Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

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

An Effort to Evolve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Effort to Evolve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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!

All or Nothing

I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl. But I’m getting over it.

It used to be, if the package of Oreos were opened, I’d eat them, three at a time, until they were all gone. This usually took a day and a half to two days. It used to be, if I was going to In N Out Burger, I was having a Double Double, fries and a shake. With a Diet Coke.  If I was going to drink soda, I was going to have three a day. If the “pounder” bag of pretzels was open, I wasn’t going to stop eating pretzels until there were only salt crystals at the bottom of the bag.

In interest of moderation, I found, if I just didn’t buy Oreos or go to In N Out, then I could easily abstain. Pretzels and Diet Coke were another matter, and, in fact, comprised my “lunch” for quite some time. With Red Vines for dessert. Hey, it was all “fat free”, right?

I was on the weight loss roller coaster for years, about twenty, or so. I’d lose weight for a big outing, like a backpacking trek, then gain it all back plus a few. I never grew out of the “junior” size clothing, even at my plumpest, but I was what I called a “top shelf” girl at Hollister. They keep the larger sizes on a top shelf, out of reach of the rotund, and so we have to waddle around the store and find some impossibly thin creature employed there to retrieve them for us. They look at us with something between pity and disgust as they hand us a voluminous bundle of denim, and point us in the direction of the dressing room, knowing full well, in five minutes or less, they’d be putting those jeans back up on the top shelf. I shopped at PacSun and American Eagle to avoid the humiliation, for whatever reason, they were more kind.

When my whole life turned upside down, I saw, where most would see darkness, doom, dismay, and dread, a light. I used foreclosure and short sale, the long overdue collapse of a marriage, and the struggles of rebuilding my own life, by myself, as an opportunity to change. It was a catalyst for growth. If everything was changed, then I was going to change everything.

Somewhere during that period of time, always being a fan of exercising, just more a fan of eating, as was apparent, my son mentioned he’d done a workout video, at home, with his roommate’s girlfriend, and it “kicked his butt”. He is one of the most fit people I know; cross country runner, avid cyclist, gym rat. I drove to Target as fast as I could and bought my first Jillian Michaels workout video. It kicked my butt. I sat down after the warm up and watched the rest from the couch, incredulously, dabbing the sweat from my brow.

Within a week, I was able to complete the video with a fair amount of self-respect. I bought another video. And another. I like variety. And I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I was going to have ALL of Jillian’s videos, and new ones, too, as soon as they became available. Then I spied a book of hers at Target. I bought it. I read it cover to cover in about two days. I have never been the same. I have never been better.

I don't have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
I don’t have them ALL, but I got LOTS!
The book that changed my life.
The book that changed my life.

In Jillian’s book, I learned about diet, exercise, sleep, thought, environment, and, most importantly, how all of this relates to our hormones and that our hormones are what regulate our metabolism, and, so, our weight. I lost fifty pounds. There are ten pounds that come and go, but they do go with minimal effort. The real bragging rights, here, are that I’ve kept most of that fifty pounds of for most of three years. Give or take. I’ve kind of lost track.

The best part about losing that much weight, other than being able to tie my shoes, with the bows on the top of my feet, rather than on the side, where it was easier to reach, or the fact that my upper arms look like arms and not thighs, or the fact that it feels really, really, good to be thin, is that I got to shop for a new wardrobe three times in one year! How cool is that? I had to replace my tight size fourteens with size twelves because the fourteens, literally, fell off. I wore the twelves until they, too, fell off, and replaced them with eights. When the eights got to be ridiculously baggy, I bought sixes, and this is where I’ve been for two years now. So, no, I’m not some tiny, frail, creature riddled with eating disorders. I look pretty darn good and I eat pretty darn well and I feel pretty darn awesome and I can do any darn thing.

With this huge personal success, I became so confident, so inspired and so motivated, I knew, without a doubt, I could do anything. Anything at all. And this set my “effort to evolve” into motion. I vowed to myself to continue to evolve, in every area of my life, and then, to share my experiences, to, hopefully, inspire others.

I am absolutely NOT an all or nothing kind of girl anymore. I can eat two Oreos from an open package and make that package last weeks. If I really try. I still won’t ever buy Oreos for myself, but, others do. I can go to In N Out Burger and eat a lettuce wrap burger and pick at someone else’s fries and drink a nice, refreshing glass of water. Except after a marathon, then I get a Double Double, my own fries and a shake. Just sayin’. Every now and then, a bottle of really good red wine, or a super refreshing bottle of sparkling wine, does challenge my abilities to refrain from my current state of “all or nothingness”. But, I’m working on it.

By the way, where does it say that if something tastes really, really good that more of it will taste better? Why does having more, or all of it, now, make us think we’ll be more satisfied? The last Oreo tastes the same as the first. Isn’t it better to make it all last? Two Oreos every day for a month versus all the Oreos today, prolonged enjoyment, less negative impact. The first glass of wine is enough, and, then, I can enjoy it, again, tomorrow. So, I’m working on it.

Jillian taught me the virtues of NOT being an all or nothing kind of girl, in fact, she preaches it in all of her books. Okay, so, yah, I do have ALL of her books. And videos. And buy the new ones as soon as they come out. It isn’t al “all or nothing” thing, I swear, I’m studying her as a marketing role model. I only hope to be a fraction as successful in my endeavors, some day! Wink, wink.

Being an All or Nothing, Today – In Application:

It used to be, and this is so common it’s a joke, really, I’d start my “healthy eating” program on Monday morning. I’d cave at about 3:00 PM on Monday and, so, the week was “blown”, I’d start, again, on the following Monday. For a few hours. Why do we believe that “healthy” can only begin on Mondays? Now, I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I don’t and then I resume my healthy eating with the very next bite. In this practice, I gain six and a half days of healthy eating every week over what I used to do. Make sense? It isn’t an all or nothing, take it a bite at a time, a meal at a time, not a week at a time. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the week as possible, every week, forever. That’s what healthy is!

It is almost that time of year, again, one I dread with ferocity. In a few weeks the gym is going to be a zoo. For about two weeks. Then it will be a gym, again. For those two weeks, the “resolutionists” will be flocking to fitness classes and crowding the weight room floor. The cardio equipment will have plump, impatient people waiting in line for their fifteen-minute cardio embarrassment. New Years and all those well-meant resolutions will be forgotten within two weeks and the couch and the potato chips will win out, for most. Sad, but true. And, where, exactly, is it written that an “exercise regime” can only begin on January 1st? Why not March 12th? Or August 27th? So fitness is an all year or nothing thing? Nope. It isn’t. I have weeks where I work out, per plan, four, five maybe even six times. I have weeks where I work out only once, and, every now and then, I have a week without any workouts. But, more weeks than not, I am working out at least four times. It isn’t an all or nothing deal. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible for as much of the year as possible, every year, forever. That’s what healthy is!

Part of “living clean”, part of what impacts our hormones, is our environment, and this is something that most folks aren’t aware of. Being healthy goes beyond diet and exercise. There are many other factors that impact our health that we are surrounded by, all the time. They are practically inescapable in many households and work settings. The cleansers we use, the detergents and soaps we use, the household products we use, the stuff we spray and squirt on the animals we hug, kiss and snuggle with all night, the stuff we spray in the air and on our furniture and carpets to mask the smell of our chemically treated pets, the things we smear on every part of our body from scalp to armpits to eyelids. All of it is chemical based. All of it is, if not toxic, at least harmful to our endocrine system, altering our hormones, which regulate our metabolism, which is a very necessary component of our health and our ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and state. Is it possible, then, to rid our environments of all of these harmful products? No. Not at all. But, every product we are able to replace with something natural, something organic, is one small step in the right direction. We can’t just throw up our hands in surrender and assume if we can’t afford all organic cleaning and personal hygiene products that all is lost and we should just commit suicide, slowly, by sitting on the couch eating ice cream, potato chips and Texas Toast.

There are strategies for low cost alternatives to organic products. There are a million resources for finding them online. Well, maybe not a million GOOD sources, but there are a few.

Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.
Great stuff and lots of resources for clean living within.

So, if you refuse to give up your “all or nothing” attitude, fine, but try this first; change a few of the things you do and don’t give up on January 14th or on Monday at 3:11 PM. Just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. I promise, you’ll see positive results, inside and out. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make a few more changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

When we were in the second grade and out on the playground playing jump rope, when our turn came and we “ran in” and jumped, eventually, we’d mess up and our turn would be over, at which point, by golly, we got right back in line and anxiously waited for our next turn. We didn’t just say “well, screw that, I blew it, can’t jump rope again until next Monday, or until next January.” We just kept at it, trying again and again and again, until the recess bell rang, and then we were at it again the next recess, always getting better and better. Did we ever get it perfect? Obviously not, or we’d still be out there on the playground, jumping, jumping, jumping, chanting the lyrics along with a bunch of very patient second graders, hoping for a turn, someday.

Perfection is non-existent. There is perceived perfection, occasionally, but even it is rare and illusive. Do the best you can, just keep at it and be as consistent as possible, forever. A healthy lifestyle isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Life isn’t an all or nothing kind of thing. Nor am I.

Have a great Monday! Have a great New Year! Have great health! Have a great life!

Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.
Not a diet or exercise book, just a great inspirational read for life, in general.

 

Scarlett’s Letter Halloween 2013

Trick or treat?

I just returned, late last night, from four fun-filled days in Phoenix at my company’s “User Conference”. This was my fourth User Conference. I’ve been with the company for five years and some months. I remember feeling so left out and overlooked that first year, not being selected to go to User Conference. All the veterans just rolled their eyes and said, “ugh, consider yourself lucky.” After my first User Conference, the very next year, I totally understood. From about 7:00 AM every morning until about 11:00 PM every night, being “on” and “customer facing”. Towing the company line. Exhausting. Trick.

I am exhausted, though, I will admit, this was, by far, the best (for me) User Conference. Ever. I am still exhausted. Today was a day of adjustment; one of making my own decisions as to when to be where to do exactly what, well, sort of what, I wanted to do, rather than following a tightly scripted schedule, which, by the way, was to be worn around my neck along with a lime green lanyard, with my name tag and a large, garish button that said “How Can I Help You?” Kill me. Yes, today, I still had work to do; emails to answer, expense reports to complete (or so an email marked “URGENT !!!! said), and travel to arrange, then rearrange. Trick.

My goals for the day included 1) sleeping until I awoke, without the aid of an alarm, 2) running six miles, preferably with energy and enthusiasm, 3) attending to two personal matters that HAD to be dealt with today, one involving online research and a phone call, the second involving a trip to the courthouse, and 4) attending a wine club “members only” Halloween Party for free wine tasting, fun and debauchery. Treat.

On point number 1; the street out front appears to be done. The City of Napa has been replacing sidewalks and gutters where the tree roots of the nearly fifty-year-old Chinese Pistachio trees have leavened them like an angel food cake. For whatever reason, the tractors and jack hammers and dump trucks and loud men all begin work, in front of my house, where the work appears to be “done”, in a residential area, at some time before 7:00 AM. And, my luck, it’s fucking Thursday, and today is the only day, for months to come, that I have any hope of sleeping in past 7:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time. Thursday is “garbage day”, which actually means the garbage trucks, an entire fleet of them, arrive at 6:00 AM, or so, and start groaning and slamming through the streets, dumping everyone’s discards into their cavernous guts with an alarming racket. Cross point number one off my list as pointless and futile. Happy Halloween, I AM the walking dead. Trick.

Number 2; run six miles. I slip out of bed like “The Ooze”, rummage through my perpetually packed suitcase for my beloved slippers and somehow navigate downstairs and manage to fix a fairly nutritious and almost delicious breakfast in spite of the fact I haven’t grocery shopped in weeks and wont’, because I’m on the road, again, next week. And the next. And the next. And the next. Until nearly Christmas. Mom joins me and we begin her favorite game; devils advocate. Happy Halloween! The devil is here, ready to respond to everything I say with some sort of point, counterpoint or possible argument. I’m tired. I don’t want to play. I can debate with anyone, I can defend my strongly held convictions and deeply rooted beliefs with anyone, almost anytime. Just not today. I feel challenged and defensive and exhausted I just want to … go upstairs and answer mind-numbing work emails on topics like Microsoft Word headers not functioning correctly in our workpaper manager software. Kill me. But I do this for an hour, until the URGENT !!! email comes in that says we HAVE TO HAVE our October expenses in by EOB (end of business) today. Well. Okay. I will take the two hours to complete a tedious and uncooperative online form, attaching images of receipts for every expense, no matter the triviality of the expense, so my company can reimburse me for all the credit card charges I’ve incurred and must, personally, pay, for my extensive travel. Twist my arm. It’s the tedium of the process that almost makes me say “f” it, I’ll just cover it out of pocket. But I don’t’. And by now it’s 1:00 PM. And I’m still in my pajamas, drinking cold, weak, bitter, black coffee. I’m in sweats, actually, that’s what I sleep in when I’m not with my Sweetie. I could, by today’s standards, go to the grocery store, the bank, a college campus, a restaurant, shopping, I could take an airline flight, in what I’m wearing; grotesquely baggy sweatpants, slippers and my boyfriend’s thermal t-shirt advertising a brewery in Fairbanks, Alaska. But I’m old school. I usually shower and get dressed before leaving the house. Hell, I usually shower and dress even if I don’t leave the house. I have some self-respect. Normally. Trick? Treat? Trick, I guess.

Finally, because I can’t stand myself anymore, I go and put my running tights and jersey on, lace up my shoes, pull my hair into a tight pony tail which I pull through the hole in the back of my running hat. I fill my bladder bag and strap on my Garmin watch. I answer another email, finish another expense report and decide I’d better have lunch before running. I’m out of fuel. Breakfast was hours ago. I find a frozen stuffed pepper in my freezer, reheat it, eat it, brush my teeth and head for the car. I run my “usual” six-mile loop and it’s like I haven’t run in years! All I can think about is the next walk break. I run for five minutes and walk for one, at a pace ranging from eleven minutes per mile to twelve minutes per mile. I’m old. I’m tired. That’s what I do. Right now, with about four weeks to go until my first full marathon, I just want to pile on miles and not hurt myself. I could care less about speed right now. I just want to finish. And live. But I don’t feel like I can finish six miles, alive, today. I guess you could say that today, I finished my first “zombie run”, except it wasn’t a race with energetic participants in gory costumes, it was me, lurching along like Frankenstein, for six, long, miles. Treat, actually. The sense of accomplishment made it all worthwhile.

I make it home, stinky, sweaty and even more tired, and it’s after 3:00 PM. I’ve taken care of the one point of personal business, on the phone, but I still have to go to the courthouse. And they close at 4:00. I wouldn’t be caught dead at the courthouse in my baggy sweats and my boyfriend’s shirt, but I’ll go sweaty and stinky in Lycra running pants! It was my only choice, there was no time for unpacking all my shower stuff and makeup stuff and hairdryers and straightening irons and curling irons and then showering and then employing all said items in order to look human. It’s Halloween! This is my costume! Living Dead in Lycra! Scary! Right? Treat, I guess; it’s a glass half full perspective.

I get my business done, fairly quickly. I only had to wait in line behind one person, a tiny and very young lady, who was attempting to complete papers to file for divorce from her husband, Stephen, the father of her child. How do I know it’s “Stephen” with a “ph” and not “Steven” with a “v”? Am I that assumptive? No, she has “Stephen”, with a “ph” tattooed, painfully, I’m sure, on the top of her foot. And socks are so not in fashion with skinny jeans and flats! I didn’t want to tap her on the shoulder and say, “honey, it’s almost November, boots are cool, if you want to cover up that “Stephen” of yours.” Um, trick?

Home. And, damn, I’m hungry again. I fix dinner and tell Mom about my plans for my costume for the wine club, free wine-tasting, costume party. A gypsy. I can wear my favorite super comfy skirt, a little more makeup than usual, a few scarves tied around my waist like a sash, all the jewelry I own, and offer to read people’s palms! She suggests I wear her clown outfit with the red, curly wig and the nose. She suggests I wear her witch costume with a tall, stiff hat and a hot, rubber mask. She suggests I wear my dad’s chambray shirt, jeans and a blonde wig that he wore to be something she couldn’t quite remember at an RV club party twenty years ago. I’m not getting any of this. And, geez, no wonder my shit is still in boxes in the middle of the floor in my room! Apparently the dresser drawers and closets are full of frumpy costumes from the past five decades. For two.  Trick.

I’m tired. I don’t want to wear my dad’s chambray shirt and a blonde wig. I decide not to go. It’s just easier, and I’m tired. I finish dinner, and dishes and think about trick or treating. It would be a real trick to find enough energy to get dressed up and ready and go to a Halloween party, alone, and be engaging and energetic and charismatic. A real trick. I decide on treat, and take a nice, hot bubble bath. I listen to an audiobook I’m half way through and am totally enjoying. I set my plastic Vino Volo glass full of cab sav on the edge of the tub. Might I mention that this bathtub and I do not get along. This tub is nearly fifty years old, though it looks brand new, because no one ever used it, and for good reason. Unlike new tubs, it has actual real estate on two corners, ample enough acreage for a bargain size bottle of Paul Mitchell shampoo, and a bargain size bottle of Paul Mitchell conditioner, face wash, body wash, a loofah, a razor and a glass of wine, or coffee, depending on the time of the shower. But, like many other pieces of real estate I’ve owned in my life, it’s too steep to be useful. True, it looks fine, until you try to actually use it, then the bottles all slide and tumble into the tub, one after the other. I’ve taken to setting the bottles on the floor, next to the tub, when I shower, and retrieving them and replacing them, one by one, in the order used. I don’t’ often take bubble baths, I don’t’ normally like to sit that still for that long. Who, beside me, takes a three-minute bubble bath? I take shorter bubble baths than showers! You can ask my Sweetie, it’s true! But, tonight, for whatever reason, I was able to just sit in the warm water and soak. I bet I was in the tub for a full ten, maybe even fifteen minutes. And, just how long do you think it took for my plastic Vino Volo glass of cab sav to slide along that stupid, generously sized but overly sloped tub edge and into the tub? Right! About ten seconds! I’ve heard that wine, in your bath, is very good for your skin. We’ll see. If I look younger and more radiant tomorrow, we’ll know! I managed to save a third of the wine, because I’m fast like that, and I clung, tightly, to my glass, while enjoying my audio book and being in a place where no one, on the phone or in person, was going to play devil’s advocate with me. Bliss. Treat.

My lesson for today; feeling a wee bit grumpy, tired, a little out of sorts, with some thought and self reflection, I decided it’s because I have been working very slowly, but very diligently, towards a number of goals, simultaneously. Career goals, relationship goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, fitness goals, nutrition goals. So many goals. For weeks, months, years, even, I have been just plinking away at these goals. They require a cannonball and I’ve been firing at them, monotonously, for years, with a child-sized, pellet gun. But, it seems, I am making progress. This week, for the first time in a long time, I could actually feel that I’ve made some significant progress. Every fall, for whatever reason, I sort of gird my loins and fight a little harder towards my long-term goals, and, this week, I actually felt like I was on the brink of some measurable progress. But, I am not there yet. I am so close, but not there. I have tossed all the knives into the air, I am standing, looking up, squinting and shielding myself as the knives all finish their arc up, pause, and begin their fall towards, well, me. Now, I’ve got to catch them all! Or, at the very least, dodge them. The “future” is frustratingly close, uncertain and a little scary. Boo! And, as a result, I keep catching myself “future focused”, rather than being present. This causes anxiety.

The real reason I didn’t go to the Halloween bash dressed, comfortably and fashionably, as a gypsy, was because I have that pain in my neck, again. Every fall, about the time I start girding my loins and fighting a little harder towards my long-term goals, I get a pinched nerve in my upper back that is excruciating. It takes weekly massages and chiropractic care, for months, to unknot them. This is all anxiety driven, I am sure. So, today, I caught myself, and reflected back on a handful of books I consider constant and vital resources in my life library. “The Power of Now”, of course, by Eckhart Tolle and “The Soulmate Experience” by Joe Dunn and Mali Apple, both of which I have read multiple times and have recently purchased on Audible and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to driving to and from the airport. Another, and one I’m about half way through for the first time, “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. And last, but not least, Jillian Michael’s “Slim for Life”.

In “The Charisma Myth”, Olivia Fox Cabane provides a valuable pointer for staying present, one of the three necessary qualities for being charismatic, she says you should wiggle your toes when you are listening to others speak. By wiggling your toes, you are in the moment, you are present, and you appear, to the speaker, to be actively listening and engaged, which all charismatic people are.

Jillian. Jillian, Jillian, Jillian. Her books have changed my life, the others that followed have added, immeasurably, but I would never have begun my journey, my effort, towards personal improvement, had it not been for Jillian Michaels. To some, at first, she seems hard to take seriously. But, seriously; plain, matter of fact, backed with facts, passionate, clear advice. After her first book, in my household, WWJD, which a few years earlier stood for “what would Jesus do?” became WWJD, “what would Jillian do?” In Jillian’s latest book, “Slim for Life,” she talks a bit about the importance of core strength and posture. We all slouch. I slouch. I’ve seen pictures. Recently.

So, I’ve taken the very practical and important advice from “The Charisma Myth” about doing something physical to stay “present”, rooted in the moment, in the now, and I’ve combined it with Jillian’s advice on core strength and posture. So, to remind myself to remain present, while I may be wiggling my toes, unless I’m wearing flip flops, in which case, I may appear a bit weird, I tighten my core and stand very straight and erect, I flex every core muscle I can discern, and this keeps me focused, a bit more, on the present moment, where I should be, where there are no regrets of the past or anxieties of the future.

The point, here, is to live only in the present. The present is the only point in time in which we have any power. We cannot make any changes to anything that has happened in the past. No amount of regret or remorse will ever change anything that has happened. Make your peace with that, apologize, if need, forgive where necessary, and leave it in the past. Likewise, no amount of worry or thought about the future, now, will have any positive affect, other than to deprive you of the only time you do have to make an impact, now. Remaining so focused on the future not only deprives us of the present, now, and, ultimately, our life, it creates unnecessary anxiety. No amount of worry ever had any positive affect on the future. To the contrary, actually, if you are at all aware or familiar with the concept of the power of thought and manifestation. What you believe, you can conceive, to quote Brian Tracy. If we believe only anxiety driven worries and fears about the future, the energy and focus and though we believe is more likely to manifest than the opposite, or the actual, desired, outcome.  There is energy in thought, and energy will attract energy. So, negative, anxious thoughts about some undesired outcome is much more likely to attract that negative outcome than positive, affirming thoughts. This may sound all “new world, touchy-feely, spirituality”, but, hey, what have we got to lose? Anxiety? Pain? Discomfort? Unrest? It is so worth the try. And, from my standpoint, I swear by it. Standing straight, core muscles flexed, wiggling my toes, focusing on the moment, the present and thinking positive. Treat.

 

Scarlett’s Letter October 8, 2013

Lunch out, it has become a tradition and unlike many family traditions, this is one I both enjoy and look forward to. Lunch with Mom and my cousin.

I am away from home a lot for work, if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you are well aware of this. Until earlier this year, I lived in Sacramento, an hour and a half drive away from my mom. Widowed now for coming up two years, aging and in deteriorating health, I’ve moved “home” until we figure out a better solution. This has been really hard for me. I’m sure it’s no picnic for Mom, either, and I’ve written plenty on this dynamic, too.

I am not totally satisfied with my livelihood these days, either. I have a fantastic job, no doubt. I am grateful. My work is satisfying and varied and interesting, the travel, though wearing and tiring, is fun and at least I’m not stuck in the same cubicle day in and day out. I am fairly well compensated and have competitive benefits. But. Yes, but. I am tired. I am bored. I have no direction for advancement. If I stay here I will never progress further. The travel wreaks havoc on friendships, relationships of all sorts and I’m certain constant upheaval, continual lack of sleep, restaurant food for weeks on end and wildly varying availability of exercise has to be less than ideal for my long-term health, which is one of my core principles. And then there’s Mom. How can I be here to help if I’m never here?

This week I am working from home, yet I have no teaching assignments. It isn’t a week off, I have plenty to do; expense reports, travel arrangements to make for upcoming trips, upgrading software, organizing materials for upcoming classes. I don’t get scheduled administrative time, so it piles up until one of these rare weeks comes along. These weeks are also the time I use to regroup, personally. I try to get back on track with my workouts, my clean eating routine, my organization and my attempts to assimilate my more wannabe minimalist lifestyle into my mom’s piles of paper, cupboards and closets of clutter and her knick-knack intensive world. Example; eight months after moving in now, the closet, desk and dresser in “my” room are still full of aforementioned things of Mom’s and I have piles of boxes in my room from which I must sift for underwear, shoes and purses. This all makes me a little cray cray.

The adjustment coming “off the road” where I live and dine in solitude, where I have almost certain quiet in the evenings, returning home where my whereabouts and activities are under constant inquiry, scrutiny, critique and question, where the TV is on full blast more of the day and night than not, where my comings and goings must be carefully and accurately detailed, where everything I say must be repeated, repeatedly, at louder and louder intervals, often with accompanying hand or body gestures, and where meal time is a constant barrage of questions to which there are no answers and lengthy, convoluted stories about people I’ve never met like, Mom’s hairdresser, her doctor, and other characters in her life. How she has accumulated so much personal data on these people I have no idea. She knows the names, national origins, livelihoods and every diagnosis for each and every family member for every individual she has ever encountered. I try to listen actively, to be present, as I preach, as I believe, and yet, the whole while I am thinking “this pertains to me how? What is the point of this story? Why am I being told this story? Is the only lesson here one of patience?” I crave silence, just a tad, if only a moment to gather my own thoughts so I can, perhaps, write an article or make a video or tell a story of my own from my travels.

I am happy to be home and can’t wait to leave again within about the first five minutes home. I am so out of sorts my first day or two home, I’m grumpy, I’m agitated and I hate that I feel grumpy and agitated. If I were a child I’d recommend a big, fat time out. In fact, I’d love a big, fat time out! More than anything. It takes me a few days to settle into some semblance of a routine of waking in my own bed, cooking, cleaning, working, working out, all while juggling Mom’s needs; errands, a chore here and there, figuring out why the TV only displays static, talking to the cable people on the phone to figure out why the TV only displays static, meeting the cable TV technician to demonstrate the non-functioning TV and to be the interpreter between Mom and the technician on why the TV only displays static, moving heavy objects, putting clean glasses back up on the top shelf, hanging the hummingbird feeders and answering tons of  unanswerable questions and listening to even more stories.

I have a lot on my plate and a whole bunch of crap swirling in the toilet bowl that is my mind, these days. I want out of just about everything I’m up to my eyebrows in. My sense of duty and my pragmatic side are preventing me from making the changes I need to, want to and really, have to make. This is my personal struggle and one I am counseling myself on like I would a good friend or anyone who asked my advice.

I don’t always take my own advice. And years later I usually end up scolding myself for not listening to myself sooner. When I don’t listen to my really good advice on personal growth and evolution, I turn to some of my tried and true mentors, usually found on my Kindle and in my Audible library, provided I am afforded any quiet solitude. This week, in my car, alone, I had a good no nonsense smack up the side of the head from Jillian Michaels in “Unlimited”. I agree 100% with every passionately spoken word she said so emphatically, sometimes I felt like I was being scolded, in her self-narrated audiobook from Audible. It was just the right amount of practical advice, common sense and that “get off your ass and do it” attitude of hers that I needed. Her books have, without a doubt, changed my life. Whether you like her on TV or not, her books are the best and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend.

With my priorities suddenly straightened out again, thanks Jillian, I got almost everything accomplished yesterday I hoped to; an easy three-mile run, a chest workout at the gym, shopping for food for the week, bills paid, work, of course, and laundry. I got an article posted, though I’d hoped to maybe get a second from my backlog finished and posted, too. Today, I’ve accomplished much of what I set out to do, knowing that today was going to be partially hijacked with Mom’s doctor’s visit. I made it to the gym for stairs and yoga and I’ve posted a couple of articles. But, yes, most of the day was devoted to Mom and her doctor’s visit.

In my absence, while traveling or when living further away, my cousin has made herself available to my parents. She is retired and has moved from San Francisco to Sonoma, and so, is only about twenty minutes away. She is very socially active but always finds time to help my parents out, especially as my dad’s health deteriorated, ultimately leading to his passing at the age of 91, a bit over a year and a half ago. My cousin was there for my mom, often, in the year that followed before I finally moved home, and continues to be close at hand for these doctor’s visits in the neighboring town, as Mom is not real confident driving such a distance these days. For all of this, I am so totally and completely grateful. That my cousin has devoted her time and compassion so generously has allowed me to keep this crazy job of mine, with my wild travels, decent pay and good benefits for that much longer.

The past couple of doctor’s visits, though, I have been home and have been willing and able to take Mom myself. Still, my cousin comes, drives even, and, per our family tradition, this is all followed by lunch, somewhere fabulous. The lunches were tradition long before I ever tagged along, but now, when I am in town, there are more and it is merry!

My cousin, an artist, a photographer, and creative in any imaginable way, strongly opinionated in many ways, and several of those strong opinions I agree whole-heartedly with, I’ve learned.  A few, I don’t. But that’s okay. Being my elder by some years, her children being my age actually, until now, I’ve never really had the opportunity to really develop a relationship such as a peer, a friendship, with her. And for this, too, I am very grateful. There are “family” similarities that cannot be denied, for example, the way we see things, which she easily expresses in art and I have the good taste to simply admire. We have a similar love of food and the outdoors, fashion and some basic philosophies about living life. I will admit, that through the years, as a child and young adult, I feared the differences we may have, based on our propensity to develop strong opinions. Hearing most of her points of view second hand, I almost wished to avoid visits so as to avoid any sort of butting of heads. Not that I seek to avoid people whose opinions differ from mine, but with family, and especially this family, it is sometimes the easier path. Thankfully, due to Mom’s routine doctor’s visits and our traditional lunch, I’ve had the opportunity to find that our differences are minor and rare. Example, I love polka dots, she scoffs at them. Big deal.

So, every few months, like today, the three ladies, our ages spanning three generations, pile into a car, drive to the neighboring town so Mom can see her doctor. After the doctor’s visit, we pile back in the car and decide on a place in Napa to enjoy lunch. At lunch we share stories, we share things that interest us, share artists and authors, ideas and philosophies. We enjoy an incredible meal and, most of all, the three of us enjoy each other’s company.

What in life do we avoid because we fear differences, adversity or conflict? Often those fears are unfounded, the differences, adversity and conflict are much more minor than we ever expected, once confronted, they are manageable, and, in fact, we grow from them. We learn new information, a new point of view, we learn, perhaps, acceptance and tolerance. We become better for the differences, adversities and conflicts we face, we become stronger, more confident. Sometimes, we discover that we have been, maybe, intolerant, closed minded, stubborn and by facing the difference, the adversity, the conflict, we grow. We may even change. Perhaps we even find the inspiration we’ve been seeking, or that we’ve been waiting for, to act as the catalyst for positive change in our lives. I will quote Eleanor Roosevelt daily until the day I die, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And if that is facing whatever you fear in the way of a difference, or adversity or conflict, then you will have overcome yet another measly fear and you can move on to conquer the next, another day. And with each fear conquered, we evolve towards the people we deserve to be. Make facing those fears, overcoming differences, adversity and conflict a tradition, just like a good visit and a fab lunch with Mom and my cousin after a doctor’s appointment.

 

Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!