Monthly Archives: March 2014

Loving my self-critical ego.

Life can be challenging and most of us have a tendency to judge ourselves when we make mistakes, make life changes or suffer setbacks. By judging ourselves, we give our ego’s criticism the highest power over us. We stop being compassionate and become more fearful, desperate or out of control. But, we are not the only ones affected. All of those who love us suffer at the same time. So, how can we move from the criticism of our ego to compassionate love?

I’ve been talking with a friend of mine about the ultimate part of love, which is to let go of self-criticism — of judgment. Really, it’s at those moments of judgment – when we get in our own way – that we miss the need to just accept with tenderness the weaknesses of ourselves (and those around us).

To love yourself requires strength, patience and letting go of right and wrong. To love someone else, requires strength, patience and letting go of right and wrong.

So, what makes it so hard to love ourselves and then to really love others? First, we are afraid of weakness and vulnerability (a topic for another blog) but we also give too much power to the negative ego based tapes. The ego is like a fearful child who resorts to bullying and control out of a desperate need to feel safe and secure. Most of us beat ourselves up over those feelings. I’m going to suggest that we acknowledge them and move on … let go. When you aren’t afraid of your own criticism, it will make it easier to you orient toward loving yourself and those around you.

As the Sufi poet Rumi writes, “Time is a factory where we all slave away, earning enough love to break our own chains.” None of us knows how long we will be on this planet, so we might as well start working on this today. We all have the ability to love ourselves in a way that promotes compassion, empathy, and self-awareness for ourself and others. We just have to let it come out to play!

Have a wonderful start to your week!

 

 

What “number” makes us happy?

Money brings people together and breaks them up.  It was one issue in the break up of my marriage.  Not how much money we had, but our views and fears about money.  It took me awhile to figure that out – and we were not so mature back then.  I’ve known people with a lot more money than me and they are no happier by virtue of their wealth.  So, what is it?

We all work hard to provide for our families, with long hours away from home, and extra jobs, in an attempt to get those few extra $$.  We think if we get to the next level (whatever that might be) we will be happy.  But, is there a point at which we will have enough?  In other words, when does having more money make us happy?  And, is that the way to look at it all?

Studies show that there is a relationship between salary and happiness (although I’m not sure I buy into that theory – but let’s leave that for now).  Having extra money does allow us to buy better food and other creature comforts.  The research also shows that spending money on experiences (trips) rather than objects – makes people happier (I might agree there).   There is one area in which I totally agree with the research  – the happiest people are those that buy for others – regardless of their income level.

Shortly after my divorce, when the kids were little, we were really down on our financial luck.  I was totally struggling.  A friend invited the kids and me for a trip to Target and bought us groceries and the kids treats.  I will never forget that experience and I have a feeling she won’t either.  I’ve tried to pay that forward whenever I can.  We have a favorite friend that we love to help out and when we do, they are unquestionably some of our happiest moments.

Yet, I keep moving up in income … working to make more money.  Kids in sports, going to college and I suppose the question will be, when is enough … when will I be at the “number?”

In my quest to learn and teach my children, I think I’m looking at this the wrong way.  Instead, I think I need to focus on the number we can give away, not the number I’m making. (Note to my kids: I love how grateful you are already!)   Maybe this will help us see that how much we give (whether time or money) is the key to how “much” will make us happy … and how much will be enough.  What do you think?

Well, I hope you all have a very relaxing weekend.  I can’t wait to catch up next week!

He told me I had “flaws.”

Someone recently pointed out a bunch of my “flaws.”  Look – I know I have them.  Who doesn’t?  But, point them out? Well, let me run through a few of them – see what you think:

1. “Your working out is too time consuming.” Ok. I do try to get to the health club or outside 5 – 6x per week. Especially when training for a race. Flaw? Well, maybe to the health club who banks on me showing up once or twice per week. I’ll call this a 1/2 flaw (but one that I love!)

