Monthly Archives: April 2014

He said, “That’s so Italian of you.”

I am Italian.  Let me just admit it right here and now.  Sure, being Italian means I have a lot to say with my hands, with my emotions and I cry and hug all the time (I mean all the time!). Here’s just a small sample of the things that bring me to tears:

  • Pictures of my kids when they were little.  Especially those naked ones where I had all three in the bathtub playing with their Sponge Bob sponges.
  • Any athletic win (or loss) by my Wisconsin team!
  • Any movie where there is any semblance of love.
  • Any movie period.
  • Thinking of my kids going to college (crazy, I know!).
  • Music (except the rap stuff where I can’t understand the words or I understand the swearing words).
  • Almost any TV commercial.

I think as a kid, I hid the Italian nature of my being.  I never cried at Lassie films (although I did throw up at Jaws).  I pretended like nothing bothered me.  Yet, now, just a discussion of those movies makes me teary eyed.  I even cry watching “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” when they come in and see all the time and effort put into their home!

Here are some other signs that I’m Italian:

  • You can not leave my house without taking food.  I really don’t care what kind of food you take from here but you can’t leave without something!  One time a friend liked some left overs that we had here that he even took my left overs for left overs!
  • Someone in my family in NY or Italy is wearing black every day, even years after the death of a relative … wait, that’s me!
  • You will find olives in a million containers in my fridge.
  • Chef Boyardee and Ragu are forbidden in my house.  In fact, we call red sauce – gravy.
  • I’m not afraid to serve pasta at a BBQ.
  • I’m hot headed … or “passionate” as I like to call it.

So, that’s me.  I’ve tried to change but to no avail.  What have I said a million times (gesturing loudly with my hands)?  Love yourself for who you are!

Have a great day!

 

Do you find joy the same way I do?

I love this quote: Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. Thích Nhất Hạnh 

We’re moving so fast. And we seem to be trying to move faster each day.  There are so many life distractions and we are on overload with information through the web, television and social media.  This pulls us away from the focus of life and (quite sadly) allows us to ignore the critical moments in life.

I’ve been thinking about how can we live in the “moment.”  Everyone talks about it but it’s almost impossible for us lay people!  That’s why I think finding joy is so critically important.  The old saying … “live in the moment,” is really about finding joy at any time, in any place and even at that very moment that you think you don’t have access to joy.

Here’s my definition: Joy is the moment (even if it’s just one moment) that you recognize how good things really are. 

So, how can we slow down long enough to find joy in our every day life?  Here’s my list of how I find joy:

  • Nature.  Being outside, regardless of the temperature, has always given me a centered feeling.
  • Flowers.  For me, there’s really nothing like the ability to close ones eyes and breathe in the scent of fresh flowers.
  • My family/friends. Just an XO email can make my day. If you know of someone who needs some joy, send one.  I’m sure it’ll help!
  •  My kids. Even when they are driving me crazy (often :)), they bring the most joy to my life!
  • A nice meal with a good friend. (I like to add wine!).
  • Running or just moving.
  • Helping others.  There is something really amazing about helping someone – without the need for anything in return.
  • That first sip of that first cup of (decaf) coffee in the morning.

Is my joy how you find yours?  What’s on your list?  Think about it.

Do something for yourself today … even if it’s a stop at the local coffee shop for a fancy drink!  Believe me, for every nice thing you do for yourself – for every time you feel joy, you will get a smile on your face and you will give it twice back to others.  The math on that one is pretty cool!

So, welcome to the start of the week.  I hope your day is filled with joy – even just a moment is good enough to last a whole day!

Stay dry. 🙂

 

Some times just feel like too much.

Our trials are never greater than our strength to bear them.  

Some days we wake up and we are faced with a challenge.  Sometimes that challenge seems so big it’s hard to put our arms around it.

I don’t believe that we never get more than we can handle.  We get a lot in this life.  Death, illness, separation and heartache.  That stuff really is hard to handle.  But I believe that we are able to manage or survive these things because of the people in our lives who can help us focus on the positive aspects of life.  Yes, we need to have internal strength and for some, faith in something else.  But, we really do need each other when we hit those periods that feel like “too much.”

To my close friends right now who seem to have more than one should bear on their plates — we are here for you.  Even if we can’t see you or talk to you or even touch you right now … we are here for you.  Even if you can’t hear the birds chirping right now, we’re listening to them for you.  We will feel the sunshine for you and think of you.  We will save all those wonderful feelings for the moment when we can actually touch you, hug you and love you.  And what seems like too much will eventually be replaced by something beautiful.  I’m sure of that.

For the rest of us – lets stay connected to the ground we’re walking on this weekend.  Those people who need our love and support … they will feel it.

Have a peaceful weekend.

I want to thank the narcissists in my life.

Our society loves to hate narcissists.  We never are totally shocked by the people we read about in the papers who seem to have no problem breaking the law, as long as they don’t get caught, or cheating in business or on their loved ones.

We all have narcissistic tendencies.  We all need to protect the “me” at times.  But there’s a difference between the normal and the extreme.  Know what I’m talking about?

Here’s the thing: Nobody is born a narcissist.  It happens from childhood – often from too much or too little attention – resulting in an extreme need for love and attention as an adult.  Narcissists tend to be angry people who often accuse you of not doing enough for them, even when you are.  They need your energy to feel good.

When you first meet the narcissist, they seem charismatic, honest, open and loving.  They claim that everyone loves them.  That you are the only one who doesn’t see them for the great person that they are.  But, it always turns out to be a false projection.  Their acts of “sincerity” are obscured by hidden insecurities.

I’ve been hurt by the narcissists in my life – no question about that.  But, if I’m going to be totally honest (and why not?!),  I really do need to thank the narcissists in my life.

The narcissists are the ones who have challenged me the most. They are the ones who caused me to grow up and to see the world in a different – clearer way. They are the ones from whom I’ve gained the best lessons on how to take care of myself in work and in personal relationships.  They’ve taught me that I’ve got to watch my boundaries and they’ve taught me that I don’t want narcissists in my life.

Narcissists take energy.  And, in this oh-so-brief life we have, it’s critically important to be with people who share energy and are not afraid to give energy without receiving anything in return.  So, if you’ve got someone in your life who is taking from your emotionally generous self – and not giving back – leave.  And, if you can’t (or don’t want to leave) then set clear boundaries and don’t allow them to be bent.

I don’t know if I would be where I’m at now if I hadn’t had my life experiences with narcissists.  Holding that mirror up (often for the narcissist!) has taught me more about who I am, than any expensive therapy session!

Have a great day!

I watched him propose to his partner and I cried (of course!).

Last week was pretty rough.  I’ve been trying to help someone (to which my efforts have gone south), stuff with kids (always), one of my wonderful friend’s husband has gone in to hospice and … well, you get the picture.  So, yesterday afternoon I decided to write a blog post about joy (you’ll get why when I post it later this week) — but I just couldn’t put the finishing touches on it so I decided to go for a bike ride.

At the 1/2 way mark I stopped at a bench to check my phone (no comments please!).  Just as I stopped, two guys stopped too.  One quickly got off his bike and started to unpack his back pack — flowers, music, a small box.  I was mesmerized.  And as the guys noticed me, one smiled and said, “It’s ok to stay.”  Then, I watched as M (no names, remember?!), got down on his knee and proposed to his partner, T.   T said YES and as he started to cry, so did I!  What is more beautiful than love?? 🙂

They told me that they’d been together for 11 years and wanted to get married since year two.  When the law changed, and they first had the chance, everyone else was doing it, so they waited for the anniversary of their first date – yesterday.  They told me of their ups and downs in life, coming out, meeting one another, the struggles of any relationship and finally getting to have what other couples have had for years – the opportunity to say they’re married and commit to the enormity (and beauty) of that institution.

When I asked what got them through the tough times, they said that they promised, from the very beginning, to be best friends and put the other one first.   Wow – someone was sending me a message there.

Relationships really are tough stuff.  And, if you aren’t friends or don’t treat your partner with the care that you use with your friends … it will never, ever work.   M and T have an agreement to never say anything in anger without first checking their own feelings and examining whether they are based on their own s*** rather than something the other is doing. I have experience (not so positive on the receiving end) in this department.  Maybe some of you do too.

They talk about feelings not what they “want” from the other person.  They are always looking to make the other person feel better first – which in turn makes them both feel better.  This is what I’m talking about!

I likely spent more time at the bench than my whole ride.  But who cares.  It was such a beautiful and lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

This experience, my fantastic friends, gave me immense joy and helped me finish my upcoming post on that very topic!

Have a wonderful start to your week!

She didn’t feel emotionally safe.

I met a friend for coffee last week.  She wanted to make a few decisions about her life and wanted my thoughts.  After we ordered our lunch, I asked what was going on.  She said that she wasn’t feeling emotionally safe in a current (long-term) relationship.  Yup – she’d come to the correct place – Jessica’s Psychiatric Booth (joke for us old(er) Peanuts fans!).

We talked about it a bit, examined the situation and then later that evening, I realized how many people I’d talked with lately who, while they maybe didn’t finger the exact word, were really not feeling emotionally safe (or safe to be vulnerable).  It made me wonder how that sort of thing happens in a relationship that usually starts out so open.  Bear with me here and see if my thinking on this topic is straight:

1. When we feel safe, we can be emotionally vulnerable.

2. Emotional vulnerability means surrendering fully to a situation.  It’s what they call being open and transparent.  At work or in other situations, it means feeling like your back is covered.

3. When one doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable, they build walls to protect themselves.  Lack of trust results in these barriers.  It starts out as little things that cause us to build these walls.

4. Walls and barriers will sabotage potentially good relationships, good jobs and friendships because it’s hard to open ourselves up to new things and new ideas when we are scared of being hurt.

5. There are times where no matter what you do there is no safety in a situation –   Where the other person involved only has his or her own back.  Run!

6. To be vulnerable you must first accept yourself for your strengths and weaknesses.  Then, you really have to accept the same things in the other person (as hard as that can be because our s*** is always so much better than someone elses’ … right??!) If we can’t do that, we’ll damage our self-esteem and our relationships – whether work or personal.

7. You must voice your needs (gently and respectfully).  They are valuable and deserve to be heard.  That is vulnerability.  And, once they are heard and met, you will feel safe to do it again.  That’s when the beauty of any kind of relationship unfolds.

Thanks to my friends for allowing me to have these deep conversations the last few weeks.  It’s forced me to step outside myself and really think about how insecurities (and we all have them) affect us or better yet, destroy great opportunities, relationships or experiences.

One thing I know for sure – love, acceptance and respect are plentiful, yet elusive, when we don’t feel emotionally safe.  Good topic over a glass of wine or coffee with someone important in your life.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

There are no straight lines.

I’m going to ignore science here for a minute (sorry, Dad) and say that I think the shortest distance between two points is a curve – because that’s how life is and isn’t science supposed to mirror life?

Nothing ever goes as planned.  There are no straight lines. Circumstances change. People change. You change. The seasons change (well, that’s true most years).

Life happens. In fact, life just consistently takes us from the direction we thought we were heading, to a place we never imagined.  Life does not always cooperate.

Maybe our kids go a direction we don’t anticipate, our partner or friend decides he/she needs to leave, a health issue pops up — we can surely expect that the unexpected will occur.  How do we cope? Some of us cope by controlling (yes, my name is Jessica and I am a control freak). Some of us by over-eating, over-drinking, over-whatever.

Lately, I’ve been in the midst of a lot of unexpected things (some in my sphere and some in others).  Coping in a healthy way, is the challenge.  If you are in the midst of change, think of it this way:

1. It’s just a change.  Whether “good” or “bad,” this curve will either be a momentary change or you will learn to adjust … eventually not even noticing the difference.   So, what seems insane in the moment, will pass.

2. Don’t give a part of yourself to crisis.  Don’t let a difficult time determine how you feel about yourself or your life direction.  Stay calm, keep you power and keep walking forward … even if you have to step over some carnage.

3. Think before you act.  Crisis is never the time to make a big decision.  So resign yourself to that and know it is as much for you as for the people around you.

4. Look for the good part of the crisis.  I’ve almost never been able to see the good until way after the fact.  But knowing that I will see it, has helped me get through the tough times.

5. In a crisis – lean on me.  Or, lean on anyone close to you.  It’s a ego-humbling experience to have (need) to lean on those around you.  Recognize that it will just make you stronger and bring the colors out in the world around you.

So, if you’re in a crisis today or something’s just not going right, remember that the curve will take you to a new place that you would never have ventured before.  And, those tears you shed … well they are just to help get through the uncertainties and the unexpected parts of life.  Let’s just try (it’s never perfect) to embrace all of life’s wonderful surprises – the good and the tough.  Our ability to survive – well, that’s what we’ll look back on as we reminisce on our life accomplishments.

Have an amazing weekend!

It would be nice.

I really do try to not have high expectations about how things in life go.  Sometimes they seem good and sometimes you wonder what the h*** is happening. But I have to admit (just to myself, of course) that there are some things that would just be nice if they happened.  I’ve been putting together a mental list and given my advancing age, I need to put it on paper:

It would be nice if …

  • When I got to the end of winter, and stopped wearing nylons, I didn’t feel the need to gasp at the look of wrinkles pooling on the top of my knee caps.  Where did they come from?
  • When I got home, my kids ran to the door, greeted me with a smile, asked about my day and had dinner waiting on the table.  Ok, a girl’s gotta dream!
  • I slept through the night and didn’t find myself eating at 2:30 a.m. because I’m “hungry.”
  • I was able to complete more of the crossword puzzles each year rather than less.  Or, actually, if I understood the slang used in the crossword puzzles.
  • When I pulled out a gray hair, it chose to grow back as non-gray.
  • I went for my yearly and my doctor said, how fantastic I looked rather than looking over his glasses and asking if I’ve “noticed” any changes.
  • If somehow there was a program that would create white noise in my brain when my kids are sassing (a kinder word than what’s actually happening) back at me.
  • I could stay awake for more than 20 seconds of my meditations.
  • I could just admit that I don’t like meditation and never will.
  • My times got faster in races rather than the age group times getting slower.
  • I could buy clothes without wondering if the item is “too young-looking.”
  • My boys understood that, “Can you take the sheets off your bed and wash them” means the sheets not every single item on their beds (a recent and disastrous occurrence).

