Pause. Invite. Appreciate. Share. Repeat!
I was sitting in the airport last week, focused on a six year old boy playing with his Dad. This boy, I’ll call him Junior, was adorable—wearing those shoes that light up when you walk. I fathom he had on a new outfit and his backpack was full of action figures and snacks. If I had to guess, the young Dad, sporting a 5 o’clock shadow, had probably worked the night shift before picking up Junior for the trip.
As we waited to depart, Junior was bouncy, silly and delightful. Dad could barely keep his eyes open so Junior decided it was time for a joke, then a song, or wait let me tell you about school, and so on. He reminded me of the finches at my bird feeder. Constant chatter. Constant movement.
Dad did his best to smile and nod but he was a man of few words. Although silent, Dad radiated warmth and pride.
“It’s too bad we outgrow happiness”, said the women sitting next to me. I paused, mostly in shock, and then she repeated herself as if I hadn’t heard her. “It’s really too bad we out grow our happy years.” I am rarely speechless but this comment shut me down.
Had I been younger, I would have launched into a full discussion or rather debate on why she was dead wrong. Now that I am older and wiser, I chose instead to look at my reaction and why I was so bothered.
My Girlfriend Voice was purring in my ear.
I paused and thought about what she said. I invited my wise Girlfriend Voice to help me understand and respond without sounding like a “B” or a “new age know it all”.
“I absolutely disagree that we outgrow happiness!! Yes, we outgrow clothing and sometimes relationships. Yes, our brains thirst for increasing knowledge and experience. Yes, with age comes responsibility but also opportunity. Happiness is always available.” Exhaling, I took a big breath in and awaited her response.
Does happiness have a shelf life? NO
Is happiness finite? NO
Imagine if we told every child to make sure they were happy when they were young because as adults didn’t have the same option. And not to use up their happiness too fast because it is in limited in supply!!!! This is ridiculous, huh?
The lady never did respond to me. My annoyance with her eventually turned to compassion. (Really did!) Her reasoning could be seeded by a track record of pain and disappointment or the belief that she wasn’t entitled to happiness. It wasn’t my place to try to fix or convince her. Luckily I know that happiness is my responsibility and available to me no matter what my age.
My definition of happiness has broadened since my younger years. I find delight in many things because perhaps,
I pause to welcome happiness. Pausing….
I invite happiness to linger....
BAM! Yummy goes to Crummy
I woke up with a hangover. Let me clarify. I have a chocolate cake hangover. One piece of chocolate cake and I have a “CAKEOVER” in the morning!!! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I am still weighing the pros and cons of that question.
I know I am not supposed to eat junk food but every once in a while I crave a slice of rich, delicious chocolate fudge cake from my local grocery store. I savor each heavenly bite of that four by four by four inch square. Twelve hours later and the payback sets in. CAKEOVER HEADACHE! Yummy goes to crummy real fast.
Wouldn’t it be great if every time we indulged in something negative/toxic/dangerous, we had a physical reaction to remind us there are consequences? Think about it.
You spend two years dating the wrong person. BAM! Stomach flu sets in before the end of your first date and you are saved from 24 months of a hellacious emotional roller coaster ride.
You take a new job only to find out that the new boss mislead you regarding his “expectations” and you are assigned to cubicle purgatory. BAM! Hives break out during the interview and you never get the job offer.
You say that cheap, angry insult out loud in a moment of anger. BAM! Momentary amnesia sets in for everyone within earshot and you are granted a “start over”. N0 apology necessary. Now what was I saying?
I am not suggesting that we have a physical punishment every time we approach the “danger zone” but we can learn to develop an awareness based on our body’s clues essentially trying to shoot a flare to the brain. For instance, when my face tenses up and I scrunch my eyes, it means I am not listening anymore and I am about to interrupt you! There are times when my breathing is shallow – usually because I am angry or annoyed. I am not listening then either; instead I am having a dark moment plotting your demise. Or when I press soooooo hard while texting that my finger threatens to crack the screen! IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND URGENT THAT YOU READ MY MESSAGE! NOW!
I wish that every time I had a physical “body cue” that I translated it into a PAUSE; a pause which allowed time to review the situation and plan my response. Pausing I could evaluate, “Will “X” be worth the outcome of “Z”? Uh oh, sounds like a story problem and I don’t do math after 5pm!
Let your Girlfriend Voice be your BAM! Let her wisdom guide you. With her guidance, you will find yourself RESPONDING rather than REACTING.
Slow down your breathing. Slow down and feel what’s in your body. Slow down and listen in. Slow down –period.
Will I stop eating chocolate cake? No, but I will eat it earlier in the day followed by a huge glass of...
The Thrill is in the Hunt
I love to shop at thrift stores, garage sales and consignment stores for clothing and home furnishings. I know what I don’t want and I’ll know what I want when I see it. Makes sense, right? Lucky me, it was half price day at one of my favorites stores.
There it was, calling to me, from the “ART” section.
Twilight in the desert
A lonely stretch of road; illuminated by a single vehicle
A Kenmore Mack truck lights up the barren sky
“Breaker-breaker, good buddy! Do ya copy?”
Yes, I bought a painting of an 18 wheeler! The best part is that when you plug in this delicious canvas, light shines out of twenty punched holes filled with yellow and red Christmas lights. My Mack truck lights up the desert night sky like beacon of hope! Bingo. I hit the mother lode for $11.25.
In reference to my living room, I could wait until I find a respectable or even inspirational piece of art to fill the space above my fireplace or I can hang something that makes me happy right now. How often do I/you search for SOMETHING to fill a space, discarding viable options, when there is something right in front of me/us that makes perfect sense?
I had found THE HAPPY TRUCK and it was meant to adorn my wall.
There were years when I was looking for happiness. I wanted to unload the “UN-happy”. I needed a fix.
It was much easier to push the blame outwardly than to dive inwardly and take responsibility for my situation. “If you only did this or stopped doing this, I would be happier.” NOT. Luckily I woke up and decided that something had to change. I stepped into the truth and started to look at ME.
I was the one that needed to change.
Slowly and often painfully, I looked at MY actions — the only thing I have control over. I didn’t like most of what I saw in there. The truth hurts but I needed to make an inventory. I made changes where I could, baby steps, until I felt grounded. It took a few years to believe that I was responsible for my own happiness and then a few more years to put my new perspective into practice and leap into a new life.
I define my happiness.
My happiness is not dependent on you.
I am responsible for my own happiness.
Happiness is not an all or nothing situation. For instance, I am quite happy sitting under my blanket despite that I have been sick since Tuesday with a monstrous cold. I am happy the white load got washed and put away even though I have two more loads to go. I am happy that my Frig is clean even though it means eggs for dinner (again!) or a trip to the store later.
I grab at happiness, drape it over me and let the other stuff go.
Someday I’d like to create a piece of art to hang on the hearth but there is no excuse for not enjoying what I have today.
“Catch you on the flip side and...
It’s a Good Thing I Like You
“It’s a good thing I like you.” Have you ever caught yourself using that phrase? I have said it when a friend was late meeting me for dinner but she didn’t have any good reason for her tardiness. I thought, “It’s a good thing I like you.” I said the same thing when my dog ate my cinnamon roll as I turned my back to grab the phone. I said it to my son when he forgot to pick me up from the library. He is damn lucky I like him!
Have I ever applied, “it’s a good thing I like you” to myself? To my own actions? Easy answer. I have said it to myself only once and it just so happened last week.
Last Sunday I headed out to my Salsa practice. Since it was the weekend, I took extra time getting ready. I was feeling pretty damn sexy in a black lace outfit when I headed out the door. Well, it didn’t take long before I was snapped out of the sexy zone into an OMG zone. You see spinning around, my heel caught on the back hem of my skirt, pulling the whole thing down to mid-thigh in one smooth motion! Now, my first thought was, “Thank goodness you have on nice panties!” followed quickly by, “It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself!!!”. Who would have known that a wardrobe malfunction would have turned out to be such a positive thing?
