Insecurity Blanket

I remember a time when all I wanted was to be secure. I wanted to be certain, to the degree possible, that everything would be perfect, now, and in the future. I remember wishing for security, hoping for security, praying for security, planning for security. I’d go so far as to wish on stars, to hold my breath while driving through tunnels, and beg the universe for security. Security was the word I used to describe my resistance to change, my fear of change. Oddly, though, I wanted some change, but only on my terms, according to my overall plan for lasting security; the bigger house, the acreage, the newer car, a bigger paycheck, better performing investments, more clothes, more shoes, a bigger boat, horses, more pets. Happiness. Security.

Scarlette Begonia

And I was a prisoner. I was a slave. And I was insecure in my quest, my driving desire, for security. Things went according to plan for so very long, but I wasn’t completely happy, and I didn’t feel secure. There was always a sense of unease, uncertainty, at times, feelings of dread and doom.

As the economy worsened several years ago, my empire fell. The worst I could imagine, happened. Everything was lost. Everything material I’d worked for, for my entire adulthood, lost. The real estate, the acreage, the pets, the horses, the boat, my security, and the means to a secure future. But, in that precise moment when I knew it was all gone, I experienced a sense of peace, of calm, of, dare I say, joy. The burden had been lifted, I was no longer a prisoner, I was no longer a slave. I was, for the first time in my life, free. The shackles of security fell to the ground and I ran. I ran, I danced, I sang, my quest for security replaced with a quest for growth, adventure, uncertainty, and joy.

Scarlette Begonia

Since that time, not even a decade later, I’ve left my marriage, I’ve lost a lover, I’ve lost family, I’ve lost friends, children have grown and moved far, far away. Loss is change, and change, is part of life. There is comfort in being comfortable with change, loss, and with insecurity. Life is tenuous, life is exciting, life is not meant to be secure.

Security meant comfort. Comfort meant complacency. Complacency meant a headlong spiral into disaster. Life, now, is moment to moment. Life now is edgy. Life now is adventure and risk. Life now is real. And blissfully insecure. I am happy, almost always.

Oh, sure, I still find myself fretting over potential loss, thinking about “what could go wrong”, what could change in a manner I’m not cool with. And it is only at these moments that unhappiness and discontent seep into my world.

Scarlette Begonia

There is something very liberating in losing all the stuff. I look now, with pity, at people burdened with “all the things”, and ever in anguish about not having more. I’ve found so much freedom and joy in being “stuffless”, I often go through my remaining belongings, pulling things off shelves, out of drawers, bundling them up, and sending them away to become other people’s stuff. The sense of relief, with each and every purge, is indescribable.

Yes, there are “things” I want. I want a stand up paddle board right now. Does my life, my happiness, my sense of success, of purpose, depend on it? No. I can rent one any time. And, sure, I’d love for my current relationship to endure, but this is never a certainty. Do I let the uncertainty of permanence poison the beauty and joy I have right now? God, I try not to, I’m wonderfully imperfect, but I try.

In security, we are hopeless. In insecurity, once we understand it and embrace it, we are free and joyful. Security is imperfect. Security is a myth. Insecurity is growth, it is reality, and insecurity, like many good things in life, requires practice and thought, to understand, to embrace. In a blanket of insecurity, we find ourselves, our true selves; our passion, our joy, life. In a blanket of insecurity, we learn to take risks, to accept the present moment, each as they come, with gratitude. We learn to forsake the past, gleaning only the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We learn not to fret about the future, what will come will be right, in that future moment. We are not in control, and we lose control in our attempt. In insecurity, we have the chance to learn to be youthful, adventurous, and joyful. We learn to actually live.

Scarlette Begonia

So, like a small child with a ratty, old, blanket, required for comfort, for sleep, for security, there comes a time where it must be tossed into the trash. It must be discarded. When we embrace insecurity, blanket ourselves, instead, with the joy and opportunity in insecurity, we learn to live and we find joy.

Success! At Last!

Success!

At last!

What defines “success”? Personal success? Is it a certain income, a certain job title, marriage or some achievement? We often consider people around us “successful” by some measure, does that same measure apply, then, to us? Do those we call “successful” consider themselves successful? Or do we all measure success, of ourselves, and others, differently? With a different yardstick? In different increments or units?

Success is personal. What personal success is to one does not mean personal success to another. Only you can define what personal success is, for you. Whether you believe personal success is just being happy or that success is measured in wealth and material conquests, personal success takes commitment and a great deal of effort, devotion and even sacrifice.

But, really, what is success?

What defines success?
What defines success?

From anyone else’s perspective, under scrutiny, I may not look like much of a success. It took me eleven years to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I change jobs every five years. My marriage ended. I no longer own any real estate. I live in the house I grew up in, with my mom. Yet, as I see it, I’m a success! I have a rewarding career. I am healthy, thin, fit, and active. I have an exciting new business. I have many great friends. I’m in an exciting, loving, supportive and fulfilling relationship. I have freedom. I am happy.

What is happy? What does it mean when someone says “I am happy”? Like success, happiness is a word that means different things to different people. Sadly, I think many people use the word “happy” incorrectly. Happy, to some, means what success means; the big house, the important job title, the fancy car, the gobs of money, the trophy spouse, the smart kids. And yet, even with the acquisition, the achievement of all those things, most are still unhappy, most still strive for more success, they are empty and sad, even for all their perceived success.

For other, more enlightened people, true happiness is living in the present moment, mindfully, with gratitude, love, grace, and the ability to forgive. That’s all. And the beauty of true happiness is that anyone can achieve it, with commitment and a great deal of effort, devotion and even sacrifice.

What defines happiness?
What defines happiness?

Happiness is personal, it comes from within, it does not happen to us from the outside, it is not dependent on other people or on other things. Only you can create your happiness, only you can maintain your happiness. True happiness is a lot like yoga, it’s a practice, a daily practice. And like yoga, some days your practice will be better than others, but you keep on practicing, day after day, and there is always growth and improvement over the long term.

Personal success, then, is true happiness, and nothing more. Success, like personal happiness, is not something that happens to us, it isn’t something that can be bought, earned or married, it’s internal and grows from within through happiness, that grows with the diligent practice of mindfulness, presence, gratitude, love, and forgiveness.

Happiness is success. Success is happiness. I define mine, you define yours and whether we achieve either, truly depends on our understanding of the words and our practice of the concepts or principles we believe will bring us what we desire.

Success, at last!

Will and Grace

I don’t watch much television and what I do watch is a decade or so old via Netflix or something. One of my favorite old series I’ve been cycling through recently is “Will and Grace”. Yesterday, two “Will and Grace” DVDs showed up in my mailbox, so I spent a rather self-indulgent evening enjoying a “Will and Grace” watch-a-thon.

