Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tightrope

Being on the tightrope is living. Everything else is waiting.
-Karl Wallenda

I have a picture in my bathroom of acrobats delicately balancing on a ledge high above NYC. The men in the photo are the “Flying Wallenda” brothers, a legendary circus family. I didn’t know when I bought it why I had to have it or why I wanted it in my bathroom where I would see it everyday.  But I do now. It was something Karl Wallenda’s great -grandson Nic said this week while walking 200 feet above Sarasota, Florida without a safety harness. Video of Sarasota Stunt

“Fear is a choice.”

Okay, he also said that driving a car is more dangerous than tight rope walking because at least he is in control on the rope as opposed to the road, which I question. But I agree with his take on fear. It is a choice. Our choices are often based on inherited beliefs than unconsciously passed down through the generations. The Wallendas have carried on their gravity defying skills since great grandpa Karl first answered an ad for a hand balancer with courage almost 100 years ago. Whether Karl knew it at the time or not, he taught his offspring more than just the circus life. He made friends with fear. Maybe even waved hello to vulnerability staring up at him from the hard concrete below.

Fear of: spiders, abandonment, failure, success, clowns, the dark, the dentist, mediocrity, the limelight, fear of being misunderstood or not being heard or not mattering in the grand scheme. Pick your poison. Before you can make a conscious choice to step out in faith, you have to identify what exactly your afraid of. For me, it also helps to know where the fear originated.

Here is a nifty technique I picked up in one of the many workshops attended this year. Write down something that you really always wanted. Something as bold as a 500 foot trek from towering condo roof to condo roof on a thin wire. Now think about what awaits you at the other end. Fame? Riches? Validation? Write it down in detail. Now write down what is the worst that can happen. If you fall 200 feet to the road below, will you die? Is it worse than not trying? What is the likelihood of the worst happening? Who told you that would be the outcome? What makes them the expert?

Have you thought about what fears you may have inherited? Are they saving you from falling to your death? Are they worth passing on?

For today’s “Sky’s the Limit” on what you can learn: The Flying Wallendas. Karl Wallenda was born into a German circus family in 1905. He began performing at the age of 6 and turned it into a family affair with his brothers and later his wife and kids. He was discovered by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus while performing in Cuba and brought to the U.S. where he made the seven person chair pyramid famous. 73- year old Karl Wallenda died in 1978 when he fell from a wire 10 stories above Puerto Rico. Nik has since completed the same feat that killed his great grandfather as well as achieved fame in his own right. In 2012, Nik became the first person to walk a tight rope from the U.S. to Canada above Niagara Falls.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Soulful Parents

I am thrilled to be a contributing author to a wonderful new collaborative e-book called The Soulful Parent: How to Nurture Your Child's true Self and Set the Stage for growth, Success & Fulfillment There are insights from 23 authors with a wide range of life experiences. The common bond is we all believe in the incredible importance of the relationship between parents and children. Every writer has a slightly different approach, but they are all trying to reach the same destination of deep, mindful connection. It was written in the spirit that if we can transform our lives to a higher level of consciousness, we can empower our children to live their dreams, fulfill their purpose and be the change that heals the world.Here is a sneak peak of the book with my humble contribution. I encourage you to download this Free Gift. It is a resource for parents of all ages.

Seeing Ourselves in Our Children
By Tracey Locke

"This is the best day ever!"
My daughter Hadley started making this declaration almost daily when she was about 3 and half. It didn’t matter if we were driving through a carwash or headed to the playground, she sincerely felt that life could not get any better. Can I order dessert? Best day ever! She did not get her enthusiasm from me. Before she was born, I was a television reporter and a single mom to my son in my former life. In those long days of racing to not be the last one to pick up from daycare, I daydreamed about having a loving husband, a sibling for my son, a better neighborhood to raise my family, the opportunity to be a stay-at-home parent. I got my wishes, every single one of them with a cherry on top. To my dismay, it wasn’t enough.

“This is it?” I asked.
“This is it!” Hadley shouted.

I finished my sentences with a question mark. I wanted my daughter’s exclamation points. So I set out on a journey. Call it a life experiment to be more childlike. I wanted to see the world through her eyes. Through wider, brighter, more childlike eyes. I wanted to learn from my children and at the same time not teach them some of the more useless aspects of adulthood. Holding grudges. Unrealistic expectations. Worry. Guilt. Fear. Those are lessons I picked up along the way that were not worth passing on. Tying your shoes. ABC’s. Making pizza. Those are the things I felt equipped to teach before my little experiment. Brainstorming. Following your dreams. Believing in magic. Being open to new possibilities. Forgiveness. Self love. That is what I wanted to be an expert at sharing.
I broke my Be More Childlike journey down into a different focus every month for one year.

