“And Don’t Call Me Shirley…*

31 07 2014

One evening a few years ago I stopped by Panera Bread for dinner. I gave my order, and was asked my name so they could announce it when my food was ready. I said, “Jenifer”. The teenager behind the register asked, “Did you say Shirley?”

Ummmmmm, no. I did not – and to this day I am at a loss to understand how she heard “Shirley” when I clearly stated a name decidedly unlike Shirley. The really creepy part of the exchange? Shirley is my mother’s name.

Flash forward to this week. A friend and I were riding our bikes on the Midtown Greenway and came up behind a mother and her two children – one child on his own bike, the second on an extension of her mom’s. This kid was a little girl wearing a dress made up of purple sequins and a pink tutu. As we approached, I couldn’t help but notice both the costume and the child’s demeanor – listless, bored, and dragging her toes on the pavement. As I passed her, I turned toward her and said, “What a pretty dress! I love the sparkles!” Both the child and her mother smiled and murmured polite thank yous, and I passed on.

When we were side-by-side again after passing the family, I turned to my friend and said, “That little girl is going to break an ankle, dragging her feet that way.” To which he replied, “Do you have any idea how much you sounded like Shirley just then?!” I reached over to whap him on the arm, misjudged the distance and almost lost my balance. Wouldn’t that have been great – crashing, then explaining to people (my mother in particular) the reason!

Though it feels like a very natural thing, I don’t know why we react this way when people say we’re like our mothers. After all, most of us love our moms. And while it’s true that the majority of mothers are not perfect (and some are spectacularly awful), many are incredibly giving and exceptional parents.

The eight groovy Hansons

The eight groovy Hansons

My mom, Shirley, gave birth to six kids in nine years. As a child, I didn’t understand the first thing about her life: stuck at home, no vehicle, six kids, and no money (not really a surprise, with six kids). I knew she was busy, frazzled, always cooking, cleaning, sewing, or scolding. I knew she expected to receive some help from us and from our dad. Help that, I am ashamed to say, was never quite as forthcoming as it ought to have been. As an adult, I’ve learned to see my childhood with a broader focus and stand in awe that Shirley, much less all six kids, even survived those years. I’m guessing that was dicey at times.

So, as I thought about why we react negatively to the suggestion that we sound or act like our mothers, I began to think of reasons it might be o.k. to say I’m like Shirley. In the future, don’t call me Shirley UNLESS…

you’re saying I’m incredibly observant. My mom always knew what was going on with us. Without turning around to see us, she’d call us by name and tell us to stop doing whatever sneaky thing we were trying to get away with. More than that, she always knew when we were hurt, had a crush on someone, or were about to do something we’d regret. When my brother, Jeff, fell in love with my sister-in-law Marsha, my mom knew it right away. The rest of us told her she was crazy – each of us was certain Jeff would end up with someone else. More than thirty years later, Jeff and Marsha are STILL very much in love.

…you’re saying I have a generous and forgiving heart. Shirley can always access empathy for others. I can remember many times when I confronted her with a “How could you…” style accusation, only to learn that my mother’s underlying reasons were compassion and understanding. She had many reasons, for example. to be angry with my Nana (her mother-in-law). Nana’s mental health issues led to manic spending sprees and her alcoholism was not often in check. Yet my mom saw her way to allowing Nana and I to spend quality time together, with the understanding that if anything harmful happened to me, these times would unequivocally end. The upshot was that, before Nana died, she and I created some warm and happy memories that I’ve been lucky enough to cherish my whole life. Again, when I was a teenager, I spouted off about a family friend getting back together with her cheating husband. My mom stopped me mid-sentence, asking me to back off the judgements and try to understand that people’s lives and relationships are complex and impenetrable from the outside.

…you’re saying that I embrace and celebrate diversity. Several times in my life, my father has been recognized by community, church, or political organizations for his work. During a particularly turbulent time in my hometown, he was recognized as Man of the Year by the local NAACP chapter for his leadership in efforts to end institutional racism. But my dad will tell you that Shirley is the person who taught him to let go of his racist upbringing and to appreciate human diversity and dignity. She is also the person who brought six kids up believing that all people are worthy of love and respect. These are deeply ingrained values in our family – and they are bearing fruit two generations down from Shirley, as my niece Hallie has engaged in social activism and human rights organizations throughout high school and plans to do so throughout her life.

