I’M SORRY

While driving to work this morning, I became increasingly irritated with the car in front of me.   A giant SUV creeping along in the fast lane blocked my path.  I was finally able to pass and  glared through the window to give that universal “what the heck is your problem?” look. Our eyes met and I Immediately felt ashamed of myself.  The driver was crying while clutching her cellphone to her ear.  It took me back to not long ago when I had done the same thing.  Driving to work, talking on my phone, tears streaming down my face.  I was hysterical, totally immersed in my conversation and completely unaware of my surroundings.  My eyes were so flooded with tears that I couldn’t even focus on the road, crying so hard I was literally gasping for air.  I almost hit a tractor trailer that day.  I swerved and skidded into another lane, luckily no one was in my path.

I wanted to tell her that I understand.  I wish I could have reached through that window and hugged her and told her It’s not worth getting in an accident over.  I longed to tell her about the dangers of distracted driving.  I needed to share my story with her about how I almost rear ended a semi while doing 80 mph all because my phone conversation was more important than my life.  Most importantly, I wanted to tell her I’m sorry. 

I’m sorry that even though I have plenty of time to spare, I still felt the need to rush you.  I’m sorry that I tailgated you, while growing increasingly impatient.  I’m sorry that I celebrated when you finally got out of my way.  I’m sorry I silently cursed you as I pulled up beside you.  I’m sorry I didn’t consider that there might be a reason you were driving slowly.

One of the key relationships we neglect on a daily basis is our relationship with humanity.  How we treat strangers defines how we treat those closest to us.  You often hear people say that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat others.  Show me someone who is rude to a restaurant server or store clerk and I will show you someone with close personal relationships in peril.  If a stranger brings you the wrong beverage or overcharges you for a blouse and you rip them to shreds, how are you going to handle mistakes of someone that knows you intimately?  How much effort does it really take to consider the other person’s feelings?  Maybe the server was distracted when you ordered your drink because she has a terminally ill parent she is concerned about.  Perhaps the store clerk overcharged you because he is dyslexic and inadvertently transposed the numbers.  What if the inconsiderate driver is trying to get to hospital before it is too late to say goodbye to their loved one.  We never know what other people are going through, or have been through.   When you hear stories of people who anonymously  pay for the meals of others at a restaurant or buy a stranger a cup of coffee, someone always says, “I wish I could afford to do that.”.  Patience, tolerance, and kindness are FREE!! A smile doesn’t cost a thing.  Understanding and empathy are completely complimentary.  Lavish these freebies on every stranger that crosses your path.

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FRIENDS, WHO NEEDS ‘EM?

I don’t have any friends.  I have acquaintances, co-workers, and relatives.  That is pretty much the extent of my social circle.  I’m not one of those extremely needy individuals that simply MUST have someone to text, call, or facebook every waking moment.  I understand that these people constantly crave attention and acceptance, and simply cannot entertain themselves,  I am just not one of them.  I would rather have 1 close friend that I can trust implicitly (in today’s world full of liars and cheats) than 100 faux friends that I only text to get the latest gossip, inflate my ego, or pass the time.  I have had several BEST friends throughout my life.  My preference has always been to have one really good quality friend that I have a deep connection with rather than a larger circle of friends. Over time, my tendency was to drift farther from my friends and closer to my significant other.  For many years this arrangement worked perfectly.  We had couple friends that we did couple things with and she had a best friend that she did best friend things with.   I tried to have a best friend during that relationship but it ended badly (reason # 212 why I do not form close friendships in the workplace anymore). It was during this time that I had to learn to ENJOY my own company.   All of my friendship was poured into this one person.  Then it ended.  I lived in a relationship bubble for so long that when I was finally ready to break the bubble, I was alone. I didn’t have any friends to help me move, offer support, or let me crash on their couch.  Sure, I had people that I would talk to on a regular basis, but no one that I felt comfortable asking or accepting a favor from.  I guess the UP side was that without close friends, starting over in a new city was super easy for me.  It reminded me of being an Air Force brat and moving frequently.  We never got too close to people in those days because every residence was temporary.

I have tried to cultivate friendships.  I’ve offered to assist people I know with various tasks, sent thoughtful messages, extended invitations for lunches.  It never seems to “stick”.  I always seem to be the one that does the “work”.   I can’t recall the last time I got a phone call, text message, or even an email asking how I am doing, yet I frequently reach out to others.     Perhaps I am a bit jaded.  I remember talking with someone that I considered to be my best friend.  I asked her, “who is your best friend?”.  Imagine my surprise when she responded with the name of someone she barely knows and rarely sees.  I was crushed.  I obviously was way more invested in our friendship.

Maybe after all the years of NOT being a friend, I forgot how.

I always thought I was doing the right thing by making my partner my priority.  Isn’t that the whole purpose of being in a committed relationship?  Could my romantic concept of being the most important person in the world to each other flawed?  Is it not supposed to be us against the world?

We spend a minimum of 8 hrs a day working and a maximum of 8 hrs a day sleeping.  Factor in an hour each for the daily commute, exercise, and necessary grooming.   Don’t forget to add about an hour for each meal (including prep time and clean up).  The other 2 hours likely are for errands and chores.  When am I supposed to carve out time for friends?  I have just always felt that whatever time is left should belong to my significant other.

I was partially right.   Of course I needed to set aside time for my partner,  that is my main priority.  However, expecting someone to spend every free moment with only you is controlling, smothering, and needy.  When we widen our social circle, the benefits are countless.  The time spent with other couples enable US to grow as companions.  We observe the actions of our friends and how they relate to each other as a couple.  We can adopt their positive attributes, and avoid the pitfalls of the ones we deem negative.  Often we can identify unfavorable habits in others much easier than we can see them in ourselves.  How many times have you and your mate gone out to dinner with a couple and later discussed their behaviors?  I just hate the way Jim interrupts Jan while she is telling a story.  I couldn’t believe Mary divulged those personal things about Joe at dinner. 