I find inspiration everywhere I look, even the splash screen of a decade old TV series on DVD.

On will. And grace.

We all have things we’d like to improve in our lives. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t. Some folks are able to improve some things in their lives, and not other things. Other folks have a hard time even knowing where to begin with one wish or desire. Whether it’s weight loss or fitness, education, job skills, magic tricks, or career gains, debt, spending, saving and investing, or self-confidence, happiness or spirituality, we all have a wish list.

How are some folks better at making desired improvements and others aren’t? Will and grace.

Most kids, at some point in time, desire to learn to ride a bicycle. There are usually training wheels to assist while the new cyclist learns to balance, then, one day, the training wheels are gone and some family member is customarily tasked with running down the sidewalk, hunched awkwardly over the tiny cycle, gripping some portion of the bike, the child, or both, while the new rider wobbles and pedals furiously, trying to take flight like a fledgling leaving the nest. For most of us, we eventually get it and a whole new sense of freedom and independence opens up for us. By sheer will, we learn to balance, pedal and steer, simultaneously. Those first few rides begin a little shaky as we try to pedal fast enough and prevent seesawing the handlebars back and forth frantically until that magical moment when everything is in synchronization. Within a week, we look as though we’ve been cycling for years. Grace.

Have you ever noticed that children run everywhere? From the family room to the kitchen, from the front door to the car, from the classroom to the playground at recess. At some point in life, we just stop, it becomes “uncool” to run from point to point and we begin a long life of ambling. For most of us, as adults, we don’t run. Period. Don’t run. Ever. Unless zombies attack, and then, as out of practice as we are, we become zombie chow. There are adults who run, voluntarily, without a zombie breathing down their neck. They run for fitness and, yes, for pleasure. A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to move from the ranks of probable zombie chow to “runner”. Have you seen the movie “Zombieland”? Rule number one, of thirty-two, is cardio. To survive in Zombieland you have to be able to outrun the zombies. No, I don’t believe in zombies, but I decided to “learn” to run, as an adult. For fitness and to prove to myself I could. Now I run for pleasure.

My first day of running as an adult, and we’re talking way adult, I’m not twenty-two, or thirty-two, or forty-two. My first day of running as an adult was sort of an “audition” run, if you will. I’d joined a running club on the advice of my friend Miles. I’d expressed an interest in running, he recommended this club. I signed up online and showed up to run. My first run would be a mile and it would be used to identify which “pace group” I would train with. I’d been doing cardio, religiously, at the gym, so I was in pretty good shape. I just didn’t run. Knowing that my performance would determine how far and how fast I’d have to run for the next several months, I was a little concerned. I may have held back a little. When I stepped out onto the paved bike path and was told to begin running, I felt sort of like the tin man from Wizard of Oz, before being adequately oiled. Creaky, kind of spastic and jerky, lurching along, propelling myself forward with a complete lack of rhythm or form. It was my will to run. Two years later, I run a full three minutes per mile faster than that first mile and I’ve finished a full marathon. I have some form and a little bit or rhythm. Grace? Well, yes, comparatively speaking.

I took a job nearly six years ago that required significant travel and having to speak, out loud, for eight hours at a time, standing up in front of really smart people. Neither of these requirements were really okay with me. Like running, I did not fly comfortably and I most certainly did not speak in front of a group of people, voluntarily. Except for Cub Scouts. And Brownies. But never in front of grown ups. But, I needed the job and so I had to do what had to be done. Will.

Six years later, I fly all over the country on all manner of aircraft without a second thought. I’m like George Clooney in “Up in the Air”, but not really. I’m a road warrior, though, but I check my bags, George was all carry-on. I can stand up in front of a group of really smart people and talk and talk and talk. I teach them what they need to know, I tell stories and joke and quite enjoy myself. Grace.

So, what’s on our list? Do we want to get fit? Eat less processed food? Improve our self-esteem? Practice yoga? Learn a foreign language? Learn to master our smartphone? Whatever it is we desire, we can accomplish. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” to quote Napoleon Hill from his book, “Think and Grow Rich.” We just need the will.

Let’s look at the word “will.” It is used in many ways, both as a verb and as a noun.

will
wil/Submit

verb

1. Expressing the future tense.

2. Expressing inevitable events.

3. To decide on; choose.

4. To yearn for; desire.

5. To decree, dictate, or order.

6. To resolve with a forceful will; determine.

7. To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will.

8. To grant in a legal will; bequeath.

noun

1. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action

2.  a. Diligent purposefulness; determination.

b. Self-control; self-discipline.

3. A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority.

4. Deliberate intention or wish.

5. Free discretion.

6. Bearing or attitude toward others; disposition.

7.  a. A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.

b. A legally executed document containing this declaration.

For the purpose of our discussion, I am particularly fond of the following selections from above:

As a verb, “diligent purposefulness; determination, self-control; self-discipline, deliberate intention or wish.” That is the secret ingredient to accomplishing any desire or goal we have. We’re all familiar with the common saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Sadly, most of us don’t live that truth. We are truly limitless. The only limitations we have are the ones we’ve made ourselves believe. If we set to any one of our desires with “diligent purposefulness, determination, self-control, self-discipline”, if what we desire is a “deliberate intention or wish”, we can achieve it, at which point, “will” becomes a noun; “expressing inevitable events.” With “will”, it “will” happen.

It may be hard, it may take time, and it will likely take commitment and even some set backs to accomplish any one thing on our list, but it can be done. It will be done. With will. And then, we achieve grace.

grace noun \ˈgrās\

1. a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward

2. a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving

3. ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

I grew up around the corner from a friend who’s mother taught ballet. She had a ballet school in an old, white Victorian house, with pink trim, that smelled of old wood floors and resin. I was enchanted and wanted nothing more than to take ballet lessons, that is, if I couldn’t have a pony. A pony would totally trump ballet lessons, but I wasn’t making much headway on that “will” at the age of eight. I was eventually enrolled in ballet, along with most of my Girl Scout troop, which was handy, since ballet was shortly after Girl Scouts. We could car pool. I think it worked out well for my mom, too. I walked to school in the morning, stayed after school for Girl Scouts, hitched a ride to ballet and showed up at home, completely exhausted, just in time for dinner. I probably went right to bed after dinner. I was a very busy child with lots of activities. I think I now know why. It was my mom’s will.

Most of the rooms in the old white and pink Victorian were converted into ballet studios. Upstairs, the bedrooms were reserved for the beginners. Once you were “good enough”, you got “promoted” to the big kids class in the living room, downstairs. It had a bay window at the front, barres along one wall and mirrors on every wall. I started lessons after some of my classmates and I remember my despair at still being upstairs when they were all downstairs. As Liz Lemon would say, “I want(ed) to go to there.” I remember trying so, so, so hard to plié perfectly, to jeté just right and to arabesque absolutely divinely, that I might get to practice in the studio downstairs, with my friends. Ballet is not easy, it takes a great deal of strength and practice. That the dancers make it look easy is the magic. The simplest looking move is really a symphony of coordination, strength, balance and, well, grace. Grace does not come easily or naturally for many, for most, it is only achieved when the coordination, strength and balance have been very well developed. Will.

And that is no different than anything else we have to will to achieve. Grace will only come after much practice and after looking like a goof for a while.

I went to yoga tonight. One of my favorite instructors was teaching. Her class is very rejuvenating. The other yoga instructor I like does a lot of power poses and I am left trembling with muscle fatigue afterwards. Tonight’s instructor teaches more flexibility and relaxation. I am left like putty afterwards, sort of like having a glass of wine and a bubble bath after a massage. Same difference. The class is designed for “all levels”, moves are easily modified for the less, or more experienced yogi. Because it is still January and there are still a few resolutionists around the gym, I arrived early. In fact, I was the first to arrive. There was a picture on Facebook of a yoga class at my gym over the weekend with forty people in it! The “energy” studio has room for about twenty, comfortably. So, I arrived early to be sure to secure my spot. I guess Tuesday night and Saturday mid-morning are a bit different. I set my mat front and center, right where I like it. About twenty minutes after I arrived another fellow showed up. I’ve seen him before, he is a show off. No, not really. He has definitely been practicing yoga for a long time, though. He has grace. He set his mat up next to mine and started practicing some flows. I was trying to meditate and his ankles kept popping and cracking. All decorum was lost and we both started laughing, I told him it sounded like firecrackers, he thought they sounded like snapping twigs. Right. Twigs being stepped on by a really, really large animal. Anyway. Soon, others began to assemble in the classroom. I think there were about ten of us, a good number. After a while, the door opened and an older lady, in yoga pants, wandered in one door. She looked around at all of us pretty much just sitting on our mats waiting for the instructor. We were just chilling. She walked through the classroom and exited out the other door. I observed her and wondered why she didn’t just stay in the hallway to get from one point to the other. A moment later, another lady, in yoga pants, peeked into the room. The first lady kind of peeked around behind her and exclaimed, “This is too advanced for me!” We were sitting on our mats, doing nothing, even “snap, crackle and pop” was sitting still. She totally lacked the will, she wouldn’t even try. Her friend advanced cautiously into the studio and asked the instructor a few questions. She was given gentle reassurance and was advised how to modify the moves for her comfort as a beginner and she stayed for the whole class. She seemed to enjoy it and even said she’d come again. She had the will! And, if she comes back, she will soon have the grace, too!  That’s how it goes. Will and grace.

Will and Grace, Jack and Karen.
Will and Grace, Jack and Karen. Actually, Jack, Grace, Will and Karen.

Whatever it is you desire, whatever it is you wish to accomplish or achieve, whatever it is you wish to improve, just remember Jack and Karen, Will and Grace. Especially, Will and Grace.

Resolution Shmesolution

I’ll let you in on a little secret; New Years is my least favorite holiday of the whole year. There may be some level of posttraumatic stress syndrome involved here, for me. It seems that New Years has been a time of loss, loneliness, turmoil, upheaval, drama and distress at many points in my past. In fact, my personal history has proven that any major upheaval or difficulty is usually proximate to New Years. I know not why. I’m a super positive person most of the time, and I certainly don’t dwell on the past, but as New Years approaches each year, I anticipate it with a certain amount of trepidation and solemnity.

I also hold time at a very high value. Time is more valuable than money, and while we can save and accumulate, invest and bank money, we cannot save, accumulate, invest or bank time. The celebration of the passage of time is one I don’t understand. I get that some see New Years as a time of renewal. I see every second as an opportunity for renewal. To party at the passage of another year confounds me. But I’d still like to be invited to the party, just so you know, I’m very social no matter what the date on the calendar is.

My New Years Eve; moose roast a nice wine with Mom.
My New Years Eve; moose roast a nice wine with Mom.

Okay, so I didn’t get to kiss my Sweetie at the stroke of twelve last night and I may be pouting a little about that, too.

My New Years Eve; a couple of oldies, what I call my fashion magazine fantasy double feature, and a bit of Prosecco.
My New Years Eve; a couple of oldies, what I call my fashion magazine fantasy double feature, and a bit of Prosecco.

There is yet another aspect of New Years that detracts from my general joie de vie; “the resolutionists”. Bless their pea-picking hearts. This being the time of year when the gym is overcrowded with people with big ideas and short attention spans. There are lines at all the cardio machines and the classes are all full to capacity. True, it is a short-lived problem and things are back to normal within a month, still, it is not a good month at the gym for those of us who go there regularly and consistently. Resolutions, shmesolutions.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I know, you’d think I would. I don’t. At all.

How can this be? I believe in setting goals and making an effort to evolve into the people we deserve to be, into the people we are capable of becoming, into something much more than we are presently, which is, perhaps, much more than we were in the past. True. But none of this growth and evolution came from the setting of a resolution.

Let’s explore the word “resolution”; it means to resolve. Let’s look closely at the word resolve; re + solve. So, we are then going to re-solve all of the same old problems because we didn’t completely solve them before, or our solving of them was only temporary. So, each and every January 1st, we just spend some time, a day, a week, maybe even a month, re-solving the same things we re-solved the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that. Resolutions, then, really, in application, mean a temporary solution to an ongoing desire, issue or problem.

I can’t help but think that in our resolute attempt to solve these desires, issues and problems, year after year after year, they must have some level of importance to us, and, for whatever reason, or reasons, we fail to solve the desire, issue or problem completely or permanently. I think that by reframing these desires, issues or problems as goals, and then managing them appropriately, we can have successful, lasting and complete solutions. And, so, I believe in solutions, not resolutions.

Solutions. How to solve stuff, once and for all.

Be specific and thorough. Don’t be vague. If you want to be healthier, great! But what, exactly, does healthier mean? What does it mean to you, personally? Does “being healthier” incorporate weight loss, or better cardio endurance, or eating more wholesome food, or wearing a certain size of jeans, or being able to accomplish some task or feat, or gaining control over a disease or physical ailment? Being “healthier” can be any of these, some of these, all of these, or none of these. It is up to you to determine what it means, to you, exactly.  Define it, in every dimension, in every detail. For me, “being healthier” ended up encompassing several unique goals, each of which were managed separately, beginning at separate points and then managed on their own individual timeline. I managed exercise separately from eating clean, and once I mastered those, I added physical endurance. Separate from physical endurance was core strength and balance. Now, I’d like to add flexibility and muscular strength, two more completely separate, unique goals. You may have to take your all-encompassing goal and break it into several blocks and then decide how to organize them.

