Meaning

I condemn the brutal attack on innocent human beings in New Zealand. Those who seek a few laughs and approval from their like-minded invisible audiences on social media are empty. Their violence against those who seek meaning through their spirituality and rigorous devotion to a higher calling is horrifying, an affront to humanity, and a heartbreaking tragedy, but it does not create meaning, nor does it obviate the meaning of their victims or their lives.

Acts of violence and hatred are meaningless, and the perpetrators are the manifestation of the lowest levels of human nature. Those who strive to be more, to create meaning through devotion to spirituality, knowledge, rightness, kindness, art, family or community are the manifestations of the highest levels of human nature. It is to these human beings, they are not just victims, they have lived honorably, and it is to them and to their ideals, that I devote my attention.

Day of respect

I was trying to postpone today’s scheduled post, but accidentally set it to go. Working on blog posts on the phone is tricky. The app does the opposite of what I want half the time. Well, I’m on my computer now and have deleted that post and all the social media releases of the topic.

Today is not a day to think of dreams, for those were stolen yesterday from ten people and their families and friends. October 1, 2015 will be the day life changed and dreams were stolen for all of those people, so today, I am offering my thought and heart to them and to my fellow Americans who live under constant threat of shooting rampages and who live with the heartbreaking memories of the many, many incidences of gun violence. I’ve been near enough to it myself, in multiple ways. It is something I will be exploring in a future book.

I have processed this photo from the reflection pools at the 9/11 memorial. The will, thought, cooperation, planning, leadership, diligence, and persistence that went into making this memorial are proof that we can overcome gun violence in this country too, by applying those same qualities to this new task.

Reflecting
Reflecting

The Weather

I had a funny experience. The weather has been acting strange. Kind of on the cusp of a storm. Cooler than usual, heavily scattered clouds and wind. Now I want to know what the weather is doing, so I go to the newspaper. The newspaper stopped covering the weather!! What?! How am I going to know what the weather is doing? Well they probably figure people will go online for that. So I went online. The weather module on my Yahoo page isn’t working. I don’t have more time to research what the weather is doing. So, finally, I looked out the window.

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Patchy clouds, gusty winds. Got it.

 

The case against dreams

SONY DSCI know the topic of pursuing your dreams is supposed to be inspiring. But what about this? What about not having dreams at all?

I used to dream of winning the lottery. One time, I was invited to join a group that was trying out meditating to see if you could cause a big lottery win. I bought a ticket. Then a strange thing happened. I thought maybe this technique would work. But that’s not the strange thing. The strange thing was my reaction. I felt dread. I didn’t want to win the lottery! What if we won? I was so relieved when we didn’t win. Of course I dropped out of the group so I wouldn’t mess up their experiment. No, I don’t want to win the lottery. It would change my life too radically, too abruptly. The change is not organic.

I used to have dreams of being a famous writer. I wrote a lot. I’ve always written a lot. Then I stopped writing. A friend asked why. I said I didn’t want to be published.  What?! She said, “I don’t know what to do with that.” (She’s incredibly supportive. I just really flummoxed her with that issue!) Okay, I figured out that what that was all about was that I couldn’t handle the extra work that goes with being published on top of a high-pressure job. But I could still just, write.

Recently I had an assignment, an exercise, in which I was to write down my dreams. I couldn’t think of any! I have some goals, but no dreams.

Does that sound awful? It doesn’t feel awful. In fact, it feels great. I like to write. I like to have short term goals about getting things done and I look forward to getting my next book on an internet site near you. And I like not having any dreams about the outcome.

There will be an outcome. People will read it or they won’t. People will like  it or they won’t. Regardless, I’m going to keep writing. Writing has nothing to do with dreams.

One time I thought, what would I do if I only had one year to live? The answer was exactly what I’m doing now. Just live. Wake up, write, have some coffee, email, message, Facebook, and blog-chat with friends, have some breakfast with my hubby, more of the above, go for a walk, cook dinner… But here’s the thing. Even when I had the high-stress job I answered the question that way. I wouldn’t change anything. Even when my day looked like get up at 5, first con call at 6:30, lunch at 2, emails, status reports, deadlines, a boss…

So here’s my case against dreams. Be in your life and enjoy it. Enjoy whatever you are doing with no thought as to what will come of it. Having dreams and working toward them takes you out of the present. You just might get your dream that way. And when you do, you’ll be able to enjoy it because it will just be your life and you have plenty of practice enjoying your life.

