Friends, Lovers and Others

I have posted a number of essays about friendship.  I have also written about the two great loves of my life.  This new essay is based on the lessons I have learned in my seventy years on earth regarding friendship and love.  I am lucky to have gained the knowledge and ability to create a life that makes me ridiculously happy!  I have learned to live a joyous life…one that not only makes me happy, but one dedicated to add joy to the lives of everyone I care about and to those I do not even know.

Looking back on my life, I realize that my personal growth, my understanding of ME and also of humanity as a whole, has been huge.  My journey of learning is not over.  It will never be over.  I have gained so many insights and skills that have carried me along on this journey called LIFE.

People often comment on how friendly and “social” I am.  I do have many friends.  I am very social.  I love to be with people, to get to know them and their stories and learn how they became who they are.  But I also know how important it is to have time for myself, by myself.  This “alone time” is necessary for my happiness.

Friends…yes, I have many.  But the type of friendship with each one of them is different than any other.  I AM a people person.  I can get along well with almost anyone as long as they are not mired in negativity.  My closest friends are not necessarily those I see most often.  We all have those friends with whom, even though we don’t get together frequently or even speak with very often, we have a deep, emotional and sometimes spiritual connection.  We totally “get” each other.  There is nothing we couldn’t talk about or share with each other.  And we know that if our conversations are confidential, they will always remain that way.

There are other friends who we see all the time.  Sometimes they are also very much connected to us in the same ways as the friends I mentioned above.  These are the people who we laugh with and who make us joyful.  We look forward to seeing them because we know that we will have FUN.  We can’t imagine life without these people.

Then we have “acquaintances”.  These are people whose company we enjoy but we don’t confide in them.  We may not have as many things in common.  These people are a very important part of our lives, and with time, they may become close friends.

The main lesson I have learned about friendship is that people come into your life for a reason.  They stay in your life because both of you want this relationship.  There is no “need” in friendship.  People are in our lives because we WANT them there, not because we need them.  Those who don’t stay, for whatever reason, were not meant to remain with you.  Do not hang onto them.  Recognize that the lessons you learned, the experiences you had, were beneficial, but they are no longer what either of you desire.  Smile when you remember your times together and move on.

Now, onto lovers.  I must admit that I have not had many.  I must also admit that it is wonderful to have that someone special, the person who you love with all your heart and who feels the same way about you.  I had my share of “boyfriends” in high school and university.  I thought I was in love with them at the time.  Of course these feelings were based on what I knew then.  With me, I didn’t have a “lover” in a sexual way, until I was twenty-three.  Back then, in the 1960’s, this was very unusual.  It was the “hippy” generation, everyone espousing “make love, not war”…the “free love” generation.  I guess you could say I was a “late bloomer”.

I didn’t know what love really was until I met my husband.  He was the first man who taught me what love was all about.  He was kind and patient and even-tempered.  I thought that he was passionate…but then, I really had no one to compare him to…lacking any real experience.  Things were very good with us…until they weren’t.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was celibate from the time I was 40 until I was 65 years old.  Then I found the second great love of my life.  This is where I learned what passion really was.  I learned how to express my own passion and accept his.  This was an amazing experience.  This man knew how to make me feel cherished and loved and satisfied in a way I had never experienced.

Lovers, when they really love you, are wonderful.  I feel so lucky to have been able to experience real love.

I have been “single” for the last fifteen months.  I now have “Others” in my life.  These are the people who confuse me the most.  These are the men in my life who I can’t quite figure out.  Why are they here?  What do they want?  Are we friends?  We are not lovers.  I may never know the answers to these questions.  Then again, maybe I will.  And maybe it doesn’t matter if I ever do.

What I do know is that I love my life.  I have such an amazing group of friends.  I am busier than I should be.  I am never lonely.  I do not NEED a man in my life.  But it sure would be nice to feel loved and cherished again.  I will not lose sleep over finding him.  I am not going to continue with on-line dating websites.  They are not for me.  I found my true loves…twice…how lucky I am.

Cherish your friends and lovers…as for the others…just know that they are there for a reason even if you don’t know what that reason is.

 

Technology: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

I just had another reminder of why I sometimes have “severe and irrational” reactions to technology.  There are very few things that make me “lose it” emotionally.  Dangerous drivers and technology issues are the ones that will get me riled up every time!  I have been working really hard on the “Road Rage” issue and have actually been doing pretty well with that.  But it might take professional help to cure me of my technology woes.

As Secretary of The Board in my condominium, I am responsible for writing the quarterly Newsletter .  I love writing it and I love the fact the almost everyone in the building appreciates being kept up to date on our issues and news.  I get wonderful letters from Owners and Residents letting me know how much they appreciate the updates and information they receive in the Newsletters.

This morning I received an email from someone in my condominium regarding an item in the most recent Newsletter.  The author of this email is a very intelligent man…he is passionate about issues that are important to him.  He is also one of those people who tend to think they are ALWAYS right.  He also focuses on the negatives rather than the positives.  Although his email contained some positives, it also contained what I called a “rant” about an policy change he felt was not in the best interests of our community.  Because this particular man has been “complaining” for the last seventeen years, the Board, does not take his “rants” too seriously.  He always receives a response to his letters, explaining why the Board has made whatever decision was necessary.

