Could You Be Part of a 4am Conspiracy?

Digitally generated roman numeral clock

It’s 4am on a Saturday. I think about the TED talk by poet Rives detailing his theory about four in the morning and all the references to it in films, songs, and other works of art. Clearly this is the bewitching hour, the time when downloads from the divine are most likely to occur, the time we walk between the worlds of waking and dreaming.

If I’m lucky, I’m sleeping at 4am. Not because I’m opposed to the particular gifts that 4am bestows, but because I desperately need the sleep.

So much depends on a good night’s sleep. From my attitude to the way my body metabolizes nutrients and burns calories to the way my brain processes thoughts to the amount of energy at my disposal, sleep is a biggie in my book.

The unbearable lightness of being a light sleeper is that anything and everything can jolt me out of dreamland and into full on monkey mind chatter that requires more than a few brain bananas to pacify.

If my noise cancelling headphones are near my bed and miraculously attached to my iPod which is geared up to my sleep paraliminal meditation and happens to be next to my Rescue Sleep Bach Flower Remedy, I have a chance of falling back to sleep.

Otherwise, the best thing to do is get up and blog.

I think about my friend Gillian from the UK who I met in Los Angeles in January. She is back in Los Angeles this weekend and most likely awake at 4am due to serious jet lag mixed with excitement and information overload from three days of brainstorming with her Mastermind group.

I am filled with excitement as well. I’m teaching the material I’m learning in my coaching program and meeting incredible people along the way. From the participants to the guest speakers, people are opening their hearts and minds to me. Consequently, I’m brimming with purpose and consumed with creating meaningful change and immense value.

I’m also apprehensive. My dog Abbey, the instigator of this 4am wake up call, has grown old and uncomfortable almost overnight.  Suddenly she has something going on with her eyes that is serious enough to warrant an 8am vet visit. My heart is heavy with sadness for this sweet dog who waits on the step for me every night and wags her tail profusely as soon as I return from work. Her unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship have healed my heart more times than I can count. Now I need to do whatever I can to help her heal and bring her ease and comfort.

This morning that meant letting her out to sit under a tree and sniff the air. When I went out to retrieve my retriever, the grass and trees glistened like an enchanted forest. No wonder she wanted out.  She wanted to play her part in the 4am conspiracy.

She’s now sleeping blissfully, having accomplished her mission of getting me up and at the keyboard. She knows a writer needs solitude and silence, the precise conditions present at 4am.

At some point today, after my words have found their way into the blogosphere and Abbey’s eyes have been examined and soothed, perhaps I’ll curl up next to her and nap. Until then, I have to assume sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday is a covert  attempt to conceal the 4am conspiracy theory.

What about you? Is there a time when you are perpetually perplexed, vexed, or called to create? Are there certain times during the day or night that compel you to act?  Share in the comments below.

This Thing Called Love

Two hearts on the branch of a tree, retro look

Valentine’s Day defines February in much the same way Christmas defines December.  Whether you’ve jumped on the love bandwagon or not, you’re bombarded with images of a world ruled by romance and populated by passionate partners.

It’s not that I’m against love.  Oh no.  I’m all for it.  I believe love is a many splendored thing and, like Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s just that the idea of love that’s been sold to us needs a little revision.  From fairy tales to scary tales (“reality” tv like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”) to promises of soulmates and twin flames, how can the real possibly compete with the ideal?

For me it’s the imperfections that endear another to me.  I’ve had my share of “perfection.”  It’s intimidating, exhausting, and self-indulgent, not to mention impossible to maintain.

What I absolutely adore in others are the things that make them unique.  Things like sneaking private code words into a public presentation.  Or consoling an elder by singing show tunes, mesmerizing a history class by reciting the Gettysburg address in its entirety, knowing how to solve story problems or anything to do with algebra, naming the constellations with confidence, caring deeply for the environment, or always making time to give a dog a bone.

I also adore this uniqueness in inanimate objects.  Last night I fell in love with the sunset.  Not just because it lit up the sky with shades of red, orange, and magenta, but also because it created a kaleidoscope of colors reflecting off the clouds in the opposite direction.

Up until then I was feeling tired, cranky, and creatively challenged.  Once I stopped and marveled at the sunset, I felt energized, inspired, and deeply loved.

