Quote of the Day: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou — ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’

I watched the Netflix documentary recently, featuring stories from Michelle Obama’s tour to promote her book Becoming.  Both times I’ve read the book, I cried.  Of course, I cried watching the documentary, as well.  I believe her intention for writing the book was meant to be inspirational…to motivate people (especially young people) to be the owners and writers of their stories…that we should each captain our own ship when navigating life’s journey…and that we should help others when their voyages have gone awry, or whose ships may be taking on water, and sinking.  So why cry when reading a book, or watching a documentary, that features so much good?

Over and over both the book and in the documentary, Mrs. Obama emphasizes to young people to stop thinking of themselves as statistics, they are not invisible.  We don’t build friendships over our statistics, we build them through recounting our past, sharing knowledge, finding commonalities, uttering anecdotes, sharing laugher, and confessing our pain.  Communities are formed in a similar way.  In truth, Becoming makes me nostalgic for a time when I believed America was on its way to becoming better.  The turmoil of the 9/11 attacks, then entering into a war none of us wanted/believed in, and the start of the recession, had brought the spirt of the country to a low point.  Bush’s 2nd term was ending, and we were all eager for the country to find its way back to the light.  Even through the ugliness of the 2008 election, I distinctly remember how Obama continued to inspire the kind of hope that we needed, that made us proud to say we were Americans again.

His presidency sent a clear message to (what I like to call) the good ol’ boy regime, that the tides were finally turning.  During the film, Michelle made mention of what a proud moment it was for the black community, but with that comes the immense pressure of being the “first black anything”.  Admittedly, I have no idea what this must feel like, but I do appreciate the weight these words carry.  While the black community felt pride in this historical moment, I know so many of us in the white community were equally overjoyed. America’s past is stained with racism and oppression.  While oppression happens all across the world, which seems to be a uniquely human affliction, it isn’t something that many of us want to talk about.  It’s certainly not something that evokes a sense of patriotic nobility, but it is something we should acknowledge and make reparations for, if we ever hope to become a more equitable nation.

Throughout his campaign and years in the White House, this aspiration for true equality – regardless of the color of their race, creed, or color – seemed to finally be burgeoning forward, after years of laying groundwork by all of those who have fought for freedom.  Yet, this legacy of racism runs deep like the roots of a Banyan tree, with “white privilege” deeply engrained into our society, beginning with the constitution, on down to segregated schools and neighborhoods, to most notably the criminal ‘justice’ system, and we have learned those roots are hard to cut out. Immediately after Obama took office, the pervasive ugliness of this unworthy endowment, reared its nasty head on TV, in newspapers, and every day communities, exposing our collective naivety of hope, dashing the idea that real change had finally arrived.   Many in the white community were just waking up to suffering experienced by our black and brown brothers and sisters over centuries, signaling it was time we dig deeper into the past, to learn what we are rarely taught in school.

Although many of us in white society are not racist, there is no doubt we have wholly benefited from the systemic biases built into our culture.  Just because slavery was abolished, does not mean that we haven’t allowed the architecture of slavery to create the framework of current day society.  Maybe “white guilt” has accelerated this denial, or political partisanship prevented us from seeing those who have been left behind, relegated to statistics.  Speaking for myself, I can’t remember a time growing up when I ever felt fully aware of how I benefited from systemic racism.  It wasn’t until I was old enough to vote, that I began to see the disparity.  For many of us, I think it took Obama’s presidency to pull the veil from our eyes to truly see even the simplest of inequities.  Why else would we allow a white man to a tan suit in the White House, and think nothing of it, but contrive a false scandal when a black does the same?

If you didn’t see this brazen hypocrisy before/during his presidency, you most certainly have to acknowledge it exists now.  Physics states that when the pendulum swings hard in one direction, it comes back in the opposite way with equal force, but eventually the amplitude of their swing declines until it eventually rests somewhere in the middle.  The current administration represents that recoil effect of having our first black president,  and he will by no means be the last. Whether the white people in “power” want to believe it not, evolution does happen, and throughout history we have seen the narrative change. This is the common theme amongst the fall of the British Empire, the Ottomans, the Han Dynasty, or the Roman Empire: oppressing people leads to depressed economies, imbalances in trade, the overthrow of governments, and greater turmoil.  Economies work well when you have a healthy, educated labor force, people are extended their freedoms, and there are high levels of research and development.