Once you’ve defined your goal or goals, and have broken them into their unique blocks, prioritize them. It is very likely you won’t be able to tackle them all simultaneously, so decide which is first and what’s to follow. One reason our resolutions fail is that we are taking a huge, vague idea and trying to install it immediately into our lives, we usually become overwhelmed by the magnitude and impossibility of it all and abandon the entire idea, only to try to tackle it, again, the following New Year’s. Rome was not built in a day, a week, a month or even a year.

Once our goals are defined in detail and are prioritized, we need to decide how we can measure our progress. Progress is what will motivate us to keep going. Progress can be difficult to recognize if we have no ruler by which to compare it to. To make a goal measurable, we need to define, first of all, what “success” or “completion” of the goal is, in other words, what is the definition of “done”. For weight loss, this may be pounds or inches, dress, jeans or shirt size. For endurance, the ability to complete a race or competition, perhaps, for strength, the ability to lift or manage a certain amount of weight. You get the idea. We need to know the definition of done. Having determined the end, we need to consider setting intermediate markers or milestones. To go from couch potato to 100-mile endurance run is a very long process and inserting some intermediate measures to note progress is going to be helpful and extremely motivating. In this example, perhaps a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, a full-marathon and then a fifty-miler. Likewise, with jean size, going from a size 22 to a size 4 is, and should be, a fairly long timeline. Perhaps set a preliminary goal of size 18, then size 14, then size 10, and so forth. Having, personally, gone from a size 16 to a size 6, it was a huge accomplishment every time I HAD to go buy jeans! I resupplied at size 12, 8 and finally 6, and each time I did, I was so happy with my accomplishment I never despaired at the overall length of time it took to achieve my ultimate goal.

Our goals also need to be realistic. We are all capable of accomplishing nearly anything we set our minds to, true, but pay attention to the word “nearly”. We can’t go back in time and we cannot change other people, for example. Our goals need to be personal and cannot involve progress, change or evolution of other people in our lives. For me, getting to a size 0, making someone love me, and running an average 6-minute mile for a full-marathon are not reasonable or realistic goals. Getting to a size four, being lovable and running a full-marathon in less than four hours, however, with time, a great deal of diligence and effort, are realistic goals.

So, as the first day of the New Year draws to a close, and your resolutions loom large in your mind as the holidays fade into the rear view and the reality of daily life lies ahead when the alarm goes off in the morning, consider reframing those resolutions as well-defined, prioritized, measurable and realistic goals. As solutions. Organize them, manage them and find a lasting solution, rather than a recurring resolution. Party on.

As the night evolves into a new year.
As the night evolves into a new year.

Scarlett’s Letter November 18, 2013

Dear Friends ~

I managed to not have a teaching assignment, a consulting engagement or a travel day today. Originally, I did, but, thanks to our electric company and a “scheduled” outage for maintenance tomorrow, I was able to get my Monday/Tuesday client rescheduled to another consultant. Since that point in time, I have been so looking forward to today. Shit was gonna get done! All the stuff I can’t do while traveling was to happen today. I had a list. I am a big believer in lists. I feel great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in crossing things off my list.

One of the items at the top of my list was to actually go to storage and fish out the box with my coffee grinder in it. I accidentally bought whole bean coffee last weekend and have no way to grind the beans short of a rock and a bowl. And, frankly, no bowl I’d choose to smash beans in with a rock. I’ve been going to the coffee shop nearby for a latte every morning I’ve been home. There are three choices here, clearly, I could go buy a bag of ground coffee and use that until I next go to storage and retrieve the grinder. I could, alternatively, go buy another grinder. Both of these options are things the “old me” would quickly do. Spend money after spending money. But, wait, at $3.50 per latte, plus the dollar cash tip, I could’ve bought the ground coffee AND the grinder over again already. Damn. I hate math. Math has never been my friend, never an ally. Guess what, I didn’t make it to storage today, I didn’t buy ground coffee and I didn’t buy a grinder. I guess I’m buying a latte again tomorrow morning!

This is representative of how my whole day went.

I knew today would be sort of a low energy day. I ran a long way yesterday, so a little lethargy was to be expected. And, after all, scheduled work or not, it’s Monday. I was not, however, expecting the level of apathy I achieved today. I even underachieved at sleeping in. I had no reason to set my alarm and thought a bit of extra rejuvenating sleep would be nice. I awoke at 6:48. That’s 6:48 AM, to be clear. I checked texts, emails and Facebook and finally got out of bed at, like, 7:02. AM. The realization that I’d need coffee before being able to hold an even remotely intelligible conversation followed achieving a mostly vertical posture.  I thought about going to the coffee shop in my PJ’s, which are really just ugly sweats, but talked myself out of it. Miraculously. Instead, I pulled on my favorite Billabong maxi skirt, which I wore out to the store to buy beer last night. No one I knew saw me last night, so, who would know I was wearing the same thing today? I took my Sweetie’s Silver Gulch shirt off and slipped my old, slightly too big, black cardigan on over the cami I slept in. Again, who would know? I didn’t even quite have the energy to put a bra on, the cami would do. My hair was a wild mess of curls after my shower last night and a night on my pillow. The satin pillowcase did not net the desired results of keeping my hair under control. I twisted the mess into a clip and called it good. Off to get a latte.

I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.
I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.

Upon my return, caffeine supply in hand and four dollars and fifty cents poorer, I set to fixing breakfast. An egg, sunny side up, a piece of toast, a slab of cold moose meat left over from dinner last night, yogurt, honey and berries. This was one of my more industrious moments for the day, by the way. Mom mentioned last night that she wanted to go visit Dad, at the Veterans Memorial. I agreed. We confirmed our plans over breakfast. When we first talked about it last night, I knew she meant we’d go today, but the full impact of that request was just settling in. Visits to see Dad, at the Veterans Memorial, which is about forty-five minutes from home, are usually accompanied by lunch out, and a flurry of other errands, while we’re out. I saw my day to “get shit done” dwindle down to “not gonna get a thing done”. Day = hijacked.

After breakfast, Mom went upstairs to get ready. It takes her a very long time to get ready, even by my standards. I got a couple of little things done and procrastinated with the whole shower, blow dry, straighten, curl, make up, pick the perfect outfit, thing. I piddled around, re-prioritized my list, did a minor thing or two for work, sort of “making an appearance”, and I shuffled things around in my suitcase, which has to be packed by some time tomorrow, for nine days. Suddenly, Mom was standing in my doorway with her jacket on, her purse and cane in hand and her ginormous old people sunglasses masking about 80% of her face. I quickly applied the bare minimum makeup and off we went, me feeling sort of rewarmed, like leftovers from the night before that didn’t quite heat all the way through in the microwave. And you know what, I really didn’t care. Not today. I decided to be apathetic about the whole thing. Apathetic; a pathetic human being.

