The Way I Carry Things

Andrea ChilcoteIt’s the one year anniversary of Andrea’s trek in the Atlanta Snow Storm of 2014. Join her, as she shares her “carry” series.

By Andrea Chilcote

A moment of truth is defined as a critical or decisive time on which much depends – a moment when a person or thing is put to the test. I was put to the test this week, caught in Atlanta’s epic snow storm that paralyzed the city and left thousands of people stranded overnight in cars, grocery stores, and hotel lobbies. Harrowing accounts are being told of children stranded on school buses, as well as heartwarming stories of strangers helping their fellow citizens. I have no doubt that many found lessons as well as inspiration in the events. This post is a chronicle of my moments of truth.

On that fated day, I was leading a session scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. I had flown into Atlanta from Arizona primarily for this meeting, and upon hearing the snow was expected to begin mid-day, I was optimistic that we would be able to finish our agenda and get on the road before the major rush hour (and inevitable chaos) began.

By noon, mid-session, the snow had begun to fall. Members of the group began receiving emails alerting them to school closures, as well as an authorized early release for employees.

Moment of Truth, 12:00 p.m. – To Lead or Default

I looked around and observed the buzz as people checked their mobile devices. “Should we consider whether or not to proceed?” I asked. One nodded “Yes.” Others either shook their head “No,” or did not respond. I simply moved on.

Did I make a split second judgment based on what appeared to be consensus? Or did I allow the majority response to affirm my typical tendency to forge onward despite obstacles?

I thought about that decision many times over the following 24 hours.

Moment of Truth, 2:15 p.m. – To Rush Forward or Plan

We finished the session on time, at 2 p.m. After tidying the room and packing up my things, I headed to the elevators, bound for the parking garage. I heard a voice call after me. “Are you leaving?”

I turned and saw a woman I don’t know. She continued. “…because you won’t get out. There’s a back-up in the parking garage and gridlock on the road outside the office.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “But I’d rather get started.” I continued walking – and she persisted.

“Wait two hours at least. Do you have Netflix on your computer? Sit and watch a movie.”

I thanked her again, but proceeded to the garage – quickly. I didn’t even stop at the restroom on my way out.

There’s a part of me whose motto is “Patience be damned, I’m coming through.” It’s tenacious, deliberate and clear. But sometimes I fail to consider the impact of my choices on my own well-being.

I would consider this choice many times throughout the afternoon.

Moment of Truth, 3:45 p.m. – Taking Action

Because I exited the garage via the visitor lot, I didn’t experience the inside lines that I had been warned about. I would see them an hour later, when I had moved just two car lengths from the visitor exit.

Radio broadcasts provided no encouragement to my growing frustration and concern. It appeared that the entire metro area was in similar shape.

Ninety minutes and three car lengths post departure, I found myself at another choice point. On my right was a short access road between two buildings. I frequent the area, so I knew it led to the back of a shopping center parking lot. An idea had been germinating during the time spent in gridlock. I could park my rental car and walk the six or so miles to my friend Sara’s house in Dunwoody, where I had been staying. I googled the average miles per hour a human walks in order to gauge whether I would arrive before dark.

Despite being unsure how long it would take to traverse the distance between my location and the parking lot, and a bit nervous about losing my place on the main thoroughfare, I turned right. I could decide about the walk once I arrived at the lot. The fact that I now needed to use the restroom provided more motivation to turn.

It was a very good decision.

Moment of Truth, 4:00 p.m. – Being Resourceful

The pavement was becoming treacherous and I entered the parking lot carefully, looking for open restaurants that might allow me to use the facilities. Then, I spotted REI. Yes!

Parked and in the store, I said to the clerk: “I’m going to buy clothes. First, do you have a restroom I can use?” He pointed me to the back.

In that moment, my decision was made. I would purchase gear to supplement my somewhat meager winter outfit, and then set out for Sara’s on foot in the 22 degree day.

