Ask This One Question to Make Anger Work for You

It’s the summer of 1969, a bright, sunny day at the packed local pool.  I’m next in the long line at the diving board.  The boy ahead of me yells at the top of his lungs,  “CONNIE IS A FATTY!”, dives off the board and disappears into the water.

photo credit: istock

In a flash, I see red, feel my jaw tighten and hear blood pumping in my ears.  It’s true, I’m an overweight kid.  But I’m also a strong swimmer.  Clearly, he doesn’t know who he’s messin’ with!  Instantly, before the required time goes by to safely let divers reach the ladder, I jump off the board with all my might and crash land on him in the water.

photo credit: www.instructables.com

(Okay, this is not me, by the way.  But it was kinda like that.)

Down, down to the drain we go. That skinny kid writhes and thrashes, bug eyes and bubbles everywhere, but he’s no match for this big girl.   And after all, I’ve got time…I took a big breath.

I wait long enough to scare him, then push off the bottom and head to the top.  I break the surface to the sound of the lifeguard’s shrill whistle and angry voice. “OUTA THE POOL!” Skinny Boy cries and sputters.  As I head to the designated “time out” spot for rule-breakers, I scoff, laugh and shout over my shoulder, “It was worth it!”  The line at the diving board cheers.  End of story.

Or is it?

What was going on behind all that anger, bravura, and so-called “laughing it off”?

How about embarrassment.  Shame.  Humiliation.  Hurt.

These emotions don’t feel very powerful.  In fact, they feel tender and vulnerable.

What my ten year old brain didn’t understand at the time (and what many adults have a hard time understanding as well) is this:  we often prefer the feeling of anger because it feels powerful and protects us from what’s at the root of our tender emotions. In other words:

Anger artificially helps us feel in control when we’re feeling out-of-control and falsely helps us feel powerful when we feel powerless.

Get to the Root                                                                                                         When John and I moved into our home eleven years ago, the edge of our backyard was completely smothered in ivy.  (Hang with me…there’s a reason I’m telling you this!)

picmonkeywall

For weeks, every Saturday morning, he was on hands and knees, digging down and pulling it up by the roots.  It was painstakingly slow, but when he finished, there wasn’t one sprig of ivy where it wasn’t supposed to be.

Eleven years later, this is what it still looks like.

picmonkeyjohnivy

Ivy free.

Had it been my job to clear the ivy, it would’ve looked like this (after eleven days!).

picmonkey.connieivyWhat’s the difference?

John got to the root of the problem.  He wasn’t interested in a quick fix with the weed eater, no sir.  Oh, that would’ve looked great for a few weeks.  But he knew that the hard work of getting the root (not just the top of the plant) would be worth it in the long run.  He was willing to dig deep so he wouldn’t have to keep dealing with the problem over and over.

When it comes to anger, many of us use the approach I did with the ivy.  Instead of dealing with the root reason for the anger, we skim over the process and try to just “control our temper”. Or like me on the diving board, we vent our emotions in destructive ways.   But if we don’t get to the root of our angry feelings, they’ll just keep sprouting up and eventually choke out the beauty and love in our lives.

So how can we get to the root of our anger?  When we feel angry we need to ask ourselves, “Why am I feeling this way?”

While I’m delighted to report I no longer jump on people and nearly drown them, I long to learn how to best express my anger in ways that are appropriate and constructive. If you’re a fellow struggler, join me next Tuesday as we explore specific emotions that often fuel our anger and a practical 3 step process for expressing your anger in ways that build, rather than tear down, relationships.

 I’d love to hear from you as we learn together!

In the meantime, be careful who you call “Fatty”.  It could be hazardous to your health!

Blending music, humor and inspiration, bestselling “Georgia Author of the Year” Connie Carey helps audiences view their challenges from a renewed perspective…all while enjoying a good belly laugh! Learn more about her book, “Falling UP”. For booking info, call 478.250.1177.

Five Lessons From the World Cup: Go Get Your Dream Back

I’m not a big sports fan, but last night I sat transfixed watching the American women get back their victory Japan had taken four years ago in the World Cup of Soccer.

credit: Yahoo News

credit: Yahoo News

Five life lessons from the World Cup about your dreams.

1.  Reclaim your dream.  What’s the dream from God that’s captured your heart, that’s lingered, that you can’t shake off?  Are you still holding onto it, or have you let it go?  If you’ve let it go, maybe it’s time to reclaim your dream.  Your dream doesn’t have to be something spectacular like winning the World Cup.  In fact, some of the best dreams are seeing your child walk in faith, your marriage restored or strengthened, getting paid to do what you really love, earning that degree or breaking an old, debilitating habit.

2.  Do whatever it takes.  The women who were draped in American flags, grinning from ear to ear, know this lesson well.  Behind the victory and smiles were years of grueling drills, training, eating right and sweat equity.  But we saw what happens when a dream, God-given talent and tenacious discipline collide.

Seeing your dream come to pass may not be easy.  Maybe it’s getting up earlier each morning to get your exercise in or writing a few pages on that book you keep saying you’re going to write.  Find out what it’s going to take, then get going.

