Running with Black Ice

I¬†love to run. There’s something so freeing about it. It’s one of those things that makes me feel absolutely alive.

On the contrary, I hate the cold.

Though the winter isn’t my favorite time to be outside, let alone running, but, hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, no?

But there’s something beautiful about running through the snow as I’ve recently been reminded by one of my running buddies.

And then there’s black ice.

The fact that we’ll encounter some and we’ll ultimately fall is inevitable. And we’re likely delusional if we think it’ll never happen to us.

Instead of being surprised by the fall, should we not simply expect that it’ll happen to us?

Today was my day to fall. I bit it pretty hard.

It’s extra amusing because my running buddy and I were chatting about one of my favorite topics these days, balance. And what it’s like to maintain balance. Are we always balanced?

We shot thoughts, ideas, and questions back and forth to each other as we ran over slippery and – in some places – very unbalanced sidewalks.

Having come off a nice wooded trail I scaled a snowbank only to find myself on my side shortly after landing on a spot of black ice that, of course, I didn’t see.

I hopped up quickly.

“Are you okay, MCK?”

Pain was all over the right side of my body, but I responded, “Yep, no sweat.”

Thinking back on it now, I wonder what hurt more – my body or my ego?

Had I gotten too cocky from 30-40 minutes of running through the elements and striding across icy paths with no issues? Not to mention all those other days that I’d come home without bruising of any kind.

Or was it just meant to be?

We all fall.

We all encounter black ice in our lives.

And it can hurt the most when we least expect it.

Though, from experience, I’m sure the pain will be much worse tomorrow ūüėČ

But as I ran back, there was one thing I kept running through my mind, how long until I get back to “normal” running again?

How much extra caution will I take from this moment forward?

How long will I choose to be on edge? How long will I choose to not be my normal running self?

And¬†how do we all think more proactively, pre-fall?¬†It it possible to¬†expect this to happen without “expecting” per se?

In other words, do we need to live our lives bracing ourselves for the times when we’ll fall on the ice we don’t see?

It will happen. We will fall.

Rather than regularly altering our natural stride on the chance we will fall, why not just cross that bridge when we get there?

And when we do, what then? How long will we allow our bodies and our egos to limp along?

What does it take to get back to that normal stride? Our regular balance?

Or are do you prefer to put your fear of black ice above the freedom that comes with letting go and fully experiencing the everyday moments that make us feel most alive?

Passing the Buck

It’s easy to pass off¬†just about anything to just about anyone.

And it’s especially easy when it comes to the way we feel about something or someone.

How often do we pass the buck to someone else?

“You are making this hard for me. Complicated for me. Challenging for me.”

“XYZ is influcing me in this/that/another way causing me to…”

But is that really true?

Aren’t we just using someone else as an excuse?

Or are we allowing someone else to dictate how we choose to think, feel, and ultimately react in those moments?

Taken to a larger scale, are we not just choosing to let someone else design our lives rather than designing ourselves or being a co-creator in that design?

Ultimately is it more about them or more about us?

Is that how you want to live your life?

But what might I be missing?

Can we make a general rule where the influence of others on us is more complex than our choice to let¬†another’s needs, wants, goals, dreams, desires, orders, … regularly take a place ahead of our own?

Or will your examples just be exceptional exceptions?

Do you live your life as a designer? As a co-creator? Or as a purporter of exceptional exceptions?

Love is… The Path of Least Resistance?

I was wondering about all of us who choose the easy path, the path of least resistance.

Like everything, it sure has its advantages. Also, it’s disadvantages.

And what are those?

When we choose the path of least resistance for the important things in life, like our health, our work, our relationships, and more – what does that say about us?

What message are we sending to ourselves? To others?

And I further wonder, sometimes we choose not to fight, then other times what do we choose to fight for?

With whom we choose to fight with? Must we always fight alone?

When we choose the path of least resistance are we simply picking our battles?

Or are we choosing something or someone over ourselves?

Maybe¬†we’re fighting for the best for ourselves and for our other(s)?

Sure, we might be fighting for both. But are we?

Or have we digressed into an either / or?

