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fun depot

What a week! Griffin’s 10th birthday extravaganza ultimately came to an end on Friday at a place called Fun Depot.

How we got there is an interesting story. As you may remember, Griffin had a big “Boffering Birthday Bash” a couple of weeks ago with many of his friends.

He invited his entire 5th grade class and one of his best friends from 4th grade.

As it happens, another one of his friends from 4th grade found out about the party and let Griffin know that she was annoyed that she hadn’t been invited. Griffin immediately apologized and asked how he could make it up to her. She suggested Fun Depot.

Doug and I marveled that Griffin was able to make amends so easily, but then I realized: he’s often heard me ask, “How can I make it right?” when I’ve made a mistake, and he modeled it.

Over time, I’ve learned (just as Griffin has now, apparently) that it’s actually incredibly empowering to take responsibility for your part in whatever your current situation is.

Of course, that’s easy to say, but not so easy to put into action. For that reason, I’ve decided to talk about one of my particularly challenging “make it right” moments below.

Have you ever known that you had to do something and you really hated the thought of doing it?

Almost 6 years ago – when I first started writing this blog – I wrote an article titled Celebrating You.

Months later I got a request from an online magazine for an article on a similar theme, so I decided to submit the Celebrating You article for consideration.

It was accepted – great! – and later picked up by two more popular blogs. Even better!

And then, a couple of nights later I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered – the central idea of my article, which was to “write a love letter to yourself,” had come from someone else’s article.

I put my feelings of panic down, reminding myself that though I had gotten the idea from another article, I had added a great deal of my own thoughts on the subject.

That got me back to sleep, but the next morning I looked at my notes and discovered that an entire paragraph of the other writer’s article had made it into my article nearly verbatim.

back on trackBack when my ezine had a fairly small circulation, I thought it was fine to “adapt” an idea, but now, with thousands of people reading the retooled article online, I knew I had to do something.

Problem was, the quick fix—giving credit to the person who had the idea originally – wasn’t available to me.

I went back over my notes, Googled the subject again and again, and could not find the article that had planted the seed.

And so my article, which should have given me pride, had the opposite effect. Now I was full of fear – fear that I would be found out, fear that I would cause problems for the bloggers who had posted my article, and fear that the evidence that I had been so sloppy would convince everyone that I was a bad person.

I knew that I had gotten off track. Way off track.

And then I remembered that the thing to do when I’ve done something wrong is to apologize and ask, “How can I make it right?” This is an especially important question to ask if you have actually hurt someone in the course of your transgression.

If you’re stuck on this point, ask a trusted friend.

In my situation, I knew the only way to get back on track would be to admit to the good people who posted my article that I had made a mistake by presenting my article as something entirely original.

But I was still scared that doing so would bring every single one of my fears to pass.

And so I weighed saying nothing and hoping no one ever found out against admitting my error and trying to make amends.

I dreaded telling anyone. But I dreaded even more the trouble I would cause them if they had to deal with someone else telling them that my article was not original.

As much as I hated admitting my mistake, I knew I would feel better as soon as I fessed up and faced the consequences.

So I took a deep breath and wrote an email to each of them explaining the situation and asking them to remove the article from their websites.

I apologized and said I would do whatever they thought best to make it right. I waited with bated breath until I heard back from them.

I imagined all kinds of scathing responses. My inner critic had a field day. It kept pointing out that I had created a lot of trouble and I was a bad person.

It told me the people I esteemed and valued were never going to want to read anything of mine or work with me again. And who would blame them?

But as it turned out, they were all very kind and understanding. Again, that was years ago, and now the thoughts that mortified me so completely have no power over me – or so I thought until I decided to share them here.

Then I started to feel ill again. I realized that it was one thing to let a few people know my error, but a whole other thing to tell a (now) larger audience. My ego questioned what was to be gained by letting you know.

But I’ve noticed that the things I struggle over tend also to be struggles for other people. And having found that I could make a bad choice, have a mortifying experience, and survive, I thought my story could help others work through the same process.

My intention is to help. But even if I don’t help one other person, I’d still rather share my struggles than look like I’ve got it all together.

I’m not proud of my mistakes, but they are a part of me. I just don’t believe they define me.

In the same way, I want you to know that you are not defined by any of your mistakes either.

Whatever has happened, we can always make it right.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

Stacey's outdoor officeThat’s a photo of me in my “outdoor office” – now that it’s so beautiful out, I find myself writing there more and more.

Lately I feel like I’m ON FIRE when it comes to my writing. Many of you know that I’m working on getting my book, No More Crying and Complaining, published.

But for the FIRST TIME IN PUBLIC I’m sharing that I’m currently writing a ROMANTIC COMEDY SCREENPLAY.

Doug and I actually started working on this screenplay together over 15 years ago – but then I felt CALLED back to it and I’m having a TON of fun re-writing it. (Of course, I laughed every time I had to remove a reference to corded phones and VHS tapes!)

The manuscript should be complete by the end of the month and I can’t wait to share with you what happens next – I already have BIG visions of Meryl Streep producing it and Anna Kendrick and Zoe Kravitz starring in it!!

