Crossing a Line

We’ve crossed a line, many times, I’m certain. I’ve seen it. From both sides of the line.

I was on a lovely run the other day. It was warm, but not as hot as it had been the few days prior. There was a breeze, but not a gusty wind as in the past couple of days. It was just a perfect day for a run. The flower gardens are abloom in vibrant color and sweet fragrance. It was Saturday, late morning, so the smell of bacon and pancakes still wafted from homes along my route. I had bacon and pancakes for breakfast, too, a bit earlier, so I was a happy, happy girl who really needed to go out and run!

I ran my “usual” route, a six-mile rectangle through the northwest end of town, south for a bit, then eastward, north along a frontage road, then west along a rural, vineyard lined road and south, again, back to the park where my car awaits. I deliberately run this route in this particular direction because I save the best, the prettiest pert of the run for last. My reward. Though the prettiest part of the run, it is by far the most treacherous part of the run. There is a narrow shoulder, no sidewalk, and no bike lane marked. Cars travel fast. I use this road, myself, as a bypass for the slow, confused and sometimes intoxicated traffic cluster on the main thoroughfares in Napa. The tourist traffic consists of people looking for the next winery, the restaurant entrance or the hotel driveway, and most certainly not for runners, walkers, or cyclists. Marked bike lane or not.

Dazed, confused, lost, distracted, and preoccupied.

The part of my route that takes me along the frontage road, a road that parallels Highway 29, the main highway into the heart of Napa Valley winedom, is littered with hotels, tourist bus outfits and a few restaurants. There is a bike lane, but I usually break the rules and run on the sidewalk. I cross the line. There are rules for the road, for cars, cyclists, runners and amblers. Cars should stay on the road and not fade into the bike lane to cut corners or to “straighten out” their trajectory so as to not have to decelerate or apply the brakes. Bikes should be on the road, in the bike lane, or shoulder, if no bike lane is afforded, single file, headed in the same direction as the cars. Runners should be on the road, in the bike lane, single file, going the opposite direction of cars and bikes. Walkers should stick to the sidewalk, if there is one, or obey the rules of the runners. If everyone follows the rules of the road and kind of looks out for one another, no one gets hurt! Bueno!

Ah, but mutiny is afoot. The bikers want the whole road, the cars want the whole road, the walkers want the width of the sidewalk and/or bike lane and the runners just want to run, red lights and crosswalks be damned! Don’t make me pause my Garmin! Don’t make me have to explain my lousy mile time on “Map my Run” for mile four because I got caught by the “don’t walk” sign at three consecutive intersections. We are all crossing the line.

I’ll admit, even I cross the line on the frontage road, I run on the sidewalk. But, I exit the sidewalk for any other pedestrian I encounter, happily, for those who belong on the sidewalk, and with a great deal of discontent, eye rolling and huffing, when encountered by a bicycle on the sidewalk. I forgot to mention all the tourists with rental bikes and without a clue. Another wrinkle.

It’s funny how our attitude tends to change when we switch our mode of forward motion.

When I am driving, I am always mindful of those I share the road with, both those encased in a large metal and plastic pod, and those who are not. And I am more than a little irritated when I encounter pedestrians who’ve crossed the line; whether they are traveling two or three abreast or have tribed up and just commanded the entire vehicle lane. I can see their point, but I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed that they’ve crossed the line if there are adequate provisions, such as an ample shoulder or a well-marked bike lane. I’m not picking on cyclists, there are other offenders, but, frankly, not as often.

I was running a week or so ago and I observed a woman inline skating. I used to inline skate. I know where my inline skates are. I want to inline skate again. She breezed past me like I was standing still, gliding smoothly along in long, graceful strides. She was sharing the well-marked bike lane with me and passed very courteously. As we were both opposing oncoming cars, when the vehicle lane was clear, she’d cross the line and skate down the middle of the street, a few mere inches from the double yellow line. I understand her reasoning. If you’ve spent any time at all traveling on the side of the road, you know the roads are quite sloped towards the gutter to allow water to evacuate the road quickly. For runners, and skaters, too, I suppose, there is some uneven wear and tear on ligaments and such from always running on sloped surfaces. Another reason why I prefer sidewalks and the dirt shoulder along the vineyards. We all cross lines.