After reading this particular email, I did what I always do… forward it to the Chairman of the Board with my comments.  At least that is what I thought I did.  Unfortunately, I replied to the sender rather than forwarding the email.  In my short message to the Chair, I called the email from the Owner a “rant” and asked if I should print it to put it in his file.  I then hit send and took the first sip of my morning coffee.

My heart started pounding and I started perspiring and I realized that I had hit “reply” rather than “forward”.  Instant migraine!  How I wished I could “take it back”, “undo” what I had done.  Although I had not said anything terrible in my response, I was afraid that the writer of the email might take offence and think we were singling him out by keeping a file on him, when in fact ALL letters the Board receives are kept on file.

The Chairman of the Board, being very “Chairman-like” was out playing golf this morning.  I had two choices of how to proceed with the resolution to my problem.  I could either wait until the Chairman got home and get his advice on how to handle this situation or I could write an apology and explanation to the Owner who wrote the letter. I chose the latter. Hopefully my apology will be accepted and my explanation understood.

Now on to how and why I feel the way I do about technology and why it is the major trigger for highly irrational emotional responses from me.  First I will tell you why I love technology (The Good in the title of this piece) and I do love it!  Without the advances in technology today, life would be so different and a lot more “work” for all of us.  I praise these advances every single day.  Almost everything we do on a daily basis is made easier by technology.  Hooray for this!!!

Notice I said “almost” everything we do.  Now comes the “Bad” in the title.  As an educator and a writer, I feel that word processing has created generations of people who cannot write an intelligent sentence much less anything longer.  Letter writing is a “lost” art.  How many people write (yes, by hand) letters anymore, with the possible exception of the “Christmas” enclosure in cards sent to old friends and family from afar?  I have to admit that even I do not write letters anymore, at least in the same way I wrote them until about twenty years ago.  I write them, butI send them in emails as they are received instantly and this is what people seem to expect nowadays.  I frequently ask myself why it is so important for the recipient to receive a letter “instantly” and I can never come up with a satisfactory answer.  Instant gratification, possibly?   I do not put these missives in envelopes, stamp and deposit them in a mailbox.  I don’t think the reason for this is laziness on my part.  I perceive that others prefer this format and for that reason only, I send them by email.

When I was a little girl, before I even entered school, my grandfather would have to be away,  for medical reasons,  for many months of the year.  He wrote me letters every single week while he was away.  I was not able to read yet so my mother would read his letters to me over and over, as I never tired of hearing what he had to say.  Then I would dictate a letter in  response and my mother would mail it to my Gramps in North Carolina.  He often told me how much my letters meant to him and how they kept his spirits up while at Duke University Hospital.

Decades later, when moving my mom from her home in Florida to her new home in Seattle, near my brother, I found two of the letters my grandfather had written to me when I was four years old.  This was, for me, like finding a priceless treasure.  Although the ink has faded a bit, the letters are legible and my intention is to laminate them to prevent further fading.  I have made a promise to myself that I will write letters to both my grandchildren, even though we live in the same town.  I hope that one day, they will treasure these letters as much as I treasure the ones from my grandfather.

Now for my opinion about the “Ugly” part of technology.  I have a few issues that I feel are cause for concern.  The first is based on my observations about children and their interactions with technology.  I retired from teaching in 2003.  Even then, technology was changing children in various ways.  There were many positive ways that technology was starting to be used in the elementary schools.  I would hate for anyone to think that there are NO positive influences of technological advances in the education of our children.  Learning how to use computers to research, word processing for children with certain learning disabilities, and connecting children with each other all over the world are amazingly wonderful benefits of technology.

I started noticing that some of the children I taught didn’t seem to have very good imaginations.  That stunned me.  When I was a child, I was encouraged to use my imagination when playing.  I played School.  I played Library.  I played Grocery Store.  I made up plays and found neighborhood children to be the actors.  I did watch television, but not a lot.  I interacted with people, not cell phones or tablets or computers.  I played board games, not electronic games.  I find that now, young children, even as young as two years old, know how to use a cell phone or tablet to look at photos or videos.  So many young children are spending too much time on their electronic devices and the end result is that they don’t “imagine” anymore.  When they are asked to imagine what might happen in a hypothetical situation, they have no clue.  Creative writing by elementary school children was becoming a struggle even before I retired.  Children wanted to write about the games they were playing on their Nintendos or other devices, IF they wanted to write at all.  I think this is a very sad situation and I do blame technology for this.

I have actually had friends ask me when my granddaughter will be given her first cell phone.  She is four years old and will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  Seriously????  Why would any child that young need a cell phone, I asked my friends.  The response was always the same…in case of emergencies.  Don’t schools have phones in the offices anymore where parents could speak to a “real, live” person in case of emergencies?  I sure hope they do.

