Scarlett’s Letter July 21, 2013

I’m not sure at what point in my life I decided I “needed” to go skydiving. I really had no inclination to do so, ever, until the past few years. It may have begun as a joke with my kids. We decided when my daughter turned eighteen the three of us, my daughter, my son and myself, would go get tattoos, go skydiving and go to a hookah bar, together, all on the same day. For several reasons, it didn’t happen.  Now my daughter lives in New York and my son is headed to Hawaii, so I am left here, with nothing better to do than to go skydiving by myself.

So I did.

I did it in celebration of my fiftieth birthday, actually. I figured, having made it through a half a century, I needed to do something drastic to kick off the next half century. Sort of like a rebirth, or an affirmation of life.

I did a tandem jump, meaning I was firmly strapped to a man who knew what he was doing. How brave is it, really, to strap yourself to someone, pay big bucks to have them fall out of an airplane and guide you safely to earth? Based on the feedback on Facebook, I’d say some consider it brave, some consider it insane, and some do it nearly every day and welcome you to the club. Brave or not, it provides you with the experience of losing control and then regaining control. It gives you enough of an experience to consider being able to do this on your own.

Once someone else does that for you one time, and you are “imprinted” with that experience of loss of control and regaining control, you can more readily take the next step of doing it on your own, perhaps. I am fairly certain I would not have been able to exit the plane on my own. I don’t think they even allow that now. I’m pretty sure you have to do a tandem jump, then take a bazillion classes, and then solo jump. I don’t know, I haven’t’ really checked into it. Yet. The tandem jump worked out very well. He jumped out of the plane and I really, at that point, had very little to say about the whole thing. Having experienced free fall and the feeling of the chute opening, and drifting to the ground while taking in the scenery across three counties, I am quite comfortable with the whole ordeal, I think I could easily do it on my own once I took the required lessons.

Many years ago, before I was ever in the picture, the man I married attempted to sky dive. His twin brother was an avid skydiver, so my husband decided he needed to try. He paid to be taken up in the plane and when it came time to jump, he could not let go of the plane. His fingers were wrapped around some sturdy piece of airplane and could not even be pried loose. He landed with the plane and never made another attempt. And that sums up much about him; unable to let go of the plane. Years later, he took private pilot lessons, at considerable expense. He finally got to the point where he had enough experience to solo, and he kept opting for “just one more lesson”. He never did his solo flight, never got his private pilot license and his training is all expired by this point, I’m sure. More recently, and the catalyst for the death of the already unhappy marriage, was his decision to “day trade”, in his own fashion. After observing the “behavior” of stocks over a very long period of time, he devised a plan where he could make very short trades, purchase and sell again within minutes. I did an independent study of his plan, and a financial model of the potential results. It looked good, it looked like there was considerable potential, so I consented to let him try. He hasn’t worked since. Nor has he made any money since. Every morning, for the next couple of years, he sat in his chair at the kitchen table, disheveled, unshowered, over-caffeinated, and wide-eyed with fear, and he watched the potential trades come and go. He couldn’t let go of the plane. He just couldn’t make the trades, and when he did, he second-guessed himself and bought and sold too early or too late and either made very little, broke even or lost. But he certainly did not replace his income and the empire we’d spent a lifetime building, fell. All because he couldn’t let go of the plane.

Skydiving is interesting. That may seem like an understatement. It is and understatement, and it isn’t. Skydiving is amazing, the adrenaline rush is awesome! But skydiving is also interesting in the way things become interesting when you overanalyze them, like I do pretty much everything.

Upon exiting the plane, free falling is what much of life feels like; you’re out of control and just plummeting. When the ripcord is pulled and the chute deploys, you regain control, you grab the handles and steer yourself to safety. In skydiving, as in life, we are in command, even if we feel like we are in free fall and completely out of control. All we ever have to do is pull that ripcord, grab the handles and steer ourselves safely back to the ground. When do we feel like we’re in free fall? After high school graduation, before beginning college. After college graduation before landing that first job. Any time we leave a comfortable job in quest for new, better, more enriching experiences. Selling a house to buy another. Moving from one city to another. Ending a long-term relationship. Retiring from a long, rewarding career. Receiving a dreaded diagnosis. We are almost always in free fall in some realm of life, or are approaching it. Yet, we usually land on our feet and continue to live.

