Fears

“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

~ Confucius

 

Recently a couple of things happened that gave me insight on how we fail. We were discussing how one of my friends was going to participate in an upcoming art event by submitting his photographs. Although he is extremely talented, enjoys this activity, and has many years of experience, when someone asked if he was a photographer, he casually replied that he was not, and only did it as a hobby. Several people there who know his talents forced him to say out loud that he was indeed, a photographer.

Then at lunch with friends, one of them mentioned she just started a podcast. Almost immediately she said it was just a “crazy idea”. We corrected her and insisted it wasn’t crazy at all and praised her for being courageous. We also told her about how we thought her eloquence made podcasting the perfect vehicle for her to express her ideas.

My friends are not the only ones who have a hard time doing something creative and then tentatively putting it out there. I tremble every time I am about to click the PUBLISH button on my blog site, and on several occasions, I have referred to it as a “baby blog”!!! Most of us suffer from fear of being judged or criticized, so we protect ourselves by stating it’s just a “hobby”, or a “crazy idea”, etc. That way if we don’t succeed (whatever definition of success we have in our mind), we can always go back to the safety of our practice space.

So, at what point do we give ourselves permission to leave our safety zone and enter the real world? When do we consider ourselves photographers, podcasters, bloggers, artists? Is it after many years of practice and experience? Perhaps after having the right education or certification? Does that make us now official creators or subject matter experts? I propose that we will never be experts, and that is just fine.

We should allow ourselves to fail. The first time will be no doubt devastating. It will sting a bit less the second time. By the third time, we may have a scar which will protect us from further damage. Then eventually we will realize that there is no such thing as failure (or success for that matter), but just a continuous process of growth. Allowing others to see a buried part of ourselves is the only way we will find our true inner voice, which may have been hiding for long time, even from ourselves.

To find your voice, look at how you like to communicate with others AND how well you do it. Both factors must be there. You can speak to many or few, write, paint, sing, dance, etc. We are very fortunate to live in a place and time where there are multiple ways to transmit your message. Then look for support group to learn from, and eventually teach to. And finally, don’t give up. You can stop to catch your breath, but then keep going. You may not see the fruits of your labor immediately or when you desire, but they will come.

In encouraging my friends to go for their dreams, I realized that I had stopped writing my blog. Their example inspired me to get out of my writing hiatus. Sometimes you feel you’re the only one who feels pressure to step out of your comfort zone. Having these moments of sharing our fears was a great lesson. We should all go out there and work on our own crazy ideas. In the process we will learn about ourselves and we may even push those around us to move forward. I’ll go first. I am a Blogger!

RC

 

My friends’ sites: Coffee Talk Podcast and Arbitrary Pixel Photography

 

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158

“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”

~ Jackson Kiddard

 

Several weeks ago, I received a mysterious letter in the mail. Since last year I have changed to online statements for all my accounts, and this envelope did not look like any solicitation company, so I was intrigued. To my surprise, it contained photos of my black CRV, as well as my license plate. It was one of those dreaded red-light camera tickets, blast it! For $158!! Double blast it!! They even provided a link to a low resolution video, where I could see myself “sort of stopping” and then turning (no full stop), so apparently there is no escape! Triple blast it!!!

My first thought was that it was a scam, since the return address was somewhere in Arizona, not from the city where event happened. I did some online research and found that although the Mayor and some city officials were supposedly against this camera, they still approved its installation. I realized that this camera brings in a lot of revenue to the city, so it’s very doubtful it would be uninstalled any time soon. Although this violation has no points against my driver’s license, it could be escalated if not dealt with.

My choices are to ignore, pay or fight it. I would try the latter option. I would go before the judge and plead my case and mention how the “intent” of the camera was really not to prevent accidents, but to bring in revenue. It was also very impractical at that intersection, since anyone who actually stops, would run the risk of being rear ended (because it’s Miami) by other drivers. As I was getting ready to figure out how to appeal it, I mentioned my situation to one of my friends, and I asked if he could recommend a lawyer who did this sort of thing. To my amazement (since he’s not one to do this), he proceeded to tell me a story.

A senior monk and junior monk were traveling together, when they came across a river with a strong current. They saw a young woman trying to cross the river and having difficulties doing so. She asked them to help her get across. The two monks looked at each other with doubt, since they had taken vows never to touch a woman. Then, suddenly, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, gently placed her on the other side, and continued on his journey.

