Thursday, December 5, 2013

Choices...

This piece is close to my heart and before publishing I shared it with 10 of my trusted friends/family.  Because of their insight and input, this piece really became a collaborative effort...I thank them for diving in and sharing their vulnerability with me and now you...Enjoy!

The choices we make direct our lives, and as we grow and change, the choices we make not only affect who we are, but they affect those that are the closest in our lives.  The choices, needs, and desires you had in your 20’s are based on the needs you had at that time.  As you live, grow, and experience life, your needs change and sometimes the choices you made may not match the person you are now.  Is it not feasible to think that a choice you made 20+ years ago would remain the only viable choice several decades later?  When you give yourself permission to acknowledge that shift in the universe, everything you viewed as sacred becomes blurry and your world can feel likes it’s inside out.  How to manage that shift in a way that that keeps your spirit at peace is especially challenging.
When you allow yourself to explore your life honestly, sometimes the truth that is revealed is terrifying.  No matter how terrifying the prospect of change can be, it is simply an opportunity to be more fulfilled.  It is easier to blame everyone else in your life for your choices and where you are, but when you peel back the layers, and look honestly at yourself, the only person you can hold responsible for how your life turns out is YOU.  For example, you might say if he/she would just be more this, or more that, then I could be happy, but that is so unfair to him/her.  What you are saying is I would be happy if he/she was different.  You can’t expect someone to change so you can be happy.  That is almost impossible and causes pain and uncertainty.  On the other hand, allowing your needs or desires to be ignored so that someone else can be whole will leave you feeling invisible and lonely.  I am a firm believer that your happiness has to come from within your own heart and soul.  So then what…

I really don’t know…I wish I did.  Sometimes awareness can also be stifling, because though you can understand exactly where you are and why you are there, you still have a responsibility to the choices that you made that brought you to that place.  The road you chose may have had bumps and road blocks along the way, and now that same road might be leading you in a different direction.  How do you navigate through unchartered territory?  How do you find your way without a road map, or without guarantee of safe travel to your destination (peace and fulfillment) with minimal collateral damage?  What I do know is that we get one life…I don’t know the answers to the tough questions, but I am desperately and honestly seeking my truth, my peace, and my happiness.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finishing the Race

About two years ago I decided to run my first 10K race.  I had run several 5k races, and thought it would be great to challenge myself by pushing it up a notch.  I talked to my running partner, and she was also on board for the challenge.  We trained for a good part of the year, and I did a practice 10K run on my 43rd birthday.  I finished with a decent time and thought I would be prepared for the famous Peach Tree Road Race on July 4, 2012.  The night before the race I drank coconut water, ate pasta, and woke up ready to run.  The adrenaline and excitement was pumping through my veins, and I felt ready!

I started the race strong.  My first mile was my own personal record of 8:12/mile.  I couldn’t believe it!  I stayed on a steady pace with each mile coming in well under 9 minutes, which again is very good for me.  There were some monster hills that I had to walk some of the way, but my time was so good, it didn’t stress me in the least.  I kept on trekking.  I got to the 4 mile marker, and I started to feel a little fatigued, but I was more than half way done, so I was able to push through it mentally.  Finally, I got to the 6 mile marker and I knew the end was near.  Then I saw the red carpet and cameras and I knew I made it.  I did it!!!!  But the runners around me were still running.  That finish line was just a photo op.  There was still about .5 miles to go.  I said “AWE SHIT”, and started running.  This is where everything became a blur.  I could see people out of my peripheral vision talking about me, and then I saw a person on both sides of me holding me up.  Next thing I remember is waking up in the medic tent.  A red head was trying to reach me and I began to focus in on her.
This is where things get a little crazy.  What I remember most about those moments after regaining consciousness is a transparency of my heart.  I remember feeling completely raw and honest.  It was amazing, because the fear we sometimes meet with being truly authentic, was not there.  I didn’t care about what anyone thought of me, and I was wide open.  That poor red head had the privilege of hearing all my secrets, my fears, my vulnerability; she heard everything.  Thank God I’ll never see her again!  Though I don’t remember what happened before I woke, I will never forget the freedom my soul felt during those intimate moments with the infamous red head.  As I got closer to regaining my senses, I did not think I finished the race, and I felt completely defeated and disappointed.  At this point, I burst into tears because I had gotten so close to the finish line, and in my eyes, I failed.   Everyone tried to console me, but there was nothing anyone could say to make me feel better.  Later that evening when I was home resting, my running partner texted me and said YOU FINISHED THE RACE.  Your time is posted!  I could not believe it.  There was a link on the website that actually showed each runner passing the finish line.  I did not believe it until I saw it for myself.  The two people I saw in my peripheral indeed grabbed each of my arms, and they walked me over the finish line.  At that point I was about 10-20 steps away from the line.  As soon as I crossed over, I collapsed in their arms…I’ve since wrote a thank you note and was actually able to connect with one of them. 