One of the things on my “to do” list was to go to Express at the mall situated between home and the Veterans Memorial in quest of those same items I dumped on the floor of the Express in Long Island a few days ago. I still want the clothes, I just want to buy them from someone interested in selling them to me. I asked Mom if she wanted to go to the mall and she got all excited. She hasn’t been to the mall in quite some time and wanted to shop for some slacks at Penney’s. I cringe, just a little, to think of actually shopping at Penney’s, but I disguised it as a yawn.

We visit Dad and left some sprigs of holly from the yard near his mausoleum. The Veterans Memorial is in the middle of miles and miles of very flat farmland and I have never been there when it wasn’t windy and cold. Today was windier and colder than usual. It felt like November. It felt like November for the first time this year. We jumped out of the car, scurried over to Dad’s mausoleum, deposited the holly sprigs, said a few words, and fled for the warmth of the car again. We’re sure he’d understand our brevity; he hated being cold, too.

We had lunch at our favorite totally local and very authentic tacqueria before leaving town, so that meant we could now go directly to the mall. I left Mom at Penney’s and ran for Express. My goal was to find the items I had selected the other day, try them on, buy them and return to Penney’s before Mom had made her selections. I didn’t even reach the table with the black slacks of my desire before I was cheerfully greeted and assisted. Pants in hand, I set to browsing for the other items I was questing for. Again, I found myself with an armload of clothes, but, before I could even set a foot in the direction of the fitting rooms, my load was lifted from my arms by the cheerful sales associate, she said she’d “start a fitting room” for me, which, I know, is a subtle way to say, “you keep on shopping, gather as much as you want,” by never allowing my burden of new clothes to become too heavy, it never seems like I’m considering buying all that much. I have been around the mall a time or two, I know how this all works. Instead, I just follow the sales associate to the fitting room and forgo any further browsing. I love everything except for the “other” black slacks the sales associate suggested I try. I make my way to the cash register where the sales associate begins to fluff and fold my selections, assuring the tags are easy to reach for quick scanning. She mentions that the slacks are BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off, which isn’t quite as good as BOGO, Buy One Get One, that means the second one is free). BOGOHO?! How can I resist BOGOHO slacks? I know it’s more money, but only H! I find a scarlet pair of slacks, skinny cut, and add them to my pile. They’ll be perfect for the holidays, and they are HO after all! I thank the sales associate and tell her I sincerely appreciated her cheerful assistance. I told her about my experience in Long Island and was glad that my local store was so much more customer service oriented.

There is nothing like a positive shopping experience and BOGOHO sales to lift an apathetic mood. I flounce through the mall, back to Penney’s, where I find Mom, sitting on a stool at the cashier’s desk. Apparently the transaction is taking so long, someone has retrieved a stool for Mom to rest on during the whole ordeal. I wilt a little. I find Penney’s whole environment, from the clothes they stock to how they’re displayed, their lighting and signage, all of it, a bit oppressive. Depressing even. The kind sales associate is helping Mom order the slacks she wants, to have them delivered. They didn’t have her size in stock. Mom is buying four pair; gray, blue, black and tan. They are identical in every way, shape and form to the four pair she currently owns. Every last stitch. These four will just be slightly newer. I’m awash in apathy, again. I glance in my Express bag in hopes of finding my spirits, but they don’t seem to be there.

Mom finalizes her purchase and wrestles with her purse for at least five minutes. She and I have very different purse management methods. I have many purses, but for each of them, I have a consistent system of where I put what. I know exactly which pocket to find my keys in, receipts always go in a certain place, etc. Mom’s system, a word I use very loosely here, is not as formal, routine or consistent. She is always digging through her purse, certain she’s dropped the item she is searching for outside the car, or left it on the counter back at the store. She finally gets her possessions into the purse and we leave Penney’s.

We head to Mimi’s Café where Mom wants to buy the neighbor a couple of carrot muffins. Again, after her purchase, Mom is wrestling with her purse like it’s a crocodile trying to devour her. We make it back to the car and she begins to fret about the receipt for her purchase from Penney’s. I pull the car over and we spend another ten minutes trying to subdue the damned purse. We find the receipt and I begin to head for the highway. Once in traffic, Mom, still elbow deep in purse, can’t find her wallet. The one I just found the receipt in. She swears she’s dropped it in the parking lot, which would be terrible, except we didn’t open the car door at any point in the last round of wrestling the purse. The wallet is finally found on the floor of the car, near her feet, shoved back into the purse and the purse is finally subdued and lies motionless on the floor of the car. Mom’s tired and pissed off at her purse. I’m tired and pissed off at the traffic, time and my to do list. The purse is tired and isn’t speaking with either of us.

We finally make our way back towards Napa. The traffic is heavily congested through the canyon, which frustrates me further. As we creep along I can’t help but think of each and every minute I’m NOT going to have to tackle my to do list.

As we reach Napa, Mom says she wants to get gas before I leave for New York, tomorrow. Knowing that most of what I wanted to accomplish today is going to have to wait until tomorrow, I suggest we get gas today, rather than wait. I don’t want to be anxious to leave for the airport and still have this chore left to do. Mom has only driven, I take that back, I have only driven Mom’s car 45 miles since we last filled it up, the needle is barely off the “full” mark, but she insists. We find a gas station and after Mom beats her purse to a pulp trying to get her credit cards out, again, I put two gallons of gas in the tank and we finally head for home.

It is now very late in the afternoon, I’ve been driving with the headlights on, and there is no way I can complete all the errands around town I’d hoped to undertake today. I’m too apathetic to consider going to the gym, so I settle upon the idea of packing for my trip this evening, while drinking a beer, perhaps, and getting a couple of administrative work items put to rest.

Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

A simple dinner is managed and a load of wash. I do not feel, in any way, accomplished today. My list for the day has all been pushed to tomorrow. Tomorrow night I fly, and I fly from San Francisco, which means wildly unpredictable timing with traffic and who knows what. I finish up my evening reviewing my list for today. My accomplishments are so meager that I add a few items at the end in order to allow me the satisfaction of crossing anything at all off my list. The rest will be carried forward for tomorrow, though I’m a little afraid, tomorrow, only a few tiny items will actually get crossed off. Here is my list.

To Do To Day:

Get coffee grinder from storage
Get cash for tips for trip
Do all four expense reports
Catch up on work emails
Go to gym
Run five miles
Finish packing for NYC and SF
Prepare class materials for SF
Call Clarissa
Happy Hour with the Ladies
Shop for black slacks and stuff
Organize five boxes for donation to charity
Make YouTube video
Unpack boxes to dresser drawers Mom finally cleared out
Unpack boxes of shoes & purses to closet after boxes above are moved
Do last load of laundry
Put away clean clothes
Order Mom’s Netflix movies
Aesthetician
Mail “the book” back to Clarissa
Massage
Get latte
Text Sweetie good morning and a safe trip to Prudhoe Bay
Eat breakfast
Eat lunch
Check Facebook
Check Blog Stats
Drink a beer
Eat dinner
Put on pajamas
Drink another beer
Eat leftover Ben & Jerry’s in freezer
Drink water
Wash face
Yawn, twice
Brush, floss, rinse
Go to bed

Note to self – triple shot latte tomorrow morning. Shits gotta get done.

What I learned today; sometimes, we have to be flexible. We have to make things that are important to others a priority, and adjust our own list in accordance. Of course we have our own things to tend to, sure, but now and then, a day devoted to loved ones is far more important, and appreciated, and right. Everything that’s going to get done will get done, and the rest won’t. The world will keep turning, I promise. Enjoy.

Scarlett

Selfie - in need of a latte
Selfie – in need of a latte
Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

You Have to Play to Win

My cousin visited a couple of weeks ago and she, my mom and I went out to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, we somehow got onto the subject of winning the lottery. What would you do if you won a large jackpot? Some people say they would save the money, invest it wisely and live off the interest, others say they would spend it all fast and furiously. My cousin was of the latter mindset, she said she has it all planned out and that she would pretty much just enjoy it while it lasted. Which is what most big jackpot winners do, spend it all and then return to their previous lives with nothing but great memories and some awesome stories to tell.  Fair enough. I’d buy shoes. And maybe a castle to keep them in. But you have to play to win.

I used to play the Lotto religiously. I’d purchase twenty draws in advance, the same numbers, and then, I’d never check the numbers to see if I won. I probably won the big jackpot, maybe even several of them, and never knew it. I stopped playing. You have to play to win.

I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don't know. I never checked. So, I don't play this game anymore. I'll focus my efforts elsewhere.
I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don’t know. I never checked. So, I don’t play this game anymore. I’ll focus my efforts elsewhere.

During my cousin’s visit, we also had a discussion about buying things you don’t necessarily need. On impulse. My aunt, my cousin’s mom, had these two large, beautiful rooster figurines. When she passed, I somehow came into possession of these roosters. At that point in time, I lived in a small suburb of Sacramento, Fair Oaks, in “the Village”, where chickens roamed the streets and most residents had chickens as “pets”. We had chickens as pets. And my house was decorated inside and out with chickens, including these two roosters. That was over fifteen years ago and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved since then. No more chickens, real or decorative. But, these two roosters have made move after move. Now, I really don’t have room for them, and, quite frankly, I’m sick to death of dusting them. So, my cousin, the garage sale genius that she is, came by to pick up some of our discards to sell at her next sale. Chickens included. My mom asked my cousin if she knew where my aunt had purchased the roosters. Of course, my cousin didn’t know, it was decades after she’d grown, left home and raised her own family, and decorated her own home. My mom has a way of asking (a lot) of questions that no one could possibly know the answers to. Often in rapid fire succession. Sometimes almost inquisition style. It’s her gift. We all agreed, knowing my aunt, that the roosters were probably an impulse purchase and we all had a good idea how my uncle probably reacted. On impulse purchases, my cousin mentioned that in her travels, she’d seen a doormat she wanted to buy for her mom that said “Ed, please leave the check under the mat.” She didn’t buy it, thinking she’d stop back by and do so, but never did. My aunt never got the doormat, so Ed didn’t leave her the winning check. I’m not sure my aunt even entered the Publishers Clearing House drawing, I’ll bet she did. You have to play to win.

My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!

Speaking of Ed and the Publishers Clearing House Drawing prize checks, Mom and I were having breakfast this morning when her phone rang. Her phone rings all the time. Actually, I swear there are twelve phones in the house, all with the ringer turned up as loud as possible. When someone calls, I swear the windows are going to shatter. I have my own “land line”, for work. The number is unlisted and the ringer is turned off. I don’t even know what my phone sounds like, but I’m sure I’d hate it. I haven’t given my “land line” number to anyone, ever, at all, so I know without a doubt that no one I would ever want to speak with will ever call me on that line. When my cell phone rings, and it is on silent all the time, too, so I’d have to actually see the incoming call, I look at the number and decide if a) its someone I want to speak with and b) if I want to speak with them right now, or if I might prefer calling them back at a more convenient time, for me. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and I can decide if and when I’ll return the call. Mom answers almost every call. Except for the one that occurs every morning, like clock work, at breakfast time. When she has answered it in the past, it has been some recorded message trying to sell her new windows, siding, roofing, solar panels, and appliances, all financed by the utility company. Even if she understood the whole thing, she really isn’t in the market for any of that stuff. She has asked, on numerous occasions, to be removed from their call list, but to no avail. I’ve registered her number on the “do not call” registry, but we all know that’s only as good as the ability to enforce it. Which is zero. So, this morning, like every morning, the call comes. Mom picked up the phone, glanced at the incoming number, hit the answer button followed immediately by the end button. Then she remarked, jokingly, “that was probably Ed with my winnings for the Publishers Clearing House drawing.” I asked, a little sarcastically, “Did you enter?” No. Well, you have to play to win.

I’m not proposing you should play the lottery or enter drawings and contests, I’m saying that you have to play to win. That applies to whatever you want to happen in your life. If you want to be fit, you’ll have to play to win; work out hard, regularly, eat right, commit to a fit, clean lifestyle. Forever. No pill, no shake, no two-week celebrity diet, no celebrity doctor endorsed super food suggestion is ever going to make you thin, fit or healthy. It is a lifestyle. You can’t wish yourself fit just like you can’t expect the next visitor at the door to be Ed with a big fat check if you didn’t enter the drawing. You absolutely have to play to win.

If you want to find love and companionship, you can’t sit home and wish for it to happen. Fabio isn’t going to crawl off the cover of your Harlequin Romance novel and pull you into his arms. You’ll have to play to win. You need to go out, participate in your community, be visible and active and mingle. You need to increase your exposure to a lot of people to find the one. The Powerball jackpot won’t ever be yours unless you’ve bought a ticket or two. You’ll probably have to go out into the world and meet a few folks before you find your soul mate. Must play to win.

You have to play to win at love.
You have to play to win at love.

