Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Perfect Fit

Anyone seen this guy?

We are all in search of perfection; the perfect shoes, the perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect hair. We find our way by trying on different styles - we dye and cut our hair, have piles of shoes in the closet, and a string of "careers" behind us.  

It's no different with love. When we are little, we believe that love will be a fairytale. One day, our prince charming will come along, save the day, and we will live happily ever after. Eventually, we meet (who we think will be) our prince - and get caught up in the whirlwind of our own fantasy. [Thanks, Disney.]

Sometimes, the happily-ever-after works out. I have a friend who has been with her husband for 20 years; since she was 16. They have a family, a home, a life and a love that has seen its ups and downs, but has endured.  

Other times, things don't work out that well. People change, things change, and maybe our perfect doesn't survive. So, we move on. That doesn't mean it wasn't a success. If a marriage lasts for years and produces two well-adjusted and basically happy friends, isn't that a success? If a relationship falls apart, but you have valuable lessons or a beautiful child to show for it, don't you deserve to be proud?

Maybe it wasn't permanent, but it was perfect while it lasted. Just like those skinny jeans in your closet were perfect when they were in style; or those cute stilettos are perfect with that one dress, but no other outfit; or your college job was your favorite, even though you had to give it up for a 'real' job later on. For that time, you had found your perfection. Somehow, it helped you find the next perfect thing; to become the perfect you. 

Maybe we just need to accept that life is a series of perfections. Maybe perfect isn't where we're going - maybe it's how we get there. 

As Discussed

Recently, I tweeted about shoe collections. Here are some pics of mine, as discussed.....

Sneakers, flip-flops - just a few pairs of comfy-casual shoes.
Two pairs are missing; they were packed for adventure at the time of this photo. 

Mostly winter shoes. Winters are long here - I need all of these. 
My main stash. All that's missing is the two - er, three - pairs
of tall boots behind the rack. Oh, and these.....


Song in Your Heart

"It's easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend." William Blake

It hurts when you hang on to someone longer than you should. To excuse hurtful words or actions. To get your hopes up when you spend time together, or have a good conversation. You think to yourself, "See? It's all going to be fine." You might even defend the other person to your friends, who have quietly observed what you don't want to admit.

The relationship is over.

Yes, it's definitely sad when this happens. The thing is, you always think about how it might happen with a love interest. If you've already had your heart broken, you may even be on guard for it when it comes to new loves.

But what about when a friendship ends this way?

In a way, it almost hurts more. Your guard is probably not up. Especially not with your best friend, one who you let into your life, and into your home. One who you trusted with every secret, every tear.

Just like with any relationship, it's hard to know when you should hold on, when you should fight - and when it's time to let go. When it's time to smile, say goodbye and try to remember all the good times you had, and the lessons you learned.

After all, there's no way that this amazing person came into your life for no reason. She taught you how to laugh and smile; she was there for you during some of the toughest moments, she helped you find your way and create your independence.

If this is the end of your friendship, file it away, but don't throw it away. No matter what has happened or what's been said, there's no possible way you can repay what the friendship has done for you.

She helped you learn the song in your heart, when you realized you had forgotten the words. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long and Winding Road

Believe it or not, I'm actually a "bottom-line" sort of person, with a very short attention span. Which is why it's sort of funny that my blog posts are so long. Truth be told - there are times I wouldn't even read one of my posts closely, all the way through.

A successful blogger that I follow says that a good post should be no more than 300 words. I agree with her, but often find myself exceeding that number. Sometimes by a little - other times by a lot.

I did some guest posts on her site not that long ago, and 300 words (or less) was a requirement. I shortened posts that I'd already been working on, and really didn't think any of the message was lost. Now, I try to do that with all my posts - write, then read and delete, or find ways to use fewer words. I've even taken big ideas and split them into several posts, to cut down the length. 

I think I'm getting better (I hope). I guess there will always be times when I'm too long winded. So, thanks for reading through it and not telling me to just.....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kinda Weak

I really don't like conflict. I'm always afraid I'll be wrong, or at least blamed. So, I do what I can to avoid confrontations. This doesn't mean that I don't stick up for myself. It does mean I observe situations before I react. I'm also usually quiet when I meet new people - because I'm watching and learning about my new friends.

Relationships can be tough, but in general, I find people are worth the effort. While there will always be people who take advantage of others' kindness, I believe there is good in everyone. If I thought otherwise, I'd have to shut myself off from the world, which I refuse to do. 

Most of the time, that attitude and kindness goes a long way. Sometimes, it's mistaken for weakness. People think that I avoid confrontation because I am afraid, or that I am unable (or unwilling) to stand up for myself. The truth is, over the last few years, I've learned a couple of valuable lessons.

