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3 Life Lessons Learned from Being My Own Boss

Photo by Tori Barratt Crane
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~Mahatma Gandhi

A few years ago I was walking to the car, about to jump in the passenger’s side so my husband could drop me off at my job on his way to work. Suddenly my stomach was in knots; my esophagus felt like it was on fire.

This had been happening regularly for a few months, but we’d just gotten back from two weeks of blissful vacation, road tripping up the Pacific Northwest coastline. I had sort of forgotten this misery … until I returned to my job.

The cause and effect were so clear to me at that moment. How could I continue working somewhere that caused me physical pain?

How to Cope When Little Things Overwhelm You

Photo by 9042004 Duke
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are the most important. ~Arthur Conan Doyle

I have always been wary of the little things in life. The little things can steal my serenity, rob me of peace of mind and kill my joy.

At the same time, I have been aware of the little things in my life:

  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee
  • The overheard laughter of a stranger
  • A spider web glistening with morning dew

How can I be defeated by little things or more likely, how can I LET little things defeat me? I identify with the concept of Chinese Water Torture as a method of ultimate despair — the premise being that drops of water fall onto the forehead of a restrained individual and ultimately render them insane.

How to See Today In New Light

Photo by Christopher Allison Photography
Change is the only constant. ~Heraclitus

I was constantly requesting change but viewing everything with the same lens and mindset that had created what I didn’t want in the first place.

I was blind to the changes that had occurred and were constantly occurring, caught in a battle between the reality I perceived and the reality that actually existed.

Often times this is how we handle our relationships — we spend an exorbitant amount of time pushing for positive change, but our attention has been stuck for so long on what’s wrong that we don’t adjust when things begin shifting and moving in a different direction.

We may be living and breathing in the current moment, but we are constantly reacting to past circumstances, past hurts and past disappointments. And despite how fluid and constantly changing things are — and we’ve all been witness to this — we don’t operate from a place that recognizes this fact of life.

6 Tips for Learning Hard Lessons

Photo by Felipe Neves
God gives us each a song. ~Ute proverb

Often I am woken up by the songs of coyotes howling in the predawn. It might be a single, mournful wail, but more often the entire desert hillside comes alive with the yipping chorus.

It’s a beautiful, eerie song that evokes something ancient and primal, almost like a genetic memory stretching back to the beginning of time.

As well as hear them, I also see them frequently. Wild and furtive, a coyote darts across the path during my morning walk, where I see her hiding among the sage and bitter brush watching me with wary eyes.

I wonder what she thinks. If it’s pure survival instinct, why doesn’t she run? Has the pack come to recognize me over the past two years as I walk several times a week along Rattlesnake Trail that winds up the hill by a cattle ranch, the same territory they occupy?

3 Ways to Know What You Want

Photo by Kurt Budiarto
If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. ~Lawrence J. Peter

I was riding in a taxi cab with a few coworkers years ago after a long day working a convention when I said something I thought was basic knowledge.

“You’ve got to know what you want in life,” I said matter-of-factly. “I think the reason so many people are unhappy is because they’re busy chasing things they don’t even want.”

One of my coworkers laughed and called me a guru. I took the compliment. But she also said this:

“If that’s our problem, then fixing it should be easy, right? We just need to figure out what we want.”

In saying that, she’s sent me on a bit of a quest these past years. How do I know what I want? How can I help other people figure it out too?

How to Get What You Want

Photo by Tom Merton
As for the future, your task is not to foresee it but to enable it. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

One of the first things I did after being dealt the ego-bruising, heart-wrenching blow of a breakup was to reinforce my support system.

I leaned heavily on my family and confided in a few close friends that I felt comfortable sharing the insanity of my outbursts with.

My 4-year-old niece reconfirmed my need to do this when, in the middle of my sobbing, she gave me a hug and simply said, “It’s ok. We’re your family and we’ll always take care of you.”

Nothing else seemed more true in that moment.

5 Reasons to Stop Ignoring Negative Emotions

Photo by Arif Akhtar
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ll never forget the first time I allowed myself to say, “I hate him.” I discovered the feeling during my meditation time. Seeing it there in front of me made me realize I needed to stop pretending it wasn’t true.

My dearest friend heard it first.

“I hate him,” I said with a smile. Not exactly the hateful expression you’d expect, but it was the most liberating statement I’d ever made, and I was so happy about it!

Always before I’d tried to reconcile myself to his presence. To be the bigger person, and not harbor hate in my heart. But through all my striving, I hated him still, and I’d just been lying to myself about it.

4 Easy Tips for Living Light

Photo by Holly Lay
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ~Arthur Ashe

Several years ago, my good friend and I shared an apartment. We both just started our first “real jobs” and weren’t making a ton of money. We took turns cooking dinner, and we came up with a plan to use everything in our fridge before we went grocery shopping.

We didn’t waste food and saved serious cash at a time when we needed to most. It also forced us to be ridiculously creative.

Apples and tofu were the only thing in the fridge? Check out the pantry. We’ve got some walnuts, honey and a lone red onion. Suddenly we went from scrounging to gourmet cooking.

We called this using what you have, and we applied it all over the place. I just used it while shopping yesterday.

Stop Pretending and Start Being You

Photo by Maxi Adrian San Agustin
You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be. ~Vironika Tugaleva

I grew up in the 1970s, and I learned a lot from the experience. Tom Wolfe called the ‘60s and ‘70s “The Purple Decades” because they had such gaudy styles.

Style seemed to be a big deal then, even more so than in other decades. Everyone of a certain age felt free to try new things and express themselves.

Expressing oneself sounds like a good thing, but actually it depends on what you’re trying to express. Is it the real you or just something you borrowed from the people and styles around you?

8 Questions to Feel More Free

Photo by Caroline Sleeper
Maybe the life you’ve always wanted to live is buried underneath everything you own. ~Joshua Becker

As a full-time nanny of four, I typically used the family’s van when picking the kids up. One day, however, I unexpectedly found out that I needed to use my own car.

This wasn’t a problem for me. I just had to put some stuff in the trunk and say my least favorite phrase: “Please excuse the mess.”

As I suspected, the children weren’t thrilled. But at least it gave us something to talk about.

“Wow, your car is, like, rotten!” the six-year-old boy immediately exclaimed.

“Where do I put my feet?” his older sister asked.

I thought surely the next time would be better. They’d be used to it.

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