Showing Up – The Courage to Leave your Mark on the World

Showing Up – The Courage to Leave your Mark on the World

What is the courage to live a vital life? What do these words really mean? The phrase sounds good, so what do you really have to do to live a vital life?  I googled the phrase, and the words, and began to write. I do not consider myself to be courageous but I do try to live a life that is, well, vital.

I am blessed in many ways; my health, my family, my job, and the people I know and love. I try my best to make people feel special and validated. Sometimes I miss the mark, but I keep trying. In general, I think I have a positive outlook on life. I want to make life the best it can be, not only for myself but also for the people who share the world with me.

In regard to the courage to live a vital life, I found a quote by Brene Brown who defined courage as follows: “The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. (Coronary).  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all in one’s heart.”  Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds.”

After researching courage, I looked up the word vital. It is defined by Dictionary.com as something that is absolutely essential or necessary to sustain life. If you connect these two definitions, we can conclude that speaking one’s mind by telling all that is in your heart (a.k.a. courage) is essential to living a vital life.

Telling all that is in your heart requires you to be yourself and express it in how you live. You must exercise courage in order to live up to your full potential and leave your mark on the world.  Further, we have to have courage in order to take advantage of the opportunities that life offers.

Opportunities… how do you take advantage of them?  I have found you must grab a hold of the reins of your life. Do not let someone else direct you. Go somewhere new, take a class, try to meet new people, and do new things. Do something different. Surround yourself with the best people you know.

In short, the courage to live a vital life is to explore, love, cry, and laugh with everything you have inside you.

Travel Light

Travel Light

Travel Light. These words are the signature to my correspondence whether it is a blog, email or a letter. People often ask if I offer tips for how to pack luggage lightly when preparing for a trip after seeing these two words. That can definitely be one interpretation, but not my intention.

While on the road traveling for work over a five-year period, I am grateful to say that I have explored my fair share of cities. There were periods that I was in the same place for a few months, sometimes only a week and more commonly a day. With this active travel schedule and long work days, I thought I would create a blog so I could share photos and stories with friends and family while on the road. I decided on BohemianBabeTravels.com as the name of the site. Bohemian because it seemed to be the perfect fit for my unconventional lifestyle and Babe as a reminder to always find something to be in awe of in the world around me.

When I set out on the road to organize events, I had two storage units and more household type items at a friend’s place where I would stay when coming home for a quick family visit and to swap out luggage before hitting the road again. I had enough stuff to comfortably furnish a three-bedroom house at this time. While living as a road warrior, I came to appreciate and be content with the two suitcases of belongings I had. It was an adjustment but taught me how to live in a more simplistic way.

While managing an event, I met a nine-year girl who began asking me a ton of questions like curious children often do. After talking for a few minutes and attempting to understand my current lifestyle, she asked, “You mean you don’t go home every night? Where is all of your stuff? What do you miss the most?” As basic as these questions might have sounded, it stopped me in my tracks and I paused before answering. This child was referring to a material object and I couldn’t think of one thing that I actually missed. Not one. At that moment I couldn’t actually even think of one thing I owned that was back at my home base. The list I missed that popped into my head was game night with my family, holding my puppies, going out with friends, celebrating birthdays, holidays, life events together, and seeing faces, hearing laughter and sharing simple moments with those I loved. I came to realize that although I had accumulated all of this “stuff’, none of it held meaning for me nor made me happy. Creating memories with my tribe is what I missed the most, not material belongings.

Through my travels, I met a lot of different folks. I am the person that others refer to as, “that girl has never met a stranger.” I will pretty much talk to anyone. It is my babe view on the world; my lust to learn, and knowing that everyone has a story to share. Some of the most prolific moments in my life came through “random” encounters with “strangers.” I learned more in these times than any formal classroom could have ever taught me. There is much to gain in practicing presence and simply listening. I am grateful for the chance to have connected with people from all walks of life and the things I learned along the way. The stories people shared, the advice they gave, the dreams they aspired to achieve, and the hardships life presented them with were all pivotal in shaping the person I am today and essential in preparing me for the road that lay ahead. 

The buzz phrase today is “being present.” This can often be hard to achieve when we go through the motions of our routines. We get comfortable in doing what we know and less willing to adventure outside of that safety zone. Even if people are unhappy, they will at times choose to stay where they are just because it is familiar. This is fine, but it can lead to getting stuck. When we aren’t moving forward, we become stagnant and cease to grow. It is easy to say “break out of the routine, hit the road, and discover yourself.” Please know while this is a dream for most, it is also not always practical and not at all what I’m saying. I would like to invite others to recognize the world – with those babe like eyes and get your bohemian on – by choosing a different approach to your routine. Break out of that comfort zone and allow yourself to view the world through a new lens. Perhaps it is something as simple as going boho by taking an alternate route to work that day, or being a babe by walking outside during your lunch break to establish a connection, whether it is within a flower, a cloud in the sky or even someone passing. Recognize the essence and beauty of its being. Traveling light doesn’t require a trip anywhere except within yourself. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t serve you. When you choose to hold onto it, it is really holding onto you. Let go and grow. Just breathe and be. This is the discovery of something awe striking when you align with your own divine light.

