Are you driven to make a significant contribution in this world? Be original? Live authentically? Sounds cool but how do those – we admire do this successfully in their everyday life? I take a note from my teenage son’s (Dylan) world as I observe him – treading gracefully – moving upstream – against the flow. I’m not sure that he’s even aware that he’s doing it – if he knew his position – maybe, he would hesitate. I’ve watched him be an encourager when he needed to be encouraged. In particular, referring to this most recent basketball season. Yet, every practice – he would go hard and outplay those who often got more playing time than he did in the actual game. One thing I noticed, when Dylan got in the game – not matter what the scoreboard reflected, or how many minutes left in the quarter – he changed the game. This requires a mental shift, “turn it on” ability in the heat of the moment. I believe it’s cultivated by an inner thrust and his willingness to be unorthodox in his delivery.
LESSON #1 – FAILING GLORIOUSLY
In the middle of the night, I can hear Dylan’s restlessness – up late – studying while listening to music. This seems to be his melodic way of easing the tension from the demands on his life (sports, academics, college prep). It took me a moment to realize this was acceptable – that he was actually performing at peak levels with what I considered to be a distraction – music. Sometimes, we miss our rhythm not because we are offbeat but more so, off our path. Thinking too much about the right way and often smothering our instincts may compromise our sense of knowingness. As adults, we tend to settle in – avoid disruption – look for consistency – expect to be given a chance to play because we are talented and valuable. However, life is not business as usual…you must be a game changer to succeed. I borrow a term from a research scientist – we must be willing to “fail gloriously”. This comment, I must admit, startled me. Who wants to fail at anything? But I recall my HS band instructor always saying to us, “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail then attempt to do nothing and succeed”. Here’s my interpretation on “failing gloriously” – these are moments to learn humility, compassion and possibilities – again and again.
LESSON #2 – CURIOSITY
Today, I pay tribute to Dylan – for driving my curiosity and pushing me to dig deeper by using my lack to inspire my creativity. If we look for the missing parts, we can begin to connect with ourselves, to others, to a cause and with our vision. Ultimately, we will not only change the game but we create an opportunity for others who want to play too. This is what it’s about – opening up the playing field to encourage innovators, start-ups, designers and all of those who possess an inner thrust and who want to fill in the blank spaces of our communities. The “game changers” are here – are being born everyday and coming to a town near you.
This blog post is riding the heels of loss while flying through the myriad intersections of change accompanied by the painful discovery of gravity. Simply, what goes up – must come down. This includes, familial relationships, valuable careers, brilliant ideas as well as flowers in full bloom – not all things that we cherish will last forever. After the death of my father, on November 12, 2011, my world crashed down.
I recall running in the dark of the night, down our residential street – looking for the red lights and listening out for the sirens. Yet, I could only hear my heart kicking my chest walls and I could only feel my spirit running behind me. The night my father passed away – I ran out of my body. I cannot begin to explain death & dying but I better understand how to live an abundant life now more than ever. As I transition through family and career changes, I am inspired by a life well lived. It’s “the dash” between my father’s life and death, 1930–2011, that symbolizes all the lives he changed and the community he impacted by way of sharing his talents and serving others. He lived fearlessly and that was his prayer for his all his children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren and for generations to come. This is what I believe contributes to an ABUNDANT Life:
- Finish Line Focus – Press on! The race is not given to the swift but he who endures until the end. This means, endure the moments, the trials and the challenges and embrace the new beginnings not just the end.
- Everything In Between – Hold tight to faith! Our vision can be blurred by setbacks and the obstacles that pinch our soul can defer our hope – but delay is not denial. We must hold fast to our dreams by claiming things not seen as though they are.
- What Matters Most – We win together! The thrill of victory and the seal of defeat require our participation. The question becomes…What will we choose? Who’s lives will our decisions impact? At each turn, there is opportunity to break new ground, speak new life and to accept an opportunity for growth.
Living fearlessly and giving infinitely are all possible with focus, faith and the touch of togetherness. The night my body crashed into death – my spirit dashed for the memories of a life well lived. I am inspired to continue my father’s legacy – life more abundantly.
