Monthly Archives: November 2014

What’s the deal with “forever” love?

You may wonder if I’m the right person for this topic.  But, maybe being divorced makes me just the right one to write on this complicated but exquisitely beautiful topic.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love: What is it?  Why do people “fall out of love?”  What is “forever” love?  And how is it we can feel so many different kinds of love?

Much of our lives are spent on messages about love:  “You’ll meet the ‘one.'”  “You’ll know within seconds of your first meeting.”  “He/she is the ‘one’ if you have the best sex (hard to argue this one!), the most in common, like the same food, politics, etc.”

We know we’ll love our kids, pets, family (most times) but it’s a bit more complicated when the message is to search for that one soul mate – that one you’ll love forever.

Here’s my take on love:  Love’s not just a feeling; it’s a choice, a commitment, an intention.  Love brings color to our lives. But, love can (and will) change over time and sometimes it’s not forever.

Let’s be honest (what the h*** else are we going to do?):  Very few people look across the room and “just know” – without question, without doubt that they’ve found the “one.”  And even if you do find the one – you’ll likely still have ups, downs and even doubts.  I believe in doubt.  Doubt is a sign of an introspective, intelligent person.  I worry the most about those who are “certain” about any thing.   Doubt is actually the doorway into transformation – not just for you, but for your love relationship. Doubt challenges assumptions and the status quo.  It allows you to find common ground while also staying true to your feelings and your needs.

Here’s my favorite quote about the totality of love:

[Love] can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children.  It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor, and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep. The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the crap out of love.  Cheryl Strayed

Yes!  Tackle the love you have (regardless of where it’s coming from).  Give as much out as you can.  Don’t worry about it being “forever.”  Some love will be and some won’t.  And, even when it’s not – it’s still a life experience, of which we have a finite amount.  Plus, love is completely free (and if it’s not … it’s not the love you wanted anyway). 🙂

So, my friends, I hope you have a great (and loving) start to your week!

 

 

All his possessions were in a grocery cart.

I had a hearing in St. Paul this week. I parked a few blocks away and walked to the courthouse. As I was coming down the street, there was a man in front of me pushing a grocery cart full of what looked to be junk. I rifled through my purse and as I came up to him I said, “Happy Holidays,” and handed him some money. He stopped to look at me.  I felt like he was looking right through me.

His face was like a crisp black and white photo – the most beautiful big but worn eyes, skin full of wrinkles, a scruffy beard and what appeared to be a million layers of clothes. He said, “Thanks,” as he then looked down at my boots.  I asked him where he was going on this cold day and he mumbled something I couldn’t understand other than the word, “nowhere.”

I felt like crying.  This was someone’s beautiful baby boy.  A blank slate.  And here he was, in a most difficult world, having trouble meeting the psychological requirements of society and with the inability to be warm and fed and loved.

As I walked away I realized that Thanksgiving is a day like any other day for him.  Nothing special.  Maybe he gets a free meal – but that’s it.  He doesn’t have anyone to hold him in bed or kiss him good night.  No one to ask what he’d like for breakfast.  No one to do his laundry or iron his shirts.  No one to hug him hello or good-bye.

I often get stuck dwelling in the things that are bothering me, forgetting that I have the love of my family and all of you.  I have food and I have shelter.

My brief encounter with him reminded me of the fragility of our lives, of our mental state, of our life choices and of the life choices that are made for us.

Thanksgiving feels special to me.  It’s a time where we really are all  celebrating the same thing – being thankful for what we have, who we have in our lives, and how we can help others.  Friends, lets remind ourselves and our children to be thankful for our most basic of necessities.   And to appreciate the chance to have yet another day filled with love, warmth and food (which this Thanksgiving is Chinese food with my dad!).

I’ve decided that my gift to myself is to focus externally – not internally.  Not to worry about what’s next in my life.  And to give out as much positive energy as I can to each and every one of you this holiday season.

And with that, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.  No matter who you’re with or how stressful it may seem – try enjoy it.  You will never have another one just like it again.  XOXO

I’m a complete coward (which I guess makes me brave).

I want to tell you about something I learned this weekend.  But first, let me remind you of something you already know about me: I’m afraid of change.  Maybe afraid is too strong a word.  I don’t like change.  Actually, I’m a coward when it comes to change.  Why?  Why not embrace the sagging of my skin (aka – last post)?  The growing up of my kids?  We know the reason we don’t like change: We’re afraid of the unknown.

But, here’s what I learned this weekend:

The bravest people, are really cowards who go ahead anyway and keep experiencing life, even trying those things they’re afraid of.

This last month, I’ve run head on into a number of big fears.  Fear of being alone, fear of not being worthy and the fear of what life will be like when the kids leave.  When I feel fear coming, I check out.  I go in my cave.  I close my door.  I don’t read emails.  I shut down.  Know what I mean?  It’s like the bottom of life is falling out.  Like there’s nothing to grasp.  And, sometimes it really hurts.

But this weekend I realized that – Fear is a feeling not a fact.

Neuroscience has taught us that the main fear center in the human brain, the amygdala, works faster than conscious thought and is basically functioning in the human brain the same way it does in most animals including lizards (hence the term, “lizard brain”).   So, because fear works so quickly, we need to have a strategy for dealing with it.

First, we need to reprogram our blanket fear statements. Remember that even if something bad happens, that doesn’t mean that it will happen again.  Make sure you don’t keep the warm blanket on top of you too long – preventing you from moving forward.

Second, remember what neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says,”our brains are like Teflon for positive experiences and Velcro for negative ones.”  Meaning our fear highlights our painful fear experiences–even though they’re usually the minority of our overall experiences.

Third, expose yourself to the things you’re afraid of.  So, if you’re not good at asking for help, then try asking for something small from someone you know won’t make you feel bad about it.  Once you do it, you’ll know how to do it again!

Finally, create a positive link to your fear.  For example, when you do ask for something (and it works), treat yourself.  Make the experience special.  This will help create a link between the positive experience and what you thought was a fear.

So friends, let’s start this week of family, food, stress, food and a nap or two – out right.  Let’s not be afraid to step outside our caves and face our fears head on.  I have a feeling that for me (and for all of you) – it’s going to bring the most amazing changes to that which I “thought” I was afraid of.

Have an amazing day!

“Mom, that’s flab on your arms.”

Well, I won’t say which of my loving children started this conversation with (or at) me but suffice it to say, they all eventually joined in. Look – flab is a natural part of getting old(er). Like burping, farting, sagging, forgetting, farting while you’re sleeping (Oh my, I digress) – it’s the joy of living in our bodies.   But, this getting old(er) thing — this flab thing, I’ve decided I’m going to embrace it rather than fight it (ok, I do try to lift weights, but it’s clearly not working!).

There are a few things, however, that are a bit more frustrating as I (we) get old(er):

Sleeping: For as long as I can remember, I had to get up early for one thing or another – kids, work, husband, work, kids, (you get the picture). Now, when I have the chance to sleep in a bit, my body essentially says, “F*** you.  I’m not letting you sleep in any more!”   In fact, not only am I not sleeping late, but I’m able to wake up in the middle of the night and check out the moon (through the bathroom window).  No justice here!

Forgetting: This week I forgot my briefcase at home, a coffee date (in my defense, we hadn’t totally “firmed” it up), the names of about 10,000 people (all of whom I’ve known forever) and where I parked my car (twice).  I really have nothing to say about this!

Nails: What’s the deal with nails and getting older?  Our toe nails get harder and thicker and more difficult to clip, while our finger nails just get thinner. Where’s the fairness in that plan?

Skin: I’ve been told I have very soft skin.  And, that may be true.  But when I look at my hands, I see a billion veins sticking out and if I squint ever so slightly, I can see my mom’s hands. When the freak did that happen?