The younger monk could not believe what he had just seen! After rejoining his companion, he was speechless. An hour passed. They continued walking side by side. Then two hours passed. Not a word between them. Then three hours. Finally, the younger monk could not contain himself any longer, and said “As monks, we are not allowed to touch a woman; how could you then, carry her across the river?” The older monk looked at him, and replied “Brother, I sat her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

I realized I had been carrying this ticket situation for much longer than I should have, and it had gotten me anxious, frustrated and angry. More importantly, it was robbing my mind of concentrating on other issues that should be occupying my time and energy. I decided right then and there, that the right action was to just pay the ticket. I mailed a check that same afternoon (online payment had $5 additional fee, so out of principle, they were not going to get another penny out of me!). The second after the envelope fell inside the mail collection box, I felt a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders. That is what peace of mind feels like!

Are you still waiting for the lesson of the story? Well, there isn’t one! Although we should always try our best, sometimes events simply do not go our way, and that is fine. Let life be what it is. We don’t have to win all the time. When things don’t go as we had planned, just absorb it, make the best decision for that moment, and move on, like the older monk. That way we won’t carry the weight for longer than necessary. Well, maybe there is a moral after all.

 

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Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Dorian

“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds”. 

~ Norman Vincent Peale

 

Hurricane Dorian is currently about 50 miles off the eastern coast of Florida, crawling along slowly. This brings something that we humans are not used to, uncertainty. We usually believe that we have most situations, other than disease, death and others, under control. We try to plan for most eventualities, have emergency funds, backup systems, etc. But when events do not go according to this plan, we basically have three options.

One option is to confront situation head on and proactively. In case of hurricane, we gather our troops closely, buy water and canned goods, fill up car with gas, put up shutters, etc. This means staying to experience the hurricane, and to be without electricity, water, food, for some time. I have experienced this during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and again during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Experiencing a Miami summer without AC is definitely not pleasant or recommendable! I remember counting the hours until the sun would set, so temperature would cool down a bit, and so then we could huddle around candles and play cards or listen to battery powered radio. You later tell yourself this is making you stronger, but at the time, you wish it to be over IMMEDIATELY.

A second option is to leave and avoid any strife. I chose this option in 2017 when Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm, was heading straight to Miami. I reached this decision after thinking of the days without AC and electricity, and especially of the devastation it caused in Puerto Rico. This was not easy because it meant leaving my dad and siblings, who had decided to stay.  So on one hand you have peace of mind because you will be OK, but you also experience guilt because those close to you are not there. So it’s not complete peace of mind, because you keep asking yourself when does your responsibility to others end and the responsibility to yourself begins? Thankfully, the storm did not hit Miami head on and we were more fortunate than our Caribbean neighbors.

A third option is to do nothing. This was basically my family’s strategy during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I was a teenager, but I don’t remember buying enough supplies or boarding the house. I do remember huddling in one internal hallway of the house we were renting at the time, and hearing the hurricane growling outside. I felt the windows and roof shaking, and feeling they could blow up at any moment. That was one of the most frightening experiences ever! In our defense, early 90’s technology, communication and hurricane knowledge were not as advanced as they are now. Although we survived unscathed, other than losing electricity, our neighbors to the south in Homestead suffered for many weeks and even months, and many lost their homes for good.

However we have reacted to these Mother Nature problems in the past is how we tend to approach life’s problems. Some people tend to face situations head on, prepare well, communicate the plan to all within their group, and stay the course. If we all understand that we have done our best in any given situation, meaning we had good intentions, created a reasonable plan, and then followed through, our results should closely match our original plan. If we tend to leave when life becomes too difficult, and leaving could be physically, mentally or emotionally, instead of confronting the root issue, we will never grow as humans and will be unable to face future problems alone. In the same manner, if we don’t do anything, and expect a situation to “magically disappear”, which may happen sometimes, but most likely, it will reappear later in a stronger way. Then it may become an unmanageable problem.

By the way, I am not suggesting that life’s problems have one single approach. Life is much more complex and we may never find out if we made the correct choice until years later. Sometimes the correct approach may be to leave, sometimes it may be to do nothing, or even a combination of approaches. However, we should reflect on how we personally behaved in the past and try to notice if there is a pattern to our behavior and how we have handled problems. We have no control on how others act, but we can definitely monitor and have intentions for our own behaviors, and with resilience and patience, we can grow as decision makers. Take a look at your personal “Dorian” and make a decision today.

