#48: Are You Afraid of Flat Foxes?

#48: Are You Afraid of Flat Foxes?

The other day I was driving to work when I passed the South Lake Union Park.

The tamed section of the park is fairly new, but the wilder parts of it have long been a favorite spot from which to enjoy the Lake Union fireworks. It’s also a favorite gathering spot for the enormous flocks of Canada geese that are verging on pest status around Seattle.

Where there are geese, there is poop. Lots of it. I probably don’t need to elaborate on the consistency of this poop, but in the interest of full disclosure, it’s nasty, runny, gooey, sticky stuff.

I am intimately acquainted with Canada goose poop as I used to volunteer for the Seattle Goose Project. The goal of the SGP is to help geese and humans dwell in relative truce in an urban maritime environment. Easier said than done.
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#44: What Makes You Feel Abundant?

#44: What Makes You Feel Abundant?

I’ve been thinking a lot about abundance lately. You know, that feeling of enoughness. Which is, ironically, rare in our land o’ plenty.

The abundance mindset is a powerful state of believing you have enough of whatever you need. That you will be taken care of. That you can trust the Universe and the people around you to meet your needs.

When you embrace an abundance mindset, you take risks that bring great rewards. You give to others from the bottom of the heart. You are generous and bold.

The magical part? Acting from a place of abundance actually creates abundance.
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#35: Sink or Swim?

#35: Sink or Swim?

I was at Greenlake this week taking a walk. There’s a dock where folks bring their dogs to jump off into the water. There’s always a fleet of dripping, slobbering Labradors staring intently at the ball in their person’s hand.

I stopped to watch for a minute, just as a young man and his chocolate Labradoodle arrived at the dock. The dog was carrying this filthy stuffed rabbit with black stitching and one big button eye. It looked like a middle-school home-ec project FAIL. But the dog loved the thing. You could tell he’d been carrying it everywhere with him since birth.

His guardian bent down to unwrap a shiny new floating rubber duckie he just bought. Perfect for the lake — it floats, it’s bright yellow, easy to see. And it’s new! Yay! New toys!

He stands back up, duck curled in his right hand, about to chuck the thing into the water. Labradoodle does his little dance, bunny still in his mouth, and you can see the steam coming out of his ears: “Throwtheduck throwtheduck throwtheduck!”

Taking a courageous leap off the dock into the murky water, the dog holds his snout above the surface to keep his bunny dry and starts paddling like mad.

As you can imagine, when he arrives at Destination Duckie, he’s in a bit of a pickle.

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#28: How Good is Your Escape Plan?

#28: How Good is Your Escape Plan?

I was watching the “Bourne Identity” last night again and was struck by the scene where Jason and Marie are in the diner enjoying their coffee. Jason tells her that he’s already cased the joint for the best exit; he knows where the best getaway car is parked. He knows how to get out if the situation goes sideways.

It reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a friend, where we both admitted at one point or another to having “one foot out the door.”

The problem with always thinking about an escape route is that you don’t invest in the current situation – you don’t give it your full attention and you don’t give it a chance.

A job that you don’t dedicate yourself to because you’re always looking for some way out becomes unsatisfying.

A relationship that you don’t invest in withers because you don’t commit to making it the best it can be.

Everything in our life thrives with attention. When we’ve got one foot out the door, we don’t give our lives a chance to thrive. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: we expect a situation to fall short so we don’t invest the energy required to make it succeed.

But what if you couldn’t leave?

What if you HAD to stay, and make the best of a situation?

I’ve played this game with myself with dramatic results. The apartment that was driving me batty, the job that was boring me to tears. I asked myself, what if I couldn’t leave? What would I do differently?

The job became more engaging because I dug in and started doing stuff to make the best of it. The apartment became more livable because I cleaned it and bought some comfortable furniture.

The relationship… well, that’s a different story. Sometimes pretending you can’t leave makes you realize how essential it is to do so. Quickly. And that provides its own clarity.

Try this journaling exercise at home. Think about a situation you’re in right now that’s not going how you’d like. Maybe you want to leave your job but you can’t afford to right now. Maybe your relationship or your living situation is not optimal.

As yourself:

  • What if I couldn’t leave?

See if making the best of what you’ve got makes the situation a little more livable.

Or if it makes you realize it’s time to take that “one foot out the door” and turn it into two!

#7: Are You Asking the Right Question?

#7: Are You Asking the Right Question?

When I’m going through a rough spot, I journal more. My morning writing sessions stretch out and I often add an evening session. This isn’t because I have so many answers to explore.

It’s because I have so many questions.

So many times, I’ve written a weighty, important question in my journal, and followed it with, I don’t have the answer to this. Please show me the way. And in the spirit of What the #$*! Do We Know!?, I ask the Universe to make the answer super obvious because I’m a little dense.

Asking big questions is an act of bravery. It’s one of the hardest things we can do as humans. Humans like the status quo: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But there’s a big difference between “not broken” and “working sublimely.”

The opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy.
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#4: What Kind of Genius Are You?

#4: What Kind of Genius Are You?

Like every eight-year-old girl in 1984, I wanted a Barbie Dream House for Christmas. Three floors of Pepto-Bismol pink plastic, a roof that cranked open, stainless steel appliances and granite slab counters. Maybe a dedicated bedroom for Barbie’s Afghan Hound.

