Monthly Archives: November 2012

In Defense of Kona

My dog, Kona, likes to put her paw on me when I pet her.  She’ll flop her most available paw up on my arm or leg, just however she can reach me.  It seems very important to her that she have a paw on me in some fashion.   I don’t know why she likes to do this.  It is very illogical. It’s really very sweet, but sometimes it hurts.  Like the other day when she was a little over-energetic with it, she miscalculated a bit when she was reaching for my arm, and nailed me right in the lip.  It drew blood.

Kona being overly excited was very understandable, as this was immediately after an overly exciting incident, a little run-in with the neighbor dogs who are big bullies and very brazen about it.  She was on her porch, minding her own business, when these two big bullies violated the sacred canine pee-marked boundaries and dog-trotted into the yard and surrounded her.  Needless to say, she assumed a defensive posture.  Fairly loudly.

I was inside the house, still in my dorky plaid pajamas, working on my laptop computer, when I heard the ruckus.  The volume and tone of the barking left no question in my mind that it was urgent, so I scrambled to my feet, grabbing the closest thing I could find for a weapon and charged outside to the rescue (yes, still in my pajamas).  In retrospect, the three-ring binder in my hand was a totally lame choice of weapon.

I realize a 50-something, silver-haired woman in her pajamas wielding a three-ring notebook, generally speaking, is not that intimidating, but it worked.  The bully neighbor dogs retreated as quickly as I emerged.  Thankfully, I never had to figure out what I was going to do with the notebook.  It seems that waving my arms wildly and screaming very unfriendly things at them was enough to convince the bully dogs.

I was there to even the odds and Kona, seeing that she now had backup, apparently felt empowered to take the offensive.  As the bully neighbor dogs ran down the driveway and out of the yard, she ran after them, barking.  It sounded a lot like, “And don’t come back!”  But I don’t’ really speak dog, so I can’t say that for sure.

Although the bully dogs were gone and we were safe in the house, Kona and I were both still a bit excited.  I kneeled in the floor beside her to comfort her.  That’s when she put her paw on me a little too exuberantly, and that was the end of me trying to comfort her.  I quickly decided I needed to comfort myself and also stop the bleeding.  Next time I just need to assess the excitement level before I get too close to that paw of hers.

The Whispers Hurt Less than the Shouts

I used to live in the quaintest, cutest, most darling brick Gingerbread house.  It was old enough to be charming, and not just old.  I really enjoyed that house.  The detailing in the house was outstanding and while it had been well taken care of before me, I took it even further, adding my own personality and flair.  One of the points of character of the house was that it had plaster walls, which are much less forgiving than drywall, so I took great care to hang all artwork from the crown moulding rather than marring the wall itself.

One particular painting that I had was very large and dramatic, and I had proudly placed it above the couch, hanging it from extra, extra heavy duty fishing line, secured by a decorative D-ring anchored in the moulding.  One day, as I passed through the living area, I noticed that the D-ring was showing tiny signs of stress and had actually begun to separate.  I think it was trying to become a C-ring.  I said to myself, “You should get a heavier D-ring and fix that.”  But I didn’t.

The next time I passed through the living room, I noticed that the gap in the D-ring, now C-ring contender, was ever so slightly larger.  I said to myself, “You REALLY should get something and fix that.  Soon.”  But I didn’t.  Did I mention this was a really large picture with a very heavy frame?

This went on for a while, I cannot say how long.  Then one day, feeling uncharacteristically tired, I took a break from my busy weekend activities, and sat on the couch, indulging in a little rest.  Felt good.  The sitting turned into lounging.  Felt even better.  The lounging turned into napping.

It was actually quite rare for me to take naps in those days.  This was unusual that I would take a nap in the first place, but it was extremely unusual to be awakened suddenly and with acute and substantial pain.  Once the shock and confusion cleared, I realized that the D-ring, which had been calling to me softly for weeks, was now screaming.  It failed, the picture fell, and rapped me sharply over the head.

The lesson of this story is pretty clear, take care of things when they whisper to you that they need attention.  I have no statistics, but I would bet a substantial amount on the fact that most people had soft whispers of warnings to take care of things before they blew up on them “out of the blue”.  Your body whispers to you, louder and louder over time, that you’re not taking care of it.  Your finances whisper to you that they need attention.  Possibly most importantly, your relationships whisper to you that they need nurture and care, possibly more engagement or consideration, or even more space, long before the relationship blows up and people act all shocked and surprised.

If you look back on the last thing that blind-sided you and get brutally honest with yourself – did it really?  Is that really true?  Did it not give you any clues at all?  Or were you just not willing to address the issues and make some changes because it was easier to stay on the path you were on, preferring to address it at some time off in the future, just hoping it will be easier or more convenient then (it won’t)?

