Your Inaugural Moment

Like many of you, I watched the inauguration this morning with one ear tuned to the television, where our new President was giving his speech, and one ear tuned to the torrent of rain outside my window that was slowly turning my backyard into a lake. While everyone has a different interpretation of what was said and done and meant during the ceremony, I can’t stop thinking about the word “inauguration” itself. According to Merrium Webster, the definition of the word inaugurate is “to bring about the beginning of.” To begin, to commence, to start, to initiate.

Right now, we’re at the start of a new Presidential term and the beginning of a brand new year, both of which have been the topics of much speculation. Yet, at this exact moment in time, you are also reading a new sentence, thinking a new thought, taking a new breath, and enjoying a new moment composed of an entirely new combination of sights, sounds and circumstances.

This reminds me that, in life, whether we’re a Commander-In-Chief or a concerned citizen, we are constantly asked to begin again. And again. And again.

Every time we fall down, we must summon our strength and rise back up. Every time we have our hearts broken, we must mend ourselves and love again. Every time we have a failure or a disappointment or a setback, we must dust off our pride and keep moving in the direction of our dreams.

Each new dawn, each new breath, each new moment is an inauguration, a beginning. And, just like our President, this inauguration requires an oath; it asks us to make a solemn promise—to ourselves--as to how we’re going to live our lives, where we’re going to pledge our allegiance, our service, our love. Where we’re going to invest our time, our energy, our own humanity.

The word inaugurate comes from the Latin word “augur,” which means two things:

1. “To give promise of.” 
Trump stood up in front of the world this morning and made this promise: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down.”

And as we wait to see how he will interpret and enact that promise, the real question is: what do we want to fight for? What do we want to lend our voice, our breath, our very being, to? What promise are we fulfilling, both for ourselves and for the world, in every moment, with every action that we take?

2. “To predict the future.” 
While we certainly cannot predict the exact effect that our choices will have, one thing that we know for certain is that the actions that we take today will, in fact, shape our tomorrow. They will add up to the future—and the world—that we create for ourselves. So it’s imperative that we put our time and energy into actions and causes that matter to us and that create more of what we want to see in the world: kindness, fairness, love, hope, truth, equality, compassion, justice, peace.

I urge you to make this Inauguration Day, this Inaugural moment, your own.

Better Not Bigger

This morning, as I pulled off the freeway on my way to work, I breathed a sigh of relief. The streets were slippery from the heavy rain, my view of the road was a blur of water and windshield wipers, and I was just grateful to have avoided any accidents.

At the end of the exit ramp, a disabled veteran was standing on the corner, in nothing but a thin jacket that barely covered his head, silently getting soaked as he held up a sagging cardboard sign and begged, with each glance at the passing cars, for spare change. One by one, I watched the cars in front of me roll past him without acknowledgment.

When it was my turn, I rolled down my window and slowed down just long enough to hand him some cash, hoping he could use it to go somewhere warm and dry. The driver behind me leaned on his horn, then a car behind him joined in on the honking.

“God bless you,” the man said, as his fingers brushed mine, but his words were drowned out by a voice on a loudspeaker, shouting at me to move along.

I looked over to see a cop car sitting at the stoplight on the street that I was turning onto. He was addressing me from the speaker system in his car (the one that is normally used to direct people when they are pulled over).

As I made my way to the office, I felt shaken to my core. Not because I got “in trouble” but because that particular cop, in that particular moment, thought that was the best action to take. Not getting this poor man somewhere safe or dry, but yelling at me for pausing to help.

Yes, I may have slowed a few cars behind me down, but instead of taking that extra 10 seconds to send a thought of peace or blessing to that man on the corner or to pull out some spare change themselves, they chose to honk at me instead.

Forget about “high” or “low.” That cop and those honking cars behind me were only focused on the road. Literally. Not on what truly mattered in that moment. Not on the vulnerable human being standing in front of them, getting drenched in the downpour.

Now, I know that it was just one little moment on one rather gloomy day, but it reminded me just how much the actions that we choose to take in each and every moment matter. They all add up to something bigger. They create the very world we live in.

If we want to live in a better, kinder, more loving world, we simply have to make better, kinder, more loving choices. Not necessarily bigger choices. Sometimes the smallest actions mean the most. Sometimes all it takes is one second, one glance, one passing smile. It all matters. It all counts.