I often compare running to life, because just when you think you can’t go any further, you find strength deep inside to take just one more step.  I’ve been thinking about the race a lot over the last few days, comparing it to the life journey I find myself on.  At the beginning I made such great leaps and strides (just like the first miles of the race), but the last several months have felt like the last two miles of that race.  I’ve been fatigued and I’ve felt like giving up more than once.  But over the last week, just when I felt like I was going to pass out again, I saw help in my peripheral.  It came in several different forms, but what I'm realizing is, just like in that race, I’ve come too far, worked too hard, not to finish the most important race of my life: ME.   Just like God sent those angels over to me during the road race, which gave me the support I needed to step over that finish line; I feel like he’s sent an army of angels to surround me over the last few weeks.  These angels have come in various forms from people to books to text messages to signs that are buried within a particular lesson.  I am in such a clear and authentic place right now, and I know without a doubt it is because of all the angels that continue to give me support.  It is ok to ask and accept help in crossing the finish line.  Until the next race...So grateful!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Honesty...

The word itself can cause so much angst.  Those of you, who follow my blog, know that I’ve been on a journey to be and live an authentic life.  My journey started when I was about 39 and has taken me through some incredibly challenging and scary places…and continues to cause me great bouts with anxiety and insomnia.  At times, I’ve questioned myself and asked, “Is it worth it?”  I pray each night that being honest with myself about the most sacred, scary, and fundamental aspects of who I am will lead me closer to the peace and freedom my soul yearns for.

There are so many things in my life that are uncertain right now.  There are times when I feel completely overwhelmed and a hug away from falling into tears.  There are nights that I might get one to two hours of sleep because my mind just won’t seem to rest.  There are even times when I question whether my honesty has caused more harm than good.  There are times when I wish I could retreat to “the bubble” so I can hide from the discomfort, but something fundamentally changed inside of me.  I am now unable to do that.  It makes me physically ill when I’ve even given the thought too much time in my consciousness. But what is really cool about self-discovery is that there are those other amazing days when I feel clear and strong.  Clear because, though scared at times, I no longer live in fear.  Good or bad; big or small; I am facing all aspects of my life with honesty and a true desire for inner peace.  There was a period of time when I used to feel that the rug could be pulled from under me at any moment.  I never knew why I lived in such fear.  Though I never knew why I felt my ground was always shaky, a few earthquakes in my life helped move me to face a lot of my fears, insecurities, and relationships head on.  My last entry, Getting off the Porch, is a huge testimony of some of the circumstances that kept me paralyzed from movement or change. 
Recently the shower head in my bathroom started to leak.  It was not the original shower head that came with the house.  This one was fancy and could be removed and had a massage feature.  It never worked great, and it now was squirting water everywhere periodically.  We would turn and move it in just the right direction so that it would not spray all over the bathroom.  The water pressure was always weak with this shower head, but we just got used to it and accepted that it was what it was.  Until finally, there was no adjusting that would work.  My husband was going away on a trip and something had to be done quickly or I would not be able to use the shower at all.  So he found the original shower head and replaced the faulty one.  When I took a shower that night, it was the best shower I had taken in the 8 years that I lived in this house.

As I took that shower, I started to reflect on the fact that sometimes we get used to broken things, being broken, being in broken situations, or accepting broken relationships, because it’s just easier than trying to fix them.   Simply, we get used to being broken, and convince ourselves its ok…like taking mediocre showers for 8 years.  I believe that was me.  After those earthquakes hit, I had no choice but to begin facing what was broken inside of me, and what I found was that sometimes you have to go back to the original (showerhead) core of who you were and re-emerge as something new and improved.  I still battle with anxiety and insomnia, because of the uncertainty that remains in my life, but what gives me strength, and what gives me clarity, is that I am living.   I am facing and experiencing life head on, and my showers are a hell of lot better.  I don’t live in fear, because I know my ground is solid, my village is strong, and my mind is clear.  No matter what tomorrow brings, I will be ok, because I’ve been as honest in my journey of authenticity as I could possibly be…and I am still here, standing strong, and seeking PEACE!  I’ve come too far to turn back now.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting off the Porch