 In the first month of studying childlike optimism, I sang optimistic songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning”. The only thing risked was someone telling me that my voice reminded them of scratching on a chalkboard. The reward was huge.

The first time I tried it, my kids didn’t say a word. That night, after an exhausting 11- hour day of tests and football practice, my then 12-year old son, Cole, finally sat down to do his homework and was happily whistling the song I had hummed earlier that morning. The next time I tried it on the way to school, I happened to turn around and catch a glimpse of my daughter quietly waving her hands like a symphony composer in her car seat. A couple of weeks passed with no singing. One morning, I woke up growling like a grumpy bear. Couldn’t find my keys. A/C was broken. We were late. Everything was a problem. My daughter started singing “You Are My Sunshine” to me. I had no idea she knew the words. Not only did she know the words, she knew the good feelings that her singing evoked.

Obviously, humming a happy tune is not a cure-all for all of life’s challenges. But it is a start. It is about trying new things, however silly, to see what works for you. It is about recognizing that everything you do, say and feel is being heard and seen and sung right back to you. I know that the stakes are high. I know I need to nurture myself if I am going to be a nurturing parent. But I am also forgetful. I need reminders. Children are more reliable than setting the calendar alarm on your smart phone if you pay just a little attention.

Halfway through my experiment, the focus had shifted to childlike imagination. I thought the month would involve planting new, bold, colorful ideas. Instead, I first had to get in the dirt and weed out stubborn fears.

My daughter loves to draw. But something changed that month. Several times, coloring turned to crying. I watched her try to draw a picture of the beach as a gift for her friend. She hated it. She asked me to draw a unicorn instead. “Nope, not good enough”. She tried coloring a heart by herself. Big crocodile tears came rolling down her cheeks. “It’s not perfect,” she kept whining inconsolably. She never finished the picture. In that moment, I clearly saw my reflection in my daughter’s tear streaked face. Before her irrational meltdown, I thought perfectionists must be almost perfect because they try so hard. I didn’t relate to the label at all because you can’t be a perfectionist and still feel so imperfect.
I strove to get rid of that feeling through the next big thing like a hamster runs on his wheel. At the time of the crayon incident, my stated goals on my Be More Childlike blog were to be a better mom, better friend, better spouse, better sister, better daughter and better writer. That sounds childlike, right? I thought by making a to-do list like living in the present or letting go of expectations, I could achieve “better”. I thought “better” was a destination and the wheel would take me there if only I worked hard enough.

When I was trying to comfort my distraught daughter with her crumpled pile of papers, concern and empathy turned to frustration and a sense of helplessness. It made me wonder if my family feels that way when I am frantically trying to get the house ready for a holiday gathering or anxious about a pending project.

Of all the parenting advice I’ve ever heard, what strikes a chord with me is modeling behavior. Set reasonable expectations. Don’t take yourself or your mistakes too seriously. Learn from them. Try again. I have since replaced the word ”better” with the words “more intentional” on my experiment goals. I added a couple new ones. Know myself and treat myself with the same care I treat my beautiful children. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jessica in the Mirror

I can do anything good, better than anyone. 

As I tried to explain this blog experiment, someone told me about this video Jessica's Daily Affirmation. It is a home video of a little girl who loves life in a way that we all wish we still did. After watching it, I thought yes this man gets what I am trying to do with my writing. But what he really gets is the little girl. Who wouldn’t want to be like her? His question for me was how do you become like Jessica? One of my approaches is taking a mental note of all the good in my life and writing about it. Here are a few snapshots from the past week.

Driving home Saturday night and looking up just as paper lanterns filled the sky above the Vinoy marina. A minute before and the lights would have blended with the twinkling sailboats in the harbor and the Pier in the distance. A minute later, we might have mistaken them for stars. My husband, daughter and I witnessed a scene from the Tangled fairytale solidifying my belief that we live in a magical place. 

My 13-year old son dressed like Napoleon Bonaparte to give a biographical speech in first person. The costume was brilliant, but not nearly has brilliant as the boy who remembered dates and battle strategies. He learned something and did his best.

The smile on the same skeptical son’s face when he discovered the tooth fairy visited his room with a Kit Kat bar and a $20 spot. Call it dental inflation. But he only has three original pearly whites left. I want  (err, I mean the tooth fairy) wants each one to count.

Yesterday on the way to the grocery store, a crowd gathered by our neighborhood boat launch. A herd of manatees was showing off the newest member of the family, a calf who loved kissing his mama.

Today on my way to the office, I spotted the first spectactular blossom of the Kapok. In a few weeks, the tree will be a burst of brilliant red attracting hundreds of birds. 

It sounds simple, but have you tried looking around and taking note of the "anything good" in your world?

