XX Shades of Gray.

There are so many things in my world that seem black and white (seem is the operative word).  Even my clothes choices.  I think nothing of wearing all black every day.  It’s easy and decisive.  But if I were to look at my life that way – just one color – it would be boring, cold and I would miss most, if not all of the nuances of the world around me.

The truth is, nothing is more beautiful in life than the different shades of gray.

My boys asked me the other day how I felt about the Hiroshima bomb — “Was it right or wrong?”  I was stunned by such a black and white question.   Yes, I have feelings about that issue but how could there really be no shades of gray?

It’s the grayness of life that allows us to avoid judging a situation or person with the bold hammer of one view.  It’s the grayness that allows us to see the beautiful details so much clearer.   I might even say that seeing the world or even a situation as black or white precludes us from feeling or understanding the emotion behind a problem.

Politics is a perfect example (this is not a political statement, however).  So many people get stuck on one side.  They’re too busy trying to paint their color over everything that they color right over the finer points, which we all have in common.

Or, how about your relationships or arguments with your partner?  Don’t we (me) tend to dig in, to think our (my) position is “right?”  But, by doing so don’t we (me) completely shut out the possibility of the gray? The spot where we have commonality and the place from which we can work toward a mutually beneficial solution?  I gotta work on this one!

Life, love, relationships, politics, business, religion — everything has shades of gray.  When we look at life with shades rather than hard colors, we find that we get closer to the collective emotions of whatever it is we are dealing with (and in particular, those we love) and it’s only at that point can we really move the ball forward.   In fact, looking at the world with grayness really does allow us to experience compassion for those who see the world differently than us.

So, maybe add a few shades of gray to your world today.  I’m definitely going to try it when I get in a fight with my loved ones.   Maybe it will help me see the argument (or the solution) in a whole new light (or at least not in my black and white light!).

Have a fantastic day!

Marriage isn’t for you.

Lately, I’ve been having many different conversations about marriage.  This weekend someone asked me why I wasn’t married yet.  I told her I was scared.  Scared of making a mistake.  Scared about change.  Scared how it would affect me and my children.  Then, the next day, a friend posted a blog post by Seth Smith.  I want to share excerpts of it here for you.  It left me speechless.

“Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.

And, paradoxically, the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered.”

Food for thought.  Have a wonderful day!

Are you who you want to be?

I was with some of my favorite people this weekend: my running partners, my dad, a couple of my favorite friends, my former nanny (and her fantastic kids) and my own kids.  With each “group,”  I felt totally myself.  No pretense, no thinking about who I needed to be, what I should say or how I was going to argue a case — I was just me.

This made me think about the person I am and the person I want to be … are they the same?  Am I who I want to be?

It’s occurred to me that the people we miss the most in life are those who are just themselves with us … the ones who it feels good to be around. And the reverse is true: those who really miss us are the people we’re transparent and vulnerable with.

This made me think about how do I go about being transparent and the person I want to be.  Maybe a better way to say it is: How can I live my life such that it results in people feeling good to be me?  And, can I do it in a way that feels good to me too?

The kids and I were talking yesterday about being “good” (I’m not sure I like that word … maybe “positive”) stewards in their respective worlds, but to do it in a way that feels ok to them and is not just for the people around them.  Here’s the list of things we came up with:

  • Smile like you mean it (it’s contagious).
  • Be encouraging (of yourself and others).
  • Share your gifts.
  • Be yourself.
  • Show people you care.
  • Be positive but don’t be afraid to not feel positive.
  • Help others be their best and you will end up being at your best too.
  • Make memories that feel good to you.

I don’t know if any of this resonates with you.  And, you’ve probably got a list of your own.  However, you do it make sure you live in a way that is true to you.  Don’t be afraid of the not-so-good feelings.  They’re normal and are there to be shared with your close friends.   One of my boys loves this quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  To me, this means … Only when you are being you, can you make a difference in your life and the ones around you.

Have a fantastic start to your week!

How long is a week?

Everyone in my house (including me) thought this week took two weeks … it felt so long.   We all felt a bit “off.”  My kids think I was a bit short-tempered and I think they were looking for a reason to push the envelope.

I think it has been a week of wacky things.  I lost my car key, only to find it on my hand 1/2 hour later after looking all over my office and the parking garage.  My son left the shoes he wore to school at school (don’t ask), and my other son said that he can’t believe that he’s grown up now (he’s 14, what’s grown up about 14?!).

Maybe Halloween caused it to be longer.  We hollowed out and carved three large pumpkins, passed out a ton of candy and made homemade soup in the process.  And, allow me to digress for a moment, what’s with the 6’2″ trick or treaters?  How old are they?  And, when did “prostitute” become a costume?  Honestly!

It was a week full of hearing from my kids about how unfair everything is (mostly my decisions).  A week of blaming everyone for everything that has gone wrong (how can it be “mom’s fault” when your shoes are left at school?).  And, although there were no “major issues” this week, everything was seen as a major issue or injustice.  It was a week were they all seemed to feel like the universe was out to get them (I apparently am the “universe”).  Tonight I actually had to raise my voice with the boys and tell them that just because they didn’t understand my decision, didn’t mean it wasn’t valid.  Why do I have to explain this s***? Did I say it was a long week?

It was a week of two broken glasses on the floor, food being ground into the carpet and a week of too many garbage bags for the garbage container.  In fact, it was such a crazy week that after all the dishes were cleaned and put away, I only had four forks (my idea of having them scrape the food off their plates is clearly not working).

It was a long week and now it is Friday night.  Finally there is some peace in the house (only because the TV is on). Finally they seem to be nicer to one another.  I’ve finally got the kitchen cleaned and they finally have (al)most all of their homework done.

I’m thinking that the weekend won’t feel as long as this week (ain’t that the truth).  But, I’m going to enjoy it anyway. Although there was a lot of grumbling and a couple of odd experiences this week, all in all, it was a good one.  Filled with interesting people, a few morning runs and my once-a-year dose of baked pumpkin seeds!

Have a wonderfully long and peaceful weekend!

 

My fear of change caused me to lose it (again) in a very quite place …

I went back to yoga last night.  I took the summer off from going to class.  And, why not?  Summer is a beautiful time of the year and training allows me to be outside.  But, now it’s getting colder (although I did get a balmy and beautiful 6 mile run in this morning) and it’s time to head back inside.

As you know, I don’t often take quiet time for myself.  Things are moving pretty fast for me, not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well.  Moreover, I am watching the absolutely screaming speed at which my kids are growing up.  My daughter is now communicating with rowing coaches from D1 schools and I can see the writing on the wall.  My boys are really young men … those are the things that caused me to lose it last night.

In those final moments of yoga class, when you are supposed to release everything in your body, I began to think about change.  Is it possible I won’t be single forever?  What’s it going to be like when my kids go off to college.  Will everyone in my life be there in five years?  I started to cry.

Why can’t things just stay the same?  The people in my life, my kids being here?  Do I have to keep getting older? 🙂

I get the whole change thing.  And, I get that I will love the next phase.  But, can’t I just keep it still for a bit?  Don’t you ever wonder about that?

Maybe this is coming up because I can see big changes on the horizon.  Maybe because at that moment I wasn’t moving 1,000 miles per hour.  Or maybe, I got scared because I just love this moment.  The one right now.  I like the way it is.  Maybe I was that way last year too.  Maybe I loved that moment as well.

What ever the reason, life’s already changed from last night to today.  So, I didn’t get my wish.  But, I did get to read this to my son this morning who said, “It’s good but it’s sad, how fast life goes. I guess we gotta enjoy it.”  He’s so right.

Have a wonderful day.

He blessed me at the elevator.

I had an odd experience as I was leaving the office yesterday.  I was not paying as much attention as I should I walked to the elevator for our parking garage.  However, as I got close, I could see a man stepping out.  He was not very tall, old(er) and quite thin.  I could see that the door was about to close (he had already walked out), so I figured I would ring for the next elevator.  Yet, my eyes were focused on this guy, when I saw him stick his hand between the doors of the elevator to save it for me.  I quickened my pace to get there.

The only problem with this gesture (which we’ve all made before), was that he was looking at me (not the elevator doors) and I could see that the elevator was clearly going to close on his hand.  In a split second, as the door was almost closed, I grabbed his arm and pulled it out.  I gasped out loud when I realized how close it was.  I could feel the air from the door as his hand brushed the inside from how close they were to closing.   At that moment, we both realized how close that was.

We stood there looking at each other.  I asked if he was ok.  He didn’t seem to speak english (or it wasn’t very clear, anyway).  He immediately grabbed my hands and started to kiss them!  Mind you, I am in the middle of the skyway at 4:00 p.m.!

All I could really could get was him saying, “I bless you.  I bless you.”  Then, he seemed to bow to me and the next thing I knew he was gone.

Wow.

Clearly, one lesson for me is to watch when I stick my hand in the elevator door!  It’s usually not my smartest move.

The other lesson, is to slow down.  It’s hard for me to remember a time when I stood at an elevator, or on one, and haven’t grabbed my phone to check it.  It’s the first thing I do.  I never pay attention in those situations.  But, had I been on my phone this time, I would have missed what he was doing and his hand could have been severely injured.

I guess I’d better pay more attention.  I’ve got a weird feeling this event will come back to me in some way.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Jessica

 

I think I was supposed to learn this (and 10,000 other things) long before I qualified for AARP.

I’m really bad at this aspect of life.  This notion of letting things just happen.  Ray Bradbury had a great quote that I’ve often  tried to use, unsuccessfully: “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and let others move forward with it.”  

Although I don’t espouse religion in this blog, I thought this quote was important one.  Bradbury, interviewed at 90, said, “I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”

This is something I struggle with.  I constantly want to analyze every decision and “figure it all out” before I make a move.   I know you’ve got to jump before you fly, but that’s easier said than done.  I’ve got a little over a month to make some decisions and I am analyzing each and every possible scenario, ad nauseam.

I’ve decided that if I just open myself up and allow the answers to come to me, they won’t eat me alive in the process!  If I’m focused on being grateful from each and every minute I have, I may see things that will help me make my decisions.  And, let’s be honest, the real truth is no matter which direction we go in life, it (whatever it is) will be OK.

I have a feeling there are others of you like me, in this regard.  You need not identify yourself!

As nebulous as it sounds, I think we just need to let go of our attachment to the process and maybe even the result, and see what happens.  Then, each day, we can look at what’s in front of us and take action based on that information only … not the information from our past or guess about the result from the future.  Sounds easy.  But, I know it’s not.

I once read the following Chinese proverb:  “When you feel confused, take a pillow and go to bed.”

This, of course, is the essence of letting go.  I think I’ll be sleeping a lot in the next month! 🙂

Have a great start to your week!

Day 1: No Sugar. Or, in the alternative, Day 1: Serious B****!

A number of years ago I had a gall bladder attack.  No one believed me at first. “You don’t look like a gall bladder attack candidate,”  I kept hearing.  Yet, I had to change my diet and I eventually needed surgery.  One less organ never killed anyone.

I got back to normal but somewhere along the way (actually at a restaurant when the bread basket was handed to me), I learned that gluten was causing some problems for me.  When I went off, to see if I was right (Sadly, I was), I was hungry for weeks until I figured out what to eat (I’m still missing my bread).

Recently, some friends said they were going on a cleanse.  “A what?”  I asked.  Apparently this cleanse cleans out the “toxins” and helps you start “fresh.”   Sounds interesting, since I am definitely full of toxins (and other unmentionables) and could use a fresh start.  Plus, I’ve not been feeling fantastic as it relates to food and I’m not sure what’s causing the problem.

So, I do what any bright woman would do … I searched the internet to self-diagnose.  After reading about all these food ailments, I came across one that fit my symptoms.  I could feel the depression setting in as I realized that I might have to cut out this “food” item out for a while.

Hello, my name is Jessica and I am addicted to sugar.

I never considered myself an addict but here were my symptoms:

1. Raisins or sugar in my oatmeal in the morning and a glass of chocolate mile.

2. Toast (gluten-free) required honey or jelly, with milk, chocolate, if possible..

3. Chocolate after every meal.

4. Ice cream cravings every evening (Chocolate Moose Tracks).

5. And, recently I started sprinkling chocolate powder in my black coffee.

I’m an addict.

Yesterday was Day One – no sugar – and I felt like S***.  I wonder if that should tell me something.  I was kind of edgy, not my usual pleasant person at the check-out at Target, got frustrated with the man at the gas station who was talking on the phone even after his pump had finished (and I needed it!) and just generally tired.  I went so far as to walk by the chocolate aisle at Target just to be sure I didn’t want to buy ANYTHING.

But avoiding processed sugar means eliminating all my favorite foods, ketchup, mayo and even my sugar filled yogurt!  I’m even supposed to eliminate all fruits, but there’s no way I’m skipping my daily banana!

Please, just shoot me now and put me out of my misery.

My goal is a week.  I’m not sure I’ll make it without serious withdrawal symptoms.  Kids, you might want to go stay with Dad for the week.

Have a great day (and eat some chocolate for me).

Sex, drugs and rock and roll?

This sounded great in my late teens/early 20’s (although I had no idea what it all meant!).  Now, here I am in my 50’s and while a form of dissociation from all my responsibilities for an oh-so-brief moment sounds good, I’m frankly just too tired for any of these items (although, one of them I’m really not ready to give up just yet!).  What’s happening to me?

Lately, I’ve noticed a few “odd” things about my life:

1. I find I’m wanting to go to bed before my kids seem tired.  In fact, I want to go to bed right after dinner and I’ve still got a kitchen to clean, laundry, work and likely another meal to make!

2. I’ve noticed that what I think of as rock and roll (my high school music) my kids now call the “oldies” station.  Really?  I’m 51.

3. Last week I got an alumni newsletter from my high school.  The highlight?  Someone’s grandkid just got into a local college.  OMG!!!

4. Sex?  Huh?

So, maybe I’ve got to find some more reasonable trifectas.  The things I really can do in my 50’s:

Swim, bike, run.  Ok.  Decent start.

Cook, clean and do laundry.  Yuck, but can do it.

Drive, drop off, pick up (all the while never getting out of the car).  Yes.

Eat, drink and pass out by 8:30 p.m.  Happening on a regular basis lately.

There are also things I know it’s time to give up:

Doing (or trying) the splits, the limbo and wearing my I Dream of Jeannie costume (do you people even know who she was??).

Having multiple Jello shots, more than one glass of wine and karaoke after either one.

Joining the circus, joining an ashram or a going on a 7-day bingo cruise sponsored by AARP — there’s one in my new magazine, which I’ve got to tell you looks cool because all the older people look so together in the ad!  Although at the rate I am going just a trip to St. Paul to play bingo would be a vacation!

Single spacing my holiday letter, taking pictures of the kids in the summer wearing winter clothes for the holiday letter (while they curse at me) and even thinking I’ve got the time, energy or desire to send out the holiday letter (don’t hold your breath!).

Here’s my thought: when I finally get a chance to breath, I may just try on my old cheerleader outfit, do a little rock climbing or even pull out that jello shot recipe.  Until that time, however, you’ll catch me on the couch, pretending to work with my eyes closed at 8:22 p.m. (if I even make it that late!).

Have a great day!

“Good Morning!”

[Scene: 7:00 a.m.  Kids getting up.  I’ve been up for an hour or more (maybe even a 6 mile run)]

Me: Good Morning!  How’d you sleep?

Son: (grunt)

Me: What can I make you for breakfast?

Son: (nothing)

Me:  How about some waffles or oatmeal?  Maybe some cereal?

Son: (nothing)

Me: I can make hard-boiled eggs?  How about hot chocolate or hot apple cider?

Son: (nothing)

Me: (loudly) HEY!

Son: (looks up) What?

Me: Come on.  I’m talking to you.

Son: What?

Me: What do you want for breakfast?

Son:  What do you have?

[Closing Scene: Frustrated 51 year old mom, now thinking it’s not too early to open a bottle of wine.  It’s 7:05 a.m.]

 

Welcome to Wednesday everyone!!!  Want to come over for breakfast?  X0