Amazeballs

I believe in love. I believe in great love. I believe in amazeballs love.

I’ve been through periods of cynicism regarding love, and relationships, after a long, lifeless, loveless marriage, which, truthfully, is still in the death throes of divorce proceedings. Through a subsequent friendship, a long, flirtatious, friendship and much, much, convincing, not on my part, I found love again. The kind of love that overcame objections, a number of large obstacles; timing, money, distance, family, career, and so, was a great love.  It had amazeballs potential.

But now, even as that love withers and dies, trapped behind the very obstacles it once surpassed, I find myself only bitter in momentary fits. Only when alone, without music, and a project to occupy my mind. Across several thousand miles, I manage to feel the void, tangibly. I have  grown, matured, evolved. Maybe. Or I am delusional. Not. Perhaps I have overcome some personal obstacles and, now, find I still have faith and hope that love is pure, that it is possible and, maybe even, in the right conditions, lasting. And that love can be amazeballs.

Funny to come to the conclusion that love has the potential to last in the face of yet, another relationship, dying a young and tragic death. Perhaps it is in the autopsy, the forensic exhumation and dissection of that corpse that I discover my hope spring.

Obstacles.

Obstacles
Obstacles

I’m on a plane, now, near the back. I just made it. Moments ago, I was on another plane, near the back. As we landed in Minneapolis and started to deplane, I observed the obstacles ahead of me. My connecting flight to Chicago was already boarding. My flight to MSP landed in the far reaches of the C terminal, my flight to Chicago was departing from the G terminal. The Moment the chime sounded, everyone leapt to their feet and into the aisles of the aircraft, all anxious to deplane. Even the elderly woman who, earlier, required assistance just to stand, sprang to her feet with shocking agility, ahead of me. Not that I would push aside anyone, I just kind of thought she’d require assistance, a wheelchair, an attendant, maybe, to make her way to, and then up the jet bridge. As the passengers slowly, oh so slowly, gathered their belongings and filed towards the door, I, again, glanced at the time. The elderly woman was finally able to move forward and apparently, the energy she expended in jumping to her feet was all she had. She crept. Crept, crept towards the door. I am sympathetic, in the most anxious manner, but, still, sympathetic. Once, finally, at the door of the aircraft, more obstacles; a child seat in the midst of the path, the elderly woman stopped abruptly for the wheelchair that had been brought. Three attendants were assisting her, straddling the random child seat and wholly blocking the jet bridge. I went all “track and field” and hurdled the baby seat. And ran. Well, no, walked briskly.

Obstacles
Obstacles

I began my very long journey from arriving gate to departing gate. Sign after sign, moving walkway after moving walkway. Obstacle after obstacle. Passengers milling about, dazed, confused, drunk, I don’t know, but they were in my way! The moving walkways have a code, implied or expressed; stand to the right, walk to the left. Here, it is expressed, a sign hangs over each of the numerous, and I do mean numerous, moving walkways. The moving walkway itself is divided by a yellow line, not unlike a roadway, with “stand” and “walk” painted at intervals. The walkers, today, were leisurely strollers. First, could there be a “run” lane? And, second, what is the protocol for passing? Passing these obstacles. The only time I have ever missed a connecting flight, solely because of the distance between gates, was as this very airport. The only time, ever, in nearly seven years of frequent travel. I made it, of course, just as my boarding group was called, and, per my modus operandi, I was the first of my boarding group to board. I am skilled at this maneuver, not always proud of my tactics, but skilled, and somewhat insistent. More obstacles, overcome.

This not a smiley face, this is the MSP marathon I ran today. So many obstacles!
This not a smiley face, this is the MSP marathon I ran today. So many obstacles!

Obstacles. If only we were all masters, all so committed to overcoming them, littering our path with obstacles to whatever it is we’ve set our sights on, whatever it is we hope to achieve.

Obstacles kill love. Obstacles killed my own amazeballs potential love. Hey, don’t look at me, I was going all “track and field” on those obstacles, too! But obstacles, also, once made it great. So, per my examination, in my coroner’s report, I shall claim that obstacles were both the cause of death, and the cause of life, for this newly deceased love. I shall attempt to explain my hypothesis.

I believe that love, without challenges, without resistance, without obstacles, is doomed to a brief and fleeting existence. A flash in the pan. Not much more than an infatuation, requited, for a period. There is nothing to cause the love to grow, to overcome, it was created in perfection, in an idyllic setting, and had nowhere to go, nowhere to evolve, no reason to grow. Similar to the vineyards I live near that produce great wines; if the vines struggle, the fruit is superior. Weather, poor soil, other climatic hostilities, all cause the vine challenges and it’s these types of challenges that make the best fruit and therefore, the best wine. At the end of two years of severe drought, a devastating earthquake, a horrendous hail storm, the grapes just harvested this year are reported to be very, very good. In the face of adversity, growth and great success.

When Love is Greater than Obstacles, love can be AMAZEBALLS!
When Love is Greater than Obstacles, love can be AMAZEBALLS!

If obstacles can both cause love to flourish, and to die, then how does one survive when the other fails?

I believe it has to do with the ability of the lovers to take on the obstacles before them, between them. To adapt to change, to accept the circumstances before them, between them, and to persevere. Overcome. And bear amazeballs fruit. When love is put before the obstacle, ahead of the obstacle, as the reason to persevere, then, in that struggle, the climatic hostilities, the love struggles, flourishes, and then thrives. It amasses greater strength and resiliency, becomes hardier and far sweeter. It’s when the obstacles are put in front of the love, by one lover, the other, or both, as an obstacle to growth, an obstacle to perseverance, that love is blocked, like a dam in a stream, or a barricade in a road, blocking one lover from the other, cutting off the circulation, like a blockage in an artery. And then the death.

Why, then, does a couple, once capable of putting their love before the obstacles, then, change, and allow the very same obstacles to destroy the energy and hope in love they once shared? Why do people turn from challengers of obstacles to prisoners? Conquerors to victims? Trapped, helpless, hopeless, pathetic. This, I’m afraid, is the mystery I can’t yet solve. Why the change of heart? Like a man digging a tunnel to the richest vein of gold, and giving up an inch too soon. Maddening, tragic, incomprehensible. But, human, I suppose. Tragically, tragically human.

We were so close. It was right there. The richest vein of gold.

Diamonds from coal. It isn’t instant. It isn’t just a little while. But, wow, is it ever worth the wait!

The ability to tackle obstacles, really, is the key to all success, not just the success of love. No one ever achieved greatness with ease. Ever. Without exception. In every account of phenomenal success, the trail has been littered with obstacles, obstacles that were overcome, obstacles that others shrunk away from, cowered before, withered at the sight of. The great, the mighty, the successful, and the wise, challenge those obstacles with great effort, intensity and tenacity.

Every failure, large and small, is the result of an obstacle meeting an unwilling opponent. Without exception. Without exception.

Lottery winners, in more instances than not, end up worse off than before their great fortune. Fortune is only, truly, a fortune, I believe, when the result of toil, trial, tribulation and tragedy. Obstacles. A great many obstacles.

Seekers of amazeballs, lasting and lustrous love, those of us willing and able to tackle an Everest, a K2, a Mt. McKinley, to cross an ocean, a frozen tundra, a continent, Canada, a time zone, for the sake of the sweetest most divine fruit, how do we find one another? How do we identify each other? Is there a code word, a secret handshake? Or do we just continue to suffer with the weak, the meek and the timid of heart. Is that our challenge? And what fruit will be borne of it? Will we either find that other great conqueror, or become lonely, half crazed, prophetic, poets?

When Obstacles are Greater than Love, it dies
When Obstacles are Greater than Love, it dies

Are we, “adventurers in love”, then, if we are willing to challenge obstacles to sweeten the fruit? Are we more amenable to change, to challenge, to adversity, generally speaking, than those willing to let a great love die, repeatedly bashing it against the same little rock?  What sets us apart?

Am I alone in begging for change? I crave change? It is a fact that I sat on my “tuffet” the other night, meditating, or praying, some may say, for change. I prayed over and over and over, “change everything.” I guess I got what I asked for. And I can’t exactly go back and say, “no, wait, let me rephrase that! That’s not what I meant.” Ah, but, I shall be stronger, and wiser, and perhaps more successful for it, though. Perhaps? No, I am certain.

And as I shake my head in disbelief, fighting off those occasional fits of bitterness, and anger, loneliness, longing, and emptiness, I seek solace, solace in knowing that being dumped by someone so weakened by the passage of time, like I have an expiration date or something, and the perceived “insurmountability” of a few, wee, obstacles, obstacles I have been wailing at with pick, axe and shovel, and making huge progress towards obliterating, is probably a blessing. Such limitations may have prevented me adventures I crave, my wanderlust, compromised my passion to spread my wings, to experience, to see, to do, to be. To be in amazeballs love, someday!

You Lie. Show Some Respect.

I ran a marathon today. I ran my first full marathon. I ran my first full marathon at the age of fifty years young. Twenty-six point two miles. Me.

If you told me five years ago that I’d run a marathon I might not have believed you. I doubt I would’ve said, “I can’t”, because I’d already been baptized in the PMA Kool-Aid, but I might have said, “I don’t run.” And then laughed at the mere suggestion of running a marathon.

My day started early. I stayed at a hotel not far from the start of the race. I selected the hotel because they’d arranged for a “shuttle” to the starting line so I wouldn’t have to hassle with driving and traffic and parking. With over 10,000 runners and the road closures that go along with conducting a marathon, you can imagine the nightmare driving oneself there might present. So, I left my hotel room, bundled up against the 18-degree temperature, and found out front, two school buses. Two school busses with snow on top. I mentioned it was cold, right? I boarded the bus, took a seat and that was the beginning of my education. I got schooled today.

Today, I got schooled.
Today, I got schooled.

As the bus began to fill, a woman asked to sit next to me. I moved my small mountain of gear aside and she sat. We began chatting and during the course of the bus trip figured out we both run at the same “tempered” pace, I admit, I’m not fast, but I’m effing tenacious.

We were allowed, it was, in fact, suggested, that we remain on the nice, heated bus, until we needed to use one of the hundreds of porta-potties, or the race was to start, whichever came first. It is every marathon runners dream, to be blunt, to drop a load, before the beginning of the race. There is nothing quite like running “in need”. We took turns watching each other’s gear while taking care of business. We agreed to try to run together and, after exiting the bus, dropped our extra gear, stuffed into clear bags that had been provided to us, with our bib number adhered to it. Bags were loaded onto trucks based on the numbers. My number was in the 2000’s and hers in the 4000’s, which were to be placed in separate trucks. In the crowd, after dumping our gear, we failed to find each other before the beginning of the race. I wondered for much of the race, how she was faring, this being her first full marathon, too, though a more seasoned runner, than me, and younger by at least fifteen years.

As I waited by the pace sign 5:10, I saw a familiar face hurrying through the crowd. Miles. A quick hug for encouragement and he was off to a far more ambitious pace banner. I hope to run that fast some day. As I waited, hoping my new friend would find me by the pace sign we both noted as the most practical for our start, I was met by a coach and a couple of members of my pace group from SacFit, my running club. They were running a click or two slower than the 5:10 banner I stood by, but I started the race with them, behind the 5:25 pace group. Nearly last, actually, of all the runners who started the race. The race started at 7:00. I take that back. The race started at 6:59:30 for handicapped participants and at 7:00 for the rest of us, with the elite runners at the head of the crowd, so they wouldn’t have to trip over those of us with a more “tempered” pace.

Handicapped runners? Yes. Quite a few. This I was aware of. Last year, in fact, I was at O’Hare waiting for a flight to Sacramento, exactly like yesterday. But last year, in the boarding area, was a blind man and his companion, on their way to run the California International Marathon, with the intent of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Again. So, yes, I knew there were visually impaired runners, I suppose, that constituting a “handicap”, the word being of use only to those less enlightened, if you ask me.

The start of the California International Marathon
The start of the California International Marathon

At 7:06:30, I crossed the start line. I ran with my coach and teammates as the course started out downhill. My “pace group” that we train at is 11:30, meaning we should run at a pace of a mile in eleven and a half minutes. We run five minutes and walk one minute, throughout, so, with walk breaks, our average pace should be around 11:45 to 11:50. We run slower. Which, I will admit, annoys me. Now, on my own, I run between 10:30 and 11:45, including walk breaks. My plan for this race, had I gone it alone, was to try to keep to an average of 11:45 to 12:00, just because of the distance. I’ve never run more than 22 miles before.

At the six mile mark, the coach excused herself to a porta-potty, and as I had a watch that was set to the same intervals as hers, I was “put in charge” of pacing the group. I sucked. We ran at 11:07 and missed the first walk break, but we really covered some ground. At mile eight, I excused myself for a porta-potty and the two remaining team members carried on. I never saw them again. Upon exiting the porta potty, I felt liberated, in more ways than one, and I set off at a comfortable clip. I ran and ran and ran. I felt really good, I was waving at the crowds of spectators, laughing at some of their signs, fist pumping as I passed bands, DJs and residents with tunes playing. I was having a ball! I think I stopped at another porta-potty, I may have over hydrated on the bus, I drained all but a swallow of 1.5 L Smart Water. Upon exiting the odiferous, plastic latrine, there was my coach. We ran together for a bit, she commenting on how we must have been running a bit faster after leaving her at the first bank of potties. I took credit for that, I am always accountable for my actions and inactions, always one to own up to my indiscretions. As soon as we reached the next bank of potties, she, again, broke away to tend to matters. We’d all be Olympians, I’m sure, if not for porta-potties. We’d run like hell if we didn’t have safe, remarkably clean and private stalls to stop at every time we got the whim! Put a big, single bank of porta potties fifty feet past the finish line and watch people run! So, again, I upped my pace and kept plugging away.

I adhered, mostly, to the run five/walk one schedule I’ve used in training. But, now, there were hills, lots of rolling hills. I decided to modify my approach slightly. There is nothing quite so maddening as to run up a hill only to have your watch inform you that you have a walk break at the crest, that lasts for most of the downhill, and, as you begin to run again, the landscape begins to rise again. So, I just sort of altered the pattern a little and walked up the hills and run downhill, letting gravity pull me down. My pace was all over the place between 10:09 and 12:00, the average being right around my comfort zone, 11:07.

Along the course, I saw a couple of familiar faces. A friend, her husband and their daughter. I first met them through Boy Scouting, then, again, in Rainbow Girls, then, again, in the running club. I don’t know why she wasn’t running, but, I got an excited greeting and it made me feel good. I may have had a small, brief pity party a time or two, leading up to the race, at the fact that I had no close friends or family anywhere along the way, and especially at the finish line, to cheer me on. Often, family members and friends will have signs specifically for their loved one and they’ll negotiate their way through road closures to meet them at points along the way, and, finally, at the finish line. My kids live thousands of miles away, as does my Sweetie. Mom, wisely, chooses not to drive as far as Sacramento, and my close friends mostly live in other towns and have very chaotic lives of their own. So, I thrive on reading the signs for the anonymous.

My favorites signs. One I saw several times that said something like, “Go! Random Stranger!” A young lady had an original sign that read, “Hurry! We’re Cold!” Another I LOL’d at, “Make this your bitch” and, not a block later, “It’s long and it’s hard, do it faster!” That one was my favorite. Go figure.

I ran and I ran and I ran. With walk breaks, of course. I ran through a community I used to live in. I ran past the school my kids went to elementary school at. I ran through the village I used to live in where the chickens roam free in the park and cross the street, using the crosswalks. I ran past the park where I used to take my kids to play on the walk home from school, on Fridays. I ran past the bakery we used to stop at first, to get a Danish cookie called a “Hindber Snitter”. I ran past the street I used to turn on to get to my house, the house I used to sleep in on this one Sunday a year when “the marathon” happened. I remember hearing the horns and the bells, the shouts of encouragement from the crowds lining the streets of the village a couple of blocks away, all from the stifling comfort of my house. I ran past the bike shop Santa bought all the bicycles at. Actually, I walked past the bike shop, at mile ten, because that was the steepest hill on the whole course. At mile eleven, I was running again and as I approached an intersection where some Scouter friends of mine live near, I wondered if they’d be out spectating, and sure enough, there they were! A quick hug, including the doggie, and I continued on my way. My friend, Sky, running with me for a short bit to chat, he even took in my next walk break before peeling off the rejoin his wife and doggie. Again, I felt loved!

I continued to run and a few miles on, the family I first saw had made their way down course and, again, I was greeted and cheered on. I ran and ran and ran. I was starting to feel my right Achilles tighten and hurt a bit. My left hip flexor was equally tight and was also beginning to hurt. I crossed the “half marathon” line and kept on going. Stopping here was not an option. I’ve run twenty-two miles and felt, at that point, I could do four more. I was doing this, pain or no pain.

It is at this point when running is much less a sport of physical conditioning and one of mental conditioning. I still felt good, and I just kept telling myself to “stick to the program”. Most of the hills were done with, so it was back to an almost mechanical pace and my run five/walk one intervals. I have always found comfort in rhythm, in cadence. When I backpack in steep mountainous terrain, especially with a pack overburdened with food and water at the beginning of a trek, I find rhythmic breathing to very helpful. And, while I enjoy running with a chatty group of folks, I find as much joy running alone, listening to the metronome like sound of my feet on the pavement. This is “time in my head”. I love that time, when I am physically exerting myself and my brain is just ON!! On with a capital “O”. Or, even, all caps, as I stated above. This is “me time” exponentially. At about mile sixteen, I pass a blind person running. It took me sixteen miles, folks, to pass a “handicapped” person.

I keep running. At mile eighteen, I am beginning to take two sports drinks at the rare aid stations that have any left. I am fatigued. My Achilles and my hip flexor are on fire, and, now, the “chip” that I had to zip tie to my shoe to record my times electronically as I run over sensors in mats at certain points throughout the course is beginning to cause pressure on the top of my left foot. Slowing from a run to a walk is excruciating and the only thing more painful is resuming running again a minute later. But, my mind is more conditioned than my body and I DO keep going. And going and going and going.

At mile eighteen something profound happens. I inch very slowly past a woman, older than me, with a prosthetic leg. And here is my lesson. Who “can’t” do what?

As ten thousand runners ran through Sacramento today, people on the sidelines would shout in encouragement. Often, the encouraging phrases were followed by something like, “I’m glad you’re running because I CAN’T!” Can you imagine what it would feel like to run past these folks, with a prosthetic leg and hear them say, “I can’t”? I’m sorry, I beg to differ. Anyone can, it’s a choice. True, it’s a choice with a great deal of commitment attached to it. But the key there is, it is a choice. People overcome incredible obstacles by choice, but more succumb to the least of obstacles and prop themselves up with the crutch of “I can’t.”

So, why lie? Please. Can we just be honest? How about if we just say, “I’m glad you’re running because I choose not to!” I like that better. Why? Because it’s honest. It’s the truth. “I can’t” is a lie. There was a runner today that was 84 years old. Correction, 84 years young. To be able to run 26.2 miles at the age of 84 is the result of a whole bunch of “I cans”. I know people, my age and younger, who say, with absolution, “I won’t live to be 80.” And, so, they won’t. Their choice.

Let’s talk about respect for a moment. To say, “I can’t” when we can, I think, is disrespectful to people who have greater challenges than we do, and do. The woman with a prosthetic leg who outran me for eighteen miles and chased me for the last eight, we should think of her the next time we catch ourselves saying, “I can’t” for any reason. Yes, we can, we choose not to, so let’s be honest AND respectful. Can you imagine for a moment, having lost your sight, or a leg, and overcoming those challenges to have someone without those challenges whine, “I caaaaannnnn’t”. I’d Kung Fu kick them with my prosthetic leg, and whack them over the head with my white cane, because I know I could!

After my life lesson at mile eighteen, I continued to run, perhaps a tad slower, perhaps with slightly exaggerated walk breaks, and, the whole while, mind was telling body, “shut up, I got this.”

My goal was to finish the California International Marathon, all 26.2 miles. My hope was to finish it within the six hours allowed. My dream was to finish before 5:30. I crossed the line at 5:15:20 and, to my delight, there was Miles cheering me on, a very good friend, indeed. Of course, two years ago, not being a runner, I made myself get up and get ready and drive around all kinds of traffic blocks to cheer Miles on in this crazy marathon at mile twenty, when most runners “bonk”. I cheered as he ran past, but he didn’t even know I was there until I told him later. That’s what friends do. But, it was at roughly that moment, as I waited for him to pass by, as I observed hundreds of ordinary people achieve something their minds told them to do, even if their bodies weren’t so sure, that I thought, maybe, I could do the same. A month later, I joined a running club, on Miles’ recommendation. And I never doubted for a moment, from that instant on that I was a “marathoner”. Today I proved it to anyone who doubted me, which most certainly did not include me.

The California International Marathon finish.
The California International Marathon finish.

I just perused the stats. I’m a stats addict. Any stat, I want to see it. Every coach I’ve had for the past two years finished the race behind me. I’m a wee bit competitive, I know, it’s about finishing the race, not beating people. Not beating your coaches. My point is, mind over matter. I suggested to myself I’d finish before 5:30 and I did, I did not know my coaches’ goals or hopes, I only knew mine. I might have suggested my goal, my hope, to myself repeatedly, I might have “envisioned” it a few (hundred) times, but you see? Mind over matter. I was in real physical pain. Now, a few hours later, after a shower and a rest, no pain. I also looked at the stats for my newfound friend from the bus; she quit at the halfway mark and my heart goes out to her. What happened?

For days, weeks, months, people have been asking me, “are you nervous?” Um, no. Why? The only thing I was nervous about was waking up with enough time to pack, eat breakfast, get ready, check out and cram my suitcases in the car before the bus arrived. That was my only stress factor, and it was a stupid one. I never doubted for a moment that I’d finish the race. I vacillated, a smidge, on my ability to run the time I hoped for, or, better yet, the one I dreamed of. Even though I flew in from New York yesterday and fly out, for the east coast, again, tomorrow, I knew with absolute certainly, I’d finish this race. Even though my workouts have been compromised by my travels recently, even though my nutrition has been completely derailed by having to eat in restaurants two meals a day, I knew, absolutely, without a doubt, I’d finish this race today, just like the lady with the prosthetic leg, the eighty-four year old marathon runner and the generous number of blind runners all knew, without a doubt, they would finish this race today. It’s what we tell ourselves we can do, without a doubt, that we do, with joy and ease and triumph. Because we can. Because we choose to.

Next time you choose to use that horrible four letter word, you know the one, not fuck, not shit, not damn, the four letter word that begins with a “c”, the next time you find your mouth opened, gaping wide, and your palette closing to form the ugliest of “k” sounds, the beginning of the most disgusting and sinful word ever, the word “can’t”, remember, first, it’s a lie and second, it’s disrespectful to those who are labeled as less able, but do.

I have to pee again.

Scarlett’s Letter November 14, 2013

If there’s an emotion I didn’t experience this week, it’s only because it hasn’t been defined yet.

My God.

A bit short on sleep, it is possible I’m really just suffering from good, old-fashioned exhaustion. Go ahead, ask me if I got up at 4:30 AM and worked out. Considering I turned off the light around midnight and flopped around on a ten-acre bed, trying to find sleep until, oh, probably 4:15 AM, your guess, “no”, would be correct. Guilt. The first emotion of the day.

Through a chain of gruesome events leading to the discovery of some unsavory news from the dark ages of my youth, a long-standing friendship with Stanly, a man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, ended. Sorrow. The emotion that accompanied me in my futile attempts to sleep.

In response to the intense sense of indignation from the events noted above, a retaliatory literary grenade was lobbed into cyberspace, and, well, ended up in the enemy camp. Stanly read the article, the demonic one that has since been removed, revised with a more human flair, and reposted.

Stanly, the young man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, fell from a pedestal I’d placed him on, a pedestal he has occupied for thirty some years. The crash from that pedestal was both violent and abrupt, leaving behind a wake of shock and pain. Two more emotions I find myself awash in.

The man Stanly has become, even after reading the scathing, hateful and hurtful account of my discovery of his historic betrayal, apologized. A genuine and heartfelt apology. I think what I’ve experienced from that moment on is the emotion that hasn’t been defined yet. There is relief and remorse, shame and surprise.

The net result, though, is that a lost friendship I grieved over yesterday, breathes new life today. Neither of us, I’m sure, will ever forget what transpired, and that, I think is a good thing. There were a few long overdue life lessons to be learned by both of us. Gratitude.

Stanly, the boy who betrayed me many, many years ago, crashed from the pedestal a couple of days ago. Destroyed. The man Stanly has become ascends from the rubble and reclaims his place. Respect.

At work today, I teach a group of young auditors that I have taught for the past two years. I first met them as brand new hires for an accounting firm on Long Island three years ago, fresh, eager faces, new to their firm and to auditing. I taught them the basics of auditing and some software skills they’d need to embark on their first year of their career. Last year I returned to teach them more advanced skills to carry them on their way.  I return, again, to teach them the last I have to teach them, all it is I know, making them equals, but for a few more years of experience. Pride.

I received an email from a friend I’ve known since elementary school, a friend who has been battling cancer for years, a friend who was told a year ago she’d be dead by now. She, obviously, is alive. She was told that the tumor they found behind her heart, after the initial cancer was treated and cured, was inoperable and likely would not respond to chemotherapy. It did. She was told that the tumor behind her heart would always be there, that she’d have to receive chemotherapy for the rest of her uncertain life. It is gone. The chemotherapy is over. And now they tell her she has a long life to look forward to. Tough, today, she was told that there is virtually no doubt that, some day, her cancer will return, she knows, in her heart, in her mind, in her soul, as do we, her friends, that they may be wrong. And, if it does return, we all know, without a doubt, she will beat it. It is because there is no doubt. Faith. Hope. Joy.

Do not ever underestimate the power of positive thought, yourself, or for those in your circle. Wisdom.

I dined alone for dinner tonight, which I do more often than not. Alone in a different restaurant every night. Sure, I enjoy the quest, finding the great local restaurants everywhere I go, choosing the perfect glass of wine or local craft or interesting imported beer, the most divine salad or appetizer, the perfect entrée, delicious, artful and healthy. I pretend not to see people look at me, at a table alone, I imagine they aren’t wondering why a woman dines alone. In days gone by, in restaurants with my family or friends, upon seeing a “single diner”, I’d often wonder, I’d often imagine, just what circumstances brought them to such a fate. I surmised, probably not incorrectly, as in my case, that they were business travelers, far from home. I somehow understood that dining alone in a restaurant had to be better than a microwave meal in the solitude of a dank hotel room. Or room service fare, both overpriced and low quality, while trying to catch up on emails and preparations for the next day’s meetings. I felt empathy towards those people I saw, as I sat, surrounded by friends or family members, sharing the day’s news.  And I know, as I meet eyes with diners around me, they have similar thoughts, that, perhaps, they feel somewhat sorry for me. Which I can barely stand. Often, the wait staff don’t quite know how to effectively “deal” with a single diner. I am either rushed through my meal and quickly dismissed, or I am forgotten for more populated tables and booths. Rare is the waiter or waitress that knows exactly how to make a single diner feel welcomed, that knows how to engage them in a genuine conversation. I did not have one of those waitresses tonight. I still tipped twenty percent. The really good ones get twenty-five. Loneliness.

I returned to my room, later, and set to writing. A tiny text message and a sweet phone call with my man. Love. But the wind and the snow are blowing there and the phone line went dead in the storm, mid-conversation. Frustration. Another text with those three little words. Happiness.

In my ridiculously large Victoria’s Secret sweatpants and my Sweetie’s “Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling” shirt, I finish this last little bit and ready for a restful night’s sleep. Comfort.

Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you'd never know it, it all tastes so good!
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you’d never know it, it all tastes so good!
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

To echo the lyrics of Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. How true this is.

Let me ask you this very logical question; what benefit does worry have? Worry has never, ever in the history of the world, in the history of mankind, changed anything. The act of worrying has never secured a positive outcome. Even if we worried about something, and things turned out to be alright, it was not the act of worrying that caused things to be okay. Worry solves nothing and serves no constructive purpose. Let’s look at worry in more depth.

Worry is a very strong emotion, an emotion with a great deal of negativity surrounding it. Worry, if you think about it, is your belief that something dreadful is going to happen. Am I right? You have a fair degree of certainty that something dreadful has happened, or is going to happen. Worry is stress of one of the worst degrees. Worry can cause intense anxiety, it can cause you to feel symptoms of physical ailments that don’t exist, it can cause you to lose sleep, lose focus and concentration on tasks at hand and to feel impatient and irritable. Worry is awful! I know, I’m a natural worrier. But, I make a concerted effort to overcome worry in a number of ways. I will share.

Let’s examine a couple more aspects of the negativity of worry and it’s impact on you and on others close to you. If you subscribe to the “law of attraction”, which I do, at least to some degree, then the act of worrying could actually attract the very thing you are worried about. That’s where those “I knew it” moments come from! You worry about something, it happens, and you exclaim, “I knew it!” Ever had an “I knew it” moment?

The law of attraction is based on a belief that we attract what we think through energy. Our thoughts are energetic and become manifestations when energy responds to like energy; positive to positive and negative to negative. With knowledge, practice and application, we do have some degree of control over our thoughts and their results. The law of attraction has been believed and employed by many, many wildly successful and influential people for centuries. Rhonda Byrne’s book “The Secret” is a guided reference to a vast collection of works of many authors and experts about the law of attraction. It is a fascinating read, and whether you buy into the philosophy, wholly or partially, I think there is definitely something to it and I apply a lot of the principles and concepts to my own life. I have had some pretty drastic results, not what I expected, initially, but what I really wanted, ultimately.

So, as worry goes, with the law of attraction; when we worry, we are focusing a great deal of very negative energy on a set of circumstances we don’t want to happen. According to the law of attraction, that in itself could cause that which we are worried about to manifest. I told you so!

Let’s examine another negative aspect of worry, aside from making you feel shitty and then making bad shit happen, worry is in the future. We are concentrating on something that hasn’t yet happened. To be truly happy in life, we need to live in the present; life and happiness are right now. When we focus on the future, we miss the moment, the only moment we truly have control over. Now. Living in the future causes people to suffer from anxiety. Living in the past or focusing on events or your past life, can cause depression. Living in the now, the present, the only moment in which you really ARE living is the one true, key to happiness. Eckhart Tolle illustrates this clearly and completely in his excellent book, “The Power of Now”. Another practical application of living in the present is the book “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” by Richard Carlson and Wayne Dyer.

Being humans, we have a tendency to worry. It is not as easy as it sounds to just flick a switch and stop worrying. Some of us worry far more than others. I’ve tended towards that end of the scale. After years of letting worry control my health, my attitude, and my lifestyle, I decided to find a way to end it. Because of worry, the related anxiety and stress, I have been a terrible insomniac for most of my life. Because of worry, and probably some dietary factors as well, I have suffered from heartburn and headaches and all sorts of annoyances. After reading several self-improvement books by authors like Brian Tracy and Anthony Robbins, after reading “The Secret” and “The Power of Now”, I have reshaped the way I think and the way I react to situations that would normally cause me to worry. It has completely changed my life. Every single aspect of my life. I no longer suffer from insomnia. I used to have to rely on medications to even fall asleep. I took more Tylenol PM than I care to admit, I swallowed the maximum does of Benadryl before bedtime in hopes of getting any sleep at all. I also relied heavily on Melatonin for relief from insomnia. Let’s forget for a moment the long-term health implications with a steady diet of Tylenol and Benadryl, how about the short term affects. Do you have any idea what its like to hold a full time job, raise two very socially active kids and a completely full volunteer life on a many, many years with only few hours of sleep each night and the groggy after affects of Tylenol PM, Benadryl and melatonin? Not easy. I once had a very wise healthy practitioner strongly advise me, after I told him of my need for sleep aids, that my long term health depended on me getting to the root of the problem, the cause of the insomnia, rather than trying to just treat the symptom with pollutants to my body (Tylenol PM, Benadryl and melatonin). I finally found the key, mostly locked in Jillian Michaels’ book “Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body!” If you could only read one book, that would be the one I’d recommend, believe it or not. Since reshaping my thought processes, deliberately listening to my “self-speak”, and banning worry from my mind, I sleep, unaided, without any kind of medication or supplement. I haven’t had heartburn in years and the headaches I used to have at least weekly, I have, maybe, once a year. I am far more energetic, active and far healthier than I have ever been in my life.

I am an honest soul. I do still worry, from time to time, and needlessly. It has accomplished nothing positive. The other day, I was worried about the love of my life. We live very far apart and survive between visits by texting and talking on the phone. Regularly. I’ve been clear, for my benefit and his, that I have no “expectation” that we text or talk throughout the day, at night, or even every day. We usually do, though, so that is the pattern. Over the weekend, we both had a busy day and we were both in geographical areas where texting was not real successful. That evening, I was home, waiting for some type of communication, because, again, that’s our pattern. Not an expectation, just a comfortable pattern. I went to bed, finally, without a hearing from him. I sent my usual, “good night, Love” text. At six the next morning, there was no reply. I seem to be especially susceptible to worry in the wee hours of the morning and so that evil emotion crept in. My thoughts centered around the fact that he lives alone, in a remote area, and does things like build garages, single handedly. Of course the story he’d recently shared with me of a friend finding three grizzly bears in his garage probably didn’t help matters much. Later that day, when we talked, and he was, obviously alright, I realized how pointless my worry was. Even if he had fallen off the roof while sweeping snow off of it, what good was my worrying from 3,000 miles away going to do? You see what I say? Worry solves nothing.

In fact, it kind of pisses me off when people worry needlessly about me. First, it is like a vote of no confidence. If you’re worried about me, then you must not think I’m capable of (fill in whatever I am doing that worries you). Second, from a law of attraction standpoint, please, please, please, do not attract any negative energy towards me with your senseless worry. I’m busy channeling all the positive energy I can and you and your crazy worry is deflecting part of it! Stop!

What is the progression of worry? Worry is a simple, negative emotion. You are fretting, for no fruitful purpose, over the possibility that something you don’t want to happen will happen. Worry is the seedling of fear. Worry, like a weed, will grow into fear, an even stronger negative emotion, drawing even more negative energy towards it. Fear, left unchecked, becomes paralysis, a paralyzing fear almost guarantees that something negative will indeed manifest, if not what your were initially worried about, probably something far worse.

I was married to a man who worried about many things, in fact, I would classify him as paranoid and his worry was for things way beyond his control. He was a man of many worries and no action. His worry completely controlled him. Every spare moment was spent on the Internet reading every bit of news about that which he worried, confirming, in his mind, that his worries were well founded. Yet his activity did nothing to actually negate this threat, he just fretted and made a lot of pointless noise about his fears. Through this preoccupation, he became extremely detached from his family and from his ability to earn a meaningful living. And addicted to the Internet. Soon, he became worried whether he’d be able to continue to pay the mortgages because he wasn’t earning the money he once did. His own business had languished and died, his relationship with me and his children had languished and died, and his attempt at his “dream” career in real estate finance died before it even had time to languish. His worries became fears, his fears became paralyzing. As a result, all the real estate was lost, his family was lost, his career was lost, as he looked on in complete and total paralysis, unable to tear his attention away from the screen of foreboding and doom.

If worry is a natural emotion for us, then, what are we to do? We need to listen to ourselves think, we need to identify our own worried thoughts and replace them with thoughts and words that are more positive. It takes a concerted effort, a diligent, concerted effort, to become well practiced at this. Obviously. I’ve been making a diligent, concerted effort and I still, occasionally succumb to worry. And I feel the fool for so doing.

What do we replace worry with? Hope comes to mind. Hope is a good word, a positive emotion. I often think of friends who have fought breast cancer when I think of hope, the pink ribbon, and “fighting for the cause”. Mother Teresa understood the law of attraction and has been quoted as saying, “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally, invite me.” Fighting requires a great deal of negative energy, so fighting against war, Mother Teresa surmised, would actually attract more war. A pro-peace rally, though, would be applying positive energy to that which is desired, peace. It is as simple as rephrasing our intention. So, with Mother Teresa in mind, if you want to overcome the devastation and pain and loss of breast cancer, attend a pro-cure rally and don’t participate in any “cancer fighting” activities!

To me hope still contains some worry. Think of how the word “hope” is used in sentences. “I sure hope so”, “I hope for the best”, “my hopes and prayers are with you”. While these are positive, to me, they still suggest some doubt, some worry. Don’t lose hope, no, never, but consider an upgrade in emotion. Perhaps “faith”.

Faith is a stronger version of hope. I have faith that the good thing I want to happen will, and the bad thing I don’t want to happen, won’t. Faith is a positive emotion and entire religions have been built upon it, it is strong, I think sturdier than hope. But even faith has sort of a “we’ll wait and see” connotation to it. For as many that have faith in religion, there are those who don’t, and they don’t seem the least bit worried about their stance. I have met people with the strongest faith imaginable, and I have caught them in a moment of wondering. Faith is good, but faith waits to be seen.

If hope isn’t strong enough, and faith isn’t strong enough, what do we replace worry with? Certainty. Absolute, complete and total certainty. There is nothing more certain than certainty. When a worry creeps into your mind, bash it! Rephrase your worry, replace it by saying out loud, as many times as necessary, “I am certain that (state the desired result here). By banishing your worry and replacing it with certainty, you are sending such a positive bolt of energy out into the universe that good could only manifest from it. At the very least, you have waylaid your worry, you have stemmed the flow of negativity and your strength can only do good, for you and for those you care for. You are demonstrating confidence in those you care for by declaring your certainty in their endeavors, whatever they may be. By declaring what you wish for with certainty, you are increasing your own confidence, your own strength and whatever manifests, as a result, is surely something you desire. Perhaps not what you specifically intended, but I promise, something you desire.

I invite you to practice exchanging your worries for happiness; promote that which is positive, deny that which is negative, live only in the present, take good care of yourself and I guarantee, you’ll have no worries and you will have an abundance of happiness! I am certain!

Don’t worry, be happy!

March

March. The third month of the year. March. A walk with measured or regular steps. What does one have to do with another? March provides us an opportunity we should not neglect.

In the month of March, many things change; daylight savings time begins, spring begins, we are in the midst of the Easter season, all of these things signify a season of renewal and hope.

Much like New Years is the time of year we get to start with a clean slate for the year, and Monday, a clean slate for the week, think of March like the beginning of the “natural” year. Nature comes to life in spring, birds begin to nest, baby animals are born, flowers bud, blossom and bloom, everything is renewed. With this spirit and energy, we too can focus on those goals, those intentions we wish to accomplish.

And so, with March, and the spirit of renewal and hope that spring brings, we should pick up our feet, lift our knees high and march. Whatever intentions we had at the beginning of the new year, whether they languished during the doldrums of winter, are now forgotten, or whether we are still committed and taking action on them, this season of renewal brings to us an opportunity to commit ourselves anew to these intentions. Or perhaps to choose some new intentions to march towards.

As with all things we wish to accomplish, it is important to assign the appropriate level of importance to them. I use the word “intentions”, rather than goals. To be clear, goals are a desired result a person envisions, plans and commits to achieve. Goals are wishes, with a deadline.

Many times, in organizations I have been involved with, both professionally and volunteer, the suggestion that goals be S.M.A.R.T. has been recommended. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. We should always have an “active” list of S.M.A.R.T. goals, and I do recommend writing them down and revisiting them, often, re-examining them for relevance, importance and “S.M.A.R.T.ness”.

Often, we have many more goals than we can hope to accomplish all at once. This is where I distinguish my goals from my intentions. Intentions are goals that I am applying a focussed amount of energy, thought and activity to presently. Intentions are right now, goals are eventual. Intentions are goals that I intend to accomplish by working on them, focussing on them, each and every day, until they are achieved. They are aligned with everything I do, and don’t do. Intentions are goals that I am “marching” towards. And nothing comes between me an my intentions.

What goals are on your list that are ready to bud, blossom, bloom, ready to be born, ready for renewal? What goals are you going to promote to intentions? I implore you to use March to march towards those intentions, and don’t let anyone or anything come between you and the desired result.