Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Law of Attraction #6 - Knowing Yourself

I've been shooting some videos this week.  Four of them so far.  Here are the links:

Video #1
Video #2
Video #3
Video #4

The videos are due to two different inspirations.  First, Gary Jackman, a friend who went through the same coaching training program as I did, has been doing a 99 videos in 99 days challenge and I decided to give it a try to support him.  At the same time, I recently watched Netflix's Grace and Frankie, starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.  In a few of the episodes, Frankie (Tomlin) clips her iPhone down and videos herself talking about whatever is going on at the moment.  By the end of the first season, Grace (Fonda) has taken a turn herself and had what I would call, a very nice epiphany about who she is and what she wants out of life.

As I explain in video #3, I have been active in self development since roughly 2000.  For my own benefit.  Long story short, I didn't like my life.  I decided to change it.  As a result I am now in this very interesting place.  First, of course I am interested in sharing the things I have learned with other people.  Second, it has delivered me to a place where I am learning who I am.

You know that lifetime you've spent making note of everything from brussels sprouts to mean people that you don't like?  I'm not looking for my "no's" anymore.  From the moment we first get hurt in life, we seem to want to create a list of things we'd rather avoid.

Did you know that, emotionally, excitement and fear stand right next to each other and it can be indiscernible which one you are actually experiencing?  At the bottom of the pit of the life I wanted to change, I lost driving into San Francisco and many amusement park rides because I was avoiding that uncertain, unsettling feeling by just saying "no."  I've already said no.  A lot.  I'm interested in all of my "yes's."  I'm actually creating a list of things I consider to be quintessential Angela.

Of course, I do have one no in the bunch.  It turns out, after a lifetime of not having lobster because I wanted to spare whoever was paying for my dinner that price, I'm not a big fan.  When I finally had it because I was paying myself, I would have preferred the lamb I normally would have ordered.

At the same time, it gave me a small epiphany.  I live for the small epiphanies. It is from the small epiphanies that I have become the changed version of Angela I enjoy today.

Essentially there is an imaginary list of myriad things we can enjoy if we are rich and powerful.  We assume if we had those things, we would be happy.  You know why money doesn't buy happiness?  Because so many of us don't really know who we are or what we really want.  Instead we have a grievance list of all the things that taste bad and the things or people we've encountered who suck.

One of the things I've learned along the way is if you simply focus on what makes you happy, you feel happier.  If you focus on the good, feeling good is like shooting fish in a barrel.  It is a done deal.

In addition to our list, we tend to have a bias not to change. At some point along the way, we hurt ourselves and we blamed change.  "Why does everything have to change?"  We moan.  "Why can't everything stay the same?"  We seem to feel that way even when everything isn't so great just because we are afraid of things becoming even worse.  We live our lives boxed in by our fears.

Which is not to say I never feel afraid anymore.  Of course I do.  I am an adult, now orphaned, unmarried only child who never had any children of her own.  I am the quintessential "the cheese stands alone."  If I let my fears run loose, my mind could come up with a lot of sad horror stories out of that.  But, if I did that, I would be sad and afraid not happy like I am now.  After all, I've been an only child my entire life.  It is only as an adult when I began to consider what I should be doing or who should be in my life that I felt any fear about being alone.  Every one of those should(s) practically leapt off that list of things I don't want.  Every one of those should(s) was considered to protect me.  Between my parents over protecting me and me over protecting me, it's a wonder I've ever had a chance to live at all.

I want to live.  I want to throw my arms around life and bury my face in her fur.  You can't do that if the thought of it makes you timid and afraid you might not like it.  From what I've learned, better to shrug off life's icky parts and devote your attention to savoring life's wonderful pleasures instead.  Leave those dishes dirty in the sink and spend an extra ten minutes watching that sunset.  Sure the dishes will still be there.  Sure they might begin to stink.  And sure that time spent watching a beautiful sunset will simply be wasted if all you do while you finally wash those dishes is complain and say you SHOULD have washed them earlier.  So don't do that.  Instead, remind yourself with each and every dish just how beautiful that moment was.  Don't regret your joyful moments simply because of a nuisance of inconvenience.

And stop looking to be offended by everything all the time.  Looking to be happy = happy.  Looking to be offended = offended.

