Emotions…The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As most of you probably know, I am now, and have always been, a very positive person.  I make it a habit to focus on the “good” in every situation.  Sometimes it is not so easy to find that “good” and at other times it is effortless.  I also make a point of not judging people…myself included.  Lately this has been quite difficult for me.  I have been struggling with my emotions a lot over the past year and then I judge myself…quite harshly at times.  This makes me angry…at myself…and that just makes a vicious cycle even more vicious.  This is counterproductive for the usually joyous life I live.

I am one who spends a fair amount of time of learning to be the best, healthiest and happiest person I can be.  I read a lot of “self-help” books.  I take on-line courses.  I go to conferences and workshops.  I journal every day and every night.  I do all these things because it does, indeed, make me a better, smarter, healthier and more joyful person.  I LOVE learning!  I love knowing that I am doing things that not only help me, but affect the lives of those who are important to me.  I do not like negativity.  I have removed the negative people from my circle of friends.  It was not easy to do that, as I do not like hurting people.

Lately I have had a hard time getting my emotions under control.  Usually I find it very easy to share in other people’s accomplishments and happiness.  I love to let them know how happy I am for them.  I seriously doubt that most people have a hard time sharing in someone’s joy.  I find myself in an uncomfortable situation right now.  I am watching someone who was very important to me for many years find their joy and it should be really easy to share in the happiness and successes being achieved.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  Those success comes as a result of a situation that has cost someone I love very much to experience the opposite end of the spectrum.  That person has lost so much and is struggling to keep afloat and although that person is doing a remarkable job, I fear that the “costs”… the emotional, financial and physical, will take their toll.

How does one revel in the happiness of one person while watching it hurt another?  I REALLY hate that I cannot just celebrate the successes and joys of everyone, regardless of how they affect others.  I know that things happen for a reason and that everything will probably turn out okay for all involved, but right now it is difficult for me to find the “good” in this whole situation.

When I react in negative ways, when I can’t keep my negative emotions under control, I get mad at myself.  I think, “Just be happy for the wonderful things that are happening for that person.” I also think, “What an unkind person you are, Ellen, to not be happy for someone else’s success.”  I start judging myself and finding myself lacking in human kindness.  Yet I know I am a kind person.  I care very deeply about people.  I try to add joy to the lives of those in my circle of family and friends.

I ask myself some questions that I cannot answer.  One of them is why do the painful emotions seem to always outweigh the happy ones?  Why is it sometimes so hard to find the positives in a situation?  Why are we so hard on ourselves for being human and sometimes resenting the things that are hard for us or our loved ones and easy for others?

I want to focus on the joys in life.  I usually do that with great ease.  The fact that I cannot do this now makes me very sad.  I find that making what I feel are poor decisions on how to react to certain situations is affecting areas of my life that I do not want to be affected.  I must find a way to control the negative emotions and let go of the judgements…both of myself and others.

So, today, I have set some new intentions for myself.  I will live my life, knowing that there will be great joy and abundance for myself and for those I love.  I will look on the successes of everyone as wonderful and special.  I will continue to live a life that adds joy to the lives of myself and others.  I will not judge myself harshly for having human emotions that are sometimes difficult to control.  I will be supportive of everyone in my life.  I will be supportive of ME as well.  I will not worry or stress about things that are out of my control.  I have so much to learn and so much to give and I shall continue to grow and learn and pass on the knowledge and the joy that I find in this wonderful world.  I will let the people I care about know how much they mean to me.

This is how I want and need to live my life.  How will you live yours?

Memories of my Wedding

Today, September 13, 2018, as I sit in my cozy home with the fireplace lit, looking out my windows at the untimely snow, I am remembering this date forty-three years ago.

On September 13, 1975, I was NOT looking at snow and thinking that winter was on its way without experiencing any autumn at all.  I was, in fact, getting married, for the first and only time in my life.  Originally Greg and I were going to get married in Boston, where we were living at the time, even though it was my greatest wish to be married at my parents’ home on Lake Mahopac in New York.  My mother didn’t want to have the wedding there because in the event of inclement weather, we wouldn’t all be able to fit inside.  Although we were both disappointed, we booked space in our favorite restaurant in Boston to hold the wedding and reception.  We were having a small wedding…only 48 people invited.

A few months before the wedding my mother changed her mind (I think due to pressure from my dad).  A friend and neighbor of theirs offered their home in the event of bad weather.  My dad had said this would work ONLY if we could get our deposit back for the venue we had booked.  I am still feeling quite guilty about what we (mostly me) decided to do.  We told my dad that we got the deposit back, but that was not true.

Septembers, in that part of the country, were usually gorgeous…fall foliage and warm late-summer days.  Weather that would be perfect for a wedding celebration.  But this particular year, nature had a surprise for us.  Although I cannot remember the name of the hurricane that caused three days of very heavy rains and strong winds, I think it was Eloise, she made her presence known and caused a lot of stress for my parents, Greg and I.

