This week I’ve been struggling to find the right words. My mind is a flurry of activity yet I don’t feel the usual melody in my story. What the hell?
Boom, it is 1am and the lights go on in my brain.
This topic is complex but when I drill down to the absolute core of what is important, it’s really rather simple. I’ll forego the need for a flowery explanation and witty prose of the backstory and share with you the facts. Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.
So what is my mystery topic? RELATIONSHIPS. I am talking about my blueprint for healthy relationships; the relationships between friends, family and lovers.
There are times when a relationship requires WORK. Not effort, but work. I am not talking about hitting a rough patch or feeling distant but rather you feel like you are running up hill, walking on egg shells or giving more than you receive. RED FLAG but I’ll continue this thought later.
So now that I have reached the divine and wise (ass) age of 50, what say I is the key? What is necessary in order to experience a mutually satisfying relationship? To help you remember, I’ve created a simple mnemonic; FUN!
The (F) FOUNDATION:
- I must understand who I am.
- I must love the person I am.
- I must be responsible for my actions, toward myself and others.
The (U) UNDERSTANDING:
- You enhance my life BUT I don’t need you to feel complete.
- We communicate honestly and respectfully, regardless of the subject matter.
- Our relationship is a priority NOT a contingency or a convenience.
The (N) NON-NEGOTIABLES:
- We each believe we are capable of loving another person and we deserve to be loved ourselves.
- We each own our own #$#@%. No blame or excuses!
- We explicitly agree that I am responsible for MY life and you for YOUR life.
- We relinquish the need to control what is out of our power and place to manage.
- We chose to live with an open and generous heart.
Back to that RED FLAG warning…. The first thing to examine is your role in the relationship. Are you grounded and open? Realistic? Codependent? This step is so often overlooked as blame, anger, resentment and other powerful emotions fuel unproductive exchanges.
Look in the mirror. You are the first step.
If it still isn’t working, you have a decision to make.
FUN = My personal blueprint. What’s your blueprint?
From the heart,
(Graphic courtesy of sodahead.com)
I just returned from my first trip to the amazing city of New Orleans! What a place—a city rich in history and culture.
On the final leg of the trip home I sat reflecting on the warmth of the NoLa people and the pride associated with excellent products and services, when a man also traveling home from the South, made the following comment, “The only good thing about the South is the manners. People there really know their place and respect white people. They don’t have attitudes like these Mexicans over here.”
Maturity or maybe aging neurons provided me with the ability to pause before I engaged my mouth. My first thought. Did I just hear him correctly? Yes, I am wearing my glasses. (I swear I hear better when I am wearing my glasses!) But this was someone my age or even younger…….hmmmm.
My second thought was why should I waste my energy responding to such a complete idiot? But….. I can’t just stay silent, can I? After all, communication is what separates us from apes…..
My neurons finally started firing on all cylinders and I managed to say this with a touch of icy calm, “Excuse me but everyone has a story and you cannot know the perspective of another person until you have walked in their shoes.”
May I point out I didn’t use any expletives? I zipped my lip. I gave him no fuel to further engage me on any topic whether it is race, immigration or even the weather. I am comfortable with my beliefs and I so much wanted to change his perspective but I deemed him a lost cause. I also deemed him a racist moron in case you thought I had gone soft in the head.
My choice is to expend my energy where I CAN make a difference but driving home I could not let go of that conversation. Isn’t this 2012? Don’t I live in one of the most progressive areas of the country? Why are we still judging people by the color of their skin? Where is his compassion for a fellow human being?
People!! Let’s not forget that the United States was founded by immigrants. Furthermore, we displaced the native people and exploited the cheap or even free labor of many others.
The beauty of this country lies in our diversity. Celebrate it!
The color of someone’s skin does not determine whether or not we engage with them in a kind, honest and respectful manner. For that matter, neither does their gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and socioeconomic status. All people deserve respect. It’s really that simple.
“Treat others better than you wish to be treated yourself.” That’s what my Grandma always told us and that is what I wish to share with you.
From the heart,
A few weeks from now I will turn 50 years old. Exactly half of my life has taken place in California as a wife, a mother and a professional. I can’t say that I am sad or depressed about this milestone because life just keeps getting better!