Always pick your battles. No matter how "right" you are, some people can't (or won't) see your point. You won't have good interaction with these people. You will get sucked in by the negativity. Being right shouldn't be about convincing others. Let it be enough that you know you're right, and move on.

I'm not always right. I used to be that person who came out swinging and asked questions later. It caused more problems than it solved. Now, I prefer to let things sit for a minute. Like Abraham Lincoln once said, sometimes it's "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

While I'm choosing my battles and my words, people think I'm being weak. As one friend put it, a "doormat." That's okay - because when push comes to shove, I know I'm doing the right thing for me.

That's all the strength I need.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

"Our wedding was many years ago.  The celebration continues to this day." ~ Gene Perret
People assume that because I'm divorced, I'm anti-marriage. Not true. I love marriage. I love the idea that two hearts, two minds and two bodies can fit together perfectly, like pieces from the same puzzle. I love the idea that two people join, and go through life's ups and downs together - as a team.

I love... Love.

I don't believe that a marriage is only filled with love if it lasts a lifetime. Even marriages that don't last usually had some love. Some happy memory or moment that changed those two lives forever.   

Still, there's something beautiful about a true love story. Two people coming together as a young couple, getting married, and starting a family. Nothing glamorous, or exciting. No riches or power or drama - just love, family and hope for the future. The idea is beautiful in its simplicity.

I went to a 50th wedding anniversary celebration today. My cousin and her five sisters threw a party for their parents, Dave and Judy, who were married 50 years ago this September. They had six beautiful daughters, and between them have 13 grandchildren. They aren't rich, they don't live in a fancy house or drive fancy cars. Everyone doesn't always get along, and they have all had their fair share of problems.

But their family is as filled with love as any I've seen. Through good times and not-so-good times, they are always there for each other. They argue, they bicker and they drive each other (and others) crazy sometimes. But - heaven help the person who utters a word against anyone in this family. They'd move heaven and earth to defend or help one another, and they always have each other's back.

Over the years, their family has grown. Boyfriends, husbands, children...even a rogue cousin or two (such as yours-truly) have found their way into the fold. That's the thing with love - the more you give, the more you have. 

Dave and Judy are a model for what love, and life, should be. Not only because of the success of their marriage - but because of their family as well. Only true love could have built such a loving, caring group of people, with an endless capacity for giving and sharing.

Dave and Judy are made of love, hope and strength. We should all be lucky enough to find our puzzle piece the way they have. 


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tall Order

Confession: I'm not a huge verbal communicator. I've been much more comfortable sharing my thoughts via written word since...well, since I held my first crayon. I have a very reactive personality, and I tend to read into things and jump to conclusions. Writing helps me avoid those pitfalls. It gives me the chance to calm down, and also shift my focus off of my own feelings, and onto the other person.

More and more, I'm finding there are conversations that need to be in person. Sometimes texting/messaging is too short a medium, and email isn't instant enough. Sometimes, what you write may seem crystal clear to you, but it is not clear to the other person. If you're not there to read body language, or interpret your words - the message can get lost in translation. 

This is probably the hardest thing for me, especially in important relationships. I am afraid of repeating previous mistakes (See read into things and jump to conclusions; two things that do not facilitate effective communication.) So I often put off having a conversation.

It's a tall order: Get my own feelings under control; identify whether the conversation even needs to take place; anticipate the other person's feelings, to avoid hurting them; and deliver my message succinctly, intelligently, and sincerely, with compassion and confidence.

I know it's something I need to work on. But for right now, is there any chance I could just get you to read this blog post? 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Miss Me Yet?

It's so "girly" to need someone. No one wants to feel dependent on anyone else. But is it really needy to miss someone? Aren't needing and wanting someone two different things?   

I prefer to think that I'm strong enough not to need anyone. Truthfully, I've gotten to a point where I can do a lot more for (and by) myself than ever before. I'm finally at a point where I would make the decision to live as a single person for the rest of my life, rather than settle for being with someone just for the sake of not being alone. That's real independence. 

But that doesn't mean there aren't people I want in my life. That's the whole point of opening up and seeking out new relationships. Sure, it's scary. Certain experiences really make us want to raise that wall, and not let it down. Who wants to risk being hurt? 

It's scary to say to someone, "I missed you," or "I'm glad you're around." I, at least, am afraid he won't say it back. I don't want to be rejected, or make him feel bad for not reacting the way I hoped. 