I find that I’m a more forgiving of others foibles than I am of my own. What about life has conditioned this response? Rather than debate the origin, it is easier to focus on the benefits of applying “self-like”.
I find I am more present. I am less reactive and far more responsive. I am more confident.
Suggested thoughts—try it out and see how it fits!
- I like you and you are worthy of love and happiness.
- I like you just the way you are. You are beautiful.
- I like you. You are capable and compassionate.
“It’s a good thing I like you because you still haven’t put those Christmas decorations away!” said me to myself!
This is another way My Girlfriend Voice speaks to me. How does your Girlfriend Voice speak to you?
From the heart,
Leaving the Comfort Zone
The world can be a scary place—-especially when you start to recognize your true potential. Tasting and trusting your own power can scare the hell out of you! I posted a quote earlier in the week that people will discourage you from acting on your dreams because they fear you will succeed. The NEW you may leave them behind and since they lack the courage to reach for their own dreams, they’d rather you keep each other company in “unfulfilled land”.
If it is not someone else discouraging you, you may be discouraging yourself. Self-sabotage is real. I’ll use writing this blog as an example. For years people have encouraged me to write my stories and thoughts but my response was, “I am not a writer or who would read it?” Correction. Everyone is a writer, I just don’t happen to make a living from it. Secondly, who cares if anyone reads my blog! I write for the pleasure of sharing and hopefully, building a community of like-minded individuals. I rely on daily inspiration found in books and on the web so this is my way of paying forward what I have learned/will learn/need to learn…..get my drift?Writing keeps me grounded in today. When people say they wish they could follow one of their dreams, I ask them these questions:
Question: What is the worst thing that can happen if you follow your dream?
Answer: You won’t like it. At least you will know it wasn’t for you!
Question: I won’t be good at “it” so why try something new?
Answer: Are you really saying you fear failure? Look at your endeavor as “progress not perfection”! Besides, not every change/adventure has to be a public proclamation.
Question: I don’t have time to do anything else. I have too much on my plate now.
Answer: You do have time—if you want to find it. It may mean rearranging your schedule to allow a little time for yourself. You may need to let go of other things, especially the activities and people that don’t make you excited anymore, because if you want IT, you have to make IT happen. This is an active process. Dreams don’t happen by wishing!
Question: How will you feel if you don’t do “it”?
Answer: I will probably regret it. I’ll get over it. Doesn’t everybody have regrets?
I was quite uncomfortable when I started salsa dancing but the pleasure outweighed my discomfort. I am sticking with it! I was also terrible at tennis so after a 4-part class, I decided this was one thing I could let go of, at least for now! I started knitting again last year but I have yet to make a set of fingerless gloves that match in size. I unravel and start again shrugging my shoulders—no big deal. ...
A New Year of Possibility and Postings!
Happy New Year! I spent the later half of December reviewing 2011 and for the first time ever, I am not letting what I SHOULD have done or WISHED for or even CRIED OVER to dominate my thinking. I am content to review my life objectively.
The more I am based in gratitude and self-care, the more optimistic I feel. More options become available to me when I clear my mind of the past.
I have never considered myself a writer but writing these posts has unleashed my creativity, bolstered my self-esteem and convinced me that focusing on “the positive” can change your life.
I feel renewed.
This year I wish you continued spiritual and emotional growth, time for laughter and learning and finally, time to be STILL. Thank you for being a member of my community.
From the heart,
For many years when I to had to tackle a huge task, especially a stressful situation, I would resort to my super hero powers. I channeled something to the likes of Xena Warrior Princess. I’d have the grit and energy of a fierce mama bear protecting her cubs but I’d be glowing sexy hot donning a leather skirt and bikini top. Fighting for the greater good while kicking ass!