Fifty begins an exciting decade—a different story. I am embarking on life as a single person, living life on new terms. If I had to describe myself now, I would be a kaleidoscope. Tiny unrelated objects and broken pieces, symbolizing the remnants of life’s lessons, are thrown together to form intricate patterns when they dance amongst the mirrors. Constantly tumbling yet forming stunning artistry when held to the light. Light is required to see the beauty I hold inside!
I could sit and complain about hardships, lost opportunities and broken promises but I refuse to go there. Yes, I have weak moments when I have to gripe so don’t call me a liar! On those days I remember that the better wine comes from old vines!
I am a kaleidoscope. I am a fine wine. I am happy. Fifty is not the new “F” word, unless of course “F” stands for FABULOUS! Thank Goodness I am Fabulous!
From the heart,
For something new, I attended a meditation meeting with theme of “creating space”. My mind immediately raced ahead, trying to anticipate what wisdom the speaker would reveal. (This is why I really need meditation in my life — to quiet my monkey mind).
Would this space be a protective bubble from all that is negative?
Would this be the space be a room or place of one’s own for quiet reflection?
Would the space be related to emotional space?
Were there ways I could create space or a presence in someone else’s life?
It is as simple as this. The speaker described “space” as a moment when it is just you connecting to your breath. Space is a moment when you settle down into your core and “check in”.
We Americans are addicted to activity. We look at sitting still and doing nothing as lazy, weird and uncomfortable. We even multitask rather than focus on one particular activity at a time. We watch mind numbing television to zone out. I can relate to how difficult it is to do nothing but is “creating space” really doing nothing? NO, it is a conscious act of surrender. A very important SOMETHING!
Here is how I plan to sneak in more space in my day.
I will get up a little earlier each morning to enjoy my coffee to the sound of the birds rather than the morning news.
I will not overschedule myself with activities.
I will have an electronics free evening once a week.
I will breathe deeply when I stand in line, am placed on hold or wait for a document to load.
Space can be enjoyed in seconds and minutes, hours and days.
May the space I create for myself, help provide ample light to illuminate the beauty of my being.
Today someone asked me how I had changed since my younger years. My answer was that I have not changed but rather I have fully settled into who I am; letting my authentic self be revealed.
Find space, dear friends, and thrive!
From the heart,
Artwork found at Simply Sitting Blog titled “Taming the Monkey Mind”
There is nothing like a trip to another part of the world where you don’t speak the language! Not only do you have to rely on your intuition and read non-verbal signals, you have plenty of time to think and practice surrendering to the moment.
I traveled to Italy to attend an international conference on pain. While my day job looks at the science of pain, I find myself drawn to the developments regarding the psychological management of pain. In one particular conversation with a vivacious Physical Therapist, I shared my personal “health” philosophy. Although I am in good health, the pain in my life is emotionally driven therefore I must focus on finding happiness. She quickly placed her hand on my arm and said, “Do you mean finding meaningfulness or is it just happiness you seek?”
She went on to explain that she looked at happiness as a close ended question—a yes or a no response. “Does this cappuccino make you happy? Today it is not hot enough or big enough so it is easy to say no, I am not happy. However, sharing this time, these thoughts with you is making me happy. I find this time meaningful which makes me happy and I will carry this moment with me. I’ll forget about the coffee but I will not forget about you.”
I felt an electricity course through me. This was an AH HAH moment! Yes, it is meaningfulness I seek—not just happiness. With meaningfulness, happiness is one component but it also includes love, truth, hope, reason, joy, sorrow, purpose, connection……and so many other rich feelings. Meaningfulness is a spectrum of which happiness is one aspect.
THINGS may or may not make you happy but it is through our experiences we extract meaningfulness.
A wave of contentment washed over me the last two days of my trip. While I live with appreciation and gratitude, my experiences and future experiences continue to shape me. Yes, I could do without many of the decisions I face and the sadness I carry, but in the end, I am richer for it having shed the tears and shared the laughter. I have acted on my dreams while the all too familiar voice of fear and criticism taunted me.
I am a better friend, a better woman because I rest on yesterday while I drink in today.
I seek meaningfulness.
From the heart,
I am celebrating Olympic Gold here in the Zen Den!!!
Twenty five years ago I moved to California and in a blink twenty five years later, I am starting again—my way. In just the last two years I have experienced a move, a new job, the death of a parent and deciding to move forward on my divorce PLUS I became an empty nester all while facing my 50th birthday. If I recounted all that has happened in the last five or ten years—you’d swear I was a reading straight from the pages of a great work of fiction. Too much drama for one person to endure!
Therefore, to celebrate the trials and tribulations of my last quarter century, I am awarding myself Gold medals in the categories of Mental Gymnastics and Emotional Track and Field. I have performed like a champion!
Hands down, this is the happiest time of my life. Why you ask? Because I learned that being happy begins with the intention of being happy; then you have to make happy happen. Make more happy, think less crappy. (I have not been drinking (much) today.)
I minimize, eliminate and avoid the things that don’t make me happy. Let me clarify, I don’t avoid responsibility. I live through uncomfortable moments and learn from them. I refuse to be victimized by my struggles. Where there is pain there is growth whether I am ready for it or not. I don’t grin and bear it but rather I grit my teeth and swear.
I also laugh at the weirdest moments. Like when I walked into the county jail to visit someone only to realize I was wearing my bright red 4th of July tank top that said, in sequins no less, “I Love Freedom”. I didn’t plan this of course—I wouldn’t be that insensitive. There lies the funny.
I also thanked a quiet man who approached me in the grocery store yesterday to say, “Your aura is huge and warm and that of a healer. Standing next to you I feel just as good as when I am home cuddling with my eight cats.” I kid you not. It was a “bless your heart” moment –more sweet than creepy. I’ve decided that I may be a super hero in disguise and since the name Kittylicious is already taken, you can call me Madam Meow. Is this funny or is it just me??
Or the time I was standing in the library when a wiry four foot tall silver haired elder grabbed a book right out of my hands saying she had seen it first, she just needed time to walk across the room to pick take if off the shelf. One of the few times I found myself speechless! Had to laugh at that one…. I was bullied by a tiny granny!
The brain is pliable and can be rewired for positivity after just a few weeks of concerted effort. If you feel that you have nothing to celebrate, look again. You may be looking for miracles while missing...
I am having a hard time understanding why bad things happen to good people. A friend of mine, I’ll call her S., had cancer four years ago but luckily they caught it early and she survived. At that time, she was in the middle of the adoption process. Not only did she survive the rigors of surgery and chemotherapy, she was the happiest bald headed woman I ever met. Her faith, family, friends and positive attitude prevailed over all doubt.
A few weeks ago S. told me that it was very likely that she had a different type of cancer, although discovered early, it is on her liver. What really makes me furious with the Universe is that she just completed the adoption process for two little boys. And if I could be any madder, had S. not challenged her doctor for further testing after a questionable lab result, the cancer would have progressed undetected.
So if we are exactly where we need to be, what could possibly be the benefit of battling yet another cancer?
With this situation on my mind, I am hypersensitive to people who do not appreciate all that they have in their lives. For instance, I heard a story about a woman who received a promotion and bonus but was complaining that the promotion should have been up two levels instead of one. OMG. Once you start wishing things were different, it tells me that you have not paused to appreciate where you are and what you have received.
Are you waiting for something or someone before you consider yourself happy or complete? Hello, this is your wake up call. You cannot wait to live your life for any reason. I guess if you are OK settling for less than fine but come on, put on your big girl panties and live out loud.
I too wish for things to be different.
- I wish for my friends and family to be free of suffering.
- I wish that I be given guidance to make good decisions.
- I wish that we all learn to love who we are as unique individuals.
The rest is up to you.
I have a box that I slip my notes and prayers into that I call my “God box”. I love the process of writing something down (makes it real) and then turning it over to the Universe (lifts it from my heart and mind). I recently pulled out a few slips of paper to see what they said. One was wishing a friend find a way to move to California. Update: she did 13 months later. Another note was I wanted help finding a job where I was able to work in a respectful and creative environment. Update: I did one month later.
There is power in prayer so I ask that you join me in praying that S. receives the best possible care and outcome.
