Saturday, May 29, 2010

True Beauty Doesn't Fit into a Plastic Mold

Beauty comes in more forms than we can imagine at times. Collectively, we have a standard for what we consider to be the threshold for what is and what isn't. Nature displays it in ways that we become enamored with, but it can leave us speechless when we try to explain exactly what it is. Beauty is a feeling, an unspoken reality that captures our attention. It contains a sense of intrigue and attraction without true explanation.

People often seek beauty for themselves. They not only want to feel attractive, they also wish to be seen that way. We compare ourselves to others and to the standards of beauty propaganda that we're bombarded with by the media. It's the reason we diet, exercise, put on make-up and seek to "tweak" those details about ourselves that we find unacceptable. With the progression of technology and medicine, we've turned plastic surgery into a multi-billion dollar practice. Anyone, as long as they have the adequate financial resources, can magically change their appearance to reflect what society says is beautiful.

Ok. So I've thought about it-going "under the knife." Sometimes it's for the typical reasons that females might seek surgery. Some of us aren't blessed with the right "genetics" in the fat/cellulite distribution department and no matter how much we diet or exercise, that stubborn fat won't leave our behinds or thighs. A little lipo sure seems like a convenient way to be rid of it once and for all. Other times it's not for the typical reasons. A lot of females rush to a plastic surgeon to enhance their chest to the "perfect" full C/D cup that nature didn't bless them with. This I will never understand. But that's because I'm only 5'4 and a half and would gladly trade mine for a set of B's any day. Sorry ladies, but having a pair of bigger bazookas isn’t all it's cracked up to be. Just try finding shirts or bikini tops that will fit that area properly when the rest of your upper half needs a small or an x-small. And you can forget about stepping outside in the morning to walk the dog or grab your newspaper without putting on a bra. Not to mention when it comes time to hit the gym, you have to order special sports bras from pricey outlets like Title Nine that will actually hold the twins in place.

Still, while I can understand the drive to enhance one's physical appearance, I think it indicates a lack of self-acceptance when one seeks to completely change the way they look. I'm not talking about dyeing one's hair, Botox, a lip plump, a little lipo or laser resurfacing. I'm talking about completely modifying your appearance to the point of not maintaining most of your original features and/or coming out afterwards as almost completely unrecognizable. This lack of self-acceptance comes from within, I believe. The drive begins with a need to gain the attention and acceptance from outside in order to fill the void that exists inside. If I create the appearance of being beautiful and "ok," then that will somehow mean that I am. It doesn't matter that in the process I lose my uniqueness or neglect the development of true beauty-that of my character. As long as I am a "carbon copy" or reflect the imprints from the "cookie cutter" mold, I am a desirable and worthy individual. I fit in because I appear to be what others say I should be.

The tragedy inherent in this line of thinking is that no amount of appearance modification can truly make you one hundred percent acceptable. Standards will change. Your physicality will change. And as my high school drama teacher once said so eloquently, "no matter where you go there's always going to be people who don't like you." So you have to learn to start with how you feel about you. You have to take off the glasses that the world hands you and design your own.

Inward beauty always breaks through the barrier of the shell it's contained in. It shines through the eyes, like the soft, warm rays of a summer sunrise. It becomes spoken words of inspiration, encouragement and helpful tenderness that gets imprinted on our hearts. It shows up in our ability to smile in happiness at the small, everyday miracles in life, which often go unnoticed. It's the ability to forgive when it isn't deserved and the ability to see the smallest flicker of light within a black sheet of darkness.

Inward beauty is being able to see your reflection when you scrutinize the presence of someone else. It's the realization that when you look in the mirror you see the reflection of who and what you've planted in your inner soil. That soil and those seeds can yield a rose, a tulip, a sunflower or perhaps even a dandelion. Some are considered flowers, others weeds. Yet each contains the colors and the petals that someone, somewhere, finds intriguing enough to savor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If HSPs Were in Charge

It's only Wednesday and I've already logged forty-two hours at my job. Yes, that's right folks. Forty-two hours in three days. That's forty-two hours worked without any "scheduled" breaks or lunches. Now, some of you may be wondering if I get to call it quits and take Thursday and Friday off. HA HA. No such luck, my friends. I still have to service my accounts on those two days and will probably end up with seventy hours or so for the week. No, I don't get paid "real" overtime. Such is the life of a sales rep who works off commission for the current market leader in the salty snacks industry.

