It's cold in Colorado today. Everything is frosted over by a relentless, bone-chilling sleety snow. I made my kids walk to school anyway so that they can have the "back in my day..." stories to tell their own children and grandchildren who will no doubt be hover-boarding or flying by drone to school.
The cold has me wistfully thinking about our time in Jamaica. A week and a half ago, we were wearing swim suits and swimming with dolphins.
I love dolphins...who doesn't, right? I also feel a particularly special bond with them based on some sightings I had while visiting my mom when she was fighting (and ultimately losing) her battle with cancer. If my mom has an animal totem, I'm convinced it's a dolphin.
Therefore, when my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to schedule a family trip to swim with dolphins, I was all in. Our whole family was excited, but I admit that I was a bit worried about the "animals in captivity" aspect of the adventure. I have mixed feelings about zoos and even feel guilty about owning a bearded dragon who stays in a tank in my daughter's room.
Still, we went. As we walked toward the staging area we spotted the dolphins swimming around in the netted-off bay. Of course we knew we would be seeing dolphins, but the first sighting was still thrilling. As the dolphins swam around and we stood on the walkway above them, they came to check us out, circling and rolling to the side to get a good look at us. The dolphin trainers said they were excited to have new playmates. I was a bit skeptical, but they did seem curious and even happy to see us.
The encounter was amazing. I know it's a tourist trap, but for good reason. Our group was taken into one of the pools and we stood on platforms in the water. We got to pet the two dolphins assigned to our group, Alex and Starsy, and learn about their features. The trainer told us that in the wild, the average life span of a dolphin is ~25 years, but in captivity, it's closer to 45! After the introduction, we went in pairs out to the middle of the pool where the dolphins came and presented their fins to us. We grabbed on and got a belly ride back to the platform. We also got dolphin kisses and the chance to dance with them. The dolphins knew their job. They were focused, friendly, and funny. Honestly, their comedic timing was impressive. They were working for little fish snacks, but I swear that they were having fun, too. Any concern I had about seeing depressed and enslaved animals was dissipated by the pure joy they exhibited in their work.
So here's the metaphor...be like the dolphins. These dolphins were clearly victims of circumstance. They didn't apply for the job. They didn't surrender to a life of entertaining humans. Without a doubt, they were captured or bred by humans, trained, and subject to a life they didn't choose. But there they were, doing it with joy and to the best of their ability. They weren't half-heartedly flopping out of the water. They weren't moping around and wishing things were different. They were showing off. They were working hard. They were BRINGING IT and I have no doubt that they do that with every single group of bright-eyed tourists that come into the pool.
I realize this isn't a perfect metaphor. I fully recognize the difference between the human condition and the situation these dolphins are in. On one hand, we have more choice and control over our world than dolphins do. And yes, on the other, we are more aware of all the different manifestations our lives could take. However, I think we can learn from dolphins. We can try to emulate them. Dolphins play. Dolphins enjoy their connections with each other and with other species, including humans. One study of dolphins in captivity found that they look forward to playing with a familiar human. Dolphins (perhaps out of ignorance, sure) make the best of their circumstances and they show up with energy and enthusiasm. And whether they know it or not, they bring joy to others. Our whole group left the encounter full of gratitude and energy and excitement. I'm sure the dolphins aren't considering their long-term effect on everyone they encounter, and similarly, we cannot know the entirety of our influence. Still, as I sit here on this frigid morning in Colorado, I can feel a glow of love and appreciation as I recall my interactions with Alex and Starsy, and that type of influence is something to which we can all aspire.
Wow. I just returned from a week in Jamaica. The main purpose of the trip was to take part in my sister-in-law's wedding. I was a bridesmaid, my hubby a groomsmen, Aleida a junior bridesmaid, and Cici a flower girl. We were all in the wedding...so of course we HAD to go to Jamaica. We decided to make a week of it. We rented a car and spent a few nights in Negril, then met up with the family for wedding and resort fun in Montego Bay. First of all, I completely support destination weddings. Secondly, February is a great time to take a tropical vacation from Colorado. Thirdly, Jamaica is awesome. I could go on and on about the scenery, the people, the food, the vibe, but I want to get to the point.
My mother-in-law relayed to me a conversation she had with a native. She was commenting on how nice and welcoming and humble the Jamaican people are as a general rule, how kindness and the laid back vibe seem to be embedded in their culture and mindset. She wondered how that came to be. The native woman's reply went something like this: "I was taught from a young age that being nice to others feels good to me; it serves me. On the flip side, being mean to or angry at others only really hurts me. So we learn to be kind for kindness itself, yes, but we also learn to be nice because it feels better than being mean."
What a lovely concept. It stuck with me...so much so that I asked my mother-in-law to repeat the conversation a few days later so that I could embed it in my memory to share with all of you.
