. Culture, family, hobbies,etc. are what make people who they are. Although many people may choose to hide their humanity, especially in the work place, take a hard look at yourself.

Connecting with others requires a bit of blind trust and faith. Treat people with kindness on a case by case basis. This will help you as much as the person you are meeting. Let their words, your instincts or discernment and especially their actions tell you whether less or more respect is required. Allow each man and woman to begin with a clean slate. Then, label the person a masterpiece or tragedy if you must, but base it on your own experience with the person. It is the least you can do and exactly what you would want to receive.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Point of No Return

Knowing when to say "when" is a dying art. Numerous articles, newscasts and exposés show examples of excess and limited willpower. Most of us don't utilize that internal breaker switch that allows our actions to stop before overload sets in. Sure we all think we do. But how many times have you eaten the entire bag/box of your favorite snack or watched late night movies in bed knowing you had to get up early. When you awoke your eyes looked like wee slits and your energy was low. Perhaps, like a tween girl with a new cell phone, you babble endlessly until friends feign chores or illness to get relief.

Ladies, some of us have worn a pair of heels that we clearly knew would not last the day without causing pain. By early evening, we end up walking like a "lady of the night". We understood the consequences, but wore them anyway, much to the chagrin of our feet. Men, have you gotten so excited about a new fragrance that you bathed in it, leaving coughing victims in your wake, gasping for fresh air? These are light offenses, but let's dig a little deeper.

Often people will visit a favorite store and charge the card he/she previously labeled "do not use". Already in debt, that quick-fix shopping spree did little to lift your spirits, especially when the bill arrived. When is the last time you got into a "heated discussion" that ended with you NOT getting your point across? If you had just paused to think about your delivery and the receiver, you could have saved yourself the hassle before the insults began to fly. Now a tedious and delicate task of reconnecting and healing wounds begins...again.

Maybe it is just me, but are you treating your life like a buffet? Filling up on items, activities, opportunities because they are within easy reach only to find out, too much of anything is...too much? If we continue to use the "just one more" excuse, we will be no smarter than a toddler who needs a parent to say "that is enough". So, how can we tap into our emotions well enough to recognize the point of no return? Remember this, the peak that marks "no further steps without regret", comes immediately after the point of satisfaction. The problem arises when as a consumer, we want more and more.

Next time, eat just enough to please your stomach, but not enough to render you immobile. Jog enough to break a sweat, but not enough to put you in bed for a day. Laugh enough to seem approachable, but not to the point where you won't be taken seriously. If you like someone do not smother to the point where he/she needs to excuse themselves to take a breather in the restroom. Make a reasonable purchase, and leave the lush item you were only buying to make people jealous in the store or on the lot.

No item or person will fill emotional/spiritual holes...period. Recognize why you do what you do and make the necessary adjustments. Oftentimes overflowing is NOT a good thing. Leakage in any aspect of your life is not a sign of abundance; it is a sign of wear, tear and overindulgence. Take steps towards a wiser you. Breathe. Take inventory. Use self-control. Start today!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's My Motivation?

As children we decided without fear what mattered most in life. We became fascinated with the things that gave us pure joy. Some of us could not wait to see the big red fire engine, play "no-rules" street ball or eat grandma's cookies. Often times we dreamed about who we wanted to become, i.e..astronaut, president, international ballerina, Wall Street Tycoon.

But what about that friend who never had a dream? The child who just went along with any old thing, a follower with no real preference or opinion. He or she is glad to be one of many and does just enough to get by.

Well one day it hit me. I grew up and became that person. It is a lonely, unrewarding and confusing place to be. I was unwilling to stand out, forced into leadership roles, slouching through the work day, grimacing at the morning sun, and taking daily blessings for granted. What happened to the passion and joy I had as a youth, the confidence of my teens, the ideological hope of my college years?

Think about it. Do you hide your light or settle for such a small portion of your goal or happiness that it cancels itself out? Even worse, do you know your motivation? Is it money, fame, someone to love, people to boss around, a need to make others jealous or even simple revenge? Do these new motivations truly satisfy you?

I suspect many of you are like me. Life has taken some unexpected turns that led you...well here! In the middle of a spinning universe and you are on the sidelines pouting. The game of life is being played, but because of lost expectations, the birth of a child, major debt, being overworked, loss of a loved one, etc...something has taken your sparkle.