Finally, I want S. to know that she is the most courageous person I know and her example of moving forward with a positive attitude inspires me. I am so fortunate to have her in my life.
From the (somewhat broken) heart,
Welcome to The Confessional. I have to admit that I have a crush on my neighbor. Well, it is my neighbor’s house guest to be exact.
“Cabana Boy”, as my friends have so appropriately named him, sees all sides of me living in such close proximity.
He already knows I wear pajamas a good deal of my waking hours. It is by choice—not that I am lazy or anything. Comfort is the name of the game.
He probably hears me talking all day but I am not crazy or at least that kind of crazy. I work from a home office or I may be practicing character voices for an audio book recording. PS: I love to talk and eventually will be paid by the hour to do so!
I hope the vacuum, the dryer or the blender at 11pm doesn’t bother him because I cook and clean when the mood strikes me. You have to love my creativity—and cute aprons! Just in case your mind goes there, I am not wearing a French maid outfit when performing said activities.
Yes, you can borrow my ironing board but why not just come inside? I was just using it—in my bedroom. This puts new meaning to the phrase “Strike while the iron is hot”. I’ll let you wonder if this really happened or not. There is nothing sexier than watching a man iron. Wait, it would sexier if he were ironing my clothes!
English is not his first language. Thank goodness he doesn’t always understand my nervous girly girl chatter.
Cabana Boy will be here until December when either I will be relieved to see him go or broken hearted upon his departure. My romantic goofiness has a limited time window.
I smiled all day when he said, “Ello, I wuz jest tinking about youz.”
It’s the little things….I wish you a good dose of tingly all over.
From the heart,
Art courtesy of redriverpak.com
You can always tell how out of control my life feels by the number of organizing projects I complete in a week. For instance, there is something intensely satisfying after I clean my desk drawer, delete useless computer files or organize a closet. It is only Saturday night (yes, I chose to stay home and clean!) and I’ve run out of things to organize while chaotic worries jump around in my brain. Tomorrow I am going to move to my “creative projects” like the amazingly funky dresser I bought for $15. Once I clean it up and paint it, I’ll move it into my home office – then I can re-organize for another full day!
I joke with my therapist saying how good my silverware drawer looks after an emotional week. Organizing my silverware drawer is a technique I use when my emotions are spiraling out of control. I line up the forks, spoons and knives in pretty fashion and ten minutes later they lie there like little compliant soldiers. Whatever was bothering me seems long gone. You may call this crazy but I don’t care — it’s simple and it works.
I can’t control the people and situations in my life but I can control the heck out of my flatware!
I’ll never forget the time a doctor suggested I take advantage of a cognitive behavior therapy program for depression and anxiety at a local medical school. Yes, a class on depression – for depressed people. At first I resisted because I could think of nothing more depressing, than sitting around with other depressed people. After all, I can just organize something to feel better!
Sarcasm aside, this class turned out to be a pivotal learning experience and I am ever so grateful to have participated. Out of respect to the others in the group, I will not share any details from our discussions. I will however tell you that I have the highest respect and regard for my classmates and the courage they displayed over the six week period.
Getting by with a little help from my friends, the “FRIENDS” being a few techniques I learned in my class and continue to incorporate into my life. I have limited my list to 5 because frankly, I have a hard time remembering more than 5 things at a time!
1. Pleasure Principle (I bet that got your attention!) Think of a teeter totter with the end on the ground holding your negative thoughts, your problems, and anything that is difficult. On the side up in the air, start to fill the seat with “pleasure providing” activities which begin to balance out the heavy side.
For instance, if I need to have a discussion about our divorce with the X, I make sure I have several fun things planned around that discussion to help minimize the pain (and his toxicity). If it is time for those lovely monthly/quarterly reports, I write from my favorite place (the library) and I reward myself with something...
I almost can’t decide what I want to write about today! Maybe I will tell you how I had a giggle fit drinking champagne straight from the bottle at the movies on Saturday night with a girlfriend– it was a first! Or there was the voice mail saying, “I am on my way to help a Mom with a drunk 13 year old. What should I do??” Well, let me tell you. I have a little too much experience parenting teenagers – is this because I was such a good teenager that my kids paid me back quadruple fold with their “learnings”????