Somewhere I read a quote that said something like not every friend is worth the hassle. Wow, that really struck a chord with me.  At the time, I had been enormously disappointed by a close friend.  She hadn’t done anything specifically TO me, but her choices made me question her values. I didn’t really know her as well as I thought. I was deeply hurt because she didn’t live up to the person I THOUGHT she was.  She wasn’t the only friend that had hurt me.  At the time, I had suffered a long line of betrayals and disappointments.   I considered myself a giver in a close knit circle full of takers. I realized that when I needed something/someone I had NO ONE to turn to.  Sure, I have heard, “we can get through anything together”,  but the truth of the matter is that I could never collect on that promise.  Those were just empty words, that were never really meant for me.  I had to rely on myself, find my own resources, trust my own advice, wipe my own tears.  It is an accomplished feeling to know that you made it through the darkness alone.  But, it doesn’t have to be that hard.

We all need friends.

Define what “friend” means to you.  That is how we  become a better friend, by recognizing what we want in a friend.

Make sure your expectations are realistic.  Sure, we all would love to have a rich friend that whisks us off to Paris for lunch, but that isn’t realistic.

Keep in mind the commitments and priorities that we all have…families, jobs, homes, etc.  Sensibly decide how much time you are willing to invest and how much time you can expect in return.

Don’t discount a friendship because it isn’t conventional.  I hate talking on the phone, but I will text you to death.  I may not always be able to go out for dinner but a quick lunch is always feasible.  We may live too far apart to visit but we can Facetime.

Keep in mind your interests and personality.  For example, I don’t drink or go out to bars so it doesn’t make sense for me to befriend a 20ish party girl that is in the club every night.

Find like-minded cohorts with similar values.  As an animal lover, I am not going to have much in common with someone who dislikes dogs.  I’m not a physical fitness buff so a gym rat is probably not my ideal pal either.

Don’t discount friends because of their flaws.  I still maintain relationships with those people that abandoned me in my time of need because I now know what to expect from them.  Not everyone is capable of being supportive or attentive or even compassionate. That doesn’t mean that they have nothing to contribute to the friendship, I just know that I can’t count on them if I am in crisis.  I can still enjoy a meal with them, share laughs, and be their rock.

Different friends serve different purposes.  We all need that shoulder to cry on, our emotional stability.   Everyone needs companionship, someone to go join us for dinner and a movie.  A bitch-buddy is also a necessity, that one person that we can gripe and complain to without judgement. Each friend has a different duty.  You don’t have to get all of your needs met by just one person.

We don’t fully realize the value of friendship until we reach out and there is no one reaching back. 

HOME, DINNER, WORK

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I had to grab this quote as soon as I saw it.  It reminded me of an article I read a few days ago about relationships.  The author studied text messages from several couples over the course of their relationships.  In the beginning of each relationship the most used word in the majority of the texts was LOVE.  Other words receiving top billing in new relationship messaging : TOUCH, FEEL, WANT, MISS, KISS.  As time progressed, the prominent buzz words used by the couples became HOME, DINNER, WORK.  Not only did the content change, but also the frequency of messages.  On the average day, a newly paired couple shared more than 100 texts verses the 5 text messages the long-time couples exchanged.  The gist of the article is that as the relationships grow, the couples feel more domesticated and settle into a routine.  I wholeheartedly believe the research aspect of the article, but I feel like there is so much more we can glean from this information.

1.  Texting was once a tool they used to stay connected to their significant other.  It was originally imperative that they tell each other I MISS YOU, I LOVE YOU.  While seemingly repetitive, the words provided much needed reassurance for this newly formed bond.  Likely, in these early stages, parting ways (even to go to work or school) was difficult.  A simple text could make it somewhat bearable.

 I hated to leave this morning.  I miss you so much when we are apart. I love you!

2.  Conversation was easier in the beginning.  In the conception phase of the partnership, the thirst for knowledge is palpable. This is what I call the learning phase.  We are aching to learn everything we can about this new person. The questions we ask help us determine exactly who this person is and what makes them tick.  Everything is important from fears to favorite colors.  It is during this time that the greatest exchange of information takes place.

What is your favorite food? Tell me about your job. Did you have a good childhood?  

3.  Emotions flowed freely during the honeymoon phase.  Words like FEEL and WANT display the openness and willingness to share thoughts and feelings early in the relationship.  This is the time frame that allows mates to determine what emotional needs must be satisfied.  In the beginning it is easier to say I’M LONELY. JEALOUS, SCARED.  This is also when relationships are made or broken as WANTS are made known.  I WANT TO HAVE A FAMILY. I WANT YOU TO STOP SMOKING. I WANT TO MEET YOUR FAMILY.  We tend to barrage each other with needs, thoughts, and feelings during this time because we want to make sure we don’t repeat past mistakes from previous relationships.  We want to make certain that we fulfill needs not previously met and sidestep relationship catastrophes.

 I feel like we were meant to be together. I want us to always be in love. I never want to lose you.

4.  Physical closeness was cherished at the onset of the relationship.  KISS and TOUCH were words prominent in everyday text messages.  Two of the most important things that occur when couples first get together often fade over time, kissing and touching.  Physical contact is imperative in a relationship.  Closeness and intimacy are the cornerstones of a healthy love life.  There is a point in the infant phase of most unions when you want to know every inch of your lover in an intimate way.  Some say that is lust, I believe it is an innate need to connect to your lover on a deeper level, to satisfy their most basic need for human contact, love, and affection.

I can’t wait to see you tonight.  I wanna kiss you so bad.  I need to feel your touch.  I crave it.

5.  Over time their texts became more succinct.  Gone is the need to know every detail of his/her day.  The hunger to find out all you can about this person has been fed.  Likely, chores, routines, responsibility replaced romance, desire, and euphoria.  Priorities shift over time.