The joy of being a beginner

I’ve been writing for a long time. I still have so much to learn, but some things are getting easier.

Author at work

I did not love being a beginner writer. I declared my major English in college during my first English class because I found it so hard to express my ideas and I wanted to be as articulate as the teacher. I sought out writing in all my jobs and ended with an 18 year career in technical writing, and though I’ve been writing and studying fiction for many years, I consider myself about 30 years old (assuming a 100 year lifetime, hopefully). I still have tons to learn (one of the things I love about writing) but am able to write and edit my stories. (A new novel is in the works!)

I’ve been taking photos for a year now. My blog made me do it! Seriously, I love shooting photos and sharing them with you and really love looking at your photos. Then I wanted to do some art and quickly grew frustrated with all the supplies and mess. Although it is fun and I want to do more.

My husband observed this frustration and mess (he took the above photo), knows I love my computer, and bought me a Wacom Bamboo. The digitizer tablet came with Corel Painting Essentials, which I love. After trying digital painting and drawing, I found myself wanting to return to paper for those things, but really enjoying the auto photo painting.

Horse at the park

I enjoy being a beginner with art.

Piano is something I spend a little time on every day.

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I’m not an absolute beginner, though. I taught myself to read music as a kid and then had lessons. I would say I’m just a tad above beginner. I’m trying to unlearn bad habits and learn the timing carefully in the songs. I find this phase a tad frustrating so I set a modest goal to be able to play 4 songs well by the end of the year. This goal allows me to enjoy the process and not turn it into work.

Since I started skiing so young and grew up on a ski slope, I’m an expert in that realm, though on the bottom level of expert. I am not into extreme skiing and have no desire to improve.

I’m completely happy with my level and skiing for me is just about the joy of nature, the freedom of movement and the satisfying feeling of working my muscles. It’s also about sharing giggles, skiing stories, and good food and grog with friends and family.

With yoga I’m a total beginner. I avoided yoga because I’m stiff and the one time I went to a class everyone was doing amazing things and moving quickly through poses. I couldn’t keep up and it hurt. I hated yoga. But last fall, after getting off a 12 hour flight with an overall stiffness to my body that wouldn’t go away, and finding myself not at all motivated to get back into my weight-lifting routine, really in a state of desperation, I went to a yoga class at my YMCA.

It was called Adaptive Yoga. I figured if the yoga was adapted to people with various physical restrictions, it should work for me! And I stumbled upon an amazing teacher. I started going to all six of her YMCA classes because I love the work (enjoy the journey), want to make progress (a general, wide-open goal), and the classes make me feel well physically and mentally (a constructive, healthy journey). The teacher shares about her yoga journey and encourages us to embrace our own yoga journey while she carefully guides us through various poses.

I enjoy thinking of myself as being at the start of a lifelong journey of working with my muscles, bones, and joints, taking care of them, and increasing my ability to do poses. It should be frustrating to be so stiff. But beginning yoga has really taught me how to pursue an art:

  • Enjoy the journey.
  • Define success as showing up and doing the practice.
  • Have very general goals like regular practice and improvement.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.

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  • Make rapid initial progress.
  • Build new neural pathways, which is  good for your brain.
  • Socialize, which is also good for your brain, not to mention your spirit.
  • Cure midlife blues by starting a new journey.

Love is like baseball… by Mary Ursettie

Note: Today’s post introduces a new category for this blog. Publication of others’ work. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did when I first read it and still do, whenever I reread it.
An interview with the fabulous author follows. 

A Baseball Fan’s Wedding Vows 

Relationships are like baseball. When you’re young, all you think about is scoring. Getting to first base, getting to second base – all the thrill and excitement are there as you play the field. But as you get older, you realize that that’s bush league stuff. The day finally arrives when you make it to the bigs. 

Life is good. You develop your talents. You’re playing well, hitting doubles, triples, and the occasional home run (!). But there comes that one day when you’re caught looking, looking at someone beautiful, and instead of a stolen base, you’ve got a stolen heart.

