selene

What Is Your Essence?

Sitting across from me at my kitchen table is a beautiful, young Latina. Her eyes are dark and round and her hair is shiny and lush. She is struggling to say something to me. I believe I understand what she intends but she remains frustrated. Not long after she excuses herself to go to the pool house where she is currently living.

Throughout the afternoon we sat together at the table, she, a young college student, and me, an incredibly youthful life coach. We had a lot to talk about. The learning and teaching baton passed back and forth between us as the hours passed. I love when that happens.

I cannot help but put on my Life Coach hat. I love what I do. It lights me up and inspires me to make bigger choices when I am teaching others. So when I have a college student in front of me. Poor girl…

It’s not entirely based on ego that I believe I taught Selene a few things. After all, what’s the point of living all these years if I have nothing to show for it? A conversation about daring and stretching and believing in oneself was just the order of the day.

In return, Selene taught me things about the Jewish household where she worked for a time, mixed right along with her observations about life. After all, what’s the point of living any amount of years if you have nothing to show for it?

Selene cleaned out my unkempt refrigerator and I did some work at my computer. The afternoon wore on and we dabbled in philosophy and Spanish and the absurdities that constitute a proper English sentence.

I imagine it was more than 30 minutes later when Selene returned that she looked far less troubled. Almost the moment she walked in the door she enthusiastically explained what she’d been trying to say.

“It’s not the cape you wear or the things you say that make me like you. It’s your essence that draws me to you.”

This is, perhaps, one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received. Not only does it surpass the superficial, but it makes me wonder about the essence of other people, of circumstances, sentences, neighborhoods and ideas. It reminds me of the quote from the children’s book The Little Prince, “It is only the heart that can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to they eye.”

It is always a pleasant reminder that wisdom has no age and that our lives are simply teaming with all that is essential to joy.

selene

family reunion

Hobbits Are For Real And Life Is Magical: My Surprising Travels To D.C.

I walked the hallowed halls of many historical buildings and through the landscapes of iconic, American monuments.

There were enormous statues, obelisks and parks dedicated to the history of our young nation. I explored museums and culture and something came alive in me that I did not yet know existed.

I had never been to Washington D.C. so how could I know it was the entrance to another existence? Moment by moment I felt intrinsically changed.

hobbit
Isn’t she fantastic!

One such moment came at my personal discovery of the species named homo floresiensis, better nicknamed, Hobbits. These little people who walked the earth some twelve-plus thousand years ago grabbed my attention just a few days ago and they won’t let go.

It is my habit upon discovering something delightful to my sensibility to continue down the rabbit hole of the world and find more things about that.

Upon returning home I discovered our tiny, remote relations are controversial, as any good hobbit should be. They are controversial and some people think they were an anomaly, while others believe they are connected in our “folk memory” to mythological creatures called Ebu Gogo.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I’m undone. I mean truly. Last Thursday as we taxied down the runway I had no idea at all that these were things. Hobbits and folk memory and Ebu Gogo (Which, by the way, means “grandmother who eats anything.” I mean, can you get enough of this stuff???).

My trip to the Capitol surprised me in its delights. Really. I didn’t know I would love it so much. So as we boarded our flight out of Dulles Airport a part of me mourned that it was over. All that discovery. All the sights and sounds and energy I’d never known before.

I’m not much for suffering and so while I simultaneously allowed myself a bit of sadness over the end of a delightful adventure, I wondered at what made me feel so alive, and, more importantly, how I might keep that feeling with me upon my return to home and family and all that is familiar to me.

It is then that I realized what made me come alive wasn’t only all that is wonderful about that particular destination, but it was the learning and discovery. It was seeing things in a new way and learning things about which I knew nothing before.

Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’m really not, but wherever we are, whether traveling or sitting at home on the couch that is intimately familiar to us, there is always something to discover. There are rabbit holes to explore every single moment of every single day. It’s just that kind of limitless world at our fingertips. Boredom, my friends, is the final frontier.

