Love Drug

Love is so hard. Being in love is hard. Loving is hard. There is only one thing worse than being in love and being loved, and that is not being in love and not being loved.

I have often joked that I fall in love too easily. I’ve joked that my criteria is simple; a pulse and male. I have a very romantic, very optimistic, very accepting and, based on some past experiences, a far too trusting and tolerant heart. I love being in love. I love being loved. As a result, I’ve made some poor choices along the way. I am also a very tenacious and committed person, so, in some of those poor choices, they’ve been long lasting poor choices.

As a result of finding myself in relationships, in love, with people who have lied to me and cheated on me and betrayed me and abused me and neglected me and, perhaps worst, taken me for granted, I’ve developed a lack of confidence in love, a general suspicion of my lover, and an overwhelming sense of foreboding doom in relationships. But, still, I fall in love like a boulder nudged from a cliff. Wham.

I am the first to acknowledge my own weaknesses, and, as a student of happiness, to explore the path to overcoming them. Every road should be a path towards further happiness, towards our personal bliss.

Being lied to, cheated on, betrayed, abused, neglected, and taken for granted are terrible, terrible experiences. But, I’ll argue, so is being in love and, for whatever reason, being insecure in that love, being suspicious, and having a sense of foreboding doom. In fact, all of that, I think is far worse than that which we are worried about.

If we are in love and someone lies, cheats, betrays, neglects, or takes us for granted, it is easy enough to recognize that and walk away. Run away. It is not worth staying and, no, things will not change. Remember, you cannot change anyone but yourself. Period. End of story. Run away. This I’ve learned to do. Eventually. We can sit on the bench on the sidelines for a moment, catch our breath, wait for the pain to subside just enough, and get back in the game. We can. If you don’t think you can, think again.

If we are in love, and all is really well, but we spend our time, our thoughts, our energy, in insecurity, in suspicion, with a sense of foreboding doom, everything is poisoned, whether in a perfect relationship, a really good relationship, or one we should be running away from. Life, in insecurity, of any sort, of any proportion, is hell, the worst kind of hell.

For some, love is blind; they are in relationships that are obviously riddled with lying, cheating, betrayal, et al, and they stay, seemingly blissfully. For me, love is hallucination, I see things, or think I see things, bad things, that don’t exist. Every comment, every text, every social media post has some secret, underlying meaning and it most certainly isn’t good. This is my mind left unchecked. Patterns have been set in the past and those habits are just that; habits.

Habits, good and bad, can be developed, and, likewise, can be overridden. The key here is to recognize that which should be overridden and replace it with that which should be developed. This can be done with a bit of thought, recognition, and discipline.

To replace insecurity, suspicion, and a sense of foreboding doom with calm, secure, confidence is no easy matter, but it can be done. Insecurity and suspicion, in love, as in many other things, is poison. Insecurity and suspicion are very powerful, very negative emotions. Negative emotions have power, very negative power. Negativity; I’m certain you’ve spent some time with very negative people and their negativity probably made that time feel uncomfortable, strained, and unnatural. Negative energy can be felt, almost tangibly, like a pair of rain soaked jeans; wet, cold, miserable, heavy, and constricting. Negative energy in love is doom, it becomes the catalyst for that which we most fear, the foreboding doom, the end of love, either with or without the rest of the nasty bits; lying, cheating, betrayal, abuse, and neglect.

What we need to know about love, above all else, is that it, like everything else in life, like life itself, is temporary. For the rare few, love lasts a lifetime, for some, a couple of dates, and for most of us, something in between. We can’t force love, it is either there or it isn’t. True, love changes over time, which some misinterpret as loss of love. It isn’t always going to be butterflies and uncontrollable lust, but it is still love. Love, true love, cannot be planned, it cannot be faked. That’s why “loving” for money, beauty, or status rarely is real, there are two hearts, there are two minds, and there are two souls, and unless they all are as compatible as the net worth, the plastic surgery, or the country club membership, it can’t be real.