This applies to just about anything. Change is scary, we are fearful of much in life, and we allow those fears limit us, limit our potential, limit our possibility for growth, fulfillment, happiness and possibly even being able to contribute in a very meaningful way to the world in which we live. Do you think, possibly, there is a scientist out there, somewhere, who has the potential to develop a cure for cancer or AIDS, but is, perhaps, limited by their fear? Perhaps there exists somewhere a gifted leader and politician, someone who is honest and has integrity and could help our divided nation overcome its partisan differences, but because they are limited by their fear, they don’t pursue their gift. What gifts do you have that your fear of change, uncertainty or failure prevent you from sharing?

Whether you decide to skydive in order to fully understand the analogy of free-fall and then regaining control, or whether you just rely on my description of it, do consider finding a way to overcome fears that limit you. My favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt has helped me many times over; “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Just let go of the plane.

Tumbling out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air, strapped to a man who, hopefully, knows what he's doing.
Tumbling out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air, strapped to a man who, hopefully, knows what he’s doing.
Free-fall in skydiving feels a lot like those things in life that scare us, but the view is better.
Free-fall in skydiving feels a lot like those things in life that scare us, but the view is better.
I am obviously having a terrible time.
I am obviously having a terrible time.
The ripcord is pulled, the chute deploys and control is regained. We drift back to the ground safely and enjoy the view across three counties along the way.
The ripcord is pulled, the chute deploys and control is regained. We drift back to the ground safely and enjoy the view across three counties along the way.
We are always in much better control than we think.
We are always in much better control than we think.
The planned landing method, had I known, I wouldn't have worn my MissMe jeans with all the rhinestones on my ass. I don't think I left any glitter behind from my glittery behind!
The planned landing method, had I known, I wouldn’t have worn my MissMe jeans with all the rhinestones on my ass. I don’t think I left any glitter behind from my glittery behind!
No matter how scary life can be, after the free fall, and we pull the ripcord and regain control, we land safely on the ground and are able to walk away. Then we really want to do it again!
No matter how scary life can be, after the free fall, and we pull the ripcord and regain control, we land safely on the ground and are able to walk away. Then we really want to do it again!

Scarlett’s Guide to Turning Fifty

Scarlett’s Guide to Turning Fifty

Today is my birthday. I’m fifty. I don’t feel fifty, so I’m not going to act fifty. I refuse to join AARP. But, I am taking a few moments, today, to reflect on the secrets to a golden life, as it should be. I have compiled a list that summarizes my outlook from near the top of the hill. I’m on the incline, still, in case you’re wondering. I’ll let you know when I summit, though I might be lollygagging a bit to avoid that. The only downhills I like are roller coasters, ski slopes (I board them, though), and when cycling. Party on.

My list, in no particular order:

