What My World's Like

lessons from a jheri curl

Dec
18

written by eric fleming

shalamar
[audio:http://whatmyworldslike.com/audio/makethatmove.mp3]

I’ve been listening to an absurd amount of 70’s and 80’s jams and love songs as of late, one of which is Shalamar’s Make that Move. Aside from this song just being a jam of all jams, the lyrics really stood out to me. Shalamar stepped up into their respective pulpits, clad in shiny suits with flowing manes of jheri curl juice and preached hunties! “Make that Move! Right now baby! You only go around once in this lifetime!” The first verse begins with “So many times, by holding back I let the good things pass me by…” So simple, yet so profound as only a song from the 80’s can truly deliver.

The more I listened and did spins in the middle of my kitchen, I started to tear up, and it wasn’t from the onions I was cutting. Shalamar was sangin’ to me! I started thinking about how many times I passed on opportunities– for love, for deeper connectedness, for career– because I stopped myself with all the “what-if” questions. What if I say something and things go badly? What if we act on it and the friendship gets ruined? What if he doesn’t feel the way I do? What if people think I’m not qualified enough? What If I’m not good enough? You know…the “what-ifs.”

Why are they here? Perhaps the “what-ifs” emerged, out a need for self-preservation, to protect us. Maybe they’re seeking to keep us safe, within a container that feels familiar and free from threat.

Built-in soldiers actively looking out for us. Sounds great, right? What if by listening to those “what-ifs” we were actually harming ourselves? What if those parts of us, those “soldiers”, were no longer serving our best interests? Here’s where the “what-ifs” become problematic: oftentimes the voice driving them doesn’t represent what you stand for, or support the person you want to emerge into. In my case, more often than not, that voice is an old story from a very scared part of myself that still senses it needs to be protected. For example, growing up, I had fears of being vulnerable in front of people, so now those “what-ifs” work really hard to make sure I am protected and not vulnerable at all costs, despite the fact that openness and vulnerability are actually two values I hold very highly in my adult life. See the disparity? It’s rooted in an old need for protection that clearly still rears its head and has an influence on how I operate today. That “what-if” voice can keep me from asking out that guy I really like, or keep me from showing up to that networking event because it’s safer to stay in the small, familiar place rather than stepping into what I really long for.

These skeptical soldiers keep us small. They keep us from attaining what’s deep in our heart of hearts. What would happen if we put the “what-ifs” to the side? If we were able to silence them, what answers would be standing there, in your face, screaming for you to notice them? Would you go for that job? Would you say yes to that relationship? How have your “what-ifs” kept you small? What have they prevented you from receiving?

So let’s kill ’em all, right? Death to the “what-ifs”! Here’s a thing to note about them: they’re a part of us and some have been around, working to protect us, for a really long time. They’re soldiers. They’re standing at their post, on the front lines, and have been for years. They’re loyal. Because they’re a part of us, we can’t rid them completely. We can, however, shift our relationship with them. That voice emerged because a need somewhere is or was not being met. Start by getting in touch with what that need is. What does that part of you need? What is that part of you dying to say? Why is that part of you still around? Bringing awareness to the fact that a fear is old, or that a need is no longer present, or perhaps even that a need is presently not being met can change everything. Awareness becomes empowerment. It’s the first critical step in shifting that relationship and taking power back over the what-ifs”.

What would our friends from Shalamar have to say about all of this? Hmmmmm. Let me tell you! “…nothing is certain. You’ve got to go for it when you feel it! ….make that move! Right now baby!” I usually don’t trust people with jheri curls, but I think they were on to something here. We have one chance in this lifetime to make it beautiful, full, and magical so why not just go for it? What do you have to lose? More importantly, what are you losing out on by staying small in your “what-ifs?”