So, when we find real love, poisoning it with our insecurities, with our suspicion, with the overwhelming feeling of foreboding doom, it is pure tragedy. Whether fleeting or enduring, real love is magical. Enjoy it. Bask in it. Savor it. Do everything you can to acknowledge it, to sustain it, to enjoy it, each and every moment. Remaining confident and secure in that love is the first and most important ingredient to lasting magic. Love will last for as long as it is meant to and love will only ever be present in the moment.

So, perhaps real, magical, love is more likely to endure if both parties are able to just live in the moment. The insecurity, the suspicion, the overwhelming sense of foreboding lives in one of two places; the past or the future. We are either projecting our past experiences onto our present situation, or we fear those negative experiences may occur at some point in the future. Am I right? Of course! Love can only be in the present, and unless those negative insecurities we worry about are also in the present, they aren’t real and they have no place in love.

When those negative feelings begin to arise, stop. Stop. Stop. Take a breath, hold it, exhale slowly and ask yourself; right now, this very moment, am I okay, are we okay, are any of those bad things happening right before my eyes, right now? Likely, no. Is there any irrefutable, tangible evidence that any of those bad things happened in the immediate past? Likely, no. If not, then let it go, let all the negativity go and just relax into the moment, with the person you loved twenty seconds ago before that negativity ripped the reins from your hands! Look at them, squeeze their hand, smile, and remember all those great reasons you’re so in love with them.

Being confident in love is the best love drug, no prescription, no copay required. Learning to feel secure in a good, healthy relationship is intoxicating. Being able to experience that love, with confidence, is divinity. Confidence; the number one love drug.

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!

 

Law of Attraction – Fate or Fluke?

The universe works in mysterious ways. Or does it?

An Effort to Evolve

I believe in the law of attraction. I honestly believe that our thoughts can, and do, pave the way to reality. This brings the term “jinx” into a whole new light, for me. I wrote an article called “Stuck” not so long ago, where, after the mere suggestive, sarcastic, comment about an elevator full of people becoming stuck, we were, in fact, stuck. In the elevator. Did my fear of being stuck in an elevator, coupled with the thought, verbalized, cause the scenario to unfold in the next fifteen minutes of horror? Maybe. Maybe not. It was, perhaps, all just a coincidence. But, I’ll tell you this; I was visiting the same firm a couple of weeks ago, and was waiting for the same elevator, when the same group of young auditors approached the foyer to board a downward elevator. They took one look at me, laughed, as graciously as possible, and opted for the stairs. We either all believe in the law of attraction, or suspect it exists, enough, to alter our actions!

An Effort to Evolve

In my recent relationship limbo, I have resorted, in part, to online dating applications to peruse dating and mating possibilities. I’ve met some very nice guys, some I find quite attractive, others, not so much. As it is very hard to tell much about a person, their nature, their spirit, their character, their personality, from a brief narrative and a couple of pictures, I tend to “like” more than I tell to “take a hike”. It is easy enough, so far as I’ve found, to kind of let them go, if need be, after a telling conversation or two. A few of those brief narratives and cheesy selfies have actually developed into promising friendships, great flirtations, and some level of attraction.

One such is a man I stumbled upon while across the continent. Being an online dating app neophyte, I didn’t understand that I was being presented only with men in my current and immediate proximity. I thought I was being shown men proximate to my “home” location, per my profile. We flirted, and continued to communicate via text, even after figuring out we lived a continent apart, and, well, he is pretty darned cute. Having just been evicted from a long distance relationship, it’s really not something I’m looking for, but what harm in a flirtatious, texting, friendship, right?

Enter the law of attraction. Maybe, I don’t know, or some really bizarre coincidence. You be the judge.

There are fifty states in this country. With my job, I could be assigned to any one of them, and so could any of my twelve team members, some of whom live on the other side of the continent, much closer to flirtatious, texting, friendship guy. Our assignments are made for us, without any requests being honored, without any suggestions being considered, without any of our input on any level, in any way, shape, or form. This particular flirtatious, texting friend resides in an extremely tiny state 2,300 miles away. Just how many customers, comprised of CPA firms almost exclusively, could we have in a state smaller than some counties I’ve lived in? Well, the answer, at least one, to which I’ve been assigned an “onsite” training. Oh, it gets better. In that tiny, tiny state, which tiny little town do you think I’ll be heading to? You guessed it; flirtatious, texting guy’s home town. Fate or fluke? I don’t know, I just don’t know. Is it the law of attraction?

An Effort to Evolve

Part of the heartbreak of my latest heartbreak is, actually, truthfully, I fell as much in love with his home state as I did him. Hopelessly, completely, totally. I am mourning the loss not just of a really good man, but also the separation from the beautiful, wild, and pristine region, the opportunities for adventure and sport, and the friendships now isolated in a state nearly three thousand miles away. I vow to visit the state, but know, it will be less likely without a connection or some compelling reason. Enter the law of attraction. My online dating profile mentions or suggests, in no way, my former connection to, my love for, or my desire to return to visit this particular state. And, I have been approached, unsolicited, by a number of men who a) live there part time, or, b) have lived there and still have family there and visit often. I’ve said nothing, I don’t even bring up the topic, it just presents itself, in response, to, maybe, my thoughts. The law of attraction. Spooky, kooky, cool.

For further consideration; the man I was married to for more than two decades had a very distrusting and negative outlook towards many things. One such distrust was of the United States Postal Service. He so feared that anything he mailed would be lost, that, in fact, almost everything he mailed was lost, or incorrectly delivered. This still haunts him to this day, recently, an incorrectly delivered piece of mail threw a wrench in a motion he attempted to file pertaining to our divorce proceedings. Some things never change. The law of attraction is one of them.

An Effort to Evolve

Whether fate or fluke, whether law of attraction or bizarre coincidence, there is a significant body of evidence, here, and in the findings of many very highly esteemed thinkers and authors, historical and contemporary, that our thoughts do, in fact, cause the “universe” to align in a certain way.

So, be careful what you think. When you consider just how negative our thoughts can be, on a regular basis, it becomes more clear why so many of us struggle with happiness, or success, or progress. But, this knowledge, or even suspicion, if you prefer, gives us considerable power, if we can become more mindful. If we know, or even suspect, that our thoughts can shape our reality, our future, our happiness, our success, our progress, then if we pay attention to our thoughts, groom our thoughts, might we have better outcomes? Seems a safe gamble, to me. Think happy thoughts and, whether the universe aligns, or not, we are, at least, thinking happier thoughts! What have we got to lose? Besides mail.

An Effort to Evolve

I have experienced, this, first hand, many times. It isn’t scientific, nor is it perfect. But, I have found, on many occasions, when I visualized a certain outcome, with passion and consistency, it often became reality; whether a cute guy I wanted to date in high school, or the ranch on the magical hilltop I dreamed of, they materialized. And, negative thoughts often paved the way for more negative outcomes; whether the cute guy in high school cheating on me or the inability to continue to afford the ranch on the magical hilltop after the husband stopped working and the concurrent real estate collapse. Thought and manifestation, positive or negative. The law is the law. Unlike the posted speed limit, the law of attraction is a law that can’t be broken, best to heed the law, live life as a law-abiding citizen, be mindful and deliberate in your thoughts and what they may attract, and be awarded for your lawfulness! What have you got to lose? Besides mail.

I’m a Cow

Have you ever been traveling down a country road and have seen a cow on the wrong side of a perfectly sound fence? Kind of standing there going, WTF? I am that cow, now.

An Effort to Evolve

It is oft said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What we don’t have, we are curious about, what we aren’t, we wonder about being. Many of my single friends long to be on the “in a relationship” side of the fence, while many of my “in a relationship” friends ponder thoughts of the single life.

I’ve never been on this side of the fence for long, the single side. I’ve always, somehow, sort of sprinted through this pasture, in the past. Perhaps I was afraid of the bull, but, for whatever reason, I’ve never hung out long enough to appreciate it. Here I am. Though, admittedly, I haven’t been here for very long, and it wasn’t by choice, I was just walking along the fence, and suddenly, I got pushed through. I’ll admit, I’ve always kind of been curious about life on this side of the fence; I’ve always been a fan of “Sex and the City” and the antics of Samantha Jones and Carrie Bradshaw, imagined I could, perhaps, be more like them if the opportunity presented itself. That really isn’t my style, though, and certainly is not my goal or my intent. But it is without a doubt, for me, an opportunity to grow, to learn, to evolve. Here I am, and I’ll make the most of it. It’s like Ireland! I know there is lots of green grass there, and I’ve always wanted to go there, it isn’t at the top of my list of vacation destinations, but definitely on the list. I wouldn’t mind a visit, even an extended tour, a summer, perhaps. But, never, have I considered buying a house and living in Ireland, forever.

An Effort to Evolve

But here I am. A cow. On the other side of the fence, in a whole new pasture. In Ireland. Not literally, of course, in a proverbial sense. And now that the shock has worn off, I’m looking around and it isn’t all that bad. There is green grass and I am making the most of it. I’m meeting people and fostering new friendships out of which, well, who knows? I’m not frantically looking for a way back over the fence, I am taking in the sites, enjoying the scenery, and just living in the moment. After all, I’m not really in control; I may have some goals, I may even have some influence, but, ultimately, my trip through this pasture is a journey of faith, or fate, or, maybe, both.

An Effort to Evolve

Why are some people chronically, perpetually, single, when they really, really don’t want to be? And why are others of us always entwined, in some cases simply for the state of entanglement and not because of love? Do we find ourselves stuck on one side of the fence, or the other, because of habit? Or fear? Or because getting to the other side requires some effort and perseverance? And possible pain.

My mom was shocked to find out my relationship had ended. She is a worrier. She worried the whole time I was married. She worried when I separated from my husband and, so joyously, lived alone. She worried the whole while I was in my last relationship. Now, again, she is worried that I am not in a relationship. She said, the other day, with tears threatening, as I headed out to meet with one of my new friends on this side of the fence, “I don’t want you to get hurt.” My response was, “so I should stay home and do nothing and meet no one for fear of being hurt?” I’m so not that type of person. She followed up with, “I don’t want you to grow old alone.” Which, to me, contradicted the statement she made ten seconds earlier. I tried to explain it the way I see it, in order to find someone to grow old(er) with, I may have to get hurt. There are, as evidenced, no guarantees. I’m not going to sit in a recliner, in front of TV, clutching a remote, waiting for someone to knock on the door who will love me forever. Because, it doesn’t work that way. How could it?

But, on the other hand, what of those folks who work so very, very, very hard at finding someone. Dating sights, blind dates, speed dating, and set ups, and all without results. There are never guarantees that the investment we make, in the dating scene, will pay off. Is it possible to try too hard? Or is it more a matter, like a quest for happiness, that focusing so intently on the result, we miss much of the journey, and it is in the journey that we are most likely to find what we seek? I think so. Stroll through the pasture, enjoy the green grass. We, first, must journey, and second, must find joy in that journey.

An Effort to Evolve

I think there is also a component of, what a co-worker of mine would say is “a you problem”.

Are we looking to someone else to fill the voids in our lives? Or are we complete and happy with who we are and just want to share our joy with someone else? There, I believe, we are to find better success. We must first love ourselves in order to be lovable. Truth. No one can “make” us happy, no one can “make” us content, no one can “bring” us joy. These are things we are one hundred percent responsible to ourselves for, and to share those gifts, then, I think, becomes more probable. We must be accountable to ourselves for our own happiness, and success, first, before we can expect anyone to be attracted. We can’t date happiness, or date success, and expect to become it. Nor can we make someone who isn’t happy and successful, happy and successful. Happiness and success are individual, however you define it, and will always thrive in similar company.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, currently, the point is, to find peace with where you are, with what you have, and with who you are. If you find yourself on the other side of the proverbial fence, again, find peace with it, with what you have, and with who you are. It is with self-esteem and confidence, acceptance, awareness, gratitude and forgiveness, that we are more able to scale the heights of the fences we may wish to cross. To run headlong into the fence repeatedly, wondering why it won’t give, is not only fruitless, but damaging. In other words, the grass is as green as you make it, on both sides of the fence. That’s why when you see a cow on the wrong side of a perfectly sound fence, it will only look bewildered momentarily, before it sets to grazing contentedly.