In these situations, I think we tend to raise our walls, and act as though we don't really care. We never let the other person how we feel, or give him the chance to let us know the same. The wall did its job - blocked that bad feeling of rejection.

But wait - what if he felt the same way? You had the chance to find out, and now, neither of you will ever know. So the wall blocked that happy feeling, too.   

Walls don't just block the hurt and loss - they also keep out the good people, and the happiness they bring. That's sad - it may even be sadder than the rejection you were trying to prevent. After all, rejection is temporary. It happens, you feel sad - then you move on. But blocking out your happiness? That might last forever. 

Eventually, we have to accept that life is going to hurt sometimes. There are all kinds of lessons - good and bad. They come from experience; from living life on the offensive, instead of letting it catch up to you. Letting people in is the only way to learn. 

After all - if you never let anyone in - no one can prove that he wants to stay.

Have You Heard?

For the last few weeks, I haven't been talking to my friend Lucy very much, which is unusual for us. I've gotten a couple of emails from her asking, "How are you? I haven't heard from you." The question kind of left me wondering if something was wrong with Lucy's phone, leaving her unable to reach out to me during the weekend.

The not-so-subtle implication, of course, is that I am being a bad friend. When I call or text Lucy, she doesn't answer or respond. It seems like she doesn't really want to talk to me - maybe she wants me to want to talk to her? There's a part of me that understands that - sometimes, you want to be wanted. It's nice to know that you're missed, and that you're important enough that someone notices when you're not around. But still - if someone has done what they can to be a good friend, is it fair to act as though they've been otherwise?  

I've read that if you accept that friends change, you won't ever have to change friends. I guess that's true. After all - we don't stay the same, so why should we expect that of our friends? It seems like the challenge is when we change in different ways. Lucy's life has been in flux for a while now. There's not much I can do to fix her life. I've tried to be a good friend and be supportive. The truth is, she was there for me at my lowest point - she and her kids (literally) helped save my life. So, there's not a whole lot that she could do that would ever make me turn away from her. 

Still, it's tough hearing that your friendship isn't good enough, or that your choices haven't been smart. "I wouldn't do it that way," or "I don't know why you put up with that," are tough things to hear over and over again. It seems like Lucy has made all kinds of judgments about my life, which hurts.

I'm not sure what is really going on or why. But I do know that I've learned that I need to be very careful how I treat others when I'm having a bad day/week/month - whatever. I need to make sure that I don't ever make them feel guilty for being happy. No one deserves to feel that way, and good friends should never do that to each other.

The next time I think of saying, "I haven't heard from you," to someone, I'll stop and think - how did I respond the last time I did hear from them?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Take My Advice

Last week, my friend Lucy emailed me at work and asked what was new. Lucy and I are very close and we talk all the time. For a variety of reasons, we had actually had not emailed or texted in a few days. That's unusual for us, so her question was genuine.

It was also appreciated, as I did have something on my mind. The problem was - that was the reason I hadn't really been in touch with her. I had something going on with another friend. It was upsetting to me, but I'd already decided how I was going to handle it. Still, I was touched that Lucy cared enough to ask, so I told her what was going on.

The thing was - I wasn't asking her advice. Like I said, I already knew what I was going to do. I really just wanted to vent. I didn't mind a little input on exactly how big a deal she thought the situation was (I can tend to overreact) but I didn't need any ideas on what to do; I already knew what was best for me.

That's the thing with advice. A smart guy once told me that "unsolicited advice is criticism." He's right, and I try to remember that when I'm talking to my friends and family, commenting on blogs, etc. If people aren't looking for advice, when you tell them what they should be doing, or what the better choice is - what they hear is, "She thinks I'm not doing it right." Criticism.

That's how Lucy's advice felt. "Why are you still putting up with that?" and "It's been too long, you should be past this kind of stuff," were a recurring theme in her emails. She made me feel like it was my fault. Worse yet - it seemed as though she'd put some thought into what I should be doing differently - as though she'd been judging my situation for a while, and didn't approve.

I spent the next couple of days thinking about Lucy's emails. I realized that she really was concerned for me, and was just trying to give me an idea what she would be thinking if she were in my shoes. I realized she wasn't really trying to judge me, and she did respect my choices. She was simply saying that she would make different choices. She was encouraging me to think about what I was doing, and make sure it was right for me.

My story turned out okay in the end. But please, take my advice - when your friends come to you with a problem, listen first, and ask questions second. Make sure you (both) understand the problem. Then give your advice. You might both learn something.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Growing Pains

I tend to treat relationships differently. With some people, I feel like I have to be more refined or polite, while with others I feel like I can be completely upfront and say exactly what I'm thinking. No real rhyme or reason, it depends on the personality, what our connection is, and sometimes, how long we've known each other.