…you’re saying that I am fully capable of unconditional love. Like many parents, my mom has had no reason other than love to tolerate me – her child – throughout my life. I’ve behaved badly when I ought to have been kind; I have been arrogant and dismissive of her wisdom and experience – especially in my youth; I have often been singularly self-focused when I ought to have seen with broader clarity and compassion. But Shirley has loved me, sometimes with exasperation but always with open hands, ears and doors.

To my friends who are mothers (and fathers), I hope that reading this helps you to believe that the day will come – though it may be far off in the future – when your children will have at least an inkling of all you do and feel, have done and felt, for them and with them throughout their lives. Will your children react badly when someone tells them they look or act like you? Yes, inevitably. But not always, at least not in their hearts. Some day they will likely see this differently, as I have begun to. These days, I say, “Don’t call me Shirley…

*UNLESS YOU MEAN IT AS A COMPLIMENT!”

Shirley, June 2013, New Mexico

Shirley, June 2013, New Mexico

 

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Lessons from a Sunday at the Park*

24 07 2014

*(the mountain biking park, that is)

The text from Lank said, simply:  “MTB back on. You game? Say yes!”

The Park

Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Dakota County appears to be a huge and multifaceted recreational destination – however, we were focused on the Mountain Bike Trails, maintained by the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists. The mountain biking area is extensive, comprised of a skills park as well as beginner, intermediate, and expert trails.

We began and ended our day in the skills park. We began there to both warm-up and to learn the basics of the kinds of challenges we might encounter on the trail. As a beginner, or “noob”, I was slightly intimidated – but also eager to hit the trail. I can’t say how this park and its trail system compares with others (not having mountain-biked elsewhere), but at Lebanon Hills I found the trail map a little confusing. The markers were easy to follow once on the trails themselves, though, which allowed me to relax – I did not need to fear accidentally following the expert trail!

The Trail

My companions on this adventure, Lank and Cap (their mtb nicknames, not their real names; my mtb name is Cheeks), aren’t experts though they have more experience than me. All three of us set off on the beginner trail, me bringing up the rear. The guys thoughtfully stopped and waited for me at several points along the way, each time greeting me with expectant grins: they knew what I was only just discovering. Namely, how easily a person can become hooked on this experience!

The first time through, I only had room in my head for one thought – “Don’t fall”. And I didn’t. However, I felt like I was careening through the woods at breakneck pace with no control (in reality, I was taking it pretty slow and cautiously). The second round, I began to notice that there were many small choices to make that would affect the quality of the ride – go around or over obstructions in the path? brake or not heading into a banked turn? Still, on the first two passes, all of my attention was directed toward the ground in front of my wheel.

Midway through the course is a downhill section with side-by-side tabletop jumps for each skill level. The first and second time through, I missed the beginner path and took the narrow dirt trail which was actually a return path for those who wanted to go back to the start of the jumps section and take them again. The second time I nearly ran down Cap, who was on his way back to the top of the hill! Needless to say, I took the return and tried the ACTUAL downhill for beginners. Easy-peasy!

On our third, and final, pass I was no longer concerned about losing my way and I felt confident in my knowledge of what was ahead of me on the trail. This allowed me to enjoy being in the woods, essentially alone. I found myself laughing as I took banked turns and barreled up and down snaking hills. Like a gift, a memory came to me from my childhood – I was on my brother Jeff’s little red bike riding through the wooded ravine across the street from our house. The bike was small, and the seat stripped to its metal base (which pinched my butt in its springs every time I hit a bump). I had forgotten how much I loved racing that little bike over tree roots and along the path clinging to the high end of the ravine (I still bear scars on my leg from misjudging once and sliding, entangled in the bike, through the brush and down to the creek at the bottom).

This last time, I took the tabletops intended for the intermediate rider. While Cap achieved good air on these, I attempted no such thing. I did stand going over the jumps, though – imagining a day when I might try for a moment of air-born zen.

The Skills Park

The skills park is to mountain biking what a putting green is to golf – except you practice multiple skills, not just one, and it is actually fun and exciting. (Apologies to my golfing buddies-you know who you are).

The beginner skills seemed pretty tame, although the obstacle you were supposed to practice getting over was jarring – three logs nailed together in a triangular form. Ride over them, jump them – just get over them. No problem. In fact, I moved on to the intermediate practice trail pretty quickly, taking it easy and slow. I managed most of it, but the Lex Luthor to my day, the enemy of my composure, was a plank.

