Monday, November 19, 2012


Are You Willing...?

Well, we finally made it.  Welcome to Day 30 of the 30 Day Challenge!  It's been a long and windy road this past year, but we have finally arrived to our destination. 

I began writing the 30 Day Challenge towards the end of the holiday season last year with the intention of providing a small set of daily notes to help motivate and move my readers.  Now we are at the end of one journey with the beginning of another just around the corner -- 2013 and the beginning of a new calendar year will be here in the blink of an eye!

This past weekend I heard an inspiring talk by a local pastor and I immediately took note of some key points knowing that they would be entirely relatable to this 30th and final entry date.  The topic was on 'Movement in Community' and he posed two questions to the audience that I want to now pose to you:  1) Do you know your own skills and talents?  AND 2) Are you willing?

Every learned writer knows to never provide an adjective without a subject -- so perhaps you are now irritated and asking me "Willing for what?"  Rephrase it.  "Willing to DO what?"

The first entry for this series is dated nearly 12 months ago in December of 2011 and the discussion is intended to lay the groundwork for self improvement and strong self awareness that will lead to creating new habits in a new year.  We talked about exercise, healthy eating, meditating, praying, talking, listening, writing, sitting, and the list goes on...  My favorite tip and reminder will still get a plug even in this final entry:  Drink more water!

Through the 30 entries that make up the 30 Day Challenge you have been given the opportunity to read as a spectator and absorb stories and life lessons that span (hopefully!) from entertaining to life changing.  I now come back to this final question and challenge of the series:  "Are you willing?" 

Are you willing to take this information and DO something with it?  Are you willing to get in the game and step off the sidelines?  Are you willing to take action and prepare to influence your own life as well as the world around you?

If I have accomplished nothing else in these last 11 months, it is my sincere hope that I have inspired you to say YES.  Yes, you deserve a fulfilling life.  Yes, you can make the time for some more 'personal time'.  Yes, you are willing and ready to take action. 

This life will throw words like busy, hard, and tired in your path. There will be plenty of reasons to grab hold of and then be used as an excuse for not getting in the game.  You are stronger, and now hopefully wiser, than to succumb to the path of least resistance.

I plan to live a life in which I feel set apart and capable of transcending the mundane. And I sincerely hope that you have the fight in you to do the same.

 "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, day and night, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
-- e.e. cummings

The Challenge - Day 30

You are given only one body in this life and it wasn't exactly intended to be altered and adjusted by doctors and their scalpels.  Treat it like a temple, or at least as well as the fancy and expensive car you hope to have last well beyond its average driving mileage.  Use the right fuel (eat healthy!), tune it up (exercise!), and don't be afraid to give it some TLC (manicures and massages count).

It is so easy, and very commendable, to get lost in spending your time serving and nurturing others.  Take a moment, ideally once a day, to look inward and think selfishly.  Think about your own hopes and desires for the day, for the week, or for this life.  You deserve to have personal priorities and goals -- that's the easy part.  Making time to works towards accomplishing them is the true challenge.  Give it your best shot because the 'try' is the first step in the right direction.

This world is a big, messed up, and often confusing place.  I know that there is a power greater than me capable of seeing a much bigger picture beyond the one encapsulated by the frame of my personal life.  I plan to continue to trust in that big picture and such hope is what my spirituality is really all about -- faith of the unknown.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Awkward. Now Take It In.


Upbeat.  Fun loving.  Supportive.  Positive.  Outgoing.  Social. 

It's fair to say that these are all characteristics that my friends and family would typically use to describe my personality and I, admittedly, take pride in such remarks.  I enjoy embracing life and the opportunities that it can present along with making time to be with family and friends all the time in my everyday life.  This is my normal. 

These last couple of weeks have been far from normal.  They have been hard and stressful and emotionally draining with few moments of reprieve to simply take a deep breath and re-energize.  I haven't felt like my usual self and started to really stress out about this -- on top of everything else.  I was describing this unsettling feeling to my Life Coach and she looked at me, dead on, and basically said 'Get Over It'.  Um, excuse me? 

You see, I have been treading through waters that are a bit of a 'doldrums' period and it is incredibly unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  My life coach described it well when she used the word 'Awkward'.  She then told me that these seasons in life are necessary and are not to be overlooked simply because they are uncomfortable.  I must take in the awkwardness and use it as a teaching moment.  Life, at its own pace, will work past this season and all will return to what I prefer as my 'normal'.

