Living on The Brightest Side

Love yourself enough brightest side

I’ve been feeling a bit sick from the vertigo of transition. The forked snake tongue on the road ahead feels daunting as the deep dark forest just after dusk. The feelings of obligation overwhelm my waking hours and the guilt that I feel pushes down on my shoulders and keeps my pace like a snail.

OR

Change and transition is when the real magic of life happens. The varied opportunities that lie ahead excite me to my soul bone and I’m throwing myself down the path and feeling open to wherever it may lead. The solace I have gifted myself has made my own authentic voice more confident to speak up and be heard. I am grateful and hopeful for what is to come.

It’s all about how you look at it. Attitude is everything.

After a lifetime of negativity and toxic truths, I decided to take a leap of faith and start living on The Brightest Side. It took strength, confidence and self-love to let go of the personal dogma engrained so deep in my habitually chaotic brain. So, I sat with the questions instead of demanding the answers. I focused on solutions instead of problems. I reevaluated all the varied doctrine I had held tight for so long. The process of trying to empty myself of programmed mental and emotional responses and open up to new, authentic thought came from a place of pure self love. Pure self love comes from a realization that you really want to be happy and tend mindfully to yourself. The key to my happiness has been consistently letting go of expectations and outcomes and letting it all unravel one glorious moment at a time.

Letting things be what they are and not what I am expecting or hoping for has been a labor of love and worth every effort.

So, after 4+ years of writing this blog I am transitioning my effort and energy to living permanently on The Brightest Side where I will continue to write about my journey, but also write about how others can make their own promise to live life with positivity and kindness both to themselves and others.

I hope you will join me and together we can enjoy being at peace with our lives paths. 

Sending love to my dear Desiree who took the above photo of me during a weekend on the beach

Making a Happy Promise

sunset man arms

It was four years ago today that I decided to make positive change in my life in an effort to become the best version of myself. I’m grateful for my journey and I’m hopeful for what is to come. If the time has come for you to start your own journey, it may be comforting to have a roadmap to follow. I have created a 3 step outline of how my own journey has unfolded and I hope these steps will help you begin to define and discover how to navigate your own journey. I only claim to be an expert on myself, and I encourage you to become an expert on yourself. My hope is that what has worked for me will inspire you to design a roadmap that reflects your own journey.

1. The Awakening

The realization happens that change is necessary. You may or may not experience the beginning of a breakthrough. The signs showing up around you can be anywhere from violent to subtle. You make a decision to make change. The decision can just be to get started. The focus on exactly what needs attention possibly comes clear, but may unfold in time. The most important thing to do in this stage is be open to whatever comes next. You may feel a surge of energy and a strong desire to explore and learn, or you may just begin to feel calm and open. Be mindful and accepting of your feelings.

2. The Discovery

You begin to pinpoint the areas of your life that need changing. You begin to develop a stronger focus on how to approach them. You begin to explore and learn which vehicle(s) will suit your needs: mindfulness, yoga, piano, music, hiking, art, kindness…. as you begin adjusting to change. Your senses begin to take in and process information in a new way. Colors are bolder, music is sweeter, smells spark vivid memories, you may feel hyper sensitive in every way. Now is a good time to begin to be even more mindful of your thoughts and feelings in an effort to discover how to make positive change. Stay open to change and unattached to outcomes. The less expectations you place on yourself and your experiences, the easier this process will flow, and although it may not be easy, it will be worth it.

3. Finding Your Calm

It is now time to adopt a new normal, incorporate new habits, and accept imperfection. It’s time to live life happier and keep awakening and rediscovering in each moment. The more kindness and love you show yourself, the more love and kindness you will be able to show your loved ones. There is no finish line, so don’t search for it, but instead enjoy the feeling of a new beginning.

Every journey is unique.

Appreciate your own, distinct patchwork life.

Find your peace.

Enjoy your calm.

My Patchwork Life

quilt

I am a Quilter. I am creating my connected moments one at a time, weaving them together to create a beautiful and intricate story representing people and places and moments that come together to resemble the story of my life. My patchwork will show varied times of balance and divergence and then the piece when I find center. These are all moments stitched together into one big interwoven quilt: my lifetime.

Peace comes when you can create and string together more moments of calm and begin to brush away the times of aversion. It’s about learning to create your own reality in a space where you can quiet the chaos that life brings us regardless of how many calm moments we can stitch together and enjoy in a row. Life can be messy, life can be beautiful. Look to nature to see that often even the moments that seem vile and disgusting are usually necessary to bring about change. But, it’s the varied colors, stitches, patterns and binding that create interest and make your story your own.   

