Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

Thanking The Hammer For The Beating

It’s rather paradoxical. And perhaps can only be done from a detached sense of self awareness.

But it’s an important part of the process.

Life often uses rather unconventional teaching methods to get us to learn what we need to learn. Many of those lessons unfortunately involve a degree of pain, quite often repeated until the lesson is eventually learned.

Like heated steel is reshaped between the anvil and the force of the blacksmith’s hammer, life, too, can heat us and beat us and reshape us through its own hammering process. The people and situations which at times can confusingly hurt us will often reshape us, change us, but if we look deeper we will often see there was a purpose to the pain.

It’s not a pleasant process. Even with a detached sense of self awareness. And usually it’s not something we express gratitude for.

Perhaps we should.

It’s not easy to thank those who’ve hammered us. But that hammering is what has changed us, often against our will, but often for the better.

And for that I’ve learned to be grateful.

Maybe Groundhog Thinking Is Holding You Back?

Maybe Groundhog Thinking Is Holding You Back?

Like that 1993 movie where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over?

How much of our own life is just a repetition of our yesterdays? Where Wednesday is nothing more than another Tuesday and Thursday will be nothing more than another Wednesday?

It can feel like an infinite loop. Never ending. We just get another day older reliving days that don’t feel much like we’re living them.

And even if we tell ourselves we want a different outcome, we habitually recreate more of what we tell ourselves we don’t want.

Our own personal version of Punxsutawney, PA.

Habitual and unconscious actions, thought patterns, emotions, beliefs, expectations, energy, and intentions simply create more of what already is. Each new day becomes the exact same day just with a different date attached to it.

At many points in my life, the outcomes I told myself I wanted for my life were quite inconsistent with how I was actually living my life. Mindset is a critically important component of growth and the creation of new outcomes. Without a change in my mindset, my desired new outcomes were really just wishes marinating in hope. Nothing was ever going to change because, actually, nothing ever changed with me.

Have you ever stepped back and witnessed what your thoughts and emotions and beliefs and actions have been creating? Will those same thoughts and emotions and beliefs and actions allow you to create any new desired outcomes you tell yourself you want for you?

There are many aspects of life which may be out of our immediate control. But our thoughts and emotions and our beliefs and actions are always under our control. They can work for us or against us, but they are always working. Either moving us forward, or keeping us in place.

Life is too short to relive the yesterdays which will ultimately hold us back from our desired tomorrows.

Embracing The Power Of Clarity

Embracing The Power Of Clarity

With a blizzard on the way, I was able to get my electrician neighbor to finally hook up my generator. Finally, because I was the one who had been putting it off, often forgetting I even had a generator which needed to be hooked up.

In the community where we live, good size storms have usually meant a loss of power. Trees vs. overhead power lines, and the trees usually win. No power means no heat, no water, and no light. Of all the things I take for granted in my life, electricity has to be in the Top 3. Does anyone ever marvel at flicking a switch on the wall and the lights magically turning on?

Now, should we lose power, with a few flicks of a few switches, heat, water, and light will be restored. The generator serving as a back up reserve fuel source to get me through the storms which arrive outside of my control.

Sometimes life gives us different types of storms to endure, where there aren’t a few simple switches to flick on and get our lives back to where we want them to be. These are the emotional storms, equally as unwanted as the ones nature brings upon us, but often far more damaging and painful.

It would be really cool if you could buy some sort of emergency emotional generator to get you through such storms.

I guess the only option is to create one.

When life knocks your power out, what reserves do you have available to keep you moving forward? Faith? Hope? Trust? For me, having the clarity of a vision as to what I want to create in my life has proven to be quite a powerful emotional resource, and understanding “why” that vision matters.

That hasn’t always been the case.

For much of my life I meandered about without a particularly clear and defined destination. Ever searching and seeking, I was no match for the storms of life which would show up, much like overhead power lines are no match for the weight of the snow and ice covered branches of the trees above them. My searching and seeking did eventually get me to a place where what I want and why I want it have become quite clear. That destination shapes every step of my journey. In that clarity is a strength, a resolve, and when the unexpected storms arise and knock me over, and they still do, it’s the conviction of clarity which serves as the fuel source to help me rise yet again and to keep myself moving forward.

“Pain pushes until vision pulls” as Michael Bernard Beckwith has often said. Four words which perfectly define the process of my own evolution.

Perhaps of yours as well?

Where is your vision taking you?

What To Say When You’re Having Coffee with God

What To Say When You’re Having Coffee with God

It was quite surreal.

