Stepping outside of yourself for clarity

As you can probably tell, I haven’t written here for a while. I took a solo 3 week road trip covering 6 thousand miles and it was fun and life changing. I ended up camping for two weeks in the mountains without electricity, water or even cell phone service. I was in a campground only 5 miles from a small town so I wasn’t totally isolated but enough to enjoy it.

It took me 4 days of driving to arrive at my destination. As the miles ticked by, the ancillary habits and disruptions began to disappear. I was leaving it all on the side of the road and it was ALOT!! I feel bad for the people mowing the right of ways!

That was just the beginning, much like peeling a peach. Once in the mountains, the rest of the distractions melted away and I was left at the core of who I really was. Who was that anyway? I’ve been running for so long, it was time to take a much-needed break.

Without the disruption of modern conveniences, the mirror kept getting polished and I’d see things that’d make me stop and go really? I do that? Or at times, make me cry as I realized some of the crazy things I’d done.

I realized I was just living on habit and not really conscious of what I really wanted. Here in the fresh mountain air and nothing to do all day long it was pretty easy to look inward.

Course seeing what needs to be changed and then doing it are two different things. I returned home and immediately made changes. For example, I changed my work schedule from 10 hour days back to 8 hour days. I had been going in at 6:45am and leaving at 5:30pm; breakfast was something microwaved and ate at my desk. My entire life revolved around work.

Now I get up, cook (not microwave) a good breakfast and eat at home. I take time to pray, plan my day, and set intentions. I arrive at work relaxed and ready to go. I continued to focus on my health, both physical and mental and began working out again. Not just working out, but doing things I love for exercise.

What a difference in my countenance and attitude with just those two simple changes! I am continually making adjustments to live consciously instead of just via habit. Some days though, I feel the pull to slide back into those old habits. It’s easy to change when you’re isolated in the wilderness, but back at home in the thick of things, it is a lot more effort.

As soon as I returned, a friend took a 3 month vacation into the mountains. Two weeks in, I received a phone call and the hard, annoying person was replaced by a calmness and peace. Ahhh….there’s my friend. They were beginning to experience the cleansing that occurs when you step outside of yourself.

For me going to the mountains was just the ticket. You may prefer the beach or somewhere else. Whatever you enjoy, I’d highly recommend taking some quality time to step outside of yourself without distraction. It’s a great way to get back in touch with who you really are and focus on what you really want to accomplish.

The Butterfly

I was on my morning run, when a few feet ahead a big brown leaf tumbled to the ground. Leaves are nothing unusual, but what I saw next was. On the ground was a large tan butterfly, with beautiful blue eye markings on the lower wings and small almost mirror like eye markings on the upper. I have seen and photographed butterflies, but none were this big or this beautiful.

I bent down to pick it up and expected it to fly away. Instead it stumbled and flitted, but couldn’t take flight. I gently picked it up, thoroughly amazed at its beauty and fragility. I placed in my hand or should I say on it; it was large enough to cover my hand.

It made a feeble attempts to fly, but would just fall to the ground. I wasn’t sure if it was injured or in it’s final moments. Regardless, I was going to give it a safe place and I gently placed one hand over the other as if I was carrying a fragile glass and walked at a slow pace.

The slower pace was actually quite welcome. I really didn’t feel like running anyway because I feel like I’m always running somewhere; to work, to the grocery store, to do the laundry, etc.

Eventually I removed one hand and it just sat in my palm. Of course, I had nothing to capture a picture with and wanted to turn around and go home. I was a mile away so I just stayed the course. No sense in turning this peaceful moment into a rush adventure just to capture a photo.

As I rounded a curve, the butterfly crawled up my palm and sat on the edge of my hand. It was like it wanted to see where we were going. It sat there taking in the view as the path meandered around the golf course and near the trees.

And then it happened; it went tipped forward off my palm, tumbled down to toward the ground, and……unexpectedly took flight. Further and further it flew, climbing higher as it went, and eventually settling into a tall tree. I stood there in amazement and yet a little sad. Like all animal releases, you’re glad to see it return to the wild, but sad to see it go.

I carried on with my walk and realized how nice it was to provide a safe place from the world for the butterfly to just recoup and gather its bearings. I could use one of those little breaks!

Shortly after returning home, a friend called;”want to take a ride?”. I was cooking breakfast, had a full day of tasks planned, but I said “lets go!”. We took the scenic drive near the ocean, had a long relaxing lunch, and spent the day doing nothing particular with no schedule. It was exactly what we both needed to let go, regroup, and renergize.