Imagine your quilt with all of the moments of your life strung together and interwoven into a beautiful flowing adornment of comfort that tells the story of you and the ones you love. The people closest to you will have significant presence on your quilt and the places you go will be pictured there as well. This is what keeps you warm on cold nights and protects you from the chill.

What experiences are you wrapping yourself up in? Do you like the look of your life’s quilt? Does it represent what your heart calls out for? Are there changes that need to be made as you create the next piece of your patchwork? You are in control. You are the Quilter.

gratitude to ronnieb on morguefile.com for the above photo of the quilt

Dear Chicago

leaving chicago

Dear Chicago,

I’m not leaving because of something you did wrong. It’s not you, it’s me. From your beautiful summer nights to the birth of my two daughters, I leave here with so many beautiful memories, too many to list.  And, I’ll be back to make more memories as a visitor, for at least a while. I’m not moving away from something as much as moving on and trying to let go of who I have been here. This journey to find my happy place has vividly pointed out what doesn’t make me happy. I’m still working on figuring out exactly what does.

I deserve to be happy, feel comfortable and grow. I deserve to reconfigure my normal. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. The only way to change is to change the way. It’s all about the journey.

Warmly,

Jamie

Dear Denver,

When we met 25 years ago, I had no idea that I would never be able to stop thinking about you. I considered coming here for college and was accepted to the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1994 as a transfer student looking to make big changes and relocate to somewhere exciting. Even though I chose Phoenix at the time, I always wondered what it would have been like if I had made a different move. I’ve been back several times over the years, and it always feels more like home than anywhere else.

The pull to give you a try has now taken me over and I’ll see you in a few weeks to start my next chapter. Now, I know you have a lot going on and a lot of people here to please, all I’m asking is that you show me kindness and support. I’m not in a hurry, but I would like to see if my future is here. I’m feeling confident that you will give me a sign and show me the way, not let me wander too much from what could bring me happiness. I believe in you.

See you soon,

Jamie

gratitude to dharder on morguefile.com for the above photo

Come On Get Healthy

vegetables

I have found that, for me, getting happy started with a healthier body. It’s almost impossible to have a positive state of mind if your body is distracting you from your happiness goals. An unhealthy body that feels achey, sluggish, and doesn’t sleep well is probably not leading you on a journey to a happier place. When you feel healthy, rested and well nourished you are then more free to focus on your state of mind. An important thing to consider is that healthy looks different for every body, so keeping in mind that you only need to be the expert on making yourself happy is essential.

A great place to begin your journey to happiness is in the kitchen. Chances are, if you’re feeling less than happy, there are easy, manageable steps you can take right now in your own home. To make positive change, you have to make changes. The goal should be reinventing your relationship with food. Begin by taking inventory. Every few months I like to pull everything out of my pantry and reassess. Creating healthy habits and maintaining them does not happen with one trip to the grocery store. It can be an ongoing process of learning and adapting.

After you pull out all of your food, it’s time to take a good look at what you have on hand and consider your patterns. Anything that is expired has got to go, that’s easy. Anything that is processed and/or eaten in moments of emotional distress has also got to go. Food is fuel. Using food for comfort is not a step toward getting healthier. This process is about positive change. Replacing your comfort food with exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation, yoga, or a hot bath will serve you better. Consider what will work for you and give it a try.

Now clean out your fridge and freezer using the same process. When you are done with your purge, gather some healthy recipe and snack ideas and make a list of what you need. Grab your cloth grocery bags and head out with your list. Try and stick to what you need and not fall victim to impulse buying. Planning out your menu will serve you well, it saves time and let’s you be prepared in those moments when you want to slip back into old habits.

You have three considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Addressing three meals per day, everyday.
  2. Plan for your need to snack
  3. Consider your nutrient and mineral deficiencies

If your intention is to get healthy and happy, you need to begin to live from a place of intention and not a place of habit. Addressing your eating habits and being open to making positive, lasting change can very well be your first step on a path toward enjoying more happiness. It certainly was for me.

Gratitude to MaxStraeten for the lovely photo above from morgue file.com

Running The Good Race

fitwalk

Two men stand next to each other at the starting line of a race.

One has been rigidly training everyday at dawn following a set plan of action to achieve a certain time for this race. Each practice run was meticulously timed and outlined. That final number is set in his head, anything less is unacceptable. He jumps up and down anxiously warming up, checking his watch to make sure his technology is ready to track his progress. This is it, he has to do this in a certain amount of time. That finish line is everything to him right now.

The other man stands with his hands on his hips looking up at the beautiful blue sky and takes a deep breath thinking about how nice this run will be on this bright sunny day. Feeling proud of the training he has done in preparation for this race, he thinks about all those other nice, long runs he took on other days similar to this. What a pleasure it has been to set this goal and get outside and run. He’s feeling good about getting back in shape and spending his time doing something positive for himself. The finish line will appear when he is ready.

The race begins. The first man explodes down the path in anticipation. The second man begins to run and smiles at how good it feels to get moving. The race continues on and on while both men have two very different experiences. The first man didn’t notice the beautiful scenery and the quiet calm of listening to your feet create a soothing rhythm as you run. The second man noticed this and more.

The first man crossed the finish line in a hurried frenzy breaking his own record and pumping his fist in the air with pride. His goal was reached and exceeded and this high will last him a while. He gathers his data and heads home.

The second man forgets to notice the clock as he glides past the finish line feeling grateful for the time spent running that day. He takes a few moments to enjoy his accomplishments and shake a few hands of other proud runners around him also basking in the glory of seeing through their intention.

Both men enjoyed the benefits of setting a goal, carrying out a plan and feeling the accomplishment of a job well done and both finished in the same amount of time. But even though they ran the exact same race, they each ran down very different paths. Neither path is right or wrong. Neither path should be judged. But which way would you rather run through life?

Life takes planning, preparation, commitment and discipline. Life is a marathon. You can choose to run that marathon any way you want.

It’s all about perspective.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” -Wayne Dyer

The Empowering Journey From Never Enough To Perfectly Imperfect

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At so many times during my first 40 years I’ve wasted energy feeling like no matter what I was doing, it was just never enough. We are all human, we crave connection and validation so we often fall into traps of guilt or obligation to satisfy what others need from us. At your core, no matter how much confidence, ability and talent you possess, you have the desire to be loved and feel safe and accepted and will often go against instinct to achieve it. Maybe that’s human nature. But, action should come from a place of love, not a place of obligation. We are all born with potential that we may not recognize initially. It’s time for me to turn off this tap that spews energy in the wrong direction. It’s time to stop pouring myself into the expectations of others and begin to cultivate that energy and direct it inward to myself.

Why do we struggle? We look around to see how others are perceiving us and what they are demanding from us, when at the end of it all, it was only us who created our own story. The minute you stop paddling so vigorously against the current and let go, it will all flow. “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are” – Chinese Proverb

The only constant, the only thing we all have every moment of our lives is breath. Breathing in and out is a universal constant if you want to sustain life. Another universal constant is change. One day, the breathing will stop and your story will be over.  Before you get there, change will happen over and over and you will be there to see it all. You are not now the same person you were when you woke up this morning nor will you be this person when you wake up tomorrow. That is life. That is living. Why would you waste a single breath, in or out, taking in or giving away energy that doesn’t align with your true life intention? Do what creates what you believe to be the greatest version of yourself, not what others think will bring you to such ends. Breathe every breath.

Are you becoming who you are meant to be? Or are you letting yourself become what other people need you to be? Can you let go of the negative path to perfection, and start to accept and relish the perfectly imperfect life that is yours to enjoy? “If this is what you are doing with the negative, imagine what you could do with the positive” – Maya Angelou

When you embrace the idea that you will never be perfect, and accept that you will be the perfect version of you, life will begin to flow. Pour your energy into yourself and who you want to become. “Strive for progress, not perfection” – Unknown  And, when you have learned all that you can and grown as much as possible from someone or somewhere, it’s time to move on to your life’s next master class. There is so much left to learn, so many mistakes to learn from.

“I want to be all used up when I die” – George Bernard Shaw

Be who you are.

I am again grateful for my friend Shannon and her pretty toes showing us how to truly let it flow

GMOs and EMOs

Farm child

I am a voice in the crowd.  As I learn more about the world around me and issues that effect my family and loved ones, I see more of the big picture and I am connecting certain issues to try and gain a better, more thorough understanding of our general wellbeing.  Most recently I have been thinking a lot about what I am feeding my family and whether their nutritional needs are being met.  Keeping my family healthy is very high on my “To Do List”.  It was almost 3 years ago that I started to take a longer, harder look at my nutrition, my body and what I was putting in the mouths of my children.  I started with myself.  Just like being on an airplane when the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the children with their masks, I had to make sure I was healthy and had a healthy understanding of all of this before I started doing the same with my children. I needed to be healthy and strong to make them healthy and strong.

What I found was that everything I didn’t know about food was keeping me unhealthy.  I had been unable to lose the lingering weight after I had my children and despite my best efforts using the information that I had, nothing was working and I was getting more unhealthy instead of closer to my goal of getting myself and my family more healthy.  I was so busy with my life and the details that needed attention that getting truly educated about this never made my “To Do List”. It wasn’t until I began learning about nutritional cleansing, the true nutritional value of our food and the dangers of many of the foods on the market that I took for granted as being healthy that I started down the path of educating myself to a healthier state.

One of the scariest topics I have come across is the debate over GMOs in our food and the political battle over labeling them in our products here in the US.  I’ve come to learn that the powers-that-be are profiting from people growing and consuming food that has been genetically modified to the point that it resembles something closer to poison than food.  People are working hard at their jobs to earn money to be able to visit the grocery store and mindlessly fill their cart with food that is either poisonous or contains little to no nutritional value.  It’s fair to say that a significant amount of people have no idea that the food we have been eating for well over the last decade has been significantly altered by science.

Who are we to decide the direction of evolution in this way?  For a race of people that like to make their own choices and act on their own volition, this issue seems like a giant step backwards.  So, as a member of the collective, the biggest piece of this puzzle for me is that I am not being given the choice of whether or not to consume this altered food.  My power, in this regard, has been stripped from me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m also pretty upset about the whole process of how this all came to fruition from bullying farmers to get on board to thinking about the long term effects on our precious soil, environment and the integrity of our water supply….. It all has me riled up and has called me to action in many, many ways.

But, as I look at the giant companies involved in this happening and evaluate their obsession with money and securing that money for the future, I see a dangerous trend toward greed, born naturally from our emotional range as people.  This greed has become genetically altered to fit the world we live in.  This form of emotional evolution is just as frightening and unsettling to me as the issue of GMOs.  People are becoming emotionally modified as a result of the world we live in and the experiences we have to navigate through.  Our emotions and visceral responses to our environment have been altered through technology and evolution just the same as that first pea’s genetic makeup was altered by the hands of an Austrian Monk.  The masses of children desensitized to things like violence because of technology, television, movies and video games is to me as much of a threat as the GMOs that are infiltrating their bodies.  Is this modern world nurturing our children’s gentle and kind natures or are they being emotionally modified by the world around them?

Although I am scared for the future health situation because of the missing regulation, sensitivity and outrage in the world of GMOs, I am equally terrified by the omission of sensitivity to violence and the overwhelming inability for people to feel happily engaged in their life.  There is an epidemic of EMOs (Emotionally Modified Organisms) and we are the Organisms.  This seemingly pandemic disengagement terrifies and saddens me.  Put the two initiatives together and you get a world wide epidemic threatening health, wellbeing and wellness in general.

What will you do to balance all of the fears presented by this life we lead, start creating more time for fun, and at the same time act responsibly for the benefit of the next generation? It’s a lot to do, we all have a lot on our plate these days.

Well, I know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to learn all that I can while keeping a healthy perspective about the amount of power I have over how I live.  I will continue to take a look at my own emotions and understand what the world and my immediate environment has done to modify me.  Armed with that information and understanding I can become a better version of myself.

You are strong!  You have power!  You can make change!  You have as much power over your actions and emotions as you do over the food you put in your body and the bodies of those you love.  “Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside is what you will manifest on the outside” -Unknown

I believe these concerns are all connected and deserve the same amount of respect and attention.  Do your part to make the world a better place for our children, but don’t forget that all of those changes start with you….. every part of you.

 

picture courtesy of morgue file.com

Midlife Miracle

youarehereAfter sprinting forward out of my teen years, dancing through my twenties and coasting into responsibility in my thirties, I’ve hit the speed bump known as midlife. I’m 40. So, I decided to slow to a stop and take a thoughtful look behind me to see what I’ve done so far.

I’ve been an honor student, competitive figure skater, off-off broadway actress, sign language interpreter, college professor and wellness coach among other things. I’ve had a lot of fun and met some amazing people along my journey. I imagine it’s not so uncommon to have a few thoughts about “life so far” and what is to come when folks hit 40. I’m allowing myself to acknowledge that it’s a big deal simply because it feels that way to me.