When I wasn’t channeling Xena, I comfortably fell into my other mode; the Gumby mode. Gumby was cute and flexible and a perfect shade of green. Gumby bends over backward with ease, happily putting others needs in front of his/her own. BUT when I became Gumby, I’d ultimately stretch myself too thin and become no good to anyone. Flexibility was a exhausting!
There was no middle mode or neutral gear. I was either Xena or Gumby or kinda of blank; lights on but no one home. Emotions were tucked away for another time because I had little time (or desire) to feel unsettled. It was quite exhausting to jump from one extreme to the other but I knew no other way. It wasn’t like my friends and I were talking about these things. We all had perfect lives; or so we thought.
Attention please: That was then and this is now. Xena and Gumby have been retired!
Giving myself permission to operate differently was the first step in this transformation. It required a leap of faith! I was venturing outside of a comfortable operating system and playing around with an unvalidated update! I had to believe that I had the capacity and the ability to deal with a wider range of emotions. I had to willingly sit with my emotions; even the ones that are uncomfortable. I vowed to remain openhearted and committed.
Happily I discovered that my new operating system included a super hero power which I affectionately call, “THE FORCE”. The force is like a blanket of reassurance which grounds me while at the same time, unveils a vast resource of possibility. I feel an energy surge around me, whispering “slow down”. I am able to weigh the options and remain authentic; objective and compassionate. I don’t have to become a warrior because my power is confident, quiet and as such is far more effective.
Is learning a new skill easy? Heck no. Operating in a new mode is like learning a new skill. It takes practice so I have to remind myself all the time to focus on my progress. I am not going to beat myself up striving for perfection. I allow myself to feel and there are times when I am overwhelmed so I have to take a break to refresh myself by not thinking or feeling anything at all. Other times I embrace the FORCE and let the whoop ass fly!
The Force helps me find WHAT IS TRUE. Isn’t that what really matters– the TRUTH?
I know, you are probably wondering...
My Favorite Things: a gifting guide
This is what I know. There are three important things that I can give you, whether you are a loved one or a total stranger. Can you guess what they are? No fancy wrapping paper is required and it won’t break the bank yet the impact of these gifts can last a lifetime. This is the most exquisite gift I can give you! And when the gift is reciprocated, you will feel awesome!
1. ? 2.? 3.? Read on, my friend!
TIME I’ll give you my time including my undivided attention. My ears and mind are open to whatever you want to share. I will listen and if you want me to, I’ll tell you what you want to know. I’m interested in what YOU….your fears, your dreams, your daily do’s.
A SMILE Your eyes dance and your face softens when your lips spread into a smile. We may not see each other often, or more than once in a lifetime, but we can share a magical moment through your ageless smile. Everyone smiles in the same language.
APPRECIATION A simple thank you. I won’t be too busy to express my sincere gratitude for the little things you do. These words are the most needed yet easily forgotten. I won’t take you for granted. You are among my greatest blessings.
These are the gifts I am sharing with my friends and family as well the stranger who may become my friend.
Spare the stress and breathe. You have everything you need to make your life and the lives of others complete. Happy Gift Giving.
Give time. Give smiles. Show appreciation. Nothing could be sweeter….
From the heart,
The Premeditation Game
I love word games. How many words can you make from the letters found in the word “EXPECTATIONS”? I’ll get you started with a few: pectin, cape, exact, noise. Here is one I bet you didn’t guess, “RESENTMENT”. Is the saying true that, “expectations are premeditated resentment”? I hadn’t heard this phrase before today so I decided it was time for a little research and then what I love to do best, tell you a story.
ME: First of all, I have to admit I am a bit confused about something. Isn’t it normal to have expectations?
The blond: “It’s a given—you are born with expectations. If I expect to be disappointed, I am usually disappointed. I like to go into a situation knowing what I am going to get out of it. Not that I am a control freak or anything.”