I was sitting at a round wooden table in a busy coffee shop having a nice conversation. With God. He looked a lot like I thought He would look like, sort of an older version of the images of Jesus I’ve seen all my life. Same eyes.

Surprisingly, no one else in the coffee shop knew who He was. Oblivious, they were simply going about their collective days, too busy to notice perhaps?

Or, maybe He was there just for me.

At some point during our brief time together, I worked up the courage to ask Him an important question. An important question I’d been seeking answers to for most of my life.

“God?”

“Yes, Pete?”

“Am I worthy to receive the abundance of blessings of the Universe, to become all I have been created to become?”

God paused, put down His coffee, and looked me square in the eyes.

“Have I ever told you that you’re not?”

And with that, God stood up, and with a wink and a smile left me alone to reflect upon His answer.

It was quite the dream, but the message was anything but.

God has never told me I’m not worthy. He’s has never told anyone that they aren’t worthy. Yet somehow life has a way to often create a disconnect between who we are and who we think we are. And who we think we are is often much less than God’s intention behind our creation.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded of our worth, of our value, of our significance, of our birthright to allow and receive the blessings inherent with our own creation.

To allow ourselves to become what we’ve each individually been created to become.

Unless God tells you otherwise.

And He won’t.

Self Care Is Not Optional

Self Care Is Not Optional

Rte 6A meanders effortlessly on the north side of Cape Cod, the bay side. It is a road seemingly untouched by time, now gracefully stark and barren in the depths of winter. It’s a road I’ve inconveniently yet intentionally travelled for many decades.

Intentionally, mostly when I need some time to just be me. Not a husband, a son, a brother, a dad, a friend.

Just me.

Silently observing, reflecting, recharging.

I can always count on the serenity and simplicity of the flowing miles between Sandwich and Orleans to help me rediscover the serenity and simplicity I often forget are available within me.

May we all take the time to prioritize those places which allow us to reconnect with our most authentic, deepest self.

Self care is not optional.

Silencing Our Own Voice

Silencing Our Own Voice

I remember when I brought her home for the first time.

Betsy, I called her. I’m still not sure why. But, Betsy would be her name going forward.

She was beautiful, perfect in my eyes. She being my first electric guitar.

Me? I was gonna be a rock star. I already had the hair.

There was only one problem.

I had always wanted an electric guitar, and I had heard that Mr. Britto on Smith Street had one he was willing to sell. My enthusiasm convinced my Mom that she should let me spend the money I had saved and buy it. It was $40 back when $40 was a lot more than what $40 is today.

I didn’t know how to play guitar when I bought it, but I assured Mom that I’d learn. Taking music lessons didn’t quite excite me, no matter how good I was at playing scales or “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. I had a few friends who played guitar, and I was able to learn a bit from them. Ultimately, I sort of just dabbled with it, occasionally made some noise, and eventually Betsy ended up under my bed in the case I first brought her home in.

That one problem?

I never really thought of myself as a guitarist.

A few years back I found the guitar while cleaning out a closet. Immediately my mind went back to that 14 year old wide-eyed, long haired version of me. Eventually, though, I started thinking about what I hadn’t done with that guitar, about the music I didn’t make with that guitar. Like, why didn’t I?

Because I never allowed myself to do so.

What holds us back from being all we were created to be is our belief system. How we see ourselves pretty much determines what we are willing to allow ourselves to be. In music. And in life. Our identity of who we accept ourselves to be regulates everything. If our beliefs are limited, so, too, will be what we are willing to allow ourselves to become. In music. And in life. I never really saw myself as someone who could confidently play the guitar, and I met those expectations with precision.

I used to regret lots of things, things far more significant than not learning to play the guitar. But the root cause of all of those regrets was the same. A belief system limiting what I accepted as possible for me. Even if I told myself I wanted to be more, I was never going to let me do or accomplish anything more than my belief system would let me.

Regrets can crush you or they can be the fuel that moves you forward. I’ve opted for the fuel route.

The good thing about any limiting belief is it can be changed. First you need to be open to the reality that you actually have them and self-aware to compassionately notice them. Not everything we think is true. We just think it is. But when you identify or suspect thoughts which are limiting in nature, you have the right, ability, and obligation to change them.

But that’s on you. Nothing on the outside can change what we are unwilling to change on the inside.

Is there something on the inside that needs to change in order for you to fully express who you were created to become?

Challenging what I think has been such a critical tool in my overall growth, especially what I think about me and what’s possible for me. The mind which can create limitations can also destroy them.