I’m sure you’ve got your own list.  Oh, here’s one more … It would be nice if it was 75 and sunny today!

Have a great day!

To My Unconsciously Coupled Friends.

“Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” Pablo Picasso

I just finished a book on Picasso and learned that his style changed over his life time based on the phases of his heart. Makes total sense.  We often look back at our lives in those same phases. Picasso noted that keeping love alive is difficult — essentially, there’s an art to it. I think love is especially hard to keep alive with the inevitable wear and tear of life.

After seeing a movie recently, where love/hate in a marriage was front and center, I realized that we have the power to create how happy or unhappy our love will be.  The movie gave me these ideas on how to quickly dissolve love: (WARNING: please don’t try these at home!)

1. Don’t do the little things. Don’t reach for their hand, or look into their eyes when they’re talking.  Avoid talking about feelings or even asking about them. Actually, the quickest way to kill love is taking someone for granted and then treat them that way.

2. Solve their problems without really listening. Men: women like to solve their problems by talking to someone and then coming to resolution. If you solve them for her and don’t actually listen to her feelings, she’ll know that it’s more about you than her. Women: men just like to solve them on their own. Period.

3. Don’t allow him/her to feel safe with you. Be close one minute and distant the next. Assume that every question, every “test,” is really an attack on your character and make sure that’s obvious.

4. We’ve all be hurt in the past, we all have fear and tender spots. So, don’t work with him/her to heal your hurt. Let it grow, hide it, dress it up or even pretend that it’s something it’s not.

5. Stop being intimate. Physically and/or emotionally.  Enough said.

6. Stop joking and making each other laugh. Since humor is the glue that keeps couples together, stay preoccupied with what’s really important in your world and ignore laughing together.

Relationships take constant practice. You just can’t be on auto pilot nor can you focus only on you. Sounds easy … but (as the single woman in the room), I know it’s not!

What we know for sure is that when you’ve created the greatest masterpiece of a relationship, you’ll still need to take care of it. You’ll still need to give it focus, care and (self-less) attention.  It’s likely the best (and hardest) thing you do, short of raising your children!

Have an amazing day!

It’s time for me to forgive him.

About a year after my mother died, I suggested that my step father ask a particular woman out – someone we both knew.  He and my mom had been married 25 years.  He did so a bit reluctantly, and while it went well for him, the rest of his immediate family, including the kids and grandkids were quickly cut out of the picture.  Fast forward to 14 years later, and he is married to the woman he met, but not seen his grandkids in almost that same amount of time (and not even met a few of them).

I’ve been angry and disappointed about the situation (he doesn’t read the blog) but lately I’ve been wanting to forgive him in my heart – knowing he will never get it, but still wanting to move out of the negative thoughts I have about the situation into something more positive.  Have you ever tried to forgive someone but are too angry to do so?

The ability to achieve forgiveness and let go of past hurts is one of the most critical challenges we face on the road to attaining personal peace and happiness.  And, while it isn’t easy, it’s absolutely necessary for long-term mental and emotional heath.  Anger, love and forgiveness touch us all.  And, while it’s easy to get angry, and most times it’s easy to love … it’s not always easy to forgive.

Forgiving someone does not mean denying a person’s responsibility for hurting you, nor does it mean minimizing, or justifying the act. It’s simply the process of uncovering our own feelings and letting go of anger, while restoring hope, love and peace about the situation.  In other words, while we have the right to feel anger and resentment about a situation, we don’t want those feelings to define our lives.

How do we forgive?  It’s not enough to use the words.  Or to do something nice for the person who hurt us.  No, forgiveness means looking at what makes us angry about the situation and labeling it – admitting our feelings.  Only then, can we examine ways to physically and emotionally let go.

What has helped me lately is the realization that I can’t change the past and what’s happened. Nor can I go back and regain the time I lost in anger.  But, what I can do is move forward, with a clear mind — which then takes me out of the victim position and into a healthy position of love and forgiveness.

So, I’ve decided to give myself the gift of forgiveness.  To consciously access the compassion I have for a person who just has gone the wrong way.  To set myself free from years of anger and frustration and actually contribute my energy to something of greater importance, something the world is literally crying out for: peace and love.

I hope you have a wonderful start to your week!