Granted, it’s not every day we discover hobbits actually roamed the earth and not every day we learn about folk memory or grandmothers who eat everything. But I like to think that there are discoveries just as important available to us every day if only we’re willing to look for them.

Isn’t life grand?

The Value Of Your Soul As Decided By Your Laundry

It took me more than 25 years to clean my laundry room. Give or take. It began with my first child and, fittingly, now that my last is the only one living with us, I seem to be getting a handle on it.

At first the trouble was that I was a new mom. That morphed into mom with babies and small children and then busy schedules and finally to a laundry room that’s really big and too much clothing.

The most recent difficulty was that there were stacks and stacks of clothes on the counter and much of it I couldn’t figure out whose it was nor if they still wanted it. This was perhaps the worst laundry room torture of all.

Finally I had the time to clean the room but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the clothes. I’m serious. It was torture.

Weeks ago I began the last, and hopefully final, odyssey into the laundry room. All much children were at least in close proximity to the house so I could ask them to go through the clothes to decide what was theirs and what was wanted.

This was a pretty big failure as not one of them cared about me and my need to have a laundry room that didn’t qualify for an episode of Hoarders (a truly disturbing reality show that should be banned, or at least cleaned out).

laundry-pileI abandoned my effort out of frustration and, let’s be honest, disinterest, and went to the beach for a month instead. Going to the beach is more fun than cleaning out my laundry room.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks and the half filled bags for Goodwill taunted me and goaded me into finally taking the plunge and getting rid of the detritus that haunts my laundry room. Today I took 6 bags to be donated and my laundry room, while not magazine ready, is clean and organized with nary a stray sock to be found.

It’s taken me 25+ years to get my laundry room clean. Twenty-five long years. But I suppose the only thing I regret in those 25 years is all the anxiety it caused me. You see, if I am judged only by the content of my character, no one gives a damn about the cleanliness of my laundry room.

We worry too much about things that don’t matter. We wonder about “worthiness” and our value in this world. The fact that we even exist is nothing short of miraculous. We are all on our paths and our value is inherent.

It feels good to have a project completed. Hopefully for the last time. But it feels good to know that it never really mattered, that it’s all just a part of the journey.

Yes. Yes I did wear feathers to school. Didn't you?

Your Life Sucks? Let The Season Change You

There is a certain angle to the sun as we head into the late days of August that never fails to remind me of walking to school. Freshly tanned by the summer sun and uncomfortable in more appropriate attire, we doggedly trudged to class with virgin notebooks, pens brimming with ink.

I loved that time of year. I hated that time of year.

It’s been many years since I trudged anywhere. If I go somewhere I’m unsure of at this point in my life, I march, in a doggedly determined way not yet mastered by my younger self.

Long gone are my school days, and yet the slant of the sun carries me back. Rather than feel wistful and all achy and stuff, what I feel now is inspired to movement. If we are to live all the days of our lives, we simply must move. .

We need growth, movement, to do things that are hard and new and scary and demanding (And what’s more difficult than vacating the public pool for the public school?). I love fall with her cool mornings and sparkling afternoons because she demands change as she begins closing up shop for the coming winter.

For the most part, no one requires attendance or homework from me these days. I choose my schedule and attend no formal classroom. Even so, I am called to create a more demanding schedule, by the sun slanting just so. I am reminded of standing in front of Tina Williams house, waiting to walk to school with my friend. Waiting to start a fresh, new season.

I remember the days when my brain was awakening from its summer slumber and I am excited by the idea of cool days and dedicated teachers inciting me to learn and grow.

Each of the seasons seems to demand something different from us, and Autumn, to my way of thinking, bids us go inside and make something of ourselves, all the while changing her gown to something a little more formal.

I’m in the mood to go school clothes shopping. Who’s with me?

must love dogs

Best Dog/Day Ever ~ Make Yours

Back when things were bad and the IRS was breathing down our throats and reading our mail and intruding even in our dreams, we had a dog. The title, “Best Dog Ever” is thrown around like confetti, I know this, but really, Scout was a gem.