3.  You will have critics.  Early on, there was doubt about the U.S. team having what it takes.  About whether this would all end in disappointment, as it had at the last three World Cups.

Maybe there are jealous people in your life who don’t want you to lose the weight, get the degree, flourish in that new business, etc. because it might shed light on their own lack of follow through.  Maybe it’s the voices in your own head, reminding you of past failures or fear of future failure.  Replace the Voice of the Critic with the Voice of Truth: You can do all things through Christ. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. He Who began a good work in you will complete it.

4.  You will have disappointments along the way to victory. The American women were soundly beaten in 2011 by the Japanese.  They could have quit, saying, “Soccer’s just not for me.”  They could’ve become bitter.  Instead, they used the defeat to fuel their preparation for the next World Cup, four years later.  As I mentioned, I’m no soccer player, but I imagine they dissected that defeat to learn what they could’ve done better.

The challenges and disappointments you face on the way to your dream will require you to make a similar choice.  Will you leave your pain, your disappointments, your failures of the past to follow your dreams or will you let these hurts steal your hope for a better life?

5.  Remember to share the credit.  There she was, America’s new sweetheart, Carli Lloyd, surrounded by the deafening roar of adoration from the stands.  One sportscaster dubbed it “The Carli Show”.  But I don’t think Carli saw it that way.  When Abby Wambach entered the game in the final moments, Lloyd took off her captain’s armband and placed it on the U.S. soccer legend. It was a gesture of respect and gratitude to a fellow player who has carried the women’s soccer torch for many years.

When God grants you success, remember that you didn’t get there alone.  Maybe it’s family members who believed in you when your dream looked silly.  Or friends who supported you along the way. Most certainly there is the graciousness of God.  Remember to stay grateful and humble when your dreams are realized.

May God grant you success with the dreams He’s given you!

 

How Changing Your Words Changes Your Attitude

Is this how you start your day?

IMG_0098

I’m not throwing any stones here.  Believe me, I’ve done it, too.

But it’s interesting how changing one simple phrase in your vocabulary can change your whole mindset from “Rise & Whine” to “Rise & Shine”.

Recently, I responded to an invitation to lunch with these words: “I can’t go that day.  I have to speak.”  For some reason, I heard my words with a different perspective. Wait a minute.  I have to speak?  I love the fact that I can use my life experiences to make a difference in peoples’ lives.  And I can’t believe people pay me to do what I feel called to do and what I enjoy doing.  What I do is a privilege.  And then it hit me.

I don’t have to speak.  I get to speak.

One phrase invokes a feeling of duty, whereas the other breeds gratitude.

I began to ask myself in what other areas I might need to recognize my overlooked privileges.

I don’t have to work out.  I am blessed with 2 arms, 2 legs and a healthy body that can move and I want to keep it that way.  I get to work out.

I don’t have to go to church. I am fortunate to live in a country where it’s not against the law to worship God.  I get to go to church.

I don’t have to check on my friend who’s under the weather.  I’m grateful to have friends who’ve seen me through good times and bad.  I get to check on her.

I don’t have to get a flu shot.  My country provides safe, sterile, convenient, affordable vaccines at my choice of several local drugstores.  For a little perspective, I was in Africa a few years ago to help with a medical team.

This picture doesn’t do justice to the hundreds and hundreds who stood in line all day to see a doctor.  I get to get a flu shot.

I don’t have to go to the grocery store.  (OK, this one is a work in progress, cause I DESPISE going to the grocery store!)  I’m fortunate to have money to pay for groceries.  I’m fortunate to live in a country where virtually anything I want or need, from organic fruits and vegetables, bison, crab legs, free range chicken to umpteen different flavors of coffee, from all over the world, is just 5 minutes away.  I get to go to the grocery store.

Shifting our focus from “I have to” to “I get to” can be a game changer in the way you experience your day.

In what areas could you change your words, creating more purpose and joy in your day? Try it and see if your “Rise & Whine” doesn’t become “Rise & Shine”!

*************************

Blending music, humor and inspiration, best-selling author Connie Carey helps audiences view their challenges from a renewed perspective…all while enjoying a good belly laugh! Learn more about her book, “Falling UP”. For booking info, call 478.250.1177.

What an Angry Dog Taught Me on My Daily Walk

I enjoy a walk in my neighborhood.  It starts my day with a few quiet moments, giving me pause to enjoy the beauty of each season while getting a little exercise, too.  My day just goes better when I start it this way.   Most days I take the same route. And I’d describe my walks as peaceful, yet stimulating.

But this particular day, I got more stimulation than I’d bargained for.

I came to the top of a steady incline when the serenity of the morning was completely broken.  One of the houses I pass every day has a big dog.  I’m used to barking dogs.  I just look straight ahead and keep on walking and that’s that.  But this day, the dog charged right up to the invisible electric fence and instead of barking at me from his side of the fence, boldly broke through and ran toward me at full speed, teeth bared.

I’ve gotta tell you, I was terrified.  I stomped and yelled, “GET AWAY!” and tried to make myself appear as big and mean as possible, but I was no match for this large, angry beast of a dog.  He was not happy I had chosen this route.  Thankfully, the sound of his owner’s voice shouting got his attention and he turned back and ran to the porch.