It works both ways.

The guitar? It now hangs on my office wall. I have no desire to learn to play it. Rather, it’s there to remind me of what self-imposed limitations can look like. In music. And in life.

What’s holding you back?

What music are you not allowing yourself to make?

Your music, your voice, is far too important not to be fully expressed.

Receiving The Gift Of Receiving

Receiving The Gift Of Receiving

It was a priceless, transformational moment.

I was sitting on one of the player benches, just trying to catch my breath. The family and I were at the local ice rink, enjoying a couple of hours of ice skating just after Christmas. As a kid, ice skating was a regular weekend activity during the fall and winter months. My skating skills were never that great, but I managed to do OK. Now, some 40 years later, my daughters’ interest in skating has gotten me to lace up the skates once again.

Time has not improved my skating skills.

Apparently, Kyle thought I was pretty good at skating.

He said I was an expert.

I have no idea who Kyle is. He looked to be about 10 years old, enjoying some skating with his family. As I was sitting on the bench, exhausted, Kyle stopped and asked if he could tell me something. Surprised, I said “sure”. He said “you’re an expert at skating. I’ve been watching you skate and you’re really good…like an expert.”

Kind of stunned by what I heard, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

I’m glad I didn’t respond as instinctively as I often do.

My initial thought was to somehow try and convince Kyle he was wrong. In my mind I’m really not that good at skating. But instead of doing what I’ve often habitually done, I did something different.

I simply smiled and said “thank you”.

How often, when someone expresses an unexpected compliment toward us, do we find a way to try and minimize it? As if we couldn’t possibly be what the other thinks we are?

For me, I’ve noticed that had, in fact, become an instinctual response.

As we go through our life journey we develop a story about who we are. We listen to others, often those we look up to, and their comments, either intentionally or not, greatly shape the vision of who we think we are. We also learn about the power of comparison and how that can further shape our limiting beliefs, further eroding our worthiness and solidifying our vision as someone who shouldn’t be on the receiving end of complimentary words.

And it works both ways. Think about how often we offer someone a compliment or strong positive feedback only to be met with a response somehow trivializing our opinion. If you take the time to notice, you’ll see it’s quite prevalent.

I’m certain that my skating skills are not close to being at the expert level. But in his mind, I was pretty damn good at it, so much so that he actually approached me to tell me what he thought of my skating. With his honesty and sincerity, I felt Kyle deserved a “thank you” and not an explanation as to why he was wrong.

I was touched by Kyle’s actions and words. I hope he continues to express his positive opinions to others when he sees fit. I didn’t want to ruin this experience for him. I didn’t want to show him through my own words what minimizing yourself looks like.

Thank you, Kyle, for helping me be better at being me.

Sometimes allowing yourself to receive a gift is more important than the actual gift itself.

photo credit: Ben White via Unsplash

Santa, I Never Should Have Doubted You

Santa, I Never Should Have Doubted You

It was a special week.

I met Santa.

Twice!

My kids didn’t understand my enthusiasm. They’re at the age where they’ve long outgrown the Santa-down-the-chimney narrative. This “Santa guy” was just some guy wearing a red suit and a fake beard. For me, though, that didn’t matter. I’ve gained a new understanding of the Santa story.

It’s about believing.

It’s about the magic.

I remember many a Christmas morning hearing the kids run down the stairs to see if Santa had, in fact, left lots of toys. I remember their wide-eyed enthusiasm as they ran back up the stairs and into our bedroom to tell us that Santa had indeed showed up during the night. Magic. Pure magic.

And then at some point they figure it out.

The magic was over.

I guess that’s what “growing up” does to us all. It tends to suck the magic out of almost everything.

Over the years, yup, I’d lost my sense of magic. And not just about Christmas. I’d lost the magic of life. Adulting sort of got the best of me. Life became ordinary, often repetitively mundane. That’s what I chose to accept. That’s what I chose to believe.

What if I chose to believe something else?

It’s not so much about Santa. It’s more about what we are willing to believe about life and our own self and our own experience. How much magic do we simply not allow ourselves to see or experience? How often do we let “logic” steal our joy, draining the magic out of the magical moments of each new day? Of the magic in the things we routinely take for granted?

Even the magic of a new day itself?

As a child all I needed to do was believe. I was open to the possibilities of what I didn’t fully understand. Why can’t I again choose to see the magic in the things the adult me learned to see as just ordinary, to embrace that childlike wide-eyed wonder toward life itself and the gifts that life provides each of us if we simply choose to see them as gifts?