People look 12:  Why is it that everyone looks way younger than me?  Seriously. The judges used to be older than me … not any more.  All my doctor’s are retiring and I’ve got to get all the younger people looking over my sagging parts.  Even my handyman is now younger than me.  What’s happening?

Look friends.  I’m going to embrace my aging body.  I love not having to worry about how I look all the time (what you see is what you get).  I don’t feel embarrassed talking with my hands – I’m Italian after all!  I totally enjoy the slight wrinkles near my eyes.  I love being able to say, “Been there.  Done that.”  And, finally – it’s now ok for me to cry at any time and just pawn it off to menopause.  So, my loving kids – I’m going to shake my flab anytime I can (or maybe, while I can!). And I’m going to enjoy it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

He’s dying.

This is a blog about life, not death.  I used to volunteer in a hospice program.  It was rewarding but difficult.  And, as I watched people slowly cross over to some place else (or no place, depending on what you believe), I only saw peace.

I know someone whose dying.  He’s got a wife and a child – young.  His wife writes a blog.  Recently, she wrote about the last of his journey,

“Everyone wants to see him. I get it. I do. And if it were really my choice I’d be like oh yeah, come on in, say good bye! But, he just doesn’t want to.  It didn’t really make sense to me at first, but now I get it. No matter how many people may surround you, death is a solitary journey. In the past few days, I have seen the man who has walked beside me for four years slowly drift onto his own path, where I cannot follow. I know, though, that when it is my turn, I’ll recognize the footprints he left for me, and I won’t feel alone and I won’t feel afraid.”

Friends, there is no getting around this.  We will all go.  For some it will be earlier than others.  I want to say it doesn’t really matter when — but it does.  No one really wants to leave.  I don’t.  But – it’s out of our control.

Let’s talk about life, though.  The end, as she writes, is as important as the beginning and the middle.  It’s true, isn’t it?  How we live, who we love (and who loves us), how we set our priorities – that’s the real gift here.  Some of you may find it depressing to think about death, but it can actually improve your life.

Sometimes I ask myself: When I’m dying, what could potentially cause me regret?  Will it be the way I treated those I love?  Will it be the money I didn’t make?  The work I didn’t do?  Will it be how much time I spent with my kids and family (blood or not)?  I want to make sure the answer is “no” to it all.  I want to make sure I give life my all.

In his Commencement Speech at Stanford University Steve Jobs said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

He’s dying and I want to thank him for doing so – as awful as it might feel to some.  He’s reminding us all to live our lives to the fullest.  Hug your children. Tell someone you’re mad at, how much you really do love them.  Give it all out today – for that’s all we know for sure.  The universe (and you) deserve it.

XOXO

What’s your word?

I was with some friends this weekend – the kind of friends who support you, all the time, and call you on your s*** when you need them to (lovingly of course!).  We were talking about the changes we’re all experiencing in our lives and this question came up:

If you could define yourself in one word – one word that when you die, people use to describe you – what would it be?

Wow! There are so many words.  What if part of our life was defined by one word and part by another word?  How about this:  What if you picked a word but you didn’t think your life lived up to that word yet?  Or what if your word for you was different from the word someone else might choose for you?  Does that mean that your word is “wrong?”  (Hey, Jess – don’t make this more complicated than it is. Pick a freaking word!)

Actually, my word came to me right away (and my friends picked that same one for me too), but I’m afraid that I don’t always live up to that word.  When I’m hurt by a person or a situation, I know I don’t live that word.  When I see bad things happening to others, I sometimes forget my word.  In fact, sometimes I hide my word (which I really could also call my “true self”) out for fear that it doesn’t totally fit my profession or that I might not be accepted.

Within each of us is the capacity to be generous or selfish, understanding or harsh, loving or unloving.  Sometimes we (read: me) can be all of these things in one day (or even one hour!).  We are entitled to make mistakes.  To not be perfect.  Some days we just can’t be on the “path.”  Life can be super messy that way.

