In My Own (Crazy?) Way

By Andrea Chilcote

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman in September 2014 when Andrea was a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!


On Monday I joined some friends for coffee, friends who meet regularly at a time I’m usually on a plane or have some scheduled task. Since I’m not a regular member of this group, I was in for surprise.

One member, my friend Sheppard Lake, is a life coach. So at these gatherings, she regularly leads exercises designed to – well, coach us in life.

I considered excusing myself when the paper and pens were passed around. But I was intrigued enough to postpone the work I was supposed to be doing, and I stayed.

Sheppard asked us to write a letter to someone we admired, telling them what it was we loved about them. The first person who popped into my mind was none other than the CEO of an Arizona non-profit, Pam Gaber of Gabriel’s Angels. It was easy to list all of the things I admire about Pam, and I finished my letter quickly. It was fun to hear who others chose, when we read our letters aloud. Some picked famous people and one wrote a touching letter to her husband.

Then, we learned the punch line of the exercise. Sheppard dared to ask us to re-read the letters, this time substituting ourselves for the exalted one. What??

She asked me to go first. “I can’t do this,” I said, “because part of it, one word in the middle paragraph, would be a lie.”

She encouraged me to just begin. Amazingly, the truth was that many of the things I admire about Pam are qualities I at least strive to embody myself. (Okay, they are qualities I possess.) But when I got to that word in the short sentence in the middle of the page, I stopped.

“I’m in awe of your energy, organization and presence.” Which word would that be, you might ask?

“I am not organized,” I declared, oddly on the verge of tears. Immediately my friends began to give me examples of how they admired my ability to plan and organize, how methodical I was, how much I got done, and on and on. I was incredulous.

I listened, and considered the evidence they presented.

“In my own crazy way, perhaps,” I conceded. And as the words came out, I felt better.

In my own way.

Yes, while I have a nearly life-long criticism of my ability to order and structure things, the truth is that I organize things “exactly just right” for me. I have systems, processes and order that, while mysterious to some, work for me. It’s only when I try to do what others do that I stumble.

How about you? What’s “your own way?” that serves you, and – that others even admire?

I have an idea. I think I’ll stop comparing myself to others, at least for the weekend.

Running on Empty

Have you rushed into this new year to find yourself already running on empty? Here’s a gentle nudge to be mindful of your own need for renewal.

By Andrea Chilcote

I had one of those early morning dream states in which I was already up and at my desk. The last two hours were not real sleep, and served as an omen for the day ahead.

When I reached for the half-and-half (yes, it’s as much my habit as the coffee), it was low. So low, I would have to conserve if I were to have second cup. Running on empty.

Things proceeded as planned, though with a definite layer of unexamined stress surrounding my activities. “What is this?”

I put the thought (feeling?) to the side and carried on. A glance at a friend’s Facebook post revealed a challenge. “What is one thing you will do to renew yourself today?” I had no response. Struggled with it for 30 seconds then moved on to my next task. Yes, I know I could have saved time by not being seduced by Facebook. I was not there long.

Task, task, task. One foot in front of the other. Suddenly, the time to leave for a meeting grew near. As I began a print for a document I needed, I considered the paper level. Running on empty. The printer ran out before the last two pages printed. Empty all the way.

I filled it and stowed my document.

A few other minor annoyances arose, and when I reached my car I had no room for error.

Out of gas. Empty. (Oh not really, because I had enough to get to a station. Just running on empty).

I stopped to fill the tank, and made arrangements to call my client from the car if needed.

The afternoon proceeded generally as planned. The stress seemed to dissipate, yet something was still off when I arrived home.

The dogs were waiting for me, and very vocal about my arrival. Oh yes, they love me but they were hungry. And thirsty. Whisper pointed out the fact that the bowl contained only about an inch of water. (Mind you, if there was an inch, they were hydrated). When I went to fill the bowls, even the water tank was low and I had to replace that. Low, not empty.

In loving memory of Whisper. “It was a beautiful life for a most beautiful girl.”

Andrea and Whisper —Cambria, CA 2017

What do you do when your tank is low? Do you let it run dry? Do you replenish it at the last moment like I did today?

Perhaps the most important question – for me and for you – is my friend’s Facebook challenge: “What is one thing you will do to renew yourself today?”

I will answer that tomorrow morning, and I know it will transform my day.


This article was originally posted in October 2014, when Andrea was blogging for The Spirited Woman.

Rushed

Although Andrea originally wrote this blog during her July 2014 vacation, we think now is a great time to slow down, and practice deliberate assessment of our need for speed as we dash into the holiday flurry!

by Andrea Chilcote

I’ve been rushing a lot lately, even when there’s been no compelling need to. Given that I’ve spent 10 of the last 14 days on vacation, rushing might just be a bad habit.