The thing about love is that we so often limit it.  There is no lack of love. There is only a lack of awareness of it in its many forms.

It is freely offered to us in a smile from the toll booth attendant, a bird landing on our windowsill, a door held open by a stranger, a warm breeze blowing at our back, a cat napping next to us, a toddler being tickled, or a song sung soulfully by a street musician.

Yet we don’t expect love from life in general.  We expect it from those we love.  And we usually expect it on our terms.

The heart is synonymous with love.  It’s no coincidence that both “hear” and “art” are contained within the word heart.  There is an art to love that requires us to hear, open, allow, touch, feel, see, taste, experience without fear.

We’ve all had our share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and heart “attacks.” No one willing signs up for these.  Yet in my experience, the greater heartbreak is not to love at all.

Though you may choose to celebrate Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, your birthday, anniversary, or the new moon with more exuberance than Valentine’s Day, if you allow love to sneak up on you in small, unsuspecting ways, you might just find it every day.

I would love for you to share your perspective on love in the comments below.

The Antidote to Overwhelm

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

I signed up for three different coaching programs that each demand their own Herculean effort to complete and for one month, October, they all overlap.

I certainly wouldn’t have planned it this way had I been in charge of the master plan.  But often times one thing leads to another and several doors fly open at once.

The seemingly innocent challenge I took up in January to write 500 words a day for 30 days set me up for a year of upping the ante. I figured if I could do that, I could do just about anything.  So I started doing stuff.

By showing up, being accountable, and being visible, brave new worlds have opened up to me. When the information is so valuable, so life-changing, so timely, it doesn’t make sense to wait until it all fits nicely into my schedule.  Such is the case with my coaching programs.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about overwhelm.  The antidote to overwhelm is not giving up, but engaging in something whole-heartedly, completely, passionately.  Right now I have to fire on all cylinders in order to keep up.  From what goes into my mouth to what comes out of it, I’m acutely aware of the impact on my energy level.

Although it’s easy to complain, the only thing I really have to do is prioritize. Daily. Hourly.  This means giving up bad tv and carbs and regularly working outside my comfort zone. It means going the extra quarter mile. It’s really not a bad trade considering what I’m getting in return.

It’s a bit paradoxical.  When I have no energy, the last thing I think about is adding more to the mix.  However, if I add an experience that is so compelling, so enticing that I am leaning towards it, it has the ability to energize all areas of my life.

My guess is you’ve had a similar experience.  If not, the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try picking up a project instead.

Whether it be something as simple as challenging yourself to get more steps each day than the previous day for 7 days in a row or organizing your parent’s love letters or creating a guest blog post, see how your new interest infuses your day with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of adventure.

Be sure to give yourself a time frame that pushes you out of your comfort zone but not over the edge. Knowing that the project will last “x” number of days or weeks adds the urgency that tends to dissipate when there is no due date.

It is also incredibly helpful to have someone to hold you accountable who might also be doing the same thing or has been there, done that, and is willing to coach you through it.  In my coaching programs I have either a team or peer coach to check in with and that has been invaluable.

Certainly there are things we must do for ourselves.  But there are many things we shouldn’t do without support.  We have the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips.  Accessing it has never been easier.  As Barbara Sher said, “Isolation is a dream killer.

In a few months I will be launching the online course (Read It & Leap! ) I am creating in one of my coaching programs.  In it I share several secrets about taking small leaps to move you into a life that is the antidote to overwhelm – an engaged, inspired, involved existence.

If you’d like to know more about it, email me with the word Leap! in the subject line and I will be sure to let you know when I roll it out.

In the meantime, I’d love for you to share your antidote to overwhelm in the comments below.

Surprise Garage Sale Finds

There are two types of people in the world. Those who love garage sales and those who don’t. After an unfortunate experience from my childhood (similar to the coffee incident) that involved me hosting a “rummage sale” , as they were called back then, and netting approximately $5 for a week’s worth of work, I fell into the second category.

This past weekend my parents decided to take part in a city-wide garage sale and asked Bob and I to come help. Bob falls into the first category since he’s made out quite well at garage sales over the years. So naturally, I volunteered Bob to help. But since my parents have made more than their share of sacrifices for me, I decided to join Bob and at least be there to help move the inevitable stuff that doesn’t sell.

