The Power of Right Now

I've been embracing a mental shift lately and I have to tell you, it's really changing the way I do things. I've been thinking about power. The power to change. The power to improve. The power to achieve. The power to continue. There is an inherent strength in the word power, but how do you access it?

Many women I know seem to operate under this assumption that power is something that they have to get or build up like a muscle. Like it's something that is housed "somewhere else" and that it requires a lot of effort to go and get it. 

But here's what I've learned. Everyone has power. It's inside them. It always has been. It's not about finding it or building it, it's about accessing it. 

And the only time you can access it is right now. This very moment. Whatever moment it is for you, you can only access power now. I mean, think about it. Can you access power tomorrow? Possibly. But you won't know until tomorrow becomes right now. I know, it's kind of messing with my head, too. 

So, like I said, this has been on my mind lately and it's changing things for me little by little. I don't need to wait until I feel strong, or confident, or ready. I can do it now. Whatever the "it" is, I can. That's a lot of freedom. And a whole lot of permission that you can receive if you want it. 

You want to run a marathon? You can start right now. You want to write a novel? You can start right now. You want to launch your own business? You can start right now. You want to fall in love again and have your heart healed? You can start right now.

That's crazy right? Whatever starting looks like for you is perfectly fine. Maybe it's brainstorming a lead character in a screenplay you've always wanted to write. Maybe it's searching online for houses in that perfect neighborhood you want to live in. Maybe it's dusting off your running shoes and putting them by the door instead of hiding them under your bed. Whatever it is, do it. Because all you have is right now. You can't do it yesterday and tomorrow is always a day away. But you have right now. 

That's a whole lot of power. 

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Showing Up - Especially When You Don't Want To

There is magic to showing up. I know this from experience. How many times have I had something in my life that I didn't want to do or regretted signing up for and showed up anyway? How many of those times resulted in a great experience? What would I have missed out on had I not sucked it up and gotten my ass there? Probably a lot. There are friends I wouldn't have, ideas that wouldn't have been born and experiences that would have been missed.

All the times I didn't show up and didn't try - what did I miss out on? What did I neglect to experience? Don't get me wrong - I don't regret my decisions but I do want to learn from them - the good and the bad. I want to tuck them into my quiver of knowledge and pull out the right arrow when it's needed. 

I do want to show up more. And I feel as though I am doing just that this year. This year has been all about showing up. Keeping commitments, especially to myself. I want to feel full without feeling guilty (I mean that literally and figuratively, of course) without fear and shame. Sometimes showing up is the hardest part and that in and of itself is a victory. Just getting out of bed and showering some days = VICTORY.

So now I sit here and type these words and I'm asking myself, "Where can I show up today? Who will I meet? Who will I help? Where will I go?"

Well, there's only one way to find out. 

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Trying It On For Size

Every week my youngest has preschool. It's only for a couple of hours and occurs three days a week. Every time I pick her up from school, you would think that she had been a tour around the world that latest months because of how much she tells me about her day. I hear about the "job" that she had that day (and apparently "line leader" is the most coveted responsibility whereas "napkin passer" isn't as glamorous), the friends that she played with, the letter she learned, the stories her teacher told and the craft she experimented with. For less than three hours, she sure does a lot.

Anyway, these little chats that we have are more than just post-preschool babble with a five year old. They offer me a glimpse into what she find important and interesting. They tell me what gets her blood pumping and that she loves to learn new things. They show me her inner world at a level that I wouldn't get otherwise. Because I'm listening.

Last week, she said something really interesting. I picked her up on Wednesday and on the way home she announced, "I think I'm going to be a little shy on Friday."

This really threw me because Emma is not a shy child. She introduces herself to new children and offers to be their friend right away. As we drive to the library she wonders out loud what new friends she will make when we get there. That's just the way she is. I wonder if I was that way and I became an introvert over time, but I don't remember those days and I'll have to let my mom fill in that blank.

Anyway, her announcement was unusual. I try to be very careful about how I position and phrase things as I've gotten burned by my kids not understanding sarcasm or rhetorical questions. So I paused for a second and then said, "Well, there's nothing wrong with being shy. But I wonder why you think you're going to be shy because you're usually not."

She sat in her car seat thoughtfully and replied, "I just think I'm going to be nervous."

The rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful, all four and a half minutes of it but my brain stayed stuck on this idea that she had posed to me. This idea that a personality is something you can try out for a day or two or that a certain situation requires a different state of being than one would normally find themselves in.

Obviously we all do that. I act one way with my best friend and another with my neighbor that I'm still getting to know. I act one way in casual social settings and another in professional environments. Most of us have this chameleon ability, to blend in and out of certain circles and relationships, to change ourselves even temporarily to "behave" when the stakes are high and "cut loose" when we can just be ourselves.