  1. Sleep in every once in a rare while. You probably need it.
  1. Eat waffles and drink mimosas.
  1. Wear mismatched, loud colors, florals and animal prints. All at once, if you prefer.
  1. Use punctuation and check your spelling and grammar. Please set a good example for the “texting” generation. Thank you.
  1. Thank everyone individually on Facebook for birthday greetings. We, well, maybe THEY, are getting older, after all.
  1. Hug everyone you know and maybe even a few you don’t.
  1. See the world.
  1. Be loud, shocking, and endearingly vulgar. Hear me roar, I’m a woman of experience. This is okay only as long as people are genuinely laughing. At the first hint of discomfort or fake laughing, ratchet it down one notch.
  1. Take lots of pictures of yourself. Only delete the ones where you are chewing, have something between your front teeth or where your eyes are closed. No matter how bad you think the pictures look now, in a few years you’ll look back at them and say, “Damn, I looked awesome!”
  1. Keep doing your Kegels. Your continence depends on it. And so does good sex.
  1. The cure for anything in the world, I swear, is more Moroccan oil on your hair. And a mimosa.
  1. Keep it light. You can be serious without taking things so seriously.
  1. YouTube is better than the boob-tube.
  1. Don’t burp out loud in front of anyone. It may have been funny in college, now it’s just gross.
  1. Wear lip color.
  1. Drive your kids crazy. Use their slang but pronounce it like a literature professor, with perfect, clipped, enunciation. Do this in front of their friends, if possible.
  1. Do/have your toes done in an obscene color.
  1. Hold it in. Yes, people WILL know it was you that farted.
  1. Laugh at life or it may seem like life is laughing at you.
  1. Do something memorable, regularly. Make memories worth telling stories about.
  1. Do something memorable, regularly. Like wear polka dots on Friday or red (scarlet) everyday.
  1. Be in love.
  1. Try new cuisines.
  1. Find a way to party with the younger crowd every now and then, embrace the cougar within, you can act like a cougar and not be a cougar. It’s up to you.
  1. Drink lots of water.
  1. Drink lots of wine.
  1. Eat lots of veggies.
  1. Source information before you trust it.
  1. Make some noise. You are wiser than you think. Speak up.
  1. But, you don’t know everything, so listen up.
  1. Squats. Lots. Enough said.
  1. Make the news, don’t watch the news.
  1. Eggs are a superfood. Ice cream is a superfood. Chocolate is a superfood. Butter is the super-est food.
  1. Write it down.
  1. Wear ALL of your jewelry, NOW. What are you saving it for? It’d be nice for everyone to see it a time or two before your open casket viewing.
  1. Learn something new. Exercise is important for the brain, too.
  1. An extra coat of mascara is always a good idea.
  1. Don’t sit so much.
  1. Do push-ups, your arms and your boobies (or moobs, depending on your gender) will make you look younger than you are. Chaturangas are good too, if you’re a yogi.
  1. On your birthday, spend a little more than you should, drink a little more than you should, eat a little more than you should. Atone tomorrow; back to work, eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercising responsibly. Dress however you want from here on out, though.
  1. Call people “dude”.
  1. Enjoy flowers. Enjoy art. Enjoy music. That’s what they’re there for.
  1. Um, eyebrows? You should have some, like two, and they should be shaped. Professionally.
  1. Run for your life.
  1. Sing. Out loud. And off key.
  1. Stairs. Always.
  1. Life is short; buy all the shoes you want and go ahead and get the ones that make you say ” oooOOOooo!”  when you see them.
  1. Worth repeating; you simply cannot do too many push-ups, squats, or Kegels. Time is running out, do them simultaneously, maybe even while in line at Whole Foods.
  1. Stabilization balls are fun.
  1. And for God’s sake, whiten your teeth.

Scarlett’s Letter June 20, 2013

Still in New York City! This is the longest NYC trip I’ve ever been scheduled for and I’m finding I STILL don’t have time to do everything I want to! Each and every time I come to New York, I discover new and amazing things, some of them so fantastic that I just HAVE to do, see, eat that same thing again. So, after several visits, you can imagine, my repeat list is growing to fill almost a week itself. To take in new sites and scenes and restaurants, to visit friends in the area AND revisit all my MUST DO AGAINs is getting a bit crazy and makes for a fairly frantic visit.

As a repeat visitor from afar, what are my MUST DO AGAINs? I always, always, always MUST have a meal at Serendipity3. I MUST go to Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake and I MUST have a few, very specific pieces of Jacques Torres chocolates. I am also drawn to Times Square like a moth to light. I just love the spectacle and the energy, I guess because I, myself, am energetic and often make a spectacle of myself. I am also quite likely to have Waffle and Dinges from a street vendor, preferably in the new and improved smaller size with Spekuloos atop. I am also a repeat offender at Dhaba Indian on Lexington. I am a big fan of Central Park and window-shopping on Fifth Avenue, I am a HUGE fan of Bryant Park. I like parks. Time permitting, I will often do a multi-park downtown to uptown subway trek; Battery Park, Union Square, Madison Square, Bryant Park and Central Park. I know there are many others, but these are each conveniently located by other traditional stops; Whole Foods and Eataly, for example. If I happen to have enough time on my hands, I will walk from park to park to park to park, finishing at Serendipity3 with my Magnolia Bakery cupcake in a box and a small bag of chocolates from Jacques Torres, which I take back to my hotel for later consumption. At Serendipity 3 I am focused on that Frrrrrozen Hot Chocolate after my meal, often my only dessert splurges of the week.

As I am not a trust fund baby, though I love Broadway shows, I usually only splurge on one show per year. Last night was my one; Mama Mia. Love it!!I have a compilation of ABBA songs whirling through my mind, from the time I lay my head on my pillow last night, all night while I tried to sleep, and even now. ABBA songs.

So far this week, I’ve done the park to park tour, with the exception of Central Park. My daughter and I plan to run there on Saturday morning, which will be a first! I’m looking forward to it, I just hope my feet aren’t worn out by then with standing to teach for eight plus hours a day for five consecutive days PLUS all the walking we’re doing in the evenings. I’m sure I’ll manage.  I’ve done the Broadway Show and Times Square. Tonight? Serendipity 3. Dhaba later this week. And window-shopping on Fifth.

I’ve thought of publishing a guide “Scarlett’s Whirlwind Tour of the MUST Dos in NYC”. But, I think New York City is to each visitor something different. We will all be drawn to different activities, different types of food and sites and scenes. And for all of us, there is plenty to keep us interested and entertained, no one guide could possibly satisfy all, most or even any other visitors. For those of you who have never experienced this place, might I suggest you add it to your bucket list? Whether you appreciate crowds or urban places or not, I think this city is something everyone should experience even if only once. There are as many quiet, serene areas as there are crowded, noisy and bustling places. There are places to walk, to ride, to run, to (urban) hike, even to fish. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, much like everything else in life, only limited by the limitations you have in mind.

I love NY!

Mama Mia!
Mama Mia!
Like a moth to light.
Like a moth to light.
Serendipity 3 Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate (and a hot fudge sundae)
Serendipity 3 Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate (and a hot fudge sundae)
From Roosevelt Island
From Roosevelt Island
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
Landmarks everywhere!
Landmarks everywhere!

Good Morning

I woke up to an unimaginable racket. I’d forgotten about the hot air ballons here, but once I realized what the racket was all about, I was out of bed, down the stairs and out the front door, in the middle of the street, in my pajamas, iPhone aiming at the sky. Nothing says dork quite like that. This is not an unusual occurrence here, and as a kid we even had one land in the street at the intersection two doors down. Yes, I have pictures of that, too. Another time, many years ago, a hot air balloon landed down the road a ways, but got caught up in a tree on it’s descent, the basket toppled and a man fell out, to his death. This is an activity that I have not tried, not death, not toppling out of a hot air balloon basket, but simply taking a hot air balloon ride. I’ve done glider rides, but not a balloon ride. My parents took a hot air balloon ride, there is a picture of them smiling from the basket, on the shelf in the living room, downstairs. They weren’t what I’d consider the greatest adventurers in the world, but the picture lends a slightly different story. It’s on my list, somewhere after skydiving, paddle boarding, riding the worlds fastest roller coaster and white water kayaking, but on the list, nonetheless.

Well, since I went to the trouble and embarrassment to get this clip, I thought I’d share.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Enough

Why settle for good enough? If Thomas Edison had said “good enough” on the first several hundred attempts to develop an electrical filament for the light bulb, we may still be in the dark! Do you think researchers today, on the brink of a breakthrough for a cure for cancer are going to give up and say “it isn’t quite there, but it’s good enough”? Do you think Leonardo DaVinci slapped paint on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel one day and said “good enough”?