That is not the state of our country today.  Pandemic aside, income inequality comes at a high price, not just for the poor, but the wealthy alike….just ask the people who lived through the Great Depression.  Yet, nearly 100 years later, we have forgotten those lessons as well…too much infighting has severely weakened us as a nation.  We are now incapable of learning from one another, in order to strengthen our economy, and fortify our nation against all enemies (foreign and domestic)…there are rats living in the White House, my friends.   The separatists of the south wanted to keep people enslaved, long after it was proven to put them at a disadvantage for long-term economic prosperity.  They lost the Civil War because of their inability to modernize, to allow people to walk free.  More than 150 years later, our system is still reinventing “new” ways to keep people marginalized, but history rings true time and time again…oppression shreds an empire.

When a black woman dies by the hands of the police, for nothing more than pretextual traffic stop, while a white woman can freely run stop lights and only get a minor scolding, that is oppression.  When a black man is strangled by the authorities for selling cigarettes on a street corner, while a white man is calmly arrested after murdering 9 black parishioners in cold blood, that is oppression.  When a white person can leave their home to go for a run, or sit in a park, or have a BBQ without fear of having the police called because you were “laughing too loudly”, or having your body chained and drug behind a pick up truck, or hunted down and shot dead, that is oppression.  While these stories are not the ones we want to tell, they are the ones that must be told, until the narrative changes.

If we do not learn from our past, if we do not get to know the “other”, we allow the empires to keep us fearful, relegating us to nothing  more than a statistic…history will repeat itself and we will fail.  We see it happening already from the dysfunctional response to the pandemic, to the dismantling of an organized government, our economy has experienced a greater negative impact than those societies with highly functioning governments.  Those who believe in investing in education and science, in investing in their people, and development, have not experienced as traumatic economic fallout as Americans. Education has been called the great equalizer, so if we are to change the narrative, we must not be afraid to share our stories.  We must not be afraid to listen to the stories of people who may not look like us, or think like us, or pray like us.  For if we put those fears aside, we will learn that we all have more in common than what we were raised to think, or the current administration would have us believe.

Michelle ends her documentary by reminding us of this…no matter what Tangerine Toddler (my description, not hers) says, no matter what some in the “news” media reports about, there are a lot of good people out there.  She has met them along the way – from her time campaigning for her husband, to the her time in the East Wing, and all along her recent book tour, there are so many people who want to do right by one another.  It is time that for our stories to be heard.



HRO: Good for Business

As published in the Mar/Apr 2015 issue of Arbus Magazine:

As of August 2014, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization in the United States working to achieve equality for LGBT Americans, acknowledges 200+ cities and counties across the US who prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/ expression in both the public and private sector. The city of Jacksonville and Duval County are currently not on that list.

An HRO, or Human Rights Ordinance, is a policy passed on the local level (city or county) to prohibit discrimination based on certain characteristics. These policies often ban discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment. Jacksonville’s current policy bans discrimination based on race, religion, sex, disability, ethnicity, national origin and marital status. In 2012, our City Council failed to pass two separate measures to extend employment protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Afterwards, Jacksonville made national headlines as being one of the few cities, at that time, to defeat such a measure.

Jacksonville experienced immediate backlash when the software developer Pantheon decided not to relocate their headquarters here, and many Wells Fargo executives refused to move to the city after the corporation purchased Wachovia Bank at about the same time. Now, almost three years later, the city of Jacksonville and Duval County made national headlines again that are shameful and disappointing: Just as Florida became the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage, the Duval, Clay and Baker County Clerks stopped performing all marriage ceremonies at their courthouses, simply in an effort to avoid marrying same-sex couples.