The intent is for bikers to ride up onto the plank and cross it, descending to the ground on the other side. The plank was likely 8 inches wide or so (maybe more) and appeared to be barely even an obstacle. The first time through, I panicked at the last minute and fearfully reduced my speed to almost nothing. Consequently, I tipped over, falling to the grass. As I fell, I heard Lank yell, “And she’s down!”, which made me laugh at myself even harder than I already had been. I had been going so slow, there was no possibility of actual injury.

On subsequent attempts, I successfully completed the plank exactly once. There were several last-minute launch cancellations (I swerved and rode past) or intentional  side-ditches. These were most perplexing – I was already on the plank but for some reason, decided partway across that I wouldn’t make it and I drove right off the side.

After a little over four hours, we were tired and hungry (ravenous, actually). Still, even after deciding to leave, we had a difficult time loading up the bikes and heading out. So we tried riding each others’ bikes – ok, neither Cap nor Lank tried my unsexy ladies hybrid – and continued talking over the top of each other about the day’s fun. Nearly forty minutes after deciding to call it quits and find some victuals, we left Lebanon Hills.

Finally, the Lessons

I have often needed reminders to keep trying new things, even things that are scary. Mountain biking has both attracted and frightened me for a while now – so Sunday served as an important lesson to move toward the things that call me, even if it means moving through fear. Other lessons from a day at the mountain biking park:

  • Stop thinking you need to be an expert at everything in order to do it.  I had no thought that I would show up on the singletrack and astound everyone with my expertise. And for once, that was ok with me. In actuality, others rarely expect expertise right out of the starting gate. I often expect it of myself, though. And if I can’t meet that unrealistic expectation, I have a tendency to avoid the starting gate altogether. How sad is that – to shut out new experiences beforehand to preemptively save face?
  • You get better with practice. Those who have had the discipline to become artists, musicians, great athletes or chemists have all had the experience of practicing what they do until they do it well. In keeping with the unrealistic idea that I need to be an expert BEFORE I try a new thing, I’ve often given up on accomplishments which required practice and discipline. So maybe this isn’t a subtle lesson – but in riding the same trail over and over, there was an immediacy to seeing improvement through practice. Each time, I was better at one or more of the skills I needed to successfully navigate the trail.
  • Success is as much in your head as in your skills. I can ride across the plank. I know this, and I did this. But only once. All of my other attempts were failures. Not because I couldn’t, and not because I didn’t want to. I failed on the other attempts because I told myself to fail. In other words, I psyched myself out. I choked. I clutched. This is a tendency of mine in so many areas/instances of my life. For example, I was up for a dream job this past spring – I could not believe my good fortune at making it to the final round of interviews, even though I truly believed that that job in that organization was meant to be mine. In prepping for the big day, which included a presentation and a simulation of a planning meeting with specific objectives – I drew a blank. I became paralyzed – it was worse than writer’s block. I had a complete “coherent thought block” for the entire week leading up to the final interview. The day itself proved to be energizing and exciting – exactly my scene. But I knew as I stood to present, and as I participated in the meeting simulation, that I hadn’t brought my A-game. It doesn’t really matter why THEY think they didn’t hire me. I know they didn’t hire me because I choked.

 So here’s the big lesson in all that: it hurts worse when you psych yourself out than it does when you fall down giving it your all.

I could go on. I’ve thought of other lessons and parallels I can draw between Sunday’s experience and life in general. But I think I’ll end here because, like mountain biking itself, there’s still so much to discover – and the best, really the only, way to truly take it in is to experience it for yourself! So here’s my challenge to you: get out there and put your butt on the line in some way. Move toward what calls you, even if it also scares you. What you’ll learn – especially about yourself – is totally worth it.

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Lank, Cheeks, Cap all smiles at the mountain biking park





Don’t Be Sucked Dry

17 07 2014

storyteller

On my first trip to New Mexico, I discovered storyteller dolls. These pottery figurines represent storytellers surrounded by children (and occasionally other beings) who are literally hanging on the storyteller’s every word. Knowing nothing about the history of these pieces, and not bothering to ask at the time, I thought they were images of women with way too many children and pets to care for. In my mind, I equated them with the nursery rhyme of “The Old Woman in the Shoe” (after all, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do).