On the morning of September 13th, the sun came out and things started to dry up.  It was looking good for the outdoor wedding of my dreams.  The ground was a bit soggy, but we could live with that.  It was a beautiful day for a wedding.  By the time the guests arrived, things were totally under control.

My dad, looking dapper as usual,  walked me down the path to the dock to the Wedding March.  On his way, he called over the hedge to the neighbors to come join us, making the number of guests an even fifty.  Standing on the corner pillars of the dock were my brother, Neil, and my cousin, Jerry, who were our wedding photographers, looking like gargoyles and making me fear that they might soon topple off the dock, into the water.  There was also Edgar, the Jewish bagpiper, and numerous boats watching to see what the commotion was all about.

The ceremony was short and sweet, performed by a Justice of the Peace.  Our only attendants were Cynthia and Larry Erekson, friends from Boston.  All the important family members were there.  The reception took place outside, as the day stayed beautiful but a bit cool.  There was dancing on the porch, lots of dancing and lots of laughing.  We had invited about six couples from Boston to spend the weekend with us to continue the celebration.

I have many more wonderful memories associated with this particular day, forty-three years ago, but I will not share them at this time.  I guess I needed to think about something a little bit more pleasant than the cold, snowy day that is today, September 13, 2018.

This And That: Lessons Learned From Unexpected Sources

This past year has been one of great personal growth for me.  I have learned so many new things, discovered hidden talents and realized true self-love for the first time in my life.  Some of the things I learned happened by the conscious choices I made to learn things that would take me out of my comfort zone.  Others were due to situations over which I had no control.  And still others were from people who shared their wisdom with me.

After my breakup in March of 2017, I decided that I would never again feel that I “needed” anyone else to make me happy.  I had to do a lot of work to remember who I really was and what was vitally important to me.  When I say a lot of work, I mean a LOT of work.  There were times I felt like giving up my quest to recover the real me, but I persevered and I have never looked back.  I am living a very joyous life, filled with wonderful people.  I have never had as much fun as I am having now.  I have never laughed as much!  I have never felt more loved or valued as a person.  Every single day I do things that make me happy.  Every single day I do whatever I can do to add joy to the lives of the people with whom I interact.

I have learned that although having a partner…and by partner I mean a romantic love interest, is wonderful (or at least it should be), it is not something I feel I am missing.  I like men…a lot…and there are many important men in my life.  I enjoy the company of men every day.  They bring me great joy!  Every one of them has taught me something special.  That being said, I must say that I am very glad I do not have to live with one!  I have found that I DO need my own space…my own home.  I can have company whenever I wish, but I do not have to change my life to suit anyone else.  If I ever do fall in love again, and I am not ruling that out, I will never share a home with anyone full-time.  I have seen relationships like this work for so many people and I know that it would work for me.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about friendship, but I was wrong.  I don’t think anyone can ever know everything about any subject.  Recently I was reminded that there are many different kinds of friends, but the one thing about true friends is that they are always your friend regardless of how often you see them or talk to them.  They are not influenced by what others think about your or say about you.  I feel so very lucky that I have many true friends in my life.  I am a very social being and I need others in my life.  I also need those people to understand that there are times when I also need solitude.  Again, I am so lucky to have this.

Sometimes I am absolutely stunned to realize that there are people I know, who I thought were strong, smart and very self-confident, who turned out to be exactly the opposite.  They let others bully them and control them.  I wish that I could understand how that happens to people, because in understanding, maybe I could make a difference in their lives.  Sometimes, you just have to walk away and hope that these people will see that they deserve to be treated in a respectful way and be allowed to make their own decisions about their lives.

The two people who have taught me the most in the last year are my grandchildren.  Sadie is four years old, going on forty.  She is wise beyond her years.  She has taught me that one never has to fear change.  Change is an adventure, to be cherished and regarded with great anticipation for whatever it may bring.  Sadie taught me that it is possible for lives to change in major ways and yet still be wonderful.  We can learn so much from little children!

Little Cooper, just over 19 months old, and completely non-verbal right now, has also taught me that we are all resilient, that we can adapt to whatever happens in our lives.  We may take a while to get there, but we can, quite quickly, adapt to almost any change in our lives.  All we need in order to do that is to expect a great adventure and look at everything with the excitement and joy that little children exhibit when encountering new things in their lives.

Sadie also taught me that there are “real” people and “not real” people.  She taught me that gratitude is so very important.  She gave me a “gratitude” rock and told me to rub it every night and to say “out loud” at least three things for which I am grateful.  When I told her that I have kept a gratitude journal for years, she told me it was okay for me to write these things down since nobody lives with me and there isn’t anyone who would hear me if I said them out loud.

Every single day that I spend with my grandchildren, I learn something about adapting to change and also about how to find joy in the most ordinary things.  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

Remember that we all can learn valuable lessons about life from almost anyone…keep your eyes and ears open, all the time.  Most important, keep your heart open to everyone you meet as they are in your life for a reason.  Live…Laugh…Love every single day…as much as you can.