Another time, I was just approaching the park where I leave my car. I am a bit of an opportunist, and when the traffic permits, if I’m within a quarter mile of the park, which is on the opposite side of the street, I’ll cross early and walk “with” traffic. The shoulder is wide and I am certainly visible. On this particular day, as I walked towards the park, I could hear a car approaching from behind. Imagine my surprise when the car passed, well over the line and within a fraction of an inch of me. He crossed the line, but, so, too, had I. I was on the wrong side of the road. Sure, if he’d have slaughtered me, which at the rate of speed he was propelling down the road, I’d have been pulp, the law would’ve been on my side. A great deal of good that’d do me dead. Had I been on the correct side of the road, I would’ve seen him coming and would have stood a better chance of getting myself out of harm’s way. I no longer cross early, I stick to my side of the road and wait for traffic to clear before I cross. I won’t cross that line, again.

What’s necessary here, is to look out for oneself. Just because there are traffic laws to protect you, and general rules of the road, and common courtesies, does not guarantee your safety. Ultimately, it’s up to you to keep yourself safe and to decide if you are in danger and then react appropriately.

This goes beyond running, cycling, walking or even driving. This, I believe, applies to the world in general. Laws are passed by the hundreds, if not thousands, each and every day. Many are drafted and passed to “protect” us, from ourselves, from others. Supposedly. I’m not so sure. I have my theories on this, but that’s a topic for another day. My point is, unless the laws are 100% enforced, which, of course, is impossible, no matter how genius the law is, it amounts to words on a page and has no real ability to protect you. It is up to you, first and foremost.

This can be translated in any way you choose. If you think owning and knowing how to use a gun to protect yourself is a good idea, then do. If you think studying MMA is a good idea to protect yourself, then do. If you think hiding in your family room, cringing in your recliner, clutching your TV remote will keep you safe, that is your choice, I’ll disagree, with that one, however.

This can also be applied to general rules, laws, if you will, of humanity. People should treat people in a certain manner; with respect, without endangering others, without harming others, physically or emotionally. There is a certain “code of conduct” that elevates us to a higher life form, and much of that has to do with how we treat one another. Sadly, I think we all fail, from time to time, in one area or another. How often do we yell at our kids out of frustration, ridicule our mates for something they say or do, or don’t say or do? How often do we criticize people close to us for their behavior, their beliefs? How often do we label people in our lives, creating and affirming false limits? How frequently do we dislike or distrust people out of fear, or prejudice? How often do we not return a kindly smile or a well-meaning “hello”? How often do we go about our day, ignorant of the people we pass on the street, the people we ignore in our families, the friends we don’t make time to visit with? We are crossing a line. A line of civility, decency, respect, friendship, and love. This line is far more important than any line of reflective white paint on the roadway.

And what about the line we cross when we are unkind to ourselves? When we think or speak negatively about ourselves, create limits for ourselves, denigrate ourselves, underestimate ourselves, neglect ourselves, mistreat ourselves, physically or emotionally? This line is, I think, the most important of all. Having self-respect, self-love, a good self-image, to care for oneself, emotionally and physically is crucial, not just for our happiness, our ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way, but also for those around us who love us, care for us, and perhaps even depend on us. The lines we cross.

Start being mindful of all the lines we cross, on the road, and off, with others, with ourselves. We’ve crossed a line, but there may still be time to swerve back into our lane.

 

Scarlett’s Letter May 19, 2014 – Pop Some Tags

Pop Some Tags

I’ve had it! I feel like Jackie Chan in the Hanes “tagless” t-shirt ad jumping around trying to rid myself of the annoyance of tags in clothing. They are so annoying! Some itch, some scratch, some hurt. And for some fashionistas, myself included, the brand name means a lot to us, and there I stand, scissors in hand, deliberating, “pop some tags and have anonymous clothing or keep the highly sought after branding and be miserable?” If it’s Target brand, then, who cares? Snip.

Here I sit in my comfy sweats, my highly coveted “Ed Hardy’s” and the tag inside, in the back, is right at the top of my butt crack and it’s all scratchy. Do I cut the tag out? Or leave it and keep fiddling with it, which makes it look like I’m picking my seat an awful lot?

