Monday, January 28, 2008

No Future Story

and all that is left is a compromise.

I teach a class on Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World. The class is dedicated to helping those in generational poverty move toward prosperity. We examine mental models that contribute to our stuckness and also explore models that help us discern how to understand and eventually overcome our situation. I have learned much about myself and others throughout this class. The undying spirit of some in the class is inspirational, while witnessing others trapped in the tyranny of the moment makes me realize the true mountain to be climbed.

One of the keys to getting out of poverty is understanding the hidden rules within classes - learning them and using them to build social capital. Another key is having a future story. If you don't have a future story, you have nothing to work toward.

Robert Fritz, composer, filmmaker and organizational consultant, the author of 'The Path of Least Resistance' creates a mental model to describe the discrepancy between your vision (the result you want to create) and your current reality (what you now have). He says, "When you form structural tension, it can be resolved one of two ways: toward the fulfillment of your vision as a reality or toward the continuation of the reality you now have. If you have an intolerance for discrepancy, you will tend to quickly resolve the tension in favor of continuing your present circumstances rather than working toward your vision." In other words you stay stuck.

So what do we do if we don't have a vision or have an uncomfortability with discrepancy?

One of the participants in one of the past classes was working hard to get a car (this was a major stressor in her life). She had small children, trying to hold down a job and was spending an average of $20 a day on cab fare. She had a goal- she felt the discrepancy between her vision and her current reality. Having wrestled with this discrepancy she reached her goal by the end of class; she purchased an automobile.

She has arrived. She saves money daily, experiences independence in her fine vehicle and enriches her children's lives by taking trips to places that would have been frivolous before. Her future story included seeing herself in a vehicle and she made it happen- but has she really arrived? Her future story ended there. She still lives within subsidize housing, has not experienced a vacation and still needs to manage her money to the exact penny each month in order to survive, I am relatively sure that if an emergency came, she would fall short financially (many of us in this boat- including me). I am hopeful that she will dare to dream big in the future but for now she is done. She cannot see beyond this point. And no one, can vision for her- she needs to define this for herself.

So, what does this all have to do with me? Well, I am sad to admit that I find myself without a future story. I have little stories like organizing my bill drawer or planning my garden in spring, and increasing the quality of communication with the kids.......but deep down, I realize that I lost my dreams along the way. So here I sit desiring more for my fellow student above, when really I am in the same boat: Limbo.

In discussions with friends and coworkers I often share a picture of me in limbo. I explain that many people who are treading water in a dark sea will start to swim toward anything even if they don't know where the shore is- they at least know that they are doing something. Others find themselves as weak swimmers, so even if they knew where the shore was, they would have difficulty reaching it. I find that I have been blessed with the ability to swim, yet, if I cannot see the shore, I end up immobilized. I tread until I can see or have a vision. Even though my legs get tired, even though I am getting hungry, even though I would love to rest awhile I tread on.

At this moment, I lack vision for my next steps- I can't see my shore. But, I am feeling tension between my current reality and what I hope for myself. I need to speak out loud what I want for me, for my kids and for those lives I touch. I am tired and need rest. I need something to focus on- move toward. It is time.

A good friend of mine, named Cassandra, is a constant inspiration for me. She speaks to me as if I am worth a million bucks. She believes I am nothing to be trifled with. She believes that most things are possible if you reach for them. So, what to reach for? Don't make due. Don't settle. Dream big. Be appreciative. Make space. Take baby steps. Leap giant leaps. Don't ask mother may I. Create the reality you want by encouraging the discrepancy. Seek the dip moment and either quit quick things that don't work or work through the deep dip; move toward reward on the other side.

I don't pretend to know my future story, but I do know this: when I do know it, I will realize it, I will move toward it and then as I reach it, I plan to dare to dream big again, and create yet another future story- constantly creating structural tension, reaching for my vision, and bravely facing moments that need facing.

I pray that each day, my purpose becomes more clear.

No future story.......

I think I will look for it under the couch (I find a lot of things there).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Story I received by email:

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. "I love it," he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait." "That doesn' t have anything to do with it," he replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged .... it's how I arrange my mind."

"I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

"Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in."

"So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories!"

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unsung Heros

Have you ever had a guardian angel?

Growing up we had many. Two of these I mention as I think about the 4 scared little girls that were abandoned by a drunken mother who was depressed and broken. While she laid on the couch in a stupor, or barked orders from a chair, these beautiful women pondered our fate and believed we were worth saving; merited loving.