This misunderstanding on my part led to a powerful dream not long after that trip. I dreamed that I was the woman depicted in the pottery. I was a giant, sitting in a featureless room naked (sorry, folks, dream imagery doesn’t follow our conventions). A long line of people, some of whom I recognized as friends or family members of my waking self, were waiting impatiently to breast feed. My breasts were bloated and painful, so full of milk that at first it was a relief that there were so many hungry mouths to feed. As the dream wore on, the milk kept pouring forth but I was dwindling. I became exhausted and emaciated. Yet the hungry kept coming to be fed.

When I woke from the dream, I immediately grasped its implications. At that point in my life, I felt like I was surrounded by people who were emotionally needy – friends, students, family. I tried to be nurturing toward them all. But I wasn’t finding ways to replenish the source of that energy, so while I continued to (figuratively) feed others, I was starving myself. And while I was pretty quick to understand the problem, solutions were in short supply. I had never been taught that there were limits to a person’s ability to nurture others. Scratch that – I was taught that one gave everything she had until it was gone. Then, depleted, she would self-isolate in a dark place until forced to return to the light. I didn’t want to perpetuate that cycle, but I had no tools for gently disengaging long enough to replenish my own energy. That, AND I lacked the basic understanding of reciprocity:  that I could expect to rely on others to nurture me sometimes, if need be.

Allow Others to Nurture YOU

I’ve been thinking about this idea of reciprocity between friends for two reasons. First, we don’t all have the same skills or personalities, so what we have to give won’t necessarily be an exact exchange for what we got. A friend told me recently that she isn’t much help to people having emotional crises. “I’m good at practical advice. I jump right to how we can fix it.” Yet, this same friend freely admitted to appreciating her friends who could be right there with her during emotional melt-downs.

Second, on the receiving end, we each have our own interpretation of the ways others relate to us. For example, an old friend of mine became concerned that he might have offended me when I didn’t respond to an email from him in what he considered a reasonable time frame. When I said no offense had been taken, he told me, “Email is my love language. When I don’t hear from someone I assume something is wrong.”

Regardless of the potential miscues and misunderstandings that result from individual differences, allowing ourselves to accept love, understanding and nurturing from others in the manner in which it is offered is important to maintaining your own reserves.

Watch out for cognitive distortions

Sometimes the way we think about what is taking place has as much (or more) to do with how depleted we feel as the actual energy being exerted. If you fall prey to any of these cognitive distortions, you are more likely to feel burnt out as a “caring other” than if you are able to maintain a distortion-free viewpoint:

  • Personalization: when you start to think that the issues at hand are all about you, rather than about the person you are attempting to care for, things can get crazy pretty quickly. With this distortion, you either feel you are responsible (blame yourself) for the other person’s issues OR you begin to experience the paranoia that your friend blames you. Tell yourself, “This isn’t about me.” Repeat as necessary.
  • Jumping to conclusions: if you decide, without deep listening or empathy, that you know what your friend is thinking, feeling, or is in need of, you will find yourself experiencing a great deal of frustration as you attempt to offer care or comfort. After all, they would feel better (be more successful, be happier, etc.) if they just listened to you, right?
  • Should-ing: How often have you felt you “should” be more available to a friend, even when you didn’t feel emotionally ready to do so? If you are overtired, overstretched, burnt out, stop should-ing on yourself. You’re already depleted, and likely to be less than helpful – perhaps even cross over into actively harmful instead.

Boundaries

You, too, can have personal boundaries my friends! Set parameters – especially if someone is so needy he or she has become an emotional vampire (“Come closer, I vant to suck up your energy!”). A little secret: we are all bad at setting boundaries – until we actually practice setting and keeping them.

Look for ways to fill YOURSELF back up

Sometimes, we get in the habit of looking to others to fill our emotional buckets. We not only allow them to nurture us, we demand that they be available to us for that purpose. But each of us has inner resources – even if we’ve gotten rusty at exercising them. Prayer, journalling, yoga, bike riding – any activity that puts you into a semi-meditative state is great for refilling your own decimated reserves. Be aware that, for most of us, a semi-comatose vegetative state in front of the television does not produce the desired results. Couching-it, while it has its uses, is not the same as actively reinvigorating our emotional and psychological energy.

For most of us, being available, helpful and generous toward those we love is second nature. We want to be there for them; we hope to be a positive light in their lives – especially on their darker days. We can’t do that if we have lost our own will to live and give – if we have allowed an endless parade of others (and their neediness) to suck us dry.