Before things went south for our little family, when I would find evidence that he had been napping on my bed, on my expensive bedding, I would throw a fit and cast him dirty looks, whispering, “Stupid, damn dog,” under my breath.

It was only while my heart was breaking over the things that men and governments will do that the godlike characteristics of canines became evident to me. Scout would come to me as I sat in solitude and bafflement and without intruding simply love me.

There’s not a good way to describe it other than “love”. He would sit and be and take awaylike scout the pain that he could with his presence. It was more than almost anyone else could do. Plus he was silent and that was helpful for me. One woman’s talk is therapy and another’s is silence.

After this revelation, each time I saw the indentation of a large dog on my duvet, I would look at the brindle Boxer and ask him gently if he’d had a good nap. A good dog is worth a million duvets any day of the week.

I now have a very different life and Scout has long since passed on to what I hope are the rolling fields of dog heaven. A very different dog romps through my heart today. Preacher, a mini Australian Shepherd, is now five months old and the easiest puppy I’ve ever trained (Scout was a two-year-old rescue dog, scarred, like people).

As I sat in my kitchen yesterday training the little guy, I wondered if he would be my “Best Dog Ever” and naturally my thoughts went to Scout sitting silently, lovingly by my side as I indulged in a very rare cry. It was more like misty eyes if I’m being honest, but that’s big for me and Scout got that.

It is my hope that Preacher will never need to guide me through another horrible life event. But I’m well past believing each of us is given one and only one. Life is nothing if not an adventure and everyone knows adventures sometimes suck. It’s in the dictionary. You can look it up.

FullSizeRender (1)0505Whatever quests Preacher and I embark upon, I’m sure he will be up for the task. He will reign as my “Best Dog Ever” for this time, in this way.

It’s human nature to look for the patterns and to hope for a repeat of the things and experiences we love, while simultaneously avoiding that which was painful. We can neither recreate the past nor control the future. Deal with it.

What we can do, what will truly serve us, is to take each new day and make it the best it can be. Uniquely so. To wish for the past is to waste the present and hobble the future.

I have had many dogs in my life and each, in their way, was my “Best Dog Ever”. The key to happiness is not to repeat what has been good, but to find out what is good, no, great about today.

Today is my best day ever. Yours too, if you let it be so.

volunteer or weed

In Defense of Weed(s)

Many years ago when Mr Dreamboat and I were just starting off on the wild ride that would be our life together, we bought our very first home. It was a tiny and lovely nestled on a sleepy street in Northeast Portland, Oregon.

There we brought home our very first Baby Boy Young. Perhaps because it is so many years in my past, the only memories I have of our first little cottage are illuminated with soothing yellow lights and somehow every memory seems tucked into a perfect summer evening. Sigh…

Though we lived in our home for only a year, it was there we became a family and there we learned many other lessons as well.

One of those lessons was about weeds.

The previous owner was a young man who had bought the house and fixed it up. A nice job

You wanted to talk about pot, didn't you?
You wanted to talk about pot, didn’t you?

he did of it too. The floors were stripped of old carpet and redone in a beautiful, old patina that felt cozy and grounded. The remaining carpets were new and fresh. The house was tiny but charming in every way. Well, if I’m being honest, the kitchen was achingly small and outdated, but beyond that it was entirely perfect.

Including the yard.

Both the front and back yards were nothing fancy but well kept and tidy. He was a meticulous guy and wanted to walk us through the whole property, small though it was, before we took complete ownership.

He talked about the floors, the fireplace and the basement. When we came to the plot he walked us about the little patch of grass and pointed out the decorative beds.

“These plants I brought back from some hikes I took in the gorge. They’ve done really well. These over here are volunteers. I don’t know what they are, but they’re pretty.”

For certain it was the first time I’d ever heard a plant referred to as a “volunteer”. And without a doubt it had never occurred to me that one might choose what one thought was beautiful and worthy of a garden based on nothing but preference.

Where were the experts? What did the books have to say about it? How can we possibly value something unless we’ve been told it’s valuable?

And so the light turned on.