In response to the clerks’ decision, many Duval County couples opted to wed in a mass ceremony and celebration in Hemming Park on January 10, 2015. In what some might consider an ironic twist, however, these same couples can still be legally fired for displaying wedding photos at their place of employment, denied housing, or asked leave a restaurant because of their sexual orientation.
According to a recent Gallup poll, one of the challenges with passing local protections is that a majority of Americans mistakenly believe it is already illegal to fire or refuse to hire someone, deny housing, and/or deny public accommodations to LGBT people.

Hoping to better educate their members as to why an expanded ordinance will help boost economic growth for the city, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce West Council invited local activist Chevara Orrin, from We Are Straight Allies (WASA), to speak at their monthly luncheon in January in order to educate their members on the progress being made across the country to successfully add protections for the LGBT community at a local and national level. The founder of the WASA organization, Orrin has spent the past two years working to educate and raise awareness about the very real challenges and discrimination faced by the LGBT community.

“Jacksonville is the only large city in the state of Florida without an HRO and it is vital for our local economy that we pass a Human Rights Ordinance,” she maintains. In fact, the HRC gave Jacksonville a 20-rating (out of 100) on their 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI). The MEI compares the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there. When compared to other cities in Florida, Jacksonville is second to last, only slightly better than Port St. Lucie, as being a just place for the LGBT community to live and work.

Pat Geraghty

There are plenty of community leaders like Pat Geraghty, chairman and CEO of Florida Blue, who understand why an expanded HRO is good for business. Geraghty says, “I believe that engaged employees are a key ingredient for a business to be successful. Internal diversity within the workforce helps businesses better understand who they serve, and allows the focus to be on the work and not on definitions that limit inclusion.”

Geraghty joined the WASA campaign in 2013 and has co-sponsored legislation that would protect LGBT citizens statewide. Florida Blue, Florida’s largest health insurance provider, is considered one of the best places to work for an LGBT employee. They have consistently received 100 on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) several years in a row. The CEI is the national benchmarking tool on fair corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees. In 2015, 89% of all Fortune 500 Companies offer protection from discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation, while 66% of those also offer protections based on a person’s gender identity/expression.

One of the West Council members voiced their “concern about cross-dressers in the workplace.” These types of comments demonstrate the overall lack of sensitivity the transgender community faces daily at best, coupled with experiencing the highest rates of targeted violence, or suicide, at worst and speaks to why the transgender community is often overlooked. Data from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 78% of transgender Americans say they’ve experienced workplace discrimination at some point in their career.  Because so few people personally know a transgender person, it can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender.

However, few Americans, including the LGBT community, are aware that transgender employees are protected against being fired because of his or her status as a transgender person in all fifty states, as set forth in the landmark decision in the 2012 Macy v. Holder case, brought by the Transgender Law Center. “Transgender people are a part of our workplaces and neighborhoods – and they need to be able to use the restroom safely and be left alone, just like everyone else,” says Orrin.

HRO Steve Halverson_Final f

Steve Halverson, CEO of Haskell Company and fellow WASA campaign participant, explains that having an expanded HRO is important for Jacksonville to become more competitive in the marketplace. “To succeed, businesses have to compete for talent – all talent – and provide a safe and welcoming work environment,” he says. “We are disadvantaged when we create an impression that our community is hostile to the LGBT community. People want to live and work in communities that are perceived as fair and tolerant. Jacksonville needs to be that place.”

While nothing about nondiscrimination laws changes state and local criminal statutes that would outlaw predatory activity or crimes targeted towards the LGBT community, they demonstrate to companies considering a move Jacksonville that our city is taking steps necessary to become a more inclusive place for all of its citizens.

Photos: Dan Bagan, EQ3 Media

Do No Harm, But Take No S**t

The more I practice each of the Four Agreements, the more I seem to expect that others will do the same.  The most common pitfall of the ego is to experience brief moments of delusions of grandeur – it gets you into real trouble with reality.  Sometimes, I think that by conducting myself in a certain manner, I will inspire people to take notice and say to themselves, “Hey, wow look what she is doing!  I think I will make that change too!”  And then I imagine people will start being nicer to one another, and we will stop being angry, and magically we will have world peace.  The End. (Delusions of grandeur is also an indicator of mental illness….)