Ever since my original dream of myself as the breast-feeding storyteller who literally dried and shriveled up before my eyes, I’ve practiced re-imagining the story. In the updated version, I welcome all who wish to join me in a place of warmth and supportive energy. However, it isn’t a 24/7/365 feeding frenzy. I imagine myself posting a schedule: I say who, when, how much. Not because there is a finite amount of love or caring within me – but because my energy IS limited. When I offer support, I want to be TRULY present – it is, after all, the only real gift I have to offer others.

 





The Goal

10 07 2014

After a short night and an eight hour shift on my feet, the last thing I felt like doing was riding. It was in the 90s, humid, windy. For so many reasons, I did not want to ride.

However, I changed my clothes. Pulling the chamois on over already sweaty skin wasn’t easy. Jersey on, hair up. I grabbed my helmet and gloves on the way out the door.

The first few miles were a leisurely ramble. Bike lane to bike path, to street (where I had to stop for a slow Sunday train). Finally, the Hennepin bridge and ramp back to bike path. The long, mostly straight one heading out to the near suburbs. Here’s where I got serious, pushing my legs and lungs to go as fast as possible into the gusting wind.

Something happens, riding alone like this, on afternoons when I think I want to nap instead. A part of me I didn’t know existed until a couple or three years ago presents itself. It still surprises: that piece of me that wants to know what I’m made of. How hard, how fast, how “flow” can I go?

Then, almost before I know it, I’m on the home stretch. The wind is finally, blessedly, at my back instead of in my teeth. This is when I can really think, when the air I’ve been sucking has oxygenated my blood and my brain; when my heart-rate is descending for the first time in an hour or more.

I know the only reason I made myself ride was that I set a weekly goal of 100 miles Monday-Monday. If I hadn’t gotten out, I’d have missed it by 20+ miles this week. I rode hard because I didn’t want to complete the goal as I had the previous week, circling the block to eke out that last mile. Still, both weeks I met (and this week exceeded) my goal.

I’ve never really been a goal-driven person. For many years, I didn’t believe in goals – setting them seemed like one of those things people give lip service to but no one really does. Like always having an up-to-date resume, extra batteries, or underwear in your carry-on in case the airline loses your luggage.

“Why,” I wondered, “does it matter if I meet this arbitrary goal I set for myself?” The answer that came was simple – because I set it. The goal was a promise I made to myself. The 100 miles target may have been arbitrary. But the promise I made was a commitment to myself and for myself and was in no way arbitrary.

I wonder what would happen if I set goals like this in other areas of my life – and made a commitment to myself to keep them? Riding my bike has taught me to appreciate my body – its strength and endurance, its potential (which has not nearly been reached). Can it also teach me to appreciate my intelligence, skills, experience? Can it teach me to celebrate all that I have to offer – and find a way to bring it forth from my internal world into the world at large?

Will my bike be the vehicle that leads me where I need and want to go in my life – that leads me to the person I hope to be? Now that I know goals can be set AND met – BY ME, of all people! – and that I will approach them with resolve once I’ve committed, it’s well past time to set concrete intentions in the other parts of my life.

My biking goal isn’t  “to ride 1000 miles”. But in 100-miles-a-week increments, it won’t be long before I’ve reached that milestone. Instead of setting my sights on my “Pie-in-the-sky” life desires, it seems logical to start with goals that allow me to collect the ingredients, combine them in the right amounts. Eventually, they’ll bake a pie.

I’ve read lots of articles about the health benefits of cycling. They almost never mention (actually they never do) increased capacity to set and reach goals. And while the benefit to mental acuity is sometimes mentioned, the fact that  it can lead to spiritual growth is generally soft-pedaled. I’m beginning to believe that, when people talk about how much they love their bikes or their time cycling, what they’re really celebrating is the fact that riding teaches us to love ourselves. To love ourselves enough to set goals – to make a commitment.

 

 





Message on a Coffee Sleeve

3 07 2014

Image

When I was a kid, I read the book The Amityville Horror. It scarred me for life. I am not kidding – when the movie came out, all my friends were keen to see it, but I knew better. Nothing had ever scared me like that book. There were several events that haunted me long after I finished reading. One of them was that the main character would wake up every night, look at the clock radio at his bedside, and see that it was 3:15 a.m. (It turned out that 3:15 was the estimated time that several grisly murders had taken place in the house).