While it's true that every relationship is different, they do all have a couple of things in common.

Relationships are organic. You can't force them; they are either meant to be or they're not. What's funny is most people seem ready to accept this when it comes to friends, family, coworkers - but if a new love interest comes into our life, we suddenly fall all over ourselves to "make it work." What makes us feel like we have to force one relationship but not another? Most of us would agree that our friendships "work" - they make us happy, enrich our lives, and in general make life better. If this all happens naturally - why not just let the same thing happen with other relationships?

Relationships also need to be nourished. You might be thinking that nourishing is the opposite of letting it happen naturally. I consider nourishing to be part of the natural process - like the way a garden needs the sun and rain. Open, honest and comfortable communication is good for a relationship. But things aren't generally honest or comfortable if they're forced. Think about how you feel if your boss schedules a meeting. When you get to his office you're probably nervous, maybe a little frustrated. Potentially bad for any relationship. But if you just meet him in the hall and have a casual exchange, you're more genuine - nourishing.

It seems like one of the biggest growing pains any relationship can go through is finding the balance between letting things happen and forcing them. A lot of people (I find women to be notorious for this) believe that good communication means that you talk about everything, and that talking about everything is a sign of a good relationship. I disagree. I think part of good communication is knowing when you need to talk, and when you can just let it go. And I think a sign of a good relationship is that you can talk about anything - but you don't need to.

I find this to be true in every type of relationship there is. I suppose it's most notable with romantic relationships - but if you really stop and think about it, the same applies with your friends, family, coworkers - anyone, really.

Ever loaned a family member money (or a DVD or an article of clothing)? What do you do when it's time (by your clock, anyway) that the item be returned or money paid back - and it hasn't been? Do you say something? Or what about your stylist - have you ever gotten a cut that you weren't 100% thrilled with, but were too afraid to say something and ruin a good thing?

Have you ever come across information that you knew might break a friend's heart, but that you felt she had the right to know? If you tell her, you risk being the bad guy, but if you don't, you risk losing her trust. 
Tough situations. You could lose a love or a friend. You could hurt a family member, or jeapordize your career.

It's tough to find the balance between when it's time to talk, and when it's time to keep it to yourself. It's even tougher because, as your relationship grows, the balance tends to shift. The person who you thought would be your best friend forever might turn out to have just been your best friend for right then.

The trick is, learning to recognize, and accept, these changes. Do that, and you'll grow as a person, either with or without that friend.

Either way, you're growing. And growing is often times painful. The most any of us can do is our best - look for the lesson and move on when it's time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Heights

"You can't go through life wearing a catcher's mitt on both hands; you've got to be ready to throw something back." Dr. Maya Angelou

Fear is a tough thing. Even if you know it's all in your head, it feels real - and, if you let it, can really set you back. I spent a long time living in fear of a lot of things. I held back, always stopping just short of something new, because I was scared. I settled for not trying because it was easier than being afraid.

That's no way to live.

Life is always going to shake you up. You can choose to look at the bumps in the road as an obstacle - or as a sign that things weren't going exactly right, and you need to change things up a bit. When my whole world changed a couple of years ago, at first, I thought the whole thing was an obstacle, and totally unfair. It didn't take too long before I decided to change that attitude because, darn it, if I was going to lose everything and turn my life completely inside out - it wasn't going to happen for nothing. There was a lesson, and I was determined to find it.

My whole world was different - so I thought the place to start was how I saw my world. Love, happiness, respect - even fear - all started to mean something new. I decided that now was the time I was going to try some new things, even if I was scared. Riding a roller coaster became one of those things.

This weekend, I had my chance. I visited an amusement park with plenty of rides to choose from. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so the park was full. Waiting on long lines was not on my list of things to try, so some choices had to be made. I was really apprehensive about the whole upside-down-inside-out thing, so I really wanted to try something that would start me off a little lighter. 

We found a good one. The Alpine Bobsled. Still classifed as a thrill ride (yay!), riders sit in a bobsled shaped car, climb a lift and are released into a twisted slide to shoot up, down and sideways. There are, I has happy to see, safety tracks on the side walls to keep the car from traveling too far up and flipping over. Thank goodness for smarty-pants engineers.

I'd like to say I kicked the ride's butt. That I was calm, cool and collected and ran straight up and jumped in as soon as I had the chance. I'd like to say all that. I might, even, but the one person who could totally out me also happens to read this blog (thanks, by the way!). So...

