Remember the Dream Again

A year ago, I wrote about Martin Luther King and what a hero he was, not only to black people but to all of us. I am re-posting this again this weekend, because it is more important now than ever. Americans have spent a year feel assaulted by the bully we have in the White House. We already know that Trump is sexist and racist, but his horrible comments this week about not wanting people from s*** hole countries is disgusting. I feel ashamed to be American, and I can only imagine what Martin Luther King would have thought. I hope that we all find the courage to start marching in protest against all the dismantling that has been done already, from our environment to foreign policy.  It is ironic that these comments were made on the eve of MLK Day, given that this day honors a man who stood up for the poor and the oppressed and who understood the power of language to unite or to tear down.  He cared about justice and building a better world for everyone, not about making more money at others’ expense. In honor of Martin Luther King, here is the post I wrote exactly one year ago, celebrating one of my heroes. May we all remember that freedom is not something we can take for granted, and we must fight for it every day.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and none of it was planned.  The night before, King asked his aides for advice about the speech, as to whether he should use the “I Have a Dream” line, which he had used a few times before.  His advisor, Wyatt Walker, said, “It’s trite, it’s cliche.  You’ve used it too many times already.” The next day, King did not plan to use it.  He wanted something as powerful as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but just couldn’t seem to nail it.  When he reached the podium, it was almost 90 degrees and the crowd of 250,000 people had been standing in the heat for hours.  King was 16th on the program, almost at the very end.  As Norman Mailer wrote, “there was… an air of subtle depression, of wistful apathy which existed in many. One felt a little of the muted disappointment which attacks a crowd in the seventh inning of a very important baseball game when the score has gone 11-3.” King delivered a rather staid address, reading from his notes, but it clearly wasn’t as passionate as other speeches he had given in the past.  As he neared the end, Mahalia Jackson, who was behind him, having sung earlier, cried out: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King paused, put down his notes and decided to preach like the Baptist minister he was, and the rest is history:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… I have a dream that…one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” (The Guardian: Aug 9, 2013.)

Over 50 years later, some of the dream has come to fruition, like having a black president in the White House the past eight years, but racial tensions continue, with white cops killing innocent blacks and blacks retaliating.  Most recently in the news, there was a very sad and disturbing story of four angry black teens kidnapping and torturing a disabled white teen to seek revenge on all white people.  The ordeal was videotaped by the teens and posted to social media because I guess getting noticed for their hatred was far more important than not getting caught.  Still, it makes me so sad and angry that all these years after the Civil Rights Movement, there continues to be more racial hatred and violence.  Dr. King would be so disheartened to see this, and yet I’m sure he wouldn’t be surprised.  Racism is taught at home and anti-racism has to be taught as well.  Children don’t just grow up knowing the importance of not judging by the color of one’s skin. It has to be taught.  Children aren’t born racist.  Babies love all colors; they love people who play with them.  It is adults who teach them to be mean and judgmental and afraid of people not like them.  And we should be ashamed.

My family is fortunate in that we can afford to live in a town that is very racially and religiously diverse, with 30% Jews and many Asians and African Americans.  My son’s classroom last year was 50% non white, his teacher was Indian-American and his aide was African-American.  The year before, his teacher was Costa Rican. My daughter’s school is an international school with 75 countries represented. At her birthday party, half of all the girls spoke another language as their first language.  My husband’s best friend is Japanese, and our kids have grown up thinking that “Crazy Uncle Dave” is somehow blood related, even though we are pale white people.   My kids know that discriminating against people because of the color of their skin is like choosing friends because of the color of their tennis shoes– it’s pretty random and unfair. But not all parents teach this.  Some white children are taught to hate and fear blacks and visa versa, and that’s sad, because the cycle will never end until all of us learn and teach the right thing.

As you begin this new year, committed to finding and living your world stage, remember the brave preacher that one hot August day, who had a dream that someday black children would be equal to white.  This is also a man who took a chance, against the advice of his aides, and put his speech down, knowing he had no other words to read from, and followed his heart in order to inspire a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people looking for direction and hope.  Remember to ask yourself how you are helping Martin Luther King’s dream to live on in the way you live your life.  And ask yourself what your “I Have A Dream” speech is, and what would happen if just once, you lay down your notes and spoke from your heart.  You might just make history too.