Now granted, in about two weeks I'll get a nice fat paycheck for my hard work, seeing as how I'm going to exceed my sales target of $12,105 worth of volume. At almost ten percent plus thirty hours variable rate overtime pay, that's not a bad sum of money for a week's worth of work. Most in the "normal" ranks would be lucky to make that in two or three weeks, given the current salary ranges. Financially, I'm lucky and grateful. But to be honest, I know that money is going to go straight to one of my savings accounts and just sit there for quite some time. So, who really gives a crap? What good does it do me to come home so exhausted I can barely stand up or have just enough time to get ready for bed so I can get up and do it again in five or six hours?

What have I lost in exchange for my time and a flush of benjamins? Plenty, I think. For starters, I've had to wake up in the middle of the night and work on school for an hour or so and then go back to bed. I haven't been able to work on my writing projects or spend time with friends and family. Really, I haven't even had time to communicate with them. And my poor dog hasn't gotten enough walking or play time. I think it's outrageous and perhaps borderline inhumane. The world's institutions are set up to produce and "win" at all costs, which includes the livelihood and spirits of the people behind them. Most of the world and its structure, of course, is designed by and for non-HSPs.

But what if things were different? What if HSPs were the majority and somehow got to wave a magic wand over the universe? How would it look and feel? What kind of world would we get to experience each and every day? Perhaps one day we'll actually get to see the phenomenon, but for now, here's my idea of its preview:

Time does not exist. No more rushing. No more deadlines. No more schedules.

Money is of no value. Qualitative contributions are the only currency that gets recognized and rewarded.

Rainbows in the sky are a constant occurrence.

Eight to ten hours of rest are mandatory.

You decide what you want to accomplish and when and how you will do it.

Collaboration is the new "mo."

Boxes of tissues are mounted to random trees, countertops, grocery store shelves, couches and car dashboards.

No more violent movies, tv shows or anything that makes you cringe.

Vacations are permanent. You do what you love and get paid for it.

No more gossip or complaining about who's "right" and who's "wrong."

Decisions are made in the best interests of everyone.

People seek to genuinely help others, not just themselves.

Everyone listens first, then talks.

Relationships take priority.

Everyone is treated as a person, not a number.

Imagination and possibilities are not scoffed at.

Pixie dust is given away at every street corner.

Everyone dances and everyone sings.

Silence doesn't mean that you're not communicating.

Art, music, literature, theatre, philosophy and the liberal arts are no longer considered impractical and placed on society's backburner.

Everyone realizes they have more than enough.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Perfect (Almost) Ending

I'll admit that since I've landed in Florida I've felt a mixture of "it's nice to be able to relax in a familiar place" and "gosh, I really would rather be back in L.A." For the first time that I've come back here, I've been ready to leave. Maybe it's been the unbearable combination of summer's heat and humidity that have made it impossible for a fair skinned girl (who didn't have time to properly fake and bake beforehand) to endure more than 3 hours in the shade, with sun block. It could be that I simply had too much activity in California between sightseeing and school visits that a week sitting on the beach seemed unfulfilling and boring. Or the fact that I'm finally ready to move on to other dreams and this place has simply lost its charm. Maybe it's because I came to say good-bye to a piece of my life and myself that I've been trying to hold onto, that I thought I lost.

Last evening I had dinner with an old co-worker from Disney, who became one of my good friends during the time I lived here. We're the kind of friends who went years without talking, but due to the marvelous mass appeal of FB, have reconnected, and each time we see each other it is as if time hasn't passed. Six months ago, when I was here, I made that same drive through downtown Tampa to connect onto I-4 that takes you through a portion of Central Florida's interior into the world famous city of Orlando. I passed the same sights I saw then and the sights I used to see twice on my daily commute. I passed by the exits for Lakeland, one of my former homes, and smiled knowingly at the landmarks just off the Interstate. I recalled the good times I had here and the not so good times, but most of all, I remembered that I got my answer to my question six months ago.

Back in November, as I was driving on that same interstate numbered "4," inside I asked whether I should come back to Florida or pursue my dreams in Los Angeles, like I had always really wanted. Not more than five seconds later, a black pick-up truck sped past me with a license plate of California on the back. Coincidence maybe, but anyone who has lived here knows that while you may see quite a few out of state tags, they're almost always from North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, or New York. And you certainly don't see very many traveling towards a backwoods, sleepy commuter town like Lakeland. I guess I wasn't quite convinced, because I had to come back here. This time I got the same answer before and after I arrived. Only a little louder and firmer this time.

