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Monday, October 17, 2011

Oprah's Lifeclass


For those of you who read my blog, you know I've been on the growth bandwagon for a while now. I call it growth because I hate to use the phrase "self help." Truthfully, my growth hasn't come so much from self help as it has from the lessons of family, friends and strangers alike. Sometimes, I even think I'm passing on the lesson and I end up learning something myself. Experiences turn into lessons and
they are all around us if we are willing to take the time to listen and fill our mental storehouses.

These days, life is flying. I am busy establishing myself in a fairly new job, trying to launch and promote my Etsy shop and trying to re-work my cookbook into a vegan version of itself. I'm also volunteering with my teen mentor group and sitting on the board of two community organizations. I don't say any of that to give you the laundry list of what I do. I say it because I find myself at a crossroads I've been at before. I was here in my early 20s. Finding myself looking at a choice between my job and my life and I walked down the career path. I rumbled around in the rock tumbler of corporate America for years. At the end, I was smoothed out into something that was polished on the outside but bore no unique qualities. I looked like every other BigLaw lawyer in the bunch. Worn out, glazed over and unsure of the future...unsure if that life was what I wanted when I went to law school. Then life answered my question with a resounding no. The rest is history. Now, as I am looking both ways and choosing what path to take, I find that it is no coincidence that Oprah's Lifeclass has started. In just the first week, I've thought about things in a new way. It's not about giving up my job or walking away from corporate America. I like the challenge and I like the environment that I'm working in now. But you know that from my earlier posts. What it is about for me now is finding a life outside of that. Finding me and keeping me on the list even when there are other people to be accountable to. Oprah's Lifeclass is giving me the space to do that. I am taking time to think about each lesson and apply it to my life.

Why share that? I decided that I would make it part of my blog. It's about the journey and opening it up to the possibilities by listening to others on the same journey. If you are in Lifeclass mode, feel free to comment or join the journey with a blog of your own. I'm not going to backtrack, but I will post the names of the first five lessons.

Lesson 1: The False Power of Ego (In just a week, I've gotten better at realizing when it is more about ego than self. Big one for me.)

Lesson 2: Letting Go of Anger (This is one I learned and started to apply years ago. It has helped me to get some distance from the things that hurt me and do the work to address the pain rather than holding on to toxic stress.)

Lesson 3: You Become What You Believe (I believe that you can manifest positive energy and plan your path based on faith that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. That's not to say that the road will be easy but the journey is possible.)

Lesson 4:The Truth will Set you Free (For me, this is about learning to be your authentic self. I think I am more of that each day and less afraid about what people will think of me as I truly am.)

Lesson 5: Joy Rising (I talk about gratitude and joy a lot. I try to make it the focus at least for part of the day every day. I am not always successful but it's the focus.)

You can learn more and watch the webcasts on www.oprah.com.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Circle Moment


I had drinks with a close friend this weekend. As we were catching up and talking about other friends she noted, "Everyone I know is so unhappy. It seems like everyone is struggling." I didn't think twice about agreeing with her. It wasn't until later that I thought, "I am pretty happy, actually." I wonder if I somehow give off a different impression. It's certainly not my intention to appear sad or miserable. I am anything but these days.

When I started this blog, I felt like I had lost a lot of myself by losing my job. It turns out that I just didn't have time to get to know myself that well between the 60+ hour work weeks and the struggle that came with battling an illness. After sitting on the couch moping for a long while, I somehow got my head together and found peace. Well, not exactly "somehow." I blogged, I prayed, I focused on the power of positive thinking. Since that time, my life has come almost full circle.

I used to work in BigLaw. Now I work for a company and my BigLaw firm works for me. I have been able to go to an awards gala and chat for 20 minutes with the person who made BigLaw a total nightmare without wanting to break a wine bottle over his head. In fact, somewhere in the conversation, I realized that I didn't have that nauseating, nervous feeling that I'd had every time I thought I might see him at events over the past 2 years. I make time for my passions. I am selling my gratitude bracelets (go way back to my blog entry from Monday, May 25, 2009) on Etsy. I still wear the green one and hubby wears the wooden one. I write like crazy (which is why the blog posts have gotten so infrequent) and I cook even more.

