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One of the lessons I am learning as an adult student of both composition and voice is humility. This humility is necessary in order to set aside any excess pride or superiority that can interfere with my learning. That isn’t always comfortable. Some definitions of humility include.

  1. A modest or low view of one’s own importance
  2. Freedom from pride or arrogance
  3. The feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others
  4. Not believing you are superior to others
old books side by side on library shelf

While I believe all of these definitions are accurate, they don’t fully capture my experience as an adult learner. Then I found a description that was more illuminating. It said that people who are humble can still think highly of themselves, but are also aware of their mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections. This awareness of mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections has been very important in my current student status.

Jeff Boss at (3/1/25) wrote that humble people are confident and competent in themselves so much that they can help others. They don’t feel the need to boast but let their actions speak for their ideals. They don’t feel the need to show others how much they know. Humble people actively listen to others, and they are eager to understand others because they are curious. They are perpetual learners and realize that they don’t have all of the answers. Also, they glean knowledge from the experiences of others and crave more opportunities to learn. They accept feedback, assume responsibility, and they ask for help.

When I am able to engage in this manner I find that I am able to focus my attention on learning rather than trying to prove how much I already know, a practice that interferes with learning. It is also sometimes very difficult for me to ask for help. Unfortunately this has been my default mode for most of my life and now I’m trying to fill in the gaps in knowledge that resulted.

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So what can we do to show up ready for learning in this way? I think the first step is to take a good look at your reasons for being in the situation. Are you there to get praise or acknowledgement for your brilliance or are you there to expand your knowledge? What behavior or attitude will help you most to achieve your goal. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE praise and validation. But I learn the most when I don’t let that be what motivates my behavior.

The second step may be to identify where your areas of weakness might be as well as how willing you are to be vulnerable enough to show those areas of weakness to the person(s) that are trying to teach you something. For me that is sometimes not at all vulnerable and other times I can choose to be extremely open. This does not always feel comfortable, but with a trusted mentor or teacher, it can be so extremely effective.

Give it a try.


Responsibility for me

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines responsibility in several ways. The two most relevant to this post include:

1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone

2. a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of: individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior.

In Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., the term is broken down into “response” and “ability.” The concept is that it involves an ability to respond and has nothing to do with blame. One may not always be able to respond to a situation, but they can still respond to the pain it might have caused.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. also uses the idea of response-ability, describing the capacity to choose and remembering to be in charge and make careful and thoughtful choices. This is the ability to respond to life without placing blame upon one’s self.

I Can and I Will affirmation

Why is this distinction important? Many people confuse taking responsibility with assigning blame. Blame is disempowering or victimizing. Taking responsibility, in part or in whole, for what is actually mine is empowering. Am I responsible for an approaching hurricane? Of course not. Am I responsible for making decisions about how I’m going to deal with it? Absolutely.

Another reason why this distinction is important is that people feel responsible for the feelings, actions, and situations of others. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t some aspect that may be mine to manage or respond to, but I only have limited response-ability. Other people maintain the right to be wrong, make mistakes, interpret comments, and respond with their own feelings. I’m not response-able for those. Can I learn to be careful with my speech? Yes, to some extent. But, the choice still belongs to the other person about how to interpret what I’ve said and it often involves patterns from the past that I cannot predict or control.

question mark symbolizing why

I find it important to check if my sense of “responsibility” is really located in the present moment rather than a worry about the future or a carry-over from the past. Then, if it is in the present moment, I actually ask myself if the current concern is really within the area of my own “hula hoop.” Is it that close to me? Can I do anything with it? Is it really someone else’s response-ability rather than mine? Then, I can choose my response. If any of those questions suggest that this issue isn’t really mine, I can interrupt the tendency to blame and shame.

Boundary setting is an important part of this process. If my boundary is punctuated by gates that I control it will be helpful when considering my response-ability. If my boundary is open, without gates that I control, it is very tempting to take ownership of someone else’s responsibility even if there is no response-ability on my part.

The basic question for me is always, “Does this belong to me and is there a way that I can reasonably respond.”

Repeat the Work

Things are rarely one and done. Sometimes we have to repeat the work. I don’t know about you, but I find that fact really annoying. This is true for me whether we are talking about reps at the gym or playing the piano. It is also true about cleaning the house, doing the dishes, or using my stress management skills. In many areas I am aware of the need to create muscle memory through repetition. But even then, after I have “mastered” a skill or passage in a piece of music I know that that mastery will degrade over time if I don’t play it regularly. It usually isn’t completely gone, but I don’t play as easily until I’ve repeated it several more times.

practice with metronome

I also get it where exercise is concerned. I know my body has to get used to a weight or distance through repetition. Then after a time I can go harder, heavier, or farther. If I skip very many workouts I lose a little bit of my progress and have to fight my way back up. Again….annoying.

My resistance is stronger in other areas of self development. I’ve written in other blog posts about my training in Reiki and Meridian Tapping. So if I’ve used Reiki or Tapping about a personal problem or situation once I seem to expect to never need to do it again. While there are people who report such amazing and long-lasting results, I find that sometimes things come up again but it a bit of a different context. I know that if I would do the work again I can resolve the issue in the moment, but still I resist to my own detriment. That doesn’t mean that the first time was a failure, but sometimes context is important.

Cat Sleep

I found references about the power of repetition such as Get Lighthouse, MasterClass, and Thunderhead Works. All of these sites have articles about repetition as a means toward mastery. I believe that is definitely true. Repeating the work can also lead to increased confidence. To repeat the work in the various aspects of daily living, it can also be an exercise in patience with oneself or situation, a practice of mindfulness in which we are actively aware of needs, and an exercise in controlling our own ego that tells us we don’t need to do the work “again.”

Remember, your needs change. Your situations change. Your body changes. Even your level of confidence can change. As those changes occur, consider repeating the work.

Expectations, Friend or Foe

“When the world doesn’t live up to our expectations, we rebel against its unfairness by turning to food.” – Jessica Ortner

question mark symbolizing why

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” – Donald Miller

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” – Bruce Lee

“That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.” – Lev Grossman

“Set the Standard! Stop expecting others to show you love, acceptance, commitment & respect when you don’t even show that to yourself.” – Steve Maraboli

“Life is not obligated to give us what we expect.” – Margaret Mitchell

Admittedly, these quotes, found all over on the internet, are probably taken out of context. However, I think each of them address this interesting challenge with expectations. In one context, understanding and stating our expectations can be quite helpful. In other contexts, expectations likely do more damage.

Expect has several different dictionary definitions, and that may explain some of the challenge. One definition is to consider probable or certain. How much difference do you think there is between probable and certain? If you consider an outcome certain and it doesn’t happen what is your response? Is it different than if you consider the outcome probable? It is for me.

A second definition is to consider something reasonable, due, or necessary. Again, if you think something is reasonable and then are disappointed your reaction is likely to be very different than if you think something is due to you. Or another definition, to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of something. What reaction do you experience when that doesn’t come or doesn’t occur? In all of these definitions there is considerable variability that largely derives from our own perceptions, beliefs, and ability to accurately evaluate the current situation.

I also found a definition that an expectation is to suppose or hold something as an opinion, belief, or assumption. This is where a lot of people get into trouble. Many people have difficulty differentiating between an opinion/belief and a fact. Just look around. You will see this everywhere.

We are often told to state our expectations clearly. This is a sound recommendation. Other people can’t read our minds, so being clear about our expectations can help. But stating your expectations, no matter how clear you are, won’t necessarily mean that they will be met. When your expectations are not met it can lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger, betrayal, and mistrust. Other people have competing beliefs and expectations. It is important to ask yourself if these are your rules, red lines in the sand, or a statement of your wishes and desires.

Ask yourself these questions:

questions answers sign

Are your expectations realistic? How do you know?

Does the other person have a free choice to respond? Do they have the right to disagree? or fail?

What will you do if the expectation is not met?

Are you stuck in a thought trap such as “life should be fair” or “people should agree with me?” What was the likelihood that I have over-estimated the probability of something?

Disappointment is certain. People will not always live up to your expectations. Situations you desire won’t always happen. You will not always be treated fairly. As most of us were told when we were growing up “life is not fair,” but we still expect it to be. People will sometimes break your trust. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t state our expectations. I think it is essential for effective communication and relationships. What I’m suggesting is that we need to monitor our responses to disappointment when those expectations aren’t met. As you can see from the first quote above from Jessica Ortner, some people turn to self-destructive behaviors when our expectations aren’t met. Obviously overeating won’t change the fact that life isn’t fair. If our reactions are self destructive it is a pretty clear indicator that we have personalized the situation or other person’s behavior. This is usually not helpful.

I have lots of expectations of myself and others. I don’t always live up to my own expectations, but when I’m operating in mindfulness those failures are an opportunity to evaluate the expectations, relationships, and situations and don’t usually lead to self destructive behaviors. Even when I state my expectations people don’t always comply. While hard, it is generally beneficial to recognize their free will and that won’t always conform to my hopes, wishes, or desires. This strategy does remind me of my friend Zach who once very correctly and lovingly said to me, “It’s not always about you.”

Parla Come Mangi

I was introduced to this Italian idiom through the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I digress just to say that there are many hidden gems in that book. Although a search of the internet suggest some dispute about the actual meaning, both Ms. Gilbert and offer that parla come mangi means speak the way you eat and is an invitation to use simpler and clearer language when speaking.

wine for relaxation

In my profession I talk to lots of people every day. One of the things I notice is that people make a big deal out of the things they are trying to tell me. They often resort to jargon or labels rather than simply saying what is on their mind or describing a situation. This generally complicates things. Parla come mangi often comes into mind as I listen to them. As in food, simple is often so much better.

When I pause to consider how or why this happens I land upon several possibilities. Perhaps the individual has been shaped to believe that what they have to say is unimportant and so try to use words, expressions, and descriptions that they believe might give their words more weight or importance. Another possible explanation is the saturation of labeling from social media. I have done this before desiring some sort of a short cut. I have also intentionally utilized medical jargon when interacting with other medical professionals to try to prevent them from talking down to me, a sort of elevating my believability if you will. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

comfort food

I now strive to embrace the concept of parla come mangi in social communication. I also try to model it in in my psychotherapy work. There is much less chance of a chance for misunderstanding when I interact in that manner.

Showing Up

Showing Up is one of those expressions that seems to be used more now than ever before. Frankly, I’m not a fan. When I ask people what they mean when they say they want to “show up” they usually can’t really explain it. Labels and expressions such as this one seem to interfere with self expression and communication. Since most people I talk with can’t describe showing up I decided to dig into it a little bit more.

What does it mean to show up? At the most obvious level it means being in a specific place. Woody Allen is famously noted to say that 80-90% of life was just showing up. I don’t know for sure, but I think he was talking about this level of showing up. According to synonyms for showing up include arrival, presence, manifestation, actualization, and emergence. Antonyms include departure, absence, leaving, and end. writes that showing up means doing what you say you will do and not flaking. OK. That wasn’t helpful. may get a bit closer. They say that showing up means being intentional, open, and acting skillfully.

showing up

Team Tony (Tony Robbins) says that showing up is about participation. This includes being fully present and really being focused on the other person (in a relationship) instead of focusing on the past. I think we are getting even closer. Kaitlin Kindman LCSW, describes “showingupness” as reliability, empathy, care, intentionality, thoughtfulness, and embodiment of “just being there” that someone demonstrates.

So why are so many people using this expression? I suspect there are many different answers. One is that it is thrown around a lot on social media platforms and has just seeped into common discourse. Also, people are genuinely yearning for deeper connections with others as our lives become more distant and fragmented. If you are going to be in the same place at the same time and for a limited amount of time, you want it to really matter.

happy senior couple in love with bunch of fresh flowers in nature. showing up.
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I think showing up could just as accurately, and possibly more accurately, be expressed with the words mindful and intentional. Instead of saying I want to show up, I could express that I want to engage with you fully and intentionally. I don’t let my mind wander to things from the past or skipping forward to concerns of the future. I want to be in the here and now and feel whatever is going on NOW.

One of the activities I use when working with therapy clients is the Personal Mission Statement. Clients frequently use this expression when writing their Mission Statements. In the personal mission statement exercise they often use showing up to mean not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. People instinctively know that either of those is not the pathway to joy or contentment. Their answer lies in remaining fully present in the here and now. Although this can be difficult, the effort can be worth it.

Where Is Home?

Where Is Home

Where is home? It seems like this would be a pretty easy question to answer, but it turns out to be more complicated than I had initially thought. offers multiple definitions of home, including:

  • A place where one lives; a residence; the physical structure within which one lives
  • A dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it
  • A household
  • An environment offering security and happiness
  • A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin
  • The place where one was born or has lived for a long time
  • The native habitat, as of a plant or animal.
Where is Home

The above list of definitions adds very little clarity about what home is.

Consider these quotes:

“The ache for home lies in all of us, the safe place here we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~ Maya Angelou. In this quote the word home may not actually refer to the place we were born and raised. For some people that was not a safe place. Questioning and judgment may have be prevalent. But, that home could have been with a friend, neighbor, other family member, or somewhere else.

Where is Home

“Home is where one starts from.” ~ T.S. Eliot. While this appears a simple statement about the place you lived in childhood, I think there may be more to it. How one defines the word “start” could have significant impact. Did I start from a place, a family, a mindset, or even a culture?

“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” ~ Tad Williams. I particularly like this one. It allows a lot more freedom and doesn’t have ties to something from the past that might have been unpleasant or unhealthy and also suggests individual agency and responsibility.

Home has meant different things to me at different stages of my life. At times it has been a house where I lived, and other times it has been a feeling of safety. Currently home is more of a sanctuary that puts distance between me and the drama and chaos that seem to be everywhere around me. That said, I am working toward the Tad Williams definition. How about you? How do you define home? Is it the same as how you defined it when you were younger? How and why did it change? That is a topic I plan to explore more in my morning journal.

I’m Back…Again

Hi everyone. I’m back. I know I’ve said this many times. I always mean it too. Then life gets busy and I fall off the path. That sounds like life has been a struggle, but in many ways I’m living my dream. While I’m still working a full time job, and a part-time job, the rest of time is dedicated primarily to music; playing music, and listening to music, and composing music.

sign of encouragement

In May I had the intense pleasure of hearing my choir sing several of my compositions and in June I submitted a composition for publication. Yesterday I uploaded some compositions to for sale. This really is a dream come true. It just goes to show that one is never too old to reach for their dreams. It just sometimes seems like it. Do I wish that I had done more sooner? Of course, but all of this life experience has brought me to this moment. I just can’t feel sorry about that.

Some days my most difficult choice is whether I’m going to play piano, write music, play my hammered dulcimer, or play my mandolin in my free time. This is a really great problem to have. What about you? Do you have a dream or ambition that you feel ready to pursue? If you don’t quite feel ready, what is holding you back? For me, it was self doubt. I’m glad I kicked that way of thinking to the curb. If I can do it, you can too.

So, I said that I’m back. You might wonder what that means. It means that I have made a commitment to myself to return to regular posts on this blog. Some of the posts will be about my music. Other posts will continue to be insights on daily living. I’m asking for your help in this. Feedback is an important part for me and it helps to keep me motivated. If you like something, please tell me. If you have questions, please ask me. I really would like to hear from you.