—-
Eric Fleming is a life coach based in New York City. Eric says of his work, ” I help clients make shifts when the cost is too high to stay put any longer.” His work focuses on challenging outdated notions of self, as well as social patterns that inform how we operate today. For more tips about ways to overcome your “what-ifs” or to find out more about how coaching can be beneficial for you, contact him at ejf.coaching (at) gmail.com.

a web of sorrow. a plea to act.

Jun
27

My heart, filled with sorrow, is heavy right now. Something about the Trayvon Martin case touched me from the beginning. I was in Nicaragua, sitting in a tree, looking at a volcano, when my sister told me about his murder. After we got off the phone, all I could do was cry. I didn’t know him, but he could’ve been anyone I knew or was related to. That recognition drew me to him and made me so sad and angry that he was killed and that the case was being ignored in the media.

Fast forward a year and some months later, Zimmerman is on trial and as much as I want to watch it, something in me draws back, scared for my sensitivity.

At the same time, Nelson Mandela is in a hospital on life support. He may not make it to see his 95th birthday, but he’s lived a very full and meaningful life. He dropped out of college to join the African Nationalist and anti-apartheid movement and eventually spent 27 years in prison for fighting for what he believed in. For being true to himself and standing with himself. Twenty-seven years.

Race is such a muddled conversation in this world, but especially in this culture where it’s implicitly acceptable in every faction of the culture, thus omnipresent, but explicitly discouraged, thus rampantly covert. A video of celebrity chef Paula Deen revealing her racism was made public and she lost her job and several corporate associations. There is no honest conversation about race happening, how it originates, permeates, recreates and flourishes; just a very public and expensive slap on the wrist.

George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he was suspicious of Martin, not because of any suspicious activities the boy was engaging in necessarily, but because the mere presence of black men, specifically, was a cause for suspicion, prompting the automatic belief that they were up to no good and that the situation was unsafe. This situation essentially repeated itself only months later in the same state of Florida with the 17 year-old Jordan Davis and 45 year-old Michael Dunn, who also refers to the Stand Your Ground law in support of his professed innocence. Where did these men get that idea from and how can/will we work to change that thought association?

Black people are not safe in a world with white supremacist ideology and systems. Children, born with no say over their life circumstances, are not safe. There is an assault on their bodies, minds, and spirits, so even if they aren’t physically eliminated, they are psychologically and psychically damaged.

As Mandela lays in a bed, in critical condition, I review his life and the meaning he attached to it. This man made a sacrifice and he sacrificed himself for his ethics. There are so many people who wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice 27 hours, days, or weeks to stand up for what they believe in, even when that essentially means standing up for themselves and this man sacrificed 27 years.

What are we giving? To whom? And for what?

We are worth the investment of our own time and our own lives for our own benefit. You are worth the investment of your own time and your own life for your own benefit.

Let it not be in vain. Let it not be for mere comfort and its illusion. Fill your time and your life with meaning to make a positive difference. Some are never fully given that option. Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were completely robbed of that opportunity and if we care, then we have to do something more than sit in the comfort of our homes being outraged. We need to act and take advantage of our gift of life.

your inner world rules your outer world.

Aug
08

This was originally posted on September 4, 2010.

Life is calling you. All the time. Do this. Do that. Don’t do anything at all. There’s always a fork in the road. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s there, but it is. Sometimes you hear it, see it, feel it…this urge…this moment that comes to visit briefly. It may whisper, it may shout, but it’s always saying something. Are you listening?

The perpetual, invisible fork is the following question: how are you going to respond? To what? To everything.

We allow the outer world to control our inner world because we don’t understand that the more we control our inner world, the more we control the outer world.  It often acts the other way around, but we’re so much more effective in our lives when we understand this.  The past few weeks have proven this to be true.

Out of nowhere, my job suddenly became a place I slightly dreaded. I wasn’t even fully aware of it, but I noticed it when I realized time was my obsession. “What time is it?” and “how much longer will I be here?” Sure signs of danger. Everyone and everything was a problem and I played the victim to all the haphazard incidents and wrongdoings.

When somebody/everybody else is always the problem, maybe the problem is really you.