But that isn’t really how the real world works, is it?  People don’t always act, think, say, do things in ways that we expect them to….more often, they never do.  I, myself, do not generally act or say things that others (nor that I) expect me to because, well, some days my filter is just not as good as others.  Ruiz is clear in his instructions pertaining to the Second Agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally…..and that means ANYTHING.  Great…so now that I am not taking the s**t people say, or do, personally, can (or should) I also expect others to follow suit?  Could and Should are two very different concepts.

Should I expect them to? Possibly.

Can I expect them to?  Not likely.

What, then, are we to do if/when someone takes something we have said or done personally?  If you harbor the capacity for empathy, then it is likely you will feel a deep sense of regret if you inadvertently hurt another’s feelings.  Telling someone that they shouldn’t take things personally can give the impressions we are being callous and insensitive towards the other person’s experience.  Practicing the Second Agreement assumes that we also agree to take accountability for our own feelings and reactions to any given situation.  I often struggle to find the balance between caring about other people’s feelings without taking care of other people’s feelings.

Sadly, someone who has no capacity for empathy would not even need to debate the balance.  For most sociopaths, there is never a concern over whether or not they hurt someone’s feelings because they genuinely do not care, and have no ability to care, about another’s feelings.  In fact, if your feelings differ from their feelings, rather than worrying about taking it personally, they simply remove you from their life without the slightest twinge of regret.  Oddly enough, there is something we empaths can learn from this practice.  When relationships are out of balance, and one person continually takes from the other, without giving anything in return, the giver needs to learn to walk away from the taker without feeling guilty.

Too often, givers are too worried about other people’s feelings because they sense discord in the relationship that creates a certain level of anxiety in their personal state of being.  They take it personally when someone is upset and thinks that it truly is because of something the giver said or did.  Someone who continually gives needs to recognize when the taker is not taking responsibility for how they feel in a situation, rather expecting the giver to be the one to resolve their emotional turmoil.  Takers often exploit a giver’s capacity for empathy and manipulate them into believing that their needs are secondary to those of the taker’s.

Recently, a friend of mine and I had a falling out.  It wasn’t the first time and I decided it was time to walk away from the friendship.  This was not an easy decision, not that they ever are, but it was necessary to protect my own sweetness of mind.  Unfortunately, this person continually sees themselves as a victim of life’s circumstances.  They often perceive everything people say or do around them as a personal attack against them, even if the circumstances really had nothing to do with them to begin with.  When we take everything this personally, it is generally an indication of low self-esteem and extreme lack of confidence.  As was true in this person’s case.  They did not hold themselves with very kind regard, which truly breaks my heart.  No one wants to see another human being suffer, especially at their own hand.

I got caught up with trying to get them to see that they have value, and then found myself providing them with constant validation and constantly needing to validate my intention to maintain a friendship with this person.  Rather than spending time being able to exchange pleasantries and discuss what was happening in each of our lives, I felt like I was having to defend myself for not living up to this person’s unrelenting expectations.  The relationship was clearly out of balance and I found myself harboring resentment towards the other person because each interaction with them left me feeling exhausted.  However, I didn’t feel like I could walk away because I was appreciative of the fact that this person had provided some support to me when I was suffering from depression a few years ago and I certainly didn’t want them to feel like I took advantage of their kindness.  But, I had to acknowledge I was not trained to deal with their extreme feelings of insecurity.

The more I observed this cycle, the more I realized that it was not going to change, because the person wasn’t yet ready to change.  I couldn’t take this personally, they genuinely see the world from a place of fear and lack.  My desire to walk away was also nothing personal towards them, but rather based on a need to be protective of my own resources, as a caregiver, and think I could do anything to “fix” this person.  I was also tired of being placed in a position of constantly having to defend myself.  The Second Agreement helped me let go of the anxiety and guilt I felt about having to walk away from the friendship.  By not taking it personally that things just didn’t work between us, I was able to walk away without any feelings of anger, or vengeance, but rather with a sense of peace.  Despite the person’s manipulation tactics that I was harming them by doing so, I ended the friendship, knowing that if they wanted to take it personally, that was their choice, but I had to maintain my own peace of mind.

