Silver Linings Blog Relaunch

IMG_0258It has been almost 3 years since my last Silver Linings post, which ended a 4 year run that included approximately 400 blogs.  It’s time to relaunch the blog since we need it now more than ever.

The blog was created in November 2012 as I was beginning my exploration of creating a good life through intentional practices and the science of wellbeing, ie, positive psychology after my 20 year marriage ended. I was so surprised back then to discover this field after spending a lifetime experiencing challenges and struggling to create a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

The blog was really a way to translate my reflection into learning and sharing.  Those lessons were hard-earned, often involving sleepless nights, many tears, and sometimes at the expense of relationships, my personal self-esteem, or even the self-esteem of others.  I don’t regret having to learn any of those lessons.  We all have to learn them sometime, somewhere.  What I regret are the lessons I failed to learn at the time and the people I hurt despite my good intentions.

What has transpired since my last blog has been an incredible, wonderful, yet tragic span of my life.  About that time, I had just started a job at the University of Georgia supporting faculty success and wellbeing using all the precious life lessons and training I had cultivated over the many previous years.  I felt I was doing the work I was meant to do, and sharing my lessons so that individuals and the organization as a whole could benefit from every tear I shed and heartbreak I endured.  But it was not meant to last because I lost my beloved sister, Sabina, and husband, Christopher, to cancer in 2018, just 7 months apart.

What followed was another crash course in survival, perspective-finding, transformation, and inspiration that led me to eventually quit my job and start a new nonprofit called the Foundation for Family and Community Healing.  Because relationships have been so important to Sabina, Chris, and me, combined with what feels like a crisis in our ability to hold our families and communities together in a healthy way, the focus of FFCH is on helping others to learn to create healthy and rewarding relationships with themselves and others.

Also, as I sat with the forest in my backyard, day after day, holding vigil for my sick husband or my own grief, I realized that it is not just our relationships with ourselves and each other that are in crisis, but also our relationship with Earth.  Thus, FFCH is also helping all of us to restore our healthy and balanced relationship with Earth, not just on the physical level, but also emotionally and spiritually.

We are leading a social media campaign to discuss this more emotional and spiritual side of our relationship with Earth and asking people to become more aware and intentional about their relationship practices and habits with Earth and our natural world.  Please join us as we explore humanity’s opportunity to heal this relationship and provide support for Earth as she heals, as a novel (and also ancient) climate change solution.

I am relaunching the Silver Linings blog here as well because I am in a place of acute transformation and generativity that is above and beyond where I left you in October 2016.  Just as I shared my journey, reflections, and lessons with you after my divorce during the first phase of the Silver Lining’s blog, I wish to again include you in this new phase which is so full of inspiration and hope, despite my personally tragic year 2018, since to do otherwise would feel irresponsible and selfish on my part.

I invite you to join me, anew if you were a previous reader, as I continue to learn and reflect upon the many lessons of hope, transformation, mortality, connection, spirit, our natural world, our relationships, and our purpose.

Despite much effort and attention in the self-help world, I continue to hear that people do not have time to consider such subjects.  They are busy with their goals and responsibilities, many of which are absolutely real and often important, if not critical.  However, I also encourage you to take a step back and look at your life from the 30,000 foot view, and ask yourself what really matters right now given the challenges we are facing as communities, families, and individually? When will you prioritize your own, your family’s, or your community’s wellbeing and peace of mind?  Are all the things on your list really more important than that?

At some point we have to put our proverbial feet down and refuse to continue to buy into the notion that all of our ‘shoulds’, ‘have tos’, and ‘musts’ are real, and to instead, consider and commit to those things that really matter.  Peace.  Hope. Compassion.  Kindness. Connection.  Care. Love.  Is your entire list of priorities really more important than cultivating these things in your life, family, community, and world?

If the answer is No, be bold, get a big, fat Sharpie, and cross things off your To Do list, remove yourself from obligations that no longer hold meaning and purpose for yourself, and commit to taking the time you need to reflect on your values and priorities given what’s going on in your life and world.  Then reallocate your time to pursue the things that are most important and urgent. Perhaps your new To Do list will include sharing your journey with us through this or our other communities.  If so, I appreciate your willingness to learn and share with me and others in this space.

As a seasoned coach, I know that we have the individual and collective wisdom to accomplish anything and solve any problem, if only we will stop running around and take a reflective and experimental approach to identifying problems and solutions.  So stop.  Now.  Tune in.  Engage.  Take action.  With us, and/or elsewhere.

I look forward to seeing you in this space going forward.  May you have peace and hope as you take action to create the world in which you wish to live in.

Your Life’s Purpose

What are you here to do on this earth?  Do you know?  Do you know what you are uniquely suited for?  Do you know where your talents, interests and values converge to create amazing, meaningful experiences?  Do you jump out of bed every day and think, “I can’t believe I get to do this today!!”

I thought not.

If you’re like most people you probably like or love what you do every day and like or love who you’re with every day.  And there are probably elements of your life that are filled with that purpose.  For me, being a Mom has always been that and always be that.  But I also never wanted to be a Mom full-time (defined as the 40+ hours/week type Mom) for my whole life.  Being a Mom makes me feel like there’s something higher, more important than myself.  That feeling of transcendence is what I’m referring to, and it’s something humans have searched and longed for through the ages.

These days it seems rare to find people searching for their life’s purpose.  We seem to search for a better car, house or phone.  We search for a better-looking mate, cooler friends, or fancier vacations.  At some point in our lives, we stop and realize that these material, superficial things are not what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  They just make us feel like we want more and that what we have is not good enough.  Thus the mid-life crisis which happens, oh, about now.

What are we searching for?  Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth), expert in comparative mythology, calls it our bliss.   He describes it as “being in accord with the grand symphony that this world is, to put the harmony of our own body in accord with that harmony.”  Martha Beck (Finding Your Own North Star) calls it our essential self  that forms before birth and consists of your desires, preferences, emotional reactions resulting in your identity. It’s distinct from the social self that is your essential self  buried under filters, restrictions and expectations from self and others.  Paul Coelho (The Alchemist) calls it your Personal Legend, or the thing you want to do, deep down inside, more than anything.

The essential self pursues her calling and in so doing, taps into her own flow and the flow of the universal energy (Spirituality, An Eye-Opening Endeavor).  When you tap into that universal energy, that energy can be shared with others, and in so doing, helps that other person also feel the universal energy and helps them tap their own.  That flow experience also builds positive emotion and success, so the more you pursue it, the more positive emotion and success you experience, and up you go into a positive spiral.  This is called Broaden and Build by psychologist Barbara Frederickson (Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive).

Sounds good in theory, right?  Yes, it’s hard to find your calling because of our social selves rule much of our time and attention.  We quit paying attention to the things we love because we’re told (either directly or indirectly) that other things are more important:  making big bucks, pursuing a prestigious job, getting good grades.  Pretty soon we forget the things that brought us joy.

Realizing that most of us are mostly living as our social rather than essential self is important to be able to rediscover that essential self (see Breadcrumbs on the Trail of Authenticity).  Once we shed those expectations of self and other, we can be more open to where our talents and interests lie.  We can discover the markers of flow and joy, even if we’ve taken them for granted our whole life.  We can find ways to apply them in a meaningful way and thus craft our Personal Legend.  I am also a firm believer that if you love and are excellent at what you do, then you will be able to be successful with its pursuit.  It may not enough to maintain a McMansion, but you may decide that McMansion is not as important as it once seemed especially when it compares to living your bliss.