Scarlette Letter – September 11, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for good companionship

Affirmation – I am moderate

Attitude – Weary

Activity – Existence

Nurture – Meditation

Enrichment – Quote – “Good health begins in the mind”

Nourishment –

Quick breakfast before work.
Quick breakfast before work.
Great lunch; tart apples, brie, gouda and blackberry balsamic vinegar
Great lunch; tart apples, brie, gouda and blackberry balsamic vinegar
Dinner salad
Dinner salad
Soba and Sunday Sauce for dinner
Soba and Sunday Sauce for dinner

Giving – Good thoughts

Connection – It was a solitary day of work

Simplifying – Simply didn’t further this any today

Journaling – A tail, I mean tale:

Don’t Be Such an Ass

I work with a man. He acts like an ass.

My co-worker is funny and witty and clever. He often says exactly what is on his mind, and, on occasion, he offends someone in so doing, but he isn’t unkind, on the contrary, he is actually quite nice. He just doesn’t know when not to say something. He often says far too much. On conference calls he will talk far too long, or ask too many questions, or in some other way make a brief meeting turn into something much more than brief. And he acts like an ass.  (Continue Reading)

Don’t Be Such an Ass

I work with a man. He acts like an ass.

My co-worker is funny and witty and clever. He often says exactly what is on his mind, and, on occasion, he offends someone in so doing, but he isn’t unkind, on the contrary, he is actually quite nice. He just doesn’t know when not to say something. He often says far too much. On conference calls he will talk far too long, or ask too many questions, or in some other way make a brief meeting turn into something much more than brief. And he acts like an ass.

Scarlette Begonia

There are other people I am around, frequently, who act like an ass.

Sometimes, I even act like an ass, I really, really don’t want to, but it happens. I know better. We all know better.

The ass I refer to is Eeyore.

Like Eeyore, my co-worker dismisses his ideas as poor, he is rather self-deprecating, at times, and finishes almost every statement or question with something like, “I don’t know, it probably isn’t a very good idea”, the funny thing is, he even has the same tone of voice, the same manner of speaking. Like Eeyore, other asses I’m around often expect the worst to happen and just resign to it. Like Eeyore, some asses I know just assume others don’t accept or appreciate them, or their ideas. Like Eeyore, sometimes I assume the worst.

Scarlette Begonia

I’ve confronted some of these asses with their outlook, explained how, really, what you truly believe, what you think, and expect, will usually manifest, good or bad. It’s the old positive mental attitude thing. I’ve had an ass or two reply to me, saying something like, “it’s better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it turns out okay.” Cheery.

One ass in my life believed so completely that the worst would happen, that he became completely paralyzed by his fear, he became totally unable to act to prevent that which he feared most. And in his inability, his strong belief and overwhelming fear, his worst imaginable fears all came to pass. His negativity was reinforced, and has had a domino effect on his life. He lost everything. Action and a positive belief and confidence likely would have changed the course of things. At the very minimum, with a more positive and optimistic outlook, even if the worst does happen, we are better equipped to pick up the pieces and move on.

Scarlette Begonia

There will always be asses. We will, invariably, be an ass ourselves, at some point in time. Maybe at many points in time. All I know, I think being an ass, like Eeyore, seriously inhibits joy and happiness. As a student of happiness, I believe this and intend to strive not to be such an ass.

Scarlette Letter – September 3, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for the very special people in my life and for the cherished time I get to spend with them

Affirmation – I am kind

Attitude – My life sparkles

Activity – Window shopping

Nurture – Steam pedicure

Enrichment – “Friendship is gained by listening instead of talking”

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Begonia

And a lovely dinner with my man, his family and their family friend; a treat so delicious and rare, I did not think it appropriate to snap a picture; use your imagination!

Giving – I let several cars in front of me in traffic and pitched in on a lovely steam pedicure for a friend who is having surgery tomorrow

Connection – A great day with my love, his friends, and his family

Simplifying – I didn’t buy anything while window shopping, knowing my wallet is emptier than my closet

Sunday Sauce

We wait all week for the weekend, whether our days off are the traditional Saturday and Sunday, or other days during the week. Sometimes the only thing that gets us through the week is the promise of those days off.