Still, on my last full day here, I couldn't help but admire the scenery around me. I saw what made me fall in love with this place at twenty-two and realized that it will always be a part of me. I never really lost anything because a piece of my heart will always be here and I can always return. Who wouldn't want to jump into a scene of lush green grass, picture perfect postcard palm trees, warm white sand beneath your toes, teal green water and pink-yellow sunsets? Like the seagulls that fly in circles above the coastline without a care in the world, intermittently dunking their heads in a splash of ocean, this place brings a sense of peace and playfulness you can't find anywhere else. It was a great place to learn and discover and more than right at the time. It was home and somewhere deep inside it will continue to remain that way.

The difference between all the other times I've come back and now is that I no longer feel the lump in my throat as I realize it's time to go. I'm not letting go because I don't have to. Like the sun that I watched go down behind the ocean tonight, I'll never really leave. This place is a part of my history, a part of my soul, a part of who I am. And that can never truly be lost.

Monday, May 17, 2010

If I Only Had 72 Hours

On FB I saw an ad that said "What would you do if you only had 72 hours left to live?" Typically, I don't like questions like this because they ask the impossible. By impossible I mean that one couldn't really know what they would do with their last 72 hours until they were actually in them. That is, if they were even aware that they only had three days left of their current existence. And why 72 hours? Is there some magic formula that says that it only takes three days to accomplish everything you wish you had, but haven't yet?

The problem that I have with these types of questions boils down to the fact that I believe that one still exists after their current form extinguishes and that "time" is nothing more than an illusion, as Einstein called it. Why some of you may wonder and perhaps others will agree based on shared experiences. But for argument's sake, I'll play "devil's advocate" and agree with whoever wrote those words. I'll assume that I've been told this very instant that I only have the next 72 hours to experience life.

I could make a list of the things that I've always thought of doing, but haven't due to letting the everyday necessities of life take priority. Somehow though, this seems to miss the gist of the message. Making a list of what you would like to do kind of defeats the purpose of actually doing something. Considering only yourself in the equation, I believe, also defeats the purpose. The real question is how would you spend the moments of those final 72 hours and whom would you spend them with.

Of course, the reality is that even if we know approximately how much time we have left in this realm, we can't really plan it. The only thing we can hope to do is to be able to "catch up" on some of life's moments we wanted to experience and share them with those who are important to us. In fact, if we are ever given the courtesy of knowing approximately how much time we have left, we should be satisfied with what we have already done. We shouldn't wait for a terminal diagnosis to shed our inhibitions, follow our intuition, extend support to others, or live out our internal possibilities. But, the reality is we probably will anyway. Because time gives us the illusion that it will continue to unfold in a linear fashion and that our physical existence, like our intangible one, is somehow infinite.

When we have a life-stopping scenario that makes us catch our breath we may start to live each day, perhaps each moment as though it might be our last. I know it's something I've tried to do, piece by piece, for awhile now. Still, it doesn't feel like enough. It doesn't feel as though I am letting go of the "mundane everyday" enough. If I were to live, truly live, I'd fly like a bird or a butterfly from one destination to the next. I'd see the world and have more random heart to heart talks like the one I had with the Grandmother who sat next to me on the plane ride to Tampa. She told me I had beautiful eyes. I listened to her talk about her children, her dogs and a piece of her life. I told her I hoped she had a good trip. She told me the same.

I'd say goodbye to all those things I think I have to do and not worry about money. I'd wake up each morning by 8 and go for a run or a hike along some scenic trail. I'd work on writing projects and find ways to give back to others through volunteer or reach-out projects. I'd spend time getting to know my family and friends better, eat and drink exactly what I wanted, meet as many people as I could, and listen to and help as many others as I could.

But, I think most of all, I would finally learn to be grateful for each small, seemingly insignificant moment that occurs between the grandeur of every sunrise and every sunset.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blossoming Past the "What-If's"

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."-Anais Nin

This quote hit me particularly hard this morning. The sky is overcast, with a light haze of clouds that promise to break away once the sun's rays begin to shine completely through. It's also my last full day in L.A. for now and I'm starting to get scared. Anxiety, fear, worry, nervousness. Believe me, it's all there. 3 schools. 3 very competitive graduate level writing programs that I would be honored to be accepted into. A lot of work to do before the application deadlines. And what if I don't get in to any of them, then what? What if I do get in? Then what? Will I, MBA and all, really be able to find a good day job here, currently one of the worst job markets in the country? Do I really want to give up my 2 bedroom house for a studio or very small one bedroom apartment that will cost me slightly more than my mortgage and HOA fees combined? What if I fail? And is it really the best thing to move my ten year old terrier across the country during the last stage of his life?