But this, of course, got me thinking even further. Who am I really? Which of these variations of "me" is truly ME? I began to run my mind in circles to identify what attributes truly defined me and which ones were something that I would just put on and take off as the situation demanded it.

I came up with an answer that works for me at the moment: the real me is the one that exhausts me the least.

Keeping up a facade is exhausting. Juggling the appearance balls is ridiculously overwhelming and can wear me down faster than any exercise I've ever tried in my life. But just being me? That's almost effortless. I don't have to watch what I say, walk on egg shells, or second guess every decision because what I'm doing feels right and goes fairly smoothly. The older I get and the more I pay attention to these things the easier it is for me to identify when I'm being authentic. I am more introverted than extroverted so any kind of interaction with people can wear me out, but it's not as bad when I'm just being myself.

As I write this, I'm now thinking that maybe this has been why I've been so tired lately. We got a new puppy, so yes, that's probably also contributing to the issue, but it still feels more tiring than usual. Am I really being myself? Am I really being authentic? If not, what areas of my life can I infuse with more "me" to bring myself back to center? Definitely something to think about.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my youngest did not act shy last Friday at school. She actually forgot her plan and was just herself that day. And she had a very good day.

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The Life I Didn't Plan For

One of my favorite lines ever written by John Lennon is "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Ain't that the truth? Today, I had one of those days. I had a plan. And you can bet your ass it was a good plan. I had everything figured out and coordinated and timed. And then, one thing shifted and the whole plan went to crap. But it was not a day where I could just go back to bed and say screw it. I had to move forward and I had to adjust.

Oh, did you have a day like that too? There's a good chance that many of you did. Because, it's... what's that thing called? Oh yeah... that's life.

Life is not something that follows the script. It is messy and it is hectic and in all the chaos, it is also incredibly, amazingly beautiful. It can also be a total pain in the ass. But what good is a roller coaster ride if it's a flat journey?

I remember a while back (honestly, it feels like a lifetime ago) I was telling a friend that the highs and lows were just too much and I just wanted life to level out. He smiled and grabbed a pen and paper. First, he drew this:

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.38.47 AM
Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.38.47 AM

"This is your life right now, right?" When I nodded, he continued with another illustration:

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.40.09 AM
Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.40.09 AM

"And this is what you want, right?"

"Yes! Life would be so much easier that way." I was relieved. He got it. But instead he just smiled at me and shook his head.

"You know what that is, Angela? That's a flatline. That means you're dead. Doesn't sound like much of a life to me. I think what you really want looks more like this":

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.42.18 AM
Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.42.18 AM

Then it clicked. I was never going to have a flat, uneventful life. That would be boring anyway. What I needed was a new way to address the highs and lows. A way where I could enjoy and appreciate the highs and be graceful with the lows. A way that showed I was responding to life, not just reacting to it.

This life, and where I am right now was never part of the plan. There was no five year plan that included the things that I enjoy or struggle with today. Well, some of them maybe. But certainly not all of them.

Life is good. And it's messy. And it can't be planned for on a regular basis. I'm never going to stop having bad days. But I can work on how I handle the bad days. And that requires persistence and grace and a determination to keep on this journey no matter what is thrown at me.

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Is It Just Me? Or Is Everyone a Bit Tense These Days?

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you may have picked up on this crazy tension that is going around. A lot of it, no doubt, is tied to the election and the oh-my-God-now-what's-going-to-happen-I-have-no-idea-oh-my-God feeling that came immediately on its heels. But I'm wondering if there's more to it. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like January is generally a pretty tense time in general. Yes, there are the goals and the planning sessions and the big dreams and that's all great. But don't we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to make those things happen? I mean, less than two weeks in and I have a feeling that many of you are already thinking, "I suck. I can't even keep my focus for two weeks. 2017 is gonna suck." And if that's you... well, stop it. You don't suck. Cut yourself some slack and just go with it. It's January 11th for crying out loud.

Stop.

Breathe.

Smile.

It's gonna be ok, guys.

But January in general seems to come at a heavy price to those of us who use the turn of the calendar as a reset button. With the crazy highs of "Look at everything I'm going to do this year" and "Watch out 2017... you belong to ME" there are some serious lows. I have no doubt that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing and I'm sure it's contributing a bit, but it just seems to me that most people I've talked to are already overwhelmed and we're not even a full two weeks in.

What gives? Why are we making ourselves crazy? Is it worth it?

