Monthly Archives: September 2014

A lesson (or two) from the divorced blogger.

A few friends have gotten married recently (I didn’t get invited to George Clooney’s but I’d like to pretend he’s my friend too!) and it’s made me think about the institution I’ve avoided since my first one (and almost another) didn’t work.

In my most recent read, The Social Animal, New York Times columnist David Brooks says that “by far the most important decisions that persons will ever make are about whom to marry, and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise, and how to control impulses.”   Yet, the skill of choosing a partner has often been treated as relatively unimportant in our society and I think this is why marriage ends so disappointingly for so many of us.

It’s frighteningly easy to choose the wrong person.  Attraction and chemistry are easily mistaken for love, but they are far from the same thing (I’ve got experience here).  Being attracted to someone is immediate and mostly subconscious. Staying in love with someone happens gradually and requires many conscious decisions made over a lifetime.

So, whether you’re currently married or not, I think you might get a few of these “lessons” and here’s what I’ll think about next (?) time around:

1. Never take him/her for granted.  Never get lazy with your partner.  I used to hear, “Why should I tell you I love you … you already know it.”  Never say that.

2. Always see the best.  Focus only on what you love. Be prepared for that thing to become an annoyance.  If it does, find something else to love!

3. It is not your job to change him/her.  You can only change yourself.

4. Find happiness inside you and bring it to the relationship.  Don’t ask the relationship to give happiness to you.

5. Get close to (not push away) your partner when he/she is at their worst.    Emotions come and go.  Some are not pretty.   Love (and hold) your partner through them.

6. Have fun. Laughter makes everything else easier.

7. Be present.  Give your time, focus, attention and your soul.  It’s not going to work all the time but make it your mission.

8. Have great sex. (Sorry kids, but it’s true).

9. Don’t make a big deal about mistakes and forgive immediately.  You’re not supposed to be perfect – just try not to be too stupid.

10. Allow for space.  Sometimes we’re doing too much and we need a special space for ourselves.  For me it’s getting up early and running.  We all need space to renew and re-center.

11. Be grateful.  There is nothing more loving than feeling grateful for what you have.  Give your relationship special billing.

I don’t know about you but I’m still taking classes on this subject.  In some, I’m getting an A. In others … well, I need a bit more work.  The important thing is to not worry about the grade, but to open to any new lessons that might arise from our mistakes.  We can make anything better if we set our mind to it!

Have a wonderful start to your week!

In keeping with the holiday, she commits. And, in doing so teaches me a very valuable lesson.

My kids teach me lessons all the time. Sometimes they’re lessons I don’t like very much.  One of my sons is almost a mirror of me as a teen, and I can feel the pain (passion and joy) my mother must have experienced.  The other teaches me about quiet love and confidence. And my daughter — well yesterday, on Rosh Hashanah – she taught me a lesson that was totally on track with the theme of this holiday.

While I don’t espouse a particular religion in my blog, I enjoy (and often participate) in all holidays.  Currently, the Jews are celebrating Rosh Hashanah – The New Year. It’s a time for reflection but more importantly, a time for change.  A good friend once told me, “Think of Rosh Hashanah as the stem cells of the year because they can grow and become anything — their potential is infinite.”

My daughter struggled to find her “sport.”  Her brothers, naturally athletic, do well at almost any sport they touch.  And, while she loved all the sports she tried, the sports didn’t always love her back.

Yesterday, after less than two years in her most recent sport (rowing), she was offered a D-1 scholarship to join the WI Badgers rowing team.  My daughter set her sights on something and did it.  She believes in the infinite possibilities in her life.  She’s got drive like no body’s business (and is nice to boot!)!

Rosh Hashanah reminds us that the past year is now fixed. Done.  The bitter and the sweet.  But the future — well, the possibilities are limitless.

Are you in a relationship that makes you unhappy?  Is work not the right fit?  You can change these situations (it might not be easy but most change isn’t!). Want a better relationship with your children or even yourself?

You have the control and ability to make your life/relationships/self whatever you want it to be.  Don’t let the past hold you back.

For my daughter, she wanted to row for Madison.  And, she stayed focused on her goal.  She knew that her past experiences with sports were just the past and anything was possible going forward.

So my question to you (and me): Who do we want to be going forward?  What change do we want to have in our lives?

Do we want the year to be full of love and kindness? How about being more kind to ourselves?

Want to show more compassion in life?  (Maybe I should have compassion for the guy who cut me off on the freeway yesterday and then showed me his special finger … Not!).  Can we have too much compassion?  Maybe the change is to find balance — compassion and boundaries?

Could this be the year of connections? For meeting new people and joining new communities?

Think about your upcoming year.  You can make changes (and should).  And there’s no failure here because you can always try again tomorrow.

Your potential is limitless.  Just ask my daughter!

Have an awesome weekend!

XOXO

 

She had forgiveness in her heart (I did not).

Yesterday, I was at a food co-op (always about food for me!) and I saw a woman push her way past a much older person  – actually to the point where the older woman had to hold on to the shelf not to fall over.  I quickly ran over to her and asked if I could help.  I was so angry with the other woman that I wanted to go over to where she was waiting in line and provide her with my list of my most important words!

The older woman could tell I was very angry and upset.  She touched my arm and gave me a knowing look.  She reminded me that we can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we react.  She said she wasn’t angry because she practices “forgiveness.”  (I didn’t know it was a practice?!).  She told me that resentment should have no place or power in our lives.  We just don’t know what other people are going through.  Maybe this woman was in a hurry to get to an ill relative.  Maybe she just lost her job or her husband.

At this point, I suggested that there is no excuse for that kind of behavior — even if she found her husband having sex with someone else and was upset (Sorry kids.  I do talk about sex even with strangers!).   As I was getting ready to walk away and finish shopping, the “other” woman started coming toward us.  I stepped in front of my new friend, as if to protect her.  What the h*** was going to happen now?

The “other” woman immediately apologized.  She said her son was home by himself – his first time – and she was nervous and wanted to get home as quickly as she could.  She admitted she should have been more careful.  She asked if she could help my new friend in any way … my new friend smiled at me as if she knew this was going to be the outcome.  Wow.

I try not to hold onto something for too long if my feelings are hurt (no eye rolling here).  But real forgiveness is more difficult because you have to let go of resentment and your hurt feelings.  Double whammy.

Often we don’t want to forgive because if feels like we are forgetting the wrong and we don’t want to condone the other person’s conduct.  But, forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation with the person who hurt you.  It is finding our own inner peace and learning to let go and blame less and less.

Let’s be honest – forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself.  It allows you to take down the walls built up from years of anger and reinforced by negativity.  And once you do, you’ll begin to feel free from the dark hold of those feelings.

That was some lesson yesterday.  And, all I needed was some milk and eggs. 🙂
Have a great day!

 

It did not go well last night – and I cried.

I wrote an entire post on the bad end to my day yesterday.  And in reading it I realized that the problem was not the last broken straw or my sobbing on a street corner in my car.  It was:

Why didn’t I make a call and get some moral support?

(enter loud booming voice)  

Vulnerability has never been your strong suit, Jessica.  

This issue of vulnerability is as much (or more) for men as it is for women. Of course, the hardest part of being vulnerable is being okay showing your cards. Showing not just the new and shiny … but also the flaws. It’s saying, “I need help here and I need you to love me even when I’m not perfect (or even far from it!).”

I was watching the 70’s show the other night (don’t ask!) and Fez’s girlfriend broke up with him because he was showing his feelings and needs too much.  So, he “turned” into someone who had no needs or feelings.  Eventually, the girl came back. But, by that point, Fez realized that he’d rather be “needy” rather than  a cold rock. 🙂  What a great message for kids (and us adult kids!).

Being vulnerable is about revealing what you deny or keep hidden from other people. We all do this to some extent.   Have you ever said to a friend, “OMG!  I love being insecure about XYZ!”  No, of course not.  But if we loved it all — why wouldn’t we?

Why don’t we just put our vulnerabilities out there for everyone? Because it’s so risky to show our authentic selves and risk someone walking away.  Instead, every day, we get up, put on our armor and start anew.

I’m by no means an expert here (obviously failed last night), but if we want to choose vulnerability, we need to remember these things:

1. Love yourself.  I’ve got a lot of gaps (some as large as an ocean).  But I’ve got some good parts too and I need to focus on it all. If someone doesn’t like my gaps, well then they can find someone else.

2. Practice.  This stuff doesn’t happen overnight.  I’ve got one big vulnerability that I’ve only shared with a couple of people.  Why is that?  What am I afraid of?  We all have these same “things.”

3. Look for the sun. The reward of being vulnerable feels like the warm sun coming up over the horizon and covering me.  It’s love … but it’s our love for ourselves and no one can take that away.

I think the more vulnerable we are with others, the more we seem “normal” – with flaws.  And, the more normal we are, the more people want to be with us and are inspired by our openness.  It’s a win/win.  You grow and so do they!

Look, if everything was beautiful and perfect in us, what would be the point in being here? 🙂

Have an amazing start to your week!

Some day I’ll have to say good-bye too.

Do you ever have those moments, where your heart starts pounding? Where your chest feels so tight you can hardly breathe? Where you realize for just a split second, that some day you’ll have to say good-bye. Good-bye to your kids. Good-bye to the beautiful fall colors. Good bye to the sound of the birds in the morning or the cold wind on your windows.

If I had to say good-bye, how would I do it? What would I say? What would matter? I have one word (other than the obvious one – “love”) – its connections. When we go, we really just leave behind those we touch through our life long or brief connections.

This week I went out on a limb and asked a man to lunch who I’d admired from afar. He’s done some really amazing things in his career and I wanted to meet him. I emailed him to see if he could spare time for a cup of coffee. We had lunch yesterday. It was fascinating. I could write a blog about the cool things he’s done – but the really amazing part was that I connected one-on-one with another person. I heard his story and he heard mine. My life will now be a bit different just from that one meeting.

