Self Reliance

Living on my own for the last few years, I have learned to do the best I can to take care of stuff around the house with some help from books like this one: Dare to Repair

I am not the handiest person on the planet. In fact, the exact opposite is true…evidenced recently by my decision to use mounting tape to fix one of my kitchen drawers. Just so you know, I tried to use my Dare to Repair book – and some actual tools…but I resorted to mounting tape and took the easy way out. Who else besides me (and now all of you) will know what is actually holding that drawer together anyway?

My simple approach is to fix the things I can, outsource what I can afford, and ask for help when I need it. Sometimes I take shortcuts if the stakes aren’t too high. No big deal if my kitchen drawer comes apart again – but I would definitely call for help if my dishwasher caught fire (this has actually happened). If you get invited to my house for dinner, you may be asked to help me hang a picture, move some furniture or fix a drawer – but chances are you will be well fed, and I will always have some great red wine for you. And for simple situations when no help is available, I can always grab the mounting tape, duct tape…super glue…whatever works!

When it comes to taking care of me, it’s a little (make that a lot) more complicated. I had some lessons to learn and bad habits to break. Who knew that inner peace is exactly that – peace that comes from within? Sounds easy, right? Not exactly. This is not a job that we can outsource for someone else to fix. We can hire someone to help us – a coach, therapist, or enlist a life partner, mentor or friend to aid, but let me be very clear – the hard work is up each one of us as individuals.

As Emerson said so wisely in his essay Self Reliance,

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance and Other Essays

Self reliance isn’t just about survival. Self reliance is depending on ourselves to be whole, happy, and authentic from within, rather than relying on others to “complete” us. This finally explains why I always hated the movie Jerry McGuire. Everyone else cried in the theatre when Tom Cruise (Jerry) tells Renee Zellweger (Dorothy): “you complete me.” I, on the other hand, kind of hated Jerry and Dorothy without really understanding why.

Working with my coach over the last few years, I came to realize that I alone am responsible for my well being, which includes my inner peace and happiness in both my personal and professional life. This did not happen overnight. And just because I am more aware doesn’t mean that I have all of the answers.  Did I just admit to the world that I don’t have the answers?? My hands are almost too clenched to even type this – that is how hard it is for me, the former Queen of Problem Solving and Always Right.

This is a continuous journey full of challenges, setbacks, highs and lows. I am practicing asking people to fix my things – but not me. Chris Martin – you can go and fix Gwyneth if you really want to, but it’s my job to fix myself.

Life Without Cruise Control

Today I decided was going to be different. Let’s back up. I had planned my eight hour drive to Wintergreen Resort in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia a few days ago. As I always do, I used Google Maps to plot my course before the trip, and I found two options; Option 1: The Scenic Route; Option 2: The Interstate. Both options were within 20 minutes of each other, so I immediately chose Option 2 because I knew these roads, and therefore knew what to expect. It’s all about minimizing risk,… right? Hmmm I don’t think so.

Favorite greeting card with the perfect message

Fast forward to today. I got in my car, programmed Hugh (my GPS with the Australian male voice), and sat for a few moments while he found his satellite connection. Hugh picked the Scenic Route for me…so I sat in my driveway and reconsidered my decision. The voices in my head started up: What if I break down in the middle of nowhere? What if I get a flat tire? What if I get stuck behind a slow car? What if I get lost? Could my day turn in a Stephen King novel or an episode of Vampire Diaries? Hmmmm.

Then I shifted my view of what my day could be like.

What if I see a part of SC and NC that I hadn’t seen before? How could the adventure of these twists and turns on the scenic route give me energy for the drive? What unexpected stops might I enjoy along the way? All of a sudden, I remembered one of my favorite family car trips as a child where Dad drove us along a creek just to see if he could find a place to eat lunch – and we ended up finding a little waterfall. Could my day be memorable like that day 30+ years ago?

Listening to Casey Kasem’s best hits of 1983 on the radio and feeling inspired to have a new experience, I put my trust in Hugh and off we went. The trip started great – singing along to Lionel Richie, Culture Club, Falco, and Men at Work, I was feeling both energized and peaceful. I lost Casey’s signal about 2 hours in…so I plugged in the iPod and hoped for the best as I pulled off the Interstate and onto State Road 52 in Florence. Ahhh…all was right with the world…Blue Sky set the tone for the next few hundred miles as I let my iPod shuffle my music and I explored places like Society Hill and Cheraw, SC. I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed behind the wheel of a car – not one orange cone or truck in sight.

As I drove, I thought about how different this drive was than it could have been. If I had taken Option 2 – I would have programmed my cruise control – and gotten annoyed every time a bad driver forced me to click the brake to release it. Maybe even more than annoyed. Probably more than annoyed. I would have been on the SAME highway I have taken probably hundreds of times…yes I would have known what to expect – really boring highway with trucks and drivers who don’t know how to use the left lane properly. I would have arrived after eight hours exhausted, hyped up on caffeine and would have had trouble falling asleep.

Instead, here I was feeling connected…peaceful, and yet full of energy. Hugh was my co-pilot keeping me from getting lost, not a gadget that I had to “beat”. I felt happy that I took the “road less travelled” and vowed to be wary of the temptations and security of cruise control in my future.

And then I started thinking about what this shift in outlook could have on my life in general.

What could my life be like if I took a different path? Yes – most of the time I have a destination (or a goal) in mind. But what new possibilities could exist for me if I chose another way to get there? Could I feel the same energy – the same peacefulness, the same connectivity between my head and my heart that I was feeling right now? What could my life be without cruise control?

What WILL my life be without cruise control?

The Rest is Still “Unwritten”

pen and paper

“I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned”

-Natasha Bedingfield, “Unwritten

To me, New Year’s means new beginnings. Rather than making resolutions I won’t keep, or looking back at what mistakes I have made or what I did or didn’t accomplish in 2011, I am taking the time to reflect about what I want to do, feel and be in 2012.

What risks am I willing to take? What goals should I set across all areas of my life with my relationships with family and friends, with my career, and with my physical and spiritual self? How do I want to show up every day? How present can I be to what is in front of me each day?

There is no road map – no set course. This is both scary and exhilarating. There are a lot of choices ahead if I can take the time to stop and see them. There are both disappointments and joys ahead – if I have the courage to take some risks.

“Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”

Today I welcome 2012 with open arms. I look ahead with the hope of new possibilities, and I hope the same for you!

Happy New Year!