Saturday, November 19, 2011

the adventurer

november 2011
lisa ann edwards

just think......

i could have stayed in iowa.
i wouldn't be forced to sell my home when i really didn't want to
i wouldn't be looking for work, clients and more business
i wouldn't have had to travel so much, spending time tired, jet-lagged and hungry
i wouldn't have had to feel the pressure and stress of rehearsing my message for a few hundred people
i wouldn't have to work so very hard to keep up with too many friends located all over the world
i wouldn't have had to listen to people facing huge problems, coaching them through difficult change
i wouldn't have had to sit at the computer for hours on end to turn in a manuscript on time
i wouldn't have to be ever distracted by the view of the lake, the birds, the flowers and the sky
and, i wouldn't be sitting here now with too many options and far too many decisions to make.

instead......
i'd be watching the game on TV
and my home would be paid for.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Underdog

Lindy Hop Winners, September 2000

"It is always the darkest before something breaks wide open." - Mary Jo Edwards

I have always loved the underdog: the person least likely to succeed, the one who has failed over and over and over again, and the one most people have given up on. The reason I love the underdog so much is that the underdog can thrill and inspire us once they’ve locked into their own sense of passion and personal gusto, to spring up from the dirt and the dust and demonstrate to everyone what is possible when you believe.

Some of my favorite movies are about the underdog: Seabiscuit, The Pursuit of Happyness and The Slumdog Millionaire. I love these stories because they illustrate that sometimes, the failures and disappointments are what catalyze an inner desire to create something different. In this way, set-backs are to be loved and cherished, because those are the moments when we are learning and evolving, and preparing to create something new. In fact, the more the dramatic the failure, the greater the opportunity to burst forward in a grand and exciting way.

In my own life, I have come to see that the worst times are, in their own quiet way, the best times. These are the times when I’m learning about what I need to change in myself, so that I can change the outward expression of my life. But, these times, never feel like the best moments, at the time that they are happening.

I love this picture of me with my former dance partner, Jim, because it reminds me that even when everything seems bleak, a breakthrough is nearby.

Jim and I met at a dance class. Jim was going through a very sad divorce and had moved from his nice comfortable home, to rent a bedroom in a house with three other men, who were also each going through a divorce. As for me, I had recently left a business I had co-founded, my family’s business had closed after years of failure and I had just been fired from a job that I taken a few months prior, out of desperation. But none of that hurt as much as the sad break-up I was going through at the time. Things seemed bleak for Jim, and for me.

I decided to take a dance class to lift my spirits and that was Jim’s motivation, too. A few weeks in to the class, the instructor announced that there would be a dance contest in three months, and even though we were all beginners, he encouraged us to enter the contest. Hearing about the contest felt so exciting and I knew it was something I had to do! But, where would I find a partner?... I didn’t think any of the men who were just learning to dance would have the interest or motivation.

But, after class, walking down the steps to go outside, Jim ran after me and said, “HEY! Do you want to enter the dance contest!?” He had barely finished his sentence before I shouted “YES!!!!” I still remember standing on those steps with Jim, talking about how we only wanted to enter if each other was committed to winning.

In spite of everything going on in my life at that time, those next few months were some of the happiest. Jim and I practiced nearly every day. We knew that most of the dancers in the contest would have years of experience--- we’d only have a few months. We practiced in Jim’s garage and when the summer heat got to be too much, we practiced in a racquet ball court at the Y. All the kids in the gym would come to watch us practice, which made it even more fun for us.

We knew we wanted to win, but instead of focusing on winning, we focused on having fun. If we had thought logically about our chance of winning, we never would have entered the contest. We took the leap: the odds for us losing were far greater, but, we didn’t think about that. We just thought about how much fun we were having preparing for the contest and how funny it was that we were even considering it. We didn’t think about what other people would think or how we might appear foolish and na├»ve, we just kept showing up for practice.

When the day of the dance contest arrived, I remember feeling so nervous. And, when we got to the contest, we saw people practicing and Jim and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. But, we warmed-up by practicing, and soon, the ease and fun that we had rehearsed every day for the last few months began to show through in our dancing.

Well, as the picture shows, we won the contest. And, while all of the experienced dancers were surprised that the two beginners, who never should have won, did in fact win-- for Jim and me, it was exactly what we had prepared for.

© 2011 Lisa Ann Edwards

Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking Flight



"the mother bird never pushes her baby out of the nest

instead, her baby must desire to fly."

- lisa ann edwards

At no point in my life did I ever dream that in my mid-30's, I would drive 2,000 miles away from my friends, family and job, in my Grandpa's old Ford Escort with just 10 boxes of my stuff, to live with a family I had only met on the Internet, through a man met online six weeks earlier.

I'm a practical girl. Pretty much a good and dependable person, but I had a yearning in my heart that wouldn't let me go. And so, there I went, in my Grandpa's car, to a place where life seemed improbable. I knew no one, I had no job and I'd never lived any place for very long, except for the Midwest.

Why I moved is a little bit of a mystery to me, even today. I wasn't unhappy. I had so many friends. I was loved. My family was there. I worked with great people. I had a beautiful home. There wasn't anything bad; ...it's just that my heart desired more. I felt I had so much to give, so much to do, and so much to experience. I wanted to spread my wings and I wanted to FLY... I had no idea what flying looked like or felt like, but I knew that something was missing, and I knew that if I stayed in Iowa much longer, I might shrivel up and die.

It's easy to make a change when the situation is painful, but it's a completely different experience to change when things are not so bad.

I talked a lot about moving and changing my life, several years before I actually did anything. Not a single person supported me.

"Why would you want to move? We have such a great quality of life here in Iowa!"

"You just need to appreciate what you have-- everyone wants a truly great life, but you have to appreciate what you have."

"As soon as you move away, you will wish you never had and you will be back. I guarantee it."

All good words and all well-meaning intention. Many times, I would believe those words; still.. that pull in my heart wouldn't let loose.

The hardest part of all was that, initially, my mom didn't support my desire to move. I'm an only child and my parents divorced when I was young so my mom and I are very close and winning her approval has always been important to me. What seemed the hardest is that my mom was getting older and moving away seemed like an unloving and selfish thing for me to do.

But, one night, while out with a group of girlfriends-- there were 12 of us-- at a beautiful setting in a gorgeous estate, sitting on blankets out-streched to support all of us, snacking on treats we had brought to share with each other, drinking wine and watching Shakepeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, I voiced again my desire to move, during intermission. Normally, my expression to move would be met by my friends with smiles and nods of understanding. This time was different. My friend Deb (she's German!) said... "Lisa... either move or shut up!"

Yes! She said it just like that.

And shut up, I did. Tail between my legs, I didn't say a word the rest of the night. But, Deb had done the best thing for me. The next morning, I woke up early and got on the Internet. I started researching places to live. I really wasn't sure where I wanted to live, I just knew someplace West felt right to me.

San Francisco seemed like the place I wanted to live. But, a few months later, after visiting over 9/11, with every business meeting being cancelled and struggling just to get back home, it seemed a sign it was not the place for me. I didn't have a lot of money to explore many different options, so I decided to take a chance on a suggestion, from someone I really didn't know very well, to investigate Portland, Oregon. After visiting for 4-days, I knew immediately that in spite of the high-unemployment, Portland was a place for me to begin my flight. I also knew it was a place I wouldn't settle. It's a bit of an uncomfortable feeling to take a step in a direction that you know is not permanent, but is a right step for the moment. And so, six weeks after a short visit there, I moved in with a family I met through a man I met on the Internet, to find a job and start my new life.

I wish I could say that after I moved, everything was perfect, but that would be a lie.

I hated my new job. I hated the constant grey and rain in Portland. I hated the fact that I didn't have any friends. I missed my family. I missed my beautiful home. I couldn't find the nice Midwestern food in the grocery stores and I didn't understand the West coast free-and-easy-go-with-the-flow culture. And, worst of all, I thought I had made a huge mistake. My first job didn't work out very well and I ended up leaving it to join an entrepreneurial company and was laid off 4-weeks after joining. I was unemployed for 15-months after that and nearly ran out of savings to support myself. Many nights I'd call my mom, one of my few close friends at the time, to tell her about my day, and more than a few times, I'd cry and say I wanted to come home. My mom, who I knew was fighting her own desire to have me come back home would say, "You can't. You have to stay there and you have to keep going. You can do it."

My mom had come to understand that though things weren't yet working out for me, I had to continue on the journey I had begun and I needed my chance to soar.

Eventually, things did work out for me; though it took some time.

After three years in Portland and barely a penny to my name, I ended up moving to Seattle on yet another intuitive tug at my heart. And, finally, good luck found me in Seattle-- not all at once, but little by little. I landed a job that suited me and where I found a beautiful, loving manager who gave me just the right amount of wind I needed to fly. I found a soothing, peaceful place to live with a view of the lake and surrounded by eight bird feeders and lots of song birds. I was able to begin my writing career through many lucky breaks and am now able to fly in planes, all around the world and visit many places and make new friends. I have been able to build stronger, deeper and more meaningful friendships with people across the globe, in spite of the distances. And, I've come to understand that the pull at my heart was about becoming my own woman.

For a few years after moving to Seattle, I would remember those years in Portland with anger and frustration; but, today, I see the experience as a time where I learned so much and gained resilience, strength, patience, faith, love and persistence to get up and try again and again and again, to test my wings, fall on the pavement and give it another shot.. so that when just the right moment, just the right opportunity appeared, I was ready... and I could fly and fly and fly and feel confident and strong and happy and know that just a few years earlier, my heart heart knew something more than anyone could ever know. And, I was so glad I had listened to that tiny little tug that gave me the freedom to take flight.

© 2011 Lisa Ann Edwards