ME: Well, this is depressing. Where is the spontaneity or the fun? Negative thoughts lead to negative actions; a self-fulfilling prophecy. I either consciously or subconsciously influence you (and myself) to behave in a way that confirms my prediction. Another human tendency—-wanting to be right!
The blonder: “What? “
ME: OK, I will let go of my negative expectations but why can’t I hold on to the positive expectations? I will influence you in a positive way, right?
Yoga girl: “It’s complicated. You can’t control another person (as much as I have tried this is true) but it has been proven that if teachers make a student feel competent, they will perform better. Focus on what you can contribute rather than what you will receive. Encourage the behavior you want to see and let go of the outcome.
ME: Let go of what? This is a whole other subject but I am starting to see that holding any expectation is a set up. OK, I will not hold on to any negative or positive expectations. Is this what enlightened grownups are supposed to do?
Salvation Army man: “Why not just be thankful, pretty lady?”
ME: Now we’re getting somewhere. Rather than setting expectations, I need to find my gratitude. Everything I need is here and now. (Oh geez, I sound like a Hallmark card!) Can I really replace expectations with gratitude?
New Mom: “I am not sure but I did put a cute sign on my front door that says, “Leave your shoes and bad attitude outside.”
ME: I believe I have confirmed that holding expectations lead to a multitude of negative feelings including resentment. Rather than wishing for a behavior or outcome, I will simply enjoy the moment. I’ll find something to appreciate rather than judge. I’ll ease into the present moment, taking what I like and leaving the...
The Responsible One
Responsibility is an interesting topic. I am not sure I think much about the topic of “responsibility” until I experience someone avoiding their responsibility and I am impacted!! I proudly define myself as a responsible person. I hear Mom’s telling their children, “It’s your responsibility”. I hear bosses, teachers and doctors using the same phrase.
So I ask you, if you set aside the obvious (job and family), what ultimately is your responsibility?
I think back to when I was a young. My responsibility was to help out at home and listen to my teachers. As I grew up, my responsibility was to continue with my education and secure a good job. Over the next twenty years, I was responsible for taking care of my family. As I approach another milestone birthday I have started wonder, what happened to the responsibility of taking care of me and my happiness? Was I absent the day they taught introspection and self-care?
Would I feel successful taking care of my family if I didn’t take care of myself simultaneously? Would I thrive in my career if I hadn’t identified my strengths and passions? The answer is NO and this is why many of us come to a screeching halt in midlife. We get lost in the trap of doing what we think we should be doing or lost in the process of completing a goal just to complete it. Do you build a house on a faulty foundation without any future consequences?
Let me restate the question for you.
Question: What are you responsible for?
Updated Answer: I am responsible for my own happiness.
This is pretty simple yet extremely profound, right? If my happiness includes speaking Greek, jogging in the rain or wearing purple everyday then I have the responsibility to do those things for ME. No one else can make me happy. You have heard it before. Happiness is an inside job.
I hear you doubting me….. Yes, I am happy when my children are happy, BUT, my happiness is not dependent upon my children, or anyone else for that matter but little old me. I am happy when I secure a new client, find great boots on clearance and giggle with the girls but again, my happiness in not dependent on these experiences. My happiness is ENHANCED by these experiences. Enhanced; yes. Dependent; no.
My happiness is a personal interpretation. If I depend on you to tell me what makes me happy or to do things to make me happy then I spend a hell of a lot of time waiting for may not happen. Rather than happiness filling me up, it is more likely I will be dominated by the feelings of impatience and resentment. This gets old really fast. Happiness contingent upon something or someone else is like expecting to win at the blackjack table. The odds are with the dealer and not you. You might win some but you...
The “D” word; Redefined
On Friday I spent the day in bed with a cold. Sitting quietly, for an entire day is not easy for me. I’m tired but not tired enough to sleep and I have the attention span of a five year old so reading a novel is out of the question. Journaling was the only activity that fit my state of mind so I jotted down some notes on life.