Another big “UGLY” for me is the simple fact that technology sometimes makes it easier to scam people, especially some “seniors” who are not quite as “computer literate” as others.  Unfortunately technology makes it easier for criminals of various kinds to do their work.  I think most people know know that anything the put on social media is available to almost anyone, whether they are “friends” or not.  But what I don’t think many of the younger generation understands is that whatever they post may potentially cost them a job in the future.  It is also very easy to send emails or texts to people who are not the intended recipient, as I did earlier today.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate technology at all.  I actually love it…when all the hardware is working properly.  But when there are problems that I can’t solve with hardware or software issues, it triggers a response in me that I am not proud of…at all.  I am so glad to have people in my life who can solve these issues for me if I cannot do it on my own.

The long and short of it is that we do need technology in our lives, but we also need to try to be less “connected” all the time.  In the good old days, if people phoned and you weren’t home, they just called you back…no voicemail, no answering machines, no cell phones that vibrate in your pockets or purses.  I don’t believe that there are many people who absolutely need to be “connected” all the time.

How many of you have been out for a meal in a restaurant and seen whole families at a table where every single one of them are doing something on their cell phones?  I have seen that more times than I can count.  They don’t talk to each other.  They don’t interact with each other in any way.  In these instances, technology is not bringing people closer together, as social media may do, but actually creating a generation of people who do not know how to interact with each other.  Is this good for families?  In my opinion it is not.  As parents or grandparents it is our responsibility to remind those we care about that actual human interactions are what is most important.

My message to you today is to use technology in ways that will help you and enrich your lives, but make sure that you do not lose the human connection.  The most important thing we all must do is to help the younger generation understand that is is relationships with people, communicating in actual face to face situations, that will enrich their lives the most.  Don’t throw out the computers or cell phones or tablets, but don’t forget how to talk to people and try to help the younger generations understand how important written communication is as well.

BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE

As we all know, sometimes life throws us a curveball (or two).  How we feel about those curveballs and how we choose to react to them is our choice.  I am sure that we have all experienced something we thought was a catastrophe.  We bemoaned our fate.  “Why did this happen to me? ” we ask ourselves.  This is a completely normal reaction.  When things occur in our lives that are not due to our own choices it makes sense to us to ask why.  When “accidents” occur that we know are not caused by us, then finding that answer is almost always impossible.

Most of the events in our lives are not accidents.  They happen for a reason.  The reason is not always clear right away.  Sometimes it takes a very long time to figure out why a specific event or experience happens to us.  But in the end, the reason always becomes clear.

I have had many such experiences in my life. Sometimes the answers come more quickly than at other times.  In the heat of our sadness, grief or anger, we are blind to the true reason for what happened.  I will give you an example that happened a year ago.

It was my birthday weekend as it is right now.  Yes, I am the kind of person who gets excited about birthdays, mine as well as other people’s.  I had great plans with my boyfriend of almost four years at the time…the man I thought was the great love of my life.  He got upset about an offer I made to free up the computer I was using so that he could complete something he was working on.  He often misinterpreted my offers to make things easier for him, so I was not surprised.  I could tell that he was angry (again, not unusual) but figured he would quickly realize that I was just trying to help.

We were finishing up the work day to leave his place with plans to stay at my condo for the weekend.  When I came out of the shower, he asked to talk to me.  Basically he told me that we were done and that he wanted me to pack up all my stuff from his house (I stayed there a lot so left lots of my things there permanently) and that he was going to drop me off at my place.  I was absolutely blindsided (or so I thought for the next few months) and totally devastated.  I felt like my world was ending.  Especially since the night before he told me how much he loved me.

How he felt…how I felt…is not the point.  I thought that this was the worst time of my life…even worse than when Greg (my late husband) committed suicide.  I spent my whole birthday weekend crying.  It was horrible!  Friends tried to console me.  I even went to dinner (the reservation made for my birthday dinner with my boyfriend) with a really good friend.  I had hoped that being out in public with a wonderful friend would help.  I guess it did for a while.

I won’t go into how the next six months went in any detail.  I will say it was very difficult.  But I got through it.  I worked very hard to get through it.  And as a result I realized that what I thought was possibly the worst experience of my life turned out to be a HUGE blessing.  I realized that I should have ended the relationship at least a year before.  The relationship I had with him was dysfunctional.  There were too many times when he chose to “end” the relationship!  Too many ups and downs.  Too many things that should have been red flags.  But when you love someone, you think, or at least hope, things will work out.

Looking back, I know that our relationship would never have lasted.  It was an amazing four years and I don’t regret anything about them except that I didn’t see it for what it was until it was over.  I know now that he gave me the greatest gift that I have ever been given…he gave me back MYSELF and my ability to love myself, both of which I thought I had lost forever.

Remember, what we think of as a terrible experience, always happens for a reason.  And most of the time it turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Anger and Forgiveness

Although I have titled this post, “Anger and Forgiveness,” it could also be called, “Self-Healing or Self-Loathing”.  As I have written before, WE are the creators of our lives.  We are lucky enough to be able to have the free will to choose how we react to every situation in our lives.  How we react is totally within our control.  Unfortunately, the situation itself may not be within our control.  We just have to accept that sometimes “shit happens.”

It is very easy to explain this concept and accept its truthfulness when we are not embroiled in a stressful situation.  It is also very easy for all of our “understanding” to fly out the window during times of great stress, when these are the times we really need to remember that we can choose how we are going to react.  It is so much easier to ask, “Why me?” and to play the part of the victim.  Yet the role of the victim is a passive role.  Everything has been done “to you” and you are giving up all control.  My question to you is this…who is ultimately responsible for your happiness?  Is it the people around you or is it you, yourself?