When I get home from work I will make dinner.

 

Once the relationship matures we tend to forget that we as individuals still have those same basic needs that we did during the honeymoon phase.  We still need to share our feelings with each other. It is important to continue to vocalize future plans and fears as insecurities still exist.  Physical contact is still a primal need, though now a kiss, holding hands, a long embrace can often satisfy that longing for closeness even more abundantly than a sexual encounter.  We need to examine how this union went from I LOVE YOU, I MISS YOU, I NEED YOU, I WANT YOU to HOME, DINNER, WORK.  The spectacular news is that we have succeeded in making a life together.  At this point, two people have intertwined their lives and dwellings to make a HOME.  Probably, their greatest part of the day is the DINNER they share while they discuss their day.  Definitely by now, the realization has hit that a permanent relationship is WORK.  The struggle isn’t to stay together, anyone can do that.  The fundamental goal is to maintain a deep connection, recapture those early feelings of bliss, and reignite the romance.  The reward is living the best of both worlds when you see that text that says:

I can’t wait to get HOME  from WORK so we can have DINNER.  I really MISS you.  I kinda FEEL like we have been a bit out of TOUCH lately.  I just WANT to KISS like we used to.  I LOVE you.

 

ALTER EGO

Alter Ego.  It makes you think of some Doppelganger, some super hero version of yourself, right?  That actually may not be too far off base in this case.   I mean it as a verb…ALTER- to make different-to change- to modify the style, size, or course.  So what does it mean to alter our ego?  And why would we?

Frequently on the Dr. Phil show, he will tell his guests that “this situation needs a hero”.   That is a call to action that few of us are willing to take on in a pure and unselfish form.  We may step up to “be the bigger person”, but often times that is rooted in the desire to gain the upper hand, control, and store ammunition for later.   Being the hero means to completely alter your ego in a fashion that allows you to forgive and move forward.  So often we say the words I forgive you, but there is a condition.  But, I get a free pass.  But, you owe me one.  But, I am not going to let you forget it.  But, it better never happen again. 

Why do we feel the need to place conditions on our forgiveness?  EGO.  We don’t want to look like a fool.  We don’t want our intelligence insulted.  We don’t want to admit our own culpability.  We worry what others will think of us.  We worry we will become vulnerable.  Our pride prevents us from forgiving in an authentic manner.  Think about every conflict you have ever had in friendships, romantic relationships, business, family members, etc.  What was the core of the clash?  In nearly every instance the contention comes from not feeling respected.  You either feel your point of view wasn’t validated,  your needs not fulfilled, your wishes not respected.  maybe you were overlooked, ignored, ridiculed.  The basis of the conflict revolved around you feeling insignificant in some way.  Each time this happens to us we begin to build walls to “protect” ourselves.  We hold grudges to the point where things will never be the same again.  We learn to be civil but we hold onto that hurt.  Our ego works overtime to insulate our heart against future transgressions.  Our pride tells us that we were right, they were wrong, and not to let this matter go.  Don’t be duped.  Don’t fall for the same thing again.  Don’t give them an inch or they will take a mile.

What if we could alter our ego in such a fashion that would allow us to righteously forgive?  Think about how freeing it would feel to forgive someone and legitimately let it go.  Accepting and allowing the transgression to be wiped away.  Clean slate.  Are we even equipped to do such a thing?  It begins by examining your motivation for holding onto the mistakes of others.

When I am honest with myself, I can admit that it makes me feel superior to point out the short-comings of others.  I can compare myself to them and say “well at least I didn’t _________”.  If I say I forgive first that makes me appear to be the bigger person.  I like the power of that, the you owe me big time control that I can hold over their head.  If I keep reminding them of it maybe that will keep them in line.  My ego reminds me that I must stay vigilant, continuously searching for the slightest misstep.  When you are diligently anticipating a mistake, you view every action under a microscope.  Trust me, this is an exhausting life to live.

Don’t allow your ego to rule your relationships.  Take control.  Become the hero.  Forgive wholly and unconditionally.  Learn to accept betrayals as mistakes. Alter the role that your ego plays.1497704_418027855018716_4893104550839413141_n

LOVE AT FIRST BITE

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I am crazy in love with food.  We will never breakup.  I am fully committed.

Food and I have a tumultuous past.  My girlfriend and I were discussing food issues the other day.  I shared with her that I felt like my grub problem stems from my childhood.  As kids, my siblings and I had to ask for food or drinks.  That was normal to us.  My mom would tell us to bring her a coke or a snack and that was our chance to sneak food.  When it came to stealing and hiding food, I was a creative genius.  Sometimes we would just creep in the kitchen and eat copious amounts of food, consequences be damned.  One such time was when my sister and I devoured an entire box of my mom’s weight loss candy.  We became adept at swallowing spoonfuls of peanut butter then smoothing out the surface so it looked untouched.  Our devious little child minds figured out that we could eat a little bit of several different foods and it would likely go unnoticed.  I called it the pantry buffet.

We weren’t poor.  There was always plenty of food in the house, which was odd because my mother did not cook, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas and other rare occasions. Her idea of cooking was to instruct us to bring her a paper bag, a bowl, a knife, and a bag of potatoes.  She would sit in her chaise lounge chair and peel potatoes and then dispatch one of us to wash them and the other to fry them.  If company came over she would make taco salad, ham fried rice (GAG), or egg rolls.  Otherwise, we lived on pizza and KFC that my dad would pick up after work.  He had his food rituals.  Each night he would stop at the curb store and buy each kid a soda and himself a pack of cookies.  After dinner, he would sit in his recliner with his cookies.  The kids would all line up and get 2 cookies each (“One for each hand”, my dad would say.).  Dad would then polish off the entire bag.  Every Sunday he would take us grocery shopping.  That was his thing.  Mom was responsible for going to the Commissary once a month but Dad did the weekly grocery grab.  We would go to Winn-Dixie and buy the same thing each week…glazed doughnuts, a carrot cake,  and deli-made submarine sandwiches.  Dad never cared if we ate half a pizza or 3 bowls of cereal, just don’t mess with his cookies.

I listened to my girlfriend speak fondly about her memories gathering around her Maw-Maw’s table.  There was always plenty of food and whoever wanted to partake was welcome to it.  Her parents didn’t restrict their kid’s food or drinks. My mom would have given us her trademark “dirty look” if we even thought about asking for food at a relative’s house.  We were instructed to politely decline.  Of course my Grandmother Baylis made that easy.  She had no clue what to feed children.  Meals at her house would be smoked salmon, rye bread, pickled herring, or leg of lamb. My girlfriend tells a story of a family vacation when she was young.  Her mom packed a cooler full of sandwiches and the kids ate everything before they were even an hour from home.  AHHHHHH what sweet food freedom they must have felt.  I often think about that story when I am opening my lunch bag and eating lunch at my desk an hour after I get to work.

It’s hard to say if my food issues are truly rooted in my childhood food restrictions.  I do remember promising my little kid self that when I grew up I could eat whatever I wanted.  I am sure that is part of the problem.  I lack discipline when it comes to food.  If I want ice cream, I will have it.  We have been known to make a late night Dairy Queen run in our pajamas.  I love that no rules kind of food life.  Eat dessert 1st, spoil your dinner, go on junk food binges. It wasn’t always that easy.  In other relationships I had to abide by food rules.

My food issues became my relationship baggage.  I remember one girl that I dated always wanted to share meals.  We went to Burger King once and she ordered 2 Whopper Jr burgers and a medium fry and one drink.  I guess I should have been thankful I at least got my own burger.  In my head I was screaming “I want my own DAMN fries”.   I couldn’t even focus on conversation because I became consumed with fry counting.  If we gotta share it’s gonna be fair.   Another ex of mine was a food monitor.  She knew every morsel of food that was in the house.  If she liked it, it better be there when she wanted it.  I would get in “trouble” if I ate the last bite of anything.  It was during this time I resurrected my pantry buffet method of eating from my childhood.  I would come home for lunch and literally stand in front of the pantry and fridge for 30 minutes eating small bits and pieces of food to try to make an unnoticeable meal.  I knew I could always eat the end pieces of a loaf of bread because she hated those.  Lunch would be a bread heel, 5 chips, 3 crackers, a spoonful of ice cream, a pinch of shredded cheese,  a sip of milk, a handful of cereal.  She thought the food was for meals and my lunch was NOT a meal.   When we went out to eat it was almost always a buffet.  If I didn’t go back for another plateful I was scolded for “wasting money”.  It was a crazy tightrope to walk.

Now I am in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care what I eat.  When we go to the grocery store I don’t have to ask before I toss items in the cart.  I am free to eat whatever is in the house without worrying about getting yelled at.  If we go out to dinner we may share an appetizer or dessert  but I always have my own fries & my own drink.   In the beginning of our relationship I was scared to eat anything I didn’t buy.  I would take change from my car to the country store down the road and buy a pack of crackers or a single bag of popcorn.  Sometimes they had fresh produce so I could purchase one potato or a single tomato.  That was lunch.  I was not used to living with someone who wouldn’t fly into a rage if they noticed that I ate food that day.   It has taken me a while to get accustomed to food freedom.  I still revert back to my old ways.  Often I will announce to my girlfriend a list of food items that I had to throw away due to the expiration date.  I just don’t want her to think I ate it, even though I know she wouldn’t care if I did.  It still seems foreign to me that I don’t have to account for where every bite of food goes.

When I was younger I used to drink and smoke.  A lot.  I remember thinking that I would quit smoking when I got older.  Then the realization hit me that I had been smoking for 16 years.  I quit cold turkey 5 years ago.  No big deal.  Drinking for me was a drink-til-u get-drunk mentality.  It was easier to just avoid alcohol completely.  I quit that too.  Just last month I did a 30 day water challenge, giving up soda and caffeine completely.  I drank nothing but water and I LIKED it.  It wasn’t even a struggle for me.  So what is the problem with food????  Why can’t I eat sensibly?  I LOVE food.  I can’t get away from food.  I can just not smoke.  I can completely avoid alcohol.  I can steer clear of caffeine.  But food??  I have to have it to survive.

I’m not one of those people like you see on tv that will tell you for breakfast they had a loaf of bread, a lb of bacon, and a dozen eggs.  I’m also not one of those people that think of food as fuel and only eat to live.  I suppose that I am somewhere in between.  We have so many foods and restaurants to choose from and honestly I just love food. I love to try different foods and new restaurants.  I am not a shovel it all in kind of girl.  I savor the taste of food, feel the texture, small the aroma, admire the beauty of it.  I can’t get enough of it.

My mom, while not a cook, loves to bake.  As a kid, every occasion was covered in flour and sugar. Birthdays were all about the cake and ice cream.  Fall feasts full of traditional cuisine.  Christmas was chock full of home cooked goodies. It isn’t just about sweets and the holidays though.  Everything we do revolves around food.  If you want to hang out with friends you go out to dinner.  Date night is dinner & a movie.  Church function, ya gotta bring food.  Summertime is backyard barbecues.  Work gathering means bring a covered dish.   Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We have to deal with food every single day.  Food even has its own television network!!!

How can we have a healthy relationship with food when we are bombarded with advertisements, invitations, and temptations?  You hear the experts throw around words like moderation, discipline, and accountability.  That all makes sense but if it were easy to do any of those things, we would all be fit and healthy and eating clean. I have tried to redefine my relationship with food.  I realized that I really do value food as a companion.  Whatever I am feeling, I want to share those feelings with food.  If I am sad, lonely, or worried I want my friend food to comfort me.  If I am happy or excited I want to celebrate with my sustenance side-kick.  If I am feeling proud or accomplished then I deserve a treat so why not turn to comrade cuisine?  Oh and if I am bored I am running straight to the pantry to find my edible ally.

No matter how much I want to blame my past, I am now a mature woman capable of making my own food decisions.  For many years I allowed myself to be controlled by other people.  Now I am free from that, so I certainly don’t want to allow food to control me.

When I think about my relationship with food, I compare it to an illicit affair.  I am cheating my partner out of sharing joys and failures with me because I turn to food instead of turning to her.  I have allowed food to be my support system. I am food’s mistress.  I sneak around with food.  I spend money on food.  I am alone with food, hidden.  Just me and food. I feel guilty about food.  I feel dirty and nasty when I overeat.  I loathe myself when I see what I have allowed food to do to me.  The affair that I have had with food isn’t satisfying.  It is down right disgusting.  I am wasting my time and emotions on something temporary and cheap that can be bought.  It is exciting for a minute and fills a momentary need until the realization hits that I am wasting energy on something I PAID for. I spent time and money chasing this adulterer when I could be pouring that love and attention into my REAL relationship.  The key for me in developing a healthy relationship with food is to develop a healthy relationship with people.  If I can learn to trust people with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions then I won’t be quite so dependent on my food rituals.

NURTURE YOURSELF IN NATURE

nature-questionsOne of my first memories is fishing with my Dad at Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.  I don’t remember actually fishing, rather the rock bed surrounding the lake.  I distinctly recall finding a perfectly round large rock on which to sit.  My tiny, 3 year old hands explored each rock I picked up.  I became a rock collector.  I saved egg cartons to house my growing hoard.  In 3rd grade I learned how to catalog my collection.  I would drag the encyclopedia out and sit in the gravel driveway with it open to the photos of rocks and minerals.  My fingers would turn over every stone searching for granite, graphite, or fool’s gold.

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Some of my best childhood memories stem from family trips to “The Property”, as my dad called it.   When we lived in New York, my parents purchased some land upstate in Addison.  It was breathtaking.  Even as a child, I viewed it as God’s country.  It was acres of wooded land with a stream running right through the center of it.  My Dad would take a scythe and cut a path as we hiked to the water.  Our shoes would immediately come off and we would traipse through the barely knee deep water.  We would pick up pieces of shale, skip rocks, and splash as tiny dots of sunlight shone through the thick canopy of trees and brush.

Years later, when I was 15, our church bus stopped at Tallulah Gorge State Park for a stretch-your-legs break.  I wished we would have stayed longer.  I recall thinking it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  The waterfalls roared through the shady, wooded landscape.  It was fall.  The leaves were bright gold, fiery orange, and burnt red.  The jagged rock walls of the gorge jutted out as trickles of water slid down.  Mountains were peeking out from behind the trees. I’ve never been back but I know it is there waiting for me whenever I need it.

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While visiting the Great Smoky Mountains on a Spring morning, I witnessed nature in all of its awe inspiring glory.  We were driving on a switchback over the mountain from Townsend TN into Pigeon Forge early one morning.  I gazed out the window admiring the beauty. The sun had just come up.  The green farm meadow down below looked like a thick fuzzy blanket, the gray morning mist hovered in the trees.  It was as if I was looking down into a painting.

I get the same feeling while at the beach.  I can’t imagine anything more picturesque than sitting on the beach, with my feet buried in the sand, admiring the vast expanse of water that is within reach.  I marvel at the horizon where the water fades into the sky.  Not long ago, I was at the beach and watched as 6-8 giant manta rays as they glided among the swimmers.  I watched them weave in between people as they propelled through the water perfectly in sync.  On a prior beach trip, I sat on the balcony just watching the waves smash against the sand.  The night was unusually quiet except for the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the water below.  The salty sea spray permeated my senses.

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Unless you have lived in a big city, you probably don’t realize that you often can’t see the stars at night due to the city lights.  It is known as light pollution.  One of the greatest things about living in the country for me is that I can now see the stars.  I can look up into the dark night and see the sky filled with stars.  Looking above my head, trying to determine the zenith, the celestial sphere is palpable.  I easily can get lost in the stars.  I often daydream about laying in the bed of a pickup truck on a chilly night under the stars, admiring each one.

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Nothing is as nurturing as nature.  There is something so therapeutic about shoving your feet in the sand, listening to a waterfall, skipping rocks across the water.  When you immerse yourself in nature, the sights, sounds, smells, taste, and feel relax and refresh your spirit.  With our modern day technology, it is easy to become disconnected from nature and each other.  Set aside some time to really FEEL  the outdoors with someone you love.  Go fishing, take a trip to a park, go for a hike.  Most importantly, FOCUS of your connection with your companion as the stresses of everyday life dissolve. UNPLUG from cell phones, facebook, and music and surrender to the complete saturation of your senses.  TOUCH nature and each other…hold hands, walk barefoot, hug, steep in the harmonious environment.  Witness the sheer marvel of the eco-system, the food chain, the ebb and flow of the tides, the phases of the moon.  Find your perspective in nature.  All problems seem small compared to the vast ocean, mammoth mountains, towering trees, magnificent sky.  Baptize yourself in the scenery.  Walk away refreshed and reconnected with the outdoors and each other.

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FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES

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I unfriended someone today.  I don’t hate her or even dislike her.  At one time, we were “real-life” friends.  We shared secrets, shed tears, and swapped stories.  I didn’t tell her that we weren’t going to be Facebook friends anymore.  No online announcement was made about “weeding out my friends list”.   I just quietly and without hesitation clicked the box.   She didn’t make me mad.  I wasn’t offended.  Hurt feelings were not a factor.  Political differences didn’t compel me to delete her from my life.

SHE WAS NEGATIVE. 

