How many steps do you have to take to change your life?
It's an interesting question, like the little boy asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Honestly, it seems sort of arbitrary at initial examination, as though we all know that the answer is simply however many steps it takes to make the change. In all actuality the answer to that same question is infinitely simpler. It takes one step to change your life. Truly, it took only one for me to begin this journey, one step to initiate a path that would change my life. One step to reach out and touch so many others, to meet so many amazing people so we could see the reflections of each other in our connection.
Diana Jennings was one of the first people I didn't actually know, a complete stranger, because this project and story impacted her. I did what so many of us long to do, I made an impression. Engaging with her over social media has had a tremendous impact on me as well. Her energy is so encouraging, she is full of wisdom and truly makes you look within yourself with wonder. That last one is hard to do, to get past our inner voices and their negativity to inspire, it's what many aspire to and few achieve. Needless to say, when I began this latest round of stories I immediately decided we would now do video conferences so I could reach out to this incredible woman in California and make a connection.
Sipping on my morning coffee with Diana, over our video feed, it is incredible to note how much her warmth can transcend distance and be conveyed through technology. We often lament the screen as a way to depersonalize the interactions we have, but Diana quickly puts that to rest as mere myth. Her smile is genuine, as authentic a gesture as there is in this world, her eyes focus with an incredible excitement and engagement. To be honest, it is hard to tell that she is viewing an image of me and not the physical person. Even through technology, she is seeing me, not viewing me. She speaks with joy and excitement, a happiness that can best be described tonally as song. It is sweet music, notes that dance across years of experiences, knowledge gained and wisdom won.
As we wander through our stories, down paths littered with smiles and cries, with the scraps and wrappers of memory, we see our paths were not so different. We both had issues with school, both learned that we needed to make things work, both understood that this life was ours, something we had to engage and build to be how we wanted. Diana's path is one of taking steps that are not what you expected, one where she got to the high places and triumphs not by what she knew, or even who she knew, but by who she was, by her own power. From training to be an esthetician, to cosmetics, to the early days of sales in SIlicon Valley, she is a woman who has traveled and journeyed because of who she is, because of her keen mind and indomitable heart.
Diana is a woman of vision. Her's is clear and defined, when she talks about it you can see it, as clearly as the view outside your window. I do not know if I can see my own vision as clearly as I can see hers. We talk about vision boards and practices, about ways to manifest that which we want, about listening to the whispers of God in the world and heeding them. She tells me to define my vision, not as a lesson, but as someone who believes my vision is worth making real.
We talk of triumph, of overcoming those things set in our path, of having the courage to be our authentic selves despite what others in the world may think. Diana has an honesty about her, an authenticity that is both strong and comforting, not something you can be born with, but rather something that blooms from the seeds of your passion and your purpose. We talk of pain, of bullying and abuse, of triumphing over the odds and the beautiful creatures people are, when we let them be.
Perhaps the greatest thing we can do is to invest in the future of another, to show how much we care and believe in what they are doing. As we talk, Diana takes a moment to talk to me about what comes next, about other ways to tell my story. She shares her experiences as a speaker, shares resources with me and asks questions. We talk about our strengths and how those can guide us to fulfillment. A few months ago, this woman was a total stranger, yet now she is so much more. She believes in me, in what I am doing, she has now become a friend. Diana tells me about her book, asks me some tips on writing and tells me about her 60 mile walk she will be leaving to complete tomorrow for breast cancer research. (A walk that started with her deciding to just walk 15-20 minutes a day.)
I learn about her children, her husband (a fellow veteran) and he day-to-day. It is incredible and sad that it has to end. In a couple of hours, from across the continent, we have shared coffee and stories, laid the work for a relationship and inspired each other. My day is blessed because of those moments with her joyous energy, her warm smile and the amazing stories of a life wondrous. There are so many words to describe people, so many that could describe Diana, but to me she will always be my wise and elegant friend from California. A strong and powerful woman who triumphed because she is who she is, and that it an incredible thing.
Favorite Dinosaur: Brontosaurus
Why: It was the most elegant of all of the dinosaurs, with it's long neck. It's also the cutest.