Do you approach life with a “good enough” attitude?

I spent a very large portion of my adult (married) life driving cars that just ran “good enough”. And sometimes they didn’t quite run good enough. Or at all. My AAA card got more use than my Target Red Card (which I use almost daily to save 5% on my purchases). At one point, all ten cars were rendered motionless by mechanical ailments stemming from an attitude of “good enough”. I guess we’d run out of hangers, baling twine and duct tape. My husband had worked as an auto mechanic before college and vowed he’d always maintain our fleet of cars so we wouldn’t have to rely on costly mechanics or auto repair facilities. I guess you get what you pay for, unless you use the Target Red Card, in which case you get 5% more than what you paid for! My husband lives a life of “good enough”, which really means it was ALL good enough until it wasn’t good at all, at which point, it was kept anyway because, someday, if we had the time and money, we may be able to make it good enough, again. But that never actually happened, because things were always good enough that we didn’t really need to make good use of time to find a way to make enough good money, once the previous career(s) weren’t good enough. I left him, and all the cars, and all the other broken things, including our broken relationship. It just wasn’t good enough.

In our current job market, where good jobs are hard to find, and as hard to keep, do you think “good enough” is going to cut it? Absolutely not. So why should “good enough” be good enough in any other aspect of your life?

Let’s take this to the big picture. Is your life good enough? I hope not! And I don’t mean that quite like it sounds in the literal sense! I’m not saying I hope your life is shit. What I AM saying is that I hope you aren’t settling for good enough because that’s where you are and you don’t see the point in wanting more. If we have a roof over our head, frozen pizza in the freezer, batteries in the remote and premium cable, then life is good enough. Sigh. Ok, maybe add a Target Red Card so you can save 5% on the pizza and the batteries. And on underwear when yours is no longer good enough.

Me? Life is fantastic! But never quite good enough. I have a very, very long list of things I want that my Target Red Card won’t buy. These things are called experiences. Life experiences. Some experiences I can easily do, daily. I can always go outside and marvel at nature! The warm California sunshine and light breeze today. A sprinkle of Texas rain last week. The stinging, cold of an Alaskan winter day last month. Twenty hours of Alaskan daylight next month. I am not wealthy to afford all this; I just rearrange my priorities so the money I do make, which, by the way, isn’t quite good enough, allows me to afford some awesome life experiences.

Some experiences I have on my list are going to require a bit more work to, well, experience. I would like to travel Europe, parts of Asia, parts of Africa and South America. I’d like to see the rest of the United States, because, even with my travels for work, there is much I haven’t seen. I want to learn to white water kayak, I want to learn to snowboard better, I want to climb some mountains, and I want to backpack the Pacific Coast Trail. I guess you might say this is part of my bucket list. Just part. Because my bucket list just isn’t good enough. It needs work.

My “not good enough” attitude crosses into other areas of my life. For my age, I am pretty darned fit. But even that isn’t good enough. I can always be a little more fit. I am pretty darned healthy, but I could always find more ways to live a healthful life. I have a good career, I make enough money, and I’m fairly well respected professionally. Why, just moments ago, I received an email from a client that said, “I think that you were wonderful, thank you.” If I had done just a “good enough” job in our consulting session do you think I would have received that level of compliment and gratitude? I always look for ways to try harder, to learn more, to give more. At work. At home. In my relationships with my family, my friends, my love.

My knowledge is never “good enough”. There is so much to know, to learn. I want to learn to be a sommelier. I want to learn to cook better. I want to learn to take better photographs. I want to learn to sing. I want to learn to dance better. I want to learn a half dozen foreign languages. I want to be able to identify flowers and trees. What I know just isn’t good enough.