Even at that age, I understood spending hundreds of dollars on a silly dollhouse was not an option for my blue-collar family Christmas. Still, while dutifully adding more practical gifts to my wish list, I ached quietly for a Dream House of my own.

On Christmas morning, there was an enormous mound in front of the tree. My parents pointed me toward it and I kneeled before the oddly-shaped present which was as tall as me and as wide as our fake Northern pine.

I tore away the wrapping paper cautiously to reveal a Barbie Dream House like the world had never seen.

It was built not out of pink plastic, but honeyed oak. The roof was patterned with tiny hand-cut shingles. Each room was lined with real wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting. Little comforters, miniature shutters on the windows. My head spun as I examined the details.

And then I realized that each room of this Barbie Dream House was modeled after one in my own house. The mint green carpet of my bedroom, the family room’s earth-toned wallpaper, our sunshine-yellow linoleum kitchen floor. The same exterior palette as the big colonial I lived in. Not only was there a bedroom for Barbie’s Afghan Hound, but it looked just like mine.

It was an undeniable work of art.

My dad built this Dream House. From scratch. He looked at a picture in the Sears catalog, pulled out some scrap paper, and drew a blueprint. Like much of the house I grew up in, he built the walls, wired the electricity, raised the roof. Painted, wallpapered and carpeted each room himself. Laid the mosaic tiles in the bathroom floor, sanded and stained the crown moulding.

My dad’s not an architect. In fact, the way he tells it, he just barely graduated from high school. He can’t spell and his handwriting is atrocious. He spent the majority of his employed years installing sheet metal duct work in commercial buildings. He’ll remind you regularly that he’s “not real bright.”

Yet he can build a dream house from a thumbnail photograph using scraps of wood unearthed in the basement.

If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is.

Fish Can’t Climb Trees, Silly!

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
~Albert Einstein

I think we’ve all got a streak of genius. A gift we’ve been given that is uniquely ours.

But early on, we encounter a problem. Somebody else decides our gift is not worth opening. Or they compare the gift we’ve got with the one they wish we had.

So we learn to devalue our gift. We hide it. Or we call it a “hobby.” And we move forward with a different skill set – something more practical, something more acceptable.

How many times have you doubted your own genius? Or discounted it as less worthy than the genius of your friends or coworkers? Compared what you’re naturally good at with what somebody else told you to be good at?

I have no sense of direction. I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly six years, and I still get lost on my way home from the grocery store. Despite my best efforts, terms like “northeast” and “west” remain largely meaningless.

But animals come to me when I call them, and I wrote a novel in twenty-seven days.

There’s a reason they invented GPS.

What’s your bailiwick?

You need to know your brand of genius. If the word “genius” makes you uncomfortable (it certainly wouldn’t work for my dad), try “knack.” The more spiritually-oriented among us might choose “blessing.” If you’re legally-minded, use “bailiwick.” I prefer “gift.”

When you know what your gift is, you can work it. You can build it and embrace it and nurture it. It feels pretty awesome to do a bang-up job at something. To be the person folks go to when they need your exact brand of expertise.

If you have a grammar question or a kitten up a tree, I’m your girl.

Your gift translates into all areas of your life. Knowledge and skill increase your self-confidence. So when you’re talking to that braniac programmer at work, you can say, “Sure he’s smart. But can he whip up a flawless Quiche Lorraine?”

And we begin to realize that everyone has a gift. So we can stop judging ourselves and others using the same scale of smart. We can stop being a dumb fish who can’t climb a tree.

Journaling for Genius

Try the following exercises in your journal to get in touch with your brand of genius.

Working with Compliments

Learn to accept compliments. Instead of playing down a compliment, look the person in the eye, smile, and say, “Thank you.” Then document it in your journal.

Each time someone pays you a compliment, write it down. Create a special section just for compliments. In fact, make it a lifelong habit, if you can. You may discover new areas of talent you’d never considered before.

Also keep an eye out for those indirect compliments that can slip under the radar. One guy I work with never doles out positive feedback, so hearing him say, “This report’s not half bad,” is cause for documentation.

Put one of those compliments at the top of a blank page and write about it for ten minutes.

How did it make you feel when the UPS guy said, “Your window boxes are so beautifully planted. I admire them every time I bring a package to this building. You’ve really got a green thumb!”

Did you feel proud? Embarrassed? Do you feel there’s truth to that statement? Have you received that compliment before? What does it say about you?

Child’s Play

What were you good at when you were a kid? In your journal, make a list of some of the things you enjoyed when you were young. See if you can recall awards or prizes you won in school, acknowledging a job well done.

Don’t write off these seemingly insignificant talents. And don’t jump straight to judging whether or not they’re useful skills as an adult. I know you have bills to pay. Don’t start worrying that you’ll discover finger painting is your true calling. Just write it down.

We’re not quitting our day jobs this week to take up full-time basket weaving. But is there any harm in spending a rainy Sunday afternoon weaving baskets if it fills you with pride, soothes your soul, and makes you happy?

For a few minutes, just write. Set aside any preconceived notions you have about what you’re good at. Don’t wonder whether that talent is of any use.

It’s not about utility. It’s about finding your genius.