Perhaps you’re hankering for increased success financially. Unless you take active measures to increase your income and decrease your spending, it probably won’t happen. Unless you DO play the Lotto and you DO win, but, my friend, in case no one else has told you, the odds aren’t good. No one is going to just give you gobs of money for no reason. Chances are you don’t have a long, lost, rich uncle who died and left you his fortune. You have to play to win. You need to carefully plan, budget and commit to both if you want to begin to accumulate money.

Your next raise is likely to not quite match the rate of inflation unless you’ve played to win in your career, too. But you can’t rest on your career marketability laurels and hope to be offered more rewarding opportunities. You have to play to win. I am hard-pressed to think of a single career field that hasn’t changed dramatically as a result of computers and advances in technology. We, too, must evolve, change, adapt in order to remain relevant, let alone advance. We need to meet or match the same pace of technological advances in order to remain relevant in our careers. It is an ongoing and almost frenzied activity to keep abreast of technological advances, but you must, in order to be marketable. My (former) husband was, for a long time, in software sales, support and customization. He had his own business and did well for a number of years. During that time, Microsoft Windows came out, and for a very, very long time, he resisted. He stuck with DOS and recommended his clients do so as well. Until it was no longer viable, supported or an option. Once he finally migrated to Windows, kicking and screaming, he stuck with the oldest version supported and upgraded only when absolutely necessary. This was not a very sound practice for someone in the software industry. Better to move forward, embrace the new, and make well-informed and educated recommendations to clients than to stubbornly cling to the old, comfortable version of the software, missing out on the enhancements and the benefits and opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in the new version. There is a popular ad campaign for teeth whitening products, “if you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”. I think this can be perfectly applied to doing what needs to be done to remain marketable in your career field. If you aren’t advancing with your field and with the technology within your field, you’re becoming irrelevant and unmarketable. You have to be in the game to score. You have to play to win.

No matter what it is in life you are making an effort to evolve in, you have to make the effort to obtain the result, without exception. You have to be invested. And, the more invested you are, the better your odds for success. I advise “all in” for everything in life you’d like to win, except the Lotto and other games of chance, of course, here, a dollar will do. But you do have to play to win.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

May I have your attention, please? This is big.

We all want attention. Admit it. We are no different from small children or dogs, we want attention and we will resort to certain measures to secure it. Like small children and dogs, some of us seek attention by any means, even if the attention we receive is negative in nature. Others of us, perhaps through trial or error, or through maturity, sophistication or some method of self-awareness and a resulting course of action, have found more positive ways to secure the attention we desire. But, no matter what, we all need attention and will find a way to attract it.

Unless you’re a superstar on the stage or screen, an actor, actress or musician, chances are, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you’d probably like to attract more attention than you do. I don’t think anyone is truly satisfied with the amount of attention they are receiving until there are paparazzi surrounding their homes and following their every move. And even then, some crave more. Ok, maybe just Brittany Spears and Justin Bieber.

For the rest of us, how is it done?

Let’s address the negative methods first. The negative methods of attracting attention range wildly from the sort of annoying to the outright life threatening. Simply annoying; the loud sneezer, cougher, laugher, talker, gastric disturbance, moaning, grunting, groaning, sighing, stomping, door slamming, noisily moving about, crying people. There are those in between simply annoying and the dangerous; the liars, fibbers, gossips, cheats, chronic complainers, drama queens and back stabbers. I call these folks the “untouchables”, because I really prefer they not touch my life, in any respect. I don’t want to even share space with them. Seek to avoid. The truly dangerous folks are more likely to be dangerous to themselves, but can sometimes be dangerous to those around them; the self-destructive, the addicts, whether drugs, alcohol, overeating, promiscuity, overspending, or violence, these extremists are a danger to themselves and others, often out of a need for attention.

And we all fall into one, or more, categories, depending on our personal collection of habits and our, often unrealized, need for attention. That need for attention is often so deep seated that we do not, and often cannot ever, know what its original source is or was. Often a result of childhood, whether out of birth order, family upheaval, uncertainty, instability, or some other childhood family dynamic, or a behavioral development from later in life, experiences in adolescence, peer pressure, trauma, or low self esteem.

Low self-esteem, actually, is at the root of most attention deficits, no matter what the original catalyst was. And I don’t mean attention deficit disorder, that’s a topic for a whole other conversation, I mean, simply, the gap between the amount of attention we think we deserve versus the amount of attention we are receiving from the people that surround us, whether at work, at home, at school, or all of our environments.

These behaviors are so ingrained that we are usually quite unaware. It’s not like we sit there and contemplate what action we’re going to employ to receive some kind of notice or attention. Let’s take an annoying action, like sneezing loudly. I’m quite certain people who sneeze extraordinarily loudly don’t intentionally plot out their actions each and every time their nose tickles a bit. But somewhere along the line, most likely in youth, a loud, over exaggerated sneeze garnered them a certain amount of, most likely, somewhat negative attention. But, attention nonetheless. I often think loud sneezers, coughers, gastric upset noisemakers did not receive all the attention they desired from their parents or other family members, it became a means of standing out, of making their presence known. Loud coughers, I think, are either from the previous category, or fit into the very popular and overused hypochondriac category, drawing attention to oneself through the expression of illness, infirmity and/or injury because it’s easier than satisfying the attention quota through a more positive, active means such as achievement or merit.

That, actually, is what I think it all comes down to; we seek attention and because we lack the means to garner it through merit or achievement, perhaps resulting from events or circumstances early in life, we find other, less desirable but marginally effective means of filling the void. So, the key, then, is to identify our undesirable patterns for attracting attention, do some sincere self-reflection as to the cause or, better yet, the method for achieving the results or merit to gain more positive attention. Sounds easy, right? If only. Many of the troubles in the world would be solved if for that.

I think the first step, then, after some sincere soul searching and self-reflection, is to examine our self-esteem. How do WE feel about ourselves? Are we people we’d like to spend time with? Would we want to work with ourselves, live with ourselves, marry ourselves? Do we really, truly, genuinely like ourselves, admire ourselves, and, here it is, give ourselves the time and attention we deserve? If the answer to any portion of that is anything but a resounding “YES!” we have some work to do.

Do you suspect, as I do, that the ever increasing reliance of many on anti-depressants and other mind or mood altering drugs or treatments is to treat nothing more than symptoms or conditions caused by chronic low self-esteem issues? I honestly think low self-esteem is the one epidemic, yes, epidemic, that will have the most long term, destructive impact on our population, our society, and humanity as a whole. An organic cure for self-esteem, I promise, is all the world needs now. That and, as the song says, love sweet love. But self-esteem and love sweet love are also related. It is, in my humble and perhaps naive opinion, the one cure to almost everything. In fact, if our democracy collapses, I will blame low self-esteem. If our planet is colonized by alien life forms, I will blame low self-esteem. It is the root of all evil.