An Effort to Evolve

Have you noticed? There seem to be so many more tags than their used to be. There are labels for fabric content, in seventeen languages, and laundering instructions, in seventeen languages and weird hieroglyphics for the illiterate, I suppose. I don’t understand the pictures, so good luck with that. Then there is the size tag and the brand tag. I could probably buy a full size smaller in not for all the tags stuffed inside my clothing!

Cut it out. That’s what I do, if it bothers me, I cut it out. Poppin’ tags.

An Effort to Evolve

Do we really need labels? In clothing? On mattresses, couches, pillows, lamps. How about the sticky labels adhered to items you don’t want sticky stuff adhered to? Can’t “pop” those too well.

Labels are bad.

Labels are bad in another respect; the sticky, gummy, labels we apply to ourselves and the annoying, scratchy, itchy, labels we apply to others.

Many folks I know carefully classify people, with labels, like a scientist might a new species; genus, class, species, etc. They begin any account with the race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status, any and all diagnoses, height, weight, sexual orientation and/or marital status, of any person involved in the story. She was a large, poor, white woman, German, I think, about five feet tall and five feet wide. I think she’s Christian, probably voted for Bush, divorced.

We label the ones we love, repeatedly, and expect them to somehow overcome their shortcomings; my nephew is ADHD, on Ritalin, can’t focus, doesn’t do well in school.

We label ourselves; I’m overweight, Gluten intolerant, pre-diabetic.

We even classify ourselves by the prescriptions we take, there’s a weird kinship in pharmaceutical similarities.

When I’m speaking with a chronic labeler, telling a story, and I introduce a person to the story, I use their name, if I know it, or simply their gender. The listener is nearly aghast at the fact I’ve left out so many critical details. Often, they’ll ask me to further classify, or label, the person. I will often say, “Human, you know, a hominid”.  I try to set a good example, there’s probably a label for that.

Enough! Enough. Don’t you see? Labels are limits. Labels are excuses. Labels stand between you and your goals, your happiness, your self-confidence. Labels inhibit, you, and those you label. Cut it out. Break free. Be free. Pop some tags!

 

 

 

Eat That Frog. Just Do It.

I’ve been putting off writing this, or any article, all week. My creativity has been focused on other things and I just really haven’t felt the urge to write. Sue me. No, don’t. It’s not that I have nothing to say, I just haven’t felt like sitting down and putting it all into words. I decided I just had to “eat that frog”.  That’s right, eating the frog. The frog is the thing you don’t really want to do, but you should, or must, or ought to, or you really, really, deep down inside want to, you just haven’t focused any intent or energy to it, whatever “it” is. For me, this week, this article.

The concept of “eating the frog”; it’s horrible and slimy and gross, but if you just eat it first thing, it’s over with and the rest of the day is like cake! It becomes a mindset, a lifestyle, even.

Eating the frog is a lot like I eat my meals; I eat what I know is healthiest, and usually least tastiest thing on my plate first, like kale, then move to the next healthiest, like zucchini, and leave the least healthiest for last, like the meat, or the pasta, hoping I might be too full to eat it all. Hardly ever the case. I have the appetite of an elephant, I don’t know the meaning of the word “full”. In several respects; my calendar, my closet, my plate, my glass, my suitcase, my iPhone, my hard drive. I could go on. I shan’t.

I attend a local MeetUp group, WINN, Women in Napa Networking. We are “WINNers”. We have a monthly “Eat That Frog” gathering, at a local coffee shop and we talk about our “frogs”, our obstacles, our hold ups, and we share ideas for resolving our little issues. The next month, we report back on our progress. There’s some accountability, which helps, sort of like having your junior high peers jeering you into eating a frog!

Remember the Nike ad campaign “Just Do It”. Did you? Do you? So simple, how can you not just do it? Whatever it is. Doing it should never be that difficult. The key may be in breaking it down into manageable pieces and prioritizing them, perhaps the awfulest, the frogiest, first. Unless it were a really puny frog, it’d probably take more than one bite to eat it, right? Well, there you go! Take those insurmountable tasks or goals, and break them down into manageable pieces, bite by bite, the frog will be easier to eat.