You've heard the saying, of course, "It is always in the last place you look?"  Have you ever thought, "Of course it is because you STOP looking!"  Life is exactly the same way.  What you look for, you will see.  Every time.  Isn't it time you start building yourself a better world?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Law of Attraction #5 - Letting Go

Today is my day off and I am spending it in the company of Peabody and Sherman for the first time in awhile.  To me, it is like they are constantly fussing with each other.  Play fighting.  Or fight playing.  As I sit here at the computer, I can hear them rolling about until eventually someone growls or hisses.  And I intervene.  Just a moment ago I segregated them.  Had a heart to heart with Peabody and heard myself saying:

"Is this how the two of you behave while I'm at work?"

Hey wait a minute.

I opened the door to the bedroom.  Sure enough Sherman was waiting on the other side looking quizzical as to why he had been shut out in the first place.  Even if I could tell him, in a way he could understand, "I was separating you to protect you."  If he didn't give me the "what is wrong with girls' look, he would give me the "poor silly humans" look.  (At least in my imagination.)  Because the truth is, he and Peabody are friends.  They probably play like that EVERY day.  It is probably the reason I find them both passed out asleep on my bed when I come home.  

It is interesting having a three-legged cat.  It is changing my perceptions. 

Fairly early on, my house fell into a flea problem.  It is an enormous story.  Full of Law of Attraction moments and significance, but to get to where we need to be, I will need to fast forward.  I have acquired medicine and put it on his neck.  My awkwardness and newness at holding him in my arms has positioned it a little too far back on his shoulder blades and he is fussing with it.  He is in constant motion.  Kicking, scratching and biting at fleas.  Worse than before the medicine went on.  Amazingly, I can see fleas dropping off him.  I have never seen that before with the other cats.  He arches his head around and successfully licks the poisonous spot!  Immediately the wetness at the surface of his mouth becomes foamy.


I wet a towel and blot at his mouth.  Then I clean off the poison spot with the wet towel and wait and watch.  He seems better.  Still itchy, but in less distress.  I think of the fleas dropping off him.  I remember I have seen that before.  Years ago when I had my cat Bocce who was the only cat I bathed regularly.  He was also the only cat who, when I bathed him, had brown water run off him.  Brown water and occasionally fleas.  I can't find my flea comb to selectively drown them, but if I give Sherman a bath, that will drown them.  

I fill the bathtub with about an inch or two of lukewarm water and gently set Sherman down into it.  He is calm and allows me, not only to stand him in there, but to gently massage water into his dry fur.    He is shockingly calm in the water.  He is much less so during the drying.  Eventually I find myself cornering him in my bathroom with a towel.  It is an action I would take with any of my cats without thinking, but brusquely rubbing his fur to dry it, I realize I have assumed he knows I am trying to help him and not hurt him.  I have seen things so completely from my own point of view, I have been in danger of forgetting that I am working with a kitty who has had some stuff happen to him.  Trust needs to be built.  I dry him off as thoroughly and diplomatically as I can.  When it is safe to "flea him" again, I give him a slightly lighter dose than his body weight and leave for the day.  I stop micromanaging him and he is thriving.  I can witness the trust building.  

Our inner viewpoint has no peripheral vision.  Once in awhile it can include the misty vantage point of truths we know because we "used to be" that way, but otherwise we are locked into our viewpoint and our viewpoint only.  That is precisely part of why letting go in life is so essential.  Our viewpoint is a narrow column and there are all sorts of wonderful things that lay just to the right or left of it.  When we resist and try to force everything into our narrow round column of vision, it is like those wonderful possibilities get chopped off shoving a rectangle into that circle.  We narrow our field of possible outcomes.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Law of Attraction #4 - Being Seen and Appreciated for Who I Am

This year I have received two of the best compliments I have ever received in my life.  Actually the first of the two and the one I want to talk about today, began in 2014 and came to its final fruition this July.

This is the reason for doing all of the work.  The things you want most in life are visiting you daily, but until you flip your switch and see the world through that porthole, you will never see, know or appreciate that.  Let me explain.

Last year a friend of mine asked me to photograph her wedding.  I am not a wedding photographer.  Honestly, if you asked me today what I am, I would be hard pressed to say.  It once was modesty or a lack of self esteem, but today it feels like you are just dealing with a person who has never quite thought "in the box."  Or really, as an old friend used to call me, I supposed you are just dealing with a "spoiled brat."  I studied and am trained in photography.  When it came to choose a money making field within photography, I could never make peace with enslaving something I love to someone else's vision.  In other words, I wanted to shoot what I wanted to shoot not what you wanted me to shoot.  I know that was limited in scope, vision and belief, but at the time I could not see a way around it.  Gently, I reminded my friend what my photography was like.  I said aloud, "I am not a Wedding Photographer."

I don't remember how she convinced me.