This is no easy task for someone with strong ambition and a desire to lead by example in life.  My persona is inclined to say, "No, not me.  I will not be weak.  I will seize the day and not care about such troubles!"  Insert image of a Joan of Arc figure meshed with a naively optimistic Disney Princess here: ...

What I am learning is that such a response isn't exactly healthy nor is it productive.  So for now, I am doing my best to follow the advice of my Life Coach.  If I'm not in the mood to go to a bar or a birthday party or happy hour because my emotional energy isn't at a place to make conversation with people then that's ok.  If I don't feel like smiling every day for a period of time then that's ok.  It's not normal and it IS awkward, but that's all ok.  After all, this too shall pass.


I do find then when I'm not in the mood to rise to the occasion for exercise then I find solace in cooking healthy food.  Physical activity is great for bringing fresh oxygen into the blood, but we can also experience incredible health benefits by simply watching what we eat and drinking plenty of water.  For now, that's my focus and I'll return to yoga and surfing when I regain my energy.

The 'doldrums' are a normal part of life and are intended to be temporary.  Like anything else in life, don't just run past it but instead embrace it.  What period of life are you experiencing right now?  Are you looking around and living in the moment?  Or are you looking down the road and missing the life that exists right around you?

Faith is huge when it comes to processing periods of life that are less than pleasant and fare 'ok' at best.  It is the faith and belief in something or someone bigger than us that enables us to release some of the weight burdening our hearts and minds.  Have you ever read the poem Footprints?  Look it up whenever you are craving some wind into your spiritual sails.  I do believe in someone capable of carrying me down the path when I could not feel strong enough to walk on my own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A House of Cards


House of Cards

I've never actually built a house of cards -- card games weren't really my thing as a kid.  But I've seen it done in movies and I have this visual of a delicately built structure with edges less than a millimeter wide responsible for maintaining perfect balance.  If one card becomes loose, or even wobbly, then the whole house falls to the floor. 

Last week I had a card fall out of my house and, subsequently, everything seems to have come crashing down with it.  I have spent the last 29 years making careful decisions to build a house that is strong and graceful.  Perhaps, even with the desire for outsiders to see it as flawless.  Then, a bend in the road occurred and the perfection was shattered.  I spent the first few days mourning the loss of 'the house'.  I spent hours shedding tears over the mess and wondering what to do with it.  You see, the house of cards metaphor is all about 'the fall'.

I knew that I needed a moment of mental turnaround, but sometimes it's just easier to cry and feel sad about loss and disaster.  In the midst of my emotional roller coaster, a friend sent me a song to help lift my spirits and the lyrics are truly inspiring.  The track is titled 'Forces of the Unseen' and the chorus reveals a poem of strength and inspiration: "I'm gonna make it through, you'll see.  I swear I'll prove you wrong.  You haven't seen the last of me.  I am way too strong." 

Here's the silver lining with the House of Cards analogy:  you still have all the cards.  Granted, things need to be rebuilt and it's going to take time and patience and strength to persevere.  It certainly won't be easy.  But it's not impossible either.  I'm going to have to rebuild and find that balance and vision, but if I just sit back crying and staring at the mess then I won't be doing anything productive. 

The next time life blows wind through your house of cards and it feels like everything is crashing down just take a moment and tell yourself:  I'm gonna make it through, you'll see.  I swear I'll prove you wrong.  You haven't seen the last of me.  I am way too strong.


Don't ever give up on your physical well being.  There will be times that you are sidelined or you get off track for so long that it feels like you're not even sure where to start back up again.  Perseverance can be applied to so many things in life -- including lifestyle habits.  If you've fallen off course then just find the strength to get back on it.  Plain and simple.

If you are a frequent reader of The Challenge then you might find the following commentary repetitive -- but I come back to this topic because it truly is so critical in how we live our lives.  Hardship in life is inevitable.  It is in our reactions and perspective that we will reveal our true self.  Rise to the challenges and be aware of your frame of mind.  It is the most powerful force in guiding you through what lies ahead.
I attended a new church this past weekend and the pastor focused on a topic that I hadn't really heard much about before in a sermon.  He focused on Community.  We are wired to be a part of a community and we seek it out in various ways.  Whether you belong to a community of sports fans, a community of faith, or even just a neighborhood community focused on supportive relationships -- you are a member of a larger group.  Don't be afraid to lean on that group for support and inspiration.  American culture focuses on the individual and the power of independent strength.  I'm not against this message at all, but I also don't want to see us remove ourselves from community.  Indulge in the surrounding support when you need it.  I know that I wouldn't have made it through this week without my community helping to lift me up.