Extravagant

Been thinking a lot lately about things that stand out. Personalities. Hair styles. Cars. Life styles. Behaviors. Words.

I grew up thinking that something that was extravagant was a negative thing. Superfluous. Not necessary. Excessive. As a result, on some level, whether intended or not, I believe I sought to fit in, not stand out. To be average and not too much or too little. To fly below the radar as much as possible.

So it was rather annoying that the bulk of my childhood I received comments often about my smile and my cheerful expressions on my face. Even earning the nickname smiley at one point. It bothered me that people commented on my smile. I did not want to be noticed. To stand out.

A number of years ago, well into adulthood I read a book with the word exuberance in the title. The author told a bit of biography of Theodore Roosevelt and his love for and passion for forests and national parks and how he fought valiantly for their preservation and protection during his presidency. And I found myself nearly captivated by his drive and determination and his unwillingness to be derailed despite others views or scoffing at his hopes and expectations. He was not only passionate but he was exuberant. Which the dictionary defines as “the quality of having energy, excitement or cheerfulness”. While reading I found myself inspired and even impassioned, by his zest for life’s purpose that felt contagious.

Perhaps excess isn’t always bad.

Today I was listening to a song entitled extravagant, in which it described a love that didn’t make sense, that was unthinkable, above and beyond. I couldn’t help but pause.

If something that is extravagant is unnecessary and excessive. If exuberance is above and beyond expected, superfluous. Then wouldn’t something like extravagant generosity or exuberant expressions of compassion be encouraged, even celebrated?

Perhaps the goal should never be to blend in or fly below the radar. Not to say ones goal should be to be center stage or on display. But perhaps a more candid and honest expression of ones self should be encouraged. Less filtered. Perhaps when it comes to love and compassion, extravagance could be modeled, and portrayed as what it could be in full expression, beautiful.

I don’t think I’m advocating that extravagance be expected or demanded. But what if it were modeled on occasion. Without being magnified or downplayed. But simply seen. And felt. Witnessed. Experienced.

We have new neighbors in our neighborhood. And when they moved in they hung these brightly colored aerial swings in their large tree in the front yard. The first time I saw them I thought it was unique and strange and perhaps a bit dramatic to have multiple very colorful swings in their front yard tree. However I soon discovered that most evenings when I went walking I saw their daughters hanging and swinging in those swings. Night after night. Laughter abounding. Creative expression visible.

Extravagant? Maybe. Exuberant? Definitely. Negative or a bad thing? Not a chance.

Perhaps what felt unfortunate for much of my childhood turned out to be fortune after all. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t really adapt my facial expressions without really modifying my outlook on life in a negative way. So as quietly as possible, I owned my facial expressions. And I smiled often. And I smiled even more when someone commented on it. Cause that was me being me. For it just was what it was. And it seemed the sooner I accepted that. The sooner I was able to just be me. Sometimes too much. Sometimes not enough. But always true to myself.

Now that I have a daughter who openly prances around the neighborhood dressed up as a princess or a warrior or hula dancer or a magician, I find myself encouraging her self expression and her unique flare. I don’t ever want to stifle that. If exuberance comes natural to her. I pray it always will. Without encumbrance or shame.

I’m sure there are some who still describe me as over the top or unnecessary. Perhaps even excessive at times. But I feel okay with that now. At least I’m channeling my energy toward generosity and compassion and not resentment or judgement. A decision I would make and will make, again and again.

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Owning my name

The name that was given to each of us is made up of such a mixed bag of creativity, and family meanings or ties…. Most of us respond in one of a few ways, we love our name, are mostly ambivalent about it or really wish we had a different one!

I have had many mixed emotions about my name growing up, specifically my last name, and not so ironically, these mixed emotions intensified when my parents divorced during my junior year of high school… it was messy, and I will spare you the details, but the result was a lot of internal conflict as well as external drama. I can actually remember asking my mom to change her last name after the divorce so that she didn’t have to be associated with that name any longer, but she was adamant that she would keep the name that her children shared and that she would wear it proudly, which I just simply could not understand at the time.