I often talk about "coming from a place of love or kindness" in my coaching conversations. After all, you cannot control the actions of others; you can only show up and act in a way that allows you to go to sleep feeling good about who you are as a person. The older I get, the more aware I am of this. At the end of the day, I want to be able to stand behind my own actions. I want to be proud of how I behaved. Whenever I feel "icky" about an interaction, it is due to my own actions. If somebody is rude to me and I meet it with rudeness, it doesn't make me feel better. Maybe in the moment I feel justified, but in the long run, I never wish I had been ruder or angrier. On the contrary, ickiness lingers because I wish I had met a situation with more kindness, empathy, patience or calmness. I wish I had "been the bigger person." When I remind myself to come from a place of kindness, I can protect myself from the remorse and guilt that follows bad behavior AND I can better empathize with and forgive the other person. Even if a hard conversation or confrontation is inevitable, I make a lot more progress when I come from a place of love and good intention.
If we can be nice for the sake of our own well being then everybody wins. It is not selfish. It is not weak. It is humane. Can you relate to this? Let me know in the comments.
By the way...the wedding was BEAUTIFUL!!!
Every month or two, I plan to give you an update on my Word of the Year since my 4th Big A word is Accountability. Also, I'm hoping to inspire some conversation around your words of the year and how they are going (or not).
My word of the year is Declutter. Honestly, it was the least attractive of my front runners because I knew it would be the most challenging. I see this word as focusing on 3 major areas:
The physical space aspect is going well. I've gotten my whole family involved, and we made some improvements. I've taken 3 bags of clothes and 2 boxes of toys and other items to Goodwill, and I've thrown away almost an equal amount. Here are some before and after pictures because who doesn't love those? Cici's closet before and after (hamming it up for effect...):
My desk before and after (yay! I have a lovely workspace now!):
And a couple more after only pics...believe me, the before was impressively bad. The first two are my older (and messier) daughter's closet, and the last picture is of the youngest's book shelf.
Turns out that decluttering the way I use my time is much, much harder. I'll admit it, though it is hard to, but I am addicted to my phone. My pattern is this: grab my phone. Check my personal e-mail. Check my work e-mail. Check facebook. Check headlines (and occasionally follow one to the whole article). Rinse and repeat...an embarrassing amount of times per day.
I know I could be using my time better. I could read books. I could write more blog posts. I could do more marketing. I could create a coaching curriculum for kids. I could get started on writing a book. I have so many ideas, and yet I default to my useless cycle of checking and rechecking my phone. Blah.
I recently gave a workshop on creating (or breaking) habits. Oh the irony! In my research, I learned that your environment and your systems are more important than your "will power." Will power waxes and wanes, but if you have good systems in place, you don't have to fight with yourself so often.
Again, easy to understand in theory...harder to put into practice. Despite all the logical reasons to cut down screen time, I am resistant to the change. However, knowing I was going to be writing this blog post inspired me to implement a new system...this morning. And I think it's going to be a game changer.
I have a morning ritual. I wake up before the kids. I feed the dogs, make the coffee, let the dogs out and sit and drink first cup in solitude. I also complete a round of Duolingo (if you haven't hear of this, it's an awesome language learning app--I'm trying to learn Spanish) and the daily mini crossword from the New York Times app. Then I let the dogs in and complete my first cycle of e-mail, facebook, headlines roulette. After that, it's usually time to wake up the kids. I enjoy this, but does it serve me? I can justify the Spanish lesson and crossword--if you don't use it, ya lose it, right? But this ritual is almost giving me permission to start the vicious cycle that repeats all day long.
I was listening to a podcast about routines and rituals and while it wasn't all applicable, one idea stuck with me. One of the speakers was talking about the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (which I now have on order) and one of the recommendations in the book is a 5-minute journaling exercise. You respond to 3 prompts: 1. 3 things you are grateful for. 2. This day would be great if...(complete sentence with 3 things you'd like to do) 3. I am...(complete with 3 personal affirmations).
This morning, I tried it. I didn't touch my phone. I came down, drank a big glass of lemon water (another added healthy ritual), fed my dogs, made the coffee, and sat down to journal. It literally took 5 minutes...maybe even less. Then, I allowed myself to complete the Spanish lesson and crossword, but I didn't look at my e-mail or social apps until after breakfast...and then, I did it on my laptop, not may phone.
I won't say it changed my behavior for the rest of the day. I still checked my phone several times, but definitely fewer than the day before. And I completed the 3 things that I defined would "make this day great." I made a big pancake breakfast for the first snow day we've had in years, finished clearing my desk, and I wrote this blog post. Writing those intentions helped declutter my mind so that when I had some time, I went to work. I'm going to keep at it and I'll let you know how it goes in my next update. In the meantime, I'd love to know: How are you honoring your word of the year so far?