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Hope Is Alive

This morning I woke up to the news that one of the largest tax cuts in American history was passed, during the night while Americans slept. The cuts will fill the pockets of corporations and the wealthiest 1% to please the donors who will contribute generously to future campaigns. We no longer have a government by the people and for the people, and it is very scary. The timing seems perfect because Americans are in fact asleep at the wheel of democracy. We have become consumers and not citizens. A large percentage of Americans actually get their news from Facebook, much of which we have now learned is in fact fake. We voted in a reality star for president, because we were more mesmerized by the size of his bank account than by the content of his character. We got the democracy we deserve.

My son is studying the American Revolution and trying to understand why a ragtag group of colonists, with not enough money or training, could overcome the massive British Army. There are a lot of reasons, including learning a form of guerrilla warfare that the Indians had taught George Washington in the French Indian War. But the main reason, I believe, is that colonists had a lot to lose; they had a why. They were not asleep.  They were not wasting time doing the colonial equivalent of watching the Kardashians.  They didn’t believe in taxation without representation and realized that they were going to have to fight to gain their freedom.

Today we think that freedom is our God-given right, but it’s not. We have to fight for it every day, given that it is eroding as we speak. But we also have to reconnect with that sense of purpose that the early colonists felt. We have to find our WHY, because without it, we won’t have the energy over the long haul, for all the lost battles that can still add up to an ultimate win if we are patient and persistent.

The same, of course, applies to our lives. We have this idea that things should come easily and if they don’t, they aren’t meant to happen. (I blame design shows that renovate a house in 45 minutes.) As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And doing anything that matters doesn’t happen in a day or a week or a month or even in a year necessarily. It takes a lot of years of hard work to be a surgeon or a concert pianist or a great teacher. It takes daily grit and patience and humor to raise kids and/or to start and grow a business. It’s a leap of faith for so many things that matter, since in the end there are no guarantees.

In spite of the bad news, however, it was a great day, because I helped out with my son’s school’s Model UN conference, in which 600 students from all over greater Boston took a day out of their busy lives, shut off their phones and computers, and took on the biggest issues the world faces, from poverty to women’s rights to nuclear weapons. My son represented Turkey in nuclear arms issues, and others represented countries ranging from the US and UK to Myanmar and Nigeria. I heard conversations about water rights and hunger and disarmament. I took pictures and was impressed how serious all the students were, ranging in age from 11-14, dressed in their business suits and negotiating resolutions. I couldn’t put my finger on what made me so happy today, and then I realized what it was. I felt hopeful for the world and for our country.  600 students, representing the next generation, made fighting for human rights and democracy their number one priority today.

As you seek your world stage, whatever country your passport comes from, don’t forget that anything that matters is worth working hard and fighting hard for. Remember your WHY for whatever you’re doing. If it’s not strong enough, think about what will inspire you to go after what matters to you. If a group of scruffy colonists could defeat the greatest power the world had ever known, we have a model for how to do it again, whether to defend our democracy or our dreams.

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Watch the Road

I recently read about a mom in Oklahoma who was driving six kids home from a water park last summer on the way to a soccer game. It was hot and she was probably tired, and with six kids in the car, ranging in age from 7-13, three of whom were hers and three of whom were her kids’ friends, I’m sure she was distracted. But something happened around 3:20pm on Monday July 17 coming back from Tulsa, and instead of slowing down to stop behind a semi-truck that was parked in front of her, she plowed into the back of it at full speed, killing herself and two kids– her son and one of his friends– instantly. The other four kids were air lifted out, but one of the 13 year-old girls, a friend of her older daughter’s, was taken off life support two days later. The other two 13 year-olds are still battling all sorts of injuries in the hospital two months later, one on a breathing tube relearning how to move and the other in a full body cast. The only child who escaped with no injuries, was the mom’s 7 year-old daughter, who was most likely in a booster seat. The boys, however, had no seat belts on, and no one is sure if the girls were belted. It is frankly amazing that anyone survived, given that the SUV drove at full speed into the back of a semi, and just folded in on itself like a giant accordion.