Black-eyed-susans with Embrace New Beginnings sign

Saying No

“No is a full sentence.” ~ Jessica Ortner

yes or no

Most people I know struggle with saying no. We often feel that we must give an explanation, particularly if we are giving what seems to be an answer that might upset or disappoint someone. The reality is that NO is a full sentence. It is ok to offer an explanation if you want to. It is less helpful if you feel an explanation is required. Have you ever said yes when you wanted to say no, primarily because you didn’t want to tell someone why you were saying no? I have.

There may be multiple reasons why we are uncomfortable saying no. The first one that pops into my head is the response 2-year-olds get when they say no to adults. I can’t think of a single example when the adult (including me) didn’t immediately ask why. We have been programmed from an early age to explain so that we don’t get in trouble. And that explanation really needed to be a good one. Admittedly, although I’m working on it, I still have a tendency to ask why when someone tells me no. More often than not, but not always, it stems from curiosity rather than entitlement these days.

Offering an excuse or explanation before being asked can be an attempt to do an end run around the potential for conflict. This may include a belief that our reasons are not valid or acceptable, or a belief that other people’s feelings are far more important than our own. Habit? Sometimes low self worth? Often necessary? Not always.

It bears repeating, it is ok to explain a reason if it adds anything to the situation. Let it be purposeful. This requires mindfulness about the situation and one’s own motivations and emotional responses. I don’t really recommend that you walk through your life just saying no. Life is often more fulfilling if you say yes frequently. I do recommend that you begin to say no without explanation to people that you are not really close to since they won’t have any real expectations about how you generally operate. When this gets more comfortable try some people that know you well, but that you feel safe with. Notice what happens.

Why is this important? It is important since it contributes to a strong sense of self worth and confidence that will enhance how you interact with the world and other people. Go ahead. Get in touch with your inner toddler. NO!

Cinnamon Buns

We have been having a pretty big adventure here at my house. My neighbor took this picture, but I didn’t know about it until after the bear was at my house.  This bear is standing on the driveway leading to my house.  She named this bear Cinnamon Buns. At first I was telling people that I had a brown bear at my house and they looked at me rather strangely. Of course a brown bear is also know as a Grizzly Bear, and we don’t have those where I live. What I didn’t know is that Black Bears come in many colors, and one of them is cinnamon brown. When the sun was on his back you could definitely see the cinnamon color.

A few days after the driveway picture was taken, I had just come out of the shower and was heading for my closet. I looked out my bedroom window and saw a bear climbing up onto the picnic table in my backyard.  I really didn’t think I was really seeing a bear! How could that be? He laid down and started licking his paws.  Then started getting down.

Cinnamon Buns in the tree

A few days later I saw this.  Cinnamon Buns was up in the tree eating the apricots that hadn’t fallen yet.  Not only did he sit in the tree eating apricots, he also stood up and shook the branches to make the apricots fall. From where I was watching I could have literally reached out and touched him if I had opened the window. I confess I really wanted to touch him and see what that fur felt like, but caution prevailed and I didn’t do it.

Cinnamon Buns was exploring my yard and eating all the apricots that were on the ground around the trees.  There were probably close to 1000 apricots on the ground.  That’s a lot. I probably got 2-3 gallons of them picked before the bear showed up. I have 3 apricot trees and he cleaned them all out. We always thought it was the birds that were eating the apricots before I was able to pick them. Now we are not so sure about that.

Curious Bear

He seems to be a very curious bear. It was fun to watch him checking out the garden. He was a good boy and didn’t eat any of my tomatoes or herbs.

My dog Seamus was outside on Thursday when Cinnamon Buns came to the house and scared the bear and made it run up a tree.  It was difficult to get Seamus to come back in the house.  Silly me, I went outside to get the dog! Just a few steps….. but when I got back into the house I couldn’t believe I had done that. The bear stayed up in the pine tree for a long time and was panting from the quick climb up the tree.  This picture shows Cinnamon Buns walking on my garden wall back toward the apricot tree.

I haven’t seen him since then.  All of the apricots are gone from the trees and the ground. While it is better for all involved – the bear, my dogs, and me – I really miss him. I bet he will be back next year.