I recently watched a movie titled, Unconditional.  It’s crazy how a movie can impact your emotions and make you reflect on your life and your blessings.  The movie explored the power of love and connection.  It made me think about the amazing blessings of friendship, love, and connection that I have in my life. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about a metaphor that I often use to describe myself; “little girl on the porch”.  I haven’t been able to get the little girl off my mind lately.  I’ve been criticizing myself for always reverting back to the little girl on the porch.  The little girl on the porch is a reflection of me as a little girl who used to wait for my dad to pick me up.  Time after time, he left me waiting, but I never stopped hoping, waiting, or sitting on that porch every time he said he was coming.  I never gave up on him, and though I’ve adjusted my expectations, I still haven’t given up on him.  For most of my life, I’ve looked for all of my relationships to save me from the loneliness of the porch.  I remember one time in particular when I was about 11 years old and had been waiting for my dad for over an hour, praying to God that someone would rescue me from the loneliness of the porch.  Out of nowhere my best childhood friend appeared.  It was almost like she was an angel sent from God, because right away she sensed I desperately needed her company.  For most of my life, I’ve depended on my closest relationships to save me from the porch.  When those relationships let me down, or did not live up to my expectations, I always found myself back on the porch waiting.    
I’ve been viewing my continued return to the porch as a negative, because it has caused me great pain, disappointment, hurt, loneliness, and extreme vulnerability.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a close relationship that I have ever given up on, no matter how disappointed or how many “wrongs” I perceived as being “done to me” over and over again.  I just don’t give up on people.  I just wait on that porch for them to change, or show up again.  As painful as this “gift” has been, I recognize it as an incredible blessing as well.  It is this same “gift” that allows me to connect with people in the depths of their hearts, which absolutely feeds me soul.  It has also allowed me to forgive, which has been key to me being able to experience the fullness of life and love.   What I’ve learned to accept is that every gift has a price and responsibility, and that this gift can easily turn into a curse, if it is not balanced with discernment and wisdom.  This has been my challenge and Achilles heel.  This has been a challenge because as I tend to “never give up” and fill the loneliness of the porch, I’ve often sacrificed “me” or “my happiness” so that I would not be left on that porch alone again.  I did not have the confidence that I alone was enough, so I would over compensate to fill in the gaps and that has had a costly expense on my soul.  I felt like I had to be perfect or do more so that I wouldn’t be left alone…again.

Now, in my mid-forties, I’ve decided I don’t want to lose the hope and forgiveness that has always been a part of what makes me Alicia, and has blessed me with some incredibly deep bonds with friends and family.  But at the same time, I don’t want to be saved from the porch any longer.  I want to be able to get up off the porch a whole and healed person comfortable with my imperfections, and knowing that I am good enough!   In my quest to living an authentic life, I don’t want to sacrifice myself or my happiness so that everyone else is “good” ever again.  This is a day by day process, but a promise I made to myself. 
Today I had a conversation with a dear friend who showed me that in all of my imperfections, I am loved unconditionally.    The interaction warmed my heart, and made me reflect on so many people in my life.  God has blessed me with such special relationships that feed my soul.  Because that little girl on the porch never gave up hope, my heart has been able to receive and give love abundantly.  So now that I am ready to get up off the porch, I do it with the confidence that I am good enough and worthy to give and receive love completely.   Settling for less and overcompensation is no longer an option or necessary, and it really never was.  My hope and prayer is that by having the courage to get off the porch by myself, my kids will never have to experience the loneliness of the porch and the cycle can finally be broken.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scandal…I'm Hooked!!!

I am a late comer to the series Scandal on ABC.  If I’m honest, I saw a few episodes last season and a few this season, but the last two episodes have me hooked!  It’s just a show, and it is fiction, but it really makes you think about life and how unpredictable it can be.  Have you ever wondered about the road not taken?  Or have you ever gone down a road and find yourself in such unfamiliar territory that you can’t find solid ground?  Why is it that we find ourselves secretly (or not so secretly) cheering for Fitz and Olivia…aren’t they cheating?

Two weeks ago, the story explored how Olivia and Fitz began both their professional and intimate relationship.  The writer and actors did such an amazing job at portraying how neither of them (Fitz or Olivia) were looking for this affair, but that they were powerless to the immediate connection that took place deep within them.  Even down to how their hands touched for the first time…you could feel the energy between them.  As a writer, I yearn to be able to evoke that type of emotion from my characters and my readers.  As a reader, it makes you wonder if a spiritual, mind, body, and soul connection like that is possible with another human being.  A connection that takes you away from everything in your soul that you believe to be “right” and “wrong”.  A connection that even when you try to shut it off haunts you in your thoughts and heart.  Isn’t that connection and wonder what keeps us all hooked week after week?  Olivia Pope is challenged with not only the connection she has with the President of the USA, but with “fixing” political situations to protect the “pretty picture” that is the USA. 
Last week’s episode dove deep into how all this “fixing” has taken a toll on Olivia’s psyche.  It has revealed some of the “wrong” things she has done for the better good, and how the rationale for doing those things are not sitting right with her.   On the other hand, Fitz is feeling like he’s been given another chance at life, and he wants to live it without the films of “supposed to’s” and “obligation”.  He’s being a bit reckless, because as the President of the United States, there are certain liberties you give up for the better good of the “picture”.  Fitz’s near death experience has brought him to a turning point; for him the better good is a life fulfilled, rather than a life that doesn’t live up to what the picture portrays to the general public…Hmmm, how will he deal with this burning desire to be true to himself…to his heart…to Olivia???    