Typical HSP'ness (if that's a word). We start ruminating about all the possibilities before we've even reached the crossroad. The "what-if's" and the "omg's," the potential bargainings, what we might lose, what we might gain and the "wouldn't it be safer just to stay put and not change anything." So, here I am, making a list of deadlines and things to do; thumbing through the materials I've gathered in the past week and running through the images and words my mind has recorded. I feel the fear rising up from my heart through my throat and I begin to question what I'm doing. That's when I find Nin's quote amongst the materials from one of the programs that I'm going to apply to.

So I begin to cry. A mixture of sad affirmation and determined resolve. Sad because I actually don't want to leave tomorrow for Florida. I wish I had another week here to explore. That's a new feeling that I don't know how to handle. Affirmation because without exploration, new discoveries can't be unveiled or appreciated. Like the boat that took me to Catalina Island on Wednesday, I'm not meant to simply sit, safely tied to a dock. I have to venture over vast, unknown waters with nothing more than a horizon in sight in order to find anything worthwhile. Determined resolve because beneath the anxiety there is still that inner peace of "knowing" this is right; it's what I have to do. The next stage, the next voyage, the next adventure, the next reinvention.

The only compass I have right now is inside my heart and it's still hard to trust. But it tells me to keep writing, to still be strong. It tells me that all I really have is my heart-listen to it.

In a way, we're all like that bud. Tight. Enclosed. Almost completely hidden. Afraid to reveal, afraid to become. That quote is a more eloquent way of stating one of my favorite sayings from author Dave Ramsey-"we only change when the pain of same is greater than the pain of change." The writer's imaginative way, full of metaphors, analogies and soulful images that leaves non-creatives scratching their heads trying to figure out the exact meaning.

This morning it is more than transparent. We all have to become what's inside. The "what-if's" and the bargainings are the risks that we eventually take or don't take. They're purely circumstantial. They exist no matter what we do or don't do.

If we continue to hide the discovery of who we are, then the world loses a piece of the beauty that makes it complete.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Griffith Park Effect

Between Hollywood and Pasadena is a place that I've fallen in love with. Leave it to the somewhat frugal girl from Colorado to find a place in L.A. that's free and is full of mountains and hiking trails. Character traits aside, I knew instantly that I was in a special place when I saw the delicate mixture of colorful flowers, trees, and valleys juxtaposed against panoramic views of the city. You could even almost make out some of the shoreline of the Pacific if you looked hard enough. I don't know if many non-locals make it a point to visit Griffith Park when they come here, but they should.

Nature has a way of speaking to you through its stillness and its presence. It can provide comfort and serenity when you need to clear your mind. It can inspire you to see that there are still places in this world that are untouched, yet so profound in their ability to stop you in your tracks and make you just stare. Stare because you want to capture it and make it last somewhere inside. It can also make you realize that you've known yourself perfectly. Yes, that intuition doesn't lie and that peaceful urge that your soul feels shouldn't be ignored.

What started as a short, curious hike up a random trail somehow turned into a four hour journey up one of the hardest stretches in the park. I saw a lot of scenes that I hope I'll try really hard to never forget. Some I've seen before, but not from the perspective that I saw them from today. A bird even floated on the wind, as if it was attached to a string from the sky, dangling above the valley below Dante's View. Flying without movement. Suspended over the inhabited chaos below, waiting in decision over where to go next.

Decisions are something I've always had difficulty with. Like that bird, I'd rather wait in suspension above the world I think I want to fly into. Careful observation and deliberation is what I spend most of my energy on, swinging the pendulum back and forth between the options that life presents. Not this time. Since I've arrived here, I've felt a peace I haven't felt in quite awhile. This time I know. This time I've reaffirmed what my intuition was always telling me, with that strong, peaceful, silent urge.

Walking back down that trail I felt whole and happy. This time it's my dream and just my heart. This time there is no doubt. I don't even feel the desire to say "good-bye" to any substitute. This time I know that I've found home.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Small moments have the power to change your life. Spontaneous conversations in passing have the profound ability to remind you of what you've always wanted, but have been too reluctant or afraid to go after. There are many individuals in this collection we call "society." Some we only observe, others we talk to briefly, some become "working relationships," others cherished connections.

