Let the Sunshine Swivel Your Way

It can be hard to ascertain…how our light and humanity impact others.  Maybe it’s a smile, maybe it’s an unexpected kindness. Simple stuff. Do those little things add up? I think so and I think it’s okay to hope that we’re contributing to a more positive universe when we extend ourselves.  Is it too much to ask – to be ever hopeful that our bits of love and light might turn the tide or balance the challenges in life for someone else?  It’s aspirational, for sure. But we don’t get to follow every trail because doing so would reduce the energy we have to stay in the moment, ready to encourage and support those in front of us…or those we’ve yet to encounter. 

I’m pondering this today because kindnesses which occur in happenstance encounters can be fluid and fast…unlike those we experience in relationships where discernible ripples are more evident, providing opportunities to see the unfolding.  What happens next?  You’re right there, front row and all and it’s a balancing act.  How much do you give without losing yourself in the process?

Someone I care about thought she was being kind-hearted and giving and made a massive sacrifice for someone she loves.  It involved a life-altering cross country move – not just for her partner but for her as well.  Was it a stellar opportunity for the woman she loves?  Yes.  The kind of offer you dare not turn down.  And so, the choices for my friend were few and obvious: Move – go with her partner… OR…stay put and attempt a long-distance relationship…OR…the scariest proposition of all?  End the relationship. She chose to move…but not without substantial heartache and anticipatory stress about sacrificing HER career for her partner’s. 

The move occurred several months ago and despite an ‘eyes wide open’ decision (or so she thought) my dear friend is miserable.  She misses her friends and family and while her partner’s career is soaring, she’s struggling to find work in her field…so much so that she’s picked up some self-soothing habits that are contributing to the demise of their relationship…fueling her passive-aggressive barbs.  She doesn’t want to be angry, but she is, and she knows her target isn’t, truly, her partner.  Nope, she’s the one wearing the bullseye – as a result of her decision to move. 

Maybe this is you…when you’re at your worst (I know it’s a behavior I fall prey to).  Do you keep score? My friend figured her substantial sacrifice earned her a lifetime of grace…you know, those ‘bonus points’ we tally in a relationship as we anoint ourselves with the title ‘consummate giver’.  I’ve earned the right to be a hell-raiser if I want to…except it doesn’t work that way.  She’s not owed anything…she made the choice to move and regrets it now. 

Wanting to be the git-along girl got her into the pickle barrel she’s in and there’s only one way out.  Sooner, not later, she needs to name her frustration and be honest with her partner.  I suspect the smart woman she loves already put the pieces together…people in a pickle can be easy to read…sour, sassy and all.

Me?  I’m the listener, the neutral party trying to help my friend find her way. I think she’s almost there, but the message she needs to receive more than anything is that she’s not a bad person.  Her decision to move came from a caring place and even once all is resolved (one way or another) she can reclaim her sunny side…it’s still there…and it’ll guide her forward.

Course correction is my preferred term for what comes next…as I try to help her move away from her maddening fixation on the word MISTAKE.  It carries a heaviness tinged with failure, like weighted chains.  I have faith in her and believe her hallmark traits of kindness and love will swivel her way – so she’s the intended beneficiary for a change.  No mistakes.  Just a course correction.

Thanks for reading…I’m sending sunshine and smiles your way…soak it up or spread it around. You know best.

Vicki 😊

Spring in My Step

Hello there…holy cow…I’ve got something on my mind that I can’t wait to share. 😊 I’m feeling joyful because of a sweet memory and yes, I’m about as happy as the little dude in the pic. Happy Tuesday, y’all!

The first “Vicki” news flash? The importance of good posture and the benefits I reap if I stretch, every morning, to get my shoulders back and chin up.  I don’t know what I do to myself when I sleep – it must be the side-sleeper curled up position, fetal-like…but wowza…I need to take a minute to get my parts to line up again, once I’m upright.  And you know what?  I’m finding I need a mid-day stretch, more than ever before.  And later in the day, I need a ‘Hey, dufus, you’ve been sitting too long’ stretch so my hips and knees can greet my feet again.  So that’s the first thing.