So what will this week bring?  Will Olivia accept the marriage proposal and settle on a normal traditional life with Edison, or will she gamble on a life with her soul mate; the married president of the United States?  Will Olivia’s skeletons of her past continue to haunt her?  Will the truths that are revealed destroy everyone’s lives?  And…who shot the president in the first place? 
Of course this story is sensationalized, but it does replicate life in the fact that life as you know it can change in an instant.  Obligations and commitments are sometimes more powerful than the pull of uncontrollable connections.  Death can be seconds away; either your own life or a loved one can be taken, and then everything changes.  Your personal happiness is sometimes secondary to the greater good of your family (or in Scandal-the USA).  Your moral gauge can be challenged by incidents beyond your control, and outside of the “life manual”, and you have to decide how to live in peace…

Scandal is well written and has incredible actors portraying these very complex characters and situations…stay tuned…I sure will…

I would love to hear your thoughts and insights!  Leave a comment, shoot me an email, or hit me up on FB...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Life Without Judgment

I recently put the following quote on FB, and it wasn’t meant for any one person, it was actually meant as a reminder to myself that everyone has a story and that story contributes to the way they react to given situations, respond to family and friends, and who am I to judge given I have my own story of why I am the way I am. 

"No one truly knows what they will do in a certain situation until they are actually in it.  It's very easy to judge someone else's actions by what you assume your own would be, if you were in their shoes.  But we only know what we THINK we would do, not what we would do"

-Ashley Lorenzana

Every situation has several versions of the same story.  Every version of every story has real feelings of pain, love, joy, resentment, anger, etc…And each feeling that every story has is valid and real to the person going through the emotions that life evokes.

One of my aunts told me at a very young age, “never say never”.  This is something that has stuck with me my entire life.  As soon as I’ve said the words, “I would never”, I promise you God put me in a situation in which I had to eat those words.  Not only with myself, but with my kids, and husband as well.  I try now to look at life, situations, people, friends, and foes without judgment, because Lord knows I have had my own walk to walk and have been judged (and have judged myself) along the way…and quite frankly it sucks!
Many years ago, I had a situation with a family member that was very dear to my heart.   At the time, we both felt we were justified in how we felt and our self-righteousness kept us apart for several years.  It wasn’t until the untimely death of a relative, that we both realized that nothing is worth losing each other to bruised egos.  We both apologized, but it took me years to realize fully my own shortcomings in the situation.  It was so important to me to express those realizations in order to fully embrace the amazing relationship and connection that we restored.  The experience was painful, but so necessary for our growth and our unbreakable bond.  I tell this story because this was a turning point in my life and a maturity of love that has helped shape me.  Every argument or disagreement has two versions with very valid and real feelings attached to them.  There doesn’t have to be a right or wrong in any situation dealing with the inner thoughts and feelings of people.  All feelings are valid and real, but the ability to step away from yourself for just a moment, to feel compassion, empathy, or even just understand where the hurt may be stemming from is a real gift from God. 

This year my mantra is, “Life without judgment”…  This is not only meant for me in how I view others, but how I view myself, which continues to be harder for me.  Sometimes I judge myself 10x harder than anyone else could even come close to judging me.  I am trying to accept the complexities of life, and acknowledge that life really is not black and white…so many shades of gray exist between the layers of “supposed to’s” and “pretty pictures”… and all we can do is take one day, one situation, and sometimes one moment at a time…and in the process do our best to be true and honest to who we are. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve in 2012...

There are about four hours left in 2012…When I look back at the last year, I’ve learned more about myself, my heart, and my passion for life than I thought possible.  I truly believe that God places people, circumstances, and situations in our life to help us better learn what we are capable of feeling and doing in life. 