This morning I woke up at 5 am. About two hours later than usual. The sunrise was beginning to make itself known, like the buds on the trees outside my front window that'll soon become big, green leaves that will whisper back and forth in the upcoming summer breeze. The air was cool, a piercing contrast against the "should-be" spring atmosphere. It's been like that in Colorado lately. We can't seem to quite let go of winter's harsh reality just yet. But despite the late snow showers, the cold wind and the frustrations in having to switch the thermostat from heat to a/c and back, Spring is still showing its signs of emergence. It can't be stopped. It won't be stopped, because that is its destiny. To bring visible life and vigor to what we experience as Nature.

Right now I am a little like Spring. Trying to make my authentic self visible. Following through on ideas and hopes that never quite formulated themselves until I was ready. A small, spontaneous conversation was all it took to remind me. To show me why I've felt unfulfilled. A harsh wind that said "wake up!" What you're doing and what you want are at opposite ends of each other. Who you are can't be stopped from displaying pieces of itself, even amidst a landscape of dry, brown covered fields.

It's time to dance, despite the fact that the notes haven't yet been written. The music will play itself into what it wants to be. One can only hope that it becomes something larger than what it originally thought it would. Like a song, we don't have to start out knowing exactly who we are. Each line, each chorus, each stanza, and even each note emerges as it should. Just like the seasons, each piece is somewhat predestined and seemingly unaware of its connection to the larger entity that it helps create.

Today I've written that first note and seen that first bud start to bloom on still barren branches. I might have to endure a few more harsh winds and a few more snowflakes before Spring finally arrives. But, even Winter won't be able to stop what's already there from emerging. Still hidden, yet inspired by the fact that it knows what it has to do.

What’s important is to not stop what already is from showing what it knows it should be.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Forgiveness is a simple word with a lot of different meanings. For starters, it's not a light-weighted subject matter. It's one simple word, one simple concept that contains a lot of power behind it. Some individuals that I've crossed paths with simply toss it around as if its meaning were as simplistic and common as saying "hello." I admit, I used to do this too; mostly when I was younger and my undeveloped mind was more focused on emulation rather than independent thought. Yet, somewhere inside, even when my mind was still trying to formulate itself, I felt a sharp disconnect between what I was outwardly portraying and what I was really feeling.

I was told that I should forgive others because it was the right thing to do and Jesus forgave me for my "sins," so I should forgive everyone else for theirs. The problem is that the process isn't that easy; especially if you feel things more intensely than most or personalize and internalize someone else's actions that just happened to be directed towards you. When that's the case, you can carry around resentment, anger, fear and grudges for a long time afterwards and not even realize it. Until something triggers a reminder. Or you suddenly feel the weight of your heart sinking and you wonder why since you really have no reason to be this sad or frustrated with life.

Sometimes we don't really take the time to explore why we feel violated and what we need to feel at peace again because it's easier to dismiss what happened and maintain an outward expression of "everything's ok between you and me." Perhaps we think it's better to do the work later; that the mere words of "I forgive you, let's move on" will wave their magic wand and erase the fact that "everything is really not ok between you and me." We're creatures of pretend, of fantasy. A lot of good things exist in that realm, but when you allow it to discredit what you really feel, you cheat yourself out of the possibility of inner freedom, conviction, validation and esteem. The problems that existed before you publicly mouthed those words aren't going anywhere. They'll come back, despite the scripts and the carefully calculated lines. Ad-libs have a way of sneaking out when you least expect them to. Eventually you can't conceal what the heart needs to say.

I think in a lot of cases forgiveness is a long process, perhaps even lifelong. I know it has been like that for me with more than a few people. Sensitivity has a way of magnifying what we feel as betrayal and injustice. It also has a way of automatically making us feel inherently flawed, as though we were the only ones who might have done something wrong. Or even worse, that there must be something about who we are that was so completely inadequate that it caused the other to act the way they did.

The thing about true forgiveness is that it really isn't about the other person. It's about you. It may take a few seconds, six months, a few years or even a lifetime to release yourself. By release I mean truly separate your identity from the other, their actions, their words, their choices. Separating yourself requires a little bit more than tossing out the simple words "I forgive you." It's a decision that acknowledges how those actions, words and choices made you feel. A decision that realizes that's how I felt, but those internal feelings and external choices are not who I am. True forgiveness is the realization that there's something more valuable than trying to change what's already done. That "something" more valuable is the life within your soul.