When will anything be good enough? The correct answer, in my opinion, is never. Once things are good enough, we’ve become complacent. Grab your Target Red Card and stock up on the hangers, bailing twine and duct tape; it’s going to be a slippery ride into misery. Me? I’m going to grab my Target Red Card and stock up on a new scarf, some rockin’ new sunglasses and cute tote bag, because the ones I have just aren’t good enough, for my next life experience!

Prepare to Die

Prepare to Die – this is a phrase you might hear in an action movie or an old western. So, what could you do? Run, fight, or submit.

I’ve got really bad news for you. You’re going to die. While true for all of us, when the doctor tells us those words and there is some immediacy associated with them, what do you do? Curl up in a corner, huddled under a blanket and wait for the grim reaper? Or grab a friend and start crossing off those things from your bucket list?

Guess what? You’re going to die. I don’t know when, you don’t know when, but you are. What are you doing about it? Run, fight, or submit.

I know people who have been preparing to die practically since birth. I remember in my thirties, working with a woman a few years younger than me, she was probably in her late twenties. We were talking about snowboarding and she said “oh, I”m too old to snowboard”. Huh? There’s an age limit? I was just learning to snowboard at the time, was I breaking some rule? The good news is, her whole attitude has changed and she is now, twenty years later, an avid scuba diver. And I haven’t tried THAT yet!

My point is; are your preparing to die or are you crossing things off your bucket list?

I was on the phone with my significant other last night, I was talking about the Insanity workout I’d done earlier in the day. He said “you’re not twenty two anymore, don’t overdo, don’t hurt yourself”. Oh, but he loves my strength, stamina and agility. I smiled, knowingly, and just let that comment slide. I feel twenty two. I feel better than I did at twenty two. As a matter of fact, on Facebook yesterday, Shawn T (of Insanity) talked about visiting Charlotte University and working with a bunch of young people, hoping he’d inspired them to adopt healthy habits for life. Then he posed a question, “are you more or less fit now than you were then?” For me? Pretty darned close. Yes!

I’m turing fifty in a few months. Many of my peers are acting way beyond their years, tottering around the grocery store. I just moved back to my home town, and as I walk through Target and Whole Foods, I feel like I’m peering into every face, “do I know you?” It’s kind of confusing. Some of us are young and spry, others, old and decrepit. Some of us are embracing life, squeezing every moment out of it, others are huddling under a blanket, waiting to die.

My grandfather lived to be over 100. Fifty is only half way there. I’m not even half way there, yet. I don’t need fifty whole years to get ready to die. I got me a whole bunch of living to do. Anyway, at 100, Grandpa lived alone in his house, my grandmother had passed some years before. He fixed his own meals, often bacon and eggs for breakfast. He mowed his own lawn. With a push mower, the non-motorized kind. At noon, he’d walk several blocks to the convalescent hospital to have lunch, not with his friends, for they had all passed. He had lunch with his friends’ children. That is so going to be me! At 100, I’m hoping to jog over to the convalescent home, and after preparing lunch of salmon, quinoa and kale for my friends’ kids, I’m going to teach a Zumba class to the residents. Watch me.

How do you go up the stairs? Many of my peers, at the tender age of fifty, grasp the railing and laboriously pull themselves up, grunting and groaning like it’s going to kill them. When was the last time you ran up the stairs two at a time? That’s my preferred method, as long as no one is in my way, panting and pulling themselves along, in which case, I just politely wait at the bottom of the staircase until the path is clear and bound up the stairs. Obnoxious. I know. But it feels good!

Remember as kids? If you were in a hurry, and sometimes even if you weren’t, you ran everywhere. When was the last time you ran anywhere because you were in a hurry, or because it just felt like the thing to do?

When was the last time you balanced on a curb in a parking lot like a balance beam in the gym? I do that all the time. It’s fun. Don’t judge. I’m the weirdo who runs from the parking lot to the store even though I’m not in a hurry, smiling, balancing on the curbs with my grocery bags on my way back out to the car and bounding up the stairs two at a time at every opportunity. Meanwhile, many of my peers are cruising the parking lot for the closest parking spot to the store door and looking for the elevator once inside.