It is my belief that we are responsible for our own happiness.  If we aren’t happy within ourselves, then nobody else will be able to make us happy.  We have no one we have to please more than ourselves.  As I look in the mirror each morning, while applying my makeup or brushing my teeth, I look at the only person responsible for making my life what I want it to be.

All this being said, it is sometimes very difficult for us to extract ourselves from our difficult situations and think clearly about the choices we have about how we will react to them.  It is sometimes much too easy to place the blame and hold on to the anger.  This is a dangerous thing to do.  It can only result in unhappiness, sometimes even dangerous health issues.  Holding on to anger is not good for anyone.

Yes, we all get angry.  Yes, we all place the blame on someone who we feel caused the situation (even if it is ourselves who happened to do so).  It is hard work and takes a lot of effort to forgive the person we feel caused the situation and move on…as a victor not as a victim.

I have recently had to deal with a situation where I felt someone was to blame for causing a lot of pain and unhappiness for some people I love very much.  This was a person who, in fact, I had felt very close to for many years.  I wanted to blame, maybe even hate this person.  And for a while I guess I did feel those things.  Then I found myself reacting badly to the stress of all this anger and hatred.  My health was affected to the point that I needed an attitude adjustment or I was going to suffer bad consequences.

This forced me to look inward, at myself, to look for answers.  I found that in order to move on and be happy and healthy, I had to forgive.  I had to figure out how I could control my reactions to what had happened.  It has taken me a few months to get to where I am now, but I think that all the hard work, the introspection and the resulting realizations, were worth the effort.  Maybe this was easier for me because I have had a few situations in my life that taught me what I needed to do.

My advice to you is simple.  Give up the anger and the hatred.  Forget who was to blame.  It is counterproductive to your own happiness.  If you need help with doing this, seek professional help.  We don’t always have to do it alone, but we absolutely need to forgive and move on.  If we do not, then we end up hating not only the person we perceive to have caused the situation, but ourselves as well.

COURAGE

Events in my life have encouraged me to think about courage…what it really means; who has it; how does one exhibit courage and various other questions on this topic.

I would never have described myself as courageous. I lived my life (so far) just facing whatever happened in the best ways I could.  I do not think that my life has been any harder or easier than the lives of most people.

Recently, I have watched my son go through a rough experience…his wife decided to end their marriage.  Their two children are just one and four years old.  They have both given their best to their children, who are amazing little beings.  The situation is, of course, very sad and difficult for everyone involved.

In the beginning, when I first found out about this situation, I was very worried about all of them…especially my son and my grandchildren.  Had I ever been in this situation I doubt that I would have handled things as well as my son has.  I am so very proud of him!  He is the definition of “Courage”.

It takes such great courage to face the changes that occur in our lives.  Most of the changes that occur in our lives cause anxiety.  Some people adapt to change more easily than others.  I was never very good with change, although I must say that I have become much better with age and experience.

My definition of “courage” is the ability to face whatever life throws at you with a fierce determination to not only make the best of the situation, but with the knowledge that no matter how difficult the situation may be, you will do whatever it takes to get to where you need to be.

I am sure that most of us would not think we were “courageous” people.  Yet, I now believe that most of us are.  It is instinctive to be courageous because if we give up, what would we have?

I think that my son has taught me more about courage than anyone else in my life.  I now see that I was, indeed, courageous in many ways during my life.  And yet, I also see that there were times I should have been more courageous.

I do not think any of us should waste time on “should have dones”…we should just look around us for examples of courage and then apply what we learn when we need it.

My message to you today:  Never give up!  Be fierce!  Be bold!  Have the courage to face the obstacles you face and go forward with Beautiful Courage!

Introspection and Self-Discovery

Sometimes gifts come to you in ways you would never expect.  I would never have expected to receive such a wonderful gift because I was having a hard four months, health-wise.  I had no serious issues, one bout of bronchitis that took a while to clear up, followed soon after by pneumonia.  As I said, neither of these was life-threatening, but they did slow me down.  At the time, I was upset about that.  Now, as I am hopefully nearing the end of the pneumonia, I have realized that I have been given a huge gift.

I am a “busy” woman.  I love being busy.  In the past a lot of my activities revolved around doing “social” things with friends.  I love people!  I have a large circle of friends, although I would not call many of them “close” friends.  I have always felt that being around other people and having interesting conversations was a wonderful way of growing and learning.  I am a woman who needs to learn and grow and I hope that this will always be true.

Many of the things I was “busy” doing with friends were fun as well.  I love going to live music events, wine tastings, visiting art galleries and dining out.  These activities are not, in my opinion, frivolous or a waste of time.  Again, they are experiences to learn and grow, but more importantly they add joy to my life.

I also love spending time with my grandchildren, although that has not been easy of late.  I hope to spend much more time with them when some personal issues affecting them are soon resolved and we are all healthy.