Some Thoughts for a Sunday Afternoon

I have been thinking about life and how sometimes life seems so easy and at other times quite the opposite.  I know this is the normal rhythm of things.  It is just how life is.  When we are going through tough times ourselves, I think it is easier than when we are watching someone we love go through them.  I have been trying very hard to give up stressing over things I can’t control.

How many times has someone said to you, “Stop worrying about it.  It is out of your control.  Let it go.” ?  Once we are past a certain age, we all know this is what we should do.  Knowing it does not always help.  When someone you care about is going through a tough time, it is hard to let it go even when we know that all we can do is lend emotional support.

I am frequently reminded that if we look at our lives and the situations we go through, as the years pass and we get older and wiser, with a positive attitude, then things often have a positive outcome.  If we dwell on the negative, it seems to only create a lot more negativity.  People are always telling me how strong I am…how positive, even when things are tough.  I do believe this is true of the person I am now.  But I was not always like this.  It took a lot of work.

Trying to teach others, especially those much younger than us, that looking at the positives will create more positivity, is very difficult.  I think this is a lesson one has to learn on one’s own.  We can only gently guide those we care about.

I have also been pondering the issue of sincerity and true friendship once again.  Sometimes people are so adept at wearing their “masks” that it is almost impossible to know the masks are there at all.  We all wear “masks” to some extent…we put on the “parent” mask or the “lover” mask or the “self-assured” mask.  There are so many other masks we all wear, or have worn, in our lives.  I don’t think that wearing masks is always a bad thing.  Sometimes it protects us from being hurt.  Sometimes it gives us the confidence we need in certain situations.

When the mask becomes the reality for the person wearing it, but in a negative sense, it can be terrible, especially if people believe that the masked person is the “real” thing.  I have recently had an experience where I learned that someone I considered a friend is really not a very nice person.  Maybe that is not quite accurate.  I think this person has become a hollow image of who he/she used to be.  When someone has worn a mask for so long, sometimes it is who they believe they are.  As long as that does not affect them or the people they interact with in a negative way, then…who cares.  But when it hurts people, it’s time to figure out who they really are.

I have also seen what happens when people are “Promisers”.  What is a Promiser?  It is a person who promises to do things and then never follows through.  These people can also be very detrimental to others.  If we trust them and they never follow through, then it is time to get them out of our lives.  How many times is too many for broken promises and empty words?  I don’t have an answer for that.  Maybe the answer is that when the impact of those broken promises causes us harm, it is time to disassociate yourself from the “Promiser”.  It can be difficult to do this, as it causes the friendship to end, but do we need these people in our lives?  I don’t think so.

Another thing that has had my little brain working so hard lately is the issue of getting to an age when many of my friends are getting terminal diseases.  The whole idea of people I care about dying is getting to me.  It is horrible when a young person dies.  It is just as horrible (for me anyway) when an older person dies.  I recently realized that I am not ready for my friends to die.  Like I have a choice!!!  I am sure they feel the same way.  I have had some very interesting discussions over the past few months with people about how they feel regarding their own immortality.  Most of them, like me, are not afraid of dying.  We just aren’t ready…regardless of our age.

I remember my mother telling me in her late 70’s that she was “ready” to die.  She had been a widow since her very early 50’s (as have I) and she said she was lonely and had done everything she wanted to do.  She didn’t die for many more years and I am so glad that she stuck around.  I remember how I felt when she told me she was ready.  I couldn’t believe that anyone who was not terminally ill or severely depressed would be ready.  I had so many things I still wanted to do then.  And now, many years later, I have even more things I want to do.  I am not sure that I will do all the things I want to do or go to all the places I would like to see, but I am certainly trying.

I do not sit around and contemplate death often, but as so many of my friends now are considerably older than I am, I sometimes think about how sad I would be to lose them.  I see them doing new things, going to new places (the ones who are still able to do so) learning new skills and LIVING lives that are meaningful to them.  We ALL need to remember that we should never put off doing the things we want to do.

I walk, a lot.  I now also dance, a lot.  I am doing everything I can to live a healthy life…to keep fit and keep my physical and mental health the best it can be.  My four-year-old granddaughter asked me a few weeks ago, “Grandma, will you be alive to come to my wedding?”.  At first I didn’t know how to answer that.  If she had asked if I would be at her wedding I would have told her that I wouldn’t miss it!  But that isn’t how she asked the question.  So we did a little math activity (she is a math wizard…ess).  I explained that we would do some subtraction…she is 4…I am 70…there is 66 years between us.  When I told her that if she got married at 2o I would be 86, she told me that seemed VERY old.  Then she asked if she should get married before 20.  I laughed out loud but told her NO!  I told her that 20 way too young to get married.

Will I be around when my wonderful grandchildren get married?  I have no clue.  But I am damn well going to do everything in my power to make that happen.

Now, on this sometimes grey and rainy and sometimes sunny Sunday, I am going to stop all this pondering and read my book.

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.