Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Legacy You Leave

What signifies a life well-lived? Are awards, certificates and trophies mounted on the wall symbols of a successful life? Are the years spent on a job the indications of the quality of your life? Is the number of mourners at your funeral the litmus test for lifetime achievement?

What yard stick do you use to measure the legacy of a life? In your elder years when you look back on your life, what will cause you to say, “I have achieved great things in my life.”? What will you point to as proof of your success?

What if you raised a child who grew up believing her dreams were achievable because you told that was so? What if you raised a child that had a compassion and commitment to help others because she learned how to love while on your lap?

What if your children turned out to be dedicated parents because they had you as an example? What if your children grew into adults who supported and encouraged each other because you instilled in them the importance of family unity?

Are these indicators of a legacy of love? Is that legacy of love not proof of a life well-lived? What if you had no children? Does that mean you have no legacy of love to leave? What is your measuring stick of a life?

Imagine you are to be honored at a ceremony for your lifetime achievements. Who would you want to attend the festivities? What would you want said about you? Imagine there will be a presentation at this ceremony that is to represent the span of life beginning with your early childhood memories. What would be included in this presentation?

Now don’t just imagine such a ceremony, write down what comes to mind as you visualize it. Make a guests list. Jot down the things that may be said by the attendees. Describe what that presentation of your life would include.

The purpose of this exercise is to reflect and examine not only how you see your journey of life thus far but also to define how you measure success and achievement. By completing this exercise, perhaps you will become more conscious about building a legacy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Your Truth

"Say your truth - kindly, but fully and completely. Live your truth - gently, but totally and consistently. Change your truth easily and quickly when your experience brings you new clarity."
---- Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God

In my youth and now in years as a mature woman, it amazes me how many people are unwilling to speak their truth. What lies beneath this unwillingness is usually fear. Fear that you may hurt some one's feelings. Fear that people will not like you anymore. Fear that others may retaliate.

As a young person I had no difficulty speaking my truth. My challenge was saying my truth kindly. It felt right to me to tell my truth even if it meant it would injure another. With maturity, I learned to use my truth less as a sword and more as a shield. The truth shielded me from others because when I found myself in a situation that could cause me harm or harm to another, I easily and quickly spoke that truth. It takes courage to tell the truth whether in minor or major situations.

Minor Situations

Standing in line at the Starbuck's, there were only two people in front of me waiting to be served by the one attendant behind the counter. The man in the front of the line must have had a large order because the attendant was working busily for several minutes. Soon, another employee of Starbuck's came to the far end of the counter and struck up a conversation with the attendant behind the counter.

Clearly this conversation was causing the attendant to work slower and several more minutes went by. I could see on the faces of the two people in front of me that they noticed this delay, as well, but neither said a word. The two gave each other knowing glances but neither said anything to the attendant.

Past experience with similar situations told me that the two in front of me would more likely start complaining to each other rather than to say anything to the attendant. As kindly as I could and after taking a few deep breaths, I asked the two employees if they could please hold off their conversation until after we have been serviced. Obviously surprised by what I requested, they both apologized and ended their discussion. The line moved quickly thereafter.

How many times have you found yourself in a similar situation? Did you speak your truth? Did you instead express your frustration with sighs, gasps or snide comments to others? If you did speak up, were you kind? If you did not speak up at all, why not? What were you afraid of?

Major Situations

Ending a relationship is a major situation in which many people are unwilling to speak their truth. The quote from Conversations with God that I used in the opening is very powerful. The most powerful part, in my opinion, is:
. . . change your truth easily and quickly when your experience brings you new clarity.

In relationships, some times your truth changes. For instance, you may have once wanted to be in a committed, monogamous relationship but your truth changed one day and you now may want the experience of being single. Without question, this truth is difficult to express to another. However, doesn't speaking your truth give more honor to the love you may have shared with your partner?

How many times have you been in a relationship and your mate behavior begins to change and you are never told why? Perhaps the relationship ended because of this change in behavior?

A friend recently spoke to me about the importance of bringing honorable closure in a relationship. My friend talked about not letting the relationship simply dissipate like water trickling out of a bucket with a small hole in it. Instead, it is important to acknowledge aloud to each other that it is time to end the relationship. An honorable closure enables you to both acknowledge the importance of the experience you had together and then be able to move on with integrity.

How you speak and live your truth is a testimony to who you are on this journey. Would not the journey be more enjoyable if we each had the courage, honor and integrity to have our spoken truth in alignment with the truth we live?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Staying in the Present Instant

A friend of mine recently told me about a book entitled, The Tao of Daily Life, which spoke eloquently about being in the present instant instead of the present moment as most other spiritual text refer to. Present instant really spoke to me because it captures the feeling I have had for years now that everything happens so swiftly in life. Both the good and the so-called bad is here and gone in an instant.