We never really know if we are doing the right thing or not when we walk away from a relationship.  It’s really hard not to feel like the asshole when we have to protect our own best interests (aka a healthy state of mind).  Yet, when a relationship is healthy, and reciprocal, neither person gets placed in a defensive role.  Both parties involved take accountability for their own feelings and both are able to acknowledge, and quickly rectify, when they have mistakenly said something that was hurtful to the other.  No blames the other for their own feelings, no one is a doormat for the other’s inability to control their reactions.  All adult relationships should be a reciprocal, even exchange of understanding, support, and love.

While not all adult relationships function in this manner, I am free to choose which ones I will give my time and energy to and it isn’t personal if I choose not to spend it with one person versus another.  Please know I am not trying to be an asshole, nor is it something you need to take personally, but rather understand that our energies just don’t vibe together.  It happens.  When you can accept this, it is much easier to move on and find relationships that are more harmonious.  Our time on this earth is short, we must invest wisely.

We Must Do No Harm, But Take No Shit Either.

Another lesson in karma

“The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure that you know what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure.” – Baruch Spinoza

To be honest, I have struggled quite a bit lately with the city I now reside in.  It isn’t so much the actual city I struggle with, rather the culture that has been accepted by many who live here.  Many of the core values go against every fiber of my being.  Values like racism, sexism, hate, bigotry, and hypocrisy are deeply embedded into the fiber of the culture and I find myself dumbfounded by the ignorance and hate that pervades this community.  If you hadn’t guessed by now, this city lies in the Deep South.  I’ll pause and wait while you gain control of your laughter over the irony….

If you don’t know me, I am a cross-blend of a dirty hippie, with heavily leaning Socialist ideals.  Yet, I firmly believe no one in the current government is responsible or reliable enough to be trusted to wisely spend our tax dollars, so we should stop giving them the authority to do so.  Juxtapose this with the fact that I like to shower, wear make-up, and flaunt really hot shoes when I go out on Saturday night.  In other words, I have no business living in Jacksonville, FL.  Admittedly, I was reluctant to move here from the get-go.  But, I was sort of out of options after being laid off from my job last year so, after the prompting of my mother and a very dear friend, I made the choice to flee my hometown of Denver, CO in order to recoup my losses and figure out what the next phase of my life would bring.

Let me back up a bit farther, for a moment.  My first visit to Jacksonville was about 10 years ago, shortly after my mother had moved here.  I distinctly remember the impression that I had stepped out of a time machine, when I stepped off the plane, and into the charm that the Old South is known for.  I loved the architecture of the homes that had been preserved from the late 1800s and I adored the big old trees, like Treaty Oak.  The metropolitan area is the largest in the country and covers a land mass of 885 square miles, and was recently voted one of the Top 25 cities for art.  The downtown area blankets both sides of the St. John’s River and the buildings are beautiful.

It is quite enchanting when the bridges are lit up at night, but there is no real vibrancy to the city.  Every major metropolitan area throughout the world has an epicenter where commerce is alive during the day and the culture of today’s youth thrives at night.  Downtown Jacksonville is half alive during the day and falls dead at night.  In this city, you can actually find city council members who are actively working to BLOCK new business, as well as evict any and all current businesses from the area….I don’t believe I have ever been to or lived in another city that believed this was a logical plan for development, or even a good idea for survival.

There are two state universities here, plus one private, and one of the best jazz schools in the nation.  Yet, with over 100,000 students in total, most do not remain here once they graduate, but go on to get jobs in cities elsewhere.  Combine that with massive cuts in public school funding, year-over-year, to demonstrate the lack of value placed on the future for the youth in this city.  Both the arts and sports programs have been cut back, or cut out entirely.  With a 4-hour school day, it is impossible to understand how the children of Duval County will receive a well-balanced education to prepare them to be our leaders of tomorrow.

Along with the youth of Jacksonville, other fundamental needs to build an urban epicenter have been neglected as well.  Things like proper roads, built on a grid system, where addresses logically follow the block numbers assigned to each street cannot be found in Jacksonville.  For example, the house number on my street address is 1838.  In a properly planned urban environment, one would normally reason, by that house number, that I live in between 18th and 19th streets.  I don’t.  I live between 8th and 9th.  (Since the city planners are unable to count, maybe that is an indication the cutbacks in education here have been a bit too extreme??)