The Travel Bug: Exploring The Self

The Travel Bug: Exploring The Self

While thinking about writing this blog, I started looking back to the many opportunities I have had to travel over the years. I have been to 6 countries and all but a few states.

I didn’t grow up traveling. My dad was a truck driver and the last thing he wanted to do was go for a “Sunday” drive with mom and 5 kids piled into our small car! Vacations at my house were when dad and mom went away for a week and we stayed home with a babysitter.

My first bus trip was on my Senior class trip to NYC.  I had never stayed in a hotel or seen so many different people from all over the world. I loved the lights and excitement of the bustling city. As an impressionable 18-year-old, that was my first peek at the world and I was hooked!

In general, my approach to life has been to be prepared, ie. fix things when they break, get things checked before they breakdown, make sure I have the right equipment for the weather (snow shovel, blankets), etc. When planning to travel, I want the appropriate shoes, gear, clothes, maps and always several flashlights. I become motivated to train to get into shape and stay healthy. That being said, I am now more flexible and accepting when things don’t go as planned.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to backpack across Spain on a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage trail called the El Camino de Santiago. My friend Anne had been wanting to do this walk for a few years, so she asked me to go with her. When sharing the possibility of walking the El Camino, a friend told me that although opportunities to travel may come up, most people do not take them. I realized that I have often “jumped right in” when I got the chance, even though I am NOT a brave person and I didn’t always realize all that would be involved. My trips have been hard sometimes, but amazing!

What I have learned from my travels so far, is how these trips change me. When I return home and am looking at pictures and sharing my experiences with others, I realize how much I have accomplished and how much I have grown spiritually. I have been able to meet new people, extend myself mentally and physically, and definitely function out of my comfort zone! I know that I can live out of my backpack, carrying 18 pounds for a month, do better when I don’t have expectations, can live in the moment, and that we humans are more alike than different.

So, when you travel are you your same self, someone else, or your real self? We certainly can see ourselves in a different way when meeting new people, in new settings, or even when traveling with people we know.  

HAPPY TRAILS!   BUEN CAMINO! BON VOYAGE!

Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is an idiom often used to express an optimistic perception of life. But the sad truth is, optimism is a disposition rarely extended to others. Instead, we tend to look at others and decide what color glasses to wear when viewing them, based on our judgment of them.

Humans have a natural inclination to favor certain sects of society while believing there is justification for harboring caution (at the least) if not outright hatred (at the worst) against certain groups of society. Generally, those biases are formed to include themselves and people like them.

Despite recent trends, I believe women more than men are pigeonholed in their careers and their relationships. Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work (especially minorities). Women more often than men are trapped in abusive relationships. Women are sexually assaulted more than men. Women are forced into human trafficking more than men. Women are forced into underage marriage more than men. Women are forced to endure female mutilation. I can go on. The topic of bias relates to me both personally and professionally. I face huge biases – not just due to my gender but also my race, which is stereotypically associated with my tendency to speak up. From what I’ve experienced, there is an overt and obvious difference between me and my white, especially male, colleagues and friends. When I speak up firmly, I face resistance from certain people and am made to feel discounted as a nuisance. When my white friends and/or colleagues, male or female, behave in the same manner, often more frequently and more blatantly, they are taken so much more seriously, and their opinions are valued. It got to the point, where I found myself having to confront the dilemma of whether to lighten up or stop speaking up altogether. It felt to me as if I was never heard, and I didn’t want to be labeled as the so-called “Angry Black Woman,” (ABW). I didn’t want to be viewed as unintelligent or bitter either. Talking while black and female proved to be quite the double-hurdle for me. I have personally had other colleagues tell me they have had to face some form of negative labeling in their career. One woman was told by a manager that she “did not fit the corporate image” when she was being considered for an advancement opportunity. She asked for feedback regarding how she didn’t fit the corporate image but then asked for the interview anyway. She got the interview. It went well and she was offered the position.

Humans also have a natural inclination to form biases. I sincerely believe one must consciously will themselves to not behave in those undereducated, underdeveloped ways of thinking. How do you inspire humans to think for themselves?? To break away from their norms and their beliefs? In this climate and in what I see happening in this country, it seems virtually impossible. The answer for me is to live it. Show others in my own behavior and choices. If you want to see an improved environment, be an improved environment all the time – without exception.

In order to be compassionate and try to help others remove filters, my path lies in Christ. By showing others that they can look at the world through the lens of Christ,  they can free themselves of preconceived ideas, biases, and bigotry against others; they can, instead, open themselves up to love. And like so many others, I believe we must love as Christ loved.

 

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

When I was asked to do this blog my first thought was, I don’t want to strip my label. I don’t think labels are always bad.  I am a librarian, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a 29-year breast cancer survivor- all labels I am proud to have. Each one defines a part of my life.  Some labels I wouldn’t mind losing, like being a procrastinator, judgmental, or stubborn. I am working on those.