With stress and depression more and more often being considered contributing factors to conditions, illness and disease, and, if I’m even half right, low self-esteem being at the root of stress and depression, doesn’t it make a hell of a lot more sense to treat low self esteem than the results of it; stress and depression?  Lets treat the cause, not the symptoms that result from it, or the disease that manifests from the resulting stress and depression.

How, then, do we treat low self-esteem? The best method, of course, is prevention, early in childhood. Raising children in a manner that builds a healthy self-esteem will prevent many of the negative behavior patterns for fulfilling attention deficits. For the rest of us, it is a process, and one that has no one, prescribed, course of action. If you answered any of the questions above with anything other than a resounding “YES!” then start to take a hard look at your own self-esteem. Read books, read blogs, and, basically, identify what it is about you that you don’t like and fix it. This is definitely an oversimplified course of action, but in it’s condensed form, is true. I have written and written and written on measures to improve self-esteem, actions I have personally researched, used, and achieved satisfactory results from. No, the same methods will not work for everyone in every situation, but, you have to start somewhere and that first step, after identifying the problem, is educating yourself. Which I continue to do, and which I continue to write about.

So, the next time you sneeze, cough, laugh or belch, loud enough for people to exclaim, the next time you fib, tell an unsavory story about someone else, or cheat, the next time you take that drug, beat your partner or hurt yourself purposefully, stop. Think. And realize, this is a you problem, as one of my co-workers likes to say. This isn’t about anyone but you. To solve your self-esteem issues is the best, most wonderful attention anyone can pay you. And you’re in luck! You’re the only one who can do it! You don’t have to rely on anyone else to pay you this high honor! Just you! The trick, then, is to figure, out how, and that could be both hard and time consuming. The good news is, once you begin to pay yourself the attention you deserve in identifying and trying to figure out and solve your self esteem issues, you’ll likely find you require a little less attention from external sources. Nurture this and you’re well on your way. If you are in the latter category, a danger to yourself or others, after identifying your issue, the first step is going to be seeking professional help in taking the next steps. Yours is not a road to be walked alone.

So, in case you’re still wondering what the positive methods for attracting more positive attention are, they begin with you and revolve around your self-esteem. It is unlikely that many will adore, cherish, love, respect and honor you if you, yourself, do not find yourself worthy of being adored, cherished, loved, respected and honored. If you think poorly of yourself, sadly, that is the precedent you set for others, and it manifests. Our evolution into the person we’d like to become begins with an initial effort, to feel that we deserve to become the person we’d like to become. Until we clear that hurdle, nothing else, no matter the effort made, can be accomplished. Our evolution is only made possible by our self-worthiness. Until then, it is only a futile effort. Find within yourself the ability to approve of and to like yourself, then the rest will begin to evolve from there. With continued effort.

Do I have your attention, now?

The Beautiful People

I don’t know who they are, exactly. I do know that I am not one of them, or at least that’s what I’ve been told many, many times in my life. They get things and I don’t. Somehow they are more deserving than me, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe many, many times in my life. I envision Jennifer Aniston, who is indeed beautiful, but I don’t think any more deserving than, say, me. Or you.

In the naiveté of childhood I would say, “Mommy, I’d like a house like that some day,” or “I want to live in Paris some day”, and often these musings were met with the same response, “that’s for the beautiful people.” Was my mom calling me ugly? Or just undeserving? Was she being pragmatic, or instilling in me limiting beliefs? Both. I’m sure her intent was to soothe me, to reassure me, that a good enough life was good enough. A modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. Those seemed to be her very practical hopes and dreams for me. Her expectations, even, as I spent much of my life enduring “should” storms. I should study this, I should say that, I should buy this kind of house, that kind of car, etc. Of course, none of it was what I wanted, but I’m wondering if what I wanted was the opposite of what she expected, just out of my own stubborn rebellion. Could be.

The beautiful people, I gather, are people who are wealthy, have multiple homes, travel extravagantly, drive exotic cars, dine outrageously and live luxuriously. The beautiful people can afford all the shoes they want! They can afford all the Louboutin’s they want! Beautiful people only hang out with other beautiful people. If I had to guess. And I can’t be part of the club, according to my mom. Ever. I’m just NOT one of the beautiful people.

But, in my stubborn rebellion, I refuse to believe that. I AM in the same club as the beautiful people, I have a lot in common with them! We are like THIS! I have 206 bones in my body. So do the beautiful people. I inhale and my body uses some of the oxygen in the air and when I exhale I breathe out carbon dioxide. So do the beautiful people. If I drink too much wine I get weird. So do the beautiful people. If I wear new shoes and walk a lot, I get blisters. So do the beautiful people. I require a bit of sleep every night. So do the beautiful people. If I cut myself I bleed. So do the beautiful people. I am a human being, capable of endless possibilities and limited only by my beliefs. So are the beautiful people.

I hope I raised my own children to believe they are the beautiful people, capable of anything they set their minds to, empowered, unlimited. I know my parents had all the best intentions in the world in raising me, and, truthfully, I am grateful for them. With the exception of being automatically disqualified from the beautiful people club. Because now, at this advanced stage in life, I still want to be part of the club, and I have to battle those limiting beliefs that I am just not one of them, that I am somehow different or less deserving. But you know what? I don’t have a modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. I lied. I do have a reliable, economical car, but I desperately want to trade it in on something a little flashier. My point is, I have rebelled against every other expectation, so why not the expectation that I’m not one of the beautiful people?

Limiting beliefs compromise our potential. They prevent us not only from achieving our potential, but from even recognizing the potential of or our potential. Most of us never come close to what we are truly capable of learning, doing, sharing. Just think, for a moment; if we were all limitless, do you think we’d still be struggling with a cure for cancer? For AIDS? Do you think our economy would be a shambles? Our political system devoid of true and worthy leaders? If we all reached a quarter of our potential, the world would be unrecognizable, I’m sure, from what we see today. And yet, only the bravest and most motivated of us will spend the better part of our lives trying to crawl out from under our learned or, often, self-imposed, limitations, leaving very little time left in life to accomplish great things. The single best thing we can do to turn the Titanic around is to teach our young people that they are unlimited. There are, indeed, many beautiful people out there who came from very limited situations, never claimed those limits as their own, and became those beautiful people.

I know I am going to battle against any and every limitation, learned, or self-imposed, in order to achieve something worthwhile and meaningful in this world. It’s more than a material conquest to me, oh no, I desperately want to make a difference! And the difference I’d like to make is to help people identify and discard their limitations and become beautiful people along with me. You, me, and Jen Aniston. Beautiful people.