I have long said, I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living. And so, I choose to live life to its absolute fullest at every opportunity. I am constantly looking for ways to improve myself, mentally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, so I can get the most out of every moment in life. This is a conquest, something I am driven to do and need like breath. Is there anything in your life that you are so passionate about? Passion is the essence of life. Without passion, we just exist. Without passion for life, we are just waiting to die.

Time is short, my friends. As I am perched at the top of this mountain, nearly fifty years behind me, and, God willing, at least another fifty before me, there is an interesting paradox. I can look back over the last fifty years and think, “wow, an eternity”, then with like the flick of a switch I think, “wow, that was quick”. I know as we age, time moves at what seems a faster rate. This terrifies me. I haven’t the time to be concerned with what people think of me as I bound up the stairs, run across the parking lot, balance on a curb, jump out of an airplane, board down a mountain, ride a galloping horse through a field, a mountain bike down a grade, a kayak through whitewater. I am doing what I know how to do and what I crave, I’m living. I am preparing to die by living life to its absolute fullest, every moment of every day, and with passion. Because when I do cross that magic threshold in the sky, I want to be satisfied with what I’ve done. I want to be nourished with my accomplishments, and I am hoping that through all of it, I am able to inspire others to live well and do well. With passion.

I am nowhere ready to throw in the towel. In fifty years I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to catch me and try to wrestle that towel out of my hand. And I may still win.

On Living

We are alive, but are we living? Rephrased, are you LIVING, or merely existing? Certainly, your heart is beating, but are you truly living? Is your life by design, or happenstance? Does your day consist of waking up, blah, blah, blah, go to sleep? Or do you live each day with intent, excitement, the pursuit of new experiences, the pursuit of personal growth? Do you want to be more, or just be? Do you live with intention? Do you take risks? Do you take chances? Or do you live inside the cocoon of a routine that is tried, true, safe and predictable? Predictable in that it will provide you the exact same result you’ve had every day leading up to today. Isn’t one the definitions of insanity “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?” Or are you even expecting a different result? Do you truly want to exist in a lifestyle of complete safety and predictability? I suppose some do. Not me. I’d rather die. I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living. When was the last time you said to yourself “My God, I feel so alive!” For me, yesterday. And today isn’t over, I still have time to feel that way today.

We all know we are given the gift of 86,400 seconds each day, famous people say that in inspirational speeches, the lyrics of a popular song remind us of this fact on the radio. That’s it, though, 86,400 seconds each day. We are all vaguely aware that once a second passes, you never get it back, it is gone forever. Ponder that for a moment. Let it really sink in. With each second that passes, your life is one second shorter. The time you have to accomplish your goals, to achieve your dreams, to complete your bucket list, becomes a second less with each passing second. Tick, tick, tick. Have you taken a second to consider how many seconds a day you waste on useless things? I’ll let you define your own list of useless things.

My list of useless things includes many things people hold near and dear, like watching television for hours on end with no real plan. You know, sitting there with a remote control, cruising through hundreds of channels looking for something remotely interesting. I can’t stand that. I will occasionally plan on watching a particular program or event on television, but certainly not daily, or even weekly. The playoff games last weekend, there is one example, I planned to watch them, I did, the television hasn’t been turned on since. I will likely watch the SuperBowl. There are programs on television I enjoy, but I will never plan my life around the network schedule. I can catch it on Hulu or Netflix later, if I really, really want to, but I’m sure to be doing something else of value while the show is on. Slouching on the couch in a vegetative state is not something I’m willing to waste my ambulatory years on, thank you. I’ll plan for that when I’m on life support in a nursing home, having lived a full, exciting and adventurous life.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Do one thing every day that scares you”. Does breaking out of your cocoon of safe, predictable routine scare you? What if something unexpected happens? Well, yay! Whether the unexpected is good or bad, you’ll have grown and gained some courage from the experience, and fewer things will be scary from now on! Scary things are scary, why do them? If we don’t challenge ourselves, regularly, we fall into stagnate routines, we miss out on opportunities for learning, growth, adventure, excitement.