After reading that book, I lived in fear of waking in the night to a clock that reads 3:15.  Consequently, it seemed to happen with regularity through my teen years. Each time, I would lie awake listening to my own fearful breathing, waiting for something bad to happen: an apparition, the sound of a footstep or a crash in the next room. (It should probably be noted that I was afraid of the dark itself well into my adult years.) Eventually, I began to wonder: was something outside of myself waking me at 3:15? Was I subconsciously waking myself at 3:15 because I was focusing my fear there? Or was I waking at all times of the night but only remembering the 3:15 a.m. times because I had loaded that time with so much strong emotion?

When the only bad thing that ever occurred as the result of a 3:15 a.m. clock viewing were some seriously messed up dreams, I stopped paying attention. If it happens now that I wake at that time, I might take a moment to laugh at my youthful self, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Throughout my life there have been other – similar if far less sinister – examples. Recently, Big Coffee entered into a relationship with Oprah, resulting in new sleeves for each cup which bear motivational/inspirational Oprah quotes. In the course of a busy day, I’m grabbing sleeves and handing off coffees with no notice of the message printed there. However, when I did happen to focus, the same quote kept appearing over and over. “Your life is big. Keep reaching.”

Once I noticed this, I tried playing games to see if the experience would continue when I was intentionally looking for it – for example, I noticed that a sleeve was backwards in the dispenser, so I flipped it – and sure enough it said, “Your life is big. Keep reaching.” In a slow moment, I asked a coworker to name a random number less than 10. She said, “Six!” I pulled sleeves until I reached number six, which told me that my life is big.

As you might guess, I started wondering if there was a personal message here. I mean, I know that millions of these sleeves have been printed and handed out. It was obviously not the corporate intent to use them as a vehicle to speak directly to me. But was there some Other Intention out there, trying to send me a message?

“Your life is big. Keep reaching.” On the up side, this admonition suggests that it is important to keep striving to reach further and higher; to set your sights and ambitions beyond the ordinary and then go for it. On the down side, it could be taken as an indictment – that you are currently living small and need to step it up. The more I thought about it, the more confused I became as to what its meaning was for me. How big IS my life? How big is my life SUPPOSED to be? What exactly is Oprah talking about when she says “big” anyway? And don’t even get me started on “reaching”.

Before I quit my job and moved to Minneapolis, I told people that (in my experience) it takes at least a year to become truly acclimated and comfortable in a new city. July 1 was my one-year anniversary here. Which may shed light on why six words on a coffee sleeve were commanding so much brain power and reflection time from me. From Earth Day to Thanksgiving 2013, my life felt expansive. I felt I was on the cusp of creating a Big Life – which to my thinking meant one which would both incorporate the investment of my strengths and talents in meaningful endeavors AND would offer inspiration to others to make the necessary choices to invest similarly. With winter came the Polar Vortex, and my own personal vortex of anxiety and despair. I had forgotten to take into account that life doesn’t follow an uninterrupted upward trajectory.

No. In fact, the graph of a life is a crazy zig-zagged chart that may or may not make sense at first view. The unexpected happens. The disastrous and the exhilarating happen, and in between are all the moments sloping up to or down to those points. The trick is to learn how to accept with gratitude whichever part of the graph you’re on at this moment – without using that acceptance and gratitude as excuse to stand still. We tend to think that acceptance implies a cessation of striving. But in truth, they are not mutually exclusive.

In truth, achieving the life we want has to begin with where we are. Devaluing where you currently stand is a rejection of the beauty and gifts that are extant in your life. No matter how closely (or not) your current life matches the life you’ve imagined for yourself, there are worthy things in it right this minute. Things that are worth celebration. With my one-year anniversary as a Minneapolitan looming, I’m glad I remembered this.

And here’s something else. When I wake in the middle of the night, whether or not the clock reads 3:15 a.m., what I am thinking about is: how big my life already is; how big it can be; and what new ways I can strive to reach further. If you want an expansive life, as I do, you have to keep in mind that even expansion doesn’t happen at an uninterrupted rate.

With regard to the Oprah coffee sleeves, just yesterday I conducted an experiment to see if the “magic” would still happen. I reached into a brand new box of them, eyes closed, and selected one. Sure enough, it clearly stated that my life is big. And it admonished me to keep reaching. I’ve decided that there’s nothing supernatural happening here, that the only intention at work is my own. Truth be told, in navigating this life, my own intention is the only one that ever mattered anyway.