I do know it became apparent that, while I was avoiding putting myself at risk .... (Which is essentially what I was doing, swimming like a very large fish in my pond built for one.)  ..... apparently at least one person was watching because it became clear she knew a bit about my artistic sensibilities and really did want me to be her wedding photographer.  So I agreed.

Of course it is one thing to say you will do a thing and quite another to actually do it.  When I agreed, the wedding was nearly a year away.  I did take a Saturday or Sunday and shoot something called the "Save the Date" photo.  That photo is at this link:

The year passed.  I lived my life and gave very little thought to the wedding.  I went on not one, but two unique "bucket list" style vacations.  Mardi Gras in New Orleans and an Alaskan Cruise.  The latter fell just two weeks before.  It was arguably the best trip I had ever been on.  The "at sea" days contained Abraham-Hicks workshops; the port days contained fantastic excursions.  In between there were amazing views and staff always looking out for you, squirting Purell into your palm and asking if you would like anything to drink.

Right before I left on the cruise, the bride sent me an email with a list detailing the formal shots she would like me to take.  My eyes swept over it and my brain said, "I'll think about this when I get home."  In that moment, I began building a platform of "I don't know what I'm doing" inside me and when I finally took a good look at it, a week before the wedding, my self confidence fell like it had been hurled out of a 747.  For a couple who had said they weren't really into the formal shots, there were a lot of them.  Or at least it looked like there was to my ever widening, frightened eyes.  I spent nearly the entire week leading up to the wedding seeing it as this terrible, uncomfortable thing I had somehow tricked myself into believing I could do.

At the same time, I have always been a fighter, so I began strategizing and planning how to make it happen.  The fear strangling my mind in its frozen grasp began thawing and my creativity began blossoming.  I enlisted two friends to help and be my "photographer's assistants."  Since they are both photographers themselves, I gave them official duties.  One was in charge of setting up and maintaining two GoPro cameras I wanted running during the wedding and the reception.  While it wouldn't give them what I considered the typical wedding video and I hadn't volunteered to shoot any video in the first place, I thought it would give the couple unique and contemporary footage of the event.  I had also seen a wedding video online where people attached a GoPro camera to a whiskey bottle and then passed it around the reception, asking guests to give the couple a unique toast.  I thought perhaps I could get something fun and interesting if I simply passed the word among the guests that I had two GoPro's running and they were invited to stand in front of one at any time during the reception and voice their best wishes for the bride and groom.

The last item on the bride's list had been the couple's desire to have a photo of each of their guests, so I put my other assistant in charge of creating "faux selfies.".  Once again I hoped it would be fun and contemporary and I could combine them with the more traditional portraits that I would shoot.

I was beginning to feel more optimistic and excited about shooting the wedding, but it was when I began picturing how I would present the photos to the couple that the real shift or "pivot" as Abraham-Hicks would call it, happened.  Back when I had been a bride a million years ago and "Save the Date" photos were called an "Engagement Photo," wedding photographers used to sell packages that included a book that organized the photos together.  Some years ago I had taken Christmas vacation photos, printed them in a Shutterfly book, and given copies to the friends who had also been on the trip.  I realized that could be a good solution here as well.  That decision opened up my creativity.  The next thing I knew my mind was playing with the potential rather than fearing the worst.  I had shifted from negativity to positivity and optimism, from scarcity to abundance.  Even better, I remembered who I was and why I was at the party.  I realized that, while the bride's list had simply been meant to be helpful .... (in fact, the bride had done some work as a wedding photographer and provided me with the list she had always wished her clients had given her) .....  I had twisted it into an edict of duties I had to fulfill to be "A Wedding Photographer." I had forgotten the essential detail.

They hadn't hired "A Wedding Photographer."  Knowing who I was, knowing my work; they had hired me.  Simultaneously I realized something else.  I was so busy trying to figure out how to be what they wanted that I was in very real danger of not giving them what they had requested.


Like I said, it was one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life.  I have always been a people pleaser.  Essentially the people in my life would tell me either in words or in action what they wanted from me and I would try to fill those shoes.  It had become second nature.  Yet here, at a wedding, which I consider one of the most rigid parties you can ever throw, the powers that be (aka the bride and groom) weren't asking me to jump through standardized hoops.  They were asking me to do what I do naturally.  They were asking me to be me.

I'm not sure life gets any better than that.

I would like to publicly thank Josh and Susan Needleman for giving me the great compliment of asking me to be their wedding photographer.  May your life together be long and blissful.

The book delivers in about a week, but here is a preview of my two favorite pages.