Tuesday, March 13, 2018


I believe that every person who crosses my path
was meant to cross my path.
(See BE HERE NOW (GIFTS IN THE PRESENT) for a more complete 
understanding of my particular pathology.)
This belief leads me to look for and find magic in connections.
It also makes for interesting reflections.
I see divine providence in friendships as much as anywhere else.
Especially friendships that start based on proximity-
but grow into something much, much more.

One of my daughter's best friends is a lovely girl who I'll call A.
They met about the time they learned to crawl, in preschool.
Our families have some things in common-
both sets of parents work, value education and are based around RDU.
Both families have a son and a daughter, laugh often, and 
are populated with interesting, charismatic personalities.
Both families also are involved and invested in community.
We have a lot of similarities.
However....there are lots of surface level differences.
A's parents are significantly more educated than we are.
They are of Indian descent-first generation Americans.
They have an incredibly broad family support system-
often visiting India or hosting relatives multiple times a year.
I feel like I've met so many of their relatives 
(who are all so interested and kind and charming) 
that they must have 4 mothers and fathers each.
Our extended family is also far-flung but infinitely less connected.
We might see relatives outside of our home state once a decade.
There are a lot of things that seem more different than alike:  
food favorites, perspectives on pets, vocations, and religion to name a few.

What I'm trying to say is....we are not twin families.
We have similarities but we also have a lot of differences.
In spite of how strong the girls' connection was during preschool, 
both families thought their affinity for each other would fade once 
they started elementary school-new friends, new structure, new challenges would mean that there was less focus for each other.
Their last year of preschool was a montage of bittersweet conversations
 as the adults tried to prepare ourselves for the transition-
both the transition to 'real' school and 
the transition away from known touchstones.
I remember us talking about it and hugging each other and being so grateful that we got to witness this connection for their first few years.
How glad we are to love them,
what a gift we have been to each other,
let's take one more picture together for posterity.

My daughter decorated my work whiteboard with inspiration.  What does the flaming rainbow represent?
Wow....were we wrong.
Turns out the youngsters had some things to teach us.
They haven't let go of each other.
They only manage to see each other about three times a year 
but they remain connected.
I wish I could explain cool their bond is...
mostly because I want to describe how magical it is
for those of us watching from the outside.
They introduce each other to friends like you would introduce royalty.
You can hear the ALL CAPS when they say each others names.
What they have is so strong and self-affirming
-they give each other such support and respect.

I have learned as much about kindness and grace and compassion
by knowing this family and witnessing this friendship
as I have ever learned in church.
Maybe more....because this friendship is completely without judgement
or a need to control or refine the other person.
Instead, they've shown interest and care for what matters to the other.
They have loved their neighbor-
the person that showed up beside them-
from the get-go.
And they are just not going to stop!

These girls-from such different family backgrounds, ethnicity and religion-
have never questioned once how much they mean to each other.
They've never said...oh, you're a different religion, 
we should draw some boundaries or 
try to change something about how you see the world.
They've discussed Christmas and Diwali.
Elections and wars.
Superbowl victories and college affiliations.
Slime and flip shirts.
They listen and appreciate each other-
and occasionally disagree.

The Universe gifted them to each other and as a by-product, 
their families have been blessed as well.
I love this girl-as if she were my brother's daughter.
I cheer for her, invest in her, and pray for her.
She (and her family) have become part of our family.
All because we shared the same orbit for a while
and these girls opened their hearts to each other.

Consider your own friendships and how they began.
Did you find someone just like you?
Did you get put in that college dorm or third grade class
and pay attention to who was beside you?
Were you looking for a friend or did you just happen to find one?
The people in our orbits, the ones that cross our paths,
become our friends and family-when we open our hearts to the possibility.
What friends exist in your life because you opened your heart?

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


I don't believe in coincidence.
Let that sink in.
Don't skip past this irrational statement....
that I'm dropping your way so boldly.
I do NOT believe in coincidence.

This is not intended to be advice or imply that you should believe this too.
I know that saying this is a little ludicrous and naive.
I still believe it.
I'm not letting go of it anytime soon.
It works for me.