When I hit 30, I had no idea who I would marry, how many children I would have or where I would end up living. But at 40, I know the answers to most of my unanswered questions. At times it feels like life is now about managing and maintaining the life I’ve built and the choices I’ve made. But I don’t want this life adventure to feel stagnant. I have so much more to do. Who knows what I will know at 50 that I hadn’t realized at 40?! I have an obligation to this life to keep growing, seeking and creating adventurous change!

During my look back I realized how much I have been able to accomplish so far and I see how much more is possible! The miracle about reaching midlife is that you are armed with plenty of life knowledge and wisdom that you didn’t have when you launched into your independence. And, you still have so much time left to enjoy it.

Midlife means power. Midlife means dynamic capability to take control of choices and live a life that serves us. Many of us take the helm of our families at this stage and become responsible for raising the next generation while at the same time helping our parents transition into the next phase of their existence. Sandwiched between the young and the old we learn how strong we have become and how capable we are. Embrace your strength and let it shine from inside of you. The more people depend on you the more they believe you can handle. Show kindness to yourself and then to those who look to you for courage and fortitude. We are the midlife soldiers, we are the miracles for so many people in our lives. Wear it as a badge of honor and serve those who need us with love and respect. But also learn how to look deep inside and serve yourself with just as much loving devotion.

After my long look behind, I’m ready to turn back around and see what is to come. Instead of a midlife crisis, I am having a midlife miracle. I’m moving forward giving and receiving unbridled, rampant, radical positive energy!

“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives” – Alan Sachs

This beautiful life won’t last forever, but that’s what nature intends. We live, we learn, we love. We laugh, grow and play. Your responsibility in this life is to make it count. Life itself is a steady natural awakening. The meaning of life is to live! 

 

photo credit to pippalou on morgue file.com

 

The Story of a House

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Just after coming back from a lovely walk, a car slowed to a stop in front of my house.  I yelled out a “hello” and asked if he needed something.  He was a nice, Hungarian gentleman who went on to tell me that his name was Laslo and he had built our house with his bare hands in the 1950’s.  He said he had lived here for 20 years after he built it and raised a son here.  Every time he is in the area he takes a drive past the house, this time I just happened to be outside.  He told me that our house was the first one built on the street and that he used to walk to his job just up the road at a factory.  He explained that in the beginning, the house would flood when it rained because of the pitch of the driveway which was why he installed the sump pump at the base of the driveway.  He told me that he put a penny in every corner of the main room under the wood floor.

I invited him to come in and take a look to see what had changed in the house over the years.  I told him about the addition the previous owners had built and about how much we had done to the backyard.  He declined and even started to drive away when I mentioned it.  I think his memory served him well and he wanted to visit this place in his memory, not learn about what we had done to change things.  He looked over at my neighbor Pete, also Hungarian, who was in front of his house trimming the hedge.  He explained that Pete’s house was the second on the street and built in the 1960’s.  He said they knew each other back then and that they helped build the street we live on.  To my surprise, he never took a second glance at Pete or slowed his car as he passed him to offer a hello to his old neighbor.  When we were done talking he just took a long last look and drove away.

I went inside with new thoughts about my house, this place that I come home to every day without even thinking about it.  You get numb to your routine, you find comfort and settle in to a pattern.  So often we forget to be grateful for all of the things that surround us.  After meeting Laslo I took a new look around my house.  I became grateful for his hard work and his care of this house all those years ago.  I wondered who else had lived here since then and I realized that I was now a part of the story of this house.  Maybe someday I will drive past and tell my part of the story to a new family of how I raised my daughters here and spent countless, relaxing hours at the park right across the street.

People spend a lot of energy and time making their private space just the way they want it.  We leave our mark on the world with the way we live in those moments.  At home is where you relax and let it all go, hopefully.  I thought about how attached people become to their homes when really I think they are attached to the space in time represented by that house.  I don’t necessarily feel attached to the brick and mortar of this house, but rather I feel an affection for the times I have had here.  I’m grateful for the strength and integrity of the house itself, but it’s the memories and the time that I will carry with me long after I leave this place.  I have other special places like this as well, and something still makes me long to be in those spaces sometimes.  Being there helps me remember, feel, and even smell the memory from way back when…. and that is nice.

So, thank you Laslo, for coming by and paying a visit to your memory.  Thank you for reminding me that life goes on and that we should take time to be grateful along the way.

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