So yes, I’m in a really great place right now, but I still hear from SO many of you who are haunted by what I call “emotional mortality” – the feeling that you’ll end up on your deathbed and wish that you had challenged yourself more and created more meaningful work.

One of my readers recently wrote me this note:

“I’ve been reading your newsletter for a few months now and I have to tell you that I get so much from it. It always lifts my spirits or comes at just the right time and answers a question or thought or problem I’ve been dealing with. So thank you so much for writing and sharing and making my life better.”

And one of my clients just shared this after a recent session:

“It was really transformative to talk with you. I feel so much clearer, energized, and purposeful after this call. I may not have expressed it as such because I was too busy taking down notes : )

I agree that I am definitely on a cusp of truly embracing my gifts and owning my feelings and taking responsibility for them. I feel empowered with the realization. It’s really good. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

P.S. Thank you for modeling to me such grace and poise on how to be a great coach while unexpected things are happening in your life.”

As you can imagine, I LOVE hearing this! And you know what I’ve noticed? I get the most appreciative notes when I write about what helps me deal with challenging, unexpected, or undesirable circumstances.

Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and writer, said, “What is to give light must endure burning.”

I love that quote: it’s a beautiful, succinct way of saying that pain can have meaning and value. Still, nobody likes getting burned, and it’s understandable that we try to avoid it.

But the fact remains that life presents so many challenges that we probably could benefit from considering ways that we may not only endure, but also embrace what I call (after Zorba the Greek) “the full catastrophe.”

This week’s post is about just that – and since I’m an avid reader as well as writer, it draws on lessons I’ve learned from my all-time favorite books.

Before you start reading this article, I’d like you to sit quietly for a few seconds. Take in a full breath, let it fill your lungs, and then release it slowly.

Repeat this simple breathing exercise and include the words from one of my favorite meditations:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

I try to remember this little meditation practice when I feel challenged, tired and inadequate. And I have to say, like most people I feel that way more often than I’d like.

And I’m not alone. Even the 12th-century poet Rumi once said that each and every one of us is trying to hide the same secret from each other. It isn’t anything malicious – it’s the mere fact of our flawed humanness. Rumi called it the “Open Secret.”

I know that I expend way too much energy feeling less-than-adequate, and way too much time worrying about how obvious my inadequacy is to others, and then I expend way too much of both trying to remind myself that I am just fine exactly the way I am.

For me – and probably for you, as well – a lot of my feelings of inadequacy stem from a sense that other folks have it more together than I do.

But I do it to myself, too: I recently shared with a friend the things I do that contribute to my feeling inadequate: I compare myself to others (and I always come up short), I struggle to celebrate others’ successes (they’ve got friends and family who will do that, right?), and I daydream about being “saved” (my forthcoming screenplay will be wildly successful – with no marketing effort on my part).

Yet I suspect that even the people who seem to be living out what I would call the “perfect” life (that would be Princess Kate) probably have an Open Secret, too.

And while the friend who let me catalogue my self-sabotaging strategies didn’t say that she has the same weaknesses, she accepted them without judgment. It certainly felt good to share those strategies with someone else – to bring my open secrets into the light.

But within a short time I found myself once more comparing myself to the more-together-than-thou in my life. And once more having trouble accepting my own foibles as right and necessary. Why is that?

This difficulty is especially mysterious to me because I’m not all that interested in sugar-sweet, sun-filled stories anyway.

In fact, all of my favorite stories are pretty bleak and don’t end particularly well. (I loved Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road.)

And yet in every one of the stories I get the most out of, love for others – and true connection with them – bring meaning and solace. My favorite tales are about hope and hopelessness; home and exile; joy and sorrow.

Great writers are supremely gifted at creating characters who wrestle with great challenges and experience a more profound sense of meaning and joy because of them.

SecurityIf you are feeling alienated, or anxious, or full of grief – or if the despair of the world is weighing heavy on your heart – look no further than any number of classic stories to help you find light in the darkness.

Think of the Lord of the Rings. It’s the ultimate story of strangers creating community, sharing a difficult journey, helping each other to achieve success against all odds – and ultimately learning though adversity to savor the passing moments of their ordinary lives.

Getting to the space where you can do that, of course, will usually mean making peace with the darkness first. To do this, I take a page from another of my favorite novels: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

In this book the protagonist, faced with a rough patch in his life, is told by a wise man that he must “sit at the bottom of the well” for a while – he must face his difficulties and, for a while at least, not strive against them, but seek to understand the lessons they offer.

I have taken this so much to heart that most of my friends know that “sitting at the bottom of the well” is my way of saying that after a tough day I am going to my quiet place in order to discover what I am supposed to learn.

Here are the questions that usually present themselves to me: What is the present moment trying to teach me? What is good and necessary in this situation? Is there someone I need to forgive? Am I longing for more? And if so, what’s one small thing I can do to reach for it? And finally: What can I do in this moment – what one small thing – to show appreciation for my precious life?

And then, after taking some time to walk in the darkness, I take a deep breath and know that the darkness is also a part of the journey. I let it lead me back up to the light, where I always find my authenticity, power and joy.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

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