I noticed that my mind kept coming back to the topic of “disability”. First of all, the word “DISABILITY” really irks me. Yes, there is a “limitation” but is this person really without ability? If you have a physical limitation, it is easier for me to identify your limitation, but what about a limitation that I cannot see?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, tens of millions of American experience mental disorders every year but only a small fraction receive treatment. Serious mental illness effects one in four families.
What about a brain injury caused by a car accident, a hit and run mind you, which results in severe headaches? Or my coworker with fibromyalgia who has good and bad days, but still shows up to work despite her pain? How about the soldiers returning home from the Middle East with PTSD?
My elderly friends with early Alzheimer’s may not be able to remember the story I read to them last week but usually I can’t either! They lose connections to words faster than they lose connection to emotions. In fact, I feel they are highly sensitized to how people feel about them.
Those that suffer a “limitation” do not want to be treated differently, it is quite the opposite. Those with a “limitation” often suffer frustration and shame that many of us cannot comprehend. Most upsetting, those with a “limitation” are often discriminated against.
Discrimination of the worst kind is that which rides under the radar AND is socially acceptable. There are mean smirks, the rude comments, palpable tension between co-workers and …….……Isolation. It is this behavior that feeds the fuel called STIGMA. People become ashamed of their differences and hide them rather than fearlessly share them with others.
I am haunted by the memory of an individual being accused of intoxication when buying a movie ticket because he had trouble presenting the right amount of money to the bitchy cashier. He was developmentally different (I won’t use the word disabled anymore). He didn’t want trouble. He wanted to see a darn movie like everybody else in line behind him.
Let me tell you what I define as a DISABILITY; as inspired by The World According to Mr. Rogers.
- the inability to get in touch with your feelings
- the inability to take responsibility for your actions
- the inability to form lasting, intimate relationships
Mr Rogers writes, “Part of...
I can’t remember feeling this happy in a very long time so of course, I don’t want the weekend to end. This weekend I was celebrating my birthday with friends. Lydia made me a tiara that said, “Nothing could be finer than to be a 49er!” Yes indeed, I’m feeling FINE at forty nine!
I did however have a moment where my Girlfriend Voice had to kick my butt. Simone and I were looking at photos and my eyes immediately went to, dare I even admit this, to my stomach and my arms. Yes, I forgot the joy on my face. Yes, I forgot what was captured in the moment. I bet you this. Every single person reviewing photos did the same exact thing when they looked at their own image.
Did any of the ten people in the room even notice that I had a muffin top? Certainly no one felt nauseous when I took my sweater off to reveal bare arms. No one lost their appetite because of my wiggly jigglies! It is all in my mind’s eye.
Why are we so critical of ourselves? What is the root of this self-criticism?
- When we are young, someone criticizes or teases us and this creates a “hot spot”.
- The hot spot is a vulnerable area or topic. If you were teased for a big nose, you are likely going to be self-conscious of your nose for eternity! I was teased for having a flat butt– called “pancake”! To this day I don’t appreciate my derriere.
- Our personal definition of “beautiful” somehow doesn’t apply to our self.
- We judge ourselves far more harshly than we judge others.
- Our minds magnify our self-imposed imperfections and remind us continually of our self-identified flaws.
Unfortunately living with criticism and self-loathing is easier than accepting and loving ourselves.
It makes me mad to even state that but it is the truth. Knowing this, how can we manage or even better, overcome our “hot spots”?
Celebrate what makes you unique. You are a vibrant human being and gift to the world!
Focus more on what IS right and less on what you don’t like or deem isn’t good enough.
Accentuate the positive. Be grateful.
When all else fails, keep a sense of humor……
I’m sitting on the couch in my PJ’s and the lyric comes to mind, “If loving me is wrong, I don’t want to be right”. I love my muffin top and my wiggly bare arms as much as I love cupcakes and champagne. I’m going to dedicate my 49th year to happily loving my unique self. I hope you’ll join me and celebrate all that is YOU too!
From the heart,