I keep thinking about this accident because so often my kids are being driven by other people and I have to assume that they will keep their eyes on the road and not text and not be distracted. I can’t imagine the family getting the call that their son was killed and two daughters fighting for their lives, and then realizing that one wasn’t going to make it. Pulling the plug on their 13 year-old is not what this family had planned. The mom who killed three other people, including her son, and severely injured two more, including one of her daughters, can’t be held accountable since she’s dead, but it’s clear from the traffic report that she was “unlawfully distracted.” I don’t know if that means she was texting, but the fact that she didn’t notice the truck was parked in front of her and was barreling at a high speed without any attempt to break (no skid marks), means most likely that she was looking down at her phone. Maybe an important text came in and she figured she knew this stretch of road like the back of her hand. She might have been running late, wanting to notify the coach of their whereabouts, apologizing for keeping the team waiting as she hauled an SUV filled with star soccer players. She might have turned around to ask the boys to stop throwing the nerf ball in the back, or to answer a quick question, or to quickly glance at her daughters’ phone at a cute picture, since we know the daughter was in the front with her feet propped up against the dash– the least safe way to travel.

What’s curious to me is that everyone is saying what a great mom this woman was, not mentioning the fact that her carelessness killed all these people. But for a lot of people, a great mom is someone who thinks nothing of driving a car full of kids to the water park, and then rushes back to a soccer game, organizing things on the phone along the way to make sure everything works perfectly, until it doesn’t. After the crash, the soccer coaches focused on what great athletes these kids were, and then added as an after thought that they were great kids. But I wonder if the hyper-competitive soccer atmosphere was part of the dynamic that made this woman forget that her most important job at 3:20 on that Monday was to the keep those kids safe. I’m also curious what will happen in the aftermath. Yes, there are Go Fund Me pages for both families. I do wonder if the other family will sue for wrongful death. But then, who do you sue? The surviving husband? Some commentators were blaming the state for constant construction and unsafe roads, but that’s true everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say in this case, the problem was a tired, distracted mom who took her eyes off the road for too long and no one in that town will ever be the same.

To find your world stage, remember where you are on the road of life.  Don’t lose sight of the path or closer your eyes to obstacles. It’s okay to slow down or even temporarily stop, but if you go barreling ahead with no attention to what is around you, it could really cost you. And beyond the metaphor, remember to never mix texting and driving since it’s more dangerous than drunk driving. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes on the road, because in an instant everything could change.

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Live Like It’s Always Summer

I’m always sad when summer winds down at the end of August because it’s my favorite season. Even though we technically have the first three weeks of September until the season ends, the back-to-school rush tends to erase the last vestiges of summer. This afternoon we arrived home from the last of summer vacation, having spent a week in New Hampshire and Maine visiting family, and my daughter starts back at school on Monday, with my son’s school following close behind. I’m realizing that I feel the way I feel after returning from a long trip: grateful to be home and missing being away. And like summer, I am always grateful to be embracing a start of a new school year with all the excitement and opportunities it provides, but am already missing the slower pace, the buckets of blueberries and candy-like tomatoes, the fresh lake water and lazy days looking up at clouds.

This year, I’m going to try to live in fall, winter and spring as though it’s summer. I don’t mean wearing shorts in the dead of winter, but instead trying to keep up the more easy-going pace, spending more time outside in nature, and trying to stress less and live more in the present. I plan to take lots of pictures of fall foliage and enjoy apple picking and hay rides and Halloween, and for winter, I want to make more snowmen (women!) and make yummy soups and try cross country skiing, and for spring, I want to plant a garden early that we can enjoy all summer and spend time outside noticing all the colors that are emerging. It’s easy to forget the treasures awaiting us outside when we have a work deadline or a child home sick from school, but that’s in fact when we have to remind ourselves to notice more. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Every year we take our kids to Walden Pond to see where he lived and what he saw, and being in the woods always makes me feel more present.

For those of you are not current clients and still want a chance to get a free 50 minute coaching session, you can still respond to the previous August quizzes, or you can comment on this post with the answers to these questions. (Click on the title of a blog post to comment on that post.)

  1. What is your favorite season and what do you do to really enjoy it?
  2. How will you plan to live your favorite season all year long?
  3. What will you do to make fall this year more relaxed and present?
  4. What is your big goal that you’ve been putting off that would make you so happy to achieve?

To find your world stage, find a way to live the pace and joy of summer all year round. Being calm and present and filled with wonder will make you happier and will allow you to stand out from a world that is often not at peace. And the world so needs people who are happy and at peace.