Let me be specific (because in this case I actually am quite specific).
I believe that every person who crosses my path
was meant to cross my path.
No mistakes or accidents or do-overs.
The people around me are the people 
who are supposed to be around me.
Maybe for a big reason, maybe for no reason.
Maybe the reason has to do with me,
maybe it has to do with them,
maybe it has to do with their Great-Aunt Mabel.
Maybe so I can make eye contact and smile.
Maybe so I can ignore them.
Maybe so they can show me how to properly pull off boyfriend jeans.

I am not out for proving or disproving this belief.
It is staying for as long as I still find it useful.
Which so far has been forever.

I believe everyone who shows up
is sort of cosmically destined to be...well, in front of me.
Even if they are only in my path for a fraction of a moment.
Even if we didn't make eye contact or acknowledge each other.
Everyone matters.
That guy at the grocery, packing my bags.
The woman stopped at the light beside me.
The kid that skipped in front of my cart at Target.
The dudes that flipped me off on the eve of the election
 as we were driving down 540.
(Seriously, they slowed down, rolled their window down, flipped me off.  
If that's not useful foreshadowing, I don't know what is).
All of 'em.
Supposed to be, intentionally placed, with a (potential) purpose.

The ones that show up in front of you are ON PURPOSE!  What magic!

Why do I believe these are people are supposed to be in my life?
There's a pretty simple reason....
Because these ARE the people who are in my orbit.
They are the details floating through my life that is unfolding right now.
There were choices made, paths chosen...that led to here.
If other choices were made, then these people would not be here right now.
They would be elsewhere doing other things.
So these people are my people.
Even the ones I don't like or who I wish could see things differently.
Even the ones that smell or are rude.
Especially the ones that jolt me out of my little world
and into something deeper, more nuanced or less comfortable.
That is part of the beauty of living in the now...when I show up in the present, 
I realize how much is happening there.
I always have reminders to myself on my monitor at work.  Be here, now.  This time with these people will not last.

I want to point out one small detail here that makes the difference
between this being an acceptable belief
and a toxic pit of self-limiting destruction.
This is not my pollyanna nature saying that everything works 
for the greater good.
That the bad thing that happened to you made sense
or that everything happens for a reason.
I'm specifically not passing responsibility for someone else's
abusive or toxic choices onto the people in their vicinity.
If you are in relationship with people who are awful,
of course you should stop having that relationship.
Or adjust it in someway-move, change your contact info, 
or politely decline invitations.
Just because terrible people are in front of you 
doesn't mean they should remain.
I do not mean to imply that you deserve terrible 
stuff because you chose poorly.
That is hurtful bullshit that has no place in life.
So if that's what you take away from this series...
just stop reading for a while.
I've got a nuanced approach to this little belief
 but if you're still in the throes of 
trauma or resentment or 'the mud'
then this perspective is not for you.

For me, this underlying belief has always helped me focus and re-frame.
This is one of the ways that I process life experiences.
Instead of re-playing what could have or should have or might have...
I eventually move to accepting what is.
What happened is what was going to happen.
I could not have avoided it in any way.
If I could have, then I would have.
So what happened, was the path that was taken
and my choice now is to learn from that path
(not perpetually lament over all the possibilities that didn't manifest).

I also use this as a mantra in my daily life-
a cue to look up and pay attention to what is happening around me.
What gift of a person in the right now am I missing
by staring at my phone?
If I didn't pay attention to the people thrown into my orbit,
I would have missed so much.
When I'm uncomfortable or want to hide out in my shell,
I remind myself that these people
are my people.
All of them.

The next few posts will focus on experiences or people who have shown up
in my life and whose presence I believe to be absolutely on purpose.
Not coincidental.
The lessons from these encounters could have been small-
but were instead profound.
Some of these encounters were clearly pivotal to me at the time....
others didn't dawn on me until much much later.
They'll all have the hashtag #beherenow

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


I'm especially hyper-focused on word choices lately.
I have learned a lot about what I need to heal
by listening to the words that are most closely at hand.
These little gems that my subconscious mind grabs quickly
often give me the best insights into what is driving me.

Here's a little nugget for consideration:
She makes it look easy.