Economic growth for the city was further restricted by the actions of the city council who banned, that’s right banned, equal rights for all people based on their sexual orientation.  While I still don’t understand why we need to pass laws to give all people the same basic human rights to begin with (I believe we should just automatically have them, since we are all human), the city of Jacksonville chose to deny anyone who isn’t a heterosexual the right to fair and equal employment, education, or housing.  Because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has yet to be amended to include sexual orientation or gender identity groups as those in need of protection from discrimination, many cities across the US have taken it upon themselves to enact their own ordinances to protect their constituents.

For example, Washington DC amended their human rights ordinances in 1977.  Miami adopted their ordinance in 1997.  Dallas wrote this protection into their city ordinances in 2002.  These are just a few cities, and there are hundreds more, who believe in equal opportunity for employment, education and housing for all of their citizens no matter what you look like, where you came from, or whom you choose to love.  I realize that many of these cities are still working to amend their ordinances to include the right to marry, but they are still decades ahead of Jacksonville when it comes to protecting basic human rights.  It is not just city council that is to blame, but all residents who voted for, and continue to support, their city council members share in the responsibility of hindering progress.  They have fear and ignorance fundamental parts of the city’s core beliefs.

The #1 statement I hear, or read, from the residents of Jacksonville is “______ could be so great, if only the city would allow _______ to happen.”  Could be is repeated far too often, by too many people in this town.  Every vision someone has had for how to change things for the better will remain a dream.  People are beginning to give up hope that things can indeed change.  Jacksonville has been coined the “abusive spouse” that people keep going back to, or stay with, because they are too afraid to stand up to the powers that be.  I have heard whispers at parties that people who make waves are harassed by the First Baptist nut-jobs downtown, that the big business owners will make your life hard and block your business from coming to life in this city.

Seeing as how I don’t own a home here, don’t do business in this city, don’t really give a shit what religion preaches, and my time on this earth is finite, so I would say I really don’t have anything to lose if I piss a few people off……for those of you that hope Jacksonville will ever grow as a city, and join those of us who reside in the 21st century, this is where the lesson in karma comes into play……A simple way to look at karma is that there is no deed, good or bad, that goes “unpunished”, i.e. without consequence.

If you cause others to suffer, you will also suffer.  If you bring others joy, you will also receive joy.  Just like any great team knows that they are only as good as their weakest player, you must work together to help everyone be better.  By denying others their basic human rights, by telling the children of this city that you do not believe in them, or their futures, it is you, the so-called leaders who have caused the citizens of the city to struggle to live.  In the Bible, karma can be equated to the passage from Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Well, if that is the case, then I guess we can assume you desire to have your basic civil rights revoked, your businesses uprooted and shutdown, and your children’s futures sacrificed, all because well, we just don’t like how you look and we sure as shit don’t like how you act.

30 Days, 30 Ways to Empowerment!

For 30 days, I thought it would be good to explore what it means to be empowered versus powerful and how to get comfortable with the “ugly” parts of ourselves.  It took me a REALLY long time to become my own best friend, but I thought I would share some of the things that helped me to own my s**t, stop making excuses for it and just be compassionate about it, laugh at myself more often, and be comfortable in my own skin.  To kick things off, I thought I would share an oldie, but fantastic goodie, Wear Sunscreen”!  I have been listening to this every day when I run and it always makes me feel inspired to be little kinder to myself and others.