2. “You worry about everything.” I worry. I’m Italian with a Jewish twist – which accounts for 70% of my “flaws.” I’ll count this as a flaw but one that someone will have to live with.

3. “You go to all your kid’s games/events.” Yes. I gave birth to them, changed a lot of diapers, dealt with a lot of runny noses. I’m going to go to whatever events I want to. I’ve earned the right. Pass.

4. “You never let ‘people’ get involved in your kids lives.” Listen here friends – if any of you want to get involved, attend functions, drive them all over kingdom come and make multiple meals every night – have at it. I’m not counting this as a flaw.

5. “You never have time without something going on.” Welcome to my world. A flaw? Maybe. The life of a single working mom (or just a parent for that matter) with three teenagers? Yes. What I wouldn’t give for someone to take me away for even a weekend … Heck, how about a trip to St. Paul?

6. “You have a lot of walls.” Hmm. I do have a cave. And, I do like to visit it. But, only when I’m not feeling safe or comfortable. The cave does have 4 walls … sometimes more depending on the day. But, in most situations I’m happy to leave the cave for something better. I’ll count this as a flaw.

7. “You don’t sleep enough.” Flaw. Menopause.

8. “You’re always tired at night.” See response above.

9. “You get defensive when I talk to you about your flaws.” FLAW!!

I think “flaws” become an issue when communication has broken down, resentment has built up and someone wants to seek validation that their position is “right” and their frustrations about you are justified. That, in and of itself, is likely a flaw.

Friends, let me make a suggestion: DON’T point out someone else’s flaws – no matter how “minor.”  The blame game doesn’t solve problems. In fact, it exacerbates them. Instead say to your partner/friend: “Hey, can I talk about my flaws and how they are affecting you and what, if anything, I can do to make it work better for us.” Change the game to a healthy, loving and productive discussion. Just think what a lack of finger-pointing can do to strengthen any kind of relationship!

Well, if I see you at the club, working (not) on my flaws, I hope you’ll just ignore the flaw and say “hi!” 🙂

Have a fantastic day!

Sometimes the old stuff just makes me smile!

When I get up in the morning, I have one main goal:  No matter how cold or dark it is outside; no matter how tired or even sad I might be; I make sure I remember that it’s a new day. That the birds will be chirping, the sun will come out and we all get to have another redo from the day before.  Nothing’s 100% of the time but this one I’m pretty close on.

Today I had a whole post written (sort of an intense one, which I’ll just post tomorrow) but I woke up singing this song. And because it put an extra big smile on my face, I want to do the same for you.  First sung by Marvin Gaye, here’s James Taylor singing How sweet it is to be loved by you (you youngsters are just going to have to bear with me).  Here’s the video with the words underneath.  Until someone sings it to me (:)) I’ve got it going in my mind, which at my ripe (old) age is just as good!   So, let me stop and thank you for joining me in these posts of love and the sheer joy (and exhaustion) of life!

I’m going to sing this to my kids when they get up! Have a great day!   XO

How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You

I needed the shelter of someone’s arms
There you were
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs
There you were
With sweet love and devotion
Deeply touching my emotion
I want to stop, and thank you baby
I want to stop, and thank you baby
Yes I do

How sweet it is to be loved by you
Feels so fine
How sweet it is to be loved by you

I close my eyes at night
Wonderin’ where would I be without you in my life
Everything I did was just a bore
Everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before
But you brighten up for me all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways
An’ I wanna stop, thank you, baby
I just wanna stop, and thank you, baby

Ohh yes
How sweet it is to be loved by you
It’s just like sugar sometime
How sweet it is to be loved by you
Wo yea

You were better to me than I was to myself
For me, there’s you and there ain’t nobody else
I wanna stop, thank you, baby
I just wanna stop, and thank you, baby

Oh yes
How sweet it is to be loved by you
How sweet it is to be loved by you
Wo now
How sweet it is to be loved by you
It’s like jelly babe, oh yea
How sweet it is to be loved by you
Just like honey to the bee babe
Yea now
How sweet it is to be loved by you

Why do you reserve that kind of negative treatment for me?

