Quintessential San Francisco

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I was on the N-Judah train, headed east into downtown from Ocean Beach, on my way to meet up with an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in 20 years. As expected, a local character boarded the train at Church and Duboce – just outside Safeway. He had a swagger in his step and was holding something inside his jacket. Fortunately, the expression on his face incited more curiosity than fear.

Within seconds, I had my answer as he pulled out a big pack of cold steak (straight out of the Safeway freezer) and tried to auction it off right there in the aisle. After a few unsuccessful attempts at shoving the large package of meat uncomfortably close to the faces of my fellow riders, he, of course, decided to plunk down next to me. He sat smiling, staring. Then he put out his hand for me to shake. Awkwardly, I gave him a little wave instead.

More smiling and staring.

Then, unprovoked, he looked at me and said “I don’t like you anymore”.

Oh SHIT. What did I do? What do I do?

“That’s because I LOOOOVE YA!”. Exhale. Cringe.

I faked a phone call and fortunately he got off at the next stop, but not before taking advantage of one last opportunity to get the attention of everyone on the bus. He strutted back around to my window, smiled and blew me a kiss.

The next stop was mine. As I got up to make my way off the train, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and with an empathetic smile, handed me a red carnation.

“This is for you. You’ve earned it.”

As I accepted this thoughtful gift, a happy, knowing grin appeared across my face. Four words immediately came to mind : only in San Francisco.

Getting Back At It

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I’ve been procrastinating about getting these blog posts started again, but this quote I found yesterday on Instagram, along with an inspiring post from Live Your Legend founder, Scott Dinsmore, have catapulted me back to where I’m supposed to be.

This quote is a reminder of everything I’ve let go of in the past that has led me to where I am today – a place of happiness, calm and balance.  A place where I feel more like myself than at any other time in my life. A place where I am grateful every single day for the time I spent working through the challenges of the past, taking risks, and following the voice inside me that told me to keep searching for something that I would only know I’d found when I found it.

I dare say I’m here now – in this place that I feel like I’ve spent my life looking for – but only because I learned (after many failed attempts) that we can only move forward when have the courage to walk away from what’s holding us back. Commonly, what holds us back is what we cling to because we think we need it to feel secure, but more often than not, it’s a false sense of security. We convince ourselves that we couldn’t live without that person, place or job– those people, possessions or routines. The fear of losing one or more of those things and what we can only imagine to be the pain of living with that loss prevents us from seeing that our dependency on them is likely what’s stopping us from getting to a place where we truly don’t need them. We don’t need them because that security is within us – and we can finally stop looking outside ourselves. Often, it’s as simple as abandoning one attitude and embracing another.  In 2011, my life shifted to a place where I could feel that sense of security inside me and it invited a world of opportunity I never knew could exist.

So here I am again, still in the midst of my personal reinvention, looking to create an identity for myself that meshes with my new life. A life that in many ways is unrecognizable when compared to the identity I developed in the last chapter of my life. The parts I still recognize are the ones I want to keep. The rest is what I’m committing to let go of, once and for all, right here, right now. Thinking that I need some new version of my last chapter is what’s been holding me back from creating something brand new. And brand new is where I am now.

And as I commit to letting go, I’m also recommitting to this blogging process. And since I don’t think I could say it better myself, from Scott’s article linked above, here’s why:

A blog is simply the easiest way available for publishing ideas for others to see. It encourages you to get ideas out of your head and into the world, which then allows you to further develop them and give you a chance to showcase those thoughts as well as your passions and talents to others. And when you do that, interesting things start to happen.

Developing your writing also happens to be one of the best ways for learning how to communicate, process thoughts and ideas, stay accountable to big plans and life changes, build an audience, develop your persuasion skills and to simply become a more interesting citizen of the world.

Taking a break from the blog writing was good, getting back at it is better.

The Time Has Come

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On the bookcase next to my bed is a shelf stuffed full of personal journals. Pages and pages of once-blank books now teeming with words, photos, ticket stubs, receipts, and other random memorabilia of days gone by. They are a gift from me to me. A treasure trove of thoughts and memories and dreams. Words that bring smiles. Words that bring tears. But mostly words that remind me to laugh at myself and remember that I’m much stronger than I think I am.

But personal journaling is writing without risk. It’s what people who like to tell stories do when they’re too afraid to put it all out there. For the past 15 years, that’s been me. But I’m ready now. My back-of-my-mind, “one day”, “someday” time has come.

So, here we are.

While journaling has proved to be an invaluable tool for my own personal growth – a kind of ‘pen-to-paper’ therapy – I see blogging as something very different. Blogging is my opportunity to go back through those books, combine past thoughts and insights with my current reality and piece them into something new. Exactly what? Well, I’m not quite sure yet. I love surprises and will look forward to finding out as we go along.