Day 1:  What does “empowerment” mean to you?  The dictionary defines empowerment (empower  [em-pou-er] ) as a verb with a few meanings:  1.) to give official authority or legal power to;  2.) to enable (which also means to provide with the means or opportunity); or  3.) to promote the self-actualization or influence of.  Synonyms for empower(ment) are: accredit, allow, capacitate, charge, commission, delegate, entitle, entrust, grant, invest, legitimize, license, okay, permit, privilege, qualify, sanction, vest, warrant

Day 2: Alright, so what does “power” mean?  Power [pou-er] is defined as a noun with many meanings:  1.) ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something;  2.) political or national strength: the balance of power in Europe;  3.) great or marked ability to do or act; strength; might; force;  4.) the possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy: power over men’s minds;  5.) political ascendancy or control in the government of a country, state, etc. Synonyms for power are:    ascendancy, authority, authorization, birthright, clout, command, connection, diadem, direction, domination, dominion, hegemony, imperium, influence, inside track, jurisdiction, law, leadership, license, management, might, moxie, omnipotence, paramountcy, predominance, prerogative, prestige, privilege, regency, right, rule, say-so, sovereignty, steam, strength, strings, superiority, supremacy, sway, warrant, weight, wire

Day 3: Our egos seek power.  Our hearts seek to empower.  Often times, my ego has ruled because I was afraid to relinquish power, yet the true definition of “liberate” or “liberation” is “the condition of being free from restriction or control”.  “Power” is about control.  By trying to control someone else, we ultimately lose our own personal freedom.  This weekend, test yourself to let go of the reins of power in the areas that you try to control life.

Day 4:  Want to give up control?  Give away something you can’t afford to lose.  I always thought I needed to be right, I needed to win.  Then, one day, I didn’t win and I realized what it was that I could afford to lose……

Day 5: The ego is motivated by fear and the heart is motivated by love.  When you reside to allowing your ego to run you, you give up on loving yourself.  The ego serves us only for so long and then we must have the courage to love ourselves.  Today, kiss your ego kindly, let it go and let love rule.

Day 6:  When was the last time you spoke to a stranger on the street?  Insecurities often stop us from smiling and saying hello to someone passing by.  If this happens to you, ask yourself, what prevents you from being open to meeting new people?  Unrelenting Standards or Fear of Criticism perhaps?  Kindly ask the internal critics to shut the F**K up already!

Day 7:  The idea that “beauty is only skin deep” was clearly written by a man who wanted to retain a position of power over his wife (Sir Thomas Overbury, 1613).  Empower yourself to step away from the lies perpetuated by society that have you believe you must look a certain way in order to share beauty with the world.  There is nothing wrong with taking care of your physical body, just remember to balance that with helpings of kind and loving thoughts to feed your mind and soul. True beauty resides deep within.  Remember you ARE gorgeous!

Day 8: As a human being, I generally want things to go my way.  When things go my way, I feel that I have somehow “won” or been “right”.  This doesn’t always mean that I feel happy.  When I feel confident that I am okay even when I “lose” or am “wrong”, I give up the need to validate my self-worth based on someone else’s opinion of me, and that brings me back to my sweetness of mind.  Today – negotiate with someone without intention or attachment to the idea of “winning” or “losing” and focus on listening and respecting what the other person has to say – even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint.

Day 9:  When you are empowered you can surrender your old habits that do not promote life.   “The word “surrender” is often interpreted as giving up, as weakness, as admitting defeat. Although this is one way to use the word, we will use it in a different way. Surrendering means letting go of your resistance to the total openness of who you are. It means giving up the tension of the little vortex you believe yourself to be and realizing the deep power of the ocean you truly are. It means to open with no boundaries, emotional or physical, so you ease wide beyond any limiting sense of self you might have.”  – David Deida, author

Day 10:  Ask for something you don’t think you will get today.  After all it’s Friday….and you ain’t got no job and you ain’t got s**t to do, man….  😉  (Seriously though….what do you have to lose by asking for something you want?  A little pride if you don’t get it?  What is pride really worth at the end of the day?  Does pride/power bring joy or promote life?  Maybe you won’t get what you ask for, but you will feel better for speaking up for yourself and what a great way to start the weekend!)

Day 11:  “When it comes to the feeling of “I don’t matter,” we take one of two roads in dealing with it. We either find ourselves being powerless or overpowering others in some way.” Stand up yourself!

Day 12:  Most of us have needed help from someone else along the way to get where we needed to be (or to go).  Feel confident in acknowledging the efforts those people have made for you and offer your gratitude.  Not only does this make the other person feel valued, but it gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling too!