Here's a thought: let's not focus on what might be. Let's focus on what is. I'm writing to myself as much as I am writing to you but goodness knows I've been struggling with that feeling of "Wow this experience is NEVER going to end." But right now, in this moment, I'm good. My daughter is happily playing, my puppy is sleeping at my feet, my older children are expanding their horizons in good ways and Brian will be on his way home soon so that we can cuddle on the couch. Right now, I'm writing to you and the heat works and the electricity is running and my stomach is starting to rumble but you know what? I have food in the kitchen. Score!

I've never been a big fan of talking about gratitude. I was taught by others that gratitude is something you show, not something you discuss. But maybe we all just need a little more gratitude in our lives. Just a little. Just a quick thank you to whatever you choose to thank for the goodness in your life. For the fact that you're breathing. For the fact that you can read. For the shoes on your feet.

Maybe I'm being simplistic, but the worldly crush of cynicism is getting to me and I don't like that feeling. Not at all. I'm going to watch funny movies with my kids and read light hearted books and jot down a few things that I'm grateful for whenever I think of it. Because you know what? Life is good. It really is. Things aren't perfect. I've got some real shit happening these days, but don't we all? And through it all, life is good.

So, on that note, know that I'm grateful for you. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you would even take the time out of your crazy busy day to read these words. But know that I'm grateful and I'm pulling for you, as always.

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The Price You Pay For Caring

Sometimes life just doesn't make sense. This week I went to a local funeral home to pay my respects for a young man who died much too early. I didn't really know him, but I know his new wife who is now facing the prospect of widowhood after just settling in to the idea of being married. The wait to reach the family was well over an hour as the line of those who came snaked through four separate rooms in a perfect maze of humanity. I saw some familiar faces of people I haven't seen in a while, gave and received hugs and shared several silent moments of "how is this possible?" One particular friend lives on the west coast and was in town for the funeral. I asked him how he was doing and he replied, "Attending another funeral. It's what we do."

I replied, "That's what we get for caring about people."

It came out of my mouth before I really thought about it, but i know it's 100% true. It is an amazing thing to care about someone, to let them in and let them touch your life. But there is a price you pay. The price of separation, of disappointment, of disagreement. All good things come to an end, right?

Perhaps.

So on my drive home, I started thinking about this. What if I didn't care about people? What if I just shut everyone out? I wouldn't get hurt. I wouldn't get disappointed. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Then I thought about Brian, the man I'm going to marry this year. What if I hadn't let him in (and believe me, I tried not to)? I wouldn't have the life I have today. I wouldn't have that giddy feeling when the phone rings and it's him or when I hear him come in the house. I wouldn't have all these dreams and ideas and plans for the future. Could something happen to him? Yes. That's a reality we all live with. I'm all too familiar with "forever" being cut pretty damn short. But that is the risk I am willfully taking on as Brian and I move ever closer to our wedding day.

I thought about some good friends that I've made in the past couple years and wondered where I would be if I had shut down back in 2011. I wouldn't even have my best friend in my life. How sad would that be?

For a good part of 2016, I was dealing with something that I didn't see coming. Something that just completely wrecked me for a while. My anxiety went through the roof and I began to question everything and seriously contemplated going into an isolation bubble where it was just me and my children to protect us from all the absurdity that happens in day to day life.

But I can't do that. Nor do I really want to when you get down to the heart of the matter.

Because I want to live life, not watch it go by.

Because I want to feel the highs and that means accepting the lows as they come.

Because I deserve to have my heart be nourished and fed and broken open to all the goodness that this world has to offer. Back in September, I had a rough day. And then I had a major wake up call. A woman that touched my life on countless occasions and that I was lucky enough to call a friend announced that it wouldn't be much longer before the brain cancer that she battled would take her life. I went to see her, to spend time with her, to see her smile and hear her laugh. I got home that night and I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

Sometimes life isn't fair. It downright sucks occasionally. But then I get to see something amazing. Something like a couple showing what true love is. Or something like two little girls holding hands and becoming fast friends. And I realize that the thing that sucks the most is sitting in all the crap and letting the beautiful moments pass me by unnoticed. That's the true crime in life. When I let the negatives drown out the goodness all around me. To be robbed of those moments is unacceptable. So I will choose to embrace the good even when it feels like the universe is conspiring against me. Because I know that something good is coming and something good is already happening even if I can't see it yet.

Yep, still true. And this is why. This is why I continue to care even though there's a good chance that I'll hurt down the road for some reason or another. This is why I fight for the things that I know are right rather than just letting things happen. And I'll keep doing it. Because the reward of truly living life outweighs the potential to avoid pain. Do I experience pain, heartache, disappointment and sadness? Of course. But that is the price I pay for caring.

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