I replaced the D-ring very shortly thereafter, and the picture hung securely there until I took it down when I moved.  Although  I don’t live in that house anymore, the memories and lessons still live in me.  Whenever I am tempted to procrastinate or ignore the signs and whispers this world so lovingly provides, I try to remind myself that I can take care of it right away or I can nurse a knot on my head.

Kona, Kitty and Me

I have a dog named Kona and a cat named Kitty.  Particularly creative name for the cat, I know.  She really has other names, but I can’t seem to call her anything but Kitty.  Kona is an old Chocolate Lab, but still pretty spry for her age.  She is the reason I go for my walks every day.  Strange how I will do it for her, but I won’t do it for myself.  But whatever reason works is a good enough reason for me.  She has such a sweet, sensitive nature, but she knows how to get what she wants.  A master of persuasion.  If I could stare at people with big, brown, melty, hopeful eyes like she does, I would probably win major sales and marketing awards.  However, I do think it best to not follow people around all day every day, very closely on their heels, breathing loudly like Looney Tunes’ Tazmanian Devil.  The likelihood they would find it annoying is quite high.  Taz would be a good name for her is she wasn’t already named Kona.

Kitty follows me around all day, too, but not quite so closely and she doesn’t breathe quite so loudly.  She does snore when she sleeps, which is most of the time, but it’s a cute little snore and not really annoying at all.  What is annoying is how she has digestive issues and leaves little messes to clean up.  She also is rather rotund and takes up way more than her share of the bed at night.  She takes up way more than her share of the chair during the day, too.  She magically appears instantaneously if there is tuna or chicken involved.

I like to complain about them a lot, but I secretly like them.  I secretly enjoy their company.  I am a retired software developer who now gets to stay home every day.   I’m quite sure I’ve really died and gone to heaven and it’s just like I’m still living on earth but it got so much better I have to tell dramatic stories like dying and going places to explain it.

Since I’ve retired from the corporate information technology world, I’ve been running around, flapping my arms and making lots of noise like I’m going to start an entrepreneurial venture.  I spent several thousand dollars, lots of time and cell phone minutes to get a life coach certification, with the intention of starting a life coaching business.  That venture is still parked at the gate.  It is not even pretending to taxi to the runway.  It didn’t seem like nearly as brilliant an idea when I thought about networking, and sales calls and, if that was successful, being tied to phone appointments all day.

In spite of the costs, I don’t regret the education.  I learned some extraordinarily valuable stuff and stretched past my previous comfort zone.  I have the potential to be a darn good life coach, and I probably will be one day as ideas emerge for how to do that and still enjoy the structure of my day.  In the meantime, my days are spent wandering around the house alone, except for Kona and Kitty, wondering how to create a successful entrepreneurial venture and still thoroughly enjoy my days.  I am in the enviable position of not having to work, so fear of starvation and homelessness are not scaring me into doing something I will despise.

As I find my way, I have peace of mind, furry companionship, the most amazing and awesome husband ever, and creative potential eager to find its way out.  About the furry companionship, though, a little personal space might be nice.  So, Kitty, please stop pushing the bathroom door open.  Yes, I know that Kona put you up to it.

Untapped Potential

Untapped potential is so much easier to see on someone else than it is to see within yourself.  It is easy for me to look at you and see your brilliance, your capacity for accomplishment, and even where you’re missing some opportunities and making some knot-headed decisions.

That may be one of the best gifts that I can give you, to reflect what I see back to you so that you can see yourself more clearly.  No judgment, no demands, no attachment to outcomes.  That is definitely one of the best gifts that you can give to me.

I have received that gift recently.  There is an amazing young man in my life with whom I have had the chance to interact with more closely than usual in the last couple of weeks.  He has unknowingly given me this gift.  I see the potential in him – it oozes out of him – but he has not been living up to it for the past several months.  Years, really.  I wonder to myself how he could miss something so obvious.

Then I remember to ask myself about how I’m doing with that.  Dang it.  I have quite a load of untapped potential myself.  I can’t help but consider my own life and all that I am tolerating and leaving undone and where I am settling for less than what I really want.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I had worked in the corporate world.  I desperately wanted to create a business for myself, doing work that I truly enjoy and doing it on my own terms, but I had nothing left after dragging myself, kicking and whining, to work for way too many hours each week.  I let this go on for decades.

It was a long time coming, but I have an amazing opportunity right now.  Because of my incredibly generous and very successful husband, I no longer drag myself to work.  For the last year and a half I have been totally at choice as to how I spend my days.  I have plenty of money and plenty of time.  Countless people would give a major appendage for an opportunity like this.

