Regrets From Living With No Regrets (or are they just teenagers?)

I have been thinking lately about choices I have made in my life.  Like my choice to leave my now ex-husband, my choice to dedicate my life (for nearly ten years) to leading the Wisdom Course for Landmark Education, my choice to retire from leading that course, my choice to marry my husband Rich and my choices around my work and creating a consulting business based on working with non-profit organizations.

Since they were born, I strived to live by example for my children. A core example I wanted to give them was one of living life to the fullest, following your dreams and honoring yourself as well as those around you.  I also wanted to give them an example of being accepting of their limits, though not being limited by them but using them as the edge you can push up against and move beyond.  I think I have done a pretty good job at doing all of this for them and my life has been extraordinary because of it.  Except… lately I notice that I have regrets.

A couple of days ago Rich and I were driving to Vermont for a week-long vacation in Stowe.  I felt very quiet and didn’t know how to explain it so I allowed myself to be quiet for the 6 hour drive.  “Are you ok?” Rich asked me at least twice, if not three times.  “Yes”, I replied, thankful for his ability to let me be even though he had some inkling that something was brewing.  I used the trip to observe my thoughts and my feelings associated with those thoughts. Much of what I thought about centered on my life as it is today and how it might have been different if I had made other choices in the past.

My children are now teenagers and I long for the days when they were young, soft and cuddly.  I long for the days when they were thrilled to be with me and to talk and share everything – but those days are gone and no matter how much I long for them they will never be back, at least not the way that they were.  As we drove, I wondered what it would have been like for them, and me, if their father and I had never divorced.  Would we have found a way to be happy?  Would I have been able to follow what was really important to me?  Would the way we worked or didn’t work together have changed?   I reminded myself that I’ll never know.  I wondered to myself if there were something that could have saved the marriage. Of course, I thought, I’ll never know.

Then I thought about Rich and our relationship and how lately I have been distant trying to get back to being connected and close.   We have such great lives and it is really something remarkable that he finds such joy in having me have what I want in life.  I thought about what I want and I notice that my longing for a past is something that not even he can give me.

Our relationship and our life together is so very important to both of us and to our children that I decided to dedicate this week’s trip to us, my love for him and what we are together now and what we will be together in the future.  We have something very special.  Thinking of this makes me smile.

Continuing on, I think about the level of training I have received and the skills I now have from years of leading the Wisdom Course.  Just last week I led a workshop for the Human Services Coalition (HSC) in Ithaca for 17 Volunteer Coordinators.  Scot, a seasoned professional in the non-profit world as well as the person accountable for the training programs offered by HSC commented when I asked him how he thought the training went that “I think you are amazing, I have seen many trainers and the way you handle a room is masterful.”  He continued on saying that I should tape myself and then sell the tape as a training on how to handle a room in a training setting.  My response to him was “I have been highly trained” which was a short response for the several years and hours I dedicated to being successful in my role with Landmark Education.  My ability is something I achieved from having worked hard, loved the experience and seized the opportunity, and yet, in the background was this lingering of regret…

Regrets…  My children grew during the time I gave my all.  They were four and six when I started and thirteen and fifteen when I finished.  Those years are gone.  Don’t get me wrong, they were good years but at the same time what I remember most of those years was my growth and development as I became more and more facile at leading programs as well as the difference I made for hundreds of other people who participated in my courses.  Secondary to this I remember the special times I spent with my kids.  I was on calls almost every night, traveling to deliver trainings for between 3 and 5 days at least once a month and my mind was often occupied with what I needed to do.

I am sure that this is much like many other mothers who work, but for me this is very personal.  Having my children and being there for them was and is one of the most important aspects of my life.  I did the best I could and my kids are great kids but somehow it feels as though I missed out on enjoying them.

Lately I have contemplated how to stop time or rather, how to go back in time which is obviously crazy making.  I cannot stop time, I cannot turn time back and I cannot push my children back to stages that they have grown through.  The years where they were so open and preciously excited to be with me, where they listened and shared everything with me are gone.  These times have been replaced with short responses, secretive actions, keeping things to themselves and once in a while letting me know what is happening.  They are teenagers.

Yesterday I realized that what I was doing in all of this pondering of regrets and suffering was losing the chance to enjoy my teenagers where they are now.  They need me here where they are today, not where they were yesterday or a year or two or five ago.  I need to let go of the past. I need to let go of the longing for a time that will never come again.  I need to forgive myself for not being a perfect mother, for getting swept away in something that I loved so much that my kids took a back seat for a while.  I need to forgiving myself for not having balanced my passion for my work and my passion for my children very well.  I need to forgive myself for not being able to say no when I needed to.  It is time to forgive myself for being human.

What I love about my husband is that when I shared all of my thoughts, feelings and insights with him over dinner once we arrived he listened.  He heard my pain, my suffering, my humanity and he heard my insight.  And in his own special way, without saying it specifically he let me know that I was on the right track.

Welcome to the life you have created Shirley Brown, it is a glorious life.


Waiting for something to say…

The volleyball tournament was a complete success.  Looking from a coaches perspective all of the corrections I put in place were obviously noticeable   The girls were clear of what was expected of them and they all stepped up in a very amazing way… They handled the scorekeeping, down reffing (an assistant to the ref), and lines.  They were awesome!  Though I didn’t, I realized at one point that I could have even left the scorekeeping table and all would have worked.  They played giving their best.  They pressed up against the limits that each of them had.  We won two out of the eight games we played.  You should have seen us when we won.  We  Were  Thrilled…  In the next and our last two games we got stomped –  – bad. It was sobering and at the same time it was like the exclamation point of what was missing in our overall performance as a team. To play against teams of the caliber we are going against is what we came for.  Losing to them is the best place to learn what we need to be great. Yeah failure!

Now, about the title of this post.  It may not make any since to you but, I have been waiting for something to say since last Sunday when we finished the tournament.  I started probably 6 or 7 different versions of this post and just couldn’t say what there was to say. It seems that each time I started I wasn’t able to find the passion or enjoyment in what I was writing.  But when I thought about waiting for something to say as a possible title to the post I suddenly realized that there is something that is kind of bubbling in the background that I want to say yet, I don’t know what it is.  I know I may sound a bit crazy but really, it’s how it seems for me.  Has that ever happened to you? They happen in those times when you are ready to start something new but you don’t know exactly what it is.

What I really love about my title and that bubbling up thing is that by thinking about writing about waiting for something to say I could finally post an update on the Volleyball Tournament.

The writers mind…..  a great adventure.

When you screw things up…

I am sitting here with my daughter and one of her friends and volleyball team-mate in our motel room in Herkimer NY.  Herkimer is a little town near Utica in Central New York.  I guess it is most famous for the Herkimer diamond minds, a place where you can go and chip on rocks and come home with some pretty crystals.  Many of us who live in Central New York and have children have some of these famous “diamonds” somewhere in our house.  My son brought some home to me when he came here with a friend one Summer day.  He had a great time and that was when I learned of Herkimer NY.  I have no idea where those crystals are today.  I never thought back then that I would be here today nor that I would be coaching a girls volleyball team who is playing in their second tournament tomorrow.

Our first tournament was two weeks ago.  It was not only our first tournament but it was my first time as head coach and my first time participating in any tournament, ever.   My assistant coach wasn’t able to be there.  I really had no idea what I was in for.  Within a few minutes everything that was happening seemed as though it was coming at me at a hundred miles an hour.  Girls asking if they could go do their hair, referees asking me who the captain of the team was, scorekeepers asking for the line up and at the same time I needed to get the team on the court and warm them up for the game…. warm up?  What should I do.  Right then without looking up, in my mind’s eye I took in the rest of the coaches and their teams and they all seemed so cool and collected.  Doing warm ups, handing in their line ups, they all seemed to be handling everything with ease and familiarity and some of them were looking at me… That was when the panic began to hit.

Panic is a funny thing.  For me it seems to follow a thought.  There I was balancing, it all like a juggler at the circus, (except they skillfully make mistakes) and then wham, this thought runs across my mind that everyone else has it under control and I don’t and they are watching me! . . . . PANIC button!

Well, I made it through the day, I must say thanks to my generous husband who I recruited to help me after our second game. The number of mistakes I made is beyond being able to count but I also learned more about coaching in one day than I had learned in the several months prior.

I learned that I without the girls clearly knowing what I expect of them, they don’t have a place to measure themselves in how they are doing.  I also don’t have something to hold them to.

I learned that I am coaching the girls, not their parents.  I respect their parents yet they may or may not understand what it is that I am doing as a coach.  Having clear expectations of the parents and a clear statement of who I am and how I coach and what they can count on is important.

I learned how to substitute players, correctly 🙂

I learned all the particles that I have to manage in a day-long tournament.  Score keeping, line and down reffing, line up for each game, substitutions, breaks …and so much more.

When we met before this first tournament I talked to the girls about going beyond where they know that they can go.  I challenged them saying that them going beyond what they think is possible is what I wanted for them for that weekend.  I hadn’t thought that in challenging them that I was also challenging myself.  I had forgotten that when you set a bar for those that you are teaching or coaching or training that you also set a bar for yourself.  Set the bar I did.

Well, here I am heading into tournament #2 with these same girls and I am a different coach.  I have the line up for every game set, I have the working schedule set, I have the expectations written and ready to hand out and I have given parents the responsibility of making sure that their players eat and drink water on our breaks.  I have recruited Rich, my husband, to be my assistant coach and we have gone over all the play plans and other items so that we are on the same page.  We are ready!  I am ready.

Learn from your mistakes.  That is a sentence that I have repeated over and over to the girls at the last tournament and in our practices.  What really excites me about tomorrow’s games is that I have learned from mine and I can now guide them further into learning from theirs.

Game on.