How much do you enjoy the thing you really want to do when you know you have to follow up with all those things you really don’t want to do? Doesn’t it steal some of the joy? It does, and you know it. How many times have you put something off until it could be put off no more and you missed doing something amazing because you were stuck doing that dreaded thing? The dreaded thing that you should’ve done last night, last week, or last month, or last year.

I’ve been eating frogs for a while, now, and think I’ve got it down to an art form. Mostly. I usually have a frog or two on my plate, but I used to be knee deep in frogs.

What are your frogs? Mine? Usually returning the phone call I don’t have an answer for, the desired answer, or that I know is going to take three hours to conclude. Likewise with emails, returning emails without being able to totally thrill, excite and satisfy the recipient’s request, need, or desire. Another frog, rescheduling appointments! I don’t know why it’s a frog, but it is. Vacuuming is a frog, but dusting is the biggest, ugliest, wartiest frog ever. I’ll do dishes, wipe down the stovetop and scrub the sink after every meal. I’ll clean the shower after every use and keep my stuff organized and in its place. But dust? I’ve given up brick-a-brack and knick-knacks for the sheer joy of never having to move anything to dust. Dusting, for me, is best accomplished if I can sit my butt down on the dusty surface and kind of slide across from one end to the other. Then I just toss my jeans in the wash! Vacuuming? If I had my way, I’d have no carpet and just wear socks with a little lemon oil spritzed on, and dance, all over the house. Then, of course, I’d toss my socks in the wash. I rather like doing laundry. I even like to fold, hand and put laundry away. No frogs there! Mailing birthday cards, another frog. I love to buy cards, but I wait until the very last moment to write the sentiment inside. I have no problem addressing them, and even plastering a stamp on the envelope. It’s the act of mailing the card that presents a problem. I just buy a stack of funny cards, sign them all at once, seal them up and at a family or friend get together, everyone gets their card for the year. All at the same time. I bring extras, even, in case there are unexpected guests!

Eating frogs. An analogy. How about this? Would you rather brush your teeth for two full minutes, at least twice a day, floss every tooth once a day, and go to the dentist for a quick, painless cleaning twice a year, or spend many torturous hours over several days, weeks, months, even, and possibly thousands and thousands of dollars because you just couldn’t make yourself do the easy, little things? Tender little tree frogs or a big, bastard of a hairy toad? The choice is yours, my friend.

On a larger scale; what stands between you and, well, you? Are you all that? Are you really the total picture of who you thought you’d be? Or do you have a list? A bucket list? A to do list? Are these lists, in life, getting any shorter, is anything ever getting crossed off? Why not? Is there a frog, or perhaps a whole pond full of frogs, that need to be devoured?

No one is faultless here, I’ve my own list. Believe me, there are some pretty old, big, scary frogs in my pond. But every day, I at least poke at them a little. I’ve got my frog-gigging fork out and I’m taking aim, each and every day. Every now and then, I gig a frog, gulp it down and I start jabbing at the next one. I am sometimes chided for being a compulsive goal setter, for always trying to make progress, for never sitting still, for never just letting go. And to those who notice, I say “thank you, that’s the way I want it, now put the toaster away, we won’t need it again today and I don’t want to have to dust it next month.”

I think a lot of our frogs result from living “beyond our means”. I don’t mean that strictly monetarily, either. Time is money, money is time. I lie. Truthfully, I believe time is more valuable, more precious, than money, in the grand scheme of things. If we live in a home that’s larger than we need, and have more stuff than we require, and commit to more obligations than we can manage, and keep all the catalogs the postman delivers in case we might want to order more stuff we don’t require, pretty soon, we’re buried. In more ways than one. We don’t have the time to catch the frogs we need to eat because we’re over-committed and over-burdened. And the frogs can hide in all that stuff we don’t require! This, in my experience, closely resembles the contemporary, American, family life. I’ve been there. And everyone suffers as a result, whoever is involved; kids, husband, wife, the couple as a couple, the family as a family, friendships, extended family. Cut back, cut out, eat frogs and prosper.