(The picture above is of me from a few years ago at my daughter’s camp, just celebrating being alive and enjoying summer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do What Matters (Part 2)

The decision I made in 2013, in response to feeling stuck and dealing with unremitting eye pain, was what really changed my life: I was no longer going to listen to others’ voices and instead listen to my own. I started taking risks and caring a lot less about what other people thought:

•I went back to school to get certified as a coach so that I could coach outside the context of voice lessons.
•I started my business called World Stage Coaching, helping women to find their voice and claim their world stage.
•My husband and I pulled our two children out of school for six months while we traveled through Asia and Oceania. My husband did academic research, while I planned and coordinated the trip (including 16 flights!) and home-schooled our kids. I was also able to coach clients while traveling.
•I released my second CD, a jazz recording.

It wasn’t until I took the Live Your Legend Start a Blog Challenge that I began writing consistently and re-found my voice. I had been blogging in my mind long before I started actual blogging, but everything changed when I committed to getting my writing out of my head and into the world.

I started a blog called Your World Stage as an adjunct to my coaching business, World Stage Coaching (www.worldstagecoaching.com), which helps women who are stuck and playing small claim their world stage. When I started writing, I realized I had lost a lot of confidence from listening to the outside world’s voices, but that writing could help me to figure out what I felt and believed.

Here are the 4 Top Ways to Begin to Do Something that Matters, which aligns with the four pillars of Live Your Legend.

BECOME A SELF-EXPERT: I became a detective (figuratively). I looked back at old journals and photo albums to remind myself what I loved and the kind of people whom I needed to surround myself with. I also started recording my dreams to figure out what I was feeling and needing on an unconscious level. Throughout my life, creating and performing music has fed my soul, and yet I realized that in the busyness of my life, I was doing less and less creating. I realized how passionate I was about coaching and how much I loved to write, and that I knew how to rediscover my voice because I had been teaching that to others for years.

DO YOUR IMPOSSIBLE: I reconnected to my greatest joys. I began by committing to traveling more, since I feel most happy and like myself when I’m exploring new places. My husband, who grew up all over the world, and I both realized how important this was for our family. We had traveled a lot before we were parents, but we weren’t sure how traveling would work with kids. We did spend a summer in Japan when the kids were babies, and took them to England and France when they were 7 and 5, but that didn’t feel like enough. Our experience traveling through and living in Hawaii, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Japan for six months was transformational because we got to teach our children how to be world citizens and break free of constraints we had taken on back home. I also returned to songwriting and started singing more. I recorded a second CD—nine years after my first had been released. I went to coaching school to get certified in coaching, since I loved it and had been doing it for 20 years as a natural outgrowth of my vocal coaching business. I started listening to new music, taking long walks through nature, and doing photography.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PASSIONATE PEOPLE: I looked for a new, positive tribe to support and inspire me, and I learned to say NO a lot. I made notes about the people in my life who made me feel excited and joyful, and noticed who drained me. I made a list of the types of people I wanted to attract as friends, colleagues and clients. I noticed when those types of people showed up and I took the initiative to get to know them. I had felt drained and overscheduled and I realized that if I didn’t get a clear sense of what I wanted to do, other people would decide that for me. I had been trying to be all things to all people and was definitely addicted to pleasing. I started keeping track of how many times I could say “no” to something I didn’t want to do, so that I would have the time and space to say “YES” to me. I realized that the more I said “no” to people and activities that I didn’t want, the more space I was creating for something better.

DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS: I started blogging and got my writing out into the world. I also committed to growing my business, which helps women who feel lost and disempowered to find their confidence again and re-connnect with their greatest joys. I am committed to helping women find their voice, when they’ve lost it, and claim the world stage that is waiting there for them.

I have come to know who I am and what matters to me and I am doing things that I didn’t think were possible. I do things that scare me, like learning to build a business and getting my voice out into the world, and I am constantly challenging myself to do more. I’m also consciously surrounding myself with people who make me feel alive. Finally, I am asking myself every day how I can make a difference in the lives of my family, my friends, my clients, my audiences, and in the greater world. When a client goes from playing small to living big, I realize that there is now one more person who has found her voice and is sharing her talents with the world.