I basically creeped up to the entrance. I nervously jibber-jabbered my way up the line, which was {thankfully} one of the shorter in the park. When we got to the top, I really thought I was going to be sick from my fear. My Partner-in-Crime danced for me, which makes me smile. Smiles helped a lot. Still, I was more than happy to let another lady ahead of us so she could stay with her party. I did feel a lot better when her friend said to me, "You look scared." I confirmed that I was, in fact, scared to death. Guess what? She was too! I was so happy that I wasn't the only one.

Now it was our turn. Yikes. PIC got in the car ahead of me. Poor guy. These things aren't built for taller people. He told me later that he couldn't scream or laugh or anything because he was basically folded in thirds and could barely breath, much less make noise. I'd have probably known that for myself, if I hadn't handled the whole ride like a pro - you know, eyes closed, screaming for all I was worth, yelling to let me off and my head buried in his shoulder.

But I lived. I got through it, and even almost enjoyed it. I didn't get sick - in fact, I wasn't even queasy when we exited the ride (Dramaine is my friend). I said, even after all my theatrics about wanting off and praying for life, that I'd *gulp* ride again.

That's the thing about fear. It's really, truly powerful - until you face it, and don't let it win. Once you've done that just one time, you start to chip away at the power, and start taking it back for yourself. If you keep doing that - eventually, you have more power than your fear. It just takes a little determination, a little attitude and a little focus.

Having someone to make you laugh and smile your way through the fear never hurts, either.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Can We Talk?

One of the things that's most challenging for me is knowing when to talk about something, and when to just let it go. I've gotten myself into loads of trouble saying what's on my mind without giving it any thought.

I have friends who think that every little thing needs to be talked about. Dot your i's, cross your t's - don't leave anything to chance. They're big thinkers and planners and they want everything laid out like a blueprint, so they know exactly what to expect and will be prepared for everything.

That seems a common theme for a lot of women I know - wanting that control.  They want things to happen according to their own timeline, on their own terms. When I first started dating, I was like that, too. My only goal was to meet my next great love, "lock him in" and start Life - Part Two. I had no interest in remaining single.

Not a good plan.

What happened instead was I met a bunch of not-so-great guys who practically shoved me back into single-hood. Eventually, without even realizing it, I started to like enjoy get used to single life. I also learned a bit about myself, and found some things that I really want to change - such as my tendency to worry and plan everything to death.

Still, I'm a girl - so that "ohmygod ohmygod I need to know what's going on right now" gene is in there. I can't get rid of it. Medication, therapy...bleach, exorcism... Nothing. Still there.

When you look at it closely, that "talk it out" tendency has a lot to do with control. Planning. You want to steer things a certain way; eliminate any risk of them not going your way. When I really looked at myself, I realized I was doing this because I really felt like I wasn't good enough. So, if I controlled the relationship, I could prevent the guy from figuring that out.

Bad plan.

All I successfully managed to do was show the guy the worst sides of myself. Controlling, insecure, angry, worried. He never saw the best of me because I was so busy worrying about what he was thinking, I wasn't making myself better.

So, now - I wait. Have a thought or a worry or a question? I sit on it. For at least a day, maybe more. Sometimes I write it out. When I go back and review it (either on the screen or in my head) I look for a few things.

Did I answer my own question? ["I know you said this, but did you mean...?" It's best to believe he meant what he said. If it turns out he didn't - it will be his own fault. Don't make it yours.]

Do I sound selfish or whiny? ["I know you bolted from work early, rushed through traffic, stopped at four stores to get me this thing, but I really wanted a lighter shade of red." Ask yourself how this would make you feel. Lousy? So don't do it.]

Am I just asking for a fight? ["I understand what you were saying, but I really think you could have said it better." Could he have said it better? Probably - but it's not your job to fix that. Move on.]

This eliminates at least 99% of the talks I will ever need to have (not an actual statistic). It's amazing how much more fun, laughter and just pure enjoyment you can fit in a life when it's not bogged down with unnecessary conversation. 

How do my friends react to this method? They perceive it as weakness. They think I'm backing down to avoid making the guy upset or risk having a disagreement. They think I'm being "that girl" - you know, the one who yeses a guy to death and gives in to everything, just to keep him around. Or they think I'm dysfunctional; unable, or afraid, to stand up for myself and let the other person know what I'm thinking.


There's no question that thinking is bad. The other person should never be your sole focus. But if you think about it - a conversation is only necessary if you're both going to get something out of it. If you're having a conversation that you both won't get something from - that other person is still your sole focus. Whether it's to criticize, guilt or manipulate the other person - you're still focused on them and not yourself. 

Is that really much better?