Here's what I did...I took inventory. We've all heard it before. If money were no issue, what would you do with your life? This does not mean shirk responsibilities, but it does require you to do a "reboot". Start the program over, see how much gook is in there. Find it, get the software to correct it. Ok so we are not machines. But for some us it is as simple daily prayer or quiet meditation, counseling, reconciling with an estranged family member or friend. How about a 20 min walk a day for a different outlook?

Take a few weeks to clear your head. Think of it as your "clean out the brain/restore the heart" month. Throw out the trash (failures, roadblocks, doubts and excuses). Try to keep what matters most and begin again. Little by little you will find the small pleasurable things still exist. Hopefully, you will discover there is a person inside who deserves to live life to the fullest!

You will be surprised. Your small triumph may encourage others. Ladies and gentlemen...Let's start the wave to sanity, and fulfillment, and ah yes...JOY!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hault! Who Goes There?!

I wish people came with disclaimers, warnings,and instruction manuals. Seriously, how much easier would it be to interact with people if we knew exactly where they were coming from? In elementary school, when Jerry or Jessica gives you their last donut hole, it would've been nice to know that gesture warranted payback. So when Jerry asks to see under your skirt or Jessica asks to copy off of your test, you aren't blind-sided. How about the boss who gives you public praise,and later that week asks for private pleasure?

You may do things for others out of the kindness of your heart. For instance, allow someone male or female, younger or older, higher-ranked or lower-level to get on the elevator before you. This is not a sign of weakness, it is simply a display of courtesy. When you see this same person in the hallway you smile, but he or she only returns the favor when alone. Fast forward to the company picnic and this same person (who does not speak to you regularly) offers to get you a beer or glass of wine with an added offer of a REAL good time/"happy ending". Now you realize your gesture was seen as an open invitation for socialization.

Last, but not least you have those looking for a savior. You know the type. Attending a BBQ/house party at a friend or relative's house when someone gets a nasty food stain. You grab a cup of club soda and a napkin and politely pass it to the person who quickly gets out the stain. Or the single parent whose child is two seconds away from running head-first into the 60-inch plasma screen, whom you quickly redirect and save. Alas the entire party you have gained a loyal follower, a fan who sticks to you like glue. He/she is gushing about you as the hero of the year and shamelessly trying to force a cell number your way.

Here's the catch. Often people give us signs, but we are too quick to dismiss them. Red flags are just that. A message that says STOP/HAULT/DO NOT PASS GO. So she giggles too much and laughs at stuff that isn't funny. Perhaps he has told you three times in one conversation about his occupation. Either way the person is extremely attractive so you give he/she a pass. I am not suggesting you cut people out of your life for frivolous reasons, but intuition, gut feelings, discernment exist for a reason. Forty-five passes later you are in divorce litigation, filing charges at the police station, researching the missing funds in your bank account, nursing bruises and wounds.

If something does not seem right, recognize it immediately. Do not make excuses for a person's strange behavior. Selfishness, aloofness, neediness, abusers, users, immaturity are often easy to spot. Let's not be so desperate for business, love, friendship, money or votes that we overlook the obvious. We humans waste precious time analyzing everything but the basics. Trust me you will pay for it later. I learned the hard way!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remedy for the Kill-Joy Blues

Have you ever noticed some people have an honest knack for ruining and or changing your mood for the worst? I know someone who consistently thwarts my happy feeling as if on a "Seek and Destroy" Secret Mission. Perhaps this person has the opposite of Super Hero Powers. The Anti-hero who has the ability to annihilate goodness.

You may recognize this person as the one who comes along salivating as soon as you take that first bite of a good sandwich. An office snooper who catches you in the middle of grooving to your favorite tune. The fresh-pot neighbor who drops into your backyard during that certain yoga pose. My biggest problem with this character is he/she usually recognizes your discomfort, but simply does not care. Worse yet this joy-blocker presents a smile during your uneasiness.

Yes, we all know someone we would like to lock in the proverbial basement when it is time for joy or relief to begin. Might I suggest something I learned as an only child? Ignore the person or say "Give me a minute/be right with you". Yes it is simple, but it's an instant stress-reducer. Go into "your own little world" as if you were never interrupted. Do not show a hint of sour emotion. Finish your moment. You have triumphed. Display loving-kindness and engage the offender on your terms.

P.S. I still haven't found a way to beat...The killjoy who walks up to you the moment you drop a much needed gas bomb which you waited to release in a "secret" location. Ha!