Archive for Vulnerability

Say it. And say it now.

Stories of the most horrific mass shooting in our county’s history are continuing to roll in. First, 20 were dead. Now, we’re hearing it’s 50. How high will the death toll go? No one knows, but any number is too high. 

For those of us still living, it may be too soon for me to say this. Maybe our rage, our hopelessness, our grief, or our numbness will make it impossible for us to hear it. 

For those of us who went to the Orlando club Pulse last night to dance, socialize, and enjoy being alive, it’s now suddenly, devastatingly too late. 
Because I don’t want to wait any longer to say it, I’m writing this post from my phone. So thanks in advance for forgiving  any typos, poor grammar, and or other faults. 

Here’s my message: If you love them, tell them. If you appreciate them, thank them. If there’s anything at all you’ve been putting off saying, say it.

To none of us is tomorrow, tonight, or even the next moment promised.

So say it. And say it now. 

A Vow for this Coming Day

While excitedly preparing my new journal last night – for the shiny new year, of course – I pasted in the very front, the words of my friend, inspirer, and provocateur, Jim Rigby.

Jim is the pastor at my folks’ church in Texas, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church of Austin. And, he is an exemplary human being. Or rather, he is a spiritual being having a human experience; and while doing so, he makes the world a better place by being in it.

Feel free to check him out for yourself. He has a blog, but is most prolific and active on his Facebook page.

But I digress.

Check out what Jim wrote. I think you’ll see why I pasted it into the front of my journal, and hope to read it every single day – at least this year. 😉

A VOW FOR THIS COMING DAY

I vow not to let anything that happens this day rob me of my inner peace.

I promise to treat every ignorant word as opportunity to teach, every unfortunate event as a chance to learn, and every happy moment as an opportunity to be grateful,

Without trying to possess it, control it, or make it permanent. I vow to live this day in my own skin, not wishing I were different, but, instead, striving to make my life a work of art.

I vow to spend this day as a good citizen of the whole, and to be an ambassador for the common good.

I will be grateful for this day of life, remembering that the Universe owes me nothing.

Should I break any part of my vow, I will give no place to remorse, or shame, but time and time again, I will joyfully return to my path.

And to that I say, “Amen.”

New Ventures

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am in the process of finding new ways to work in the world.

I’m exploring career changes, making discoveries about how to use my skills in new ways, and making a commitment to earn more money.

Lately I’ve risked contacting people I don’t know to ask about their work. What if they resent the intrusion? What if they think I’m horning in on their area of expertise? What if they ignore me?  What if I offend them somehow? What if I look stupid?

I’ll have to take those risks if I want to grow. I’ll have to try new skills, brush off old ones, and (gasp) make mistakes.

In the past week, I’ve volunteered with a professional in one potential new career area, and emailed someone else whose work I admire. I pledge to make two more career contacts in the next two weeks.

Let’s see where they lead.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

The Same Old Question

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

Why don’t I make more money?

I ask myself this question every couple of years, and I always come up with the same reasonable answers:

  • My field, non-profit live theatre, doesn’t pay well financially. The personal rewards of doing good work in this field are huge, but there’s no money in it.
  • My family means a lot to me. Choosing to homeschool my daughter and live close to my mother has curtailed the time I can afford to spend at a high-paying job.
  • My husband has a good job, so my family isn’t suffering. In fact, I work hard to run a frugal household, so that we can live comfortably and save for retirement. I enjoy the challenge.

Those three answers are so strong, they ought to put an end to the question. But somehow, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up.

Why don’t I make more money?

I’ve decided to risk changing the question, rewording it in order to rethink it.  So here goes:

  • Do I really want to make more money?
  • What, specifically, would I do with a higher income?
  • How much more money would I like to make?
  • How could I make that amount?
  • Am I willing to make the sacrifices and get the training I might need to make that amount?
  • Do I give myself permission to start finding the answers to these questions?

I think you can guess that I’ve already given myself permission to start finding answers. I have a long way to go. But I’ve given myself one concrete, though completely arbitrary, answer to guide me, at least for the time being. I’ve decided that I would love to make $40,000 a year for at least five years. After that, who knows?

I don’t know where this search for answers will lead. But just reframing the question has opened my mind. There was implied self-loathing in the first question: why don’t I, the stupid, flighty, creative type, make more money? Why am I dependent on my husband’s salary?  Why have I squandered my intelligence and education in a low-paying career?  What’s wrong with me??

That line of questioning was getting me nowhere fast. I’m risking new questions, seeking new answers, and keeping a firm handle on my self-respect.

I won’t ask that same old question again.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Dare I Ask?

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I decided about a month ago that I would pick up the phone and start asking people questions.

I’m constantly asking questions inside my head.

  • How can I give my daughter the education she needs?
  • What’s the best way to support my aging mother?
  • What do I want to do with my career when my daughter is grown?
  • What adventures are in store for me and my husband?
  • How can I strike a balance between community life and personal life?

I took the plunge and asked one specific question this past month:  how can I give my daughter a great high school education? Should we continue to homeschool, or look at schools? If we look at schools, which ones? If we choose a private school, can we afford it?

I had brought up these questions with my husband and daughter several months ago, but I had never taken the plunge and contacted schools.

I think I was afraid of taking action.

If I didn’t make the calls, I wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and I wouldn’t risk looking foolish for not knowing what to do.

Hmmmm . . . .risk. Aren’t I supposed to be taking risks these days?

So I called a school and asked the headmistress a few questions, and the next thing I knew, I had scheduled a visit.  It’s coming up next month. I told my daughter about it, and to my surprise, she said, “If we’re going to look at one school, I’d like to look at several.” She got on the internet and looked up more schools in our area.  She read their philosophies and wrote down the dates of their open houses.

Will she go to any of those schools? Who knows?

What I do know is that asking one question has opened many doors. My daughter learned to take more initiative in her own education. I learned to risk asking questions – for information, for guidance, for help.

Today, I will ask a question.  Will you?

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Road Not Taken

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I was talking with a good friend recently about a decision I’d made, and speculating about what might have happened if I’d made a different choice. He said, “Hold on. Let me tell you something my brother told me.”

His brother, a psychologist, has helped a lot of people through tough times. I wondered what pearl of wisdom was coming my way.

It was this.  “The hallmark of a good decision-maker,” he said, “is that when she chooses A over B, she stops thinking about B. It no longer exists.”

In other words, when faced with a decision between two options, choose one and forget the other. 

It was like being splashed with a bucket of cold water. Suddenly I felt more awake, more present, more able to get on with the business at hand. My decision had been made, and I was only torturing myself by thinking about what might have happened if I’d chosen differently.

Two days later I had to make another important decision — not an irreversible one, but one that mattered. I consulted a few people, and I wrote several drafts of an email that explained my position. I knew that whatever I did would have consequences, at least for me, and possibly for several other people. I tried to be conscientious and respectful and friendly (because, heaven knows, I want everybody to like me, but we’ll talk about that another time).

Ultimately, it was time to write a final email and click send. And I did. As soon as I lifted my hands from the keyboard I felt that familiar wave of doubt. Had I made the right decision? Had I said the right thing?

Then I heard the voice in my head saying, “The hallmark of a good decision-maker is that when she chooses A over B, she forgets B.” It’s bold, and it’s risky, and everybody might not like me for it, but I want to be that decision-maker.

The road not taken no longer exists.

 

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Trudging through Anxiety

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am anxious these days.

I know from experience that the feeling will pass. Oddly enough, in parts of my life I’m having fun and feeling productive, even as I feel anxious in other areas. I’m rehearsing a play, and I always feel a generalized anxiety until I really know what I’m doing. It’s frustrating to be carrying the script in rehearsal when I want so badly to be able to cut loose and act. At the same time, it’s fun to play and experiment with my fellow actors, not tying myself to any specific performance choices too early in the process.

The rehearsal anxiety will pass, because it has to.

I have to learn the show. It has to be ready for an audience in just a couple of weeks. I can count on a sense of relief and release as I gain confidence in my performance. My schedule will become simpler when I’m not rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week. I know I’ll breathe easier soon.

In the meantime, my anxiety spills over into other areas of my life. This always happens. I worry more about my daughter. I worry more about my aging mother. I worry that I’m not doing enough for them. I try to solve problems that can wait.  I feel guilty for all the time I”m spending away from home. It’s part of the package. I’ve learned to live with this.

