I almost talked myself out of taking a painting class. I heard myself saying: “I can do this later when I have more time” and “The materials are expensive” and “I simply do not have the time.” While my head came up with reasons to say “no” my heart said “do this!” I knew playing around with colors, designs, and textures were life giving to me.
When I attended the first class, all the participants knew each other and spent the first 45 minutes “catching up.” Again I started to talk myself into leaving. Then the instructor started and I learned a trick with Q-tips and a fritch scrubber and saw the beauty of Payne’s gray. My heart smiled.
We live in a horizontal plane where we rush forward, make plans for each hour and hope nobody gets in our way. Thankfully, also we can live on a vertical axis whereby we become present to our heart’s longing, let go of plans, and welcome every moment as an amazing new birth.
Hairpin turns encourage an intersection of both horizontal and vertical—and at that crossroads, life is full of beauty.
We are at a turning point in our micro-financing group. We have been meeting for one year to learn and to figure out how to offer local micro-financing in our community.
The issue has some complications: Who qualifies? What amount? Grant or loan? How to track? What if we are flooded with requests? These questions could stop us.
Instead, we created a brochure with our best judgments as to what might work and we will meet with our group and capture some final feedback. Then we will begin.
We decided to call this a pilot project—which allows us to think of this work as emerging. In other words, we are going to simply begin, with a structure that makes sense to us and then be open enough to adjust as we see what happens.
This is the nature of hairpin turns—doing the best we can, with the information we have and then moving forward into the unknown—with curiosity.
I purchased some Kava Stress Relief tea to send to a relative who is going through a “rough patch.” On the side of the box there were instructions entitled “Get the most out of every cup.” While making tea seems obvious, perhaps when troubled we need to be reminded to pause and allow the stress “to melt away” by being still and kind to ourselves.
In the workshop on “Change”, I suggested that one way to deal with the stress of change is to invite the fear to tea. When going through a challenging time in life, we will actually feel better if we confront the fear. And one way to do this, with some lightness and ease, is to boil some water, get still and present to the reality of the situation, and have a direct conversation with fear…over tea.
Knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” is one of the most important practices in our lives. We need to say “no” to that which is life-draining and say “yes” to that which is life-giving. Often this discernment is tricky.
I have been Chair of a committee for the past two years. While this role uses my talents and serves the community, I need to step away to provide another person with this opportunity. They will gain, and I will as well. This “no” makes room for another “yes.”
When we say “yes” or “no” to daily requests (“Will you get the paper?”) or to assignments (“Will you join our board?”) or to relationships (“Will you join me for lunch?”) we express ourselves to the world. We need to pause and reflect on the request and ask: “Does this new opportunity allow me to use my natural talents? Will I be expressing my deepest values through this action? Is this the season of my life when this makes the most sense to me?”
Saying “yes” and saying “no” with intention and grace creates space for the hairpin turns we seek in our lives.
In a workshop on “How to Make Change”, I explained how very small, incremental changes over time can add up to major shifts in our life. A friend, for example, gave up his daily habit of drinking several glasses of sweet tea and lost twenty pounds in one year.
A woman at the workshop wanted to have “better communication” with her family. At first she could not think of a small, seemingly under-whelming change. Finally she decided that she would ask one question a day in conversations with family members. Two days after the workshop, I bumped into this woman and she excitedly reported her progress. She said when her husband had started a familiar story about being in Thailand thirty-eight years ago, she asked: “What was the weather like?” She was thrilled with herself.
Hairpin turns can start with seemingly under-whelming changes (driving to work in silence; pausing before criticizing a family member; eating an apple a day). What change might seem under-whelming, but with repetition over time has the possibility to turn your life in a new direction?
I learned about a choice someone made that I thought had a negative impact on our work together. I was upset, and I stewed about her decision for hours. My self-talk went round and round: “Why would she do such an insensitive thing? Why didn’t she talk with me before she did this?” Later in the morning, while preparing for an upcoming workshop, I read a story about a man who is exceedingly patient.
When asked about his capacity he said: “When someone upsets me I tell myself: ‘This is an opportunity to extend patience to the other.’ That sentence turned me in another direction.
Later in the day, I talked with my colleague after repeating that sentence to myself several times. While the conversation was challenging on many levels, I remained present and patient and left understanding her choice. Also we agreed that in the future we would discuss situations like this with one another before the decision was finalized. This one sentence influenced the direction of my conversation and I suspect will continue to impact the quality of my conversations.
For the past two months, our washing machine has been unpredictable during the spin cycle. Sometimes it spins out the water and then other times it just stops without any spinning at all. Now-a-days we slowly open the lid to see what mood it is in. If in a “no-spin” situation, we look to the gauges at the top of the machine and try a different combination. Maybe this time putting the settings on small load with the second rinse and cold/cold will do the trick. If a combination works, we announce proudly to all family members that “it is fixed” and then we hold our breath. We know that we need to get a new washing machine but we keep procrastinating because “it should not be broken after only 7 years!” We keep “jimmy-rigging” with the hope that it will magically heal itself.
What makes us keep “tinkering” with something in our lives when we know—deep in our hearts—that we need to make a radical change? Sometimes we need to stop the pattern of avoiding the inevitable and make the plunge in the direction of change and newness—even if it seems like the old way “should be working.”