Isn’t it funny how a stranger can bring out the best in us and yet the people we love the most get stuck with our bad moods?  We’re impatient with our partners, kids and parents.  And, we have no problem reserving our life frustrations for those we love.

We tell ourselves it’s because we’re most comfortable around those who know and love us.  And, in a strange sort of way we actually think it’s a compliment that we can be ourselves around our close family and friends.  Yet, I always thought this was the wrong way to look at it.  Shouldn’t we reserve our best treatment for those we love?

Let’s ask ourselves these questions: Do we treat our children or our parents with the same respect we use to treat our employees and co-workers?   When our partner expresses hurt, caused by us, do we take ownership of it when they share their feelings or do we get defensive, lash out at them and tell them how they aren’t doing enough for us?  Do we apologize when we’re wrong? Are our words positive and gentle or filled with sarcasm or biting retorts?

For sure, the world exacts its toll on us.  We keep a pleasant outlook but sometimes it takes a lot of energy to stay positive.  And, despite knowing that some day we will have to say goodbye to the people we love, we still, in the present moment, don’t always treat them that way.

Look, we’re not robots.  We can’t always be in a good mood nor should we have to hide our frustrations from those closest to us.  There are times when we need to relax and let it all out.  But, we should also make a conscious effort to pick and choose when we relieve ourselves of our negative emotions and focus on showing the people we love the best we have to offer – no matter how stressful our life is at that moment.

We all have bad days.  In fact, we have bad weeks and years.  But let’s try to be present and positive with those we love while we have the chance.  Let’s try to do the small things we know will put a smile on their face – the face we adore!  Let’s do it as often as we can.  We don’t know when we might not get one more chance.  I’m sure we will never, ever regret making someone we love feel good!

Hug the people you love today and have an amazing start to your week!

I’m on the fence here.

How often have you tried to change somebody or have them try to change you? Know how draining that can be?  You can spend a lifetime trying to do this and the only thing that changes is your frustration level (and often whether you stay in the relationship).

I was with a friend yesterday and she was talking about her partner who won’t seem to change a behavior that she’s continually addressed with him.  I suggested to her that maybe he just doesn’t want to change.  And, maybe the more she brings it up, the more he digs in.   When I asked her if she thought he could change, she said, without hesitation – YES!  But yet, two years later … no change.  Why?

Later I thought about that conversation … can people really change?

On one side of the fence, I believe that we all have innate characteristics and traits that make us who we are. And, I believe that the sooner we come to terms with that, the easier it is to change some things on the margins and to find ways to compensate for our shortcomings.

On the other side of the fence, I see people with addictions change their entire lives when they get clean.  I also have seen people who, when they hit rock bottom, find a way to create change in their lives to pick themselves up and move forward in a new and better way.

I guess my real question is, can people change their fundamental personality or just their behavior?  

Sometimes people don’t change because they think they’re “stuck.” But no one is stuck.  Sometimes it’s just that we don’t trust ourselves enough to make a change.  We’re afraid to fail.    Sometimes people don’t change because they don’t want to or haven’t found an internal reason to change.  

One of the biggest challenges for couples (certainly true in my marriage) is learning to live with your partner’s annoying habits rather than trying to change them. Your partner may be the love of your life, but they’re also human. And they (as well as you) have things that might not be the most appealing traits!  Trying to accept may be easier than trying to change them.

Although I’m on the fence here, I’d like to think that we can change personality for the better.  But who knows? I’ve been trying to change some things about me for years and I’m still a work-in-process. 🙂

“You can change only what people know, not what they do.”  Scott Adams

Have a wonderful weekend!

“Why don’t you trust us not to do drugs or get kidnapped?”

I’m in the newly minted teenage years with the boys and I am constantly amazed at the questions that I receive on a daily basis.  Teenage boys are wonderful when they are not driving you crazy.  Their voices are changing, their hormones are raging and they are learning how to deal with all of the differences that they’re experiencing each and every day.   Typically, the question/answer session goes like this:

How was your day? Fine.

How was school?  Good.

How was your test? Ok.

Anything new?  Nope.

But when they want something, like what we’re wrestling with now (my refusal to allow them to do every freaking thing they want to do with their friends), the questions and demands are fast and furious.

1. “Why can’t we go to the mall with our friends?  Don’t you trust us not to do something stupid?”  “No.”

2. “Don’t you think we are big enough to beat someone up who might be trying to kidnap us?”  “Nope. And you can’t beat up a gun.”

3. “Do you think that we’re just going to go have sex with girls if we are out with a group of friends.”  “Ummm. Well, of course not…”  (I really don’t want to tell them what I was doing at their age with “groups of friends.”).

4. “Mom, it’s not like we’re going to go snort a line or drink alcohol – we just want to go hang at ….”  “I know. But I can’t control everyone in those settings and it just doesn’t feel right to me.”  (Sometimes I just don’t have a good answer and I’m going with my gut, which always pisses them off!)

Look, this is complicated business, raising teenagers.  I want to give them space to make mistakes (not the kind that would be solved by condoms – but you know what I mean) and I want them to have the freedom to explore the internet and its benefits.  You know what I’m saying; this is a lot harder than them wanting a Coke and Cheetos at the Target checkout (one hour before bedtime) – this is really tough stuff.

So, I’ve just decided that I’m going to have to look like Enemy #1 for right now.  I can play this part well.  Sometimes, I’m going to have to say “no,” even when it’s very possible I did it as a kid.  And sometimes I may have to call parents to see what’s really happening (oh, that will go over really well with my kids!).

I know one thing for sure, parenting teens means I have to pay attention.  I’ve got to be awake way past my bedtime and I’ve got to learn more about those social media sites that I have zero interest in!  Yesterday I had to get an Instagram account.  This weekend … Twitter.  Yikes!

Just another day in Teenland Paradise — at least I still know where they are at night!

Have a great day!

He was 95 and his brother was almost 101.

The boys and I went to get their hair cut yesterday – an unlikely place for anything interesting to happen other than the flavor choices of the free lollipops.  When we got there an older gentleman was waiting with a cane and an african woman was talking to him.  The boys were called back right away for their cuts but we all kept watching this woman walking back and forth between the man waiting and another man getting his hair cut.

When one of my guys was done, he sat on a chair and picked up a magazine.  The man waiting tried to hit the magazine with his cane, talking but not in a way my son could understand.  Instead of moving away, my guy moved closer to him, showing the man the magazine and talking to him about the picture he was looking at.  The african woman came over to us – her accent thick and gentle.  She said she was their caretaker and had been for 10 years.  The man who my son was talking to was 95 years old and his brother, who was getting his hair cut — almost 101!  She thanked my son for being so generous and we (of course) hugged when we left – me thanking her for just being there with us.

On the way home, we talked about getting older and how invincible we feel right now.

We will all get older and, when we do, we will likely need someone to take us for hair cuts, to help us sit down, change our clothes … maybe even feed us.  Some of you have already done that for your parents.

And, as we get older, we continue to hear the echoes of our youth.  The ability to take care of ourselves – to not be a burden.  To do what we want, within reason, with our bodies and our time.  But life is not perfect and inevitably some of us will be like the men we met yesterday – with someone taking care of them.

While this is not something to dwell on, it can help us appreciate our health at this very moment.  It can help us teach the next generation about the importance of the circle of life – that we are helpless when we are born and often when we die. It can remind us to keep spreading happiness and love all around – it’s free and will come back two-fold (research indicates that smiling and laughing results in fewer wrinkles too!).