(more…)

great words…

Feb
09

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way
out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity,
and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness,
and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elizabeth Kubler Ross

what’s in your word cloud?

Oct
12

join the think tank!

Sep
25

The BMW Guggenheim Lab, currently featured in New York City, ends in three weeks. It’s been here since August 3rd, so I’m a little bothered it’s taken me so long to get over there. But…better late than never, right?

What is it? In a word, awesome. In a few, The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory traveling to nine major cities worldwide over six years. Led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability, the Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life through programs and public discourse. Its goal is the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking solutions for city life.

It’s a pretty awesome idea and all the events they feature are free, prohibiting no socioeconomic group from attendance. Fun and free is always fantastic. It ends on October 16th, so head over while you can, before it travels to Berlin and Mumbai. In 2013, there will be an exhibition at the Guggenheim before completing two more 3-city cycles.

life’s lessons…

Sep
13

I’ve been listening to myself lately — honoring my own wisdom, listening to its whispers, feeling its tugs and trying to heed its advice. This is what I’m learning…

  • On music: It’s amazing. It’s awesome. It’s super powerful. It’s healing… It’s distracting. Sometimes. When I disconnect and listen to vocal-less music, I’m connected to myself and insights on life. It relaxes me and makes life a bit more otherworldly. Ambrose Akinmusire‘s When the Heart Emerges Glistening and Robert Glasper‘s Double Booked are soothing my spirit right now.
  • On desire: We’re not supposed to have everything we think we want. Or when we want it.
  • On life: Talents are our gifts — to us and to others. Burying them only shortchanges us and minimizes our contribution. Follow your bliss.
  • Practice love. Be loving. Don’t let pain, and subsequent anger, blind you to your love. You love because you are love and expressing it is the highest joy. So express it. Live it. Be love in motion.

slow down.

Jun
28

sometimes the only way life can reveal its truth is to us is to stop us. when it halts you, don’t resist it; pay attention and take heed: slow down.

there are major lessons to walk away with. find the good. find your gratitude. find your patience. find your understanding. find your silence. find your peace.

we will find ourselves renewed when we relax into the flow of life.

life’s lessons

Feb
24
  • Be an active student of your self and your life.
    Who are you? How are you…? Why are you…?
    Life is a mirror and we are constantly being revealed to ourselves. Are we paying attention? Taking time to get quiet and distill my own energy from everyone else’s is a vital part of this process.
  • Love is freedom, not possession.
    Love the being of a person, not the having of a person. Possession is an ever-enduring illusion.
  • Choose your response.
    We are free to choose how we are going to behave and what energy we are going to bring in every moment. As much as possible, I want to choose my response deliberately. Knee-jerk reactions are an unskillful way to maneuver through life. I want to be who I want to be independent of how/who others choose to be. My mantra is “amidst it all, be love.”
  • Thank your way through it.
    There’s value even in the valley.  Everything isn’t what it seems. When we look back on our lives later, even if it doesn’t seem so now, we’ll find this amazing architecture we could’ve never dreamed of. The key, I’m learning, is to be grateful for it all. Create the meaning along the way.
  • Kindness begets kindness.
    Karma is real. Keep doing you and watch the return. I dropped $4 during a trip to the store. All I had on me was that $4 specifically to purchase some food for work. It fell out of my pocket and someone stopped me to return it. Small, yes, but still huge. 🙂 As Will Smith said, “Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.”
  • You are a gift.
    You are here on purpose. Your love is a gift. Your forgiveness is a gift. Even your gifts are your gifts.

What are you learning? If you’re on Twitter use the #whatmyworldslike hashtag and let’s start talking!

Great words…

Oct
26

“Factual information alone isn’t sufficient to guide you through life’s labyrinthine tests.
You need and deserve regular deliveries of uncanny revelation.
One of your inalienable rights as a human being should therefore be to
receive a mysteriously useful omen every day of your life.”

– Rob Brenzy, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia:
How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings