My 2013 Trip Around the Sun

Andrea Chilcote, birthday, trip around the sunHave you completed your “trip around the sun” lately? Join Andrea, as she reflects on her 2013 birthday:

This Tuesday, I received the following birthday greeting from my friend Carol, an avid Jimmy Buffet fan:

“My favorite story teller and philosopher Jimmy Buffett calls birthdays “trips around the sun,” and during each year’s trip you accumulate souvenirs along the way. Souvenirs are those precious memorable moments that you want to keep with you. So my friend, what souvenirs have you collected?”

Well, that message stopped me in my tracks in the early morning. The day had begun with sweet cards and gifts, followed by a hike with friends at 6am. By 7, when Carol’s Facebook message arrived, it was already an ordinary day filled with work commitments and travel.

Surely there were countless memorable moments-but my cluttered mind couldn’t recall them. I managed to retrieve one that Carol and I shared last summer in Omaha, a dinner with another friend. It made the list because I remembered feeling so connected to, supported and accepted by those two women that evening.

I realized recalling these “souvenirs” would occupy many spare moments the rest of the week. I made it a point to refrain from prioritizing or qualifying them, and that was quite freeing. Thank you, Carol.

Here’s an excerpt from my souvenir journal:

  • Finding a giant heart rock in the middle of the trail on a crisp snowy morning hike with Kairos in Sedona on Christmas Day…
  • Hearing the news that Susan’s dog Bennie had turned the corner and would make it against all odds…
  • Spending a glorious morning with Sara and the dogs on idyllic “Cow Beach”…
  • Spotting a stunning rainbow in the Rocky Mountains, the likes of which I had never seen…
  • Having a 24-hour date with my husband, Arthur in San Diego – just the two of us…

There are more. And yes, there were even “bigger” blessings than some of these. But I noticed some common characteristics in my list. They each involved people or canines I care about, and most involved the grand outdoors.

You don’t have to wait for your birthday to have a look at your souvenirs. Take them out and admire them. The memories-sights, sounds, smells and feelings-can rejuvenate you on a busy day.


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

A Pack of Friends or One at a Time? (2014)

A Pack of Friends or One at a Timeby Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

“One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others.”– The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

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.

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

Is It Better To Be Right or Kind?

Andrea Chilcote

With Valentine’s 2014 on the horizon this week, are you seeing yourself and your life experiences (and perhaps another’s) from a heart-centered perspective? Below, Andrea explores life’s challenges from a heart-lens perspective and asks you to consider how you choose to respond.

by Andrea Chilcote

This week, I’m reminded of the question, “Is it better to be right or kind?”

There are versions of this question. A client reminded me of one several years ago, as she was experiencing a conflict at work. She asked herself out loud: “Is better to be right or effective?”—and concluded that while the ego may beg to differ, “effective” was the only path in that situation.

Think about a time you were sure you were right about something large or small, but another person (or group), held an opposite view. I’m not talking about politics, religion or the stuff of conversational debates. I’m talking about taking a personal stand on a perceived injustice or criticism, someone else’s way of doing something, or any irritation that irks you in the moment but is insignificant with perspective.

I have one. Yesterday I felt compelled to express annoyance to my husband for changing virtually every setting in my car’s XM Radio. His response was that I had given him the wrong instructions for finding the channel he was seeking.

At first, I presented the logical argument. My instructions were “right,” and I had evidence in the text message explaining the step-by-step process. (Not to mention I was the one offering help for which he should have been grateful!) But something possessed me to stop, fortunately, and spend three minutes correcting the set-up.

Why is this so hard? At least part of the reason is that we have difficulty discerning between the things we can change by taking a stand, and the things that don’t matter. And, defending the things that don’t matter actually does matter in that we make mountains out of mole hills, as my Dad used to say.

It all matters to our ego. So we have to check in with our logical, objective-thinking self and ask: “Can I influence change here?” If the answer is no, stop. Influence rarely occurs as a result of telling (absent asking), and that’s especially true when telling involves making the other person wrong.

We also need to check in with our heart. Some motivation or unmet need on the part of the other person is driving whatever is making us crazy. Through a heart lens we see this, and the choice to be kind becomes viable.

As you choose your responses to life’s challenges over the next several days, consider these questions:

• Can I influence change (or will my response serve only to inflame)?
• What choice will bring peace to my heart (and perhaps another’s)?
• How can I be kind to myself (and thus spread the resonance of kindness)?