For me, yesterday also reminded me of the goodness in my boys as they reached out, without fear, to old(er) people they didn’t even know.  This is the joy of keeping our eyes open all the time — even at the $12.00 hair cut place!

Have a fantastic start to your week.  And remind anyone you are “helping” that it is not a burden … it is life. 🙂

“It was a helluva week” Or “The s*** I learned this week.”

I gotta tell you – this was a week from I’m not sure where.  I mean a seriously difficult week, from work to kids to the emotional experiences I had with people I knew and didn’t know.  Yet, I made it through and I want to sum up this week’s lessons:

1. When your body is tired, listen to it. Quiet time with a blanket (or wine) can solve all ills.

2. Sometimes people blame you because there is no one else to blame and that doesn’t mean it’s your fault.

3. Kids will blame you when it is clearly their fault.  That’s their job.  Ignore it.

4. Resting doesn’t always have to mean sleeping.  Sometimes it can mean laughing or just hanging out with people who make you laugh.

5. It’s ok to say, “I can’t do one more thing for anyone.”

6. If your feeling nauseous, don’t go lie down in bed without an ice cream bucket.

7. Keep your eyes open.  Someone needs you.

8. You are beautiful.  And, even if you don’t feel like you are beautiful, take care of your body as if it is.

9. It is ok to get take-out dinner four out of five nights (or five out of five sometimes too.)

10. If you can’t say something nice, then say something not nice in as nice a way as possible.

11. Raising teenagers is much harder than raising elementary school kids.

12. You never know who will enter or leave your life at any particular moment.  Enjoy as much of it as you can.

13. Getting older means we just have more cool experiences to share at dinner parties.

14. Sometimes buying yourself a new dress does help.

15.  Happiness is easiest during happy times, but sweetest during hard times.

Have a really fantastic weekend!

The bruises on her face … I think they were from her husband.

When things happen to me twice in a relatively short period of time, I know I’m meant to write about them.  I can’t write about the first one, but let me tell you about the second one:

Tuesday night I had to swing by the grocery store.  It was 9:15 p.m. and I just wanted to go home.  It wasn’t my usual grocery store with the carpet on the floor … it was another one.

Almost no one was there and as I walked up to the register, I saw a woman with some groceries (not unusual) but she was also wearing a big coat (way too big) and big dark glasses (unusual).  I had a bad feeling.  I see that her groceries are already on the conveyor. It was mostly chips, pop, pizzas and mac and cheese.  As I got up close to her I could almost feel how she was feeling.  And, I was feeling sick.

Let me back up: 6 years ago I was on the board of a local shelter. The experience was amazing and incredibly depressing at the same time.  Being battered is a really horrible, lonely and scary life.

I tried to engage her in a conversation but she ignored me. When the total price was given to her and she realized that she doesn’t have enough money, she lifted up her glasses to look for money in her purse – I could see her panic.  She made a comment about her husband in the car not wanting to give her more money. With my hands trembling I offered to help.

She turned toward me (this was the first time I could see her face) and I felt like crying.  She’d been hammered by someone.  It was bad. I pulled out some cash and gave it to her – I was a bit panicked too and I gave her more than she needed but I told her to keep it.  I really didn’t want her to go to the car but I knew this was outside my control.  I quickly wrote my name (first) and number (work) on a piece of garbage sitting there and told her to call me any time.  She just looked at me and walked out.  Maybe that was the wrong thing to do.  It was just in the moment and it was all so fast …

As I swiped my card to buy my groceries, I realized I was crying.  The cashier walked over, gave me a tissue, hugged me and said, “I will remember the two of you and this moment for the rest of my life.”

Life is so painful.  We never know where we’ll end up, how stuck we will be, or how despondent we could become.  And, we never know when we might have the chance to – for an oh-so brief moment – give out our love and compassion.  Be thankful today.  I hope she calls me.

Have a wonderful and safe day.