(For original blog post, go to http://liveyourlegend.net/blog/)

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Do What Matters (Part 1)

Ever since I was little, I needed to be heard.

I started singing before I even talked, and I was a loud child and rather bossy. I was the child who organized the other neighborhood kids to put on a play. I was the lead in the plays and beat out the boys for student body president and head percussionist. I had the freedom to be who I was.

Until I didn’t.

Then I went through puberty and all of sudden other people decided who I was supposed to be. I needed to be attractive and please others; I was supposed to be high achieving but not make others feel bad about my achievement. And even though I was a performer (I wrote songs and sang them) and had a literal voice, I had no clue what my real voice was.

Throughout my childhood, I was always a strong student, and spent years striving for perfection and high achievement. I learned to follow the crowd, to please, to fit in. I was high school valedictorian, won a lot of awards, and got into Yale University where I planned to take the place by storm.

It never occurred to me that I would have to swim as hard as I could at Yale just to be average and tread water.

I learned that it was going to be a lot harder to stand out in that crowd. I had no idea who I was. The pressure to be outstanding got to be too much. I dropped out my junior year to take time off time to regroup and had to actually interview to get back into Yale the following year. That was humiliating, but I was determined to get through college and graduate.

After I returned, I auditioned for the Whiffenpoofs, a famous and privileged all-male chorus, to make the point that women weren’t being treated equally. I experimented artistically in theatre and music. I started listening to my own voice, but I still kept comparing myself negatively to others.

I learned that I needed to find different metrics to be happy. I was tired of succeeding on others’ terms.

I graduated and became a cliche by moving to New York City to become a singer/songwriter. I worked at a law firm during the day and sung at night. It was even harder to stand out as a performer in the Big Apple. So many of my Yale friends were making tons of money in finance or going to law or medical school. Being a legal assistant by day and a starving artist by night was not exactly impressive.

It was hard and lonely, but it made me feel alive.

Then I fell in love with a guy who was different than anyone I had ever known. He was like a sexy nerd, an intellectual who loved my music and really heard me. My parents were thrilled that he was smart and responsible, but my friends thought that I was selling out by no longer dating artistic men. I married him because I felt safe enough to finally be myself.

After we were married, I started teaching voice lessons to supplement my performing income. I originally thought of teaching voice as a day job to make money. But soon, more and more of my mostly female students started wanting to talk to me about their lives in the context of voice lessons. At first I was surprised; talking seemed unrelated to voice lessons, until I realized that my ad hoc coaching was improving their singing voice and helping these students to get clarity about their lives.

Soon people were coming to me to help them find their voice in a literal and figurative way. I loved the work and was surprised that I had accidentally found what I was passionate about.

We bought a house and had two children and I continued working as a musician and vocal and life coach. And yet, somewhere along the way, after I had kids, I lost myself.

So many people were dictating what I should do and how I should do it, that I lost that strong voice reminding me of who I am and what matters to me. I felt like I was back in junior high, trying to fit in and please others. The more stuck I got, the more I lost contact with my true self.

I tried to deny this was happening. I poured myself into parenting and convinced myself that supporting my husband’s international academic career was more important than remembering what I needed and listening to my voice. With the economic collapse, I lost a core group of students, and others moved on. I started volunteering more and being the perfect wife and mom and forgetting what mattered to me beyond my family. We moved and spent two years renovating. And then I developed crippling eye pain from all the stress, as well as other health issues.

I felt lost and feared that I would never find my voice again.

And then…I made a decision that changed my life and started to turn it all around.

Four years later, I am a different person as a result of that one decision.

Stay tuned next week for that one decision that changed everything…

(see http://liveyourlegend.net/blog/ for original guest blog post)

(see http://www.worldstagecoaching.com for my website)

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Be Legendary

A little over a year ago, I discovered an organization called Live Your Legend that really impacted me in two major ways:  1) I got clear on the work I wanted to do in the world, which is coaching, writing and music and 2) I started writing this weekly blog, which until last year only existed in my head.  Live Your Legend was started by Scott Dinsmore, a young, charismatic entrepreneur who quit his boring day job to find something that mattered to him, which was helping people from all over the world find work that filled them up and contributed to others.  In September 2015, after completing 8 months of a year-long travel odyssey with his wife Chelsea, Scott died while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, due to a rock slide.  His wife, Chelsea, bravely took over the organization while she was grieving and figuring out next steps.  Their story is told beautifully in a video at http://www.liveyourlegend.net.

It’s easy to forget in our busy day-to-day lives that we don’t get to live forever, and that the time to create a life we love is now.  It takes courage, however, to go against the standard belief that work is a chore and that you work hard so you can spend hard, in an endless loop of drudgery and obligation.  Ultimately, we need to go against society to do the hard but important task of creating work we love.  This is really the work of heroes, because it takes so much courage to live outside the norm. Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey in his books, outlining what the great heroes have in common:  starting with the ordinary world, feeling the call for adventure, first refusing the call, then talking with a mentor, then crossing the threshold into new terrain, then being tested until many challenges later, returning changed.  We may not think about ourselves as heroes, but deciding not to go to law school even though everyone does in your family, or quitting your soul killing job, is brave. Starting your own business when you don’t know what you’re doing and need to make money takes a lot of courage, as well as a raising kids who are fearless and kind, in a world that instills fear and encourages meanness.

We typically think of people who are legendary as famous stars, such as legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald.  And legends are often thought of as mythical stories, like the Odyssey.  But legends exists in real life and beyond the famous.  The idea of living your legend is to live that dream story that you want to create for your life, that is so amazing that it feels almost mythical.  Live Your Legend believes that there are 4 pillars to finding work you love:  1) Know yourself 2) Do the Impossible 3) Surround Yourself With Passionate People and 4) Do Something That Matters: Lead, Serve, Give.  We can start right now, wherever we are, to take the time to figure out what we love, to start taking small creative risks, to find like-minded joyful friends, and to do what matters every day.  We don’t have to wait until we’ve returned from the hero’s journey to create work (or lives) that we love, because the journey is in fact our life.

To find your world stage, remember the fearless leader, Scott Dinsmore, and his courageous wife, Chelsea, and the impact they made and are making at Live Your Legend.  Ask your friends and family to answer the question, “What is Your World Stage?” Check out my coaching website at http://www.worldstagecoaching.com, helping women find their voice and claim their world stage.  Remember, it’s not too late to create a life and work you love.  There is always something you can do today as well that will make a difference in someone else’s life, just as Chelsea Dinsmore did in this wonderful picture, helping a woman across the street in the pouring rain. Every time I see this picture, I smile, and I know you will as well.

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Stand Up For You

When my daughter was a toddler, I took her to a Mommy and Me music class in which the children regularly had to pick up little instruments from a bin in the middle of the circle. For most kids, this was not a problem. Not for my daughter. She was shy and tended to hang back, the kind of kid who clung to me at birthday parties until the end. Every week, after my daughter hung back, she would finally sheepishly wander toward the middle to get her instrument and some other kid, who already had a tambourine, would grab it from her.  So I taught her each week to grab back and defend herself.  Every time, however, the teacher would come over and remind me in a very condescending tone: “In Mommy and Me Music we need to learn to SHARE.” I told her, “My daughter doesn’t need to learn to share. She needs to learn to stand up for herself.”  The teacher just rolled her eyes, since I was clearly a pushy, entitled parent who didn’t understand the idea that all of us need to learn to be generous.  And yet, do we?

In a culture in which self-help advice is everywhere, it’s easy to think that all self-help advice applies to you, so then you feel bad about yourself if you’re not exercising more, even though you’re at the gym six days per week, or you’re not saving enough money, even though you have a healthy 401K and need to spend a little.  We can feel almost brow-beaten by the cultural admonishments, many of which may not apply to us. Giving to charity?  We have been giving generously for years. Recycling? I grew up in the seventies and was recycling before it was “in” and long before it was mandated. Marching for causes? Check. The fact is, if we made a list of everything we were supposed to do and be to lead fabulous, fit, fiscally-sound lives, we wouldn’t have any time just to enjoy our lives.