As I mentioned before, being hit by the bronchitis and pneumonia really slowed me down.  The doctor told me that the fastest road to recovery was to sleep a lot…and he specifically said that he did not mean “bed rest”.  So, sleep I did.  A lot…during the day as well as at night.  I rarely left my condo.  When I look back over the last four months, I have not gone out very much at all.

At first, I didn’t miss the social aspect of my life because I was too sick to really do anything anyway.  We were also experiencing very cold weather with killer wind chills.  Going out for any reason was not all that appealing.

There was a period of maybe three weeks between the end of the bronchitis and the start of the pneumonia (thankfully that included Christmas) that I felt a lot better.  I was able to visit with a few friends and see my son and grandchildren for the holidays.  Having been ill, I had been busy getting my condo decorated and gifts wrapped, so was not missing the “outside” world.

I am the Secretary of the Board at the condo where I live and usually that keeps me quite busy.  December is actually the least busy month for us.  The projects I needed to work on were few and far between.

I discovered something that I had not had for a very long time…free time…by myself…something that I have always loved but have not had for quite a while.  Over the years I had a lot of free time …the years after I was widowed and before I started dating again (fourteen years to be exact) I loved to read and usually read four or five books each week.  I also did a lot of writing.

That all stopped when I met the man I thought was the love of my life.  For the next three and a half years I let my life revolve around him and put my solitary pursuits on hold.  I will never make that mistake again although our years together were filled with love and wonderful times.  When that relationship ended almost a year ago, I felt lost.  I don’t think I had ever felt that way before, not even after the death of my husband.

I struggled at first and then decided that I needed to do some work in order to move forward in my life.  I started reading more and taking some courses on line.  Yet I still felt that I was “too busy” to do what I felt I needed to do.

Well, guess what?  Being ill gave me the gift of time…time for me…time to do the kinds of things that are most meaningful to me.  I stopped going out, except on rare occasions, and seriously started a journey of self-discovery, recovery, and personal wellness.

I started taking tai chi lessons and am now doing that three times a week.  It has made an amazing difference in my life, both physically and emotionally.  I started learning how to improve my meditation skills and making sure that I found time each day to meditate…although, I must admit that I have missed a few days here and there.  I gifted myself by spending money on some courses that have made a huge difference in my life.  I have been overachieving in terms of all my exercise and weight-control goals.  I now have serious “woman muscles”.

I have learned how to set intentions and then give up any emotional attachment I have to “receiving” what I want.  I have faith that if it is mean to happen, it will…and it does!

I decided, as I approach my 70th birthday, that I have spent far too many years (actually most of my life) caring more about what happened to others than what happened to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I have ALWAYS been a happy, positive person.  But my world always revolved around making sure that I could help others, be there for them whenever they needed me, giving them what they needed.

My journey, this past four months, although initiated due to outside events in my life, has been such a wonderful gift!  I no longer feel guilty when I spend any money on myself.  I no longer deny myself things that bring me great joy and pleasure.  Yes, I am still careful with money because I hope to live many more years and I am on a fixed income.  But I now realize that I have enough money to do the things that bring me joy without having to worry about the future.  Still there are ways that I can help others.

I have learned to say “no” when I don’t want to do something.  I do not let myself be manipulated or affected by guilt or emotional overload.  I also say “no” when I need time for me…to do what is important for my emotional and physical well being.

I have loved the last four months (maybe not the coughing and wheezing) for making me realize how important it is to do the work necessary to be the best I can be…to learn how to love myself so that I may, at some time in the future, find someone I wish to love and spend time with again.  I have learned to truly look at each day as an opportunity to live, gaining new experiences and knowledge.  I have learned that laughter is an amazing healer.  I have learned that all things are possible.  I have learned how to relax more and to understand that when something is out of my control, I need to forget about it and trust that things will be as they are supposed to be.  I have learned that there are some relationships that I must give up and others that I need to encourage.  I have learned how to clear the past and live in the present, joyfully and with pride in myself.  And I have learned to be a damn good pool player.

Be Good To Yourself…You’re Worth It!

The past year has not been easy for me.  First, the breakup with Stephen, which really threw me for a loop, and then the things that are going on with my family.  There were times, during the last eight months, when I doubted that I could ever be happy again.  I am happy to say, that I AM happy and I am living my life with gusto.

How did I get from “the pit of despair” to where I am now…greeting each day with enthusiasm and feeling so grateful to have the life I have?  It was a long journey, fraught with obstacles.  It was three steps forward and four steps back.  It was learning how to accept all the “bad” things as things that happened because they were necessary in order for me to move forward and live the life I was meant to live.

I have always believed that things happen for a reason.  I am also smart enough to know that the reason is not always apparent right away.  But, in time, the reasons reveal themselves to us and we can move forward with ease.  In the scheme of things, the reasons for the things going on in my life, revealed themselves to me quite quickly.  I have, at other times in my life, had to wait for very long periods to figure out the whys and move on.  I feel so lucky that this time was easier.