Quietly, I wait and watch as the nurses prep him for the outpatient care visit. We are in a private room sectioned off from a medical lounge of recliner chairs. This room smells clinical but feels sacred. My father is connected to monitors, intravenous drips and pressure cuffs and I am attached to the mystery of how one arrives at this cul-de-sac of life. The nurse said she needed to observe him closely for the first 15 mins then would come in to check on him periodically. Dad – was gracious (as always) and cute in his colorfully decorated, Korean War veteran hat. He looked the part of a soldier – a fighter – a trooper – a protector and all things that make a father victorious in the eyes of his daughter. My Dad – a father to many including my son, Dylan, has many titles that include a clergyman, motivator, coach, mentor and community leader and he is now looking to us, his children, to protect & serve the honor of his legacy by caring for he and my mother’s health & well-being as both of their bodies together reveal the “perfect storm” – unleashing harsh calamities followed by sunshine.
He sleeps through most of the 6-hr process…I watch as he sleeps – every now & then he wakes for juice or something yummy to snack on. I understand that it’s not promised to us all to grow old or to be loved through the process. We are not promised to be born into love or cared for during our growing pains. Wherever we find ourselves, there we must begin. This is when I know that life is calling me – to embrace what matters – to be more compassionate and to love stronger. So, I sit. I observe his breath. I wait for his reassuring smile and I am reminded of all that he gave me and all he continues to give with each glance or when he holds my one hand with his two hands. Simple but powerful exchanges of what we are to each other and who he is to my family. He is the only father my son has known – not just a grandfather but Dylan’s “Poppa”, playmate, confidant and great supporter to all of our hits and misses.
There are many stories my Dad has not shared that are hidden in his eyes. I can tell when he is traveling in his thoughts to distant places. This what I call the “reflective stare” that seems to creep into our days and shave the minutes off the hours of our time together. The eye gates separate us – yet, pulls me in closer with curiosity to know more about the man, his experiences and what he may have endured before he became my Dad. What he is missing most these days…he tells me it’s “driving” – going places – his independence but importantly taking care of us – his family. Growing up, I don’t ever recall a time when my mother was driving and he was on the passenger side in the car. Now, he rides on the ‘other’ side but not without a point of view.
The medical visit ends and we make our walk out to the car to make our way back home through the winding canyons of Southern California. He softly instructs me that we should not go the same way we came by suggesting that our new way will offer less curves and traffic obstructions. I agree. This is one lesson he has always taught me – be present but reflect and be willing to make adjustments along the way. Not easy but necessary if you want to go places in life. Inspired by this thought, I made an adjustment in my commute home – a new route and it shaved minutes off the hours on the road – giving me my time back. Now, with the extra time afforded to me – I sit, relax and reflect about the day’s events and the possibilities of tomorrow. Next, I think about what I will prepare or pick-up for dinner. God Bless my Dad & all fathers who gently guide their children and/or others – this Father’s Day and forever more.
On my flight home from Aruba (work/vacation), I reflected on the next place – next steps and where I am going. I knew that I was going home and returning to the workplace but there was something deeper inside of me – a longing for – a place – I have yet to discover. My initial thought was… I needed more “off-time” from work/family to research, discover and then, explore this new destination. However, this is not an option in my world. Over the past few years, I have spent so much time researching – planning & preparing that I delayed the journey through a form of disguised “resistance”. Towards the end of my vacation, this became more evident to me while reading Steven Pressfield’s “Do The Work”. The words on the page took my hand and lead me to a cliff and then said, “jump”. Yeah, it really felt that way to me – like the next place for me was high off the ground and required me to test my wing span while jumping into my destiny (not to my demise) – lol. I am a professional encourager, promoter, and venture capitalist to all things I believe in – but, usually not to self. I believe in me at a distance – when it feels safe enough to stumble or fall (behind closed doors) or when the only critic in the room – is me. I have post-it’s all over my bedroom wall with business plans & creative timelines and there are notes to self that fall out of cubby holes & filing cabinets filled with labeled folders of storylines, outlines, character descriptions, query letters, book proposals. This sort of feels like a confessional…well, it is – I must expose what I am hiding to get to the truth. I am home now – back to work (9-5) – still feeling a sense of urgency to go to the next place. Yet, as I write this blog, this very moment – I hear a world – not yet traveled – inside of me. This world does not require me to pack my bags or plan an itinerary of “things to do” and “places to visit” – it simply asks me to share – to give from within and to begin to color-in the biggest canvas yet – my life. I have arrived at a place where I belong and among those who have been waiting for my action to match my passion. Motherhood has taught me how to nurture others but life’s challenges are teaching me how to love and trust myself. So, today – I publish this blog & I jump. I’m not looking back (less reflection) – just looking ahead & within. Okay, so here it goes… stroke #1 on my “life” canvas – meet Donna Lou – the writer – every day in a sacred place.