One of my goals for this year is actually to be more selfish.  I know that sounds almost shocking, since so many people in our culture focus a lot on themselves already.  But as a person recovering from the “Disease to Please,” I need to learn to focus more on myself. I’m also working on being less organized, because I have a tendency to want to organize reunions and get-togethers, which I’m good at but don’t particularly enjoy. I’m also trying not to rely so much on a ‘to do’ list, since it allows me to be more spontaneous, and I’m remembering to have more fun, which sounds really pathetic, except it turns out that it’s quite common for busy, stressed people to forget to schedule in fun.  I did make valentines with my kids, went to a basketball game and had a Super Bowl party last month, and we love to watch the show “Modern Family” (thanks Joel for turning us onto it!), but the daily grind of house maintenance and kid shuttling sometimes gets in the way of that.

To find your world stage, remember not to listen to the world’s voices telling you what you should do or how you should change.  Sometimes it’s best not to exercise or to share or to save.  Sometimes being messy or unresponsive to emails or selfish is good.  Because if you find that you have hung back in the music class of life, when the instruments have already been taken,  you will need to step up and grab one before it’s too late, so that you can make your own music.

 

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Now Is The Time

We have this idea that there is a perfect time to do everything and that the key to doing the things we want to do in life is to wait for that perfect time when all the stars are aligned and then everything will be wonderful.  I thought that way for a long time about having kids.  I knew I wanted children, but after spending a lot of time with friends who had kids and were exhausted and their marriages frayed, I kept putting off having kids, thinking something would magically happen and I would be ready.  In fact, what happened was that I turned 36 and thought, “If we don’t jump in now, we’re going to miss our window.”  I’m so glad we did take the leap because we have two amazing kids. I was scared jumping into something so permanent, but I knew that it was now or never and I chose now.  But how many people feel that sense of urgency with their other dreams?  How many of us wake up and decide that we have to act now or it’s never going to happen?  The fact is, there will always be some impediment: maybe you don’t have enough money, or your boyfriend just dumped you, or your child is going through teething, or you just moved, or you have health issues, or your family doesn’t approve, or you don’t know what you’re doing.

What I’ve come to realize is that there is literally no perfect time, and most times are very imperfect as a choice.  Right now my daughter has a broken finger that is not healing, my son has the flu, my husband is overwhelmed by work and badly needs a haircut, and I have a sore throat and feel guilty I’m not spending time with my sick child (who just wants to be on his iPad anyway because he feels so lousy.) But my dream is to get my writing and coaching out more fully into the world, as well as relaunch my performing career. I have some important deadlines, so I am at my desk working.  Have I washed my hair?  No.  Have I been to church much in the past few months?  Um nope.  Are dinners starting to look strange again, because they consist of odds and sods from the fridge?  Yes.  But I feel alive in a way that I would not have if I hadn’t insisted that NOW is the time to commit 1,000% to work that matters to me, even if I drop some balls. Now is not the time to rearrange my spices or spends hours on Facebook or offer to volunteer for something.  Just as going to Target is, what my husband calls, “death by 1,000 paper cuts,” since all those cheap items add up to A LOT at the register, all of the little things we do on our “to do” lists add up to a whole lot of nothing unless we’re careful.

It helps me to remember that Mozart wrote beautiful music while mostly broke, and he didn’t wait to get all of his finances in order to compose.  Beethoven wrote while deaf, and he didn’t wait for a cure to get going.  He sawed the legs off his piano to hear the floor vibrations.  Louisa May Alcott didn’t wait until she recovered from mercury poisoning or had found a suitable husband in order to write.  Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t wait until she was pretty or had others’ approval before she became one of the greatest stateswomen of our time. And, great artists ranging from Alvin Ailey to Jackson Pollack to Nina Simone to Frank Sinatra all had bi-polar disorder. But they did their art anyway and the world benefitted from their genius.  Instead of hiding, they did what Carrie Fisher advised: “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”

The fact is, someday when we die, are people going to comment on how organized your desk was or how detailed your packing lists were?  Or, are they going to remember that your face lit up when you saw your kids and that you took that trip to travel the world and that you started that business and wrote that book and got back onstage and sang? To find your world stage, remember that the time is now, even though nothing is ever perfect about right now.  Grab this moment anyway, in all of its messy imperfection, and don’t let go.  This is your chance to make your mark.  Now go do it.