What a minute, I see a correlation …. My kids have driven me to drink! Not only can I help you with your parenting, we can tip our glasses to the joys and wisdom of midlife!
Speaking of kids, can women have it all? This is the headline of a magazine for smart people in the checkout line. (I try not to mention names because I am anti-advertising. It is also easier to diss people, places and things when they are either anonymous or the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
So is it a slow news week or am I missing something? Perhaps I am feeling a tad bit bitchy (it was cheap champagne after all) but I believe the majority of women already know that we can’t have it all. We make choices and then make the most of those choices. Comprende?
What is the “ALL” in this article? Well, it is referring to a simultaneously creating a happy family and a fulfilling career–
This year I turn 50 so I feel like I have a realistic perspective to share. When I entered college, the plan was to head off to medical school but by my junior year, I had no desire to live the lifestyle of a physician. Very fortunate for me, I found a career that balances the science and the business. I was driven to be a career woman and I knew that marriage and family could coexist with my professional life. Don’t ask me how, I just knew it or was too stubborn to admit otherwise.
I married young and had two babies before I was 30. I chose to work from home and travel very little once I went back to work. Did this limit my advancement potential? Damn right but I was doing what my heart or MGV said was the right thing to do. I thought I had a supportive partner (no further comment, especially since I am feeling bitchy today) but I was managing it all alone while my husband’s career continued to blossom.
Editor’s note—there is no “balance” in the life of a working parent. Something is always tugging at you and you have to let some things go. Pause and Prioritize; those PP moments!
I could go into a deep philosophical discussion about why we women want it ALL but glass ceilings, boy’s clubs, historical precedents, gender bias, biology and so on…we women are often swimming upstream.
I was reminded this week of the way life moves at a pace all its own whether you are ready for it or not. One of my favorite people in my Friday reading group was absent for the last two weeks. I asked if he was on vacation but was told that because his disease had progressed so rapidly in the last month, he was moved to an assisted living facility. This day program is designed for those still able to live at home so I wouldn’t have the pleasure of Irv’s company any longer. My heart was heavy because this man had provided me with so many humorous anecdotes and stories of his life. I told him we would sit down and record of his memories once I purchased a decent recorder. I didn’t move fast enough…..
Today is your only guarantee.
Being that it is Father’s Day today, I am reminded of how my Dad loved to bask in the happiness of his children. It wasn’t until his father passed away that he admitted his dad never told him he loved him. My Dad knew Grandpa did love him but why was it so hard to say it out loud? As my Dad aged, he grew more sentimental and affectionate. There was never a time that I spoke to him that he didn’t remind me that he loved me. I carry this tradition through with my own children thinking what if this is the last time we speak? Now I know that is a bit morbid but let’s err on the side of morbidity just in case, huh?
I lost my Dad too soon. I knew the end was approaching and I felt a sense of urgency to convey a “lifetime of thank you” in a short period of time. I thought to myself, what will I regret not saying while I have the chance? So I chose a beautiful card and wrote to Dad letting him know that he shared many wonderful qualities and interests of which I was grateful. At the same time I may have inherited his stubbornness and impatience too! It was important to me to memorialize my thoughts.
My Dad encouraged me to find my own way and this is a big part of who I am today. I wasn’t the kind of kid that needed a lot of rules because not meeting his expectations was enough to scare the daylights out of me. I learned by experience. Yes, he was right that freshman shouldn’t date seniors but he let me come to my own conclusion after one miserable date. I even told him he was right! Finding my own way is an integral component of my success as a parent and business person. Most importantly, “finding my way” is what fuels me to discover both myself and the world. Finding my way helped me leave a dysfunctional relationship knowing I was going to be OK.
My Dad supported the idea that you don’t know unless you try….. but you can’t quit in the middle of the season! I wanted to play freshman volleyball and lucky for me everyone was accepted to the team. ...
I couldn’t help but love this poem by Rumi. I have so many things to write about this week that I am having trouble settling on just one idea. In the meantime, enjoy this quiet reflection titled, “Guest House”.
♥ ♥ ♥
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.