Considering the garments I needed, I approached the clearance section, as I was not inclined to spend more than necessary on items that I already had at home in Arizona. I selected a lined and hooded jacket that would fit nicely under my wool blazer and cape, then found a pair of thin wool socks that I could gift to my husband after my trek. I had gloves already, and the hoodie would serve as a warm hat. Amazingly, my dress boots were suitable for walking in the snow. But approaching the checkout counter, I realized I was wearing a thin skirt. Back to the clearance rack I went, settling on a thick pair of leggings. Done.

Clad in tights, wool socks, boots, leggings, a skirt, silk shirt, jacket, blazer, cape and hood, I left the building with just one more decision to make.

Moment of Truth, 4:30 p.m. – My Heavy Load

I couldn’t leave my laptop bag behind, locked in the rental car. Besides my computer, it housed all of my small electronics, files with client notes, and various other “important” items. I didn’t know when I would get back to the car – and the temps were forecast to dip into the teens. And, while I’m not overly cautious, I would never have left valuables in a parked car overnight under normal conditions, let alone these.

Seeking to lighten the load, I removed a box of markers, but was still left with 16 pounds of cargo. Being an avid hiker, I can easily carry that weight in a backpack. A briefcase would present a challenge on my long walk.

REI sells backpacks. I re-approached the clerk and asked if there were any inexpensive backpacks. He chuckled. “I’m afraid backpacks are never cheap,” he replied. I briefly considered looking at packs, then rationalized that it would take a quite large one – another thing I didn’t need as I had an ample supply at home. I left the store.

This decision would form the metaphor for my greatest lesson of the trip. How much easier would my journey (in life as well to Dunwoody) be if I would just change the way I carry things?

The weekend before my adventure, I had hiked many miles over rugged terrain. I calculated that this six mile walk would take less than two hours. Not a problem – except for that bag.

For the first 45 minutes, I was fine, admittedly even a bit smug as I passed growing gridlock. I realized that waiting two hours at the office would not have helped. (In fact, those who waited spent the night there – safe, but not my idea of a relaxing evening). I was quite warm, despite heavily falling snow. Approaching a commercial area called Dunwoody Village, I stopped for tea at a still-open Chinese restaurant to rest my arms that were already growing tired from the weight of my case.

Setting out again, my mind became focused on my load. What if I couldn’t do this – then what? What if my arms cramp or just give out? I would have one of these thoughts, create a possible but far-fetched solution, then take a deep breath and switch arms.

It’s funny what the mind does when given time. I regretted not having left my pack at my client’s office. But I couldn’t have known it would become the thorn in my side.

In the village, I looked for one of those rental storage places where I could leave my bag. No luck – but I rationalized that it probably wouldn’t have been open anyway.

I fantasized that someone I knew would be on the road, shout at me, and offer to take my bag in their car. Little did I know the number of cars that would be abandoned before the night was over, some towed away the next day. That would not have been a good solution.

Pre 9-11, I might have tried asking a security guard in an office park to lock it up for me. But now, I presumed, they might call the FBI after such a request. I briefly considered asking a father out sledding with his three young sons if I could buy their small sled to haul it. But I was unsure whether that would be of benefit without one of my huskies to pull it.

So many mantras filled my head. One step in front of the other. Pay attention or you will slip and fall. Slow down and breathe – this is not a race. Going back is not an option. On and on, but one refrain was the loudest.

“The journey would be easy without this load.” Perhaps it was the solitude of the walk in the snow that created this echo in my head. It was the one I could not shake, and it holds meaning beyond this trek.

By the time I returned home the trip was costly, but worth every choice that involved spending money. So why was I unwilling to purchase a backpack, the one item that would have made my journey an easy hike? Why am I sometimes unable, or unwilling, to lighten the other loads I carry in life?

Do I underestimate the drag they create in my quest for forward movement? Do l fail to see a simple solution, a re-design of the way in which I carry my valuables? Am I not investing in the solution? I’ll ponder these questions, and I hope you will too.

Moment of Truth, 6:00 p.m. – Asking for Help

At 6 p.m., I was nearly to Sara’s – about a mile to go. I crossed the icy GA 400 overpass at Northridge Road, and turned right onto Dunwoody Place. Suddenly, no more gridlock. The road, though dangerous, was almost empty.

I paused to ponder for a minute, and then put down my case and took out my phone. I called Sara, who earlier had offered to come get me at Dunwoody Village. She was kind to volunteer, but would only have become victim to the jam. Now, perhaps she could help.

I explained that I thought she could get to me now, and being both brave and generous, she told me she would be right there. I kept walking.

About five minutes later, I encountered the reason there was no traffic.  A school bus full of children was disabled and blocking the road. Parents from the neighborhood were embracing their kids who were filing off unhurt.

Immediately I reached for my phone to call Sara, who was dialing me. She was stopped by a barricade on the other side of the bus. I had feared that she had gotten trapped in herself, but miraculously she was waiting for me in a driveway. Once there, I put my load in the backseat and hopped into the car for the short trip to her home.

Soon I was sitting by the fireplace enjoying a wonderful meal – something few commuters experienced in Atlanta that evening.

Moment of Truth, today – Heeding the Lesson

I’m back in Arizona, where it’s sunny and 70 degrees. My arms aren’t even sore, because I’m strong and fit. But just think of how far I could go if I changed the way I carry things.

Carry Series:


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

Home

Andrea Chilcote, Kairos Chilcote, Cave CreekArizona is just beginning to grow hot right now, but it is where I belong. It is where I find peace and refuge. Join me as I reflect back to the beauty of the dwelling I call home (June 2013).

 by Andrea Chilcote

I am on my way home. Heading across the country at 34,000 feet, destined for one of the warmest areas on our continent. Arizona is hot right now, but it is where I belong. It is where I find peace and refuge. There’s nowhere I would rather be tonight, even with tomorrow’s forecast high of 118 degrees. This night, I focus on my relationship with my home.

Often I wonder what makes one connect with a certain environment, culture or terrain. For some, it’s the place where they were born and raised, the mother anchor that, regardless of the journey traveled, feels like the only safe womb on the planet. But there are others who, like me, chose an adopted home.

I grew up in the Midwest, in a small town near (but not a part of) prairie farmlands. As a child I held a strong vision of moving west, even though I never traveled more than 30 miles from home until my late teens. My longing to be in the West was certainly influenced by the dreams of my Dad, who also had not traveled far except while he was a youth in the military. He suffered greatly from arthritis and longed to live where it was warm. The sad irony is that I was able to finally visit Arizona in his last year of life, and I moved there shortly after he passed away. In the many  years since then, I’ve traveled enough to know where I’m most at peace. My desert, my home.

Of course, one’s choice of home has much to do with the people who inhabit it. My beloved husband and dogs are waiting for me tonight, and my friends are surely ready to re-engage in our happy routines. Yet there is more to this. The place itself carries a resonance that is palpable and real.

Where or what is your home? Whether or not you are there right now, feel it’s cocoon, its blanket, or its invitation. Consider your own relationship with the beauty of the dwelling place that calls you, as Arizona’s splendor calls me.

_____

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Choose Peace

Peace 5Today I’m reminded of a post I made nearly a year ago, just after the Boston Marathon bombing. I wrote of how our polarized differences lead to senseless violence, and offered a plea to “choose peace.”

The topic is on my mind this day after a fortunate veto by our governor of senate bill 1062, which proposed to give businesses the right to actively discriminate against AZ citizens in the name of religious beliefs. While there was no physical violence involved, the fear and hatred that drives these kinds of proposals is violence too – and in my view, the antithesis of what religion purports to represent.