But friends, we really do choose what aspects of our character we want to support and develop. We decide the word that will be our lasting legacy.  And the really cool thing about it?  You can live the life you want to live – even if you haven’t thus far.  And, even if you didn’t do it this weekend!  How amazing is that?

Think about it.  What’s your word?

Have a fantastic day!  🙂

 

 

(My) Sliding Doors.

Have you seen this movie?  Essentially it’s about the notion of what your life would be like if you made a right turn or a left turn at a particular moment.  The people you might meet.  The experiences you might have.  Sort of the serendipity of life.

What about the uncanny coincidences of our experiences?  We’ve all had it happen.  For example, I think of someone, maybe someone I’ve not talked with in years, and then hours later, he calls.  Or you hear a very unusual phrase three times within an hour from three different people.  What about the people who come into your life at the very moment that you need them or you meet someone by chance and you almost didn’t go to the place/event in the first place.

Is this just the law of averages playing itself out?  Or is it what Carl Jung believed was the underlying order of the universe – Synchronicity.  Jung said that this underlying connectedness manifests itself through meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by cause and effect. Such synchronicities occur, he theorized, when a strong need arises in the psyche of an individual.  Hey!  I’ve got some strong needs in my psyche! 🙂

I’m sure my dad’s got a stomach ache as he reads this (he’s a scientist). But Dad, some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real.  At deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participate together in the flow of our universe.  For example, physicists have shown that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other.  What’s that all about?

What ever it is – I believe in it.  I’ve had the most unusual experiences with people that I know come into my life for a reason (even when I wish they hadn’t).  Maybe they are there for me, maybe for them, maybe for the “us” … or maybe something bigger than us.  Thinking this way, gives me a sense of hope.  A sense of something bigger than me – whatever that might be.

In Sliding Doors, although we see the female lead go two different ways, she ultimately ends up with the same person.  Maybe in life, we have the chance to go right or left, but in the end – it’s a big circle and we end up in the same place … just with different experiences.

Maybe synchronicities are simply a wink from the cosmos.  A chance to stop and think about the world around us and how we fit in.  So, when you start singing that stupid song in your mind and then hours later you go to the store and hear it playing – stop for a minute.  Smile to yourself, wonder how it all works and remind yourself, what fun it is to be here!

Have an amazing weekend!

 

Two black guys, me, a buck and a tank of gas.

The other day I was at a stop light.  I happened to be about 3 cars back from the light and I saw someone at the corner who had a sign “Will work for food.” He was Black.  His color only matters because of what comes next.

I noticed that one person got out of his car to give money and the other rolled down his window.  I can see both are men and both are black.  There are other cars there too – nice cars.  These two guys didn’t have those kind of nice cars (relative, of course).  I rolled down my window and held out some money.  The man came to my car, took the money and said “G-d bless you.”  Frankly, I can use all the g-d blessings I can get right now.

I wondered why the two black guys gave money but the two BMW’s and the Lexis didn’t.  Look, I know this is sometimes a racket.  And, I know sometimes we’re paying for an addiction.  And this is not about the cost of our cars or the color of our skin.  This is just me making an observation with no agenda or judgment.

The light turned and we all pulled forward. The car with one of the guys in it pulled over a block later at a gas station.   So I pulled over too.  I got out of my car just as the guy was going into the building to buy his gas.  I followed him in.  In the register line I saw him counting bills for his gas.  Looked like $7 and some change.

I said (to the guy with his baggy pants to his knees and tattoos on his arms), “Hey, I noticed you gave that guy at the corner some money. That was nice of you.”  He turned around and for a split second I wondered if I really should have opened my mouth.

He stared at me for a second and then smiled.  “Yea, I can’t stand seeing my brothers on the street.  That used to be me.  Homeless.  No money and when I had some, I was just buying something bad. Maybe it’ll make some difference for him. Maybe not. But I’m doin’ something.”

“That’s really cool,” I said.  “You made my day.”  He nodded and walked out.  I gave the guy at the register my card and bought my new friend $30 in gas.  As I walked out and got in my car I heard the loud-speaker tell him “that woman” just gave him $30 in gas.