He (my son – Dylan) has moved from the car seat in the back row to the passenger side of my SUV and will soon sit in my seat, with my keys in his hand and I will be on the ‘other’ side. Dylan will be in the driver seat with a permit to drive on the road. What does this mean? I guess – I’m not in control of it all. Well, this isn’t ground breaking news but it breaks my heart to think of the distance (choices, opportunities, growth) that can separate us from those we love.
Sometimes we grow apart, by choice or out of necessity or simply because of lack. We sometimes fail to accept that people we love need to grow and evolve. Maybe, I’m guilty of all the above or just fumbling my way through this maze of parenting.
Either way, I can see that I need to make some personal adjustments. When I complete these internal tunes-up, I think I’ll be less stressed and possibly those around me will breathe easier because they will get the permit to be free – to be themselves – without unnecessary interference or distractions on the road – in the form of my “mama/Donna knows best” opinions. Well, I may interfere a little bit but in the form of “speed bumps” or “love taps” from time to time. Ya know? I mean, I gotta be free to be me too – right?
All jokes aside…this is less about just letting go, trusting others or acceptance. This is more about reaching deep inside myself to pull out the resistance that is seated at the doorway to my to faith. Resistance distracts me. My distractions and fears are feeders to my loved ones, friends and community – I must grant freedom within…Then, I have to pass it on. If this means, the keys to my car or or sitting on the ‘other’ (passenger) side – cool – I’ll survive – maybe, with a few less hairs on my head or a few rashes of the side of my face (after riding with my teenage son) – but it’s better than me – driving while under the influence of “fear”.
We travel to the Bay Area – again…this time for good news! Last time – it was surgery. I pray Dylan is healing and that his life will resume with the plans he had back in December before his ankle injury. I cannot imagine what he has gone through emotionally and my heart hurts for every pain he has experienced physically. This injury has changed our lives significantly. Our trip this week is a quick turnaround – a one day in and out visit. We leave and come right back but I wonder…will we be the same when we return? Can we accept the findings from the x-ray…even, if the healing has begun – can we accept the work ahead to heal completely and will we trust the body the way we did before? Coming home will be easy but finding our way back to our dreams, our imagination and our faith will be the question of the day – how? I trust that God’s significant direction in our lives will lead us to an undiscovered road. I pray we not only find our way back but that we find a miracle in the process. Maybe, a piece of ourselves – lost along the way or possibly – untapped strength nestled in the heartache of setbacks -but even greater – an outlook on life that beckons us to run past fear, find a new path and enjoy the journey.
On the heels of a wonderful 43rd birthday celebration, I seem to feel this sense of urgency. Dylan wrote me a poem that touched the depth of my heart. The theme for this occasion was “love.” I feel loved. So much love in my life that I have to produce or it will be in vain…I must extend the love. How? I gotta create. I have to give back.
There is a part of me reaching even when I am sitting still…my yearning for something more is so deep – that it feels distant and set apart from me. Yet, I have a sense that is it the higher part of my being. I keep thinking I gotta jump higher than the next person or acquire some new skill set or possibly recreate myself but really…that’s not it. I hear a whisper of reason that is almost to simple to believe…it tells me to just reach out and get it. Thanks to all my family & my loved ones who inspire my 43inch vertical. I promise…I will.