My mother was many things- loving, stubborn, shy, beautiful, smart, strong, fearful, and a drunk. She was amazing and disappointing all at the same time. I think she found it hard to love herself and it sent a ripple effect on those who tried to love her. Fortunately, we had guidance and protection along the way. If we did not have that, who knows where we would be today.

My mom did finally give up the booze after we left the home. Her doctor helped her by diagnosing her depression and put her on Paxil. This medication really helped- she was no longer a hermit, she stopped drinking and seemed to feel better about herself. It was nice to be with her without the booze in the way. She really was (is?) a beautiful person. Those who knew her, knew this to be true. I digress.


One of these guardian angels is my step mother. Her name is Carole and this is her picture to the right. This Christmas, instead of gifts, we showered one another with affirmations and put them typed in a frame to present to each person. Carole was overwhelmed with emotion when she received her gift from us. It was then that I realized that she may not know what an impact or gift she has been to us.

This is complicated in some ways. My mom would cry to me each night after my dad left. I would try to console her, but there is only so much a 5 year old can do. She hated my father for leaving her, and probably hated Carole even more. I actively practiced this hate when I would visit Papa and Carole- feeling that I would be betraying my mom if I let my guard down or liked them even in the smallest degree.

But, Carole continued to love me/us. And eventually, I made my mind up to believe in her love and succumb to it. She would involve us in her daily goings on, shared her home, talked and listened with interest to our stories about school or home. She encouraged our culinary skills, gave me a place to stay when I got kicked out of Mama's house, and played numerous Boggle games (teaming up with me to try to beat my dad- I think we may have won one or two times against him). In short, she actively loved some hard to love kids. I mean - she did not have to love us and we gave her heck of a lot of flack. I am almost embarrassed to look back on how stubborn I was (a quality I get from both Mama and Papa- double whammy).

So, Carole, if you are reading this: know that you are special. Know that you have been a big part of saving 4 little girls. Know that you are appreciated.

Grace. I knew I had come across a guardian angel when I first experienced Grace. She had a presence that permeated love and acceptance. She was a quiet person, had a simple smile and communicated respect for your journey- wherever you were going. She seemed to have faith that things would turn out ok- somehow. But, she certainly had a way of moving things along.

Grace came to my mother when she felt truly alone. Here Mama was, a single parent, 4 children (ages 5, 3, 3 and 1), and no real income except for welfare. Grace often helped us financially when we experienced a pinch. She also made it possible for us to have a home. She actually bought a house for us to live in and just gave it to us! I can hardly fathom that.

For my first communion, I did not have a dress, shoes or a slip- she made them appear (she bought lacy socks to match too). When bills became too much in the winter, an envelop was passed to my mom very privately. (I was an observant child so sometimes I noticed things that were not meant to be seen). As I was applying for college, Grace made sure I had a co-signer so I could attend. Had it not been for her, I may have not had a place to live, had a first communion or attended college. This is a very real fact.
I'd like to believe that I have an undying spirit that would have carried me through somehow, without her support, but I deal with folks in poverty every day, and I see how the tyranny of the moment kills that spirit. She made it possible for me to dream of bigger things. I did not have to worry about money or bills. I was able to focus. (We were definitely poor, but we lived comfortably most days. We did eat ice cream for breakfast many mornings.- but other than that, we had a warm house, clothes to wear, and the basics covered).
Grace did many other things besides financial support. She would come over and check on us, joined in family gatherings, brought communion when my mom could not get to church, and dropped off the Sunday paper. She would share the homily that the priest would give at Sunday mass and would say a short but sweet prayer to send us on our way. And at the time of my mom's death, she made sure she got a proper burial (even though she left us before Mama did).
What amazed me the most about Grace is that she lived into her name so well. She accepted us the way we were. Even though my mom was in the state she was in, Grace loved her anyway. It was obvious that Grace was a reserved person- not too kid oriented, yet she loved us- always kept and eye out. Grace was a messenger from God, a gift. She carried the message of compassion and mercy.
Grace was a third order nun. She wore regular (albeit very plain) clothes with an interesting necklace that represented her order. She took a vow of poverty, yet had money. She just shared it with others as they needed it. She was allowed to live among people- not in a convent and lived each day prayerfully and lovingly serving others. She was quite amazing really.
As I have said in a previous post- I have guardian angels all around me- some in fleeting instances and others in the day to day, life existence. How blessed am I! Thank you Carole! Thank you, Grace! I won't be able to repay you- but maybe-- just maybe, I can pay it forward.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

American Idol

Just watched American Idol on tv- usually don't watch much of anything on tv, but did take a moment to check it out. I must say I was captivated. They were doing auditions to determine who will be the next core group for the season competition and anyone and everyone who is willing to stand in line got a chance to try out. And, anyone and everyone did show up- quite a variety.