Sometimes we can get a little beat up and making our way can be difficult. We flit about, here and there, not really making any progress. Taking a short break from it all to regroup (with a good friend really helps) can be just what we need to get off the ground and take flight again.

Tackle Life like a Sticky Frog

Sticky frogs are common in Florida, especially where I live. My first encounter with a sticky frog was quite memorable. With curiosity of a cat, I had to get closer and see what it was.

The sticky frog did not hop away as expected, but jumped right on my chest!! Being a real man, I just watched it and calmly said “cool”. Yeah, right…good thing no one had a video camera because I screamed so loud my friend came outside.
Through her hysterical laughter, I was told “you scream like a girl”. The laughter only got louder when she found it was because of a frog. I’m glad I’m so entertaining……

Tonight I was out for a walk around our circle when I saw a sticky frog in the road. With all animals, big or small, I gently move them out of the road before they become part of it. As I’m leaning over with a stick to push it away, the frog intently looked right at me and fearlessly jumped onto my arm.

Sorry, no screaming from me this time:) I took it to some bushes, but it refused to dismount. So I resumed my walk around the circle with the sticky frog hanging out on my arm. It would change positions occasionally for a better view, but basically sat there the whole time, enjoying the free ride.

The frog’s response to me made re-think of how I approach unknown situations. When confronted with a situation that is unknown and seemingly large, I will usually choose avoid verses confront. Most animals will do the same; come within a few feet, they are gone quickly.

However the sticky frog jumps right on for a closer look. Seeming to ask “What is this big think that keeps following me? “

What would happen if we did the same for those challenges that we tend to avoid? If we faced them would they really turn out so big? Would they metaphorically scream and run away? Maybe they would turn out to be good things instead of something we feared?

Obviously if it’s something life threatening, be smart and get away from it.

As in the case of tonight’s encounter, the frog faced the challenge and received a free ride around the neighborhood. With the frog on my arm, I walked slower for a change; saw the stars, clouds, and other things I normally miss because I’m in a hurry. It worked out well for both of us.

So the next time a seemingly large or unknown situation comes your way, be like the sticky frog and face it. You’re likely to learn some new insights and find some good things.

And what happened to my passenger that night? After riding on my arm for the mile walk around, I put him in some bushes near where I found him and he happily dismounted. I can only imagine the story he told when asked “where have you been?”

Attention helps us Thrive

This is an excerpt from my new book Climb that Fence, take that Leap which is a compilation of animal stories and the life insights I observed. I wrote it to encourage people to make positive changes and bring more awareness to the animals. Available on Amazon, I hope you enjoy the stories and I’d love to hear yours, so feel free to drop me a line.

Things Come Alive with Attention:
Ever since I took Keiko (my cat) to the park that day and let her out every evening, she was wired. Every morning she was under foot, walking around the kitchen and living room. I’d be upstairs getting dressed and here would come this spindly, almost wobbly cat blasting up the stairs.

At times, it was really annoying to hear the constant meowing, so I’d pick her up. “What is your problem?” I’d ask. I thought she might be in pain. As soon as I picked her up, all I heard was the familiar sound of contentment: purring.

What had changed with her? I had not given her any different medicine, and she had become skinnier by the day. But something was obviously different.

Let’s see, she went from just hanging around the house and receiving whatever “leftover” attention I had to being the first to receive attention. She received my attention first and foremost, and we spent quality time together.

Even if I had other things I “should have” been doing, I took time to make sure she went outside and had fun. The more time I spent with her, the more alive she became.

Just like a plant that requires water regularly, we all need regular, meaningful attention—validation that we are loved, that someone cares, that we make a difference. Without that knowing, we become lethargic and lost, and we lose hope.

When we think that no one cares, it often shows. It is easy to put on a tough exterior and give the appearance that we don’t care, but deep down it can be pretty lonely on our own.

The basic need to be loved is universal among people and animals. Pets fill that need and do it unconditionally. No matter the day, our relationship, or our status, our pets love us anyway. That’s why we enjoy them so much and why they’re often used in therapy. There’s something soothing about petting a happy fur ball.

Stop and think right now: Where can you show some attention that would make a difference? Where have you taken someone/a pet for granted? Write a thank you note, make a phone call, bring home dinner, turn off the TV, etc. Take a few minutes out of your day and give some love.

Just a few minutes is all it takes. You’ll be surprised how alive someone will feel. Guess what, so will you!!!