Category Archives: Inspiration

How Lucky Am I?

sunrise sunflower

It doesn’t feel like a Friday. I woke up this morning thinking, “Ugh! Monday!” which is a pretty crappy thing to think any day of the week that I find I’ve opened my eyes on yet another glorious day.  As my friend Mary is fond of saying, “Look at the alternative!” which is not waking up at all. I’m not so old that I’ve begun counting the days or the hours but I have lived long enough to know that every day is precious. And every day we can learn something new or be reminded of something we already know.

 Courageous Follower

While teaching leadership classes back in the 90s, I discovered a book that is still very relevant today: The Courageous Follower: Standing Up To and For Our Leaders.  I became enthralled with the idea of followership and contacted the author, Ira Chaleff. He is a kind and gracious man, dedicated to his study and his work, and he was happy to talk with me.

His book became a staple text in my classrooms and followed me into Leadership Academy as well as other classes I was teaching at the time, English (at several levels) and Introduction to Psychology.  Along with Echkart Tolle’s A New Earth and Osbon’s A Joseph Campbell Companion, The Courageous Follower has a permanent place on my desk. Through the years, it has inspired me to challenge myself and my leaders, transform my work and my life, and most importantly, have the courage to leave untenable situations. I’ve given away dozens of copies while keeping for myself one dog-eared, torn-covered, hard-back copy–signed by Ira.

A few weeks ago, I found Ira through LinkedIn. As I suspected, he’s been hard at work but not spectacularly active on social media. We exchanged pleasantries through email which gave me a chance to think about the different directions my life has taken since leaving my teaching position, and pondering how I ended up here still clinging to great books and memories.

I heard from Ira again yesterday. In my reply to his email, I had a chance to mention that I’ve been daydreaming about getting back into the real world of business and education, “but I spend my days writing novels and wondering what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Here is his response:  “I need to laugh – the rest of the world would like to get away from their jobs to write their novel and you’re writing novels and wondering what to do with the rest of your life!”

I laughed, too. And I’m still laughing. How lucky am I? I’ve always dreamed of spending my time writing, doing what comes naturally to me. For me, writing is like breathing–most days. Some days there’s a hitch, I feel like I have a writer’s version of hay fever–twitching thoughts and fumble fingers– and I can’t quite get it together. But most of the time, I breathe and write freely and easily and without the stress of having to leave my work and my joy to go to a desk job.

I am thankful for this opportunity to do what I love to do but sometimes it takes someone I respect and admire to gently hammer home, with a smile and a laugh, just how fortunate I am. I may never be #1 on the NYT Best Seller’s List, but I’m thrilled to sell books at all. I write books that I’d like to read and I tell stories that are different and hopefully inspiring. And I get to do it every day and every night from the comfort of my own comfy cave. Seriously, how lucky am I?

 Just for fun!

Follow the Leader

This photo from Pinterest feels appropriate today.

Happy Independence Day!

Fourth of July -- Independence Day by bjebie on Flickr

Fourth of July — Independence Day by bjebie on Flickr

For many of us, this will be a day of picnics, fireworks, and happy gatherings of family and friends to celebrate the joys of freedom. For others, today will be a day like any other, stationed far away from home as they safeguard the freedoms we enjoy.

From the very beginnings of our nation, there have been brave men and women guarding our backs or leading us forward into the free world we know today. From the very beginning men and women have stood up for us, for our rights, for our very existence, forging their way blindly to create a more perfect union.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. (Declaration of Independence)

Today is a day to remember our past and to celebrate our heritage as Americans–with liberty and justice for all.

 

Alone in a Crowded Room

alone in a crowded room

Most days, it takes a lot to blast me out of my cave. Family events will do it because they’re few and far between; running out of coffee will do it (that’s a given!); a new movie will do it if the movie falls within a finite range of interest (sci-fi, zombies, super heroes, and Tom Hanks); and benefits (or favors) for friends. That’s about it.

A Gathering of Angels: Sunday Funday for Annette!

This past weekend, after the Big Reveal, after the Ocean Pond Clubhouse adventure, I attended a cancer-fund-raising-event for a friend. Annette is an awesome woman, a fighter, a kick-ass warrior who normally plows right through life with a vengeance. Several months ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Calling in the angels, her friends and family began working together to raise money to help pay for Annette’s medical treatment. As a waitress, Annette works without the handy perk of medical insurance, much like everyone else I know in this part of the country. To add insult to injury, her treatment involves the need for a shot, one shot, that costs $6,000 per injection. I can’t even begin to imagine what miracle drug must be in that syringe that would warrant a $6,000 price tag, but the doctors say that this is her chance for recovery. Annette’s tumors are shrinking. She looks great despite everything she’s going through, and she has the support of friends and family and a community that has accepted her with open arms.