The second “Vicki” news flash?  While out in the world yesterday, a random gentleman smiled and gave me the sweetest compliment.  I passed him while headed into the post office – me in, him out – and he said, “How lovely to see someone with a spring in their step” as he held the door for me.  I guess I DO walk that way. Maybe it’s just a combo of attitude and gait? I tend to walk with purpose and summon a sunny attitude, whenever possible. And then I realized I’ve heard this before, this ‘bouncy walk’ comment.

A few years ago, as I walked across campus, a friend saw me from a pretty good distance. She was arriving, having just parked her car, and was in search of the pick-up spot for the summer camp program.  Susan’s son was in an engineering immersion experience for gifted youngsters, I think her little guy was eight at the time.  As Susan scanned the imposing-looking buildings, realizing the campus was much larger on foot than when she drove by, she became frustrated with herself because she was late AND lost.  (Now…that’s a combo I hate. How about you? I can handle one or the other, but both? Anxiety producer, for sure.)

But then, Susan said, she saw “this woman” (me) walking quickly from building to building, several hundred yards ahead of her.  Yes, there were other people around – college students with their heads in their phones and/or ear buds in.  Not as approachable as this gal she saw, with a spring in her step, a “bouncy walk” as she put it.  So, she scampered just a bit to catch up with me, to ask the happy-looking lady for directions.  I saw her coming and recognized her first.  “It’s Susan! I bet she’s here to pick up Jake from camp” I thought and I started walking in her direction.  She figured out it was me as we got closer and then laughed.  “I should’ve known” she said.  “I can spot you a mile away, you with your bouncy walk and all.” 

The point? I’d forgotten all about the bouncy business until the stranger at the post office shared his off-hand comment yesterday, reminding me of the day I ran into Susan.  More and more, I find myself a taking on a head-down-ever-watching-my phone-posture when I’m out in the world.  My push for productivity? Fairly often it backfires – resulting in clumsy replies to texts and emails when I should be watching where I’m going, you know, klutz that I am. 

My mantra for today?  Shoulders back, chin up, and I’m bringing my bouncy walk along, just because.

Vicki 😉

Photo by Aleksandr Balandin on Pexels.com

Who Needs the Leaves?

sunrise

Nope, not a long post from me on this, the final day of October.

Many of us lament the loss of leaves this time of year. Me, too. And yet…as I mentally prepare for the transition to shorter days, I still welcome the reminders that nature doesn’t quit — offering take-your-breath-away-vignettes, with or without foliage.

That’s how I feel about the sunrise view I’m sharing with you from my backyard. A reminder that tree branches – even without leaves – are stunning, especially with a backdrop of early morning, pink, blue and orange brilliance.

No matter what’s on deck for you today, enjoy it all.

-Vicki ❤

Be More than Mona

Mona Lisa
Hello, Mona!

Do you know someone who is ‘read’ by strangers as safe?  Oozing a vibe that says “Yes, I can be your port in a storm”?  I don’t know if it’s cosmic energy or something equally mystical but I’m often that person.  You, too? The one who’s instinctively leaned on? 

Before you say ‘Hey that’s a great quality’ let me share that I often think, at least in my case, it’s misplaced trust.  I can be a nasty gal; grumpy and crabby and although I try not to sneer and cackle at strangers (I save that for friends and family – LOL!) I’ve always wondered why me?

I think I figured it out.  Do you know about the Duchenne smile?  I was clueless until a professor laid it on me in grad school.  Evaluating my technique as a therapist-in-training I received plenty of unwelcome feedback (You ask too many leading questions…You need to become more comfortable with silence).  Those were the most frequent critiques.  But when he offered ‘Hmmmm…Duchenne smile’ as stoic three-word commentary, it was a head-scratcher. Huh? Doo-whooo?

Maybe you’re more informed than I was. I was annoyed that I needed to look up this Doo-sHEN dude to understand the point my professor was trying to make.  Sheesh. It would’ve been easier if he’d just said, ‘You stink’.  But spewing a reference to a type of smile?  Throwing me off track, buddy.  His delivery was that emotionless and monotone. 

And so, I learned about Guillaume Duchenne and immediately regretted my caustic thoughts about my well-intending professor.  Turns out, the whole “Duchenne” thing was a compliment.  Yep – Guillaume Duchenne, scientist from two centuries ago was hell bent on mapping the human body and understanding musculature and movement – especially related to facial expressions.  His work, while ground-breaking, was also the stuff of nightmares (Happy Halloween!) because he experimented mostly on decapitated heads.  Ick. 