I had a job opportunity find me. I had a resume posted online, and though I wasn’t looking for a job actively, a recruiter found my resume and contacted me. The job he described involved significant domestic travel and public speaking. Both things scared me, I was a somewhat fearful flyer, and I hated standing in front of people and speaking. Out of economic enticement, I took a chance, figuring I’d stick it out for the three month probationary period, collect my pay along the way, and find something “safer”, more comfortable, more “my speed”, thereafter. That was five years ago.

Guess, what, the first few flights, I was nervous, but I got over it, and I have seen more of our country than most people I know. I have contacts and friends in every major city, I have seen famous attractions in person, not just on television. I have felt them, touched them, smelled them, tasted them, lived them. I will never forget them. I have enjoyed nearly every trip I’ve taken, because now I thirst for those experiences. People say to me “I don’t know how you can travel all the time like that.” And I reply, “I don’t know how you can stay in the same place all the time”.

The first time I had to speak in front of a group by myself, I was a bit shaky, but with time, I got the hang of it. Once I figured out that people looked to me for expertise and guidance, that they wanted to hear what I was telling them and that I could even make them laugh when I wanted to, I grew to love it. Talk about a self confidence boost! Two “things” that scared me became my passion and provide me an unbelievable amount of growth, experience and adventure. My life is forever changed in a very positive way. But I was scared. And I just did it. I overcame very quickly. Do not let fear limit you.

What do you want to do with your life? Really? Pretend you’re a little kid, again, and someone just asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, what do you want to be? We don’t have to be satisfied with who we are, what we do, where we live, just because this is where we’ve wound up! Dream! Make a plan! Get moving! Seconds are slipping away! You truly can do anything you want, the only limitations are the ones you define for yourself. “Can’t” is a four letter word, so is “fear”, abolish them from your vocabulary.

Let’s try this; tell me what your day was like last Monday. Can you even remember it? How about three Saturdays ago? Is there anything momentous you remember in the past month? Past year? What was the last bucket list item you accomplished? Have you even attempted one? Wait, you haven’t even taken the time to make a bucket list? Too busy doing un-momentous things?

Try this out for size; take a few seconds RIGHT NOW and make a list of three things you want to do before you die. There. You have a bucket list. Add to it every time you think of something else. Now, pick one of the items you wrote down and do it. This week, this weekend. Do it. It will feel incredible. If your bucket list items require resources you don’t currently have, take one step towards obtaining one of the necessary items. Request the vacation time if time off is the issue. Open a savings account with $5 and set aside an amount each pay day until you have the money, if money is the issue. Commit. No excuses, the seconds are flying past! In the mean time, pick another bucket list item you CAN do right away, and do it. Now keep it up, for every item you complete, add one or two more. There is no such thing as a complete bucket list, keep at it.

How are you feeling about every second that slips away, now? Do you secretly mourn the time you wasted in the past? I do. I wish I could’ve banked it and saved it and could withdraw it for future use! I think life should be approached with a sense of urgency! I am often criticized for being too busy, never having any “free time”. What the hell is “free time”? To me, “free time” is the time I have to do something else I want to do! And I do! From the moment I wake up until I fall into bed at night, I am doing something worthwhile, constructive, amazing, fulfilling, rewarding, exciting, adventurous. Oh, sure, I do relax, but I relax with the people I want to relax with, doing something relaxing I want to do (a picnic, wine tasting, a leisurely meal, a nice walk, a hike, fishing, reading, writing, etc.).

You have the opportunity, every second, to redefine your life, to make it what you’ve always wanted. And ONLY YOU have that power. Your life is yours, it doesn’t belong to anyone else to shape, to dictate, to construct, control or live. Shed your cocoon, spread your wings. And live.