When I looked up the synonyms for “rush,” I found many words that describe my demeanor. While I can’t say I’ve used all of these words, they sure describe many of my actions: hurry, dash, run, race, sprint, bolt, dart, fly, speed, zoom, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hasten, tear, belt, pelt, scoot, zip, hotfoot it, hightail it

This “problem” came into my awareness precisely because I was on vacation. From the first day, I questioned why I still felt stress, even though I was supposedly free to relax and enjoy. The very first thing I noticed was my language.

“I’ll hurry and shower (or eat, dress, pack – fill in the blank).”

“Let’s dash over there.”

“Speed up!

And I noticed other’s responses:

“There’s no hurry Andrea. Enjoy your lunch.”

“Take your time.”

“Relax. What’s the rush?”

But… did they mean it? Seriously, it’s easy for others to say “relax,” until my pace encroaches on their expectations. Did it?

Analyzing further, I realized that of late I have two speeds, high and off. Off is usually reserved for sleep. High is for everything else, and not everything requires that amount of energy expenditure. And, it sure depletes the enjoyment of simple pleasures.

Have you also experienced this? If you have a habit of pedal-to-the-metal and jackrabbit starts (and I’m not just talking about driving), what are the costs? Are you, like me, burning precious fuel?

Yesterday I began a deliberate practice of assessing my need for speed. In the last 24 hours, I have had more productive conversations and more presence. I’ve enjoyed small rewards from a slower pace, and I’m sure breathing more freely. (Oh, and I’ve still gotten a ton done).

Andrea and Whisper —Cambria, CA 2017

It’s a bit bittersweet that I didn’t embrace this lesson a week ago, while the ocean breezes blew. But I can wait for another vacation, or I can consciously embrace a variable speed commensurate with what’s required. It sounds inviting – I’ll let you know how it goes.

[Rushed originally written July 17, 2014]

Raveling

Andrea ChilcoteIn anticipation of the holiday season, we thought we would share Andrea’s ‘Raveling’ metaphor from 2013. While it’s a bit early yet, here’s a reminder to give yourself ample time to focus and reflect alongside the flurry of upcoming activities that will lead you into 2018.

by Andrea Chilcote

It was early evening on a Friday night. I replied to an email from a client, stating that I had been traveling all week and would get her what she was requesting on Monday. Shortly after hitting send, I glanced at the preview pane and noticed a typo. I had told her I had been “raveling” all week.


Raveling. Fraying. Becoming separated from the woven fabric. The truth is, I felt as if I had been slowly raveling all week, but it didn’t feel so bad. The threads of this year 2013 had been making themselves visible as lone fibers.

 

Still, the word bothered me – until I found this anonymous comment on Yahoo! answers.

“When a thread is loose, as in a novel or something complex, it’s isolated and lets you see how it works. In this case it’s good; it clarifies things. But if a loose thread leads to a tangled mess, say, in a shoelace or sweater, it complicates and confuses everything.”

I was (and still am) slowly unwinding, parsing out the priorities for the remainder of the year, looking back only to see where they fit in with the commitments that mattered, and looking ahead to determine which threads to weave and which to snip.

Oddly, that same evening my metaphor played out in an interaction with an airport store clerk. As I was hurriedly paying for my purchase, he asked: “Would you like me to clip that for you?”

“Clip what?” I replied, knowing that there were no tags attached to my water purchase.

“The string on your coat,” he said, pointing to a loose thread hanging from my sleeve.

“Sure,” I said. I handed him my arm and he neatly snipped the rogue strand of fiber.

Loose threads lead to tangled messes only when they ravel unattended. And it’s so easy to allow the many loose ends of the busy holiday season, year-end duties and 2018 plans to become a confused flurry of unfocused activities.

We have a choice. We can examine the tapestries we’ve woven and leave them to rest in their simple perfection, or snip the loose threads. We can decide what colors and fibers we’ll use to weave the art of 2018.

For me, the next two weeks will be a time of reflection, a time to ravel and examine, untangle and clarify. I’m looking forward to the peace of it. —[Originally written 20-DEC-2013]

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Release

 

Given all the flooding of late, we thought we would reflect back to August 2014 when flash floods gushed through Cave Creek, AZ. It is our hope that in a world that sometimes looks bleak, new consciousness is being revealed.

by Andrea  Chilcote

Did you hear about the rain in the Arizona desert? On Tuesday, a rapid-onset, torrential downpour wreaked havoc, as Mother Nature released a fury of energy in the form of flooding rains. It made the national news, and it made for yet another lesson in the form of a weather adventure.

On Monday of this week, I felt out of sorts. All day long. And “out of sorts” is not a usual state of being for this, um-mm, in-control sort of person. At any given time I might feel driven and productive or driven and agitated, but it’s not common for me to feel unclear, uncertain and a little bit sad. (At one point I teared up when I learned about the work anniversary of a mere acquaintance. Go figure). At the end of the day, it felt as though something was about to release – not just in me, but all around me.