I stood on the periphery during the event, wandering from the bar inside to the patio out back trying to engage in conversation with people I see at my brother’s gigs, friends of Annette’s, friends of friends, acquaintances, even strangers who have gathered for a common cause. I’m not good at small talk. I’m not really comfortable in crowds. I can’t say that I’d rather I’d stayed home because I wanted to be there for Annette, for my brother who’d helped organize the event and was playing under a leaky tent in pouring rain through thunder and lightning, for his girlfriend Barb (Annette’s sister and a longtime family friend). I wanted to be there in the mix, adding my positive energy to the flowing glow of love that swirled around me. But I still felt like an interloper standing on the fringe of the party not knowing how to engage.

Why is that? I often wonder what it is that makes me so uncomfortable. Have I spent so much time alone that I’ve lost my social skills? I don’t think so. I’ve never had the desire to hang out with the crowd, to be one of the guys, to join the team. Even as a child, I was a loner. I had friends but I was happier one-on-one. My brothers are the same way. We are quiet, introspective people, alone but never lonely. I think it runs in the family.

Family–when you least expect it!

After forty years, I reconnected with a cousin at the event. He’d made contact with my brother a couple of years ago and come up from south Florida to support Annette. He immediately reminded me of my brothers with his calm, happy demeanor. He is gentle and kind and quiet. I watched him move through the crowd like me, a part of it but separate. I admit, I don’t really know my cousin well after our short time together but I felt a kindred spirit gazing back at me, a person happy to observe, to support, and to stand on the sidelines, happy to be alone in a crowded room. Maybe he’s even a cave dweller like me. I hope to get to know him better and find out.

 Just for Fun!

A black labrador dog is decorated for a Fourth of July Picnic

There is no way in the world I would be able to get my look-alike black lab Bella to stand still long enough to attach a holiday bow but I thought this photo (from Pinterest) was appropriate for how I’ll be spending my 4th of July. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday! See you soon!

The Joy (and Power) of Being Right Here

Over the past few weeks, Cave Dweller has become a fun and important part of my daily life. I appreciate those of you who stop by to visit my blog on a regular or a transitory basis, taking a moment out of your day to read and/or comment. Your comments are important to me and I’m equally happy to receive emails or messages on my Facebook page.

Yesterday, I was asked how the idea for Cave Dweller came about. I’d like to say that I was struck by a moment of divine inspiration, which feels kind of true, but actually, for quite some time, I’ve been looking for a place to share my thoughts on what has become a major theme in my writing: living alone in a social world. Cave Dweller has become that outlet for me and for what I want to say.

On June 1, 2013, my blog post at colleensayre.com put into perspective some of my thoughts about life and writing so I suppose this was a defining moment for me in moving away from writing about writing to writing about life. This feels like the kick-starter for Cave Dweller and I suppose I have my son to thank for that (among a myriad of other fine things).

What follows is an approximation of my June 1, post. (I guess I could have just inserted a link to the page–the better to get you to browse my website–but I like it here in my little cave and didn’t want to send you adventuring unnecessarily.) The layout is different from the original but the content remains the same:

Sandy Feet

My son wants to buy a boat. I got a text message from him this morning at 6:54, which means it’s 3:54 where he is. “Nevermind why I’m up . . . the bottom of Hello is cut off!” he said from 2,000 miles away. I read this as I sat drinking my nth cup of coffee and wondering what else I could do to promote my book (which was released last night) besides send a tweet every five seconds and plaster Facebook with ads and promos and the usual pleas of “please buy my book.”

Happy Dance

[BTW: I found an app called Buncee that makes posters and invitations and all kinds of cool stuff on the fly and I wanted to give it a try. I’d seen a cool .gif of a cat doing a happy dance on Bing and was intrigued by the “make your own” tagline. So, I whipped up a little picture with a book announcement (alas, I couldn’t figure out how to make the cat or to make this one dance) and posted it at about 6:52. Come “like” me on Facebook to see my Buncee.]

At 6:55, I repaired the truncated Hello (a very easy fix), thanked my son for the alert, and then read that he’d “spent the night reading about sailing certifications. Just need a boat big enough to carry the ‘Dragon’ onboard.”