As our weekend arrives, there is great anticipation, a celebratory feeling as the final day of work draws to a close. Our weekend begins, sometimes, about half way through the final day of our week; productivity decreases, distraction increases, and we count down the hours, then the minutes until we are free.

By Sunday, we begin to gear up for another week of work ahead. Sometimes, a sense of finality, of, dare I say, dread, develops, no matter how much we love our jobs. The fun and frolicking and freedom give way to task and chore and preparation. The joy of the day off is, sometimes, seemingly mitigated by the fact that an alarm must be set for morning, adequate amounts of sleep planned for, and, often, chores completed for the week ahead; laundry, ironing, meals planned, shopping done, meals prepared ahead. Such as Sunday Sauce, a traditional Italian family custom (no, I’m not Italian, but I love the idea). The week’s meat scraps and leftovers are combined into a sauce pot with tomatoes and other sumptuous ingredients, and are simmered together to make a sauce that is used throughout the busy week ahead. Sunday Sauce is spooned over pasta, meat, and vegetables and makes meal preparation throughout the week faster and easier, but no less homemade or delicious. But, the making of Sunday Sauce is one of those tasks we do with the foreboding of the long week ahead drawing nearer and nearer.

Recently, I seem to be experiencing this phenomenon twice per week. I work a traditional work week, with Saturday and Sunday off. I often have some flexibility during the week and can shuffle some of my projects around to allow me some time to spend off with my guy, who works a non-traditional work week and usually has a couple of weekdays off. So, Sunday is my Sunday and, well, today is his Sunday, and feels a lot like my Sunday, too.

As our day elapsed into evening, the pallor of solemnity seemed to increase. As shirts were ironed and the NetFlix movie drew to a close, as morning alarms were set, I was sent home with a quick goodbye kiss. My weekend, and a long, holiday weekend, at that, technically, begins tomorrow afternoon as soon as I conclude with my client. But, my weekend is sort of “on my own”, as my sweetie works. Oh, I’ll fill every minute and I will enjoy it. But come time for his next, and only day off next week, I’m scheduled to work with a number clients, all day long.

Do you see what is happening here? I am living in the future. I’m thinking about tomorrow, I’m thinking about two and three days from now, I’m thinking about the middle of next week, and all rather negatively. This is our tendency, and really, our doom. The daily doom and gloom that we let seep into our lives revolves around living in the past, dwelling on the past, living in the future, focusing on the future.

It is now. It is a beautiful evening and I’m with one of my favorite people. Life is meant to be enjoyed, like a present. In the present.

Scarlette Letter – September 2, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have available to me

Affirmation – I am focused

Attitude – Joyful

Activity – Just a little strolling

Nurture – Hugs, kisses, hand-holding, loving, and snuggling

Enrichment – “Make sure you understand your beliefs”

Nourishment – Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Begonia

Giving – only love and compliments

Connection – I spent the afternoon and evening with my sweet, wonderful, man

Simplifying – I bought a very small, zippered, cosmetic bag and filled it with absolute essentials for an overnight stay: two small toothbrushes, toothpaste, small container of floss, a couple of makeup wipes in a Ziploc, a sliver of face soap. The case slips into almost any purse I carry and negates the necessity to carry an overnight bag for those spontaneous outings and overnights that seem to manifest when I spend time with my sweetheart (that’s why the two toothbrushes)

Simple.
Simple.

TV Guide Lifestyle

Like most people, I am a creature of contradictions. Is it possible to love both routine and spontaneity? I believe so, because I do.

I would describe myself as a disciple of spontaneity before I’d say I was a proponent of strict routine. I think there are routines that are helpful, based on personal preferences, needs, and desires, but I truly believe that spontaneity is a component of a joyful lifestyle.