You know the kind of person I am talking about.  The type pf person who NEVER has a good day. Life is against them.  The average day for them begins something like this…

5 am  I woke up late this morning because I was up all night.  Damn insomnia.

5:05 am  I have to bake 2 dozen cupcakes and sew a costume before the kids go to school.  I wish my kids wouldn’t spring  things on me at the last minute.

5:06 am  Great, the dog got in the trash last night, now I have to mop the floor before work.  If my husband would let the dog out at night like he is supposed to I would be baking cupcakes by now.

5:07 am  No coffee!! Boy this is gonna be a lousy day! Am I the only one in this house that knows how to make coffee?

5:10 am  I have a huge project for work that is due today. I am so overloaded at work  I am going to log off fb for awhile so I can get it done. 

5:15 am  Anybody have a home remedy for a bad cough?  I just don’t wanna go to the dr for the 12th time this month.

7 am   Stuck in traffic and the kids inform me that I forget to bring the cupcakes.  We are definitely going to be late today. Oh yeah, and somebody just cut me off. LOVELY!!

7:30 am  Signing off fb for awhile I have some things I need to get accomplished.  Just as well, my computer is acting up and my baby threw my phone into the toilet.

7:35 am   Does anyone know where I can get a phone cheap?  My hubby doesn’t get paid til Friday and we have to buy the kids braces and school books and birthday presents and karate uniforms and I am going to have to go to the dr about this cough so I can’t afford much right now. 

7:40 am  Late for work and I didn’t get my project done.  Oops, scratched the boss’s car because he has no clue how to park!!

8 am  Well, I guess people don’t recognize a loyal, faithful employee when they see one.  I was just fired for no reason.

WHEW !!  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  The negativity was wearing me down.  It was affecting me in ways I didn’t even realize at first.  All of those pessimistic thoughts bombarding me first thing in the morning set the tone for the rest of my day.  My attention became focused on the worst parts of each day…the parts that most of us just recognize as LIFE.  I was consumed by the obvious unfairness of the world.  I was critical of even the slightest mistakes.  I LOOKED for the unfavorable nuances of daily life.  I would become so irritated with my friend because she was SOOOOOO negative.  She would say she was logging off fb for awhile and I would think GOOD!! I am sick of your bitching!  Then I realized, I don’t have to read this!  I am choosing what to put in my mind every day.

Negative in = negative out

I know it may sound harsh, impetuous, and intolerant to just delete someone.  She isn’t a bad person.  She is just in a low place right now, a negative place.  It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t help her if she needed me.  It just means that I don’t want to be a guest at her pity party.

There is a quote that I absolutely love.  It is the definition of negativity.  Every single time I read it, I am reminded just how ridiculously over-dramatic we can become when we allow unfavorable thoughts to occupy our lives.

Janeane Garofalo.   “The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth”                                                                                                                             

Sometimes you have to sacrifice certain relationships in order to preserve others.  You know the saying one bad apple can spoil the bunch?  The same is true with those you surround yourself with.  Cynical, adverse thoughts and feelings will seep right into your personality and contaminate your relationships, just like that one rotten apple spreads decay to the entire bushel.  If you want a healthy crop, you have to separate the spoiled apple from the rest.  The same is true in your relationships.  Sacrifice that one detrimental relationship and not only will you preserve the others, you may notice them begin to flourish.

L’EGGO MY EGO

10626460_518904954911750_7576205465926006361_nOverworked and underpaid.  I HAVE to go in to work today, they simply can’t function without me.  I always have to fix their mistakes.  Well, at least I have job security.  Nobody else can do what I do.  I am the go-to girl for everything.  This place would fall apart without me. 

We tend to overstate our importance at work.   Sure, we all like to think that we are irreplaceable.  The truth is that none of us are THAT important.  Success is often the result of a team effort.  Rarely can one person do it all alone.  My first job was as a hotel clerk.   After 2 weeks on the job I was promoted to Asst. Hotel Manager.   It went to my head.  I became a tiny tyrant.  I would micromanage my team, enforce rules with an iron fist, and demand absolute perfection.  Perfection to MY standards.   I began to boss MY boss.  I remember when I moved I wasn’t sure how the business would survive.   Looking back now, I realize that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  I was promoted because 2 other employees had already failed at that job.   Back then,  I was convinced that it was due to my superior knowledge of an industry I had worked in for 2 whole weeks.

Most people would say they are a team player.  Most people aren’t.   You may be a part of a team, but that doesn’t constitute truly being a “team player”.  You have heard the old adage there is no I in TEAM.  Well there is an I in I WILL DO THIS BY MYSELF. 

I want to be important.

I want to be recognized.

I don’t want to compromise.

I am smarter than the rest of the team.

I am more capable.

I want to be able to complain that no one helped me.

I want to secure my position with the company.

I want to promote my worth.

 

The real message that is being conveyed is I have a colossal ego.  Imagine how much more enjoyable work would be if we all checked our ego at the door.  The amount of work that could be accomplished would far exceed the current output.  Time wouldn’t be wasted trying to be the most important, the smartest, or the fastest.  No one would be jockeying for a coveted spot in the limelight.

Imagine the things we could learn from one another if we let our guard down just a bit.  I remember once admitting to a peer that I did not know how to do a certain segment of an assigned task in Excel.  I felt so incredibly vulnerable and defeated at this admission.  I was embarrassed, my ego crushed.  Much to my amazement, my co-worker didn’t know either.  It turns out that many people in the company did not have the skills to effectively complete the task.   Consequently, a course on Excel was offered.  Now, I am an expert level user of Excel.

I have been in a supervisory position for most of my career.  Honestly, there is nothing more appealing than an employee without an over inflated ego.  Some of my favorite staff members were the ones who asked for help, admitted failures, and embraced mistakes as an opportunity to learn.  When hiring people, I would frequently choose the humble yet inexperienced applicant over the super confident, highly qualified candidate.   There is something so refreshing about someone who is able to set their ego aside.  To employers you are a clean slate.  Malleable, trainable, flexible, compliant, and manageable.