My response? OMG!

Dragon

The “Dragon” is his motorcycle, his escape hatch, his get-out-of-jail-free card. It is his parachute, his springboard, and his path to sanity. But now he wants to buy a boat. I’m wondering where on earth he wants to ride that requires three vehicles to get there: the car to haul the boat, the boat to haul the bike, the bike to haul his butt all over creation so that he can feel free and untethered.

Don’t get me wrong! I love adventuring. I love my son. I love that my son loves to go adventuring. But I’m also wondering when my son will realize that he has already arrived. He’s there. He’s here! The adventure is happening all around him. Maybe he already has realized it and my worry is just a mother’s frenzy over her son’s desire for yet another dangerous toy. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been reading about and thinking about the art of staying put and contemplating how to find my own joy.

Martha Beck (www.MarthaBeck.com) has written an interesting piece for O Magazine this month: “The Grass Ain’t Greener.” (Sorry, I couldn’t find a direct link to the article but it can be found in the “May We Help You?” section.) Beck’s focus is FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. What it really boils down to is this: from this side of the fence (or the computer screen), it seems to me that everyone has a happier, more exciting, more extravagant life than I do. And I want what everybody else has!

The article got me thinking. Being a fear-based phenomenon, FOMO creates all kinds of problems not the least of which is the anxiety created from rushing around from here to there and back again looking for a place, your place, the place where you will feel at home—even temporarily. It seems that almost immediately after arriving at our destination, the wheels begin to turn yet again and we plot and plan how to get to an even better place with barely a glance at the spot in which we’re standing.

I had a mentor back in the ‘90s who used to insist that the only way to find true peace and happiness is to “bloom where you’re planted.” Mildred Ramsey found inspiration and courage to live an action-packed life, traveling around the country giving seminars and selling her book, The Super Supervisor, wherever she happened to be standing. Mildred could carve out her own little piece of sacred ground, till the soil, and plant her seeds in a dusty parking lot while selling books from the trunk of her car. She’s one of the few people I’ve met in my life who could be on the move, rushing in ten different directions, and still be totally centered and at home wherever she stood. (And without a hair out of place, I might add!)

Unlike Mildred, I think most of us are constantly searching for the next thing that will bring us joy or happiness or security, searching for that little piece of ourselves that’s blowing on a breeze in the far off reaches of somewhere else. There is joy and power in being right here and right now. There is something adventurous about experiencing this moment, breathing this air, in this place of all places.

Mildred Ramsey

I think the magic of life, the cure for FOMO, is finding ourselves in the now, in this blink-of-an-eye moment of life, cherishing it, and then taking that joy into the next moment—no matter where we find ourselves.

As a writer, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to find my joy in the writing process rather than in the number of books I sell. I am happy at my desk with the world revolving right outside my window. I’m creating my own worlds, my own friends, my own experiences and finding pleasure in the sensation of living with one foot on the floor and the other resting on the haunch of the black lab curled up at my feet. Mind you, it took me 42 moves to get here and there were moments when I believed that the gods were playing some weird game of chess with my life, but I’m here. In this moment. Breathing this air. And I am thankful for it.

Life is what it is. And it’s ours. Here and now. Bring on the joy!

And Topher. . . Sweetie . . . don’t buy the boat! 🙂

A Sea of Potential

I cast my intention into the vast ocean of all possibilities and allow the universe to work through me.  (A Meditation on Abundance: Deepak Chopra)

White Waves

I found this photo on Pinterest the other day and it has haunted me since. Not haunted in a bad way, but the image has lingered in my mind in a substantial way that brings my thoughts back to it often. In the early morning hours, I find myself awake, listening in the darkness for the sound of white waves on a golden shore and realize that my life is a vast ocean of endless possibilities, taking my hopes and dreams and intentions into its depths.

The ocean is just around the corner now, yet I seldom go. When I was living land-locked, I craved the sea: the salt, the sand, the water, the motion of the earth as it rocked with the tide. Now that I’m here, so close, I don’t feel its pull any longer. I don’t feel the need to dig my toes into warm sand or feel the lap of cool water on my feet and fingertips; I no longer feel the need to sit and ponder its mysteries or its origins. Somehow, the beach feels like home, no longer an adventure but a soothing backdrop to my life.