Despite his morbid methods, Guillaume was a pioneer, documenting the importance of the eyes in determining what’s most genuine in a smile.  Eyes engaged and crinkled?  Eureka! That’s an authentic, Duchenne smile.  Smiles that are more controlled, show less engagement of the facial muscles? Indicative of less authenticity, more reserved.  Now I understand.  The most famous example of all, is Mona Lisa’s non-Duchennian smile. 

So, to hell with the crows feet and wrinkles, bust out your big grins and smile, people!  Those half-hearted, staged-looking pouts are the stuff of indulgent selfies.  Not real life.

Why is this on my mind? Masks and Covid made connecting so much harder.  All the more reason to lean into the Duchenne smile, I say.  Maybe that’s why random people seek some of us out for assistance. Authenticity for the win! 😊

Me? Left to my own devices and tendencies, I navigate the world with a grin and open body language – just because.  I’m the one who greets people first with a ‘good morning’ or a hello.  Especially during the pandemic when my smiles (Duchenne or not) were hidden.  All the more important to get my crinkle on and “show” I was smiling, with my eyes.  Mask or no mask now, I think I’ll keep Duchenne-ing.

-Vicki 😉

“Begin Again”

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo
“Begin Again” – an all-time favorite film

I love the film “Begin Again”.  Yes, it’s a little salty and true to its “R” rating…but still.  I just love it. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden and Adam Levine? Sigh.  Maybe I love it because it’s already a little vintage-y…the story from 2014 about musicians…knowing their worth and protecting it…and the impact on self, relationships.  Maybe I love it because the title is endearing. Yes, always, to ‘beginning again‘. Ahh…

Beyond the title 😊 there are three parts of the film that speak to me intensely – prompting joyful tears about the magic of creativity and the power of music:

The first?  Near the beginning when Mark Ruffalo’s character envisions – sees, hears, conducts – an imaginary arrangement of instruments to enhance Keira Knightley’s subdued vocals.  In real time.  It’s a fantastic out of body experience (alcohol-induced, but I’m disregarding that) and I can only imagine this level of musical genius.  It’s one of the best depictions I’ve seen; a cinematic attempt to showcase the continuum that is music and madness. (Sadly, it’s a family storyline, too. The burden of brilliance for the musically gifted…personal sharing to come, perhaps another day.)

The second?  I adore an endearing dad and daughter storyline.  In a rooftop recording session (near the 1:20 mark or so) Ruffalo’s character realizes his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) is a gifted, yet tentative musician.  Dad’s got skills, too, but is reluctant to pick up a guitar himself.  When he does, his act of bravery encourages and ignites confidence in his dear daughter.  Right there on screen.  Magic.

The third?  James Corden is a goofball in the film (maybe that’s his natural state?) and there’s a scene, following the rooftop recording, where he DEFIES partygoers to NOT dance to a beat that’s hypnotic and powerful. Who can resist?  I love how this was captured on film.  It felt authentic, silly and it aligned with one of my core beliefs:  good music makes you move.  Maybe just a little – toe tapping or finger thumping – or whole-body ‘cutting loose’.  You can’t stop it.

And so…this past Friday night was movie rewind time in our house.  “Begin Again” offered food for the soul, alongside a monster bowl of popcorn. Whether it was the popcorn or the movie, a satisfying and fulfilling sense of happy still lingers.

-Vicki ❤

Bumps & Blessings in Parenting

frustrated mom face
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Right now, it might be hard to fathom, but I’ll share a truth with you.  The one that kept me (more or less) sane during the roller coaster ride that is parenting:  The highs and lows will suck air from your soul.  This is not a drill.  Despite the resplendent, breathtakingly shiny moments  – those that are gloriously joyful – you can’t linger there because the valley is waiting, too. 

The valley is where you’ll question everything – especially yourself.  In those moments you might fret that you’re incapable, ill-suited, or too impatient for the rigors of parenting.  I don’t care how old your children are – whether newbies in onesies, toddlers, or teens – they will rock you with the unexpected as they morph and grow.  Developmentally pre-destined, this push-pull of parenting.