If I had to recommend some resources here, and I’ll keep the list short and manageable, because I know you’ve got other frogs to eat, I’d have to say the three most valuable resources I’ve run across, thus far, would be:

  1. “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy
  2. “The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize and Simplify Your Life” by Francine Jay
  3. “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Well, it’s 10:36 PM and I really, really want to go to bed. My face is washed, moisturizer applied, teeth brushed, really, really, well, flossed, and my breath is all minty from mouthwash. Oh, but I have a load of wash that just finished up sitting like a big, soggy frog in the washing machine. I washed my favorite jeans, which I’d like to wear tomorrow. Unless I hang them up to dry tonight, they’ll still be wet in the morning and I won’t be able to wear them. There’s my frog. So, nom, nom, nom. Done. And good night.

See, laundry all hung up. Tonight's frog.
Article done AND laundry hung. Tonight’s frog.

Ribbit. Now go eat those frogs.

For the insanely curious, I actually found recipes for frogs, not that this is what this article is really about. I just HAD to know, and now, so do you!

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Anyone out there old enough to remember the movie Urban Cowboy? Maybe some of you younger folks are into old, cheesy movies. But I’m guessing if you know the movie, or the song, it is now tragically stuck in your head for the rest of the day. I apologize.

An Effort to Evolve

I remember, once, seeing a cartoon of a cowboy looking under a horse’s tail, captioned, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Where do you find love? Where do you look for it?

I know countless people who, despite heroic efforts, can’t find love. Maybe not countless in literal terms, but as I’ve never kept track, in that respect, countless. However many of these people I know, they are all on every online dating site, some even have consultants to assist and advise them on their dating site profiles. I have friends who are chronically single and others who are chronically miserable in the relationship they’re in. I even follow a blog written by a woman who writes of her efforts to find lasting love, which seems to elude her to an almost comic level. Every time she is “in love” again, her readers watch and wait, kind of like watching Jersey Shore or a car crash, we can’t not watch, as much as we’d like to. We all know in a week, or two, a month, tops, she will be single and on the hunt again. Which is tragic, except that she has an enviable following.

For the many I know who struggle with love, I know a few wise and blessed people who find lasting, fulfilling and joyful love. Sometimes with no effort whatsoever, they round a corner one day and BAM!! Love.

May I share with you my thoughts on this? Not that I am some well-published love guru, nor am I the ill-fated, love sick blogger with an enviable following and the “can’t not watch” antics.

I often kid around with my single and dateless friends, “If you want to meet guys you just need to go to bars, alone, and drink really dark beer, it guarantees getting noticed and almost certainly a conversation.” And that is where it all begins, with a conversation. If you aren’t having conversations, or aren’t available to converse, or are always with your pussy posse and so, unapproachable, how can you expect to have a conversation?

Conversation is required for a relationship to begin, but 99% of conversations are not for that intent. They are just conversations. It surprises me, though, in all my travels and in all my observations, how few people are really willing to converse with “strangers”. And, even among my chronically single friends, they “would never” just enter into a conversation in a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or any other public setting, with a stranger. Question; how else does a stranger become an acquaintance? Am I missing something here?

Conversation or no conversation, there is much more to the story. Love may follow a friendship that develops from some initial conversation that begins in a coffee shop, a bar, the grocery store, an opera performance, or even an online dating sight. But love can only survive under the ideal circumstances, like a rare, exquisite and temperamental flower. We may be “looking for love” in all the usual places, bars, coffee shops, online dating sites, etc., and we may even have some promising, preliminary success, but, I’m here to tell you that’s not where you’re going to find true, meaningful, fulfilling and lasting love (and by “lasting” I mean of some undetermined, unguaranteed, duration, because, remember, love is impermanent, like life, like baseball season, summer, youth, and  like rare, exquisite and temperamental flowers; a topic for another time).

The biggest problem with love, that I see, is that people expect it to happen to them. In other words, love comes from an external source, “he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me …” How often do we hear people make mention of the fact that people in their lives either love them, or don’t? Their kids, their lover, their parents, their relatives, their co-workers, spouses, friends of friends, acquaintances, exes, and so forth and so on? Does this, then, add or decrease their value as a person, to be loved, or not, by other people in the world? We are looking in the wrong place. Love does not happen to us, it isn’t something that is just bestowed upon us, from an external source, because we live and breathe and occupy space on this planet. There seems to be a false sense of entitlement here, and there, and everywhere. Don’t get me started on THAT topic, we’ll save it for later, as well.