The message, choose peace, is timely as Arizona seeks to heal.

by Andrea Chilcote

One of the things I do is help people find common ground even when they are, at their core, very different. The differences can be a result of social, political, or religious viewpoints or they can be hardwired as personality traits. It’s my belief that this diversity is an asset when its respected and welcomed, and it is a barrier to peace, progress, and productivity when it is not embraced. Of course, there’s no shortage of work to be done.

On the day of the Boston bombings, a friend wrote on his Facebook page of his dismay that while he grew up in a gray world, it appears we have become so “black and white” in our mindsets. He lamented the absence of compromise and tolerance.

As I read his post and watched the news, I thought about the core need we have to be with those of like mind and heart. It’s no secret that we seek and are more at ease with those who share our interests and views. There’s something very comforting to me about spending time with cherished old friends with common goals, and I’m invigorated in work and in life by those with whom I share values and beliefs. This week I have enjoyed both immensely, and I treasure the experiences.

For me, this human need for connection with those like us has never appeared to be in conflict with tolerance. While of course I have no idea of the true motive of the bombing perpetrators, the events of the week, my friend’s post and my own daily observations have me wondering to myself whether the pendulum has swung. Those who have crossed over the line engage in outright violence. But I see many others so bereft of connection that they lash out in insidious violence, not that which is illegal or life-threatening, but violent still. Are we becoming so polarized that we cannot consider compromise or commonality of any sort? For healthy individuals, blatant condemnation is a choice.

I challenge you to a practice I intend to embrace this week. Practice peace.

I know it sounds cliché. Yet cliché results from empty words. Practice requires action, however small the step. I vow to hold my tongue when a criticism arises. Take a breath when I’m impatient. Ask a question before I draw a firm conclusion.

We feel powerless when large scale violence occurs around us. Choice is powerful. We can take back our power moment by moment, simply by choosing peace.

_____

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Playful Flight

by Andrea Chilcote     Animal Speak_Capture

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. 

One morning this week, as we were leaving our driveway for a hike with the dogs, I noticed a raven flying overhead, breakfast prey hanging from his beak. I wondered to myself what lesson he had in store.

“Good morning Grandpa.” I greeted him as I often do, with the name I’ve come to use since meeting a raven up close in the Grand Canyon many years ago.  “Grandpa” is a bit like Santa Claus. Even though there are many of them, I pretend each one I see is the same bird.

As we walked, I continued to notice Grandpa flying nearby, and smiled at the company. Having these companion birds along on our hikes is a fairly common occurrence, and there are natural explanations. Ravens and crows are known to serve as messengers to warn small animals of impending danger, calling out their cautionary sounds as they fly. It makes sense that they would warn the desert animals of our arrival, as we hike with two large wolf-like dogs, a Husky and a Malamute.

The other possibility lies in the simple fact that there is a long-standing synergy between ravens and wolves. There is much documented evidence of ravens and wolves hunting together in a symbiotic relationship. And surprisingly, their bond often includes play, with the birds dipping and soaring amongst dancing wolves after a successful hunt.

On this day, I felt sure the bird was calling us to join the social activities of its congress. As if to confirm my intuition, others began to gather. By the time we were completing the last quarter of our loop hike, we counted 10 ravens. They flew along as we walked, landing intermittently on high tree branches to allow us to count them before moving ahead.

Ravens are said to symbolize magic. In his classic book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says raven teaches us how to go into the dark and bring forth light. He says wolf teaches us to breathe new life into our life rituals.

It’s always a bit too easy for me to allow the stresses of a busy life to hijack my focus. One of the reasons I hike the dogs each day I’m at home in Arizona is that I get a brief connection with nature in a way that’s playful and physical. And even so, I sometimes miss the magic for the heaviness at hand.

We all bring forth light when we lighten up in social ways. Consider the gifts of raven and wolf as you interact within your families, teams and communities. Temper work with play, and magic just might take flight.

“It appears that the wolf and the raven have reached an adjustment in their relationships such that each creature is rewarded in some way by the presence of the other and that each is fully aware of the other’s capabilities.”  The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species  –Dr. L. David Mech

Pray As If

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman at the start of Arizona’s monsoon season. It’s finally fall…and the lesson endures the seasons.

It’s that time of year in Arizona when we long for the monsoon to come and cool the temps by at least a few degrees. Early Saturday morning, toward the end of a lovely, meditative hike with my friend Beth and the three canines, I felt several drops of rain hit my arms and face. While scant raindrops might go unnoticed by most, we desert dwellers are on high alert, and treasure them even if only a few fall.index

“It’s raining,” I exclaimed. “Well, at least I felt raindrops.”

I looked up to the sky. There were some rogue clouds – indeed, one which was producing this sprinkling – but certainly no monsoon-style, cumulonimbus towers.

Then Beth said something remarkable. “It’s funny, I was just thinking about doing a rain dance.”

“You did one,” I replied.

I was reminded of a classic lesson I learned many years ago reading the book The Isaiah Effect. In it, author Gregg Braden relays the story of having been invited by a Native American friend, David, to share in an experience of what he thought was to be a prayer for rain during a major drought.

Gregg observed his friend’s short and silent ritual, after which David was ready to leave and get lunch. Puzzled and apparently expecting a longer and more participatory ceremony, he said he thought they had come to this place to pray for rain.

David answered.  “If we pray for rain, rain could never happen. Because the moment you pray for something to occur, you just acknowledged that it does not exist.”

He went on to explain.

“In my prayer, I began with the feeling of gratitude for all that is and all that has come to pass. I gave thanks for the desert wind, the heat, and the drought, for that is the way of it, until now. It is not good. It is not bad. It has been our medicine.

Then I chose a new medicine. I began to have the feeling of what rain feels like. I felt the feeling of rain upon my body. Standing in the stone circle, I imagined that I was in the plaza of our village, barefoot in the rain. I felt the feeling of wet earth oozing between my naked toes. I smelled the smell of rain on the straw-and-mud walls of our village after the storm. I felt what it feels like to walk through fields of corn growing up to my chest because the rains have been so plentiful.”

Like David’s, Beth’s rain dance in her mind and heart had been a prayer for rain, though perhaps less intentional. And so began that morning’s desert lesson. Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it.

It turns out that’s the title of a book by Larry Dossey MD. Dossey is known for his groundbreaking work exploring the role of prayer in healing. His research has led to what he calls the non-local mind and the merging of spirit and medicine. He says this book’s purpose is to help people gain the ability to reshape private thoughts for the benefit of mankind.

Back at home after the hike; the lesson was presented as another reminder that our thoughts and feelings pack a punch. They are, as Braden, Dossey (and I) have witnessed, our prayers.

Settling down to breakfast, I glanced at a post from the evening before. It was an account of an unfolding event in which a man’s three dogs were apparently stolen before his eyes. Even though it involved strangers, I had been shaken by it. I felt the man’s grief, as well as anger toward the person who, on the surface, appeared to be a perpetrator.

I tried to wipe it from my previously blissful psyche. But my sadness prevailed. Then, suddenly, it dawned on me that I was praying for rain. I was further endangering the situation by amplifying my own negative emotions. A calm came over me and I very simply and deliberately imagined – felt – a positive outcome. Even more importantly, I reframed my feelings toward the woman suspected of wrongdoing. Reminded of the wise saying, “Let God handle the details,” I did not wish her to have a change of heart and return what she had purportedly stolen. I simply raised her up in my heart, in a loving and non-judgmental way. In my prayer, I asked that she connect with her highest and best self.

One hour later, I saw a post confirming the outcome. The dogs had been returned and all was well.

I don’t claim to fully understand the quantum mechanics of prayer, and I don’t believe my practice was solely responsible for this welcome outcome. Yet I know what Dossey says is true. Our private thoughts do impact the collective.

Reframing emotions is not easy. I was able to reframe mine on this morning in good part because I just had walked in the rain that my friend’s mental dance had produced. This is the first lesson, spirited women, the one before the big prayer. Gather strength from the seemingly small or inconsequential miracles that you create with the resonance you put out through your thoughts and feelings. Your faith will build as you gain awareness of how very powerful you are.

“We must feel the feeling as if the prayer has already been answered.”

—Gregg Braden

A Time for Every Purpose

 

by Andrea Chilcote

 

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Invigorated by an idyllic beach walk with my beloved dogs, wind in my face, the refrain of an old song was playing in my head. “Turn, Turn Turn,” made popular by The Byrds in the 60’s, is based on the book of Ecclesiastes:

To everything
There is a season
And a time to every purpose under heaven

As we laughed and played in the California surf and sand, I felt pure joy. Then, suddenly, I remembered the pain a friend in Arizona is experiencing as she grieves the loss of a dear companion. Once again I was reminded of the seeming contradictions in this experience of life, and our ability to ride the waves of change with resilience and grace. Our beach dance was a reminder to keep the faith.

A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

Intrigued by the power these words had over me, I did a bit of research and learned that the songwriter, Pete Seeger, is still alive today at age 93, singing and giving interviews to convey his enduring message of hope for our world. On Monday of this week he had a studio audience singing along to “Quite Early Morning,” a song he wrote in 1969 to “inspire people to keep the faith that a better world is possible, even in the midst of suffering, tragedy, and setbacks.”

Don’t you know it’s darkest before the dawn
And it’s this thought keeps me moving on
“Quite Early Morning” by Pete Seeger

Whether at this moment you dance or mourn, it is yours to either embrace or resist. At least for today, I’m choosing to dance.

Just Chill

Cambriaby Andrea Chilcote

The following is a repeat of a post I made for The Spirited Woman Community in August, just before departing for vacation. While I am in Cave Creek this week, not Cambria, the spirit of “Just Chill” seems appropriate for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!

August 2012

As you read this post, I am officially on vacation. I am in Cambria, California an idyllic haven that offers my family and me a unique sort of respite, a place to “chill out” figuratively as well as literally, given that it’s also a cool escape from the blistering Arizona summer.

I strive for peace and quiet amidst the busyness of my life. Yet the world is not quiet. That is not a judgment, rather it is an observation. Whether one is a public servant, a public figure – or even a monk – this “disquiet” can seep into the psyche, creating discord that impacts the quality of our lives and those we care about and interact with daily.

In the past, I have written of the importance of rest and renewal. And, as is so often the case, I have observed a theme this past week: A dearth of rest. So many people are starved for a break, for peace and for release. The definition of rest is broad. It can mean temporary cessation from an activity as well as relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance. Rest includes recreation, and it can literally re-create our outlook, equipping us with renewed drive and energy to use as we choose.

Some of us “rest” in motion…through vigorous physical activity, or an active break from routine. Others need stillness and contemplation. The idea of a nap or an afternoon under a beach umbrella may satisfy some and not others. For me, the simple absence of a schedule provides supreme rest.

We’ve been resting in Cambria each summer for the last six years. On the first day of our first trip there, Arthur and I were having lunch at a wonderful sidewalk table at a Cambria classic, the Indigo Moon. Our dogs Whisper and Amigo were with us. Just as our server approached, another vacationing dog passed by our table. Whisper, the Malamute, tends to challenge other dogs, and this was no exception.  The server looked her straight in the eye and cut her off mid-growl. “Chill doggie,” she said calmly. “This is Cambria.” Amazingly, both dogs “chilled.” From that day forward, time in Cambria came to represent a time to take a deep breath and relax.

Maybe you too can visit Cambria, in person or in your dreams. Until then, just chill.

It’s that frenetic energy that keeps us stuck in perpetual ‘fight or flight’ and that keeps us in an energetic fear loop that robs us of truly being present, enjoying life, and connecting deeply with our loved ones. – Resting expert Dan Howard