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

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

A Happy Visit

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon…

Arthur's beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

Arthur’s beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas this year, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

by Andrea Chilcote

Did you have any unexpected visitors this holiday week? We did.

One night last week I was away in Atlanta on business, looking forward to going home the next day to enjoy the Christmas weekend. After I had gone to bed but was not yet fully asleep, I heard the “ding” of a text message. I had spoken a “good night” to my husband Arthur so I knew all was well at home, but I rose anyway and checked my phone.

There I found a photo of Arthur’s beloved horse Duke, who had passed away in August. The message, from Arthur, said: “Why did you send this to me??” (Two question marks).

I quickly replied that I had not sent it, that I had nearly been asleep, and wished to resume that state. He texted back.

“Well, I can see that you texted this photo! It came from you.” He persisted.

“It’s a mystery then,” I replied. “I’ll have a look when I get there tomorrow.” Arthur is not the most tech savvy person, and I assumed he somehow texted himself that photo from those in his phone. The fact that I had never seen that shot before was a bit mysterious, but I assumed all would make sense by the light of day.

When I arrived home the next evening, I asked to see the original text. Arthur told me, disappointed, that it had disappeared on its own. Thinking he had deleted it, I checked my own phone. Mine had vanished too! Yet I had seen the image he forwarded with my own eyes the night before.

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon. I was sitting at my desk when Arthur ran down the hall. “Andrea, look!” he shouted. “Roxy just texted me the same photo!” I looked at his phone, and sure enough he had a text from Roxy, the loving woman who helps him care for the horses. She was at the barn, so I immediately walked there with Arthur’s phone in hand.

“Did you just send Arthur a text?” I asked, calmly. “No,” Roxy replied. “Why?”

I showed her the text, from her. Wide eyed, she pulled out her phone. “I don’t even have that picture,” she said. To be sure, she checked her sent texts (none) and her photos of the horses. None matched that shot.

I returned to the house, one part shaken and one part excited. How had this happened? Was there a tangible explanation, or – had Duke found a way (using sophisticated technology mind you) to say hello from the other side?

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes.

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes. –Arthur Chilcote with Duke, Christmas 2013.

Duke was a very special rescue horse. A victim of the cruel sport of “tripping,” he came to our safe haven with many physical and emotional scars. His body was aged and broken, but his spirit was strong. In the three years he was with us, he grew to trust humans and genuinely loved his main caregiver, Arthur. Our veterinarian marveled at his resilience, and shared our sadness when at last his body gave up at the end of the summer.

There’s one thing I know for sure, with every morsel of my being: There is no such thing as death. The humans we love who have passed from this earth, as well as our precious animal companions, can and do watch over us, connect with our spirits and send us their light. So then why should I find it remarkable that Duke, who had an extraordinary bond to our family, paid us a visit? I’ve pondered that question a lot over the past few days.

Where I’ve landed is this. The energy of surprise and wonderment was Duke’s Christmas gift. While we have faith in the great mystery of the eternal soul, it helps to have a tangible reminder once in a while. A perfect gift, a happy visit.

—This post appeared originally last-year December on The Spirited Woman where  Andrea is a weekly blogger.

A Friend is Always There

A Friend is Always There 2by Andrea Chilcote

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday and spend treasured time with family and friends, I’m remembering one of my musings about friendship. Enjoy this encore post. 

My husband Arthur and I spent last weekend with visiting friends, one of whom I had not seen for several years. The moment I embraced her at the airport, I knew that the time that had passed was a mere blip on the screen of life. We immediately took up where we had left off.

The morning after she left, I found myself thinking about another friend I had not spoken to in several months. I felt that pang of guilt, and made a mental note to call her.  Minutes later, voilà, — my cell phone rang. You know who it was.

We quickly caught up on the comings and goings of each other’s lives and settled into the familiar. When I hung up the phone, I wondered to myself why I feel such angst when I miss a special person, versus smiling at the memory — then acting.

Have you procrastinated calling or writing a friend because it’s been too long and you’re embarrassed about it? Maybe you missed acknowledging her birthday or a son’s graduation and are feeling just a little guilty.

Here’s one thing I know for sure. If it’s a real friendship, reconnecting can only bring joy. The time that passed is irrelevant. Some friends are with us consistently during periods of our lives. Others appear at just the right time to serve some simple or profound purpose.

True friendship is a free flow of give and take. If you’re called to connect and energized when considering it, act. She will be there. If the thought of doing so drains you, let it go. Either way, allow no guilt, none at all.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh