Opening Doors with Kim

Kim Ades of Opening Doors lets you in on her frame of mind.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

It’s Not Always About You

I took the afternoon off work today so that I could be at home when my new car was delivered. My sister-in-law drove it into town from Montreal where it was purchased. (I know…isn’t that nice???) After she arrived, we went for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon together until the time I had to drive her to the airport so that she could catch a flight back home. After dropping her off, I called the office to check in. I spoke with Jacqui, our Director of Communications, discussing the details of our booth at the virtual convention we will be attending in a couple of weeks. I was driving and talking and admittedly, still getting used to the new size and fancy features of my new car. I wasn’t as focused on the road as I should have been when all at once I turned my gaze slightly to the left and noticed a police car driving slowly beside me.

Uh oh. He caught me. He must have seen me on the phone, not paying attention to my driving. I saw him looking at me. In one second flat I told Jacqui that I had to go – and I hung up on her without even saying goodbye.

My thoughts started running rampant. Perhaps I was speeding. Or maybe he’ll pull me over for not having a registered vehicle. Maybe he is going to comment on my 11 year old son sitting in the front seat (even though I know he’s old enough). Maybe he is going to tell me that I’m not a responsible mother. Maybe he is looking for a criminal and he thinks I’m her. Suddenly he slowed down and pulled up behind me. The lights on top of his roof started flashing. Oh God, I’m cooked…

I had to stay calm, for the sake of my son in the car. But guilt was written all over my face. I started to think of what I was going to say to get out of the mess…It’s a new car and I am not used to the larger size, that’s why I’m driving in two lanes… My son has a small bladder and he really needs to use the washroom, that’s why I’m speeding…

I pulled over and waited for my reprimand.

I looked in the rear view mirror to see him drive around me to catch up with the car ahead of me up the road.

Holy smokes! I breathed a sigh of relief and burst out laughing with my son. It wasn’t about me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Are you a spender or a saver?

I took my kids to Disney for the Holidays. I figured was one of those once in a life time adventures that you have to do with your kids before they get too old. We went to all the Disney parks and left no stone unturned. We had a wonderful time.

Louis and Ferne each had $45 to spend on whatever keepsake they wanted to take home with them and they were both on a mission to find exactly what they were looking for. From the moment we stepped through the gates of Animal Kingdom, Louis was swept away in Disney’s ingenious pin trading industry and began to buy and trade pins he thought were cool, rare, and hard to come by. For the duration of the trip he was pin obsessed and visited every single pin booth he could find and stopped Disney Cast Members in their tracks to see if they had that one special pin he was looking for – Mickey’s foot prints. It would complete his set of four. He learned how to trade up – purchasing lower priced pins and trading them for those that were considered higher value and more exclusive. Including the $10 I gave him as a bonus for great behavior, he spent $60 altogether, taking a $5 loan from his sister. He left with an empty wallet but a lanyard full of really cool pins. He was so proud of his collection; he talked about it all the way home and showed everyone who had indicated the slightest interest.

Ferne, on the other hand, had an entirely different strategy in mind. She had a budget – she only wanted to spend a maximum of $3 and keep the rest tucked away for something else (I wasn’t sure what). Anyone who has been to Disney knows that there is nothing you can buy for only 3 dollars. Even the smallest little souvenir is no less than $5 – but she was not going to deviate from her plan. Luckily that extra $10 I gave her for great behavior as well came in handy! She found a picture frame for $12 and including tax, she was able to get something good within her budget! She was one happy girl!

After Orlando, we flew to Ft. Lauderdale to spend some time with my parents. As soon as we landed, Louis asked my mother for some odd jobs to do so that he could earn a few extra dollars. Ferne was automatically included in the deal. They both walked away with an additional $50!

So which is a better way to live? The answer is that it makes absolutely no difference. What matters is that they were each happy with their decisions and that their actions came entirely from their personal desires – without outside influence. What they did felt good to them and corresponded with their personalities, their characters, their interests and their nature

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Thoth So

My son Louis is a big, huge, gigantic, enormous, youtube fan. When he saw the email I received featuring Paul Potts, the cell phone sales man who revealed his astounding talent as an opera singer on Britan’s Got Talent, Louis decided to go on an America’s Got Talent expedition. He saw all kinds of performers; dancers, jugglers, acrobats, ventriloquists, it was endless. He seemed to be drawn to young people who had a unique talent – like the 11 year old girl who could yodel or the 7 year old who sang a song from the Dream Girls sound track. Each time he saw something that was catchy he would shout, “Mom! Mom! Come Fast! You gotta see this!” Louis and I watched all kinds of talented people, and all kinds of people who called themselves talented.