The next morning, despite predictions of rain, I rose at 4:30 am to hike the dogs with my buddy Beth, before the temperatures rose. The atmosphere was heavier than I recall in 14 years of living in the desert. It was as if one could squeeze water from the air.

Beth and I cut our hike short as rain began to fall. Not long after arriving home, the deluge began, flooding the wash that crosses our road. No one was going anywhere – and I had to leave mid-morning for a flight.

Desert flash floods are so named because they seemingly come on in an instant. They also disappear quickly, as water seeps rapidly into the parched earth. So as expected, the 20 minute downpour was quickly a passing threat. But I sped up my preparations to leave, as another dark wall of rain was forming in the mountains to the north.

I don’t know if I should credit clear thinking, intuition, or luck, but we managed to leave the house, bound for the airport, just five minutes before the next enormous release in the Cave Creek area where I live.

Arthur still waiting to get through the wash and home three hours after taking me to the airport. Finally took off. Dogs and horse reportedly fine, thanks to Tracy. –Aug 19, 2014

This time, the flooding grew into rushing rapids that caused evacuations of people and animals from nearby homes. Thankfully, my family was safe and our home was spared of damage. My husband was stranded for five hours trying to cross the wash to get home, and my flight was delayed for hours. It was all a minor inconvenience compared to those who spent the night in Red Cross shelters.

Somehow, despite the stress of the day texting and emailing friends and family while traveling across the country, I breathed a sigh of relief as night came on. Release. I felt a release of pent-up energy that was both personal and shared. I slept soundly that night (albeit too short given my late arrival), knowing that the people and animals I love were safe and accounted for. I was safe too, with a renewed sense of calm.

Do you feel a release coming on? Have you recently let go of some belief or habit that no longer serves you? I have, and this week’s rain served as a symbol of its departure, grounding it in the depths of the earth where it will transform as all energy does. Judging from the fury of nature, we are undergoing collective transmutation.

The rushing water is, for me, a symbol of power. Energy is freed upon its release, and much is revealed once it has passed over. In a world that sometimes looks bleak, new consciousness is being revealed. And that realization fuels me on.

Good morning friends. Look what last night’s rain left us… –Aug 22, 2014

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A Time to Work…and a Time to Relax

Deric stockton’s amazing demonstration


It’s Friday, will you find some time to relax during the weekend? Check out Deric’s amazing demonstration and reflect on Andrea’s 2014 call for relaxation in her article A time to Work…and a Time to Relax.

By Andrea Chilcote

Once again, my friend and coach Dana Sterling, a therapeutic movement facilitator, offered a simple yet profound lesson that links body, mind and spirit.

Want to feel better? When at rest, rest. When you need to work, expend the energy. Contract your muscles, (mental or physical) deliberately and intentionally.

Go ahead. Because if you don’t, your mind will tell you that a state of relaxation is risky … that it leaves you unprepared, unarmed for what life may bring.

Yet in fact, our ability to relax is as essential to functioning as is our ability to engage.

When you sleep, do you really rest? Or do you wake or rise stiff and unsteady? When you deal with stress (the usual stress of life) does it linger, and extend into the next moment and then the next? Do you confuse a state of readiness, which is found in relaxation, with a state of tension?

I know I do. And Deric Stockton’s amazing demonstration has given me pause. Pause, yes. Relax.

 

 

Why I’m Grateful for Friendships

Join us today as we reflect on Andrea’s timeless blog Why I’m Grateful for Friendships. Will you be spending time with friends this Labor Day weekend?

Andrea with her ‘sister’ Whisper on the beach in Cambria, CA – 2017

by Andrea Chilcote

I’m fortunate to own a business that allows me to work with clients over long periods of time, on projects of mutual interest. As a result, I forge meaningful and long-term relationships that often morph into genuine friendships. These friendships and others are the source of much of the joy and meaning in my life.

I Googled “why we need friends” and was surprised by the volume of research on the topic. I learned about everything from the fifteen reasons we need friends to five common female friend types.

None of the research surprised me, and as I consider the many benefits of friendship, I realize it’s not necessary to list them here. You know the power and the value. Patricia Levy, the author of the latter post on common friend types, stated “There is a one question test to gauge whether a friendship is healthy: Does she bring out the best in me?”

Yes. She’s talking about that extra boost that helps us see who we really are and what we are capable of – the boost that provides the tiny spark to help us be our best.

As I reflect on a busy week, I’m feeling grateful for my friends who believe in what I have to offer and demonstrate it. I’m grateful to those who entrust me with tasks that help them fulfill commitments they’ve made. I’m motivated to be the person my friends believe I can be – because I am that person already, but my friends remind me.

Who brings out the best in you? If you need that boost I’m describing, spend some time with your friend.

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