I am in the middle of that opportunity and I still have all my appendages. I have been exploring options, searching within to become clear on what I truly want, and have even accomplished a major goal of earning a life coach certification from a top school.  However, the interaction with the amazing young man has made me question whether I am really making the most of this opportunity or just coasting.

Maybe it was appropriate to coast for a little while and decompress after all the years of work that didn’t fit quite right.  I’m okay with that.  But what about now?  I believe the time has come to step up and step into some of my own untapped potential.  As I continue to hold the vision for the young man in my life and help him see what he can be, I’m choosing to include myself in the mix.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and think a little differently than I have been.  It’s time to demand more of myself than what I’ve been living.  I suspect as I do that for myself, it will inspire and encourage those around me to step up in a much bigger and more satisfying way.  Everyone wins!

Thoughts and Feelings, In Tennis and in Life

It would be a challenge to improve on the tennis lesson I had yesterday.  The weather was exactly what makes tennis players salivate:  sunny, ideal temperature, and no annoying Oklahoma Plains pesky winds toying with my tennis precision.  It was endorphine-laced, invigorating fun.  I attribute much of the enjoyment factor to Coach Bob.  His teaching style is effective, and more importantly, the lessons are a blast.  The bonus is that at the end of each lesson, I walk away knowing unequivocally that I got a good workout as evidenced by my weak and shaky legs.  I appreciate Coach Bob, not just because my tennis stroke has improved, but also because I thoroughly enjoy bantering with him about the internal part of the game.  We get a chance to chat during the breaks where he kindly allows me to recover upon seeing my struggle with exertion-induced oxygen deprivation – a malady common amongst the out-of-shape and slightly overweight.

If you are familiar with the book The Inner Game of Tennis, then you know the kind of stuff we talk about.  It is a riveting topic for me because I am endlessly curious about how our mysterious human brains work and why we think and act the way we do, in life’s many scenarios.  I think tennis is a particularly brilliant vehicle for learning more about who you are and how you think.  The game is both very mental and very physical, so you are already stretched, and then the competition factor finishes you off, drawing all your “stuff” right to the surface, for all to see.

On a break during the lesson yesterday, we began talking about playing the game with thinking as the primary approach versus placing the focus on feeling.  Both are required, and it serves you extremely well if you know and understand the concept and can switch focus between the two, at will.  It’s fascinating to consider how this applies to life in the broader sense as well.

When you’re first learning tennis – or anything for that matter – you have to think.  You don’t have the experience to have developed a “feel” yet, so that is not available to you.  However, eventually you progress in the game far enough to start playing by feel , and that is required to reach any level of mastery.  During a high level game of tennis, there is no time for mental gyrations.   The Four Stages of Learning competence model demonstrates this nicely:

Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know.

Conscious Incompetence – Tennis is now on your radar and you’re giving it a try, but you can’t keep the ball in the park, never mind the court.

Conscious Competence – You’re starting to get pretty good at the game, hitting a few good strokes, but you have to really think about it and it’s not happening naturally or consistently yet.

Unconscious Competence – You’re great at the game and you don’t have to think about it at the conscious level much any more.  You’re playing “out of your head”, and you know how to find “the zone”.

But a funny thing happens with some folks.  They resist letting go of the thinking part and unknowingly put a ceiling on their improvement.  They can’t quite shift from playing from their head to bringing their heart and gut, the feeling part, to the forefront, learning to trust their muscles and instincts rather than trying to control everything with their brain.  And, oh, what they are missing!

I have to admit, in my own tennis game, I haven’t been there, to the zone, anywhere near as often as I would like to go, but I have been there enough to know what it feels like.  It is euphoric!  It is truly a “sweet spot”.  I am even more reluctant to admit that, in the broader sense of life in general, I haven’t been to the zone anywhere near as often as I would like to go either, but I’m still reaching for unconscious competence in more ways, more often.

My theory is that learning the roles of thinking and feeling and getting truly adept at applying them skillfully aids tremendously in finding life’s sweet spot more consistently.  Your emotions, how you are feeling in the moment, is guidance for how effectively you are thinking, and thinking intentionally and purposefully helps you to attain desired emotions, which is necessary for enjoyment of life.

One example from my own life in the broader sense is my search for career satisfaction.  I have been trying to think through my career direction for decades, and it has been an exercise in acute futility.  That long-term frustration is painful.  Now I’m learning to bring my feelings into the mix and think AND feel my way there.  Good move on my part.  I’m making more progress with this in a few weeks than I have with thinking alone for decades.  I noticed the feeling of relief and encouragement and inspiration when I set that intention.  I THINK it FEELS good!

Learning to let go of operating solely from thinking, from your head, and learning to expand your modes of operation to include feeling your way to success, both on and off the court, pays huge dividends.