If I can put my attention on this very instant, I can find joy and peace and even understanding about my entire journey. This instant my home is warm despite the frigid temperature outside. In this instant, I feel loved. In this instant, I feel prosperous as all of my needs and wants are being met. Moreover, I feel that I also am meeting all the needs and wants of my daughter in this instant.

It is only when I project into the future that I feel any unrest. What is the point of worrying about the future? The future may never even materialize as no instant is promised (let alone a day.) It is not my intention to be esoteric about this issue. I am just wanting to capture this internal knowing I have that things are constantly shifting, changing, transforming, fluctuating, metamorphosing and renewing (myself included).

For a moment tonight, I found myself thinking ahead to the future and wondering, "What if?" What if I never remarry? What if my current feeling of contentment wanes?

My response to these questions was two-fold. First, I immediately told myself to focus on this instant. My second response was, "So what!" It really just "ain't that deep." There is no question that I will love and be loved. I really do not doubt that to be true. So what else really matters?

There will be many times in my remaining lifetime (how ever long that may be) that I will love, feel contentment and be loved. And there will likely be many times I feel other than those feelings.

It just is.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Journey in Relationships

Best-selling author, motivational speaker, Iyanla Vanzant says that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Those coming into your life for a defined reason, I call Pit Stop Buddies. The seasonal folks, I referred to as Mile Marker Mates and those in for the long term are Lifelong Travelers. The purpose in identifying people in your life using these designations is to determine what role these relationships pay in your life journey. Are they there to teach you a specific lesson then move on? Are they there for a span of time? Are they there for a lifetime experience?

Pit Stop Buddies
It may be a chance meeting, divine synchronicity or as the saying goes, “Two ships that pass in the night.” These encounters happen relatively swiftly and while brief, they are intense. You feel some kind of connection to this person. You may connect in a way that makes you remark, “It feels like we have known each other forever.” It is not only in romantic relationship this type of synergy happens. You and the Pit Stop Buddy could be coworkers, neighbors or participants in similar activities. You hit it off right from the start; so much so, you may begin to think it would be hard to imagine your life without that person. Then the relationship ends as quickly as it began.

You may be left wondering what happened and why. The experience may feel like a roller coaster ride: exhilarating, exciting and . . . over in a flash. Although the Pit Stop Buddy entrance and exit are swift, s/he may leave an indelible mark on you. The swift ending may leave you feeling confused, betrayed or angry.

It is important to allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Suppressing or denying your feelings can lead to a host of other challenges physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A good tool to use to sort those feelings out is journaling.

Once you sort those feelings out it is also helpful to do some reflecting and introspection. What did the Pit Stop Buddy bring to your life? What lasting mark did s\he make? Did you learn something new about your self? Did you venture outside of your comfort zone and try something new? You may find it helpful to consider these questions while doing a meditation.

Mile Marker Mates
When you are traveling, there a mile markers along the way that indicate how far you have traveled and how many miles are remaining. For example, the marker may read, “2/12“ which indicates that the road you traveling on is 12 miles long and you have traveled 2 miles thus far. When you get to another road the count begins anew.

As you travel the journey of life, you encounter Mile Marker Mates who are in your life for a span of time. As you travel together, it feels right. It feels good. It is mutually beneficial. Then it ends.

The ending is not abrupt like with the Pit Stop Buddy. The relationship with the Mile Marker is one that runs its course. For example, you may have been close college buddies and once college is over you each go your separate ways to continue the next leg of you journey on different paths.

As much as it may be clear to both of you that it is time to part, it still may bring up difficult emotions. One or both of you may find it hard to accept that your respective journeys are taking you in different directions.

Lifelong Travelers

The Lifelong Traveler is on your journey for 20 years or more. Counted in this group may be your parents, children or siblings. It could also be your spouse, life partner or a childhood friendship that spans into adulthood. These folks have experience the depth and breadth of your journey. They were there for the valley and mountaintop experiences.

Do not be misled by the label however. Lifetime Travelers may at some point no longer be on your path. Of course, it could be the result of a death but it also could be that after two decades or more, the two of you head in different directions.

It is also important not to assume that Lifelong Travelers are better than Pit Stop Buddies or Mile Marker Mates. Conversations with God, the best-selling book by Neale Donald Walsch puts it this way,
“Try not to confuse longevity with a job well done. Remember, your job on the planet is not to see how long you can stay in a relationship. It’s to decide and experience Who You Really Are.”

When you know whether a person on your journey of life is a Pit Stop Buddy, Mile Marker or Lifetime Traveler, you can better experience Who You Really Are within that relationship. In all relationships, you are there to do inner work, to find your authentic self and live out your life journey on purpose.