Unconditional Gratitude

Those of you who follow me on Facebook may recognize this post from a couple of years ago, but it best sums up what I'm thinking and feeling today, so I thought it was worth sharing again:

Growing up, I was taught the importance of unconditional love – that is, loving others exactly as they are, for exactly WHO they are – and in truth, I don’t know how to love any other way. It’s as natural to me as breathing. But this Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on something I don’t think about as often: unconditional GRATITUDE.

It’s easy to be thankful for the things that feel good, that are all bright and shiny and happy. But what about the things that are not – the moments of hurt, betrayal and loss, the feelings of fear, doubt, anger, sadness and hopelessness?

This past year has been the most challenging I’ve ever experienced. There were days when I felt such pain and grief and heartache that it felt difficult to even breathe. And yet, I’m grateful for every inhale and for every exhale – especially those accompanied by great, shuddering sobs. I’m grateful for every beautiful tear that I cried, and for every Kleenex used to dry them. I’m grateful for every moment in which my heart was shattered open, because it showed me how deeply I can FEEL.

I’m grateful for the challenges that pushed me out of my comfort zone – and for every person who reminded me that I’m brave enough to take the leap on my own, without needing a push. I’m grateful for every fear that gave me a reason to find courage this year and for every insecurity that forced me to take a deeper look at what is truth and what is just habit.

I’m grateful for every obstacle and supposed setback, because I eventually learned that they weren’t setbacks at all, but lessons and tools for me to take with me on my path. I’m grateful for every wall that was busted down – in and around me – that gave me more freedom to express my true, authentic Self. I’m grateful for the pain that gave way to my voice.

I’m grateful for the difficult times, because they made me who I am today and taught me more about my Self than the bright and shiny and happy things ever could. They showed me my strength and creativity and passion and endurance, and yes, my ability to love unconditionally – not just other people but myself.

Of course, I’m beyond grateful for all of the beautiful, joy-filled moments I experienced this year as well. But I suddenly realize that it was my darkest moments that gave me the most appreciation for the light.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a day of unconditional gratitude!

Home of the Brave

The morning of the election, I said a prayer and set an intention that our country would elect the leader that it needed. Someone who would make us a kinder, more inclusive, more loving, more UNITED States. In my mind, I thought that Hillary was the clear choice for that. And just like many of you, I woke up the next morning scared for our country and for all the freedoms and liberties that we’ve fought so hard for over the course of our history. But underneath the fear, I felt this deep stirring in me: a call to take action, to spread as much love and kindness and compassion in my little corner of the world as possible, to shine my light even more brightly in the face of darkness, ignorance, hatred and fear.

Then, I started seeing all the lights turn on around me. Friends, neighbors, and loved ones were picking up their lanterns and holding them high. They were signing petitions, writing to their elected officials, organizing peaceful protests, performing intentional acts of kindness, and coming together as a community to talk about their hopes and fears in a way that I’ve never seen before.

For so long, we’ve relied on our elected officials to be the ones to take action on important issues and create meaningful change. For many of us, the most involved we’ve been, up until now, was showing up on election day and voting. We’ve become detached from the real democratic process. We’ve stopped being active participants. In leaving change squarely in the hands of our politicians, we’ve forgotten our own power to transform the world around us. And in handing over the podium, we’ve forgotten to use our own voices.

We’ve been giving away our power, one ballot at a time, and this election has reminded us that it’s time to take it back. It’s time for us to get involved, not just on a political level, but on a personal one, starting in our own homes and our communities. Our forefathers envisioned a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.” The question now is: what else can be done BY us? What change wants to be created through us?

The election may be over, but the democratic process isn’t. We still have a vote. We vote with every word that we speak and every action that we take. We vote when we stand up against injustice, give love to someone who’s been abused or ignored, or extend an olive branch to a neighbor who doesn’t see things the same way we do. We vote when we show love, kindness, acceptance, compassion, grace, patience and understanding. We vote by having the courage to show up in the world as our most authentic selves and let our hearts be seen and our voices be heard.

I’ve heard people say that our country has been “scammed” by Donald Trump, but I refuse to see us as victims. I choose, instead, to see us as victors, capable of conquering hatred, intolerance, injustice and fear. We can give up, or we can stand up for what is right. We can use our VOICES and the power of our CHOICES to make a difference.

Maybe my prayer—and our collective prayer—has been answered in the most unexpected way. Maybe Trump is the leader that we needed—to galvanize us into action and force us to get involved and take back our democracy.

It’s going to take a lot of effort and courage. But remember: We aren’t just the land of the free. We’re also the home of the brave.