I did not do the healing all by myself, but I did ALL of the WORK to enable me to move on and live my life the way I truly desire.  I had help…lots of it.  First of all, I read some books that were life changers…I will list them at the end of this blog entry.  I talked to people…people I knew would not judge me but would be honest with kindness.  I also met with a therapist who helped me realize that I, all by myself, had worked everything out before she and I even began working together.  I journaled almost daily.  I kept VERY busy, especially during the times when I felt the lowest.  I forced myself to be social when I didn’t want to be with people.  I reconnected with a very special friend from my past, who has been a huge help in me being able to say goodbye to the past and embrace the present.

I started to focus on healing…my mind, body and spirit.  I have been very focused on keeping my body healthy by exercising daily.  I am now taking Tai Chi lessons twice a week, walking at least 3 miles a day, doing aquasize weekly as well as doing core and weight exercises.  I have reached my “stretch” goal with Weight Watchers and am at an all time low (for the last 40 years anyway).  I will be starting weekly yoga with a friend next week.  I have also continued to make it a point to learn something new every day.  It is NOT a difficult thing to do.

I have been learning how to improve my meditation skills and also working on new breathing techniques.  I find this very helpful for dealing with stressful situations, but also, just a great practice for maintaining a calm, blissful demeanour, and it does wonders for keeping my blood pressure under control.

So, that takes care of body and mind.  For my spirit, I have had to work a bit harder.  Again, books are essential tools for learning how to open yourself up to becoming more spiritual.  But I also have invested in some on-line seminars and joined some groups that focus on the more spiritual side of things.  I am NOT religious, but I am VERY spiritual.  If someone would have told me even 10 years ago that I would become the spiritual being I am now, I would have laughed.  But here I am.

I had a bout of bronchitis recently and the doctor told me that sleep was a very important part of my ability to recover.  He explicitly said that he meant sleep, NOT bed rest.  So, sleep I did!  More than I have in years.  I also forced myself to have many days where I did NO work and did not leave the confines of my home.  During that time, I did some writing (although not a lot).  I did a lot of reading, which, sad to say, I have not been doing over the past four years.  I caught up on some of the television shows I used to watch and I learned a VERY valuable lesson.

That very valuable lesson is just this…each of us has one person and one person only on whom we can always depend …and that is ourself.  If we value ourselves, then we MUST make choices that are to our benefit.  We need to say YES to ourselves and learn how to say NO to others.  I don’t mean saying no all the time.  We all need to put ourselves first when it comes to our daily lives.  If we aren’t happy and healthy, then we can’t do our jobs to the best of our abilities.  Nor can we take care of our families.  We also can’t have healthy, happy relationships with others unless we are healthy and happy with ourselves.

I was burning the candle at both ends…never saying no to projects for my work on the Board or doing favours for friends.  I love the work I do for the Board!  It makes it very easy to learn new things as the projects are varied and sometimes complex.  I must admit that I LOVE being busy…the busier the better.  People have accused me of not knowing how to relax and just be.  I DO know how to do both those things but had made a conscious choice to stay too busy…probably because I thought it would help me forget about the “problems” in my life.  But at the end of the day, literally, I still thought about them…to the point of not being able to sleep.

I have now made a conscious decision to put aside a specified amount of time (as a minimum) every single day to do the things that are important to ME.  I have made a commitment to do those things even if it means that I can’t do other things, or if it will cause a project to be delayed.  Of course, if the project is time sensitive, then that particular thing will not be put off.  I have learned to stop worrying about how things will turn out and instead, surrender to the fact that if it is meant to be, it WILL be.

I can honestly say that I am HAPPY!  Very happy!  I know that the life I am living is the one I am meant to live.  I know my purpose, at least my purpose for NOW.  I have worked hard to get to this point but it has been worth every difficult minute!

My advice for you is this:  Take care of YOU first and everything else will fall into place!

Books and other Resources I have used on my journey:

  • Take The Step: The Bridge Will be There by Grace Cirocco
  • Conversations With God Books 1,2, and 3 by Neale Donald Walsch
  • Because This Is Your Life…by Chaney Weiner
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Breaking The Habit Of Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza
  • How The Body Knows Its Mind by Sian Bellock
  • What If this is Heaven by Anita Moorjani
  • The Elegant Life blog  hosted by Erin Kurt
  • The Elegant Society hosted by Erin Kurt (a Closed Group on Facebook)
  • The Art of Living Elegantly by Erin Kurt
  • The Elegant Guide to Prosperity by Erin Kurt
  • The 6 Phase Visioning Meditation by Erin Kurt
  • MindValley a website I found through Facebook which has a Group and also offers many classes

I am sure I am leaving out a few of the resources I have used and if I remember them, I will add them later.

 

On Restraint

I am currently dealing with two situations that require me to restrain myself from reacting the way I would like to react.  I am finding this an arduous task due to the depth of emotions I am now experiencing.  The urge to “lash out” is great.  The urge to hurt the perpetrators of the actions is also great.  I admit to being a highly emotional person.  I feel things very deeply.  I also seem to have a need to express my feelings…I usually do not hold back.  In both situations I am involved in now, there is the potential to “do harm” to people I once cared about so very much.  And as much as I sometimes feel that I would like them to feel the hurt and anger I am feeling, I cannot do anything that would cause this.  I have asked myself why this is so.  Here is what I have come up with thus far.

I am not a person who angers easily.  Nor am I a person who holds a grudge.  I am usually not a person who looks on the negative side of things.  In some of the most distressing situations I have encountered in my life I remained positive, always believing that things would work out as they should.  I cannot think of a time in my life where this was not the case.  I am also someone who does not blame others for what happens to me because I fully believe that we create our lives by the choices we make and by our decisions to react in certain ways to our experiences.

It would have been so easy to hurt back, to try to ease the pain by transferring all the blame for what has happened to the other people involved.  Yet I never did that nor will I do that now.  I have watched others deflect blame and cause hurt to the people who have hurt them.  I have seen that this never takes away their hurt.  It never resolves the situation.  It just obscures the cause and prolongs the time it takes to heal.  Holding on to anger and negativity only hurts the person who is angry and negative.

In both situations that are making my head spin and my heart hurt right now, I trusted the people involved completely.  I honestly felt that they were wonderful, kind, intelligent people who would never intentionally cause anyone pain.  I am usually such a great judge of character…not always, but usually.  With these two, not so much.  I wonder why this is so.  I did not make my mind up impulsively.  I got to know these people…really know them.  I trusted them completely.  Yet they turned out to be so different than who I believed them to be.  I blame myself…for not seeing through the deception…for ignoring the signs that were, indeed, there all along…for believing in the authenticity of their personas.

In all the readings I have done in my life on personalities and the development of character and ethical behaviours, I have learned that there are people who can wear their “masks” in such a way that it is almost impossible to see that they are wearing them at all.  Not all of them are “bad” people.  Most of them, actually, are doing this to protect themselves from the scars of their pasts…they are acting in the only way they can in order not to continue feeling their own pain.  So how can anyone judge them harshly?

It is inevitable that all of us will experience hurt caused by people we love or trust.  It is also inevitable that we will have the urge to hurt back…to cause them pain as well.  But we must restrain ourselves.  We must focus on the positive people and things in our lives.  We must not be angry at ourselves for trusting and loving those people we believed to be wonderful.  We must take the “high road” for it is the only road that will lead us to where we need to be.

FEELING HELPLESS

One of the worst feelings I have ever experienced is helplessness!  We have all felt this, probably many times in our lives.  Someone we love is going through a hard time for whatever reason and we want to help…we want to ease their pain.  Sometimes, it IS possible to help…to make our loved ones feel better.  Maybe we can even help them find the solutions they need to solve whatever problem they may have at the time.

Unfortunately, sometimes we cannot help at all.  This may be because there is no solution.  If a loved one is suffering from a terminal disease, there is no way that we can save them.  Yes, we can do everything in our power to make the rest of their time as pain-free and pleasant as possible.  But we cannot change the outcome.  In the end, a terminal disease ends in death.  Even if we know that we did everything we could to help, we still have this terrible feeling of helplessness.

When the problem is not one with a “terminal” ending, we try even harder…because the problem “could” be solved…sometimes in many different ways.  But in the end, if the problem is not “ours” then often the solution is one that has to come from the one who is going through the “rough time”.  We can give advice, if asked.  We can give emotional support.  We can express our unconditional love.  But ultimately, since the problem is not ours, it is not ours to solve.  Nor is it ours to stress or worry about.  But we DO!  When you love someone, be it a relative, a good friend, or a spouse, it is so very hard to separate yourself from the situation.  It is very difficult to sit back and do nothing…or what seems to be “not enough”.

The worst emotional pain I have ever experienced is when I have had to watch my son go through difficult times.  Any mother will know exactly how this feels.  Your “baby”…and any child of yours will always be your “baby” no matter how old he or she is, is hurting and you can do nothing to “fix” it.  You can tell him how much you love him.  You can tell him you are there for him.  You can give advice, if asked.  Then you just have to sit back and let him handle things.  Of course I am now talking about an adult child.  My son is a grown man…a brilliant, talented grown man.  He is a man with a family of his own.

In my situation, my son has had to handle some things that no one should ever have to handle.  Growing up with a depressed, alcoholic father (a wonderful, but troubled man) was not easy.  If things had been different, I might have been able to leave the marriage and make a life for my son and myself.  But things were such that it was not possible to do so.  So, I stayed and my son grew up not wanting his friends to come to his house and see what his dad was like.  That was very difficult.  I felt helpless.  Whether this was because I was not able or willing to let people know what was going on or if it was just because I felt that I should be able to handle it on my own, I am still not sure.  But if I had to do it all over again, I would make a different choice.

There was also a horrible feeling of helplessness due to my husband’s depression and alcoholism.  I wanted to help…I even felt that it was essential that I help him realize that he had to help himself.  I was unable to convince him.  I now understand that he, himself, felt helpless.  Watching anyone you love lose all hope and have no ability to seek the help he needs is devastating…to all concerned.

Then came my husband’s suicide.  My son had to deal with that and it was NOT easy or pleasant.  Although our lives became easier, in a way, there was so much hurt and anger and just not understanding why such a thing would have happened, that it took a very long time for him to come to terms with it.  Again, I felt totally helpless.  My son, at the time, was an adult, living in British Columbia.  He was visiting us at the time my husband took his life.  I am still not sure if that made things better or worse for him.  He was out with friends at the time of the suicide, but came home as soon as I told him what happened.  I think that he was much more comfort to me than I was to him.