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Not As They Seem

Earlier this week, I attended a lovely panel discussion at my daughter’s school.  We sat at tables with linen cloths while tiny plates of interesting food were served.  The topic was on healthy eating, sustainability, and mindfulness.  All three panelists were parents at the British School of Boston, including a chef, a mindfulness coach/executive, and a model.  The model, however, was not just any model.  She was Gisele Bundchen, the world famous super model, married to Tom Brady.  She was on stage maybe fifteen feet in front of me talking excitedly to this relatively small gathering of sixty parents and teachers, and she was talking in a warm, animated way that I believe never would have happened if People Magazine had been there, vying for another alluring shot of her.  Instead, we were instructed not to take pictures or videos.  As a result, she spoke to the group as though she were just like any mom, even though she has a staff, including a well-known chef who prepares all of their organic, healthy meals.  She spoke about teaching her children the importance of giving; both of her children asked their friends to give to charity this year in lieu of presents, just as my kids did.  Given that they could afford to buy everything in a toy store for their kids, this was particularly touching.  She talked about watching the sunrise with her 7 year-old many mornings, and teaching her kids to be grateful.  She was warm and funny and real, not to mention beautiful inside and out.  And she was nothing like the media has portrayed her– as aloof, self-focused, superficial.  It was such a great affirmation that so much of what drives the fame machine is not the celebrity, but the publicists and the trashy magazines.

Today as I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Target, I realized the whole Bruins hockey team was in the toy section with me buying toys for underprivileged kids.  At first I just thought it was a few guys dressed up in Bruins jerseys, but once I saw about 20 of them and realized that they looked big and muscular, I figured they were the real team. I am not someone who plays hockey and I have only been to one pro hockey game in my life– the New York Rangers on a double date, which was not the most romantic setting because of all the drunken guys surrounding us shouting. Even though two of my nephews play hockey, as well as their parents, I always figured that hockey players were rough and tough and not that smart.  But as I was moving through the toy section, I overheard two of the Bruins players discussing what to get for two little girls they were trying to buy for.  One was asking the other, “Do you know where the princess shoes and the pink nail polish is?”  It was the sweetest thing seeing these big athletic men who were completely absorbed in finding something special for a few little girls in need.  As I made my way to the games section, a player named Domenic Moore was selecting toys while cameras were filming him.  The helpers from Target were trying to suggest games and he kept asking, “But are they educational?  I want to make sure they are learning something.”  So I interjected, “I would go with Scattergories, since it’s a game that makes you think. My teen and preteen love it.”  He wanted to know how old my kids were and how smart.  I said, “Smart!”  He smiled a big smile.  I added, “So you play hockey?”  He smiled and said yes, even though it was probably obvious to everyone else in the store.  “And you’re on the Bruins.”  “Yes,” he answered smiling again.  “Sorry I’m not that into hockey. I’m more into the arts.”  “That’s ok, he said.” And that was it.  Because of one pro hockey team buying toys for needy kids, all of whom were polite and dedicated to the task of helping kids, I became a hockey fan too, and have decided that the players are lovely and smart.  (Dominic actually went to Harvard.)

I’ve now encountered two famous people in one week.  My daughter couldn’t get enough hearing about Gisele, and my son was so excited to hear about the Bruins, even though he is not a hockey player, since sports are still just something he knows and cares about.  I learned that things are not as they seem, that famous people can be warm and lovely and accessible, but that the fame machine has changed our perception of them so often.  I also learned that it’s disarming to famous people not to be fawned over.  I’ll never forget when my grandfather met my sister’s college roommate, Jodie Foster, at Yale graduation.  He had no idea that she was a famous actress at the time, so he said, “And who might you be?” when she hadn’t introduced herself.  She was very pleased to say, “I’m Jodie.  Jodie Foster.  I’m an actress.” I’m guessing for Gisele, it was a relief to be surrounded by a mostly international crowd, many of whom don’t follow her husband’s football career and don’t care much about modeling.  She could just be a mom and a health nut and talk to us as though she was sharing with a girlfriend.  Likewise, for Dominic, I’m sure he appreciated that I was just helping him find a board game, and that I was not that into hockey.  It’s always charming to be fearless and just be yourself.

To find your world stage, remember that the goal isn’t fame, because the fame machine of publicists and crazy fans and toxic press and paparazzi, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  The goal is to use your gifts to make the world a better place, whether it’s acting, playing hockey, modeling and now advocating for the environment and children, or anything else. Things are not always as they seem, and it’s a gift when you get to peer behind the curtain to see the real thing.

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