I am a relatively practical girl and am rarely impressed with stuff the media puts out - but something draws me to this particular venue. I guess it brings up in me some very strong beliefs and oppinions. They go something like this:

  • If you are willing to try, good things come your way (even if you don't win).

  • A young farmer from the middle of nowhere can take a chance, sing his heart out and get noticed in a place that is unfamiliar and out of his comfort zone--stuff that births admiration.

  • Do your best, try hard, breathe through the anxiety, take a risk, and leave with grace- whether you are accepted or rejected.

I don't know about you, but I am rooting for these brave individuals and I have esteem for anyone who tried (however weird they may be). I could do worse than living by some of these principles.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bloody Stone

They say you can't get blood from a stone.
Why would you want to? The process seems fruitless and tiring.
And, is blood really worth getting? If you were successful-
would it even be something that you could experience joy about?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Spiritual Happenings

I know that you may think I am crazy, BUT, I feel that quite often, divine intervention happens in my life. I have guardian angels that help me remember things, I have a parking angel that rarely fails me and I have inspiration that pops into my life at just the right moments.

This kind of thing happened just the other day and this is the tale of that small but significant guidance I receive -- almost on a daily basis.

I decided to put "saying goodbye" into Google. Ever since Alanna's illness and other turns of events in my life I have recognized that saying goodbye is just as much a part of life as saying hello. And, I have known that there are many ways to say goodbye and I wanted to explore this concept.

The first search brought an article about hospice and had great advice on how to say good bye at the end of a loved one's life. This article reminded me of times with Mama and her interesting last night with us. I thought it had some good things to say about the process and reminded me that things like touch and assurance are key to the good bye process.

I then checked out a blog by Seth Godin. He was talking about how a restaurant was there one minute and gone the next ( a restaurant that he liked very much) and his point was that goodbyes are desired and needed. OK article but, not really what I was looking for. HOWEVER, on the left hand side, under Seth's web pages, there was a blog titled, "The Dip Blog".

Now those of you who know me, know that I have a thing for the word dip. Please bear with me while I tangentially tell another story. My mom gave me a beater car before she moved to Albuquerque to live with my sister Alanna. The car sat for a long time before I finally got the title transferred into my name and got license plates. This happened shortly after my mom died from lung cancer.

I remember smiling to myself when I got the license plates from the clerk. The word DIP with a few numbers was spelled out. The plate reminded me of a gift from my mom. When I was a kid she gave me a pretend road sign with the word DIP on it. She gave the my sisters signs too- ones that said "wrong way, u-turn etc." I am not sure there was any significance to the actual words given to each of us- but calling me a dip would not be too far fetched in my relationship with her. She had a very interesting sense of humor.
Anyway, ever since the purchase of the license plates, I have seen other license plates with the word DIP on them. Usually it comes into my consciousness as I am day dreaming and start to focus. Usually, the car with the plates is right in front of mine. After seeing one a day for about 10 days, it dawned on me that this was a way that Mama was "with me" on my journey each day. I shed quite a few tears on that day. I tend to do that when I realize the "truth". So, I have a knowing that she is with me regularly and keeps watch over me- either that or the folks in prison in Ohio are having a laugh, knowing that they are populating cars with DIP license plates all over town.

So, back to my original story. I happened on this DIP blog by Seth Godin that lead me to his "the dip" book. Now this is no ordinary book and even the book description gave me inspiration-- needed at that moment. The wisdom contained within was mainly focused on knowing when to quit something and when to look for the dip moment so you can work through it and ultimately reap rewards. He says it much more eloquently than I. But, I am recognizing the uniquely difficult and wonderful opportunities I face right at this moment. Discernment, faith and bravery are at the cusp of this wisdom. How will it go? Nobody really knows.

I just revel in the fact that some one's got my back and is really there for me. Blessings come in strange packages...... and, I have the audacity to take them any way I can!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Treasured moments
Passing time
Eating together
Family time
Holding each other close
In heart, body and soul
Singing songs
Welcoming others into the fold
Having tiffs
Talking things out
Trying new things
Taking new routes
Sharing values
Sharing dreams
Being there
Believing in me
Hard to believe
Our time is coming to an end
No time to fester, worry or fret
It's time to acknowledge the going around the bend
Saying goodbye-
Almost unwillingly
Things happen
No time to tarry
You are special to me
Even though we must part
Your spirit remains--
You are in my heart