And yet . . . this time there’s more.

My daughter is thirteen, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent this new individual living under my roof. I’m considering sending her to school next year (we currently home school), because I think she needs more than I can give her. I suspect that prospect scares the you-know-what out of both of us, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling that something needs to change, for her sake and for mine.

And my mother .  . .  my darling mother . . . has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and may already be developing dementia. Our roles are reversing. We are in the process of moving her for the second time in a year. Soon she’ll be living about five minutes from me, in a nice assisted living facility. My life is probably going to change significantly, as I visit her more often and help her adjust to her new situation (both physical and mental/emotional). You know what? That scares the you-know-what out of me as well.

These are challenging situations.

Of course I’m anxious. Right now I don’t know where rehearsal anxiety ends and real-life anxiety begins. I really believe I’ll feel stronger and calmer in two short weeks, when the show opens. I’m doing everything I can to learn my part so that I can relax about something.

Mostly, I just have to let this process run its course. So that’s my risk. For the next two weeks, I am going to risk living in the moment as much as possible. I’m going to resist the temptation to make any big decisions. I’m going to risk trusting that things will work out with my daughter, with my mom, and with my work.

I’m going to risk believing that I am doing my best, and that my best is actually good enough.

And just choosing that risk, and committing to it, makes me a tiny bit less anxious.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Letting Go, Part Deux

By Carolyn Cook

I have so much to learn, still.

I’m fifty years old, and I’m still learning that I have control issues.  I am even beginning to see my old perfectionism as a form of control:  if I can do everything perfectly, then I can control how other people perceive me.

I got into trouble early in my marriage by trying to be the perfect wife.  It took several years for me to see that I was only hurting myself by trying to fit an imaginary mold.  What’s more, I saw that I had been trying to control my husband’s perception of me, instead of trusting that he loved my imperfect self.

Lately I’ve noticed that I can slip into “perfect daughter” and “perfect mother” roles with my mother and daughter.  I’m not fooling anyone with my textbook caregiving and parenting; my mother and daughter just want to be with me.  They can see right through my efforts to make everything perfect.

I’m making a conscious effort to step back and let events take their course without my control, even (gasp!) in my own home.  I’m learning a lot from the experience.  Something tells me I will always have more to learn.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Being Here Now

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I’m risking making space in my life for the present.

I was inspired by Debbie Kerr’s recent post about cleaning out her closet. I have a lot of stuff in my house right now. Much of it came from the homes of my mother and mother-in-law. Their extra belongings filled our extra space, as we eased their journeys into assisted living.

It’s time to begin digging out from under the clutter we accumulated.

My husband is working on an estate sale for his mom, and I’m slowly taking inventory of my own clutter, before I even deal with my mother’s.

Recently I gave some lovely pieces of clothing to a theatre costume shop. The gift included two gorgeous pairs of shoes that had been my grandmother’s, that I had worn occasionally and really loved. There was also a nice business suit that was just a bit too small for me. (It had been too small even when I bought it. Wishful thinking made me believe I’d lose five pounds.) All of it was beautiful, and all of it represented a part of my life that I had held onto longer than I needed to.

As I let go of those clothes, I heard myself telling the costumers that I hoped they’d be useful in a play, because they didn’t belong in my life. They were reminders of who I’m not anymore, and I’ve decided to be who I am now.

Let somebody else be who I used to be.

I realized that I was only able to let go of those things because I’ve started shifting my thinking, very slowly, toward an appreciation of the present.  The words “be here now” are the best advice I know of, as I seek to live peacefully within my changing emotional landscape.  I have so much to be grateful for, when I stop and pay attention to it all.

Letting the past be the past, and not burdening the future with my worries:  those are my risks for today.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Risk. Regret. Realism.

By Guest Blogger, Andrea Lea-Kraus.

risk

1: Possibility of loss or injury : peril
2: The chance that an investment (as a stock or commodity) will lose value

regret:
1 a : To mourn the loss or death of
1 b : To miss very much
2 : To be very sorry for

realism:
1 : Concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary

Sometimes… when the concept-mosquitoes are swarming around the muggy, boggy swamp of my mind… 

I have to dip into the clear, cool, as-yet-untainted (by that sticky, humid, south Georgia-in-July, bulldog-with-a-bone mind), Merriam-Webster-well take on what words mean. Take it back to the basics. Detach a little. Relax the jaw.