For / against?

Yes / no?

Possible / not?

This way / that way?

My way / the highway?

I read so many things that talk about how all the best things in life are worth fighting for, that all the best things in life take work, that anything worth doing is hard.

Maybe that’s why we settle for the path of least resistance. Because it’s a lot easier to let go rather than to face something we know will take work. Because the past plays a powerful role in the present.¬†Because fighting for what matters definitely takes work.

But I wonder how much I’ll be walking on the path of least resistance in the future.

Because the most important things in my life I would hate to leave to chance. And they are absolutely worth fighting for.

Though whether it’s some thing or some one, I also have realized that whatever the fight, fights can rarely be won alone.

Do You Choose Love or Fear?

My friend Caroline Watson is the founder and director of an organization called Hua Dan, which uses participatory theater to inspire the full potential in people.

Introduced by a mutual friend and collaborator, Caroline and I did business together, became fast friends, and regularly shared stories of struggles and successes of life in the entrepreneurial trenches. Over the years we’ve¬†been able to share ideas and to push each other to be better in business and in life.

She was the first person who introduced me to the idea of choosing love, not fear. In an attempt to practice being vulnerable in a more public way, she started a blog with the same name.

She spoke beautifully about this to me during our conversations about it in person. And her writing is equally eloquent.

Quite early on in this process I realized that my 60-day writing challenge is as much a challenge to me to write on a daily basis, as it is to be vulnerable in a more public way.

With her permission, I asked if she wouldn’t mind my sharing this as I am with you today.

While there are some excellent posts all over love-not-fear.org (as well as the place where she now blogs more regularly here) I thought it would be appropriate to start from the first page. We can learn a lot from where we begin.

10 Reasons to Date an Entrepreneur¬†was Caroline’s first post and gives such a beautiful account of that sense of possibility mixed with passion, persistence, and partnership.

And, of course, the practice of choosing love, not fear.

Thinking Big was her second post, which discusses the thought process behind the 10 Reasons post – do I keep it or delete it? In it she recognizes that fear still does exist and humanizes the process of battling our fears, reminding us that we are always confronted with the choice.

So this is all well and good. Caroline’s thoughtfully expressed ideas are very moving. They spoke to me then and still speak to me now.

But love is not an academic pursuit, it’s an experiential one.

And even if we know the theory, we don’t always get it right the first time we’re tested.

Think back to the last time you were confronted with an opportunity to choose love over fear.

What did you decide?

What happened?

How did you build on that experience?

What did it mean for the next time?

How are you continuing to build these days?

What will it mean for the next opportunity that comes up?

And while you should certainly start to practice choosing love over fear with the people you are closest with, don’t let it stop there.

What would it mean for your life if you chose love in each and every one of your interactions with yourself and with others?

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and with a bit of extra love in the air, Caroline happened to chose love in a big way to close out 2014. This post is not only about this most important mode of thinking she shared with me, but also to congratulate her for getting married over Christmas.

No, love is not only about something special that exists between two people who tie the knot, but it is a nice way for me to celebrate her, celebrate Alex, and to give them my most sincere congratulations from a land far, far away as we celebrate this day and this month where we celebrate love.

Everyday Thinking and Feeling

Yesterday’s post about Everyday Choices got me thinking about how¬†what we chose to think and to feel falls into place.

On the one hand I wanted to include what we chose to think and what we chose to feel along with the what we choose to do, where we chose to be, and whom we choose to be with.

But something held me back.

It’s not that I don’t believe we can choose to think and feel.

I do.

But I struggled with a few thoughts that I wish I didn’t have.

Though, as soon as I thought them, I was able to let go.

Before a few months ago, thoughts like these were a lot harder for me to let go.

The idea that I could let them just come and go, flow in and out of my brain as though they were just a visitor was a metaphor I’m not sure I could have come up with before.

I found quite a bit of comfort in this moment.

And it got me thinking.

What if we respected our negative thoughts, just as we would a person we don’t like.

I used to feel embarrassed to think there was a person on this planet I didn’t like. A guy who loves people almost more than himself to not like someone else?

It felt a little shameful.

The thing is,¬†none of us are perfect, and we’re all not perfect matches for each other no matter what the level of our relationship with others.

Not liking someone doesn’t mean you should not care, ignore, disrespect, or even not talk to that person either. It’s from people who we don’t get along with that we sometimes may have something extra important to learn.

Why can’t we have the same type of relationship with thoughts we might not like?

To let them come in and out of our minds as if they were a person we didn’t get on with coming in and out of a room?

What if we accepted and respected them for what they are or represent?

What happens if you’re open and honest about these feelings with yourself?

What if you don’t let the feeling add stress, but instead let yourself make peace?

Is there something more to see? Is there something to learn here?

Everyday Choices

How often do you think about everyday choices?

How about the fact that every day is also a choice?

What did you do today?

Whatever it was, chances are, you chose it.

That goes for the whole shooting match – what we chose to do, where we chose to be, and with whom we chose to be.

The same is true for what we chose not to do, where we chose not to be, and with whom we chose not to be.

But¬†the question that gets me about¬†these everyday choices, is about¬†the choices¬†we live day-in and day-out as if they aren’t a choice.

I wonder about the hardest part of everyday choices – is it the choice to be excited about what we’ve chosen to do in our every day OR is it the moments we realize¬†we chose¬†not to be excited about our every day?

Sure, we have bad days. You do. I do. They do. Everyone does.

But exceptional exceptions are not the rule, nor are they the point.

What did you choose to do today? Where did you choose to go? With whom did you choose to be with? And what did you choose to not do and leave behind?

Would you make the same choice tomorrow?

Why or why not?

Silver Bullets

When are we going to realize that silver bullets just don’t exist?

A day or so ago I was swapping notes with a friend. She recently read a book that seemed to answer most of her biggest questions about life.

What pushes us to think that one book, one incident, one accident, one job, one thing, one person… is the thing that makes and/or breaks us?

Or that will get us over the hump, put us on the road to things getting better, solidify our relationship, etc.?

What is a life lived based on exceptions?

As long as X doesn’t happen, Y isn’t around, or Z isn’t involved, everything will be just fine.

But did we forget that everything is a process? That life is a journey? That it doesn’t get better – or worse – in an instant? Or because of one thing or another?

Sure, there are exceptions. Traumatic and excruciatingly challenging exceptions and that’s not what we’re talking about right now because those aren’t the general rule.

I come back to this book and these answers.

It’s great that the book has seemingly answered all of my friend’s most important questions.

But, from what it sounded like to me, she was looking for very specific answers to questions that this author just happened to articulate in a particular profound way or at a particularly profound time.

My question to her – had¬†she “found the answer(s)” to life’s biggest questions or had¬†she just confirmed¬†the answers she was¬†looking for to these complex questions, now nicely articulated back to her by someone else?

Am I being judgmental in not the most useful of ways?

Maybe we all are subconsciously are searching for someone to tell us answers to our biggest quandaries?

Or perhaps my current thinking suggests I’m no longer as interested in waiting for the message or looking for confirmation / validation in the exceptional external sources… as I am in writing my own script?

Compassionate Strangers

One of my favorite questions to ask strangers is some form of, what do you love about life?

A week’ish ago¬†I pulled out this question just a few minutes into a conversation with the woman behind me in line for the bus to Albany.

I love asking this same, simple question is because the answers are always varied and often surprising, in the best of ways.

Her answer? It came pretty quick and was quite clear:

People’s ability to care and to show compassion for other people even if they have no relationship with them.

The second reason I love asking this same, simple question is because the conversation then usually heads off into uncharted territory.

This uncharted territory is both for me (which, with a stranger, everything is pretty much uncharted), and – more importantly – for them.

She’s a new teacher in the NYC public school system and she told me about her challenging week.

One major question that confounds her:

How does one balance the need to control the classroom and garner respect from all students, while also knowing that some students who show disrespect to her or to others may know no other way to call out for help?

I don’t feel right sharing some of the details of this story, but one thing that I do feel comfortable sharing that truly blew me away was when she said this:

The worst thing about being a teacher is about encountering parents who don’t care. Parents who will save your number specifically so they won’t pick up when you call because they don’t want to hear about their child.

We talked a bit about experience we had abroad. When she learned I had spent quite some time living in China she immediately wondered aloud, I read something about how Chinese teachers spend a lot of time discussing strategies for classes, much more so than in America. Is this true?

Our conversation extended from the line, through the bus delay, and all the way to Albany. Teaching in New York, China, Cuba, Pakistan, relationships, love, Humans of New York, and more were the topics of the evening.

She told me at one point that she doesn’t usually talk to strangers.

What was it that lead to a stranger conversation that day?

Did she just need someone to talk to?

Was it a conversation that took an unfamiliar twist after a short warm-up of regular chit-chat?

Something else?

Maybe if the result was so excellent for everyone involved, the reason’s not all that important?

Do you think it’s possible to find compassion – and comfort – in an interaction with a stranger?

Maybe you’ve experienced it before?

When was the last time?

What was it like?

The Healing Touch

I heard someone speak today about healing.

To heal means we must experience some type of hurt.

And it’s hard stuff to grapple with.

I started to wonder if to simply hurt is to take the easy way out.

Sure, not dealing with hurt will mean the pain lingers and there is little chance to heal.

But what is it that keeps us from doing the hard work that enables us to free ourselves from the hurt and alleviate the pain on our way back to a better, more seasoned version of ourselves?

She suggested today that sometimes we can be healed and made whole by the simple touch of another.

In other cases, we need to be near others. Or to be near each other to achieve that sense of wholeness.

Though we are all different.

As so are our strengths. Our ailments. Our frailties. Our superpowers.

And we may feel hurt differently. Not to mention we may be at different places in the process on that hurt-heal spectrum.

Where does our hurt come from?

How do we heal when we’re hurt?

What space do we create / design into our lives to regularly heal?

Or how might we¬†regularly recharge, to proactively handle our hurt so it doesn’t overpower us?

I wonder what hurts more – moving from healed to hurt or hurt to healed?

Or, perhaps, I missed a question somewhere along the way?

You tell me.

I’m still trying to figure this one out myself.

the Lives of Hamilton Fish

It’s no secret to people who have watched movies with me that while¬†I’m open to most genres, I have a clear soft spot for romantic comedies and action flicks.

Also, I’m a crier.

There’s something about movies that often make me feel something. No matter how cheesy. Or how over-the-top some of these movies might be. I’m either shedding tears or am ready to take on the world.

But here I am, a few days after watching the Lives of Hamilton Fish, and I’m still not exactly sure what to think or what to feel.

The story line is intriguing. Two men. With the same name. With radically different lives.

One of the Hamilton Fishes was a statesman. One of the Hamilton Fishes was a serial killer. The latter, we were advised, we best not Google, lest we actively care to opt-in to inviting nightmares when we close our eyes next.

Yet, this film takes their stories and makes a parallel story of their seemingly less than parallel lives.

And I saw this film live, performed by writer, director, producer, Rachel Mason.

Part of me still finds the whole thing a bit creepy. Yet part of me is so taken by Rachel’s passion for the project. The time it has taken for this project to get to where it is today. The keen attention to historical details and the desire to tell a story of humanity over horror.¬†The way she performed all the¬†songs and words of the score. And even at points how she weaved her way through the audience – up and down the aisles and in between the chairs. It was a sight, a spectacle of the best kind.

So, here I am, a few days after watching, still not exactly sure what I think about all of the content. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe we’re not always meant to understand everything¬†immediately.

That said, what I am sure that I took away, was an incredible art form that I felt like I experienced for the first time. The acting on-screen was accentuated by an incredible in-person performance that created a dynamic in the venue – both on and off screen – that would have me go back for Rachel’s next masterpiece, no matter what the subject, to experience this beautiful art form again.

—–

Here is what others have to say in the press about the Lives of Hamilton Fish.

Also worth-mentioning / remembering was the historical relevance and thoughtfulness incorporated into this movie. You can catch a glimpse into that here.