I was safe…but I was shaken.

My husband called Animal Control and we learned that the best line of defense (and better than mace) is an airhorn.  Small and inexpensive, it fits in a pocket.  The incredibly deafening sound will startle any attacking dog, not to mention summon neighbors and wake the dead.  We promptly went to Walmart, bought one, and tried it out in our backyard.  My ears are still ringing. Wow.

Even so, the next morning, I found an excuse to not walk.  The day after that, I went the other way. But I wondered what other angry dogs might be waiting for me on this new route?  Instead of enjoying the scenery, reflecting on what the day held, counting my blessings, etc., my mind was now occupied with fear and intimidation.  This was one of my favorite parts of my day and I was angry that a dog was ruining it.

Enough was enough.

IMG_3461The next day, I headed out my door.

On my regular route.

With a firm resolve.

And my airhorn.

 

 

 

The enemy’s got his sights on you, you know.  He doesn’t want you walking this path, enjoying God, growing in your spiritual stamina, pursuing passionately His purposes and renewing your mind with the Word.

When you choose to spend time with God, pray for your loved ones and even enemies, fight for your marriage, invest in kingdom purposes, trust Him in the moments that don’t make sense, he doesn’t like it.  One bit.

He will go to great lengths to intimidate you, frustrate you, and even injure you.  He will attempt to confuse you, hoping you’ll view those self-defeating thoughts, that troubled relationship, that financial set back, that illness, as the issue.  But these are not the issue.  These are his attempts to make you choose an easier path.  Or even quit.

But don’t turn back.  This is the path you were meant to walk.  Ask God to give you His wisdom, courage and grace as you walk in the way He has for you.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  (Ephesians 6:10-13).

IMG_3464Some days I think about that dog that’s waiting for me.  He’s still there.  Eyeing me from the porch.

But now, I’m armed.  So I lace up my shoes.

And I walk.

 

 

 

 

The Little Known Story Behind Macon’s Cherry Blossom Magic

It all began with the wrong tree.

Michael Williams Photography

Michael Williams Photography

In 1949, Maconite William Fickling landscaped his new home on Ingleside Avenue with what he thought were all dogwoods.  IMG_1455Saplings can look alike…and one little tree lost its tag.  The following Spring, amongst a sea of white blossoms,  one tree had beautiful pale pink blossoms.  After researching, Mr. Fickling learned it was the Yoshino Cherry Tree, travelled to Japan, and brought back hundreds for friends in Macon.

Enter Carolyn Crayton.

IMG_3203In 1970, new to Macon, she, too, loved the cherry trees on the Fickling property. She shared her dream with Mr. Fickling.  “I dreamed my street was lined with these beautiful cherry trees.”  His response?  “Carolyn, you make it happen and I’ll provide the trees.”

With her gracious smile, contagious enthusiasm and gifted leadership, this winsome woman infused not only her neighborhood, but the whole city with excitement and love for the cherry trees.  Under her leadership, Macon became the first affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.  In 1982, she organized a city-wide birthday/thank-you party for Mr. Fickling’s generous cherry tree gifts.  Thus, the first Cherry Blossom Festival was born!  33 years and 360,000 trees later, Macon, Georgia is the International Cherry Blossom capital of the world with more cherry trees than any other city in the world, including our nation’s capital.  The International Cherry Blossom Festival, AKA the Pinkest Party on Earth, is ranked as one of the Top 50 Festivals in America and the Top Festival in Georgia.

IMG_3313As emcee of one of the Cherry Blossom events, the Style Show, it was my privilege to visit with this amazing woman last week as we worked together.

The First Lady of Cherry Blossom said she hasn’t thought a lot about what her legacy with the festival will be, but the festival’s slogan – “Love, beauty and international friendship” – is a good summary of what she hoped to achieve.

IMG_3320

“It has remained the message,” she said.  “I hope it always brings the community together and extends friendship around the world.”

As I drove her tree lined street, surrounded by pale pink cotton candy, I felt as if I’d entered a fairy land.  It was there that she told me the “behind the scenes” story of the wrong tree.  I marvel that what was a mistake…the wrong tree…was used to bring unparalleled beauty, commerce and comaraderie to one town.  Once a year, people put aside their differences to enjoy the transformation within our town.

about-the-big-house-1-580x384From the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House, which brings visitors from all over the world, not to mention paying tribute to Macon residents Otis Redding (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay) and Little Richard,

PicMonkey Collage.spiritstroll

 

the Spring Spirit Stroll through historic Riverside Cemetery, where famous (and infamous!)  Maconites who influenced our community “come to life” and tell their stories,

 

 

 

 

 

the new Harriet Tubman Museum,

tubman-featured-536px

the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Monument,

71d6ed7185e4faa1cebca5981d95685d

to the many parties, parades and performances all around the city.

PicMonkey CollageCherryblosssom

We work together, party together, greet tourists together and re-appreciate our city together.

The blooms may be fading this week, but the magic of Cherry Blossom doesn’t have to.

May we continue in this spirit all year long!