As I watch an Olympian earn a gold medal-
her jubilation and joy on hand for everyone to witness.
A person who has spent countless hours
focused on this dream.
A person who has bled and cried and sacrificed with a singular focus,
ignoring other life choices in favor of this one goal.
A warrior who has battled with elite athletes
to achieve the highest possible accolade in the world.

She makes it look easy.

As I read a memoir written by someone who suffered unspeakable trauma.
A beloved child who made it out of pain and then 
found the courage to walk through it again.
A magician with the wisdom to string phrases together that will
describe her experience exactly.
Who will connect through the page with an audience 
that did not realize (or want to know) that such things
 were possible in the world.

She makes it look easy.

As I sit in a park watching a young woman with 5 kids in tow.
One set of twins that can barely toddle,
two stair step girls and a big brother.
The kids are doing exactly what kids do-
picking up sticks, running in circles, trying to emulate the big kids.
The act of counting the kids and calculating the number
 of years she's been without sleep
makes my stomach ache with desperation.
But this precious caretaker has goldfish and juice and a smile...
and clean hair and matching clothes.

She makes it look easy.

Months ago, as I sit in the hospital with my dad, watching 
him express frustration about
the IV needle in his arm that is burning.
His nurse gently shifts the IV, then decides it needs to be re-done.
This is the fourth time in two days the IV has needed to be reset.
Her patient's eyes well up-from frustration and fear.
She puts her hand on his shoulder, looks in his eyes and says
'We're going to get this fixed.  I promise.'
Thirty minutes later, the patient is re-settled and relieved.

She makes it look easy.

None of these people are doing work that is easy.
They are persistent, resilient, and dedicated.
That's what it takes to perform as if hard work is effortless.
So why is the ease on display what receives the accolades?
Why don't we say 'Your hard work is showing' or 
'Your dedication is really impressive'?
I guess we do say that sometimes.
Still..this phrase sticks around.

listening to whispers on NCSU campus

Someone recently said this phrase to me.
The external performance I'd put on in relation 
to an ongoing struggle has apparently been Oscar-worthy.
I made it look easy.
When it felt like dragging myself over salt flats
after running naked through razor blades.

The challenge with feeling all the feelings
is that when a friend tries to give you a compliment
that is back-handed....you actually realize it in the moment.
I felt slapped.
I felt diminished.
I felt invisible.
Like all the work I'd been doing for months and years
was not important or valuable.
That the value is in making it seem as though it is effortless.
After a little introspection, I have some realizations.
I didn't want to be praised for making it look easy.
I wanted to be comforted for the pain or 
acknowledged for being brave enough to try.
That's why it felt back-handed.
I want people close to me to realize how hard this struggle is.

Nothing about this struggle has been easy.
Still is not easy.
On most days, it feels IMPOSSIBLE.
And yet. 
It's what I am choosing to do.
In spite of lots of other choices that would be easier.

Why didn't my friend know my heart?
Why did my friend think the best thing to do would be to reward my stoicism?
Most likely, it's because of my own actions.
We teach people how to treat us.
I made it look easy.

I don't show the hard part of this experience to most of the world
because it is private, intimate and complicated.
Also...it has been MY work.
Not work that I could share or explain.
At least, this has been the story I've been holding to for so long.
Even my friend, who knew some of the struggle
was in the dark about the depth.

So many of us have learned to mask the struggle 
and to put on a performance.
I've most likely been giving off the subliminal message
that the best thing you can say to me is that I make it look easy.
I'm discussing the topic-but only when I have somewhat mastered a lesson, 
I'm teaching the people around me that I don't want to talk about the effort.
That the work is in the resolution-not in the striving.
I'm implying that it was easy and not highlighting 
the number of teachers who coach me,  
or the number of times where I'm sure that I will never be able to master it.

Good food for thought (for me).
I am making a new effort to show those close to me exactly 
how hard some of these struggles are-
so that they will have a clearer, more realistic version of who I am.

I'm also going to work on a better way to acknowledge someone else's success.
Nothing is actually easy-
basic life is very very hard for all of us.
What if we start saying things like:
Wow-that has sucked for a long time hasn't it?
You've managed to find beauty in the pain.
You've worked on that so hard-I'm so glad to see you reaching the goal.
It cannot have been easy to do that so well.
That is not easy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Do you have nicknames?
Labels you give yourself or that other people have given you?
I respond daily to 20 different words besides my given name.  
They are terms of endearment, little love notes or labels
to show that I am special or unique.
They can be beautiful touchstones that help me feel 
loved, known or valued. 
Reminders that I matter to the nicknamer 
and that our relationship is special.

Sometimes though...nicknames can be less than wonderful. 
Do you know about back-handed compliments?
A back-handed compliment is an insult wrapped in 
a layer of sweetness-kind of a dark art form.
Older southern ladies are excellent at them.
That new hair cut sure makes your face look thinner!
Does that mean you like my haircut or that you think my face looks fat?
You have to be really clever to work words into a mixture
that makes the full meaning of them difficult to discern.

What about the nicknames you give yourself?
These are some of the sneakiest kind of nicknames.
Most of my life, I called myself a 'guy's girl'.
I swore like a sailor, drank like a fish, 
rolled with all the punches, laughed at all the jokes.
I developed a direct, aggressive communication style.
I became a bossy, outspoken, protector of underdogs.
I was not a 'shrinking violet' or a 'sweetheart'.
I was a girl who intended to navigate this world like the boys.

Describing myself as a 'guy's girl' was a way of 
framing some of my actual preferences that didn't seem to fit in
with female stereotypes that float around our culture.  
I love digging in dirt, science experiments, and watching action movies.  
Sci-fi, comic books, and power tools-all great!
I don't like having my nails done, shopping, or romance novels.
Also...I've got two brothers and have always had lots of male friends.
I like being liked by guys.
Saying that I was a 'guy's girl' felt powerful-
like reclaiming some of my identity in a world
that seemed to continually remind me to play small, be sweet.
I wanted to have every opportunity open, 
not be limited in the roles available to me.
I wanted to be the hero of my own story-
and in a lot of ways, I interpreted my strengths
and my goals as masculine.
A 'guy's girl'.
Term of endearment right?


This little label had some other, less positive nuances.
I have a challenging, broken relationship with my mother.
This primary relationship, the first love story of my life,
was with a young woman who was not ready or capable
of shepherding me through to adulthood.
My foundation for connection with women was fractured from the start.
My experiences with my mother, and my inability to trust her love-
made being a 'girl's girl' all but impossible.

As I grew into adulthood,
I often felt uncomfortable in my own skin around women.
I was not sure how to act, when to trust, 
when to be gentle or firm, when to listen.
I did not get a sense of belonging from meeting new women.
I got a deep sense of foreboding.

Being vulnerable in front of new women felt like setting myself on fire.
Protecting myself was the utmost importance-survival skills learned early
limited my bravery when it came to being myself.
So instead of listening for connection,
I often listened for reasons to justify keeping my distance.

I used to say-most women don't like me.
This was a limiting belief that I clung to so that I could justify my distance.
If they don't like me, I don't have to try.
If we have nothing in common, then I can stay in my cave.
Risk and vulnerability and the messiness of real connection-
I've had enough of that thanks.
I'll just stick to what I know.

To be clear, I DO have female friends!  
Incredible sister-friends who have walked with me for years.  
Women who saw me go through STUFF.
The women that I let myself be vulnerable and open before-
who saw me shatter, struggle, and laugh.
Who saw me screw up, work towards redemption and celebrate joy.
Not one of these women likes me because I'm a 'guy's girl'.
They love me because I am also a 'girl's girl'.

In some ways, these friends helped me justify the label of 'guy's girl'.

If I'd had zero female friends, maybe I would have seen it sooner.
Since I had several, and since they are so amazing in themselves, 
I inadvertently reinforced this limiting belief.
These women like me..so I'm not completely worthless.
Look at these jewels -I've hit the jackpot of friends.
I just don't NEED more women friends.
As if having more girlfriends would somehow be too much.
Or as if there was a catch limit on the number of close 
friendships women could have with other women.  
If I found a new friend who was a woman, 
I might have to give up an existing friendship.
There might not be enough of me to go around.
Another way to keep playing small.