When your babies return after the miracle miles of maturity, you’ll see them, still, as your squishy newborns, but they’ll be disguised in grown up packaging. Even as full-fledged adults, their needs for attachment are still there – but in new wrappers. 

Parenting is maddeningly unscripted, unpredictable (and, I found, in constant conflict with my plan-ahead personality) but you move through it, relishing the sunny days and smooth roads when they arrive.  They come and you remember:  I am nothing if not resilient.

Take care of yourself, my parenting compadre.  One day you might look up and see a little being who once ate crayons (“Just to try them, mom”) as a near-peer, standing before you.  Still needing you, same as ever, just taller, and less sticky.

Vicki ❤

Love, Magic, Wonder

Love with heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This morning I peeked at pieces I’ve written recently (and some that are still ‘in the pipeline’) and remarked (yes, talking to myself) that three words seem pervasive:  LOVE, MAGIC, WONDER.

No, I didn’t do an official search and count…I’m not going for precision here.  But still, I spent a meditative moment (followed by some necessary self-talk) ruminating about being repetitive and boring. 

Yep – there’s the self-evaluator in me surfacing.  I hollered back, ‘So what? What’s true, is true!’  And then I remembered this from Persian poet Hafiz:

“The words you speak become the house you live in.”

Taking a little liberty and swapping out ‘speak’ for ‘think’ or ‘write’ offers the guidance I needed.  It’s okay.  Go forward, Vicki, and use “love, magic, wonder” endlessly, boldly, authentically. 

And so…I send those three things to you today.  Love, magic and wonder – in abundance!

-Vicki ❤

Confident – From the Inside Out

gold star

I suspect we’ve all been there.  Where?  In the self-defeating cycle of insecurity where we become dependent upon acknowledgement from others.  Might be a new-found friend in the blogging world 😊 or a spontaneous interaction with a stranger.  It’s true!  A positive nod or word of encouragement is a gift. 

Revel in it – whether it’s a compliment from someone near and dear or a person you may never see or hear from again – many of us are hungry to be seen, heard, recognized. Especially true for those who identify as achievers. 

But that’s okay, right?  Yes, I think so.  It’s truly what makes the world go ‘round.  People taking care of one another by offering praise and recognition nurtures love – for the greater good.  I’m a fan. 

Except…when you are incapable of acknowledging and celebrating your own successes (small or large) because the only praise that “counts” comes from the outside.  That might be a sign that your need for external validation is dragging you down. 

The fix is straightforward but requires a wee bit of practice.  Being mindful of your unique gifts and talents is a good first step.  Yes – you have them.  Make a list if you need to.

Be ready to celebrate and ‘high five’ yourself at every opportunity.  Be the first…not the last…to offer praise and give yourself the gold star.

Visual imagery can help.  Take a minute or two to connect with your breath.  The simple act of breathing in…and out…while allowing your head and heart to peruse the things that make YOU feel good about you is restorative.

Don’t go spelunking around for heroic acts of bravery here.  For some, getting out of bed is praise-worthy if the day dawns bleak and gray (whether actually, metaphorically or emotionally).  Hurray for YOU!  You’re up! 

If you make it a practice to celebrate the little wins, it will become less and less necessary for you to feel good only if praise comes from someone else. 

My wish for you?  Don’t let ‘external validation’ be your only (or main) source of ego strength.  You are fabulous.  You always were. 

-Vicki ❤

Fisherman Joe

Sometimes you ‘catch the big one’ (or two) and sometimes you come up short. 

Check out the grin on Joe’s face – my father-in-law and lucky fisherman:

Man holding two large fish at water's edge.
Fisherman Joe

Joe was a man of modesty. Low key and direct. He said he recalled the day vividly – he WAS happy (big grin as evidence) but his reaction was more shock and surprise. Stunned, even. 

Why?  He didn’t expect much of anything that day.  Joe figured it would be another fab fishing outing with friends – whether he caught anything or not.  That’s how Joe lived his life. 

Joe’s motto?  Be near friends and family as much as possible – ideally with loads of laughter – and allow yourself to be utterly delighted when life surprises you. 

Pretty good advice, I say.

-Vicki