He was right, it did feel good to do something.  Life’s full of surprises, don’t you think?

Have an amazing Wednesday.

I used to call it a failure (and I used to think I was a failure too).

When everything is flowing the way we think it should, we think we’re living in harmony with the universe. But when things aren’t going well we think that the world is not fair.  We’re angry, frustrated and wonder, “Why me?”  Yet, here’s the thing: when you lose the job you thought was so great or the relationship you thought you would have forever ends, it’s important to listen to what is happening and actually experience it rather than just avoid the pain.

It’s in those moments that we’re supposed to take the time to explore our feelings and experience the moment.  But we often try to avoid the pain by doing other things — like shopping, eating, drinking or justifying the pain by saying,”Well, it was just meant to be.”  And maybe this latter statement is true. But if we don’t look at our perceived failures or the pain that comes from just being in this world, we’ll have a hard time getting closer to who we really are or want to be.

Failure is a subjective term. If we have very rigid ideas of what it means to succeed, we will be disappointed.  One thing I know for sure:  nothing is certain and there will be failure.

Plus, I think there’s value in failure.  As the Dalai Lama said, “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”  I certainly think this is true for me given my recent “failures.”

There are many statistics about companies that eventually succeeded after abundant failures.  This is also true for personal success.  Coming back from a disappointment and moving forward will always bring joy and a sense of satisfaction … really of success.

Let’s be empowered, not paralyzed, by failure.  Those “failures” are an opportunity to see deeper into ourselves.  My difficulties have always brought pain and sorrow and growth and color and joy to my life.

Friends, I think this is the grace of our existence.  The ability to make mistakes, experience pain and difficulty and try it all over again.  I’m embracing my failures right now.  And I’ve got a lot of them!  I hope you can embrace yours too.

Have a great day!

 

My tapes (and yours).

Fear has controlled me.  It has kept me frozen in one place.  It’s kept me in unhappy relationships and frankly, it’s sometimes stopped me from living my dreams.  I’ve allowed it to control my decisions, to choose my directions, I’ve almost made it a person – sitting right next to me.  Have you seen the movie – The Bird Man?  His fear, his ego – spoke louder to him than those who loved him.

While with age, I’ve finally been able to identify it, I’m still not always able to deal with it.   I’m a work in process.

I’ve tried lots of things – meditation, therapy, (drinking 🙂 ), etc., but these things don’t help me face those fears.  Plus, fear can move from the mental to the physical – making us feel sick, becoming compulsive about things, spending too much money, cheating,  ….  You know what I’m talking about.

Why do we let something that’s not really us, control our actions?  I don’t have an answer.  I just know a few things:

First, we are solely responsible for the thoughts our minds produce. While we can’t stop our minds completely, we can (and should) control them and create the message we should be hearing.

Second, we can hit the “stop” button at any time.  I’ve been working on taking a deep breath and hitting “delete” literally and figuratively.  Sometimes our thoughts want to drag us away – but we often forget that we have all the power.

Of course, suffering and pain is inevitable and sometimes it will take every ounce of energy to not react to the messages we are hearing in our brain.  Sometimes, we will just get lost in our thoughts and we just can’t beat ourselves up about it.  Nothing is perfect.

The point here is that I’ve stayed in bad situations because of tapes I was playing – “I’m not good enough.”  “This is as good as I deserve.”  Had I really listened to the truth of the situation, of the importance of being honest with myself, I would have changed directions long before I did.  But, my tapes were on max volume and I just must not have been ready.

All I know is this:  the more I practice, the better I get at turning down the volume.  Maybe I’ve not shut it off completely (and I likely never will), but at least I can identify it.

The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. Eckhart Tolle

Friends, let’s not let it run our lives.  Give it a shot with me.  How bad can it be? Look, even if it hurts, we know it’s hurting for all the right reasons.

Please be safe today.  XO