Maybe that’s what Santa has been trying to teach us all along?

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Mom passed. Expected yet unexpected all at the same time. It’s not something you can ever fully prepare for.

Recently, I found myself back in my old hometown and for some reason I felt called to visit the chapel Mom would quite often visit.

Mom was a woman of deep Christian faith, a guiding and comforting source for her throughout her life. Mom was also a prolific candle lighter, and Our Lady’s Chapel was the place she would light them. For family and friends in time of need or distress, Mom lit candles for us all.

It was my turn to light one for her.

After the candle was lit, I found myself sitting in the back pew of the Chapel. Just sitting. Observing. Remembering. Decompressing. A small boy sitting a few rows in front of me wandered away from his Mother and playfully pushed back the curtain to the Confessional located just to my left. His Mom was not at all pleased, but his actions got me to thinking about something I’ve not thought about for quite some time.

Growing up Catholic, I’ve certainly spent my share of time in the Confessional. As a boy, I’d kneel fearfully in darkness awaiting the priest to open the screen and I’d tell him of my sins for the week. Mostly about the number of swear words I’d used that week (I did my best to quantify my transgressions) and the occasional taking the Lord’s name in vain. Then, with nervous anticipation, I’d await my penance which usually involved a great deal of praying in the back of Church.

Spiritually, I’ve meandered a bit over the years. I’ve confessed a great deal over the years, just not in a Confessional.

Confession is the first step in forgiveness. It’s reflecting upon and acknowledging your actions, or, at times, the lack of them, and asking God to absolve you. In the secular space, I, too, have asked for the forgiveness of others for the times I’ve not lived up to my own Higher standard, for the actions I’ve taken or the lack of them.

Others have also occasionally asked for my forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is always granted, as the weight of holding grudges is more weight than I choose to carry, especially as I get older. I know I’m still far from perfect myself and I like to think I afford others the space to be less than perfect as well.

There is one person, though, I’ve often had a difficult time forgiving.

Me.

Funny how it’s often easier for us to forgive others than it is for us to forgive ourselves.

As I reflect about forgiveness, I realize that self-absolution has never been easy for me. The grudges I chose not to hold towards others I would easily hold against myself, mercilessly holding me perpetually accountable for my actions or lack there of.

Maybe you can relate to not giving yourself the space to be imperfect? To allow yourself to reflect and acknowledge the times in your life where you wish you responded differently, or had taken another path, and then forever beating yourself up for it.

Much of this changed for me when I was able to change the most important of all relationships.

The one with me.

The compassion and forgiveness I so easily dispensed to others? I threw a little of that my own way. I cut myself some slack. I accepted that no matter the result, I did the best I could at the time. I compassionately questioned why I’d befriend others yet wouldn’t extend that same level of friendship towards myself.

I stopped emotionally kicking my own ass.

I’m certain my issues with self-forgiveness can be traced back to the self-identity narratives which were created, nurtured, and perpetuated many decades ago. Many of them based in limitation, steeped in unworthiness, rooted in insecurity. What we are willing to accept as true for who we think we are impacts just about everything.

But narratives can be changed, if we are willing to question them.

It’s a conversation worth having.

It’s the most important conversation I’ve ever had.

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

I’m sure you’ve heard it.

“Be present.”

It’s the only moment we really have, they say. Because if we’re living in our past, we’re re-living the pains and regrets of yesterday, and if we’re living in the future it can be a fearful and worrisome based vision of the uncertainty which lies ahead. The present moment, we’re told, is the sweet spot between the two.

But what if the present moment sucks?

Because sometimes it does.

Then what do we do?

The present moment has been marketed as the safe space between our past and our future. An emotional oasis of sorts. But just because it’s the present moment doesn’t mean it’s always a peaceful moment.

Being aware that the present moment sucks is a good thing. It means you’ve been able to step back from your inner emotional turmoil to assess and determine that, yes, this moment actually sucks. Much like a first responder needs to assess the situation on scene before going forward, our self awareness is the first step for us to move beyond the suck.

Sometimes the suck is just a temporary moment. Sometimes it’s much bigger than that.

Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do in this suck moment is give yourself the time and the space to let the present moment suck.

To accept it as it is.

To allow it to be as it is.

Not beating yourself up because it does.

Not shaming yourself because it does.

Because when the present moment sucks, the last thing you need is to be in an abusive relationship with yourself.

You’ll find a way through.

You always have.