I finally got the opportunity to create the teen empowerment group I've been dreaming of for years and after a slow start, it is going really well. I started and have stuck to my year long Bible reading plan. I think I've gotten closer to God in that way but it has raised enough questions that I now approach spirituality in a different way. I make time to have a date or two with my husband every week and we eat dinner together most nights. I now make a conscious effort to find the positive side of things and my mom's zen like attitude doesn't seem so unattainable.

Sidebar: Reading back through what I just wrote, I could say to myself "Shut up Susie Sunshine. No one is that happy." It's likely true. I will readily admit that its not all blue skies and rainbows. I sometimes feel pulled in a million different directions, I am still in a great deal of debt, and while my health is much better, I am reminded often enough (and particularly when I am hooked up to an IV for 2 days of treatment) that I am not a healthy person.

Yet, if you asked me, I would say I am happy and looking forward to the future. I could list a lot of things that are wrong but I would rather say things have happened and continue to have ramifications in my daily life but the trials have undoubtedly made me into a better, happier, more self aware person. To me, that's the best that one can hope for. Now I just have to work on showing that to the outside world. After all, what good is finding happiness if you still look miserable?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Joy Comes in the Morning

Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. That is a Biblical reference but even if you’ve never picked up a Bible, you’ve probably heard a platitude reflecting the same sentiment in your lifetime:

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise”

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

“Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for has finally come to be. You will look back and laugh at what has passed and you will ask yourself... 'How did I get through all of that?”

“When things are bad, we take comfort in the thought that they could always be worse. And when they are, we find hope in the thought that things are so bad they have to get better.”

I get daily scripture from a gadget on my desktop and though I have heard the verse above at least a thousand times, it struck me in a different way today. Going through tough times tends to push us deep inside ourselves. We get so wrapped up in our circumstances and our seeming inability to change them that we forget about the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Our “night” of weeping may be several days, weeks, months or even years but there is always joy in the morning. It may not be the joy we expect or seek. We may not win the lottery after struggling through financial troubles. We will not get back our loved ones who have passed away. We may not find the right mate within a mental deadline. But we will, if we are blessed, wake up and face a new day. We will have a chance to learn a new lesson and value new things. We will have an opportunity to change our perspective if we internalize the lessons that life presents to us. We will be given a reason to smile.

When I lost my job, all I could think about was how my life would change. Who was I if I wasn’t working? How would I pay the bills? What would become of the neat little life that I was used to? Answer? Life became a mess. I did my share of weeping and worrying. I was resentful and that resentment turned into depression. Then, a funny thing happened. I started working through my feelings. I was honest about where I was and I addressed and gave space to all of the emotions—good, bad and ugly. I kept waking up each day and even though I didn’t know what I would face, I was being given an opportunity to work towards joy. If you read the blog, you know that eventually, I started to volunteer and found joy in helping others. Volunteering led to a job opportunity and when health care issues with that job came up, another one landed in my lap. I firmly believe that I was given those blessings because I got outside of myself and searched for joy. With distance, I have learned the lessons of that dark time in my life. I worked through and released the cause for my weeping and realized that in a weird way, the loss of my job was a cause for joy. I am a new person. I like my new job but it doesn’t define me. I find happiness in my family and friends rather than in the things that my paycheck can buy. Before, I let my job consume me at the expense of everything personal, including my health. Today, I make time to volunteer because it is important to me and I am blessed to work with people who understand that I have other obligations. I make my doctor’s appointments so I can take care of my body and I take time for life and love because I value my soul. I may be still feeling the financial ramifications of losing that first job 2 years ago but I am starting to get a handle on the tidal wave of debt that destroyed my credit and rebuild my savings. I am in rebuilding mode and I am thankful for the opportunity to rebuild. What I make now is just enough but we are working on making changes so we will have more than enough to live, give and save.

There are surely struggles to come but I am not waiting for the hammer to drop. When roadblocks pop up, I will count them as joy for the perseverance they will help develop. I will surely weep in the night but there will be a morning. Therein lies faith, hope, expectation and freedom to feel unbridled joy.