It is a normal human behavior to label things and people to help us understand them.  If you consider how a child learns to talk or read, the first things she learns are labels for people and things.  Mama, Dada, milk, cookie…. As children have more experience they get a more complete understanding of each thing. In some ways, it’s the same for adults.  When we meet someone new, we ask them for their labels. “What do you do for a living?” “Do you have any children?” “Where do you live?” We are looking for a connection or a way to know the person better.  The problem comes when we think if we know the label that is all there is to know.

We need to be willing to take the time to get to know the real person we have just met.  The labels we identify are just a starting point. Find out what other experiences or feelings have shaped the life of your new acquaintance.  You may find you have made a lifelong friend.

Many labels are rooted in stereotypes. I am proud to be “The Library Lady”. My license plate even says, “SHHH”.  As a librarian, many people think they know what kind of person I am just because of the profession I have. I am thought to be a quiet person who reads all day, and who is really interested if you have overdue books.  I can’t count the number of times when I mention I am a librarian that the first thing a person tells me is that they have overdue books or fines.

I can be a quiet person sometimes and I do like to read when I have time, but you might be surprised if you saw me at a party.  I am usually the first one on the dance floor and often the last one to leave. I am a country music fan, which surprises some people who know me. I love cars and often go to car shows with my husband. I prefer driving a car with a manual transmission, but they are hard to find anymore.  

Labels can be limiting, not only in our relationships but also in our own minds.  I am happy to be a breast cancer survivor, but when I was going through treatment I decided I wasn’t going to let this change my life any more than absolutely necessary.  I continued to work and care for my young children. I wore a wig cut to my regular hairstyle so it wasn’t obvious to those who didn’t know me well that I was undergoing cancer treatments. I did as much of my regular routine as I could, with a lot of help from my husband.  I didn’t want cancer to define me to others or myself.

Labels do help others get to know us, but we have to get beyond the stereotypes to really get to know one another.  To make a true connection we have to have real conversations that explore our values, our feelings and how we see ourselves and each other.  We need to be willing to let others see us as we are.

It is difficult to be open with others, especially those who are new to us.  We feel vulnerable when we don’t know how someone will react to what we reveal of ourselves.  But we have to be brave enough to be vulnerable if we are to live authentically. We also need to examine our own values and live in accordance with them.  Do we act differently because we worry about what a certain person or group will think of us? If we try to live consciously, working toward the person we want to become, we can be open to others and let them see our real selves.  It isn’t easy and it takes time and work, just like any worthwhile endeavor.

 

The Courage to Create

The Courage to Create

I’m a sucker for talent competition auditions. America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, The Voice, American Idol – I love them all. It melts me when some shy, half-panicked, visibly shaking unknown takes the stage, and pours their heart and soul out for the judges and the audience. What a vulnerable moment! What courage that must take! The best of these auditions are never flawless, but that’s the point. It’s easy to share yourself and your gifts with the world if they are “perfect”. If you know exactly how the audience will respond, you’re not really taking a risk at all. Courage and bravery entail uncertainty, insecurity, and self-doubt. And perhaps that’s why courage and bravery are my favorite human traits.

We humans are so deliciously imperfect. Most of us stick to our comfort zones where we at least feel competent. Places and spaces where we know the ropes, and generally know what kinds of reactions to expect. But life is too short and too full to spend all your time in the shallow end of the pool. And not just life, but you yourself are too full of possibilities. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, “you are large, you contain multitudes”. Who knows what potential you truly encompass? Could you compose a song? Paint a picture? Write a novel? Direct a movie? Act in a play? Entertain a crowd with juggling and jokes? Sing an opera? Run a marathon? Raise a child? Build a house from scratch? Fall in love? Become a better version of yourself? Yes — you could do all of these things. Every single one. But you cannot and will not do any of these things if you require perfection.

Imagine what the world would have lost if the Beatles refused to release an album until it was perfect. If Da Vinci burned the Mona Lisa because he couldn’t get the smile just right. If Dostoevsky gave up writing because, hey, why compete with the likes of Tolstoy? Now you may be thinking, “If those weren’t examples of perfection, they were pretty damn close. There’s nothing that I do that falls into that category.” But don’t forget, just as acts and even thoughts of destruction karmically scar the soul, so too do acts of creation have a redemptive effect on the creator.

When you create and express your essence, you have brought something brand new into the universe. How better to express and experience your innate divinity? I believe that every act of creation is a prayer. And prayers do not need to be perfect, but merely heartfelt. Prayers also don’t need to be public. Likewise, even if you never share your creations with the world, they will nevertheless enrich your life immeasurably. But, selfishly, I’m hoping you will share your gifts with the rest of us. Our various creations help to unite us, and the experience of communion, I believe, is also divine.

So DO. Let us inspire each other with both our successes and our failures. Life is for living, and we best all get busy – there’s so much to try! Take faith and have courage and don’t let unobtainable perfection stand in your way. If you stumble, we’ve got your back, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

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