At some point you realize that this isn’t just a utility player that you’re hanging out with. She’s someone special, an All-Star. She’s someone who always comes through in the clutch, who’s always going to back you up; a relief pitcher that you can always count on to save the game for you. She’s a closer who’s there, night after night, the two of you making the perfect combination from start to finish.

When you find yourself on the DL or in a slump, you know that she’ll be there for you. And she doesn’t even care that sometimes you’re out in left field – heck, somebody’s gotta play left field!

It doesn’t take long before you realize that you’ve got an ace on your hands. One fateful night it comes to a run-down, and you run her down until she says “yes”. Then you give her a different kind of diamond – one that’s much smaller and will offer you more precious memories than can be found in a ballpark.

Because this is more than the love of the game; this is about the love of your life. And you make a commitment to show up for her, every day, for the rest of time (or until the Cubs win the World Series – same thing). You eagerly sign that unbreakable contract, knowing full well that together you’re going to have the kind of unforgettable winning streak that other players can only hope for.

Your goal is no longer just to score, or to best the other guys. Your goal now is to be your best self – to bring everything you’ve got to this relationship. Because in the final inning; it’s not about the show. It’s not about stats or even making it to Cooperstown.

In the end, all you ever want to do is come home, every day, to the one person you love more than anything else in the world . . . even baseball.

Written by Mary Ursettie, in honor of her son and new daughter-in-law who are huge SF Giants fans, August 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Mary Ursettie. All rights reserved.

Nia: Welcome, Mary, and thank you for sharing this inspiring marriage ceremony reading with us. I love the way it starts off funny and builds to being very touching. Kudos! I know it was a baseball-themed wedding, but did your son and daughter-in-law ask you to write something baseball-themed and if so, was that intimidating or exciting? If not, did you come up with the idea to tie your reading into the theme because you had an idea for it or did you just tell your muse to “do baseball”?

Mary: I was really touched when my son asked me to write a reading for the wedding. He didn’t mention any theme or put any guidelines on it at all. I said, of course, I would love to. My son and his wife are both such baseball fans, so my mind just started to go in that direction. They inspired me because they are both so wonderful and they just radiate love. All these baseball words came to me, scoring, home plate, and so on, and their connection to relationships just started to flow. I know something about baseball, too, having watched a lot of games, which really helped. I actually Googled a list of baseball terms to see which ones would apply and then it just poured out of me with very little editing.

It was also easy because I was so inspired by the two of them. You know when you just know that something you’ve written is good? I was so excited that I didn’t care if they liked it or not, because I’d had so much fun writing it. That experience alone was priceless. And if they wanted me to do something else, that would have been fine too. But of course, they loved it.

I wanted to start out funny because it’s a wedding, sort of as a surprise coming from the mother of the groom. And of course, laughter is such a high vibration. I wanted to end with something touching, the idea of home plate and always coming home to the one you love. I’ve never written anything that made people cry, or got such a positive response, and that was a wonderful feeling for me.

(I had to take a shot at the Cubs because my son’s dad is a Cubs fan and I couldn’t resist a family joke. Nothing like getting a laugh from the crowd!)

Nia:  Mary, your website is really beautiful. I have taken a snapshot to show our readers and tempt them to take a look.

Have a Better Day

I love this quote from your About page:

Her intent, in her coaching, classes, organizing and astrology readings, is that her clients always feel better about themselves and their future at the end of the session.

You have an abundance of testimonials, including one from me. I wrote that one a long time ago when you helped me stay happy and balanced through tremendous personal stress. Now it is a few years later and I find myself listening to some recordings from you and marveling at how dreams that I thought were impossible back then have all come true. I was able to leave my day job and pursue my dreams and I just signed my first story contract! So I know first-hand how effective your coaching is. But I am lucky to have you near me; what about people in other locations? Do you offer coaching and astrology for people remotely?

Mary: Absolutely. I have some clients that I’ve never met in person and thanks to modern technology, I can record my astrology readings on the phone and send them to people on CD.  I’ve done readings for people in other countries and around the US. It’s fun. 