Somehow, grabbing onto a definition helps things feel less personal when every thought in the swarm seems to itch for days, sometimes at an intensity level that sends me clawing awkwardly for that unreachable spot one inch to the right of the angel-bone – you know, the one on the tight-shoulder-side of life.

Words like shame, regret, disappointment, regret, never, too late, settle, dissatisfaction, regret, are fast-breeding parasites in the muddled mind; squatters in the high-rent district whose rights are illogically and ironically protected by universal law, who have only to show up to get a free meal and a place to stay.

How unfortunate and unfair that words like forgiveness, self-love, beauty, perfection, joy, good, have to be lassoed into one’s consciousness over and over, with never-ending dedication and a fool’s faith – like doing crunches every day to keep in touch with those abs we’ve heard are underneath – just to make a blip on one’s screen of awareness (I mean, how many crunches have you done without seeing any result? What does it take???).

So, several parasitic concepts are giving me the itch right now.

The double-edged blade of “risk” is neither friend nor foe, though we tend to sing the praises of the shiny side of the sword here (and rightly so – enough of that toothy, serrated side being worshipped out there), but I cannot help but see how the risks I have taken in my life have mostly led me down the painful path to regret. My mind is pretty clever sometimes, in the Cheshire Cat way that minds can be clever enough to lead one just out of earshot of one’s higher voice – one’s True Voice? – so intellectually I know that I can take this idea and spin it into a positive… but where does the spin begin and where does it end?

Once I start the new-age “think positive” spin, how do I decide what was first spun and what is just REAL?

I can say that all my risks worked out because we all got out alive and it could always be worse, but that’s not real – that’s not what I really feel. That’s a manufactured thought, designed by the Cheshire cat mind and the new wave of feel-good thinking which, by the way, I buy into 99%.

I keep being drawn back to the scene in Adam Sandler’s Spanglish where Tia Leone’s character is having a nervous breakdown in her big, black SUV with her mother standing by the window saying, “lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”

I usually only write or appear in any way when I have something figured out; when I have trekked past the mirage’s promise of quenching my thirst on the surface, and burrowed deeply enough into the earth’s bosom to slurp one sip of crystal clear truth, swirling it around on my parched palate, grateful and cleansed…

But that is not where they send my mail. I am thrilled to have a glimpse now and then and bring home my big fish tales to anyone who’ll listen, but I dwell too in this buggy swamp with the squatters and skeeters.

I am not sure what I am risking today. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually known what was at risk in the moment that I “took” it. There has always been an unfolding of joys or consequences I could not have seen around those corners. I’m not sure if it is “good” to share the negative feelings while they still feel negative. I’ve always gone with the if-you-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say dogmatic principle, so this is a new approach for me.

I’m going to say that I’m risking looking at my shit realistically and owning the fact that I feel, at times, like I could drown in a sea of regret. Like I am on damage control. Like I’ll do the best with where I got myself but I followed that damn disappearing, hallucinated Cheshire cat so far off course that I have given up on finding my way back… like I can never risk again because I am frozen by the cold reality of how long and empty the hall of life can feel and how far an echo can travel. Like I need to mourn some losses (is mourning a task one can ever complete?).

Maybe I’m risking a different kind of honesty.

My life is so good and I have so much to be joyful about in the NOW – but I am apparently never quite finished punishing myself for my past mistakes, so I have to rip myself out of the moment (don’t worry, I know it’s wrong and I am already punishing myself for this, too). That’s not the sort of thing you admit on a blog! This is a place for higher thinking and self-development, answers and solutions, steps forward and progress!

The best I can say is that Mercury is retrograde and I am, too.

This post originally appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay Blog Project which has now concluded.

 Andi Lea-Kraus is a yoga teacher, personal trainer, writer , and all-around artist who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she’s not teaching, training, writing, painting, taking photos, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks. Andi’s plans for the future include finding her way to the musical theatre stage. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website here.