But here’s what I do know:

At a micro level, I’d like this blog to be a platform for transitioning my personal journaling skills into writing that inspires introspection and helps us all to feel more connected to ourselves, one another and the world around us. Having spent years of my life traveling and living abroad, connecting with people of all ages and cultures, I have witnessed, firsthand, that as human beings, what we have in common far surpasses any differences between us. I intend to prove that.

And because I’m a photoholic, it’s likely that I will also throw in a few photos here and there – for good measure.

In the big picture, it is my hope that through this introspection and connection, we can cultivate more empathy, resilience and optimism in the world. Through understanding and connecting with ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to connect with others and our surroundings, to empathize, and grow stronger and more resilient as human beings. We’ll have the ability to not only learn from our own experiences, but the experiences of others. We’ll see and believe in more happy endings.

Now, let’s do this!

 

Before She Was Mom, She Was Someone’s Little Girl

What is a Girl? Photo taken in ladies restroom at Mo’s Diner – Raleigh, NC. Text copyright 1950 New England Mutual Life Insurance Co. Boston, MA.

 

Last winter, a bunch of our family members got together in Raleigh, North Carolina, where my mother-in-law, Milly, lives.  Our last night in town, we made a reservation at Mo’s Diner – a charming restaurant in a small house oozing with vintage charm. The food was remarkable. The company – stellar.  But what I remember most about the experience actually had nothing to do with either of those things.  My memory of the evening is oddly shaped by a trip to the ladies room – because that’s where I found the treasure.  In the way-back corner, in an antique frame with too-small font in too-dim lighting were the simple words that magically caught my eye: “What is a Girl?”

Originally copyrighted in 1950 by New England Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Boston, I’d read only the first couple of paragraphs and already knew these were words worth sharing. Words many of us could connect to in our own special way. Words that could invite smiles, warm hearts, inspire dreams. In a surprising and unexpected way, these words made me proud and happy to be a girl. (Thank you, ladies room curator!)

So I snapped a photo (above) and took the liberty of editing some of the language –  to keep the original 1950s tone, but modernize the message. I’m sure I could do more, but below is what I’ll call “What is a Girl? v.1.1”. I hope it tickles your heart like it did mine.

Little girls are the nicest things that happen to people. They are born with a little bit of angel-shine about them and though it wears thin sometimes, there is always enough left to lasso your heart – even when they are sitting in the mud, crying temperamental tears, or parading up the street in mother’s best clothes.

A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp, and make funny noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your mouth, she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes. A girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head, and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.

Girls are available in all colors – black, white, red, yellow, brown, and everything in between – yet Mother Nature always manages to select your favorite color when you place your order. They disprove the law of supply and demand – there are millions of little girls but each is as precious as rubies.

God borrows from many creatures to make a little girl. He uses the song of a bird, the squeal of a pig, the stubbornness of a mule, the antics of a monkey, the spryness of a grasshopper, the curiosity of a cat, the speed of a gazelle, the slyness of a fox, the softness of a kitten, and to top it all off, he adds the mysterious mind of a woman.

She is loudest when you are thinking, the prettiest when she has provoked you, the busiest at bed time, the quietest when you want to show her off, and the most flirtatious when she absolutely must not get the best of you again.

Who else can cause you more grief, joy, irritation, satisfaction, embarrassment and genuine delight than this combination of Eve, Salome, and Florence Nightingale? She can muss up your home, your hair, and your dignity – spend your money, your time, and your temper – then just when your patience is ready to crack, her sunshine peeks through and you’ve lost again.

Yes, she is a nerve-wracking nuisance,  just a noisy bundle of mischief. But when your dreams tumble down and the world is a mess – when it seems you are pretty much of a fool after all – she can make you a king or a queen when she climbs on your knee and whispers, “I love you best of all!”

And I know this probably should have occurred to me earlier, but as someone who isn’t a mother myself, I kind of forgot that my mom was a daughter before she was my mom. That she was one of the nicest things to happen to my grandparents – lassoing their hearts, wracking their nerves and making them feel like the luckiest people in the world. But I guess that’s what great moms do – they make you feel like the world didn’t exist before you came along.  They take all the hurt and loss and learning from their own lives and weave it into a blanket of experience that they hope will keep their babies safe.

And so, this Mother’s Day, if you’re lucky enough to have your mom, or someone like a mom around to thank and celebrate – hug her like a little girl, kiss her on the forehead, and treat her like she’s precious as rubies – because she deserves to feel like the most important person in the world.

And if your mom isn’t here for you to hug, find someone else who looks like they could use some extra love today. And if that person is you? Be extra kind to yourself. That little girl inside will thank you.