Nia: You have an MBA from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and had a long career at IBM. Now you do intuitive and interpersonal types of work and I’ve experienced how accurate and helpful your insights are, especially in combination with your understanding of “office life” and business. Does your academic specialization in organizational behavior help you with your coaching work or did your natural intuitive and interpersonal gifts help you with your business career? I realize the answer is both, but would love some insights about what came first, the chicken or the egg.

In college, I really became interested in how to improve the quality of working life. It was my focus in grad school because I had been unhappy in my job after college and noticed that so many people were unhappy in their jobs also. After grad school I worked at IBM. It’s a wonderful place to work, but what you’re learning is how the organization works. IBM was a great training ground, though, and I still apply what I learned there to my coaching with clients. My experience there was invaluable.

I didn’t get into my intuitive side until I turned 40, when I went into an intuitive training program. I’d always wanted to be psychic – now I know that we all are.

I named my business Have a Better Day because if you can have a better day, every day, you have a better life.

I am constantly doing my own studying and applying my metaphysical understanding to day-to-day life. It’s so apparent to me now how my own personal alignment (or lack thereof) with my best self affects what’s going on in my life.

So here I am, years later, helping people improve their quality of life by teaching classes, coaching, astrological counseling and helping them de-clutter. It’s not something I planned – it just evolved. And in this way, I feel I can help people more than I could in an organizational setting.

Nia: That is a big transition to make, from a well-defined business career working for a large employer, to a self-employed lifestyle. That would be a scary move for a lot of people to make, but you have succeeded. Was it scary for you in the beginning and if so, how did you keep your confidence up as you embarked on this entrepreneurial path?

Mary: Starting out was challenging because I left the corporate life and started doing professional astrology readings, which got a mixed response because people don’t really know that much about astrology. It’s not a religion or a belief system – it’s a language, my second language, actually. I think of it as a permission slip to discover more of who you really are. One of the major benefits of astrology, because it deals with cycles, is that it can show you how things unfold over time. The guidance of a good astrologer can be invaluable in helping you become more aware of the variety of possibilities available to you right now so that you can choose the best possible future path and go there.
But I also was teaching workshops in personal development and intuition and things of that nature. The turning point was when I got into the Law of Attraction material, which totally clicked and made sense to me. I studied it deeply and started teaching people how to apply it to their lives. I’ve discovered I’m a born teacher.

Yes, it’s challenging to go out on your own. But if it’s what you want and it makes you feel good, you should go for it. Sure, I kept one foot in the corporate world for a while to make some money and pay the bills. I like to mix things up and hey, you have to be practical, but at the same time I kept moving forward with and evolving my business.

My world view has changed over time. As I see it, we’re all here to be fully ourselves and add value to the world by using our talents and abilities and being our best selves. We create our own reality, and what you put out you get back. It’s that simple. Life is supposed to be fun, and I believe 100 per cent that happiness is a choice. That’s what free will is all about.

Nia: Your specialties seem to have expanded from one area to the next. I went to the Professional Business Women of California conference last year where a wonderful speaker, Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, IBM Global Business Services, suggested thinking of careers not as “ladders” but as “lily-pads” especially in the “new economy.” Her point was that you are not always moving up, sometimes you are moving sideways and just responding with a big “Yes” to new opportunities that excite you instead of the old-school way of climbing up a ladder, one rung after another, first-line manager, then second-line manager, and so on. When I look at the growth of your career, you seemed to have done just that, first jumped onto a new lily-pad and then moved along following the things that excited you, like, now, organizing people’s houses and adding it to your other services. Do you have any advice for people wanting to change careers in midlife to do something for a living that more closely aligns with their passions? Particularly, in the area of how to keep the faith when the path ahead is not clear?

Mary: I like the lily pad analogy. Ladders are narrow and the steps are sequential. But the real world is organic and fluid. Your feelings are your truest guide. If you look at the path of a river, it’s never a straight line, it meanders and curves and turns back on itself… it’s beautiful. We apply a lot of industrial rules and artificial schedules to our lives and it’s not natural.

The biggest impediment for people who want to change careers is they often care too much about what other people think. So if you can ignore other people’s opinions about age, time, abilities, resources, and instead stay in your own world, caring more about what you think than about what other people think, then you can find your joy and create your own definition of success.

Thank you, Mary!

Thanks, Nia. This has been delightful. You’re a good interviewer!