Weeds are only weeds when we think of them as such. Beauty is to be found in every living thing, in every living circumstance. Sometimes, if we find we like something that until now we’ve thought of as a weed, it’s not a weed at all, it’s a volunteer.

Too often I am quick to label things.

This is “good”, and that is “bad” and these things have “value” while those don’t. It is in the labeling that I am committing the injustice. When I throw something out without critical thinking I may very well be getting rid of my very favorite flower in the garden of my life.

The volunteers that have popped up in my life have sometimes been quite ugly on the surface. Challenges I couldn’t have planned for and outcomes never imagined have thrown me for a loop and sent me running for the weed killer. Until I remember…

You are the expert of your own life. You decide what should thrive and what should die. Yet sometimes if you give things a chance to grow, occasionally that which was never valued before turns out to have the most magical powers.

Got some weeds in your garden? Let’s sort them out together.

Contact me at michelleatplay@gmail.com

sunrise yoga

Thank You/F*ck You

This morning I got up, took a shower and meditated to the sounds of the ocean. Lest I give the false impression of paradise, know that mating seagulls made such a ruckus that the meditation turned into an exercise in keeping my focus and not feeling rage at the randy, squawking, feral, avian scavengers romping above my head. But I digress…

After such a hypnotic practice I finished dressing, put on a touch of make up and donned my jaunty black cape, the practical one I wear when I’m doing chores and can’t be bothered with the flowing, fancy ones.

It is the cape about which we talk today. I continue to wear it and continue to learn from the practice.

Not long after I put on my first cape, I sat in the cool Austin evening talking with a friend of mine. Daniel is a musician and has traveled the world singing the songs he’s written and entertaining what is probably hundreds of thousands of people. Beyond that, the man is brilliant.

yeah thats how i doI explained to him that the cape is making me think and grow. It’s a challenge. Often. I admit openly that I am sometimes self-conscious in it. Sometimes I want to apologize and explain that I am in all actuallity a sane person. Then I remember if I have to tell you I’m sane the likelihood that this is true diminishes dramatically.

The evening sauntered on in that comfortable way we relish good friends and conversation. And Daniel imparted a bit of the wisdom he’s acquired over millions of miles and thousands of performances.

“A performer has to come to the stage with equal amounts ‘thank you’ and ‘f*ck you.’ We aren’t anything without the audience, but beyond that you have to know you’re bringing inherent value. That’s what makes a good performance.”

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and though it’s often top of mind, I watch myself continue to become obsequious, pleasing, submissive even.

No one finds this attractive. Especially me.

With this notation in the performer’s handbook, I am now capable of stopping myself in the act of subjection. I pull my shoulders back and I remember that gratitude is first on the list, always gratitude, but of equal importance is knowing I’m the one running the show. When I take charge, when I know my value, the “show” gets infinitely better for everyone, including the audience and including myself.

Perhaps the Performer’s Strategy isn’t for everyone. Maybe you find the words a little harsh. I get that and respect that. I’m just grateful you came to read the post.

And I’m wearing my cape. And I am embracing that delicious fifty/fifty split. You do you and I’ma do me…

Thank you, thank you very much. Michelle has left the building…

michelleatplaycaped

Looking For You

I am a life coach. I love what I do. I work with people one on one and in small groups, taking them from a place of uncertainty to a place were life is a daring adventure and challenges are opportunities.

My new group coaching session starts in a few weeks and I want you in it. Seriously. I want YOU.

If this piques your interest and you’d like to know more, message or text me at 503-957-0821.

Not sure? Let’s do a free 30 minute Discovery Session.

best life

Your Best Life Ever

A month ago today I drove the five hours necessary to pick up my new best friend. Mr Dreamboat had done more than his due diligence and hand picked my tiny, puppy companion and the day and hour had arrived for me to take on my new responsibility.