I was blessed to be promoted at work and traveled to 12 different locations this past year.  Each of these trips allowed me to either visit a part of our country I’ve never seen, or revisit familiar places through different lenses.  It has been an adventure that I would like to share with you.
1.  The first trip of the year was to Seattle, Washington.  A place I’d never been, but always wanted to go.  I got to do some sight-seeing and re-connect with an old friend.  Professionally this trip proved to be the foundation and the motivation for Engagement, which I lead.  It was the first large airport launch, so everything we did was an opportunity to learn and grow.  Personally, I learned that I had to believe in myself and my talents, and take a leap into the unknown.  In Seattle, I learned to let go of everything that was comfortable and familiar, and begin a new journey into a whole new world.

2 and 3.  The next trip was to Tulsa, Oklahoma and NW Arkansas.  This was my first trip with my new title.  It was an airport refresh, and I learned how to turn a potentially negative airport meeting into a positive, more engaged airport opportunity.  I stayed at a hotel in a charming gentrified area of Tulsa, and even took a run in the heart of the city.  That was truly a highlight for me.  From Tulsa, we drove to NW Arkansas, a place I’ve also never been.  All I can say about NW Arkansas is that there were lots of dirt roads, cows and pastures.  Back in Tulsa, there were really cool restaurants that had great bands, and is a place I really wouldn’t mind returning…I learned to follow my instincts in Tulsa. 
4.  Washington, DC was up next.  Though I’ve been there a thousand times, visiting it with professional lenses helped me to see it in a whole new light.  We learned that location and training is key to optimizing our time at all airport refreshes moving forward.  I hired my first interns and they were awesome.  My aunt hosted a NBA Championship Game party for my co-workers, and I got to share my work family with my peeps, and the HEAT won, which capped the night off perfectly.  I got to reconnect with my BFF and we had an old fashion sleepover and shared some new connections that only a BFF could understand…I learned how to combine the old and the new in DC.

5.  Next trip was home to Newark, NJ.  This was just fun.  To go back home and see something that you helped build throughout the airport was just awesome.  During this trip we decided to take the company Mobile, and this changed how we do all airport launches!  This trip just took me down memory lane.  I thought about where I grew up in Doddtown and Cleveland Street, going to HS in Newark, and how going to NYC was as easy as 123.  I explored my past in Newark, and I discovered how ones past does not determine ones future, but contributes to who we are…what a blessing!
6.  After running (and passing out) the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race (10K), I was off to Gulfport, Mississippi the next morning.  This trip was emotionally and physically draining, because my body was still recovering, and my heart was completely transparent.  Professionally, there was one meeting after the other, but the experience was invaluable, because this particular airport utilizes all of the TA products, which generates multiple revenue opportunities.  This is the goal for all airports, so I had to be on my A game.  Gulfport taught me to listen to my heart and instincts no matter what.

7.  Portland, Maine was up next.  This was a great trip and professionally taught me that developing relationships with airport management is most important to building multiple revenue opportunities.  I learned to network in and out of the airport, and got to see a really beautiful part of the country right on the ocean, which is my favorite place to be.  I took a ferry ride and had the most delectable Lobster you could eat…oh yeah, I may have had one cocktail too many, but my co-workers had my back.  In Portland I learned that working hard and playing hard is all part of the job…LOL.
8.  Next I got to visit the west coast again, and landed in Portland, Oregon.  This was a great professional experience, because I got to see how the program can thrive when the airport incorporates our company into the airport culture.  This trip helped me discover the connection between customer service and engagement, and this is now part of my strategic plan.  In Oregon, I learned to rise above the limitations and judgments of others, and simply do me. 

9.  The most exciting trip of the year had to be Anchorage, Alaska.  Professionally, I helped train staff, met with managers, and attended a management presentation with the CEO of the Airport.  Though the weather was cold and rainy, we did manage to eat Alaska king crab, and visit Mirror Lake on the way to Wasilla (Palins Home).  Just being able to say I went to Alaska is huge, but the Alaska trip helped me make huge connections that will last a lifetime. 
10.  Next up was Greenville, SC.  I drove to this location and expected this to be my least favorite adventure.  Greenville turned out to be one of our best launches to date.  We learned how to completely collateralize an airport, and added the text option to our mobilization strategy.  In Greenville, I learned that even the small, mundane places, can be exciting and beautiful if you open your eyes to the possibilities. 

11-12.  The last three launches of the year took place in Atlanta, Little Rock, and Raleigh/Durham.  Professionally I learned that organization, planning, training, and press are all of the elements needed to rock a launch! And we do it so well now.  Personally…In Atlanta I learned that there is no place like home to realize your dreams.  In Little Rock, I learned that home is where your heart is, and in Raleigh/Durham, I learned that complications are a part of life, and life is what you make it.
Happy New Year and I can’t wait to learn from and see the places I go in 2013!