Where, then, should we be looking for love, if not from those around us we wish would love us?

Love begins, exists and is always, for eternity, from within.

How often have you heard someone say, or how many times have you, yourself said, “I wish I could find someone who loved me for who I am. I wish I could find someone who loved me exactly the way i am.” Question; do you love you for who you are? Exactly the way you are? To be loved we must first be lovable. To be lovable, we must first love ourselves. We pretty much set the standard, our expectation of how others will regard us, like us, love us, by how we feel about ourselves. You remember those hapless people that round a corner, bump into a stranger, and find blissful love? Chances are, they are very lovable and that it all begins with how they feel about themselves.

Sound narcissistic? There is a different between narcissism and loving oneself. To love oneself means to have self-respect, to treat oneself with love in the way we think, speak and act towards ourselves. If we are self-loathing and self-destructive that is perceived, if only on a subconscious level, by others, as being unworthy of love, our own, first, and theirs, then, too.

When was the last time you picked a daisy and plucked the petals from it, one at a time, saying, “I love me, I love me not, I love me, I love me not, I love me!”?

An Effort to Evolve

Do you recall Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways“? Perhaps we should recite it as “How do I love me? Let me count the ways.” We are, sadly, in the practice of counting the ways we don’t love ourselves;  “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not thin enough.” “I’m not young enough.” “I’m not interesting enough.” “I’m not adventurous enough.” “I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m boring.” “I’m stupid.” We constantly tell ourselves “I am not enough”, and so those in our midst, the world, the universe, if you will, hears “I am not enough.”

No matter our I.Q., our body type, our shape, size, hair color, job, hobbies, political view, religion, national origin, family history, or anything, we can be lovable. But we must begin with ourselves, it all begins inside our head, inside our own heart. When you feel deserving of your own affections and adoration, you become deserving of others’ affections and adoration. It shines like a beacon through the fog, ethereal and intangible, but real and palpable.

You know those people, friends, relatives, or complete strangers you may casually observe, they’ve just got “that quality”? People seem to notice them despite their relative physical attractiveness, or unattractiveness. That’s the quality; self-love, self-respect, self-worth. The beacon in the fog.

So if that’s the secret, how does one fall in love with one’s self?

It is a process. It is a practice. It is a daily, moment to moment, and lifelong chore. Loving oneself is not something we accomplish and then just check off our list. Loving oneself is something we work at daily, every day, for the rest of our lives. It’s a lot like getting fit and healthy; you can’t just go on a diet for three weeks and then stop. You can’t go to the gym for the month of January and then stop. Health and fitness are lasting only when our efforts are lasting. There is a sign in the yoga room at my gym that says “fitness is not a destination, it is a lifestyle”. Loving oneself is the same, it is a lifestyle and it takes the same level of commitment, sweat, exertion, and sometimes even pain, to maintain. Make no doubt.

Don’t be mistaken, though, I’m not saying it’s hard to love one’s self, I’m saying it’s hard to change the patterns we’ve developed and are enmeshed in. People, without making a conscious effort, are generally very self-loathing. Truthfully, even the most conceited, narcissistic, people you’ll ever meet are actually, usually, the ones that hate themselves the most. It is our tendency, as humans, and this tendency must be reversed. Volumes have been written on it and as I am not going to add to those volumes here, today, that is where I’m going to recommend you begin. Some of the books I’ve seen lately that I’ve found enjoyable to read and informative and enlightening are listed below.

Looking for love? Start in the right place, within. Learn how to love yourself and the world will follow. To get the dreadful Urban Cowboy song out of your mind, I’m going to give you another song from even further back in history! Remember the Coca Cola ad with the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”? That’s a lot like what this self-love thing is all about. It begins with one little voice, (yours) a good message and a catchy tune. By the first chorus, others are singing along with you and by the end of the song, all of humanity has joined in. Cheers!

 

Unlimited – by Jillian Michaels
You Can Be Happy No Matter What – by Richard Carlson
The Soulmate Experience – by Joe Dunn and Mali Apple
The Art of Happiness – by Dalai Lama