Calling myself a 'guy's girl' was not a term of endearment.
It was a back-handed compliment.
Being a 'guy's girl' was another way of saying I was NOT a 'girl's girl'.
I picked one side (and sub-consciously rejected the other side).

Healing this wound was not on my radar.
I didn't see my 'guy's girl' label as a problem.
Until-like so many miracles, something very small happened.
I was invited into a mother-daughter group.
With five other moms and daughters that I barely knew.
And then another miracle....
I said yes (when what I wanted to do was run away).
I started to heal a little bit...breathe into this girl thing.
Only then did I start to notice how big the wound is.

Watch your mouth.
It will tell you the truth.
Nicknames are interesting.
And endearing.
And also....they can be limiting.
They can be flat-out insulting.
You have to be in on the joke to see it.
You have to know that you are not in fact
the nickname itself.

That you are something more that is not containable.
Test them.
Flip them inside out.
Turn them over to see the underside.
Pull out the limiting beliefs, put them in the daylight.

You might be surprised at what you find.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Title of this post references an excellent song by Beyonce off of Lemonade (my personal 2014-16 soundtrack).

Walking through Target last week,
an older woman wrapped in a puffy coat and fuzzy hat 
brushes past me and says

A teenager and I make eye contact at Starbucks, 
both slightly swaying to the music and happily anticipating 
the impending caffeine buzz.
We smile, she ducks her head and tucks her hair behind an ear.
Two baristas simultaneously call drinks and put them on the bar.
She reaches, picks up mine, 
quickly puts it back down then says
with a smile.

In the produce section, a round little face babbles 
nonsense at me while he chews on a marshmallow treat.
By the time I've picked the red grapes over green, 
stated my opinions on Spiderman and dogs
the little guy and I are friends for life.
All I know about his mom is that she is sorry,
very very sorry.

As I turn the corner of the peanut butter aisle,
a harried mom with 3 kids spilling over a giant red cart
is directly in front of me.
Sorry she says as she attempts to make her 
precious cargo take up less space.

The cashier takes my coupons and I insert my card to pay.
I hit the wrong button and we have to start a step over.
I'm sorry she says.

Going out to the parking lot, a family of 4 halts
to double check their receipt,
put their wallet away and put on their coats.
The littles spin while trying to catch the open arm of their coat.
Cart traffic flows around them with nearly no hitch.
Still they pepper everyone who goes by with sorry.

Avett Brothers singing in a trailer are still awesome. (Click for you tube.)

Everywhere I move there are 10,000 apologies being murmured.
Sorry sorry sorry.
Always by women.
Or at least almost always.
Why are we apologizing so often?
What have we done to be so ashamed, so unworthy?
In all the words at our disposal,
why is the first one dripping off our tongues one of diminishing?
We are sorry.

My grandmother used to call something sorry 
that was broken or useless;
diminished and not living up to potential.
That sorry dog.
Those sorry people up in Washington.

When I first noticed the number of sorry's 
coming out of my own mouth,
I was shocked.
I decided to count them.
In one hour, I said 35 sorry's.
Twice I said sorry to myself
for doing normal, everyday activities.
What in the world?
How did this creep into my conversation
and set up such a large shop?
It is heartbreaking once you see 
the pervasiveness of this habit.

It is also infuriating.
Like watching someone hit themselves repeatedly
and feeling powerless to stop it.

It appears sorry has become verbal punctuation,
a stand-in for all the words that don't fit.
A way to keep us apart-and still meet 
the basic requirements of civility.
The first thing that comes to mouth
in almost every situation
is an overly simplistic apology.
An apology is not meant to be 
rote, thoughtless, or inconsequential.
What are you apologizing for?
Apologies only work their healing magic
when they are intentional.
Not haphazardly thrown out like
mosquito repellant.

Here's what I want to say every time I hear these words:
Stop saying sorry.
Wipe it from your vocabulary.
You're allowed to take up space.
Look at each person-including the one in the mirror.
Find other words to convey what you mean.
You might surprise yourself
by realizing that you don't owe anyone an apology
except yourself.