The real payoff would be the relationships we would establish with our co-workers when we all let go of our ego.  We would begin to interact as “real” people, not just discussing  job assignments, deadlines, and Monday morning meetings.  Genuine friendships will begin to  develop and grow.  We’d begin to care more about team success than our individual agenda.   The average American spends more time with their work family than they do with their actual family.  We see our colleagues on average 5-10 more waking hours per week than we do our relatives.   Why would we not want the best rapport possible while on the job?

It isn’t easy to be so vulnerable.  We don’t want to be perceived as weak.  The key to achieving the right balance is truth.  Set your ego aside.  Be truthful in your accomplishments and your capabilities.  Be honest about your limitations.  Have the  integrity to step out of the spotlight if you don’t truly belong there.  Open yourself up to the possibility of learning something new, creating stronger relationships, and enjoying a productive work life.

CURSE THAT BLESSING

How has social media influenced our relationships? 

There are some phenomenal social networking sites that have really enhanced daily life.  Classmates.com allows you to reconnect with your schoolmates  & keep up with reunion info.  CaringBridge connects friends and family during a health catastrophe, allowing updates of patient progress or setbacks.   One of my personal favorites, Pinterest, facilitates the sharing and saving of ideas ranging from hairstyles to craft projects to recipes.   It is the virtual equivalent of clipping & organizing magazine articles.  LinkedIn broadens your professional network, allowing peers and employers to endorse your skills. Instagram has become the modern day photo album, allowing you to share pictures with loved ones.  Facebook and Twitter connect us to virtually anyone we choose including celebrities, co-workers, family and friends. 

But for every benefit there is a drawback.

Years ago there were quilting bees, tupperware parties, potluck dinners.  Couples would gather together to play cards and have fondue parties while the children played outside.  An entire magazine would be purchased just for a single recipe or article, and while perusing the pages other valuable information would be discovered.  Employees would have to get creative to market themselves and broaden their network.  Families would gather on Grandma’s sofa and flip thru countless photo albums, straining to read the faded handwriting on the backs of the pictures. Back then, the only way to contact your favorite celebrity was via fan mail that may or may not make it to the intended.  Speaking of mail… we wrote thank you notes, sent birthday cards, and drafted love letters. Ahhhhh those were the days.  I have a box in my closet full of treasures.  I have letters from my grandmother, birthday cards from my parents, newspaper clippings, and love notes. I’m not saying my heart doesn’t skip a beat when I get a Facebook message from my girlfriend but nothing can replace the folded piece of notebook paper on which she scrawled a handwritten note. 

Of course, I acknowledge that the social networking craze has made our lives infinitely more convenient.  You can read the morning news, order a candle from an online fundraiser, wish an old friend a birthday greeting, message sentiments of love to your spouse, become embroiled in a political debate, view pictures from Auntie’s vacation, and look for some used ice skates all while on a single social media site.  The amount of time saved is staggering, or is it?  How much time are we actually wasting on these sites? What has the technology cost us? 

I waste a ridiculous amount of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  I can spend hours pinning craft projects I will never make and recipes I will never try.  I will pour over the tweets from various celebrities, none of which are particularly interesting or informative.  I browse pictures of a friend of a friend’s friend to see what they have on Instagram, I don’t even know these people in the photos.  I will get lost in the threads of LinkedIn until I am sure I am somewhere in the 9th realm of my 3rd connection’s 3rd connections.

Facebook is the worst.  There are days that I literally feel like I live IN Facebook.  It isn’t a real place.  I often think, “WOW, how did we live before the Facebook phase?”  and other days I think, “How will we live through the Facebook era?”.      It has become the fundamental form of communication in our society.  We care more about what an acquaintance is making for dinner than how our spouse spent their day.  More value is placed on reading witty comments posted by someone we haven’t seen in 15 years than watching our kids play soccer.  I can’t tell you how many times my girlfriend and I have watched a mother become so totally absorbed in whatever she is viewing on her phone that she COMPLETELY ignores her children.  Look around a restaurant and notice how many couples have their phone in front of their faces.  What messages are we sending each other when we can’t even stay off of Facebook long enough to enjoy a meal or have a conversation?  We have become so immersed in this online culture that we have neglected our most important relationships.  Is social media so important that you won’t break that addiction?  We are broadcasting a bulletin loud and clear to our loved ones.  You are boring.  I am not interested in forming a bond with you.  You are not a priority in my life.   I am willing to sacrifice my time with you. 

Why would we do this to the ones we actually care about so deeply?   None of us are getting or giving the acceptance and attention that we all so deeply desire. As a society, we have forgotten how to connect with each other, how to interact.  I am not saying that we have invested our time and our interest in the wrong people.  The wrong percentage of interest has been invested.  We sink 90% of our time, empathy, emotion, and attention into social media and leave a measly 10% for our spouses and families.  That should be completely reversed.  It is all about priorities and perspective. How wonderful would it be to become wholly present in our relationships?  We need to shift our attention in order to become attentive to the needs of our loved ones.  We need to develop a passion for those that we see daily.  Have a burden for the plight of those closest to you. 

Spend some time unplugged and reconnect with those you love.  Become an active participant in life, not just a status update.  Cultivate true relationships with the people that matter most.

Invest your time in a connection that can’t be suspended, deleted, blocked, or unfriended,

What do YOU want?

I am a terrible decision maker.

It is some strange phenomenon that in my professional life I am a decisive, legitimate problem solver.   Co-workers come to me for advice. In my work life, people are constantly asking what I think, what I recommend, and what I would do.   But let my girlfriend ask me what I want for dinner, what I want to watch on tv or what my plans are for the weekend and I am dumbstruck.   Consequently, my favorite place to eat is  “Whatever sounds good to you“.   Turns out my favorite tv show is ” You decide” and my favorite weekend hobby is ” whatever  you wanna do“.