Reverence for Life

The other afternoon I was driving to pick my daughter up from track practice after school.  We live in a small village in upstate New York and there is no traffic to speak of. This particular afternoon was stupendously beautiful and many young mothers were out walking their babies in strollers and accompanying their young children riding bikes along the main street I take to get to the school.

I slowed as I edged my way past the first Mom and stroller and then, with another car coming from the opposite direction, I had a split moment of trying to figure out the best way to maneuver around the upcoming children on their bikes.  As I slowed to a stop, and waited for the on-coming car to pass I was suddenly struck with how lucky I was to be in my car, stopping for these beautiful children on this amazingly wonderful day and I said to myself, “what if we lived and taught a reference for life.”

As I continued along the road to pick up my daughter I realized that having reverence for life is not just doing what was right so that those children would be safe or making sure that I obeyed the laws of the road or looked socially and/or politically correct.  Instead I was present to the preciousness of life all around me and including me.  Young mothers with their children out on a Spring day, walking in the fresh air teaching their kids to stay on the right side of the road as they wobbled down the street happily being alive and me driving my car happily on my way to collect my daughter.

I loved the early years of my children’s life.   On our walks I would pull my son’s radio flyer wagon down Via delle Mimose, the street we lived on in the Italian countryside.  At first both kids sat inside the wagon and later my son started to ride his “bicicletta di Superman!” and we walked down to the Coffee Bar to get an ice cream for them and an espresso or iced tea for me.  If we didn’t go to the Bar we would go the opposite direction to feed Solero, the horse.  I often wonder if we ever gave Solero a stomach ache for how many apples and carrots we brought him.  Still today, the kids talk about Solero.  Those days are gone.  Life is passing, my children are growing, they and I are fully emersed in their teen years and now I get to see others enjoy their young children and watch as a friend of mine goes through her first pregnancy.  All of this and at the same time observing and supporting my friend Betty as she deals with the reality of being in the nursing home doing daily rehab, fighting courageously to be able to dress and bathe herself as well as get in and out of bed alone so that she can go home.

I am, fifty.  Twenty years ago I was thirty and in twenty years I’ll be seventy.  When I am seventy my son will be thirty-six and my daughter thirty-four.  They will be around the same age I was when I gave birth to them.  Who knows, maybe they will be parents too at that point.  Where will I be?

My yoga teacher said something the other day which I really liked.  “We learn that we are not trying to get connected to nature but that instead, we are nature.”  We are born, we grow, learn and develop and continue doing so through our lives, just like the trees, flowers, animals and all that surrounds us.  Where were we before we came to this earth and where will we go when we leave here is a grand question.  I think it is an important question to consider and to thoughtfully answer for each person individually.  It is important because without an answer that fits for you, that inspires you, your life today is being lived in a context of something other than your answer.

For some the answer of where we came from and where we are going is an inherited answer that others came up with many, many years ago.  For others we are fighting against, or for an answer that resonates with what we truly believe and what makes sense for us.   I find that just asking myself the question and reading, studying and exploring the world and people somehow gives me an answer – today I would say that Reverence for Life is the best way to explain it for me.   So, if I say that it would mean that, we come from reverence and will return to reverence?  Hmm, maybe but what I find really  fulfilling is having reverence today, in this moment while I write this blog, and as I drive down the street and bring my car to a stop so the young children on their bikes can pass.  Maybe we come from reverence, are reverence and will return to reverence.  I think I’ll sit with that one for a while.

A Blog About Life and The Ingenuity of the Human Spirit

This blog is about life. It is about celebrating our humanity.  Looking at where we are today, how we got here and what it takes to alter the direction of tomorrow.  Creating new avenues that were not available or visible before.  This blog is an inquiry about what it takes to bring about new cultures.  It is about riding the waves of our current culture and way life without losing sight of what matters most and what is possible and then taking actions that bring what is possible into reality.  This blog is about human spirit and ingenuity.

Transitions are integral to our life.  From the moment we are born until the moment we die life is a series of transitions from one moment to the next.  From infant to child, to adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood and old age, we transition with the years as they pass, our bodies as they age and the circumstance around us.  These daily transitions, happening moment by moment, are the stuff from which new pathways can be created. There in each moment, in every transition of our life we can do the same thing we have always done, repeat our habits which may very well be a part of our cultural history, or we can do something else.  We have the choice to forge new pathways, create new ways of dealing with situations or circumstances, we can create new cultures.  Our access are the transitions of our life.

Our greatest teachers are our children.  I am reminded of the words to the song “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.”  The adults of the world, through our words, actions and habits, teach the youth who observe them.  Parents, politicians, teachers, neighbors, writers, business owners, all of us play part in the culture that our children are inheriting.  As they move through life, the guidance we provide our youth can be to follow the flow of our culture and the way it has “always” been or we can teach them to observe, think about and chose new actions for themselves which forges new pathways for their life.  They can be part of creating a new culture.  We can teach them to think, act and speak so that they can lead the way and go beyond anything that we can imagine.