The household I grew up in, the three of us, me, Mom, and Dad, was very routinized. Everyone got up at exactly the same time every work/school day. Breakfast was almost always the same for every week day, for long periods of time. Lunch may have had slight variations, but always had the same components. Dinner was predictable, though delicious, based on the night of the week and which diet book Mom was following at the time (Scarsdale was her favorite, though I think there was a “Pritikin” in there, too). Dinner was always at precisely the same time every night, timed to quickly follow the very predictable time of arrival of my dad, from work, a quick cocktail, and his shower. After dinner, Dad stayed at the kitchen table, drank his wine, did his bookwork, and read Time magazine before heading to bed to repeat the process anew the next morning. Mom headed downstairs to the family room to watch the same sitcoms night after night, week after week, year after year, rotating new offerings into the rotation as other favorite shows stopped airing. I remember M*A*S*H*, and the Six Million Dollar Man, All in the Family, the Jeffersons, and One Day at a Time. It was a T.V. Guide lifestyle, and it was good.

Raising my own family, we were far more bohemian. While the children were young and I worked full-time, we did set aside some time for routine; homework and dinner together. For most of their childhood, there was no television programming. There was a T.V., but it was for watching videos together as a family.

We often opted to dine out rather than prepare meals at home. My husband’s work schedule varied and sometimes he even worked from home. When my kids entered grade school, I moved to a part-time position, which I clung to until they were nearly through high school and it became financially necessary for me to take a full time position. We had many, many, extracurricular activities that filled our afternoons and evenings. While those extracurricular activities were confined to meetings that fell on routine days of the week, the events and activities for each of the meetings themselves were always new, fun, and interesting, no two were ever exactly the same.

Now that the kids are grown and we’re all on our own, I’ve come to really crave spontaneity, but I do appreciate some sense of routine. My job, until recently, required a great deal of travel, I was never in the same place from one week to the next. Now, for the time being, I work exclusively from home, but have a varied and unpredictable schedule.

If I could design my life, I’d like my mornings free until about 10:00, that’s when I’m most creative. Then I’d like my late mornings free, until noon or so. That’s when I most like to work out. And that’s all the routine I crave. The rest of every part of every day would be reserved for spontaneity.

Spontaneity, I think, fosters a sense of youthfulness, an expression of freedom, and encourages living in the moment. These, I believe, are components of a joyful lifestyle. Living a routine, T.V. Guide lifestyle seems to be our nature, our inclination, the comfort zone. There are benefits to both routine and spontaneity; the challenge is finding the right recipe.

Scarlette Letter – September 1, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – I am grateful for the creative streak I’ve been experiencing lately

Affirmation – I am courageous

Attitude – I am feeling confident, creative and optimistic. I feel like I’m ready to move forward with some long overdue changes in my life

Activity – Ran/Hiked/Hill drills – 5.21 miles and wee bit of weight training while on a conference calls

Nurture – I sat on the deck, in the sunshine, watching the birds and the bees and the wind in the trees, while eating my lunch

Enrichment – a quote “Wisdom is all about learning how to live a better life”

Nourishment

Scarlette BegoniaScarlette Begonia
Scarlette Begonia

Giving – Other than donating my five cent “bring your own bag” refund to a local charity and letting two cars go ahead of me in the Whole Foods parking lot, I did nothing today to benefit humanity

Connection – Other than limited texting, blogging and social media, I connected with no one at all today.

Simplifying – I have one bag of clothing ready to go to charity, I did not drop it off as I’d hoped to today

Journaling – A little bit of a story to share with you today:

Adequate sleep is proven to be beneficial to our health, to our effectiveness, and to our sense of well-being. Sleep is underrated.

My problem with “getting enough” sleep is that it takes up so much super valuable time. I tend to awaken early because the world awakens early. I awaken as the sky lightens and the world begins to stir. I’m an early bird. I, however, get most of the things that are really important to me done after work, after my workout, after dinner. This is my time to enjoy music, a story or movie, write, read, or visit with loved ones. I’m a night owl. Sleep is overrated.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night. There were a number of contributors; too much coffee as I was captive in an online training session in Adobe Captivate8. Another contributor, yesterday was a “recovery” day after my ten-mile race Sunday, and my three consecutive hiking days Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So I got no exercise. Finally, for some reason, late at night, while watching a delightful movie, I decided a bowl of dark chocolate Coconut Bliss “ice cream” would be a good idea. Sugar and cocoa. I eat dark chocolate frequently, but usually quite early in the day. Sugar, I have practically eliminated from my diet. I could feel my heart race after the first bite!

I awoke at 4:30 AM and really didn’t get back to sleep until about ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off at 6:00. Being a disciple of putting time to good use, rather than toss and turn in frustration, I outlined a couple of article ideas, organized my lists in Evernote, and reorganized my Dropbox, then fell back to sleep. For ten minutes.

I’m filling up on coffee, again, today. Tired and more training.

I have a thought of an invention: a sleep compressor. If we can compress air, if we can pack all the nutrients good, clean food is supposed to supply us into a sticky, sugary, gelatinous ”gummy vitamin”,  surely we can figure out how to compress sleep. Wouldn’t it be cool to get, say eight or nine hours of sleep in an hour or two, or maybe even eight or nine minutes?

I have plenty on my plate and have never been a student of physics. Or whatever. So, if you want to take my idea for my sleep compressor invention and run with it, great! Let me know when it’s all done and I’ll be first in line to buy it!

For Me and For You

I ran a ten-mile race last weekend. I didn’t win the race, but I did win.

I’m reasonably new to running, I started running at the age of 48, just four years ago. I’ve run a few half-marathons and one full marathon, so far. I didn’t win any of them. I’m registered for a couple of half-marathons and four full marathons over the next year. I won’t win any of them. But I still win.

Scarlette Begonia

Why run in races if you’re never going to win?

Running, for me, fulfills a couple of very primal needs I discovered I have rather late in life; it makes me feel free and it fulfills my competitive spirit. If I’m not in it to win it, how does it fulfill my competitive spirit? I compete with myself, I strive for continual improvement.

Fitness is a lifestyle I believe in, it is a lifestyle I foster, it is a lifestyle I create for myself. Let me clarify fitness and what it means to me:

Fitness is a lifestyle that facilitates good health, well-being, continual self-improvement, self-confidence, and self-worth. Joy.

Fitness is not getting skinny enough to wear that dress to the high school reunion. Fitness is not losing weight to look good, to catch that guy, to attract that girl, to get the engagement ring, to fit into the wedding dress. Fitness is not bulking up enough to win a body-building competition. Fitness is not racing once to prove it can be done. Fitness is not about doing it for someone else.

Fitness, your health, your well-being, are only ever about you. It is a choice and one you choose because it brings you joy.

Scarlette Begonia

I run as part of my fitness-focused lifestyle. It is hard, but it brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. I race because it’s fun, I enjoy the fanfare, I enjoy the people, I enjoy having a measure of my personal improvement.

In this past weekend’s race, there were 540 finishers. I came in 309th. Clearly, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t even in the top 50%, but I’m still a winner. I finished. I ran ten miles. I did, however, run at a faster pace than any of my previous races, though this was the shortest race I ever ran.

I poured over the results, the results of others, knowing everyone runs, and races, for different reasons, for very personal and individual reasons. Some folks do run to compete, to win, to be the fastest. Others run for the sheer pleasure. Other folks run because they can. Sadly, some folks run to please someone else.

Scarlette Begonia

The fastest finishers, the winners of the race, the folks who took home the purse and the prizes, ran a full five minutes faster per mile than I. One such man was 72 years old. Winning. I reviewed the field of finishers near my finish time, I came in a couple of seconds behind a woman who was 74 years old.

Scarlette Begonia

I looked at the people who came in last, and these folks were, in my perception, the true winners of the race and should be awarded the highest purse, the biggest medal, and the most recognition. In the last ten finishers was a woman, 99 years old. Winning. Finisher 540 of 540; a woman of 83. Winning. How blessed to be of such good health at that age to complete a ten mile running race, and, judging from their pace, they were moving along fairly well. They eclipsed my rather ridiculous hiking pace. My rather ridiculous hiking pace elevates my heart rate to an aerobic level, it causes me to sweat profusely, it makes my muscles all wonderfully sore for the next couple of days. A 99 year old woman and an 83 year old woman and a smattering of other octogenarians maintained that pace for ten full miles. Think about it; many folks that age aren’t able to drive ten miles, or walk ten feet. When I grow up I want to be 99 years old and finish a ten mile running race! Run because you can.

Scarlette Begonia

I am speculating, but I’m pretty sure those elderly runners aren’t running that race for anyone but themselves. To live to be 99, or 83, is accomplishment in itself. To be able to run ten miles at that age obviates a commitment to fitness, a personal desire for a fit lifestyle. They aren’t running to get in shape to fit into that dress, to get the proposal, to find a date, to please someone else. They run because they can and because it is their choice, their lifestyle, and, I’m guessing it brings them an incredible amount of joy, confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.

And that, my friends, is truly winning.

I do it for me. Do it if you want, but do it for you.

Scarlette Begonia

Scarlette Letter – 8/28/2015

Today was compelling testimony that frequent, vigorous exercise, good food, a leash on monkey mind, and social activity, or connection, fosters a feeling of well-being and happiness.

After a rewarding hike yesterday evening, I took off on a hot, mid-day, ten-mile hike “for lunch”. It feels so good to move and be outdoors. I love hiking with people, but I really thrive when hiking in solitude.

My hike was followed by a Meet-Up event with the women’s networking group I’ve been sporadically active with over the past couple of years. The group organizer planned an evening for a small group of women where she’d show us how to make Venezuelan arepas. I was the only member who showed up, but we had the loveliest of times preparing yummy food, drinking rum infused “batidos” and catching up on stories of adventure, travel, work, and all those things friends chat about.

I came home and felt accomplished, peaceful, content, and happy and watched a Netflix DVD, “Factory Girl”, which, though tragic, and dark, had no detrimental effect on my joy.

Falling asleep was harder than I expected, as I began to make plans for the next day, but, eventually, I succeeded.

Insecurity Blanket

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

Scarlette Begonia

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

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

Scarlette Begonia

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

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

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

Scarlette Begonia

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

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

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

Scarlette Begonia

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

May You Never Realize Your Dreams

As 2014 passes into history later this eve, I, as always, look ahead with hope, joy and a sense of adventure. In the half light of dawn, snuggled in my cozy bed, without the worry of an imminent alarm clock, vague, dreamy thoughts become compelling and from this, much of what I write about is born. And so it was this morning, as I drafted, in my mind, a thank you note I am going to write today.

I received a very unexpected and thoughtful Christmas gift from the man I loved for the past few years, the man I parted ways with a few months ago. I offered, I promised, on our parting, my enduring friendship and respect and hoped for the same in return. A gift, I did not expect, but it confirms, now, for me, the dream of a friendship is real. Today I will write my customary “thank you” note, as I always do, as an expression of gratitude and appreciation. With this particular thank you note, though, will be included a wish for the new year, and, hopefully, for every new year thereafter.

The gift; a fly-fishing reel and a couple of books about fly-fishing.

I’ve never considered myself patient enough to fish, and, in particular, fly fish. During the adventures of our relationship, I was introduced to the sport and found it to be exciting, exhilarating even. Fly fishing requires a great deal of thought, strategy, and action which stimulates the mind, set in a pristine, natural environment, which nurtures the soul. I began to dream of becoming a more accomplished fly fisherperson. The gift made me realize that dreams, though they may change shape and form, unexpectedly, endure. The gift also made me realize that I know many people who dream, but only a few who dare to pursue their dreams. The gift struck me, in this respect, because one of the fundamental differences between the bearer of the gift, and myself, is my commitment to lofty, impractical, dreams and his practical abandonment of anything impractical and unrealistic.

Dreams. As I first began to draft the thank you note in my sleepy mind, I planned to say something like, “May this be the year you realize your dreams”. But, on reflection, from my own experience, I recanted. Realizing our dreams isn’t what a joyful life is about. A joyous life is about pursuing our dreams, joy is in the journey, not the acquisition. So, after some reflection, I’ve decided my thank you note will read something more like this;

“May this new year be the year you begin to follow your dreams. Dreams do not depend on time or money, but on the imagination for conception, on a quiet and open mind for discernment, on a grateful and courageous heart for the pursuit, and on a joyful and adventurous soul for the journey. Dreams are not about possessions or accomplishments, but about the pursuit, the journey, the thrill, the joy, the adventure, and the love we experience, the lessons we learn, and the life we live, along the way. May you never realize your dreams, but instead, relish in every step of your journey in following them.”

I’ll probably continue to tweak the words, here and there, but it is this sentiment that I want to bestow, not just to the bearer of gifts, but to all of you! Happy New Year! May you never realize your dreams!

 

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.