Friend or Foe?

We all have them in our lives.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard, there are certain people we would swear were put on this earth solely to irritate, agitate, or otherwise discombobulate.  These people obliterate any chance of a hassle free existence.

For some it’s a boss, a relative, a senator (or pick your politician), a next door neighbor, a daughter’s coach, a son’s teacher, a parent’s pharmacist, or a constantly complaining client.  For others it may be the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker, people who are in our lives more out of necessity or by virtue of profession than choice.  

In the case of the Texas Rangers, it would be the St. Louis Cardinals.  I’m writing this during Game 7 of the World Series.  In my case, it’s been my landlord.  I bought a house so I would no longer have to deal with his covert attempts to kick me and my dogs to the curb.

My practice of Ho’oponopono was seriously challenged the past couple of months in order to act my age and not my shoe size.   I was able to do this partly because I remembered something a guru or shaman or hung over hippie once told me.  Those who are our greatest enemies in this life may have been our greatest allies in another.  What if these people loved us so much once that they agreed to come back again as our enemies simply to ensure our growth?

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not or whether you can fathom that your current curmudgeon could be motivated by anything other than spite, greed, fear, or self interest, the fact remains that these people often elicit our most resourceful responses.  They compel us to act on our convictions in a way that a pep talk with a friend who has known and loved us all our life may not.

I think of the day my landlord posed the question, “How important is it for you to have two dogs?”  Of course the appropriate answer arose as soon as the opportunity had passed.  Instead of answering his question with another question, “How important is it for you to get a rent check?” I called my real estate agent.  

Of all the buttons to push, this was the one that catapulted me into action.  My response was something like Sandra Bullock’s character in The Blind Side ,  “You threaten my dogs,  you threaten me.”

The truth is I had been tolerating little things ever since I moved in.  It was a little like being nibbled to death by ducks. Things had reached a head by the summer but since I had convinced myself my third move in four years would be out of Iowa and I was not ready to make that move, I simply endured it.  That is until the day of the inciting incident.

An inciting incident is what moves the story to the next stage.  In a nutshell, it’s the conflict that makes any story worth reading, any challenge worth accepting, or any World Series game worth watching. 

Okay, scratch that last one.  Personally I would have preferred the Rangers win in four games straight rather than the Cardinals in seven so as to avoid the nail biting, teeth clenching, gut wrenching histrionics that occurred around the fifth, sixth, and ninth innings of almost every game in the series.   As a former Queen of Calm, tonight ‘s stress management strategy is to write instead of watch the game.  I must admit, however, these shenanigans up the level of play for each team.

[Aside:  I’m really not a sports fan and certainly not a sports writer but if I had to pick a sport, baseball would be my choice – except for the excessive spitting.   I spent my twenties in Texas and a many memorable evening at the ballpark in Arlington.  Hence my affection for the Rangers.  That and I believe in spreading the World Series wealth.  Why does any team need to win eleven times when another team just wants to win one?]

The fact is every hero needs a nemesis to help realize his or her superpowers.  Up until this point, the only noticeable superpower that has surfaced at midlife has been the Invisibility Cloak.  Where I may have been noticed or at least acknowledge by name earlier in my life, now I get the generic “Ma’am” or “Mrs”, neither of which I respond well to,  when asked if I want to use my AARP discount.  That doesn’t set well either.

Maybe the real superpower and the one that requires an arch enemy or difficulty du jour is to realize what cartoonist Hugh MacLeod of  suggests.  ” We are only happy if we are frustrated.”

Anything worth doing is fraught with frustration partly because expressing ourselves authentically is incredibly challenging.  It’s also intensely important to the way we see ourselves.  Ultimately, it’s deeply satisfying precisely because of what it takes to achieve.  (Any guess how many revisions this blog goes through before it sees the light of day?)

I still have a long way to go in embracing the persistent presence of the challenges and challengers in my life.  It takes time and distance to concede they may be doing me a favor by forcing me to move my own story along.

What do you think?  Can a foe be a friend in disguise?  How hard is it to consider?  Who has been especially “friendly” to you lately?


Creating In The Middle of Things

Often times I’ll hear friends say, “Did I just say that out loud?”
Maybe we’ve reached the age where holding our tongues has become as challenging as holding our bladders. Or perhaps after years of sugar coating conversations, not saying what we need to say is just as terrifying as actually saying it.
We assume people are going to be offended if we say what we really think, especially if we seldom do. We’re convinced they may leave us, fire us, forget us, or otherwise exit our life once they hear what we truly think about what goes on in the boardroom, the bedroom, the ballpark, or the book of the month club.
Then again, they may admire our honesty.
At the very least they might wonder what’s gotten into us.  They may the pass it off as gas or something we ate.
Most likely what’s gotten into us is something we’ve read, watched, experienced, or have always known at a deep level. Maybe we’ve been quietly contemplating its meaning until the moment came when we had no choice but to speak up. And maybe no one was more shocked than we were to hear ourselves voice our convictions. Hence, the opening question.
Then there’s this other thing that’s been happening to me lately.  I actually think I’ve said something, or in this case written something, because I’ve thought about it so much.  Imagine my disbelief, okay denial, when I realized I haven’t actually posted anything in over a month.
Despite excellent excuses – buying a house, moving in, and not being able to find any of the assorted wires associated with my desktop computer – not writing has weighed as heavily on my conscience as a rogue piece of toilet paper clings to my favorite clogs. I tell myself no one notices but that is only because it takes a really good friend or arch enemy to point out that I have something stuck to my shoe or I haven’t written lately. 
When I was training to be a creativity coach, one of the fundamentals my mentor Eric Maisel taught was that we must be able to create in the middle of things. *
Let’s face it.  We are always in the middle of something. Right now you are in the middle of reading this blog. You might also be in the middle of eating a snack, having a meltdown, carpooling, or finishing the seventh frame of Wii bowling.  But does it stop you from doing what you must do?
Although I temporarily stopped blogging, my creative output tripled in the interior design area of my life.  And by “interior design” I mean the curious way I’ve been arranging both my inner and my outer environments in response to new options.
The frenzy of activity surrounding this move will provide writing material for weeks to come. This is one of the reasons moving is ranked right up there on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Everything is in upheaval, even if it’s just a move across town.  Everything is also open for negotiation. Will this item stay or go? Is it part of my past, present, or future? Will it work in the new space? Will it fit in the moving truck? 
While the answers may seem obvious, the questions are packed with emotions.
Granted, most people may be more organized when it comes to moving. I had a very short time to find, finance, and finagle a move that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to make.  But now that I’m moved in, I’m thrilled.  I couldn’t have imagined the difference it would make in large and small areas of my life.
If my life up to this point has been all about traveling and taking care of other people’s homes, pets, and predicaments, it’s now all about staying home and at least writing about mine.
So even though I can describe for you in detail the peaceful view from my deck, I can’t be trusted to write from there today for fear of abandoning the blog to hang pictures, move furniture, or make 101 decorating decisions. Therefore, I’ve sequestered myself at my writing desk at a friend’s house so I might finally surface in the blogosphere, without toilet paper on my shoe, thank you very much.
Next time I’ll post pictures of the new casa to illustrate how choosing bold colors after years of white walls can kick start the creative process and start the journey of a thousand steps. (Currently they all lead to Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, Target, and Pier I.  Maybe you’ve been down this road yourself?)
I’d love to hear your new home/moving stories, even if your “new” home or last move was 20 years ago.
*To read Dr. Maisel’s article on creating in the middle of things, click here.