When I go, the only people who will remember me will be those I connected with. People will remember the love and passion that I lived and breathed. They will not remember the paint peeling from my garage door. They will remember my joy in running – they will not remember the place I got in a particular triathlon.

Last night, I found a blog post by a woman. By the time her post was published, she was dead. She had little kids and a husband. Her post was her good-bye:

“[I]n my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.

Embrace your loved ones and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don’t settle for less . . . True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. . . . Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it . . . So, that’s it from me. Thank you so much for the love and kindness you’ve shown in your own little ways over the last 36 years.”

With that I wish you an amazing and thoughtful day and weekend. We will never have this same day again – so please, my friends, enjoy it.

Life: The problem you can’t solve.

Life is full of problems.  Sometimes it feels like the more I solve, the more new ones come into my life.  Sometimes I can ignore them for a bit – but they always come back and need some kind of solution.  Sometimes the problems are mine.  Sometimes my kids.  And sometimes I see them in the lives of others.

I’m watching a friend with a big problem and I’ve tried to help him achieve some resolution.  But the response from my friend is the same as when I had to place my screaming child into a car seat when he/she wanted to run around the yard … it’s not happening!

Of course, some of our problems are disguised as problems but are really lessons.  I totally get that, as painful as it is during the process.  And sometimes there are no solutions — and maybe that’s when the problem is really not a problem to begin with.

One of my flaws (one of many) is that I want to help people.  This is especially true for those people I love.  Actually, this is likely my toughest job as a parent – to not help my kids all the time and to allow my kids to make mistakes.

The cool thing about problems is they actually help solve millions of other problems.  The woman who started M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) would never had started it had her daughter not been killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver.  Look how many lives her horrible tragedy has saved.

As it relates to my friend … I’ve got to let go of that one.  It’s not mine to begin with and even though I love this friend and want to help — if he’s not ready to solve it – then it must not be a big enough yet or maybe he just not ready to see it for what it is … an opportunity to change course.

Here’s the thing: Life really is something we can’t solve.  And since everyone has problems (it would be unnatural not to), it’s ok to admit it. And, it’s ok to ask for help.  And, it’s ok to solve a problem in a way that might not feel comfortable at the time.  Sometimes those are the ones with the most growth opportunity (I’m living, breathing proof of that!).

Life can’t be one smooth line from birth to death.  It is a line filled with curves and bumps and problems.  It comes with being alive and experiencing the world.   I’m going to embrace my problems as an opportunity to grow and learn in this crazy thing called life!  (thanks Prince!)

Have an amazing day!

 

3 reminders in 3 days means I need to write about it.

Friday, I woke up to a nasty letter from someone.  I didn’t let it bother me but I happened to be talking on the phone about it at the health club and when I got off a woman standing nearby said, “I’m sorry for listening in, but we’ve met a few times (I didn’t remember her!).  And, when we met, I thought you were the kind of person who gives happiness out.  So, listening to your conversation, I feel like I want to say, don’t let anyone take away your joy.  Not even the author of the letter.”  Nice. #1
On Saturday, the man standing in front of me at the coffee shop started to chat with me about the trivia question (why do people think I have any idea about the trivia answer??).  As we stood at the “pick-up” for our drinks (and continued to chat), he said, “You must make people laugh and feel happy all the time.  Life’s short and it’s likely fun to be around you.”  (He was married, so don’t get any ideas my friends!).  Wow. #2
Yesterday, my daughter read something to me.  “But man’s life is short, at any moment it can be snapped … Though no one has seen death’s face or heard death’s voice, suddenly, savagely, death destroys us, all of us, old or young. And yet we build houses, make contracts, brothers divide their inheritance, conflicts occur– as though this human life lasted for ever.”  (emphasis added) Gilgamesh  Truth. #3
What’s the message?  We all know this life is short.  Yet, despite that fact, we still spend most of our lives “doing” and “searching” and managing our anger and hurt feelings. We chase things we think we want rather than be satisfied with the greatness right in front of us.  We’re human.
I’m the first to admit that while I know the time is finite, I stay in situations that often make me unhappy because I prefer the evil I know to the one I don’t know.  I can let fear rule my life instead of happiness.  I’m likely not alone.  Fear is the one thing that can keep us from happiness.  From joy.  We fear a loss of security.  That’s why we build big houses, try to earn more money … because we have a fear of not having enough to feel “safe.” But, as we all know, that’s false sense of security.  The only thing that’s safe is our own internal happiness and unconditional love — and, of course, the joy we bring to others lives.
Maybe these messages to me were to remind me that life should be lived with strength and passion now. That more is not better.  That I should be bold about my life.  It’s mine, after all.  That I should fill it with love and happiness. And do the same for others.  Because today is all we have.
Have an amazing start to your week.