I also experienced this feeling of helplessness when I realized that my relationship with the love of my life was failing.  It had taken me so many years to find him and I had never been so happy. There was no way that I was not going to fight for this relationship.  Yet in doing so I, and no one else, was responsible for pushing so hard that there was no choice but to end things.  I learned a lot from this experience, but if I had it to do all over again I would not repeat the mistakes I made.

When you feel helpless about your own situation there IS always something that you can do.  But this, not being able to help your child, is the worst kind of helplessness!  I think it is extremely important that when you are in this situation you reach out to those people in your life who you know are there for you…who can help you with the emotional support.  What I have recently learned is that sometimes the support you need comes from people you would never have expected to be there for you.  It is also very important to let you child or whoever is going through the rough time, know that they can reach out to others as well…to find someone to talk to, open up to, who might be able to alleviate the pain.  Someone who might have strategies or ideas that have not yet been considered.

Most of us tend to take on the emotional pain of those we love even though we do understand that we have absolutely no control over their situations.  We cannot make anyone, as much as we may want to do so, change their beliefs about what is, or is not possible for them.  All the desire in the world will not make it possible.  Yet we continually try.  I believe it is human nature to take care of those we love.  I am glad that this is true because the alternative is unacceptable to me…a world where we do not care enough about each other that we just stop trying to help.  So, we, or at least I, keep trying to “fix” things for our loved ones.

Most importantly, whenever you are feeling helpless because you cannot solve a loved one’s problems, remember that you are not alone and that this is not unique to you.  We have all been there.  As much as we do not want those we love to suffer, given time, they will figure things out for themselves.  Jus BE THERE for them and make sure they know you are there!

Addendum To Yesterday’s post: Sincerity of One’s Actions

As you have probably realized by now, sincerity and honesty are extremely important to me.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the sincerity of one’s words.  I believe that a person has to be sincere about their actions as well.  This is equally important.  It never occurred to me that there are many people who go through life doing things that they do not enjoy doing.  Some actually do things they intensely dislike.

You might ask yourself, “Why would anyone do things they don’t enjoy doing?”  To answer this question, we have to recognize that sometimes all of us need to bite the bullet and do things that we normally wouldn’t do, whether for our work or because someone needs our help.  I think that both of these reasons are good reasons for not being true to oneself.  I am sure there are some other good reasons but right at this moment my mind is drawing a blank.

I have known far too many people who spend their whole lives trying to please people by doing things that are not compatible with their own needs or even their own ethical values.  This point was recently emphasized when I was watching an episode of “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix.  In a new relationship, Grace was pretending to like all the things her new man liked.  Then she would go home and complain to Frankie about how much she hated doing these things.  Her reason was that it was a new relationship and she wanted him to like her and enjoy being with her.  In my opinion, that is a horrible reason for doing something you dislike.  Grace was, in essence, lying to her new boyfriend.  She was being someone totally unlike herself.  The woman she was pretending to be was not the woman she really was.

I know that this is a common thing when people are in new relationships.  I will even say that I have tried doing some things that I thought I might not like, but not since I was not completely sure, I decided to give them a try.  What I did that was different than what Grace did, was once I discovered I didn’t really enjoy the activity, I told whoever I was doing it with how I felt and stopped participating.

An example of this was early in my marriage.  My husband was very involved with archery.  He was an Alberta champion archer.  In my desire to spend more time with him, I tried archery.  It did not take long to realize that it was not my thing…for many reasons…one of which was that my chest kept getting in the way of the string when I released.  That was PAINFUL!  Also, I was not very good.  I also realized that I did not enjoy being a spectator at the archery tournaments.  This meant many weekends when Greg was away at competitions and I was home by myself.  But that was okay with me.  Why pretend?

Recently I was in a relationship where my wonderful boyfriend did so many things to please me that he later told me he disliked doing.  I was absolutely astounded because he seemed to really enjoy doing these things.  Sometimes, he did enjoy doing some of them but he really needed to be working and would later be upset that he did not just say he was too busy.  It would not have bothered me if he had just said how he really felt.  I have many wonderful friends with common interests to do things with and would not have been upset at all.  I said as much so many times.  For some reason, I was not believed.  That is so sad because he spent way too much time doing things that were not in his best interest or that he didn’t enjoy,  just to try to please me.

If I sound like I am complaining about his wanting to please me, I really am not.  I loved that he wanted to please me.  He pleased me in many ways all the time.  But doing things and pretending to enjoy them and later being honest (and resentful) was not the best course of action.  It was an example of “insincere actions.”  It is also an example of dishonesty.  It doesn’t matter that the intention was well meant.  In the long run I think it is a huge part of why we are no longer together.  I made sure that I was always honest about what was important to me and what was not.  I am a woman of simple needs.  Unfortunately, he did not believe me.

To end this post, I just want to say that if you have to do things that you are only pretending to enjoy in order to have a relationship (whether with a friend or a romantic partner) then the relationship in not REAL or HONEST and that means it is not HEALTHY!  Please, don’t ever let yourself be a person who is not your own authentic self.  Live life honestly, with passion and joy always!