I'm certainly not perfect. I have a lot of "I wanna talk" moments, believe me. But I've come a long way (trust me) and I've gotten to know myself much better along the way. 

And who better to have good, honest communication with than yourself? 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

There seems to be a lot of talk lately about how those who have should give up what they've earned in deference to those who do not. I'm not really in favor of that position, nor do I understand when some of those same people also complain that the US is becoming a socialist nation. Why complain, when it's obviously something you're in favor of? Your argument loses some fire if you're only against it when it doesn't suit you.

I read this article, talking about how Michele Obama is under fire for taking "glitzy" vacations while most of our coountry is struggling to make ends meet. There is further argument that, although she is paying for her own personal expenses (hence the glitzy), she's also costing the tax payers money for her secret service protection, and her staff.

I may be wrong - but it seems to me that Ms. Obama is always protected by the secret service and always has a staff. My guess? These are salaried employees - who are paid the same, regardless if they are traveling in Spain or hanging at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This is all very reminiscent of a recent discussion about Chelsea Clinton's wedding, that appeared on a blog I follow. Same argument - the Clinton's should be ashamed to spend that much on a wedding in a poor economy, when so many are struggling. There was also some discussion of tax-payer hardship here as well.

Here's my thing: I'm by no means rich. I struggle to make ends meet, and my divorce left me behind the eight-ball in a lot of ways financially. But if I had it - I'd definitely spend it. I think people are entitled to enjoy what they've earned, and should be free to do so without feeling guilty. I think it's wrong to assume that just because a family spends a lot on a wedding or a vacation, that must mean that they are not doing their part to help those in need.  

I'm definitely in a better place than a lot of folks. I do empathize with those who are struggling in a failing economy. But I think we're all far better off worrying about our own struggles and fixing our own problems, then we are whining and complaining about what others have - simply because we don't. 

It reminds me of two little kids fighting over a toy. Neither really wants it, but neither wants the other to have something he doesn't, either.    

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shallow Waters

Face it: I'm basically a pretty normal gal. I buy my clothes at the mall (or the outlets). I like shoes and purses (and I like them to match, thank you). I get my hair and nails done on a regular schedule. I listen to Top 40 music, follow celebrity gossip and watch the occasional reality television.

I'm told (less often now, but yes, it still happens) that these qualities make me shallow: spoiled, self-centered, uninformed with a total lack of intelligence. It got really bad when I started filling out online dating profiles and would only speak to guys who where educated, of a certain age, who made a certain amount and who posted a photo. This really made me shallow because look - here I was judging a person based solely on their looks and their money!!   

Really, though, if you look at things closely - we're all shallow. In our own way, of course. 

To some, the way people dress and how thin or pretty they are is what's most important. Or maybe it's a person's wealth - the car they drive, or where they live. 

To others, the most important thing might be a person's religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or race. Then there are those who judge others based on a disability, or education. 

Other people judge based on lifestyle choices: Does a person recycle? Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle? Eat meat or wear fur? Excercise regularly?

Shallow means of little depth or superficial. So - I must be shallow because I only look at someone's surface before I pass judgment, right?

But wait - if someone judges me based on how I like to dress or the music I listen to - isn't that person shallow as well? He's only looked at my surface. He doesn't really know me.

He has no idea what my reasons behind my online profile were. He also has no idea why matching my purse to my shoes means so much to me, or why all the pre-programmed radio stations in my car are Top 40. I bet he has no idea why I get my nails done.

I stopped worrying about being "shallow" a long time ago. I decided it's okay to like the way I dress, the way I speak, my hobbies, my interests...it's okay to like me. I stopped worrying about what others were thinking or saying about me, and started paying attention to what they were saying to me. I decided it mattered more how they feel, what they needed...in general where they were coming from. 

I will always like to shop, and I will always pay attention to celebrity gossip. I will probably never learn to cook, and I will probably never solve world peace.  

But I won't ever really be shallow because I know myself and I take the time to get to know others. Even if they don't always want to share.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Love a Good Quote

Some people think that using quotes in writing is a copout; that I should be able to come up with my own words.

I do come up with my own words (you're reading them now). But it's also fun to see how others express themselves. This may shock you, but I don't always have the best answers, and sometimes others have an uncanny way of verbalizing my own thoughts better than I can.

There are a lot of fun places you can find quotes. I have my favorites but usually, I just search for the topic I'm interested in at the moment, and find related quotes.

I also have my favorite people to quote. They just seem to say it right, no matter what it is.