For today's Sky's the Limit on what you can learn: Jessica was 4 years old when she was telling the mirror everything that she likes about her life. She is 15 now. When her father uploaded a bunch of family videos to share with relatives a few years ago, she became an almost overnight viral sensation at the age 12. She seemed to handle 12 million page views and a loyal You Tube following in stride. Her television appearances and celebrity status didn't interfere with her good grades and sports. Would love to see an update now.

What is Ordinary?

Adjective: With no special or distinctive features; normal.
Noun: What is commonplace or standard.
Synonyms: common-usual-regular-normal-habitual-customary

I spent the last week immersed in a writing workshop with 12 talented non-fiction authors. I learned so much and am truly grateful for the experience. I also walked away with a new appreciation for the ordinariness of my life. The subject matter in every manuscript dealt with loss, survival and a deeply personal search for identity and purpose.

I suggested more emotion to the detached narrative of an ER nurse who reunites adoptees with their birth families after enduring 15 years of profound abuse in foster care. I scratched out unnecessary adjectives to the story of a young man who lost his father and grandfather the same year he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and his wife left him. I asked for clarification in the tale of a young mother who fears she inherited the insanity that drove her father to become one of the most notorious serial rapists in California history. I wanted to know more back story on what led a woman to become a nun who writes about her faith while battling cancer. I corrected punctuation in the tale of a family ripped in half by Fidel Castro’s regime. I questioned the line drawn between fiction and non-fiction in the story of a woman who lives off the grid in the desert and came to love a rattlesnake that followed her everywhere. There was the ambitious bucket list of a woman who beat cancer three times. There was the loss of innocence of a young woman caught in a web of greed and sex. There was the recollection of what it was like to grow up as the starving child of New York City starving artists in the 1950’s. There was the disillusioned doctor who gave up a well-earned life of comfort to treat dying AIDS patients in Africa. There were parents who lost children to suicide.

I walk away from the class wondering why anyone would ever make up  a script  when every single person has such a fascinating, if not cautionary, tale to share. The strange thing is you would never know it unless the person happens to be a memoir writer. My classmates all look and act so ordinary. They have careers and families and homes and hobbies and habits. We are all the same in so many ways. But we are not.

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: Ordinary: I am not the first to ponder the question of what is ordinary. Couldn't pick just one when there are so many thought provoking quotes on the subject:

- I was like a boy playing n the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding the smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
-Isaac Newton

Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.
-Blaise Pascal

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
-Oscar Wilde

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at the present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
-C.S. Lewis

-Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will asset integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
-Cecil Beaton

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blank Pages

 Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. talent will not; nothing is more common than successful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
-Calvin Coolidge

This morning, my daughter wanted to take pretend pictures at the dog park with her toy camera and describe them in her notebook, an old journal that she dug out of who knows where. Someone gave me the book at her baby shower.  The idea was to write letters to my baby throughout her childhood. When I turned back the turquoise embossed leather cover, I read my last letter from 4 years ago almost to the day. 

January 20th 2009
We are watching President Obama’s inauguration. His campaign was built on the concept of “change”. We see change daily with you. You are sitting up by yourself and gurgling Mama.

I finished the letter with telling her about our new routine of walking her brother to school in the morning. Like the journal entries, that practice of walking to school stopped four years ago too.  As January draws to an end, so does this month’s focus on childlike persistence. If I have learned anything this month, it is that I should probably be held back to repeat this subject.  “But I am an IDEAS person”, my right side says with grand eccentric hand gestures. The left side looks at that journal with its three beautiful  letters and shakes it’s half of my head. “What if you had not stopped? Think of the treasures that could be yours by now”?

August 21st, 2008
We are packing to go to the hospital…Cole just called from his room,are you ready for one of the best days of our lives?’

October 9th 2008
I bought a new Bob Marley Cd. We listen to it and dance around your room…. Many of the Rays players cut their hair in a mohawk for the play offs. You have a natural mohawk.

January 20th 2009
My nickname for you is “Happiness” and “LuLu Bird”. Your dad calls you “Baby Girl” and “Earth Angel”.

Instead of getting discouraged by the hundreds of blank pages and allowing the book to become lost and buried once more, I choose to fill the pages with broad bold strokes. I choose to believe it is never too to start again.  

January 23, 2013
Today you asked me to write down what you took imaginary pictures of at the dog park: Leaves, black and white dog, me (you) with red eyes, dog filled with hearts that looks like a unicorn, birds that I wish I could put on my finger. You also practiced signing your name.

How do you regard your blank pages?

For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: It's National Pie Day! Yippee. I never knew. But thanks to the National Pie Council now I know about this very important American holiday. I also know that 36 million rate apple their favorite. 

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