Day 13:  Start doing things that you enjoy, regardless of having someone to enjoy them with, and you begin to see how much f**king FUN you really are!  Why wait for someone else to validate your awesomeness??

Day 14:  Waiting for someone else to make you happy is the best way to be sad.  Transversely, only you can give another person the power to make you miserable.

Day 15: To Power or Empower?

Day 16: ‎ I am gonna leave today’s inspiration up to good ol’ George Clooney (you fine mofo, you) who said it best….“A smart, sexy woman is a cluttered mess of complications, but so much better than the alternative.” That’s right strut your fine-mess-of-a-self – we are all complicated creatures, just remember that “mess” is true beauty, pouring out.

Day 17:  Travel!  The best thing I ever did to boost my confidence and truly believe in my abilities was to travel alone (for a really looong time).  Maybe you don’t have that kind of time, but you certainly have two or three days to go see a new place close by.  You must be willing to continue to explore new places outside of your comfort zone if you want to rid yourself of old fears.

Day 18: “A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.” – Unknown….When we deny ourselves the truth, sometimes we avoid the painful process of grieving a loss or facing a fear, and then we also deny ourselves from living our complete and total experience as well.  Honesty isn’t always easy, especially when it must be paired with humility, but this is the only way to have real integrity.

Day 19:  Give up the burden that you must always know what is best for others, it’s generally  our way of trying to maintain control, but it is also a way that we distract ourselves from dealing with our own process.  Focus, instead, on being kind (to yourselfand to others).

Day 20:  “It’s not the weight of the load that brings you down — it’s how you carry it” – Lena Horne.  Start out your week with the intention of not allowing what has already passed continue to inflict pain.  Yes, it is a part of who you are now, but it doesn’t have to define who you will become in the future.

Day 21: In the words of Walt Whitman, make your life poetry (happy or sad, it is beautiful):

Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.

Day 22:  Give an impromptu public speech.  We all fear speaking in public, because we know others are looking at us and criticizing our appearance, our viewpoints, our mannerisms.  But, “what others think about you is their business”, your business is to speak from the heart.

Day 23:  Never be afraid to stand up for yourself or for what is just.  It may seem hard at the time, and you may not win, but it is better than living with the regret that you did nothing.

Day 24:  Enjoy sex and don’t feel guilty about it!  Too often we use sex as a bargaining chip, thinking that it creates bond.  When we try to bond someone to us we are trying to put ourselves in a position of power over them.  When you are empowered with your sexuality, you return to a state of non-attachment and focus on the reasons YOU want to have sex, rather than to please or coerce another.  Do it because you want to, because it feels good, because you like to – don’t do it to manipulate someone, to bargain with them or to obligate them in some way.

Day 25:  Instead of pleading formagazines to display the human form in a more realistic manner, STOP BUYING BEAUTY MAGAZINES!  Money talks and if you hit them at their bottom line, they will pay attention, but for now it will give you an immediate self-esteem boost to stop viewing and comparing yourself to women who have been airbrushed to “perfection”.

Day 26:  I don’t normally get all biblical on you’re a$$, but there is truth to what Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.  We can lose jobs, friends, lovers, homes, things, but we never truly lose ourselves.  You can learn and grow from each failure so long as you are still breathing.

Day 27: Not long ago, I wrote down this quote from tinybuddha.com and posted it on my vision board.  I think it is important to remember to ask yourself, during those times of worry, why are you doing what you’re doing?

“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” -Unknown

If you completely surrendered your fears, what would you let go of today?

Where would your heart lead you instead? And most importantly:

Knowing that’s where your heart wants to be, what are you waiting for?

Day 28:  This article has made its way around recently, and it is SO true.  Not only do you give up these things to be happy, but also to feel empowered in moments of discomfort that you will be okay after those moments pass.

Day 29:  Paradoxically, each failure brings you closer to what you want because you quickly learn what you don’t want.  You learn what doesn’t work so that you can go about creating an environment, both mentally and physically, that are in-line with your intentions and you begin to discover the things that do work.  There is real strength and great comfort that comes from knowing each time you “fail” you actually get better.

Day 30:  Don’t let your journey to empowerment end here, take some risks every day!  Here is a great list to help keep your momentum going.