 

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Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Summer

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brené Brown

 

This past Friday was the end of summer vacation for schools, and indirectly, for some business, including where I work. Technically, summer ends on September 23rd, but for the sake of this post, it ended this Friday. So in order to celebrate the end of this season, a group of coworkers got together in someone’s apartment, in a quiet little neighborhood of South Miami. My coworker had invited to the gathering one of her neighbors, an 84 year old former university mathematics professor, who lives a few doors down from her. He lives by himself, with 24/7 help from a private nurse, so she thought attending the gathering would brighten his day.

We had a great time talking with the Professor about how he ended up teaching in Miami, and he shared his life story and some anecdotes, including how he did not like any of the official textbooks the university had decided to use. From his own notes accumulated over many years of teaching, he created his own textbook, gave it to the students in pdf form, and told them to print and bind it themselves. What a novel idea! After a couple of hours, the Professor excused himself and returned to his apartment, extremely tired from the interaction, but (visibly) extremely happy. Afterwards, we returned to the usual talk about work, music, sports and favorite TV shows, which is what usually happens in these coworker encounters. However, after some time, we all commented on how talking with the Professor had made us think about our own futures.

Slowly, we started sharing personal details, which is something we had never done before! Someone mentioned how her parents moved to Miami in order to provide more attention to her during her school years, instead of sending her to boarding school, like they had done with her older siblings, and how that made her see parenting in a particular way. Then someone else talked about how she and her mother had a difficult time understanding each other because of having similar personalities, and how those years influenced the raising of her own daughter years later. I shared my own experience of my parents sending me to the USA alone when I was 13, and how that shaped my behavior later on. The level of our conversation increased from mundane topics to deeply personal ones. We were still coworkers by the end of the evening, but by openly talking about our experiences and ideas, we had become much closer.

I believe after talking to the Professor and seeing how his life turned out, not good or bad, just the fact that it did, we noticed that life is not only really short, but filled with stuff that at the time seems really critical, (and some definitely is), but it really won’t matter once we arrive at our later years. Although nobody wants to really think or talk about those years, they are coming regardless (if we are fortunate). We may as well use our precious time to fill our life-force tank with people and experiences we enjoy, and live without regrets. Let’s evaluate our schedules and see what “priorities” we can remove from there, and instead fill those slots with opportunities to connect and share with the people close to us, or even those we are not close to, but can become friends later on. The end of summer is the end of another season in our lives, and one in which we should strive to achieve deeper connections.

 

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Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Raft

“You are the only person on earth who can use your ability”.                      ~ Zig Ziglar

 

I recently attended an event at Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) where local film organizations curated and presented short films. There were several excellent ones, but one of them deeply affected me, called “The World of Tomorrow” by Don Hertzfeldt. It is an animated film with many themes I personally enjoy: life purpose and meaning, time travel, futurism, cloning, etc. Something I usually do after seeing something I find outstanding is to research its creator. I looked for information on Mr. Hertzfeldt, and found an interesting interview with him, where he explains how he comes up with the ideas for a project.

He compares the process as being similar to floating at sea and trying to build a raft. At first, there is only you and the water. But then a piece of wood arrives and you hold on to it. Then a piece of cloth, then some string, and so on. You hold on to these pieces and start building your raft, without a specific design in mind. After some time, you have several pieces of material, and you discard some that do not fit with the ever changing design of the raft. The design of the raft also changes depending on new objects that you acquire, so it is an ever changing process.

I believe our lives function in the same manner as his example. We start alone and should build our own life raft. We obtain the necessary materials in the form of life advice from those close to us, which we hold on. Then our own experiences come drifting in, we meet various people along the way, as well as experience unexpected life challenges. As we get older, we realize we are in this for a long ride, so we re-evaluate what kind of raft we want to build for ourselves: a fast one to get “there” quickly, a comfortable one to avoid strife, or a sturdy one in case a storm comes along. We also start to let go of those ideas that no longer fit with our new design.

The important part is that we are not drifting away in the ocean, waiting for storms, winds, to carry us in a particular direction. We should start building our raft NOW, even though we believe we have no materials yet. But it is really not so, as we have many years of awareness, and no experience or skill is useless, we just need to look for those pieces and start putting them together. With patience and dedication, soon we will be floating along in our uniquely designed raft, perhaps find others working on building their own rafts, and we can pass along our tips to them. Keep sailing!

Watch a trailer of World of Tomorrow.

 

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Still of Emily Prime from “World of Tomorrow” by Don Hertzfeldt, taken during PAMM exhibit.

 

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Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash