That’s Life

You’re a baby and you see toddlers walking and riding trikes and playing; you want to be a toddler.

You’re a toddler and you see the preschoolers going to preschool, they have friends and play games and have fun; you want to be a preschooler.

You’re a preschooler and you see the kindergartners going to “real school” and they’re so big and get to learn so many things and play on a bigger playground; you want to be a kindergartner.

You’re a kindergartner and you see the grade school kids go into classrooms and learn to read and do math and stay at school with their friends all day; you want to be a grade schooler.

You’re a grade schooler and you see the middle school kids. They’re so cool and fashionable and worldly; you can’t wait to be a middle school kid.

Middle school is sheer hell; you can’t wait to get to high school.

High school is much harder than it looked and you have to deal with adult emotions and relationships and responsibility before you’re really emotionally ready for it. You just want to grow up enough to deal with all this. College will be better.

That's life.
That’s life.

College is stressful, you feel a little unprepared and overwhelmed, it isn’t as easy as you thought it would be, and you still don’t feel emotionally ready to deal with adulthood plus the workload of college, and now there’s money to worry about, too. Graduation and a career job will be so much better.

Finding a job is really hard. Finding a job in your field of study is even harder. The student loans are due, friendships are harder to maintain now that everyone is grown up and working full time, trying to pay off student loans and make their way. Some friends are married already, some have pets they treat like children, some have children they treat like pets. How are we ready for all this? Your relationship is serious, but is it real? Is it right? Is this the one? How do you know?

You’re sick to death of your job, all you want is a new boss, new responsibilities, something interesting, some growth, some challenge. Your relationship has endured and even taken on a life of its own. It isn’t joyful but it seems to work, like the path of least resistance, it isn’t “bad”, so don’t try to fix it, or break it. If only you didn’t have so many personal and financial responsibilities, you’d quit all of it and go backpacking across Europe for a year. Or two. Friends have done that, they survived, why can’t you just do something crazy like that?

Seems like marriage is the next logical step. The career is going well, mind numbingly well. There seems to be only enough time to work, eat dinner, maybe fall asleep in front of TV and go to bed for a brief spell before starting all over again tomorrow morning. It’ll all pay off if you work harder, it’s all about making progress.

Married now. Got that to pay off, too. Career continues to grow, oh so slowly, like watching grass grow, but in super slow-mo. You thought you’d be so much further ahead, you thought this was what you were working for all this time, but everything is only partially paid for. We want kids, now, while we’re young enough.

Baby is here, so blessed! It’ll be cool when baby is a toddler and can do more than giggle, coo, eat and poo. Blessed, though, so blessed. Going to work is hard. You’re really, really tired. Blessed, but tired.

Another baby. The first is now a toddler, thought we’d better have another before the first was so old. Makes sense to get the diaper and drooling thing over, once and for all, as quickly as possible. Can you imagine how terrific life will be when they’re both put of diapers? Still feel blessed. More exhausted now. Work is just there, you’ll get the career back on track once your regain consciousness, again.

One in preschool one in school, two time schedules, two drops offs, two pickups. You wonder how you accomplish work, commute, drop off, pick up, dinner, TV, and sleep all in a 24-hour recurring nightmare. You live for weekends, except they end up being an endless parade of Costco trips, themed birthday parties and yard work. You miss college. You miss your friends, you miss the person you married, you miss you and the only friends you ever see are parents of other kids at cheesy themed birthday parties. You don’t ever want to eat store bought birthday cake frosting again. Or cake, for that matter. It’ll be better when both kids are grade schoolers.

Soccer and T-ball and karate and cheerleading and softball and swim lessons and math tutors. Your childhood was so simple by comparison, you’d really like to go back! You drive a big, unstylish car and it’s full of Goldfish and Cheerios and empty, sticky Capri Sun pouches, which, by the way, you’re out of, time to go to Costco again. Is it Sunday already? How did that happen? It’ll be easier when the kids are in high school and can drive themselves.

How do you parent teenagers? They’re so difficult to deal with, moody, angry, sullen, always right, always questioning authority. You love them, of course, but they’re really so much needier than you ever remember being, so much needier than they realize they are, so vulnerable, really. You thought it was hard when you were a teenager, this is a whole different world. Life was simple then, God, you wish you could go back.

College applications, SAT scores and unlikely scholarships. How did that happen? You groomed those kids in every sport, knowing a full ride, athletic scholarship was the only way college for two would be anywhere near affordable. There is the meager college savings, but even that pales compared to what’s necessary. It all came so fast. It seems like you “just” paid off your student loans, and now there will be a whole new batch of student loans. How can an education possibly cost so much, and is it really worth it? How far have you gotten with your college education, not as far as you hoped. But once the nest is empty you can focus on your career again, make some real headway in the decade or so before retirement.

The nest is empty. This is weird. You don’t even know your spouse, it’s like living with a stranger, like starting all over, in an arranged marriage. You miss the kids, you wish they were little again, those were the good days. Your old friends are going through the same thing, the ones that are still alive, God, and some are so ill, and others are alone, divorced, addicted. Life is so precious, it’s hard, so hard, but fleeting and precious. You feel incredibly mortal. Incredibly vulnerable, more helpless at times than when you were an infant. It’ll get better when retirement comes, the just reward for the hard-working, prudent average American.

Skydiving! You felt alive for ten minutes. You can’t believe you just squandered three hundred bucks.

The resort vacations are disappointing; paying all that money to just sit around and drink, in a slightly nicer climate. You can sit and drink at home and get better TV. What a waste of time and money, but it’s what all your friends are doing. You still wonder about backpacking across Europe. Do people your age do that? Do you care? You wish you had the guts.

The gold watch, no pension, an anemic portfolio, and a retirement account that doesn’t even cover the debt amassed from the kids’ college. Volatility of real estate values and skyrocketing healthcare keeps you awake at night, there’s a pill for that. The copays on your prescriptions alone are staggering. You worry about the kids, they are struggling getting their careers off the ground, it is so competitive out there, and with a young family, how do they find the time, money and energy for all that. It was so much simpler when you were raising your family. The worry is suffocating, day and night. There’s a pill for that, too. It’ll be better when the grandkids are older.

The grandkids are headed for college. How do the kids afford all that? The house, the car, the bills, spousal support, therapy, and their lifestyle? You don’t understand their fast-paced, fractured, fragmented and technology dependent lives. All of their friendships and business dealing seem to be contained in a small device permanently clutched in their hand, persistently distracting them from conversation, from the moment at hand. You look into their eyes and catch a glimpse of sheer terror, theirs? Or was it a reflection of your own expression? You feel more mortal than ever, but you wonder how they’ll get by without you. You long for simpler times, you think about the past, when you aren’t worrying about the future. You wish you were a child again. Life was so simple. Where did your life go?

Or did life ever even happen? You were waiting for it to begin for half your life, and mourning its passage the second half. Ah, but, is that life? Or is it not? There is still time, though you never know how much. Grab that backpack and a Eurailpass, quick, before you talk yourself out of it! Life begins with the next breath! You only need to learn that, and breathe.

Life is in each moment, each precious, each unique. Every moment is a new beginning, if you only wish it to be. The moment you decide to live, to embrace that moment, you shall. Live your life. Now.

 

 

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!

The Ultimate Love Affair

Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s talk about love! A very common topic for the day! Let’s talk about love affairs! Let’s talk about the ULTIMATE love affair!

An Effort to Evolve

What do we all want out of our love relationships, whether we have a love interest now, or are searching for one, or even if we’ve sort of given up? The ultimate love affair; what would it be like? Deep, lasting, secure, passionate, compassionate, considerate, kind, beautiful, romantic, thoughtful, nurturing, appreciative, loving, honest, and faithful. I could go on and on. I know, I know, it sounds like a Hallmark card, which is why I usually buy Papyrus cards, instead. Back to the question at hand, though; is a love affair like this possible? Can something like this be real? And forever? Yes. It can. Yes. It should be. Yes, it must be.

Next question; how?

First, let’s talk about your lover, the target of your cupid’s arrow. I’m not actually speaking of your significant other, your spouse, your lover, your life partner, though having a relationship with that person as described above is certainly our universal intent. The lover I am speaking of today, the party to your ultimate love affair is – you. I dedicate this day of love and lovers to you.

Most of us have been raised to believe that self-love is conceit, to put oneself before any other is selfish. This could not be further from the truth. It is sad that we are raised in this fashion, that society reinforces this standard. I can’t help but think that this philosophy contributes partially, if not primarily, to the number of unhappy people, to the annuls of the depressed, the clinically depressed and the millions of people on prescription drugs to “treat”, more like mask, something rooted in our misconception of self-worth.

If we are incapable of loving ourselves, how can we effectively love others? If we are incapable of loving ourselves, how can we expect others to find us lovable?

We must first learn to love ourselves, then we are in a position to love others and to receive the love of others. Loving ourselves is the foundation for all love we are to experience in our lives, both in giving and in receiving.

Most of us find ourselves in a position of caregiver at some point in our lives. We have a spouse or life partner whom we are to care for. We have a family to raise. We have friendships. We have parents who inevitably age. We must first care for ourselves in order to be able to most effectively care for others. If we don’t care for ourselves, we may not be able to provide appropriate or adequate care for those we love.  Do we know people, who, as parents, aren’t able, physically, to ride bikes with their kids because they’ve never cared for themselves, physically? Do we know people who are unable to show affection to their spouse because of unhealed wounds from childhood or from previous relationships that have been left unresolved, open and festering? There are millions of examples, I’m sure, and all cause unnecessary pain and suffering. Often they cause betrayal and the end of love.

As a party to a loving relationship with others, again with the list describing the ultimate love affair in mind, if we are not loving of ourselves, we are setting the example, the expectation, of how we are to be treated by those around us. If we are self-loathing in what we say and do, and in what we fail to say and fail to do, we are demonstrating our expectation of love from others. We’ve set the example, through the power of suggestion, actually, beyond mere suggestion, we’ve actually trained and conditioned the people around us to believe our self-loathing beliefs, words and actions. And we act surprised when people treat us poorly, when, in fact, we treat ourselves worse, habitually.

Changing our thoughts, our values, our ingrained belief system about self-love is not a huge undertaking. We do not need to re-engineer ourselves from the ground up. We just need to shift our focus a little, we just need to understand the hierarchy or love a little more. Then, with a little mindfulness and a little conditioning and a little fun, we can experience the ultimate love affair. Then the rest of the world will follow.

So, again; how?

Step one; listen to how you talk to yourself. Most of us spend a great deal of time in conversation with ourselves in the ultimate echo chamber, our heads. We ridicule, criticize and berate ourselves constantly in our thoughts. The remedy is simple. Stop. The methods for stopping self-destructive thoughts and chatter are numerous. I, personally, thrive on mindfulness through meditation, affirmations, gratitude, and “prayer”. There are books by the hundreds, explore a few and find one or two you find provide practical methods to relieve yourself of the constant barrage of self-criticism. One of my favorite books is Jillian Michaels “Unlimited“.

Step two; get physical. There is nothing better for the soul, for the self, than improving one’s general health and well being. If we care enough for ourselves, physically, we are better able to provide care to those around us; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Seeing your body change as you gain fitness, seeing your skin radiate and your smile appear more easily as a result of regular exercise is one of the best self-esteem boosts imaginable. Exercise, regular exercise, is fantastic not only for the body, but for the mind and the soul. You deserve that kind of attention. Again, the vehicles to fitness are more in number than the models of cars you’ll find at the auto mall. Test drive a few and find something that fits. The best book I’ve devoured this year, both in print and in audio, “Younger Next Year for Women“.

Step three; get a good ad campaign. Why do you buy the brands you buy? Cars, phones, shampoo, cereal, beer? Branding and strategic advertising and marketing, whether you like it or not, that’s the answer. Now, you need to sell yourself on, well, yourself. This is where you get to have some fun and maybe even get a little creative. Take some time each and every day to market to yourself what it is about yourself you find so amazing. Try to find something new every day. Find some way to collect all these “ads” together so you can review them periodically. This is where you can get creative. I’ve seen a few ideas, recently, being the beginning of a new year, that I thought were terrific. One was the “gratitude jar“. I like that. How about an “attitude jar”, too? Where you write down something you love about yourself on a slip of paper every day and put it in the jar. Read through them every month or so. Take a look at the “365 Grateful” and adapt that. Take a picture of yourself every day, throughout the year, and create an album of them. Another idea I stumbled across the other day was a video project by Brooks Wheelan, a one second video clip every day for a year, again, adapt this so you have a second (or two, or three, or five) long selfie everyday and compile them into a video monthly. Maybe even film yourself saying one of your affirmations out loud everyday! Or reading your “attitude jar” slip of paper out loud and dropping it into the jar! See? Creativity! Fun!

Step four; give it away. Volunteer. The more you donate the good things you have to offer, the more you receive in return. No one is exempt, here. We all have gifts, talents, time and other “free” stuff that others, less fortunate than we are, will appreciate and benefit from. Volunteering is nurturing for our souls and reinforces good feelings we have of ourselves. Making a difference, no matter how small, makes a big difference in how we value ourselves.

Step five; give it all away. De-clutter. We are not our stuff. We are prisoners to our stuff. Liberating ourselves from unnecessary clutter actually lifts our spirits measurably. We are literally and figuratively weighed down by the stuff we allow to accumulate around us at home, at work, in our cars, even when confined to garages, spare bedrooms, expensive storage units, or the trunk of the car. We should respect ourselves enough to live and work and drive in a clean, uncluttered space. Minimalism is maximizing joy and self-esteem. Check out some books on the topic, my favorite is “The Joy of Less – Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life“.

Step six; sex sells. If nothing I’ve said so far hasn’t made you fidget a bit, this one probably will. Let’s talk about building sexual confidence. Let’s talk about unleashing our inner Samantha Jones, or Don Draper. There is power in sexuality, in sensuality. There is confidence in power. Men and women, alike, appreciate a sexually confident partner. Confidence under the covers, or on the kitchen counter, or wherever, brings more enjoyment and excitement to sex, which usually increases the frequency of the act and, well, everyone is glowing happily, way more often. Gaining sexual confidence is the trick. Again, books? Maybe a class? Yes, there are classes. A sexologist? A few concepts; Know thyself, really. You need to know how it all works. Get comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable with the way you look you aren’t going to be confident. You don’t have to be a super model to be sexy. Sexy comes in all shapes and sizes. Again, it’s confidence and know-how. One way to gain more comfort with how you look, in “that” way is to, well, take it all in. Spend some “me time” in front of the mirror, regularly. Not once a year, more like once a day. Or, get out your camera and Include pictures of “yourself” in your pictures of yourself. This is all about you, all about all of you. If you can’t talk about sex with yourself, who can you talk about sex to? My favorite author on the topic is Veronica Monet who authors “Veronica Monet’s Sex Secrets of Escorts: Tips from a Pro“.

Step seven; social network. Be with people, they are like mirrors of yourself along your journey. We are social creatures, we are meant to be with others, to socialize and interact. People who are withdrawn from social interaction suffer far more physical, psychological and emotional maladies than those of us who are socially active. And in our social contact, again, be mindful of those thoughts. Judgmental thoughts of others, like judgmental thoughts of self, are poison and have a virtual life of their own. In mastering good thoughts of self, practice good thoughts of others and notice how many more smiles you are greeted by. The golden rule really is golden, even in our thoughts. Think of others as you’d like to be thought of. The golden rule works in reverse, too. When you think of yourself in a positive light, people will respond in kind, and when you treat yourself as well as you treat others, you’ll see a shift in your self-esteem and in how people react to you and treat you.  As your self-love develops and your self-confidence grows, you’ll notice that people react to you differently.

Step eight; spoiled rotten. When you’re in love you take great pleasure in spoiling your sweetheart. So, if you love yourself you should be spoiling yourself a little, too. We can all afford to be a little self-indulgent. Don’t go overboard, of course, but do make an effort to treat yourself on occasion. I have a membership with a national chain of massage spas. I pay a reduced, monthly fee and am entitled to a massage worth about twice the price I pay each and every month. There is evidence that massage and therapeutic touch are very beneficial in enhancing our well being. Consider an occasional facial or manicure and pedicure to boost your self-esteem, or perhaps a cute shirt to replace some less than attractive wardrobe piece you find yourself wearing a little too often. Shoes. Never underestimate the power of a cute, new pair of shoes. If you love desserts but are cutting back for health purposes, consider having one divine dessert a week as a treat, your just desserts! Think of positive ways to spoil yourself, and then do.

Step nine; don’t let yourself down. My kids used to tell me they absolutely hated letting me down in some way, it bothered them to no end if they thought I might be disappointed in them. I didn’t beat them or punish them or yell at them (much), but I had a way of looking when I was disappointed, sort of a sad look, and they sought to avoid it. The same is true when we let ourselves down in some way. Sure, life is filled with good intentions, but I find there is nothing so deflating as letting yourself down. Those days when I plan to work out, then wimp out instead, I’m disappointed in myself. I have a hard time feeling super good about myself if I’ve disappointed myself. For many of us, this is an every day occurrence on several levels. The first step is to get real. If we set goals and guidelines that are practical and manageable, we are more likely to succeed, and, feel good about ourselves. Our goals can build on earlier goals. It might be impractical to say “I’m not going to overeat ever again and I’m going to work out an hour every single day.” Day one comes and goes and we’ve failed at both and our self-esteem spirals further. And for each successive day that we overeat and don’t work out for a whole hour we become even more disappointed and self-critical. If we take baby steps, achieve some success and then plan a slightly bigger step a bit later on, we’ll bolster our self-esteem and make steady, measurable progress towards our ultimate desire. Get real. Make goals reasonable and achievable. Follow through. Hold yourself accountable. Live up to your own expectations. Make yourself proud. And if you do blow it, now and then, don’t beat yourself up. Pat yourself on your back, give yourself a little kind encouragement, and try, try again.

Step ten; go out on a limb. Insert adventure into your life, it builds confidence, it builds experiences, it enhances life. For some of us, adventure may be shopping at a new boutique instead of Wal Mart. For others, it may be walking in a park we haven’t visited before, or going to a coffee shop alone with a book and a tablet instead of drinking our coffee in front of the morning show at home. And, for some of us, adventure means travel or daring feats, traveling to India or skydiving, Germany or scuba lessons. The point is, we become more confident every time we do something that scares us a little. Eleanor once said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Step eleven; detox. Don’t hang around negative people. If there are people in your life that affirm your self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, they need to be made to disappear. Don’t hire a hit man, just clean house. Pull up the welcome mat when they’re in the neighborhood. We have the liberty of choosing who we spend time with, choose people who nurture your attempts to be happier. Occasionally, people who drag us down, or worse, pull us down, are inescapable; family members or spouses. Reason with them, if you can, distance yourself as much as possible if they can’t be reasoned with. You deserve to be treated with respect and love, by yourself and by every one you spend time with. You deserve to be around people who support and affirm your efforts and anyone else is just undermining your progress. Be harsh.

Step twelve; vigilance. Do this daily for the rest of your life and you will have a love affair that is deep, lasting, secure, passionate, compassionate, considerate, kind, beautiful, romantic, thoughtful, nurturing, appreciative, loving, honest, faithful. Forever. And when you love you, everyone else loves you, too. What’s not to love? Lovability begins with our ability to love ourselves. Show them the way.

P.S. The best relationship book I’ve ever read ten times is “The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships”, I highly recommend it, if you’re looking to enhance your experience beyond your love of self!

Love is Like the Stock Market

Love and the success of our relationships is just like the stock market. There are risks. There are rewards. And, without risk, there can be no reward. There is the potential for catastrophe if mismanaged. There is the potential for wealth, prosperity and security. The outcome is based mostly on what we know and how we apply that knowledge. There are always external factors that cause some uncertainty, doubt and risk, but, again, how the investment is managed on a regular basis mitigates much of this.

Investment. That is the key. Neither lasting love nor a rewarding portfolio will ever be possible unless we invest. And, like stocks, love never comes with guarantees. With wisdom, discernment and due care, though, investment in stocks and investment in a loving relationship is likely to perform well, over the long-term, providing us with all we hope to attain; wealth, prosperity and security. The longer we stay invested, the better the return, too!

We must take risks in love and in money to experience success. We either invest in a carefully selected portfolio, each stock selected based on the integrity of the company and the likelihood of growth, or we keep our money in a savings account at the bank, earning next to nothing in interest. Love is the same. We choose our love interest based on their integrity and the likelihood for growth, or we hide our love away in a low interest bearing account and wring our hands at our lack of fortune. We can either take the leap of faith and invest our hard earned dollars in the market, or stuff our money in our mattress for a lifetime and die alone and not very rich.

I don’t often quote anything from the Bible, but a parable comes to mind, from my childhood Sunday school days; the parable of the bags of gold (talents), from Matthew 25:14-30. In this lesson, a king, in preparation for a journey, entrusted three of his servants with his wealth divided into bags of gold, each a different amount based on the skills and abilities of the servant. In his absence, two of the servants invested their share of the king’s wealth wisely, worked hard and doubled the sum. For this they were rewarded, upon the king’s return, with additional wealth. The third servant buried the gold in the dirt, and the king punished him by taking his share of the gold and distributing it to the other two servants. In investing money, or investing in love, the same lesson applies; if we invest well and work hard, we will be rewarded with growth and wealth. If we bury our money or love “in the dirt”, not only will it not grow, we will likely lose that which we had to invest in as well.

I follow a popular author regarding investing and growing wealth by the name of Phil Town. I have seen him speak and I have read his books, admiring his straightforward and practical philosophy. In his book, “Rule #1”, he outlines his sensible approach to investing; never invest in a company, as in buy stock, if you wouldn’t want to own and run the company yourself. In other words, do you believe in what the company does? How they conduct their business; treat their employees, the environment, their political positions, etc. Phil suggests carefully researching the company you wish to invest in, if you would be happy to own the company based on their management, philosophy, how they conduct business and they are a sound investment, invest. If not, don’t.

Phil’s methodology applies to people we seek to have relationships with. If we are comfortable with how they manage themselves (integrity, honesty, fidelity), their philosophy is in alignment with ours or compliments ours, and they conduct their business well, they don’t take advantage of people, they are respectful, grateful, kind, loving, have a good work ethic, then they are probably worth the risk, worth investing in. If not, then don’t.

The initial investment is the first, big step, of course, but its what happens after the initial investment that will make or break the bank, again, in love and in money. Sure, once we invest, there may be moments of uncertainty and volatility, which is normal, in the market and in love. There may be lulls in the market, too, where nothing seems to move in any direction. We need to be aware of this, never should we ignore it, nor should we microscopically manage our “portfolio”. We should always keep in mind the points we considered when we made our initial investment and then monitor the trends for long-term growth. We once valued the basis for our decision, considered the points valid and of merit, are they still valid? If so, then hang on tight and ride out the uncertainty of the market. If not, consider adjusting your portfolio or liquidating the investment. Over the long term, even if there are momentary dips, the value of a carefully selected and scrupulously maintained portfolio will increase, providing that which we look for, growth, wealth and security.

How many little old ladies have you heard of who bought two shares of some solid blue chip stock sixty years ago that have amassed a small fortune from the meager investment? Who got in on Apple, Microsoft and Intel early and rode it out? Any complaints? Any regrets? I think not.

Is love somehow different? No, not really. The same basic principles apply. Invest. Assume some risk. Nurture. Reap growth, wealth and security for the long-term.

How is your portfolio performing? Are you invested for the long term?
How is your portfolio performing? Are you invested for the long term?

Like everything in life, there is balance. Moderation is key. Once the initial investment is made, again, either in money or in love, how we manage things thereafter will make the difference between catastrophe and loss or growth, wealth and security. Following are a couple of examples.

I once worked with a company that had a great 401(k) option comprised of several mutual funds of varying degrees of risk. We could determine how our investment and any matching monies were distributed between the funds we selected. We had the ability to manage the money between the funds, we could reset the percentage of each investment, which occurred each and every pay period, as often as we liked. The account manager would visit the company once a year and update us on the market, the funds, and provide some guidance with our investment “strategy”, and his favorite saying was “set it and forget it.” In other words, he recommended selecting funds based on what decade of life we were in, a “balanced” approach, slanted more aggressively for the younger folks and more conservatively for the older folks, and somewhere in between for the folks in between. The company I worked for was a high-tech start up company, focusing in surgical robotics. The company was made up of the best and brightest minds in business and the best and brightest minds in engineering. And a few other people, too. Over the months and years, three very different investment strategies evolved, and not as the fund manager suggested, basing level of risk on proximity to retirement. One group of people “set it and forgot it”, never reviewing performance or trends, and, as you might expect, when developments in the market occurred, they incurred more losses than they would have had they been a little more committed to paying attention. The second group shuffled their investments, the percentage of their withholding to each fund and every minute detail on almost a daily basis. They, too, lost more than they gained and drove themselves mad in the practice. The third group made their initial selections, reviewed performance quarterly or so, paid attention to the market and trends and made minor adjustments here and there. This third group saw much better growth over time than the other two.

In relationships, “setting it and forgetting it” will reap similar results to what I described above. Things change whether we are paying attention or not. While we shouldn’t overreact to every tiny little change, we need to be aware of the shift in trends in our relationships; jobs, kids, careers, health, wellness, lifestyle, just to name a few. If we fail to nurture the relationship, as with our portfolio, if we don’t revisit it, we are likely to suffer losses. Investments and love were never meant to be on autopilot. Likewise, we can’t just “dump a lump” into a ten-year “high yield” certificate of deposit and expect to retire in comfortably and securely, unless we’re starting with millions of dollars to invest. In a relationship, if you invest and ignore it for ten years, your “high yield” may not keep up with the rate of inflation or the changes in the economy of love. In love, like money, paying attention pays long-term profits.

On the other end of the spectrum; over-managing our investments, whether love or money, can have devastating results. In the company 401(k), the folks who constantly manipulated their investment strategy actually fared, long-term, worse than those who were of the “set it and forget it” ilk. By being reactive to every fractional fluctuation, to every tidbit of propaganda, hype and hysteria that some people call, “the news” and to every investing analyst’s utterance, there was never enough consistency with any one fund to reap any reward. At all. This is not much different than day trading. Yes, insane amounts of money can be made in day trading, but it is a lifestyle that many simply cannot sustain. My personal experience with day trading is a tale of catastrophic loss, and not just money. My husband decided to begin “day-trading”, which I also like to call “gambling”, when he abandoned his successful software consulting business after nearly twenty years, letting it wither and die rather than retool and market. He followed his passion, which I supported, into real estate finance, at precisely the wrong time of the century. Day trading with the equity in our homes became “our only hope”. And, it may have worked, had he the gumption, bravado and risk adversity for such a gamble. Five years later, the equity is gone, the savings is gone, the retirement nest egg is gone, the college fund for the kids is gone, the real estate is gone, and his family is gone. It wasn’t just his risk adversity that cost him, it was the level of devotion to his trading that cost him. He was unable, well, unwilling, to seek gainful employment that would “require” he work while the market was open. He was unwilling to contribute to the family in any way during the hours the market was open, like driving children to school, even when I was out of town for work. It was not a sustainable model even if he’d been able to press the button and make a trade.

One of the CPAs I worked with, a very wise man, one of the only people I know who aced the CPA exam, told me, time and again, based on his tax practice, never, ever, ever has anyone involved with day-trading been able to sustain their efforts successfully, for the long term. They either have to quit while they’re ahead, which, considering it has an appeal similar to gambling, is not likely, or they will eventually lose everything.

Okay, love is no different. If we invest all we’ve got and then micromanage every aspect of the relationship, wringing our hands at what’s at stake, analyzing and overanalyzing every little uptick or downturn in the chart, we will never be able to sustain the relationship to our liking and we will eventually lose everything. At some point, we will blow it and buy when we should sell, or sell when we should buy and we’ll completely blow everything we’ve got invested. We cannot change people, and we should never “invest” in a relationship if we expect the other party to change. We must “invest” because we think it is wise based on sound and solid grounds, not because we think we can make it work by tweaking every aspect of the relationship or the parties to the relationship, continually. Relationships and love, like investing in the market, should be nurtured. We should pay attention to our investments, add a little more to this “fund”, a little less to another “fund” based on careful consideration and feedback, and only as absolutely necessary.

In investing, we should always be reinvesting what is earned in the matter of interest and dividends, we should not frivolously spend our proceeds. We should also be investing additional amounts, on a regular basis, to be sure our portfolio grows to sustain us through hard times and to provide for us through our golden years. We’ll never have wealth and prosperity if we invest a hundred bucks once and never add another penny, no matter how long we ride the market. If we are able to set aside amounts at regular intervals to add to our nest egg, we will be able to accumulate a nice amount. Again, love is no different. The initial investment is important, yes, but reinvesting and making regular contributions will add exponentially to what is earned and to what is accrued.

The portfolio approach to love. We should “invest” in a relationship based on careful consideration and with any eye towards long-term growth. We should manage our investment by nurturing the relationship based on shifts, trends and feedback and much consideration and discernment. We should never just set aside our investment and assume, in neglect, it will accrue interest. The interest we accrue should be reinvested, not foolishly squandered. Like the companies we invest in, the stock we buy, the funds we participate in, with knowledge, maturity, wisdom and respect, our investment in love, in our relationships, will flourish and grow. We will find security and prosperity and a life of wealth, rich with love and joyful experiences. For the long term.

Scarlett’s Letter February 6, 2014

I had a glorious day today. Some people might say it’s raining today. I say it’s just another, beautiful, wonderful, miraculous day.

When I appeared in the dark, gloomy kitchen this morning, the vertical blinds were pulled as tight as possible over the sliding glass door to the deck, blocking the view and the light and the day. Mom was reading her newspaper in her velour bathrobe. I was in my running tights and windbreaker. I quickly prepared my breakfast, ate it heartily, gathered my running pack and keys and headed for the door. Mom looked at me like I was an alien life form. Going out in the rain. She asked if I was wearing something that would keep me from getting wet. I smiled. My jacket is Gore-Tex, yes, but it really doesn’t matter. As soon as I get home I’m going to voluntarily stand under falling water in the shower. And get wet.

“Can’t you see that it’s just raining?
There ain’t no need to go outside.”
― Jack Johnson

So I went for a run. In the rain. I ran eight miles, in the rain. It wasn’t raining hard, just a little, but the wet sidewalks and bike path were practically empty. Normally, when I run, mid-day, whether a weekday or a weekend day, I encounter dog walkers, runners, power-walkers, joggers, runners, amblers, stroller pushers, cyclists and pedestrians of all sorts. Today, I saw one other runner and two cyclists, one of whom was not at all happy to be cycling, I gathered it was not his preferred mode of transportation, particularly when water was falling from the sky.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
― Dolly Parton

An Effort to Evolve

What a treat, a run in the rain. We’ve been begging for rain, this being the driest winter on record, to date. Ever. We should all be dancing and singing in the streets, faces upturned, letting the rain quench our collective thirst. As I ran past the vineyards, hundreds, literally hundreds of robins sang and flitted about from vine to vine. There are always birds, but in a light rain, especially after a long dry spell, the birds come out and rejoice. Their song is bright and cheerful, magical and miraculous. They bathe in the puddles, flapping their wings and tilting their heads back in glee. And I am the only sole who notices. How lucky am I? I’d be happy to share with more fair weather folks, if they’d be willing to step outside and join me.

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.”
― Vladimir Nabokov

I almost felt guilty for having this joyful experience all to myself. Where was everyone? Were they huddled behind closed doors and clenched curtains? Fretting at the wetness of the day? I am alone here, is it because I am alone here? I don’t mind the rain. I don’t mind being out in the rain. I’ve backpacked in torrential rain and in thunderstorms with treacherous lightning. Happily. I love the mountains in the rain, I love the beach in the rain. I love seeing the drops disturb the surface of the water on a lake or a river. I like cities in the rain, all of the lights reflecting brilliantly off the thousands of wet surfaces. The sound of rain, the smell of rain, the cool feel of rain. Especially the cool feel of rain on my skin when I am warm from exertion, hiking or running. I love watching the clouds drift and float and shape shift. It is magic. I love that my hair curls and doesn’t frizz. I love the sound of rain falling on the roof, tapping against the window, during the night. I like the noise cars make swishing along on wet pavement. I love the sound of my running shoes rhythmically slap-slapping the wet street. It’s almost hypnotic. I love that I get to wear my shiny, new scarlet rain boots when I go run errands this evening. Rain. What’s not to love? So I have a romance with rain.

“I Love a Rainy Night”
― Eddie Rabbit

An Effort to Evolve

Shame on everyone, hunched in their houses, killing, murdering, this glorious day, wiling away the hours in front of television. Dismal. Morose. Lamenting the water falling from the sky, ruining their day. Shame. It was a perfect day. Even when I am forced to be indoors and it is raining, I spend time looking out, watching the rain. I’ll open a window a couple of inches and entice the fresh smell and the sweet sound inside, so I can almost pretend I am outside. I could watch rain out a window for hours. I find it soothing, calming, centering, cleansing.

“Being soaked alone is cold. Being soaked with your best friend is an adventure.”
― Emily Wing Smith

Everything is enhanced when it rains. Food is never so comforting and nourishing and appreciated as when it is raining out. A glass of rich, red wine is never so enjoyable as when it is raining. Sitting on a porch in the countryside while rain falls just a few feet away, feeling the dewiness accumulate on your cheeks; pure heaven. Walking down a busy urban sidewalk, carefully managing your umbrella amidst a thousand other brightly colored umbrellas, looking into the crowded, cheerful, warm, shops and restaurants you pass. And when the rain subsides and the sun returns, everything is shiny and fresh, like a bright, new penny.

Really, so what’s on TV? The news, perhaps? Did they mention it was raining? No doubt.

“It’s all nonsense. It’s only nonsense. I’m not afraid of the rain. I am not afraid of the rain. Oh, oh, God, I wish I wasn’t.”
― Ernest Hemingway

An Effort to Evolve

And, how is rain much different than life? When life isn’t perfectly sunny, do we cower under the covers and wish it would get better? Sit, comatose, in front of some screen or another, watching other people actually live their lives. Or do we give thanks for the day and enjoy the gift that it is? Do we savor the gift of another day and experience it to our fullest, do we cherish the gift of another day and use it wisely to find a path to a sunnier day, a better self, a more fulfilling life?

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
― Maya Angelou

Much like the weather, life is never “perfect”. Sometimes it’s better than others. Weather is the first topic of almost any conversation. Followed by traffic. Then gossip. Small talk. We use weather as an excuse for so much, an ever-present excuse. And, when life is as imperfect as the weather, we have another ever-present excuse. If we wait until life is perfect, and the weather is perfect, to embark on our life journey, we’ll never get started and most certainly will never get where we hope to go.

“… millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”
― Susan Ertz

We must find a way to enjoy our day, no matter the weather. Likewise, we must find a way to enjoy our life, each and everyday, whether it’s sunny times or stormy times. It’s still time and we only get so much of it. The way I see it, we have two choices; make our own sunshine or learn to sing in the rain.

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”
― Roger Miller

An Effort to Evolve

Scarlett’s Letter February 2, 2014

I wish we had tails.

I wish we had tails. Not tales, we all have those, but tails, you know, like other creatures do. How did we get left out of the tail thing? Were we too busy and self-absorbed the day God handed out tails to all the creatures he created? I don’t know, but I think we’re missing out. Did we once have tails and they evolved away for some reason?

I went for a walk with my friend the other day. Funny thing. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. We grew up together and have been friends ever since. We’ve gone our separate ways, moving to different cities, pursuing different interests, our careers, we’ve married, I’ve raised my family, she is raising hers. Through it all, we’ve been friends, sometimes seeing each other only once a year, sometimes almost daily. It just depends on life and where we each are at the moment. We grew up in the same neighborhood, just around the corner from each other. Through the bizarre twists and turns that life has brought us, we now both live in the houses we grew up in, just around the corner from each other.

When we were little kids, after school, we’d call each other up and ask to play. Funny thing. We still have the same phone numbers, indelibly etched in our brains. If I were to develop some horrible case of dementia or Alzheimer’s, I am certain, without any doubt, I’d remember her phone number. 555-9135. I wouldn’t know my name, what day it was or recognize the faces of my most cherished loved ones, but I would know her phone number. 555-9135. No one knows anyone’s phone numbers anymore, you just program them in and press a button, that is, if you were to ever even call someone.

If we were available to play, as in there was not a Girl Scout meeting, ballet, swim team, honor band, horseback riding or some other routine, after-school commitment, I’d walk or ride my Schwinn bike to her house or she’d walk or ride her Schwinn bike to mine. My dad sold Schwinn bikes. Every kid within a five-mile radius had a Schwinn bike, even though his bike shop was in a whole different town. Hers was green, you know, that seventies green. I had a different color bike every month because I was part of the bicycle dynasty.

When we were older, in junior high and high school, we’d “go for a walk” after dinner. It was just an excuse to get out of the house. I remember this being the opportunity to try to smoke cigarettes, which I never successfully developed into a habit. Thankfully. We’d gossip, complain about our parents, and we usually had some pet in tow, the premise for escaping the confines of home temporarily. We’d each walk towards each other’s house and meet in the middle, then proceed “around the block”, which really could be any number of blocks in the general vicinity of our neighborhood. There was no real set path, just a set meeting place; somewhere between her house and mine, depending on who escaped more quickly.

This is what we do now, forty-five years after making our first acquaintance. I don’t have a pet to take for a walk, presently, but she does, which is most handy, not that we need an excuse to get out of the house, really, but it does provide justification for momentarily abandoning that which must get done in a day’s time.

I was preparing for a ten-mile run, I had my running tights on, my Asics laced up, my hair in a ponytail. I was set to go, and that was really the only thing on my agenda for the day, a ten-mile run. I got a text message just as I was gathering my keys and my phone, “Feel like a walk around the block with Lucy and I?” Lucy is the pet in need of walking. So we agreed to meet in the middle, somewhere between her house and mine, depending on who escaped more quickly.

As I walked down the street and she walked up, and she came into view, I could see Lucy’s tail rhythmically swishing back and forth behind her in time with her cadence. When we were about six or seven houses apart, Lucy was let off leash and I called to her. Lucy ran towards me, flattened out, claws making a “scritching” noise against the sidewalk as she ran, full tilt. I bent over and greeted her enthusiastically as she met me, petting her and complimenting her on her recent visit to the doggie spa! I actually made quite a spectacle as a neighbor looked on and smiled. Lucy’s tail wagged furiously, you know, fur-iously! She was obviously happy to see me, and I was happy to see her, though I have no tail to wag. When my friend caught up, I commented, “I wish we had tails. Just think how cool it would be if we could tell what people were thinking and feeling by their tails.” My friend tilted her head and nodded in agreement in her special way, which she has done for as long as I’ve known her, “You’re right!”

Tail wagging furiously.
Tail wagging furiously.

You can tell how an animal is feeling, even predict likely behavior, by the manner of their tail. A dog wagging its tail is happy and is welcoming a greeting. A cat swishing its tail is best not approached. A horse, wringing its tail, too, is nervous, unhappy, irritated and best not approached or in need of a very expensive visit from the vet. Which is why I don’t currently own any horses, the prospect of very expensive vet bills finally overshadowed the joy of keeping beasts of burden as my own.

Humans are way more subtle in absence of a tail. We have no large appendage from our body, acting like a flag, to welcome or warn on comers with. We really have to be perceptive to figure out whether someone is welcoming and approachable or is best left alone. The best indicator we have is the expression on their face. So, what does your face generally say?

Approachable
Approachable

I hate to admit it, but my daughter and I both have what has been called “resting bitchface”.  Our ordinary expression when unmoved by happiness or sorrow, anger or joy, is one of sort of disaffection, disinterest, boredom and aloofness. If I had to describe it. And at the slightest irritation, annoyance or question, we have this “oh, please, are you serious?” kind of gaze. People always remark at how much we look alike, which I totally do not get, she has a round face, mine is oval. Her eyes are wider set than mine, she has a different nose, a totally different brow, chin and cheekbones. Her lips are different, heck, her teeth and ears are even different from mine. Yet, we do look astonishingly alike. It can only come down to our resting expression, our expressionless expression. We are both quite stoic, and I think that is probably a better description of our “plain” or expressionless expression than “resting bitchface”. But whatever. The point is, unless I make a concerted effort, I’m afraid I come off as unapproachable, which I most certainly am not. I feel and act like Lucy, my friend’s dog, on the inside, but my outward appearance suggests differently if I don’t monitor it. A tail would help. I’m pretty sure I’d be constantly wagging mine. How about you?

"Resting Bitchface"
“Resting Bitchface”

To appear friendly, open and approachable, absent a tail to wag, we have to have a pleasant and friendly, open and assuring expression. Always. I don’t mean we should walk around town with an ear-to-ear grin, teeth bared and eyes wide, we’d probably be detained in the county lockup for psychological evaluation. But we really should try to don a pleasant expression, much like we do a hoodie on a cool day. Think of the opportunities we may be missing if we’re walking around, without tails to wag, and an unfriendly expression on our face?

Approach with extreme caution.
Approach with extreme caution.

I’ve actually experimented with this phenomenon with my own Girl Scout troop. I divided the girls up into two teams at a local apple festival. One team was told to walk around the crowds with a surly expression and their arms crossed, defiantly, across their chests. The other team was told to walk around, smiling and making eye contact with everyone. We then compared notes. The friendly group of girls was met with pleasant greetings, smiles, warmth, and conversation. The surly girlies were avoided in every respect; their glances were avoided, no one spoke to them and mothers would even pull their small children closer to avoid any potential contamination. So, we are able to communicate visually in absence of a tail.

If we are able to alert other people to our generally approachability solely by the expression on our face, then that is something we should be paying very close attention to. I sincerely doubt, I sincerely hope that no one intends to walk around the planet and thwart positive human interaction. If that is the case, nothing I can say in two thousand words is going to rectify that. For the rest of us, who really intend to go about our lives pleasantly, we need to pay attention to our expression to make sure it conveys our demeanor accurately. I know, life is unfair, dogs don’t have to learn to wag their tails or make a conscious and deliberate effort to remember to do so, it just happens, naturally. With practice, though, we can come pretty close to having a pleasant outward expression naturally. I promise, it’s worth the effort.

Now, if you want to wag your tail, like Lucy and her canine brethren, I’m not going to stop you, and, in fact, I’m here to guarantee that you’ll get more attention than you can imagine if you do! Wag on!

 

 

Actually

Funny thing. When I was a little kid, a real little kid, like a toddler, I was very outgoing. Okay, I was precocious. As an only child, I had way more interaction with adults than with children, so I spoke, well, much like I do now. Often, in “conversations” with grown-ups, when asked a question, or a clarifying statement was made by the adult, I would preface my response with, “well, actually …” I always sought to be fully understood.

A few years later, some time during elementary school, I became more shy, especially around my peers, kids my own age, I didn’t have a lot of experience with them. This was something I struggled with until early adulthood. I came out of my shell when surrounded by close friends and only after I got to know people very well. This pattern is still present and natural for me, though I am much better at overriding my instinct to be quiet and just be the observer in conversations with more than one person. In my quieter days, I struggled with expressing myself fully. Participating in large, group conversations was a challenge because I was too polite to interject and because I’m so darned soft-spoken, when I did speak, I was rarely heard. When I was heard, I would say what I hoped to say quickly and let someone else reclaim the floor. Often, my thoughts were not fully expressed or understood. I always sought to be fully understood, “well, actually …” But, by that point, the conversation had rapidly moved into another topic and I just let it go.

My career has had a lot to do with my ability to establish my social confidence and outgoingness in group conversations. I have to connect, interact, lead, consult, teach and train groups of adults, both younger and older than I. They look to me for guidance and knowledge, though, in many cases, they are much farther along, professionally, than I. I simply know a certain methodology or software that they don’t, and in that arena, I am wise. I am the master. Often I am speaking for eight continuous hours. And for some of my courses, eight hours a day, for multiple days. I have to rely on jokes and stories and personal experiences to keep them engaged in the less than thrilling content of the class. This I have become very comfortable doing. Know one knows I am shy, but me. Often my class participants have questions or need clarification, sometimes I am even challenged. Always seeking to be fully understood, I patiently reiterate, reinforce and restate the point, “well, actually …” I have to be fully understood, it’s what they’re paying for.

Funny thing. When my kids were born, twenty some years ago, my husband and I swore we’d never speak to them in “baby talk”. We would speak to them in proper English and we would use the tone of voice and vocabulary we use in daily conversation with adults. Our belief was that our children would know how to converse and would have a solid foundation in vocabulary, diction and grammar and wouldn’t have to “unlearn” anything when they got to school. I still believe in this completely. The result? My children always sought to be fully understood, and, if they weren’t, they’d politely correct whomever they were speaking to, “Well, actually …”

This, apparently, is a lifelong pattern for me, that has now perpetuated to the next generation, and is likely to perpetuate again, to the next. We seek to be understood, clearly and completely.

In my recent exploration of books and materials on happiness, peace and relationships, I have come to the realization that being completely understood isn’t always the path we must take.  Usually, it is, but I think we may, at times, overdo it. I do believe that good communication in all of our relationships is paramount. It is important that open, free communication be the base upon which our close relationships are built. The foundation. But, in casual conversation, why is it so important to us that every last detail of every last story be absolutely correctly understood?

I find, in daily conversations with close friends, my Sweetie and my family members, if they state one thing in a manner that leads me to believe they’ve missed a detail or don’t completely understand what I’ve said, or meant, I am compelled, almost obsessively, to correct them. Their minor error in comprehension annoys and frustrates me, “well, actually …” I seek to be fully understood. Funny thing.

Does it really make that much difference if Mom calls my smartphone a “Facebook”? (link). “Well, actually, this is a smartphone (holding up phone) and Facebook is an application on the phone, along with many (hundreds of) others.” She has no idea what I’m saying and it does not matter. At all. The course of history will not be changed by her fully understanding these technologies. Does it really make that much of a difference if a friend thinks all accountants are automatically tax experts?  “Well, actually, I’m an auditor, I don’t ‘do’ tax.” Are meteors going to crash into Earth because they think I prepare tax forms for people when, in fact, I don’t even prepare my own tax return? No. Does it really matter if someone asks how my yoga class was when I was really at a spin class? “Well, actually, I was at spin, not yoga.” What difference does that make? The planet will not spin off its axis for the minor misunderstanding. I was at the gym. Good enough. The details are really not that important in many cases. Constantly correcting people, mid conversation, on unimportant details can really detract from the quality of the conversation. Our annoyance and frustration bleeds through, we seem picky, petty and perturbed. The petty annoyances and frustration we experience at the miniscule error of fact detracts from our peace and joy. Poor quality conversations detract from the peace and happiness of our relationships. It becomes strained. A struggle.

Then, there are the more philosophical conversations we have with people. These can become quite passionate, heated and adversarial if we insist on being fully understood. Funny thing. In conversations where opinions and philosophies are confused with fact, we don’t feel “fully understood” unless we “convert” others to our way of thinking. I was recently in a conversation with someone close to me, and, funny thing, I have forgotten the exact topic of the conversation, though it was “philosophical” in nature, and, throughout the conversation I was told, “passionately” that I was wrong. “You’re wrong!” “You’re wrong!” “You’re wrong!” I felt, strongly, that I was right. I had two choices, to yell back, “Well, actually …” and get nowhere in resolving our philosophical difference, or, just let it go. It’s a matter of opinion, there is no right, there is no wrong and no one is going to walk away feeling fully understood. We can just walk away, meaning move to another topic, with an appreciation for the other person’s philosophy, and that’s as good as it’s going to get. Sometimes, nodding in appreciation, even if misunderstood as nodding in agreement, is the only thing to do. Be the bigger person, use a smaller voice, move on to another topic. It doesn’t negate your belief at all. You’re still right, and so are they. It’s a “win/win”. Funny thing, dead horses cannot run no matter how hard you beat them.

There are people that spend the major portion of every day, of every conversation, trying to yell, scream, and bash people into adopting their philosophy, their beliefs. The man I was married to was just such a character. His Facebook wall, oh, wow, I just dated myself, I mean, his Facebook timeline is littered with political posts ranging from mildly humorous to hateful and venomous, bordering treasonous. Any topic raised will quickly turn to politics. Funny thing. His twin brother is as passionate, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. They will never convince each other to change their philosophies, but they’re likely to die of a stroke trying. Funny thing, louder isn’t “righter.” “Well, actually!!!!!”

Funny thing. There is right and wrong and there is no right or wrong. What I’m saying, just to be fully understood, is there is a difference between “knowing right from wrong” and “being right or wrong”.

“Knowing right from wrong” pertains to morals. Personally, I like to limit this to what I’d call “God’s laws.” Think Ten Commandments. We know it is wrong to kill another person unless in self-defense. We know it is wrong to steal. We know it is wrong to be unfaithful. These are absolutes. Right. Wrong. No question. “Knowing right from wrong” is for the “biggies”.

“Being right or wrong” addresses matters of opinion, philosophies and methodologies. And, unless you’re taking an exam on the material in a class, there is no right or wrong. We need to learn to express our opinion, listen to the other opinions, appreciate both positions and move on to the next topic. Politics, religion, science, sports teams, recipes, gay marriage, driving directions from one point to another, legalization of marijuana, global warming, fashion, or our thoughts on the Duck Dynasty debacle; there is no right or wrong and we don’t need to convince anyone else to our way of thinking in order to be fully understood on these types of topics or issues. Funny thing. Do you fully understand?

Well, actually …

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.

God I Missed You

I had a revelation last night.

I’m reading a book about happiness. I read lots of books about happiness, it makes me happy. I am, generally, a very positive and mostly happy person. True, like anyone, I have my moments, but, for the most part, I attribute my relative success in life, through good times and bad, to my general, overall happiness. But I still read every book I can find on the topic. I’ve decided happiness is my passion. And my mission. I want to know as much about happiness as possible, and my hope is to be able to help others find their happiness. I have faith that I can.

The book I’m working on presently is “Happy This Year – The Secret to Getting Happy Once and For All” by Will Bowen. It is a great read, one I recommend. I stayed up until nearly 1:00 AM this morning and am nearly half way through the book, on my first venture beyond the title page.

Having read much on the topic of happiness, and having practiced my own happiness for quite some time, now, I’ll admit, I don’t know everything. I do know quite a bit, and, as I read this book I nodded in agreement, “I do that, I do this, I agree with that, I love this, I practice that,” and so on. Then I reached the chapter on spirituality.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

Spirituality has been sort of a tough one for me the past several years. I do still consider myself “Christian”, but my views have evolved into a far more broad, progressive definition. I still find churches and the practice of going to church centering, though I no longer attend churches other than for weddings and funerals. I appreciate the teachings, though, in my more progressive view, I think all religions exist for the same purpose and tell, basically, the same story, hoping to instill, basically, the same values and virtues. I think “church” itself, is just a community you choose to belong to in order to hear the stories in a frame of reference perhaps more convenient, comfortable, familiar or palatable than another. My “problem” with religion, modern, organized religion, is not so much the message or story, the virtues, the values, but, perhaps, the method of delivery, and, for certain, the constituents.

My ventures into bastions of organized religion over the past decade or so have been disappointing, after moving away from the very comfortable, forgiving, tolerant church where I converted to Catholicism nearly twenty years ago. And with that particular priest being reassigned, even that bastion of organized religion has evolved into something somewhat less. When I attend a church, now, I am appalled at the behavior of many of the members as they try flaunt their piety like a Rolex watch. Cliquey and judgmental. Constantly comparing themselves to their brethren, judging their relative level of salvation. Thou art more righteous than I, yes, because thou knoweth the words to the songs, as evidenced by the loud singing and over-annunciation of the words. I am humbled. Not. There seems to be a clamoring for salvation, like tickets to the Super Bowl, just not enough room in heaven for all of us, and he, or she, who can outwardly demonstrate their over the top righteousness, piety and faith wins.  And this amongst “the saved”. I thought “witnessing” was for the benefit of those who were not yet “converted”, “born again”, or “saved”. Whatever that all means. Live a good life, get into the game. As I see it. Righteousness is in how you live your life, not in how you flaunt your relative level of devotion with other Christians, like some sort of baton-twirling competition.

To me, religion, the practice of faith, of worship, of spirituality is a personal journey and not something to be flaunted, measured or compared. Maybe that’s just me.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

So, I’m reading this book and I get to the chapter about spirituality. The author, Will, has some great and very refreshing interpretations of passages from the Bible I quite agree with. I’m nodding my affirmation as I read on. The book suggests we should be spiritual to foster happiness. Okay. I like to think I’m spiritual even if I don’t attend church and sing all the right words to all the songs, loudly, even if I don’t serve on twelve congregation committees, even if the ushers don’t know me by name and make small talk with me as I enter the chapel. I meditate. I am reverent. I live a good life. I have good values. I consider myself fairly virtuous.

The plot thickens. The author suggests we should pray. Well, I sort of do. I state my affirmations and I list out all the things I am grateful for, daily, is that not praying? No. Apparently not. The author suggests our prayer be to the attention of someone, like God, or, insert your deity here. To whom it may concern. After our proper salutation, rather than rattling of a laundry list of “I wants”, we should state our affirmations, positively, in present tense, and with power. Then, in conclusion, we should say “thanks” and sign off. I’m fidgeting now. I haven’t prayed, in that manner, for some time and I’m not sure I’m ready to.

My issues with prayer; I used to pray, well, religiously. For most of my life. I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. I still do. In fact, I have to say, it works, perhaps a little too well. I prayed for so many things in my life, and, usually got just what I asked for, and always ended up with a whole lot more than I bargained for. I’ve envisioned God up there, chuckling, listening to my daily prayer, saying, “well, okay,” and shaking his head. Or maybe Bruce Almighty was in charge and just granted me everything I prayed for by pressing the “Yes to All” button. Perhaps I was trying to micro-manage God through prayer and He got tired of it and just gave me everything I asked for to see how I’d handle it. I got it, I got it all, and everything that came along with it. And when the house of cards all fell down, I looked heavenward and thought, “I know you’re there, though I’m not sure of your form. I know you love me, though you have a funny way of showing it, and I don’t think I know how to pray. Obviously.”  So, I stopped. And since then, my thoughts on religion have evolved, as have I, into something far more open-minded, tolerant and accepting than modern Christianity seems willing to bear. And my “prayers” have evolved into just the affirmations and the gratitude. I’ve omitted the salutation. I just throw it out into the universe and am comfortable with that. It’s all an “energy” thing, right? The positive energy of affirmations will certainly be returned in the same, positive form, and my affirmations will manifest. I am oh, so careful how I word things, lest they be taken, by the “universe” too literally, or misinterpreted. I’m mincing words.

Well, up until the prayer part of the spirituality chapter of this book, I’ve been in complete agreement with every word. Maybe there is something to the prayer part I should consider. Or reconsider. I decided to give it a try.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My first dilemma was to whom I should address my prayer. The book left me some wiggle room here, it could be God, Father, Lord, Creator, or Universe, or whatever deity or power you wished. Just insert the name of some responsible party here. Long gone are the days of envisioning God as some floating form in white robes and a long white beard, shrouded in sunlight. Nor do I see any other holy figure others may pray to. It’s a mystery. To all of us. No one can know, no one will know, until we are in the great beyond, and so, beyond the ability to share the truth with those of us still here in life. I believe in creation, creatively, as sort of a morph between science and the whole seven days and Garden of Eden thing. I believe both are true, and that the stories we have collected into the Bible and other accounts are just that, stories to explain the creation that obviously occurred. And, the creation, however it was sparked, ignited or made to happen, was the result of a great amount of energy. From somewhere. So, that was my choice. I decided to pray to Mr. E, which, if you know me well, you’ll see, is a play on words; Mr. E for Mr. Energy (though I think the Mr. is open to interpretation) and, if you say it fast enough it sounds like “mystery”. Ah, you see how my mind works?

So, I started, “Dear Mr. E”. Long pause. Rather than go through ALL of my positive and powerful affirmations, they fill a whole page written out, stated in the present tense, per direction, I decided to just go with a couple of the biggies, at the top of the list. I selected a couple and as I said them, even in the safe, secure silence of my head, I was suddenly overcome with great emotion. My eyes welled up, threatening to spill over and wash away that new, million-dollar eye cream I’d just applied. I was completely awash in a feeling of immense relief and an overwhelming spiritual connection. All from adding the simple, silly, cheeky, salutation to my “prayer”. It was an epiphany, a revelation. It was humbling and faith affirming. And I felt happy. And I thought, “God, I missed you.”

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My beliefs have not changed. I’m not going to go door-to-door handing out religious reading materials. I’m not going to shave my head, don robes, and chant and grasp hands with strangers at the park. I’m not going to give Jesus the wheel. I’m not going to join twelve congregational committees and sing loudly at church every Sunday. I am, however, going to pray again, in my own, unique way. I am going to try to grow more spiritually. I am seeking that blissful, mysterious, spiritual connection I felt last night. God, I missed you.

Don’t Doubt It

Buddha said, “There is nothing more terrible than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that ruins friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts. It is a sword that kills.”

Doubts are fears and live within all of us. It’s what we allow those doubts to do that differs. Do we allow them to rule and destroy our life? Or do we acknowledge them for what they are, limiting fears, part of our spastic and irrational mind, and let them go?

Practitioners of Zen know that doubts live within the “untrained” mind, they are the seeds of discord and unhappiness. In mindfulness, a Zen practice, doubts are sloughed away with other negative thoughts like dead skin cells with a refreshing, cleansing shower. Don’t doubt it.

Mom and Dad – a story:

My mom and dad married later in life, both having suffered through a previous marriage that ended in betrayal, dishonesty and pain. That they found one another and developed a relationship of their own, after their experiences, I consider quite remarkable. Both are very practical people, and I think the thought of growing older alone was ultimately a more frightening prospect than taking another chance. On the day of their wedding, a casual affair at a wedding chapel in Tahoe, as the moment approached, my mom took refuge in the car. Doubts filled her mind and she nearly did not go through with the ceremony, which, likely, would have ended the relationship between her and my dad. A dear friend finally coaxed her from the car and into the chapel. The rest is history, and I was a result of that union a year and a half later.

Mom and Dad had a good marriage. It was not perfect. There is no such thing. They had their differences, their grievances, their doubts and their annoyances. But, in overcoming that initial doubt and marrying, they worked in union for the next fifty years to create a home, raise a child, run a business, share dinners every night, take vacations, retire and care and comfort one another through old age until my dad passed almost two years ago to the day.

Had my mom acted on her doubt, the years of happiness and comfort would not have happened.

A man destroyed – a story:

The man I married was a man consumed by doubt and fear. For years he managed it to a degree that he was able to build a business, we were able to raise two wonderful children and acquire a house, then a home, and, eventually, the ranch we always dreamed of owning. As life progressed and the responsibilities mounted, his doubts and fears grew exponentially. He no longer fretted only over the things most families fret over; bills, retirement, career. His business faltered and died of neglect and he scrambled, in middle age, to build a new career, to follow a passion he’d dreamed of his entire adult life. It too faltered because his attention was consumed by his doubts and not by his passion. His doubts and fears grew to include things so external to us, as a family, and to him, as a man, that he felt completely out of control and unable to act or affect the world around him; issues in politics, policies and beliefs of elected officials. He abandoned his business, he never even applied an effort to the career he dreamed of for most of his youth, he squandered the opportunity at that passion because of his consumption by doubt. He abandoned his children and he abandoned me, not in a literal sense, he did not pack his bags and move out, he just left us. He quit contributing to the family financially, and we resorted to living off savings, equity, then the retirement nest egg we’d built, just to keep a roof over our head. The resources eventually were depleted and we lost all we owned; the ranch, the home, even the pets and animals we adored. In the end, he lost his family. Unemployed and unemployable, still, he spends his time, each and every day, engulfed in his doubts and fears of things far greater than he.

Doubts all around me.

As I talk to friends and people very close to me, I frequently hear of their doubts, often over the person they are with, the person they love. “Are they the right one? I have doubts. I’m not sure it ‘feels right’, I don’t want this to end up like my previous relationships.” Buddha did say, “doubt separates people. It is a poison that ruins friendships and breaks up pleasant relations.” The way I see it, there are two choices when faced with such doubts, we succumb to them and face a life of loneliness and disappointment or we acknowledge those doubts for what they are, the weak and negative chatter of a mind unable to discern the truth and the good from the dismay and deception of doubts.

Doubts are no more than fear and no one ever gained success or true bliss by letting fear limit them. Eleanor Roosevelt is my hero and she has much to say about overcoming fear.

A few of the Eleanor quotes I try to live by:

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

 

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

 

“It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.”

Fear and doubt are the same. Both are destroyers. And they are everywhere, within us and around us. Don’t doubt it.

Think of doubt like a cup of poison; if someone put a cup of poison in front of you, certainly you wouldn’t drink it. Perhaps you could not tell it was poison in the cup, certainly if you drank it and it tasted bad or made you feel terrible, you would not drink more. So it is with doubt, why partake of something poisonous that tastes terrible and leaves you feeling terrible? To someone mindful, someone who has practiced identifying doubt and other negative, poisonous and limiting thoughts they have, they learn to dismiss, remove and replace those thoughts with thoughts that are more positive and constructive. They not only resist drinking the poison, the get up and leave the table where the cup was placed grab a glass of clear, cool water and quench their thirst with what they know to be good.

Doubt is not truth. Doubt is irrational thought. Doubt is fear and fear destroys. Don’t doubt it.

I have as many doubts as the next guy. It is human. The key is to learn, through diligent practice, to identify, isolate, and dismiss those doubts, pull them out of our mind like a noxious weed. As we learn to identify and dismiss them, we can soon learn to replace doubts with positive and nurturing thoughts, plant them like seeds for a lovely garden. With practice, we are all capable of this. Don’t doubt it.