Preacher and I met and instantly fell in love. I with him, because he is cute and he is fluffy. He with me, likely because I give him snacks. Whatever it takes, I’m not proud.

michelleatplaycapedAs the weeks passed I’ve become confident the “Honeymoon Phase” is past and we are in the day to day routine of figuring out how to live together. He has convinced not only me (the easy sell) but Mr Dreamboat (the cynical one) that his rightful place to sleep is in our room. I have persuaded him that… well, he’s a puppy. He does the majority of the convincing in our relationship.

That said, it occurred to me just a few days ago I should be doing some sort of official training with this guy lest he become obnoxious and I rue the day we met.

Turning to the Oracle Of Truth & Enlightenment (The Interwebs), I opted for advice from Cesar, The Dog Whisperer, or whatever his name is. Cesar informs me that my puppy is a pack animal and I should always maintain my position of Alpha. Check.

I’m supposed to go through doors before the little devil does and he should walk beside me or behind me when we’re on a leash about town. Okay. I think we’ve been doing this already. What else ya got, Cesar?

It turns out this puppy thing isn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Thus far no major mistakes have been made on my part and all the basics were already being covered, apparently on an unconscious level.

Cesar assures me consistency, kindness and gentle praise are the key factors in raising a puppy you won’t regret as an adult. In his words:

“A pack leader is, by definition, strong, stable, and consistent.”

Yes! Yesyesyes!

The rules of dog training, it turns out are no different than the rules of life. If we’re interested in leading the pack, we have to be willing to step out in front of the crowd. Consistency is key and gentle praise an important part of every day communication.

I’m convinced I am raising one of the best dogs of my life. He is smart, sweet and small enough to sit on my lap on a cold winter evening and keep me warm.

Likewise, I am also delighted to be creating a life I love. I do it on a consistent basis. I try to use gentle praise as a key part of my communication, and I try to keep good snacks on hand. Never underestimate the importance of good snacks .

In the end, whether your life is a dog or not, there’s no reason not to make it your bitch;)

bill murray awesome

Why You Matter

One time Mr Dreamboat took his hand off my back and I thought I was going to die. Literally, not figuratively.

I was in that super-cool, super human state where my body was expelling a completely separate human and was practically turning inside out to do it. Because of the intense concentration it required of me to keep from howling at the moon, the floor and anyone within a 27 mile radius, I hadn’t stopped to mention, “Hey, your hand on my back is tethering me and without it I will most certainly float into the Abyss of Agony and never, ever return. Thanks for that.”

When he removed my connection to our reality I focused with all my might and said just that in the most precise words possible, “Put. Your. Hand. Back.” Not my most poetic work, but it did the trick.

Look! I created this perfectly lovely human being!
Look! I created this perfectly lovely human being!

I come back to this story often when I am doing something I don’t necessarily want to do. Not convinced it makes any difference to anyone if I show up to a party, support a friend’s child’s fundraiser, make a phone call or offer a smile on a day that the energy expense is considerable, with this incident firmly planted in my labor-traumatized mind, almost without exception, I do the deed anyway.

Maybe it wasn’t the incident that continues to remind me to matter, but our conversation after the fact that impacted me so completely.

“Why did you move your hand when I needed it so much?” I asked Mr D.

“I didn’t think it was making a difference,” he explained.

Too many times I’ve said harsh things thinking it didn’t matter, decided my presence wasn’t of any real import and thoughtlessly pursued the voices that drive my own needs. Though that conversation took place almost 17 years ago (Can it really be almost 17 years ago?), I continue to make those same mistakes, though I certainly try not to.

We are so fragile. Almost none of us are immune to the need to be understood, loved and supported. Try as we might to “first, do no harm” like the Doctors of Love we most certainly are, no one gets by without offending someone at some time.

Whether we realize it or not, our kindnesses, reaching out and gentle touches tether our loved ones as well as strangers to a  world in desperate need of more kindness. We need to remember that. Remember that our omissions can sometimes do harm and that goes against the Oath of The Universe. I’m sure there is one, we just don’t remember taking it.

We will harm each other. It’s what we do. We’re human. But when we remember that we matter, our presence matters, the words we say and the things we do, they matter, then we’ll do a better job of doing good, healing hearts and tethering one another to a more beautiful world.