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Archive for February, 2009

With Every Breath…Start Over

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

“It’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A friend of mine recently told me that we learn by looking backwards – too bad we have to live life forwards. Perhaps because I was watching the Oscars and saw many people tell stories of redemption or perhaps because my family has had to do some major shifting after finding a new member of the family, I began to ponder the idea of starting over.

If you were to look at all the big movies in 2008 – Milk, SlumDog Millionaire, Frozen River, The Wrestler, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road – you will see that they all touch on major issues of birth, death, redemption, decisions, relationships, and hope-filled visions. It’s in the smallest of moments when the biggest decisions are made and questions get asked. How do I say good-bye? How can I promote equality and justice? Where do I fit in? How can I love more?

It’s easy to see a speck of light in another, but often more difficult to see it in ourselves. Starting over means we can release the past without judgment and move forward without baggage. How many times have you started over? I think about the first time I moved out of the house at 17 and never looked back. I was hoping for a new environment to escape to and hopefully find a place to thrive. I found my first job in the South Bronx and moved with two duffel bags and a few hundred bucks to start over. I had to find my way, often literally, because I got on the wrong subway. After I felt like I had given all I had serving youth in the South Bronx, I changed jobs. In my new job at the Red Cross, I taught CPR/First Aide and trained volunteers. In starting over at the Red Cross, I decided I would be ‘out of the closet’ from the beginning and put a picture of my partner on my desk. After a few years, and a lot of management turn over, I left and returned to the South Bronx to help create youth focused programs.

After 15 years in nonprofit, I realized that it was my time to lead, to inspire, to create my own way, so I started my own company. With the support of my partner, a dream, and a notebook full of ideas, I launched my healing arts company in 2006. It was outside of everything that was comfortable, easy, and known, but I had to do it. I realize to start over, you may have to be willing to give up what may seem real, important, and safe. But in starting over, the real gift is that life opens new doors and gifts never imagined come into your life.

I am not sure I could ever be Benjamin Button and live life backwards, but I can take time to really ‘be myself’ looking forward. Time is more than a gift; it’s an imaginary line that moves. Starting over is more than changing jobs, it’s changing the direction of the road you travel. Every day, every moment, every minute is a chance to start over. With each breath, I hope you have the courage to start over.

Mary Anne

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Creating My Own I Love You Hallmark

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

This is one of the biggest Hallmark holidays of the year. We look to see how we can express the words “I love you” with cards, flowers, candy, gifts, wine, and perhaps a meal out. We tend to express our love for each other more on a day we call Valentine’s Day.

I started thinking about all the ways and all the people to whom I say the words “I love you.” For a couple of days, I observed who I was willing to be vulnerable with and noticed how the words “I love you” came out with ease. I also listened for when the words felt more forced, as if I was responding with a “you’re welcome” to a “thank you.” With whom am I comfortable saying, “I love you?”

This reminded me of the story of all the times I would be closing a conversation with my mom and I would end it by saying I love you, but she didn’t say it back. One day I decided to ask my mom why she didn’t respond back with the words I love you. My mom said, “Of course I love you; do I have to say it every time?” I told her yes and that I was creating a new rule that every time I said I love you to her, she had to say it back. We continued this ritual and on July 11, 2000 when we spoke, I ended the call by saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you.” She said, “I love you too.” At 5:45am the next morning, my father called to say my mom had passed away at the nursing home. Throughout many years of tears, grief, and sadness, I have been comforted by my experience of our last exchanged words of I love you.

I have come to accept that I need to express love both in words and kind actions. I have to feel safe enough to be vulnerable to say I love you without an expectation that someone will say it back. They cannot be empty words. I realized I need to open my heart more to give and receive love.

I don’t say I love you often enough to my partner, to my sisters, to my friends, and even to those who have impacted my life in a significant way. Maybe it does all start with making sure you can say the words to yourself and really love and accept yourself deeply before loving another. Maybe I can fully experience myself vulnerable with the words I love you. I am committed to loving myself and others more. So, in case I have not told you lately, I love you.

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Who’s in Your Cabinet?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

OK, I’ll admit it. I have been intrigued with everything about our new president. I have been watching every little thing President Obama does – from the swearing in ceremony, to the dance with the first lady, to the first day of signing executive orders. I have been amazed at the shift in the thinking, the hope of what is possible, and the potential at what this country can do with one another.

I was intrigued by every new Cabinet position announced by President Obama. I thought about what kind of Cabinet I would want to create. I began to generate a list of new Cabinet positions I would like to see.

My list of new Cabinet members includes a Secretary of Humor, someone who makes us laugh and reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously. I would also appoint a Secretary of Play, someone who reminds us that play is important for our health and well-being. In this position, the member would help us remember all the games we played as children, give us time to sing, to dance, to drum, and to color outside the lines. Finally, I would appoint a Secretary of Coaching so when all the predictions of doom and gloom come our way, there is someone asking the important questions about possible solutions. They will ask us how can we solve some of the most important dilemmas and they will keep asking. The Coach will believe in us when we forget and remind us that together we can do anything.

There are a lot of economic, social, and environmental issues to work on over the next four years. May be adults can relearn to ask more questions, take more naps, and connect the dots. Perhaps it is time to we all give ourselves permission to color outside the lines.

Who is in your Cabinet? Have fun!

Mary Anne

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