Throughout my life, I have vacillated between complete distain for my last name, wishing to shed it as quickly as possible, to choosing to keep that name honoring that it is not only a part of where I came from, but an active part of who I am. In talking with other people, I have come to understand that my situation is not so unique, in that many others choose to change their name or separate themselves from their past. And still many others wear their name very proudly and there is a sense of ownership and connection that it represents for them. A very dear friend of mine was the 4th in his family to even share the same first name, let alone the last name that bonded the men in their family together.

I have always thought of myself as someone who was all about individualism and uniqueness. Therefore when it came time to name my daughter I was intentional about not giving her a family name or even a shared middle name. I was adamant that she was her own unique self and that she didn’t need to feel confined or labeled by another previously used name… and in many ways I am grateful that I see life this way and that I promote individuality and unique expression of self, for both my daughter and for myself. However as I have grown and experienced more of life, I feel that I have been able to step more toward the middle on this particular issue, and recognize the incredible value of belonging to something such as a family, with a history and a past, colorful or pleasant as it may have been.

I have come to believe that we are all a part of a larger whole, individuals that are born out of some form of union regardless of how great or how small…. and in a larger context we are part of a bigger family, and then of a community and of a culture and of a place and of a time. Each of those pieces of who we are make up for small and particular details about how we are in this world, how we cope, how we interact, how we engage, what we look like, what our genetic makeup consists of, what our heritage shared. We are not so individual that we exist in it of ourselves. We all came from someone, from somewhere, from some form of connection that once existed, and regardless of how that connection may have lasted or ended, we still are a part of where we came from. And I believe that there is power in owning that.

So here I am, many years later, running a business in which I chose to use my name “Bliss”. And furthermore am known in the professional world by that name right alongside my married name. And while there is color that goes along with that name, I have come to see that there is color that goes along with every name and part of my onus as an adult, is accepting that I am a part of that name and its whole… the good, the bad and everything in-between. Every family has its colors and dramas but what I have come to accept and whole heartedly believe is that those very same families have beauty and strength and zest and vitality, and it can be incredibly expanding to connect with the whole of that. We are not just our negative parts nor are we just fabulously positive parts (although we might like to think that…) We are a blend of both and owning that and working with that is part of what it means to actively participate in life.

Today, I am choosing to own my name. I am owning it for everything that it entails, the German, the Sweden, the Irish and little bits of a few other things…. I am grateful for what it gave me, and I am grateful for what it did not give me or what it took away, for it helped make me who I am today.

Butterflies & Tigers

My daughter has a set of garden themed shower stickers. They are thick foam pieces in the shapes of flowers, stems, grass & butterflies. She has had them for months now and plays with them during every bath and shower. This morning, while she was sitting down in the shower playing with these stickers, I looked down and noticed that the little purple butterfly had a separate little piece for its head, with adorable little antenna and eyes… I had never made the connection before that these two pieces belonged together, and as it dawned on me, I found myself realizing just how hurried and busy I typically am as we zip through our daily activities and routine. Then I wondered, what else might I be missing out on as I fly around at the speed of light, always multi-tasking, always thinking about my next step and one after that, never fully present in the moment that I’m in.

Amazing how little ones can teach you so much about life and value and shed so much perspective.

My daughter loves to read books and carries books to me throughout the day and crawls up on my lap for story time. She has a book about tigers that has a little button you can push that makes a “roaring” sound, and she loves to push this button and then try to roar with the tigers on the page. Today as I sat with her on the floor and read about the 5 little tigers playing hide and seek, her pushing the button every 5 seconds, I found myself strangely non-irritated, and instead very lost in the curiosity and fun loving nature of her.

It was then that I recognized that pausing for one moment of being present and still, seemed to naturally lead to another focused and purpose filled moment later on, and then a more contemplative energy as I moved throughout my day. Still points and stop overs and even a complete break from the busy, suddenly seem so much more appealing and acceptable and even anticipated in a way that makes me want to create these moments in my day, so that I can more fully experience life, and the individual moments that make it what it is.

Have you paused today?

Have you experienced your full presence in a moment in a way that made that moment pop?

I hope that you can capture a moment in all its splendor today.