There are a few different ways to interpret this behavior.

1.  I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I WANT.   Clearly this isn’t me.  I know exactly what I want.  I have my favorite Mexican and Chinese restaurants.   In any given city I can list at least 3 places I like to eat.   As far as TV shows,  If it is true or funny chances are I love it.   Weekends are easy.  If the weather is nice I wanna get in some pool time.  I love a lazy Sunday morning… nap on the couch, big breakfast, tv, and puppy snuggles.   Saturdays are great for out of town shopping, dinner out, flea markets, theme-parks, etc.

2.  I AM A PEOPLE PLEASER.   This is a little bit me.   I am not a people pleaser however, I am a PERSON pleaser.   I want a happy partner.   We are taught early in a relationship that if your partner is content they won’t stray.   Because I am a perfectionist, I embrace this challenge and hurl myself headlong into it.  So if I want my girlfriend to be happy (by my definition) then she should eat wherever she wants, control the tv, and decide on weekend activities.  If she makes all the choices than how could she be unhappy?  This is a no-win situation for us both.  Turns out she doesn’t like to make ALL of the decisions.  I don’t know why that realization eluded me for so long when I didn’t want to make ANY decisions.  You can’t fine tune the art of compromise in a relationship if one person is making all of the decisions and the other person is making all of the concessions.

3.  I AM AFRAID.  This hits home.  At work, I have a mantra.  I am not a doctor, if I make a mistake no one is going to die.  That is what gives me the freedom to make professional decisions without fear.   At home it is different.  Decision making becomes a paramount task.  I FEAR that she won’t like my restaurant choice.  I FEAR that if we try new food it won’t be good.  I FEAR that my tv pick will bore her.  I FEAR my weekend plans will disappoint her.  I FEAR that she might view me as opinionated, difficult, selfish if I express my wants and needs.   I FEAR that I will suggest something weird.  I FEAR that what I want may bring back sad memories of loved ones lost or happy memories shared with someone better than me.

4.  I DON’T WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE.  Truth.  I don’t want to be responsible for the colossal task of how someone else will spend time that they will never get back.  What if I pick a movie and it is a complete waste of time?  What if the restaurant is an utter disappointment?  I don’t want that kind of thing on my conscience.  That seems a bit extreme but when you are a person pleasing perfectionist that has a ton of fear, your mind harps on mistakes like that.  It makes me apprehensive about the next decision, what if I mess that up too?  I guess the argument could also be made that I don’t want to be responsible LITERALLY.  I want to be carefree and let someone else make the hard decisions at home because I already put in my 2 cents at the office.

5.  IF I DON’T ASK FOR WHAT I WANT THAN I HAVE A REASON TO BE MAD WHEN I DON’T GET IT.  Oh yeah, that’s me!  I heard this on a show that Iyanla Vanzant did.  She told a lady this exact thing.  As soon as I heard it, I thought BINGO!  She told her that this was her “racket”, her game, her scheme.   It is my racket too.  Sure, I guess if I really wanted The Cheesecake Factory and we ended up at Zaxby’s I would probably be mad, but in that situation I would eventually realize that it was my fault for not speaking up. To me this pertains more to what I REALLY want rather than superficial things like dinners, tv, and weekend fun.  I don’t ask for what I want.  There are certain things we all should demand and deserve in a relationship.  No one deserves to be cheated on or lied to, but there is more than that.  I can think of things we have both said we DON’T want in a relationship, but I can’t say with certainty that I have ever sat down with my girlfriend and said this is what I DO want.  I put the burden on her to just instinctively know when I want her attention, when I want my hand held, when I expect to be kissed, etc.  The drawback is that i don’t get what I need but the payoff is that I have an excuse for my bad behavior.   In MY perfect world, she would know me well enough to anticipate my every need and her heart’s desire would be to fulfill those things for me.  That is not realistic.  No one can be a mind-reader.  Fear and rejection are first cousins to this racket.  I fear that if I DO make my wants and needs known and they are rejected, neglected, and dismissed then I will have even bigger, scarier decision to make.  That is a lot of what-ifs standing in the way.  I am replacing my negative what-ifs with positive what-ifs.  What-if I ask for what I want/need and actually get it? Could it really be that easy???

6.  I HAVE BEEN CONTROLLED FOR TOO LONG.   I think this is a key factor.  Prior to my current relationship, I have been controlled my entire life.  I went right from the control and domination of my parents to a tyrant of a fiancee.  He micromanaged absolutely everything.  He was never more than 2 feet away at any given time.  He drove me to work,  waited at my job, then drove me home.  Fast forward to a regimented roommate that took control of everything from my finances to my dating life.  Then on to a governing girlfriend that regulated how much time I could spend in the shower.  So by the time I entered my current relationship, I was used to doing as I was told.   When you spend your whole life being controlled it is a totally foreign concept when someone wants you to make a personal decision.  I still can’t believe that someone that I am in a relationship with actually WANTS to know what I want.  That is probably where all of the fear comes from, it is still new, uncharted territory.  It is like after 40 years, you are finally forced to find out who you are, what you like, what you need, and what you want.  It is a monumental task.

I think the crux of decisiveness is trust.  I have to trust that my partner won’t hold a verdict against me.  I have to trust that perfection isn’t essential, it is ok if I make a wrong choice.  I have to trust in myself and my powers of discernment.  I have to trust in our ability as a couple to compromise.  Most importantly, I have to learn to trust my girlfriend with my thoughts, fears, wants, needs, desires.  It isn’t easy to be that vulnerable. It isn’t an overnight change that you can make.  It is a process.

When you avoid making decisions, you completely dodge responsibility.  You relinquish your control.  You lose your voice.  You allow someone else to be the captain of your life.  It is so easy to allow someone else to choose the path while you just tag along, but then it’s not your path.