Monday, October 7, 2013

Reclaiming Joy IV: Standing in My Own Shoes

Recently while hiking in the mountains, my friend Terrah and I sat on a rock in the middle of a silent canyon and had a long talk. Both of us had gotten to a “stuck” place in life, and we wanted to bust out. I was telling her about a book I’d been reading (E Squared) where author Pam Groust likens life to a skyscraper. Most of us, she says, are living on the second floor, while everything we desire is on the 17th. But we’ve never seen the 17th floor, therefore we don’t believe it exists. We also don’t see electricity, but we don’t hesitate to turn on a light. We believe the light will be there, and it is. So, I was telling Terrah, I have to get to the 17th floor.
“It’s not about getting to the 17th floor,” Terrah said, “it’s about living there.” She explained to me that she teaches her acting students to “inhabit” the person they want to be in ten years --walk as that person, talk as that person, LIVE as that person.  I was mesmerized- what a concept.

Later I talked with Troy about this. We’ve been hit with some pretty big financial setbacks this year, and it’s had us feeling beat down and defeated. So I told him what Terrah had to say about it, “How about we start inhabiting the selves we want to be, right now? How about we live on the 17th floor?”

He said he loved it, and talked about who he wanted to be in the future.
I said, “I think who you are now is pretty great.”
He said, “The guy I want to be is not worried about money, spending all day writing a song about a hayride.” And this goes to show you, it’s all in one’s perspective. I saw him as a success and he was feeling like a failure.
“But…the way I see it, you are greatly successful!”
“Tell that to the mortgage company,” he said.
“But you write music that educates children, and helps autistic kids. You just played a Wilson Phillips gig in front of 8000 people and opened for Brian freeking Wilson. Why not inhabit the person you are now?”
And of course he very sweetly pointed out that I could take my own advice.

Ultimately we decided that while striving to inhabit our better ourselves, we would be happy for what we’ve been able to accomplish so far in our lives, and stand solid in our own shoes.

I mean, if you really stop to think about it, just look at the things we’ve all accomplished in our lives. You, me, all of us. So many of us have raised kids, taken care of a sick friend, survived cancer, built a successful career, traveled, rescued an animal, been courageous beyond our wild imaginings…We are teachers, friends, mentors, activists. Why don’t we give ourselves credit? Why don’t we stand tall in our own shoes instead of wishing we were in someone else’s? I think change comes when we take note of the things we’ve done,  reminding ourselves daily that we are better than we know. Rather than ignore our past successes, we can use them as touchstones to build future success.

So Troy had a gig in Vegas over the weekend. I tagged along with Evan and Ayumu and we made a crazy road trip out of it. We kept ourselves in a good mental space all weekend, and in spite of a few colossal challenges, we stood steady in our own shoes. We walked a little taller and felt a lot stronger. And when we got home late Sunday night, there was a box on the porch. We rushed inside to open it were shocked to find that Troy had won an award (proving my point that who he is now is indeed pretty great- thank you very much.)

It was a Telly Award for his compositions on the ABCMouse website. (Other recipients have included ESPN, OWN, Discovery Channel and many more.) This came completely out of left field. We didn’t even know he was in the running.

But this is the beauty of claiming who you are. Troy stood tall in his own shoes and the Universe met him there. I am ridiculously proud of him. For starters, I’m going to send this picture to the mortgage company. 

Troy Dexter: "Award-winning composer"  Yay!

*And thanks to Terrah Bennett Smith for starting a great conversation that had a domino effect...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Reclaiming Joy III: Gratitude

“A miracle is a shift in perception.” – Marianne Williamson

In my last post, I talked about the scientific fact that nature abhors a vacuum, and that when you release negative energy from your life, something else will rush in to fill that space. And wow oh wow has that proven to be true in my life.

After my negativity fast, I made gratitude the centerpiece of my "reclaiming joy" experiment. At night, I journal about the moments I was grateful for that day. As a result, what happens is I am always looking for things to record - and that in itself brings me into the present moment. There are so many tiny moments that I would have missed if I was caught up in my head, only focused on my problems - like the kids playing and laughing together, a rare bird on my deck, a smile from a stranger. Suddenly the world seems full of things to be grateful for simply because I am awake. I am feeling a shift inside. Marianne Williamson would call that a miracle.

But an even deeper proof was yet to come.

With this new, lighter, positive heart, I believe a space was created for the Universe to meet me where I am. And here’s what happened:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth … that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

-W.H. Murray

Sunday, as I was getting ready to perform at the Veteran’s hospital (another way to immediately feel happy- do something kind for someone else) I got a random email. This woman said she was a segment producer for Huffington Post Live, and she had read my blog and wanted to know if I would be on the show the next day. What?

I called and asked how she found me. She said, “We are doing a show on the nature of suffering, and Nancy (the host) asked me to find someone who had lost everything and was still grateful. So I googled, “How I Lost Everything and Why I’m Grateful” and there you were.” I was floored. She googled the EXACT title of the blog I’d posted on the anniversary of my fire last year. Coincidence? Or Providence?

The next day, a little online interview that I thought three people would see, got picked up by AOL’s Top Stories, breathing life into this book (Wind To Wildfire) I’ve been trying to midwife into the world for over a year now. 

If this isn’t evidence that this reclaiming joy stuff is working, I don’t know what is.

The Path to Gratitude

There have been times in my life where I have been so low, I could not think of a single thing to be grateful for. But now, when I sink to that dark place, this is a little game I play with myself. I call it the Castaway Game.

I pick up my pen and paper, then imagine myself stranded on a desert island with no food, and nothing but a volleyball named Wilson to love. And then I start to write all the things I would pine for. Suddenly, every person in my life, every circumstance, becomes a blessing. Even the garbage truck with his noisy clanging while I’m meditating, the annoying dog that barks all day- even those things. Suddenly I become aware of the great cup of coffee I’m drinking and the fresh fruit on my table and I feel so damn lucky.

So if you’re ever feeling down on your luck, try this game. Put yourself on that island with Wilson and let the words fly.  And then... see if the shift in perception becomes your very own miracle. 

Here is a short excerpt from the Huffington Post Live interview, where I talk about what I learned from losing everything.