Among the leftovers were an odd assortment of gardening books, interior and home design books, sewing and fashion guides, and the ever in demand encyclopedias from the 1960s, all considered vintage now.

But the surprise find of the day was not the trip down memory lane but the trip inside the psyche of my ancestors, my paternal grandmother in particular. My father’s mother died when I was in high school, so the memories I have of her are spotty by now.

I remember she loved her family and insisted all the relatives gather around every Sunday after church for a meal or coffee and rolls. She loved to garden and had a small green house added on to her house. She was a great seamstress, which explained all the sewing books and fashion guides. She had dark thick hair, which I didn’t inherit, and equally thick fingers, which I did. She had a heart and home that would open to anyone who walked through her front door.

What I didn’t know about her, that I suppose no grandchild really wants to know, is her deep disappointments, her regrets, and the things that broke her heart. When I got a glimpse of a few of my grandmother’s books as I was loading them in the car to take to Goodwill, I quickly surmised what those things were. The titles of the books said it all from the Miracle Diet to Doctor Please Help Me to Ancient Chinese Secrets for Rapid Weight Loss.

You see my grandmother was a large woman. Obese, in fact. She seldom left her house because it was hard for her to get around. She loved to entertain and have visitors because that’s how she participated in the world.

Her immobility, size, and accompanying health concerns affected me in a very specific way. She took lots of pills and supplements and I was determined not to live like that. So I did what any teenager would do. I stopped eating.

This allowed me to gain control over all the things I had no control over. From raging hormones to attention from boys to defying my dad and asserting myself, the only thing I could control was what I put into my mouth. I was incredibly selective about what went in. Not so much about what came out. I was a teenager, after all.

At that time, anorexia was a relatively new and unknown thing. All I knew was despite feeling hungry 24/7 and feeling the need to exercise every spare moment, if I could control my body, I might be able to get a grip on my emotions.

During this time I got very sick. I remember being in our family doctor’s office and hearing him say to my mother, “You know, she has the potential to become grossly overweight.” Clearly, this was not what a doctor should say to someone suffering from anorexia, but it was the seventies. This was a male doctor who had no clue what it was like to be in a female body or the awareness that those words would stick with me for life.

If I wasn’t eating before, I was certainly not going to eat then, given my genetic potential. Fortunately, I figured it out and managed to start eating again. Maybe I fell in love, maybe I believed if I exercised enough I could eat whatever I wanted, or maybe a decade of therapy did it. In any case, this declaration shaped my early career as a fitness professional and fueled my insatiable hunger for self-growth and knowledge.

Flash forward to this past weekend. Discovering her books allowed me to see my grandmother more clearly than I had ever seen her when she was alive. Despite her jovial appearance, she suffered in ways I never knew.

No one wants to be overweight, out of shape, unhealthy, or otherwise unacceptable or unattractive by society’s standards. We make such harsh judgments and assumptions about those who are.

As I leafed through the books I realized a lot of those doctors were saying what many cutting edge doctors are saying today. People probably thought my grandmother was crazy and willing to follow any “quack” or “miracle cure” she could afford. Or maybe they thought she was lazy, lacked discipline or willpower, or couldn’t be bothered to stick to a diet. But if the books were any indication, she was desperately trying to find a way to be at home in her body and accepted by society.

And then it really hit me. Despite the assumption that I’ve lived my life in reaction to my grandmother’s, I now see it as a continuation of her journey. As I begin an 8-month coaching program with the Institute of Psychology of Eating and dive deeply into the dynamics of eating, mind/body nutrition, body image, metabolism and digestion, as well as eating disorders, I have an opportunity to not only heal myself, but also my loved ones – past, present, and future.

It’s my belief we all have issues around food, nourishment, hunger, approval, acceptance, you name it. While some of us don’t have a need to explore it, if you feel like you do and would like to know about some of the coaching groups I’ll be starting based on this information, please shoot me a quick email with the words “nourishing wisdom” in the subject line and I will send you the latest info on upcoming groups.

What about you? Have you ever discovered a profound truth about yourself when you least expected it?

Share if you dare below.