Some of my favorite quotes are:

"I'm selfish, inpatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times, hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst than you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Marilyn Monroe

"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Marilyn Monroe

"A wise girl kisses, but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe and leaves before she is left." Marilyn Monroe

"I like my money right where I can see it - hanging in my closet!" SATC

"It's really difficult to walk in a single girl's shoes. That's why you sometimes need really special shoes!" SATC

"There is something you must always remember: You are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe and smarter than you think." Winnie the Pooh

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you haven't learned anything." Muhammad Ali

"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it." Dr. Maya Angelou

"You shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you've got to be able to throw something back." Dr. Maya Angelou

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles three things: Rainy days, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights." Dr. Maya Angelou

"My mission in life is not to merely survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, compassion, humor and style." Dr. Maya Angelou

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." Coco Chanel

"A girl should be two things: Classy and fabulous." Coco Chanel

"Fashion fades; only style remains the same." Coco Chanel

"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." Coco Chanel

"Life is either a daring adventure - or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and to behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable." Helen Keller

"Sometimes and questions are complicated and the answers are simple" Dr. Seuss

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you'd left open." John Barrymore

Tell me some of yours.....

Sharks and Planes and Snakes - Oh My!

I get a lot of those email surveys that you're supposed to fill out and pass on. I'd ignore them - but I usually get them at work and am all too happy for the distraction.

Whenever they ask me for my greatest fear, my answer is usually sharks, snakes or planes. I am scared of all three, although they aren't my only fears. I'm also somewhat afraid of the dark, roller coasters and enclosed spaces. [It's been suggested I have control issues, but that's a whole other post in and of itself.]

I rarely tell anyone the truth about my greatest fear. Why? I think it's either because I don't want to admit it to myself, or I'm afraid others will judge me. Well - no more of that nonsense. All one and a half of you reading this should brace yourself for a shocking revelation. My greatest fear is....

Not being good enough.

*Gulp* Well - there you have it. Now, for some background.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time fighting the idea that I came up just short of everyone's expectations. I wasn't the cutest, the thinnest or the most fun. I honestly never realized the affect all that negative feedback, real or imagined, was having on my self-confidence, and my mood in general. It wasn't until I went through my divorce that I saw just how much my fears, and lack of self-confidence, were spilling over into my relationships.

I had a choice. I could keep things as they were, and blame my ex for his mistakes, and pretend I had made none of my own. That would have kept me from having to face my "stuff" - but it would have meant that I learned nothing, and would be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Or - I could make some real changes.

For starters, I no longer depend on others for my happiness. For a long time, I thought being happy was the result of my circumstances. Find the right guy, the right job, the right house....and I'd be happy. It wasn't until I lost all of those things that I found out I'm in charge of my happiness. I can't always control my circumstances, but I am always in charge of my reaction.

I also let go of the worrying. I used to think it was cute that my grandmother was a "worry-wart" and that I seemed to have inherited that from her. [I know now that what I probably inherited was an anxiety disorder; another separate post.] When I finally stopped trying to control everything, I found there is a lot of joy in just enjoying life, rather than trying to force it all the time. Again - you can't control your circumstances. But you can learn and grow from everything, if you accept that it all happens for a reason.

Am I perfect? Not even close. I still have days where I feel down about myself. I still worry that I'm not good enough, or that others consider me a "chore." I still click on facebook profiles more than I should, or worry if it's okay to send a text message. I still complain about my job sometimes, or let others drag me into an argument when I should probably know better and care less.

The difference is - I have faced my fear. I wasn't good enough, and because of it, I lost everything. So I'm not afraid to fall anymore, because I know how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep trying. I can't even begin to imagine a lesson anyone could need more.

Aliens or Santa Claus?

"I believe in God, but I'm not too clear on the details." [Unknown]

I recently got into a brief discussion about religion in the comment section of a blog I read regularly. It struck me as funny that someone would think I was judging another person for their religion (or lack thereof). The truth is - while I believe that everyone should be allowed to believe in whatever works for them, I myself am not really all that religious.

For most of my life, I felt like if something could go wrong, it would. I focused on the negative parts of my life (what I didn't have, what could be better, what I wanted to change, etc.). I reached the point where I was going through life expecting the worst and not allowing myself to look forward to anything. I let go of my faith in God and in anything that gave me hope. When I came to a point in my life when  my faith was truly tested, I lost my way and was in serious danger of not finding my way back. 

My best friends and my cousin helped me find my way. They were there for me when no one else was - and when they really had no reason to be, either. What's more, they brought some of the best gifts to my life - a love for children, and the chance to experience the unconditional, innocent love that only a child can give. 

Lack of faith aside, I knew it was no coincidence that these people came into my life when I needed them most. They are proof to me that someone or something was looking out for me in that moment. That's when my faith started to return. 

Like anything worth having, finding my faith has not been easy. I've learned that I don't really believe in God in the traditional sense. I definitely believe in a higher power; there's something out there that is guiding my journey and looking out for me along the way. But I don't believe in any set of specific rules or beliefs that are required in order to benefit from that guidance.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe I am right where I'm supposed to be. I believe that people come into (and out of) my life with a purpose. I trust that there is a plan for me, and that it starts with me having faith in myself - in my own strength and in my own dreams. I believe that if I stop worrying all the time, take a breath and look around, I will see that I have the means to achieve what I want most. I accept that just because things don't always work out the way I want or expect doesn't mean they don't work out for the best. 

Is that "God?" It could be. Or it could be fate. Heck, it could be aliens or Santa Claus, for all I know. The only thing I'm certain about is that there are good things in my life; if I look, I will find at least one in every, single day. I'm happier now than ever before because I believe.

I've learned that faith is a personal journey, that we all make in our own way and in our own time. So I would never judge anyone else based on what they do, or do not, believe. People need to do what's best for them; learn to recognize, and get comfortable with, who they really are. There is far too much pretense in the world - people pretending to be what they think others will find acceptable or cool. People spend too much time worrying what others think, and not nearly enough time discovering their own thoughts and beliefs. 

It's such an easy way to lose your own character and strength - and yes, eventually your faith. Because if you can't believe in yourself, then really - what have you got?
[In that blog post, we also discussed marriage and divorce. If you want to read my thoughts on no-fault divorce, click here. Care what I have to say about same-sex marriage? Click here.]

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not One Good Reason

I read a few blogs on a regular basis. Recently, a post in one of them triggered some fighting name-calling debate, and I thought I'd expand my own thoughts here. 

Whether you agree with his post or not, Mr. Marshall raises some interesting points. The first being that, in NY, we recently had a vote on a same-sex marriage bill. That's not uncommon, many states are having similar votes. Also recently, the NY Government voted on (and passed) a no-fault divorce bill. That's less common, since NY was the last state to have such a law on its books.

In the comments section, you'll see that we debated issues regarding same-sex marriage and no-fault divorce, as well as religion and character. It was an interesting discussion. Same-sex marriage is a topic that triggers a lot of emotions. It's nice when people can stay focused and intelligent as well.
For my own part, I've never understood the same-sex marriage debate. The concept of judging others based on who they love, or telling people that love is "wrong," is something I can't even wrap my mind around. In addition to that - I believe that personal, especially religious, beliefs have no part in decisions regarding laws. Trying to figure out how anyone can think they have the right to judge the love another actually makes my head hurt. Here's why:

  • It generates revenue. The state gets money when they issue marriage licenses. There's a whole buncha people ready, willing and able to write the state a check so they can be married. As a property owner and tax payer, I say - rock on!
  • Doing otherwise violates the separation of church and state. The reason for most votes against same-sex marriage (as noted in the post referred to earlier) is to protect the "sanctity of marriage." Protecting something's holiness or godliness is up to the church, not the government.
  • It doesn't infringe on anyone's right. I was married in a civil ceremony. There was no mention of God anywhere (except by my father when he got the bar bill). No church recognized my marriage, but it was legal just the same. Same-sex marriages would be no different. No one is saying that a particular church (or any church, for that matter) would have to perform ceremonies, or even recognize the union. Again - it's a legal issue, not religious.
  • It's less costly. We're spending a whole lotta dollars arguing over something that was never meant to be argued. The law is two adults. Period. Why spend all this energy and effort second-guessing ourselves? It's not worth it. Move on.
  • Marriage is as much a legal, contractual relationship as it is anything else. Same-sex couples find ways to get around the legal issue, and give each other the rights that they'd have as married adults. How? By spending thousands in legal fees. So in the end, they are as much in love and committed as any other couple. What have you gained by opposing that union? Not a thing.
  • (addendum) Recently, Proposition 8 was overturned in CA. A federal court ruled that it violates equal-protection. This is another argument in favor of same-sex marriage being legal - making it otherwise violates equal rights. Even if you don't support same-sex marriage, you have to protect the right, or risk other rights being removed in our society. Once we start threatening some rights, all rights are in jeopardy. 
The bottom-line for me is I don't think anyone should judge others for who they love. There's enough misunderstanding, prejudice and hate in the world. I can't think of one good reason to prevent anyone from sharing more love, compassion and happiness.

[If you want to read my thoughts on no-fault divorce, click here. Care what I have to say about religion or character? Click here.]