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)
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,
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...
Hello world! Welcome to My Girlfriend Voice
One day I was sitting in traffic when I noted that my critical voice must have gone on sabbatical. I was keeping company with a new voice, more comparable to a trusted girlfriend. She is realistic, always supportive and wise. At times, a tad sassy! While I don’t believe I can completely squelch my critical voice, I can minimize her with the banter of my new BFF, My Girlfriend Voice.
Call me crazy, I agree but it is the good kind of happy crazy! Seriously though, what types of info does my Girlfriend Voice affectionately whisper in my ear?
- On receiving feedback on a project: You could take those comments personally or take them seriously. It’s not about you here. Don’t take it personally.
- When the teenager becomes the “mean-ager”: Breathe. This child is trapped in a hormonally laden body and someday you will like each other again. (Been there, believe me!)
- After a particularly frustrating day please remember, you are good enough ….just as you are….in this very moment. Pause and celebrate your splendid self.
So how did my Girlfriend Voice evolve? I won’t bore you with the details of what I affectionately term “my decade of drama or DD” but let me say that I was continually given more than I thought I could handle. While I manifested a Martha Stewart exterior, my interior was one hot mess. Talk about tumultuous! At the same time, I was approaching the magical period in life where you learn who you are and where your passions reside. Much easier said than done and if you don’t agree, you should stop reading here. We can’t be friends.
Eight years into my “DD”, I hit bottom. Nothing made sense or satisfied me. My sadness loomed larger than any other emotion. I needed help but this power woman would rather walk naked through rush hour traffic than ask for help. Somewhere though, I heard a voice that said “THIS” is bigger than you and you deserve to be happy. Viola’! My Girlfriend Voice makes her debut. (BTW, I wanted to spell Viola’ as Wallah but I am a classy woman!)
In time, I learned how to climb out of my darkness. I make better decisions TODAY because of what I learned yesterday and continue to learn. No regrets. No resentment. And yes, I know HOW and more importantly, WHEN to ask for help. Don’t be a “hater”! I still have moments of despair and sadness. I have days when I need fat pants and cookies……however I have learned that it is equally important to become comfortable with discomfort.
Let me say that again, it is important to be comfortable with discomfort.
My Girlfriend Voice is not the only thing...