Of all the performances we saw, there was one that stood out. Louis watched it at least 25 times. He called himself S.K. Thoth. He had his hair up in a pony tail in the middle of his head. He wore heavy blue eyeliner on his eyelids and a series of chain necklaces over his chest. He was bare other than the gold colored loin cloth he wore to cover his private parts. He played the violin, he danced and chanted and called himself a “pray-formance” artist because according to him his presentation combined prayer and music. If he won the million dollars offered by the show, his plan was to create a full blown opera.

His performance was shocking. He danced around on stage, kind of like an Indian chief playing the violin, singing a song in an unrecognizable language. It was hard to watch and even harder to listen to. The audience began booing him about 10 seconds into his performance. One of the judges described him as wandering around looking ridiculous making a crazy wailing noise and another judge said he looked like Apocalypto Now with a violin. Here is the link in case you want to see for yourself…

I was stunned. I wondered what kind of person would expose himself knowingly to that kind of humiliation. Was he unaware of how bad he sounded? Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy’s wife) was the third judge. Trying to leave him with whatever miniscule trace dignity was fathomable; she respectfully asked him what language he was singing in. He replied, “I made it up.” The audience howled with laughter at this man’s insanity.

But that was the response that created for me an instant fascination with Thoth. Who goes on stage in front of millions of people, half naked, playing a violin, chanting in his own, made-up language?

Someone with courage.

I know you are probably thinking “Or someone who’s delusional.” But that’s when I started to think that genius and delusion are probably very closely related; perhaps even two sides of the same coin. Geniuses can see what the rest of us are unable to.

So Thoth is ‘out there’ and he absolutely doesn’t fit the mold of anything in our repertoire of normal. But perhaps that is only because our repertoire is so limited. Perhaps there is so much more that we might be able to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel if only we stayed open to it and imagined the possibility. Thoth imagined a new possibility and had the courage to try it. His delusion allowed him to see what the rest of us are unable to.

As odd as it may seem, Thoth set an example for my son that day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

These are the Only Two Suckers I Can Trust

“This afternoon I am not going to have you up on your feet bopping to the music. I am going to make love to you. I am going to sing songs that you make babies with.” With that introduction, she kept her promise.

She was large, sexy and sultry. Without pinpointing her age, it appeared that she came from a generation that still considers it impolite to ask a woman her age. Grey hair, black skin, full lips and a smile that stretched from here to eternity. Her name was Lois Smith – she was one of the highlighted singers at the Cape May Jazz Festival. Her voice was like butter. It was powerful, yet her execution appeared effortless, thoughtless. She reminded me of a child completely immersed in her pretend world without any regard to who might be watching or eavesdropping on her play. She captivated the audience with her sound and moved them with her presence. No matter what she may have experienced in her life that may have caused her pain, when she sang it was clear that she was in perfect alignment and she was living her passion. Everything was right in her world the moment she stepped onto the stage. Even when her song sheets fell from her hands in a mess on the floor, she was still in her element leveraging the incident to connect with the audience and make them laugh. She was graceful and as I looked around I could see that she had successfully lured in each and every person in the room with her dulcet tones. Among the list of songs she performed, she indulged us with her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, and At Last. I could hardly catch my breath witnessing such a magical performance.

As she paused between songs, someone from the audience approached her with an envelope. As she tucked it into the front of her blouse to store it safely, she turned to the audience and said “These are the only two suckers I can trust.” She had the crowd roaring with laughter.

Imagine playing your career with that much passion? Imagine stepping into it with that much abandon and freedom? Imaging being so aligned in your work that the whole world can see it? What would it take?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What a Rich Life Indeed

I saw him at Subways. I’m guessing he was about 32. His hair was disheveled and he had a mustard stain on his shirt. The woman he was with looked like his grandmother. There was a walker parked nearby. She was helping him eat his submarine sandwich and wiping the drool off his chin. He smiled, he rocked, and he squealed with glee. His hands were covered with red goop – I think it came from the tomato that squirted out of his sandwich. Every bite was taken with absolute pleasure and delight. I have never watched anyone enjoy eating anything as much as this man.

It made me think about how most of us rarely even taste the food we eat. About how we go through life barely noticing the flavors in our meals, the color in our neighborhoods, and the fascinating wealth of experience in the people we interact with. We spend a lot of time trudging through life and hardly notice the world we live in. We miss so much because we are simply not paying attention to the miracle of all of the creations around us and we take for granted so many things that we ought to be grateful for.

Watching this man eat his sub made me wonder about his quality of life. Clearly he was not able to live like the rest of us. He was unable to communicate clearly, he could not walk without assistance, and although I can not be certain, it appeared that having any type of job was beyond his capacity. He was probably not married or engaged in any type of intimate relationship. His life was different. One could say he was short changed and his life lacked some of the basic privileges the rest of us are afforded. Some might feel sorry for him and some might feel terrified to live in such a condition. But he was happy. What a rich life indeed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

For the Birds

My kids and I were standing on the platform at the train station waiting for the train to pick us up and take us back to Toronto after a long weekend in Montreal visiting family. Ferne spotted a bird. It was a plump bird and it looked warm and snuggly, resting peacefully in her nook as though it had found a reprieve from the perils of the world. She had found a cozy spot to lay down her feathery load right on the train tracks.

Seconds later we heard an announcement on the speakers overhead “Last call for train # 57 heading to Toronto.” As we looked up, we saw the train approaching. My daughter started to panic and wave her arms in an attempt to swish the bird away. My son started to shout at the bird, “Bird! Move away!” I became nervous as Ferne moved toward the tracks desperately trying to help the bird. Seeing the train come closer, I held her back. The bird showed no intention of flight. We prepared to witness a bird squashing of colossal proportions.

I wanted to shield my kids from the imminent tragedy. I wanted to protect them from witnessing such a gruesome death. I was still hopeful that the bird would flee at the very last moment with the increasing vibration of the train on the tracks. The bird did not move. As the train came closer, I held my breath and waited for the impact…

There was no impact. She was sitting on the itsy bitsy part of the track that is tucked neatly beneath the place where the wheels of the train connect with the rail. She was safe. Holy smokes! We could not believe our eyes! The bird was smarter than us. She knew that she would be safe and did not have a shroud of fear or panic in her demeanor. She was so calm in fact, she appeared to be asleep.

We were the ones who were in panic mode. Even when there was nothing we could do. We had no trust that the bird knew what she was doing or that her instinct for self preservation was at work. We were terrified with the anticipation of what we were certain was going to happen. We knew better. In no uncertain terms, that bird was going to die.

And it didn’t.

We are frequently terrified of certain disaster that never materializes. Sometimes it’s due to hype (like when we all ran out and bought 50,000 tones of water in preparation for the clock to strike midnight on the new millennium), and sometimes it’s due to paralyzing fear, or outside influence. Either way, we end up selling ourselves short of amazing experiences and cherished moments. Of course, I still don’t recommend you find a cozy little spot on the rail road track to take a little snooze. But I do recommend living on the edge a little bit and stretching your comfort zone and trying things that ordinarily might seem a little bit daunting or scary.

The real recommendation is this: imagine you are 99 years old and you look at yourself in the mirror and reflect on your life… think of the regrets you might have living your life never having experienced certain things. What are those things?

Those are the things that you need to make sure you incorporate in your life before it’s too late. Those are the things that you need to make sure you experience so that you live your life without regret.

While it’s true that the bird’s resting spot freaked us out imagine the bird’s life without the discovery of the train track? Imagine all the discoveries you have yet to make… are you up for it?

Friday, October 19, 2007

By the Light of the Moon

She was tired and stressed and obviously upset. She was out of control and unable to collect herself. My 8 year old daughter, Ferne was beside herself because it was already 8:55 p.m. and she still had so much to do: study for her French spelling test, read, and write in her journal. Yes, of course she has a journal; she is my daughter after all! With a note of hysteria, she blamed me for letting the time slip by, and claimed that she hated herself for not being prepared for the spelling test. Nothing I could do would calm her down. I tried everything. I tried extending her bed time by an extra 20 minutes, I tried getting her to focus on the time we still had to study for her test, and, seeing that she was far too exhausted to study anyways, I tried suggesting that she relax and wake up fresh the following morning and study then. No matter what I said, her hysteria grew. She even began to thrash around in her bed, unable to contain herself. She lost it.

Then her brother, Louis walked in the room. He had just finished taking his shower and stood in front of us wrapped in a towel. Witnessing the dynamics of the situation, he decided to add his own spice to the mix. Just as he turned around to leave the room, he deliberately let his towel drop, mooning us both. Ferne started to laugh and the tension evaporated instantly. She let go of beating herself up (and everyone around her) and traded it in for a little levity.

What an idea! Trading in the tension and self defeating thoughts for a little levity is such a simple, yet powerful concept.

She ended up reading a little, writing in her journal, and going to sleep. The following morning she woke up and studied for her spelling test to finally master every word on the list.

Here’s how it works. Not much gets accomplished when you are miserable and feel bad about yourself. But sometimes it happens, and we just feel lousy about ourselves and disappointed about our achievements, or lack thereof. The more we dwell on the goals we have not reached, the bigger the hole gets and the harder it is to fill it.

So here’s the key. Use a little levity to lift yourself up. Change your focus. Do something else, and when you are feeling low, focus on feeling better. Get an ice cream. Go for a run. Listen to a great song. Call a friend. Reconfigure your mind to recall the last time you felt aligned and felt good. The moment that you are moving toward a better frame of mind, your likelihood of attaining your goals dramatically improves.