Perhaps my desire to be near the sea has been internalized. The sea is in me now, ebbing and flowing as I feel my life crash on the shore. It feels like that sometimes as I throw my message in a bottle out there, a book to ride the waves. They’re floating on the horizon, waiting to deliver their messages, waiting in the depths of possibility to be reborn.

Just for Fun!

Potential

Imminent bloom

I love dragonflies and this one looks like he’s waiting on the cusp of opportunity.   Lke me.

Use Your Wings

Today is a good day to just be.

(Or fly.)

Wings

I am Driftwood…

It’s not often that I feel totally cut off from the world or really mind if I am. But there are times when it’s quite disconcerting to find myself adrift in a quiet world.

Lightning

Thunder storms are common this time of year in Florida. Lightning struck last night wiping out cable, wifi, and telephone service. Although I still had lights, I found myself without my normal means of connection to the outside world. Cell service was still up and running and I suppose I could have reached out through my limited and precious 3G data plan, but after making the rounds again and again, confirming that, yes, the cable was still out, I finally settled down with a glass of wine and an old familiar friend: William Gibson.

So, what to do when there’s nothing to do? Read, read, read!

It’s a sad state of affairs in my cave that I have read every book I own at least once and in some cases, many times more than once. It is also sad that when I pulled Spook Country off the shelf, I couldn’t immediately remember the plot which made it a good choice for a rainy night alone but a sad choice because I can clearly remember the story lines of Neuromancer, Count Zero, Burning Chrome, Mona Lisa Overdrive. I wasn’t sure if this was a statement about my functional memory or the book itself.  Twenty minutes later, I decided it had to do with the book as my mind wandered away from the story and back to the video I had been working on when lightning struck.

My mind was still on angels and healing and the power we each hold within ourselves. The video is a very short introduction to A Gathering of Angels. I was in the process of posting it on YouTube when my computer freaked out and I suddenly lost all control. I couldn’t move forward, I couldn’t shut down, I couldn’t refresh or even minimize. I sat waiting for a resurge of energy to kick start my programs but nothing happened.

I sat bobbing in the water, waiting for another wave to carry me to shore. I am driftwoodWashed upon the shore. Once a lover of the tides but I don’t think I can take that anymore. I am becalmed by too many years of dissonance and solitude, but harmony and love can move my soul. It moves my soul. (Paul Williams, of course. If you haven’t heard Driftwood, find it if you can. I hesitate to point you to a download site that may or may not be a bootleg.)

So, I’m back at work this morning after a very quiet night, connected, becalmed, harmonious. My wine glass, still full, was sitting on the table with my unread book this morning. I went to bed early, a rare event for me.

I am still adrift in my thoughts today, wondering if I should attempt, once again, to upload that video. For now, I’ll post it on this page and see where we go from here.  A Gathering of Angels

Just for Fun.

elephant and kitten

When you find yourself in a river of doubt, help can show up in the most unexpected ways.

A Gathering of Angels

Angle with black wings

Angels have been hovering lately. I know, I know, it sounds silly. But it’s true.

I have a friend, a Cave Dweller like me, whose sister has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She’s going through chemo with no insurance, no backup plan, a million questions, and a shaky resolve, surrounded by friends and family. People are coming out of the woodwork to help in any way they can which strengthens my faith in human kindness and my belief in angels.

A call went out a few weeks ago, a call for a gathering of angels:

There comes a time in our lives when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly. Cancer sneaks in on silent feet, takes up residence, and clips our wings. We fight, we flutter, we do our best to just keep flying–and then we have to ask for help, from our friends, from our family, from our loved ones near and far. We’re asking for a gathering of angels . . .

birds in cage and flying

And they came.

It seems everywhere I turn, lately, I find a pair of wings: dragonflies, finches, cardinals, hawks. I often see birds in the empty lot next door, keeping a safe distance from three barking dogs, but they’ve taken up residence in the jasmine vines that cover the pergola on my back patio. As I sat reading last night, I heard a soft tapping on the window behind me. A huge pale white moth, attracted by the light, fluttered its wings at me and then flew away.

Red with broom

If you want to fly, let go.

My Facebook page is overflowing with images of angels, wings, and various suggestions of flight. Even a figure in a long red cloak carrying a broom evokes angelic peace rather than wicked fear. People are gathering in support and love for a sister, a friend, a woman in need.

I believe we get what we asked for and we asked for a gathering of angels.

They’re here.

Links to photos: Source of the Earth, Everything Under the Moon, My Own Path