An Effort to Evolve

I am that cow. Is this Ireland? It’s so green!

 

 

 

A Long Talk with a Good Stranger

If you’ve read between the lines of my past couple of articles, you’ve probably gathered I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch. I’m broken hearted. At first, destroyed, then just devastated, now simply hurt. Notice I say that I hurt, not that “he hurt me”. It is how I am reacting to the situation, how I choose to react, there is no blame, just a feeling, and one that will pass, will heal. I’m doing much better, now. I didn’t cry once yesterday. Or so far, today. And before I go any further, let me be clear, what happened was destined to happen. I guess. It is what it is and I am fine. I still do, and always will, love and respect the man I lost. We have just taken things back to where we started from; friendship. Hurt and hate do not equate. And for this, I am incredibly grateful. I have nothing but good words and happy thoughts about all we shared and about the friendship that lies ahead. Cool. But it has been quiet, no talk, no exchange. In weeks, or has it only been a week? Seems an eternity.

When things get rough, though, I usually retreat a bit, meditate more, run more, sleep more, eat more conscientiously and drink less beer and more water. That things all unraveled during three consecutive weeks of intense travel and stressful work assignments prevented me from my self-prescribed therapy.  So, I unplugged. Traveling, I couldn’t eat as healthy as I should, run outdoors, sleep nearly enough, meditate quietly, or even think clearly, so retreating, unplugging, was my only recourse.

In unplugging, I did pry myself away from social media for a whole week, until I was certain I wouldn’t say something regrettable or publicize an invitation to my pity party, spurring a potential online flash mob of regret. I unplugged. I do this in times of hurt, I either unplug by removing myself from public view, or I unplug from you, if you happen to be the party I need to retreat from, for healing. Unplugging can be subtle, like just not being available, or more substantial; “unfriending” or maybe even “blocking” on social media, or removing conversations and contact information from my devices, not to be hurtful, but to be safe. I need time to reason and there is that period of unreasonableness where I may say something I don’t mean. I just unplug for a bit, regain perspective, and plug back in (unblock, refriend, restore contact information). It’s a “me problem”, and that’s how I deal.

In times of difficulty, we often seek solace in long conversations with good friends, our confidants, the people we trust will listen compassionately and advise with exactly what we want to hear! Or better, yet, sound advice. Cross country travel, long work hours and time zone differences hinder such luxuries. Fortunately, I was able to resort to an equally nourishing and enriching option, on more than one occasion; a long talk with a good stranger.

I am a frequent flier, and am, in fact, somewhere 30,000 feet over Middle America just now. I am, sometimes, a jaded, cynical, traveler. I expect everyone to know and adhere to the unwritten code of conduct aboard an airplane or seated in an airport bar; head down, gaze affixed on some device, or, eyes closed, feigning sleep, means “do not disturb”, and I hang this sign out more often than not. Being out of communication with friends, family, and the man I lost, caused me, perhaps, to lower that sign a little. Or maybe I looked ragged and torn and on the verge of something drastic and people sought to intervene. Whatever the cause, I’ve had some of the deepest, richest, most meaningful, soul-baring conversations I’ve ever had. And with complete strangers. And I haven’t just been on the telling side, I’ve listened, and advised, like the best of friends would. It has been so enriching, so nourishing. I’ve learned a lot, about myself, and others, too.

An Effort to Evolve

A U.S. Marine Corps reservist and young father headed to Chicago on a quick, connecting flight from Minneapolis, a quiet, well-spoken gentleman from Amsterdam at a sushi bar in O’Hare, we spoke of politics and religion, of culture and relationships, of career, and love, an angry, young, middle-eastern traveler and a compassionate, elderly Christian man, engrossed in nurturing and consoling conversation with each other, an exuberant, young Mormon man, just finishing his two-year mission and headed home, a woman near my age, and a kindred spirit, on a long, late, flight home, a unique and wonderful, very married man, brimming with intelligence and witty conversation, on a very long flight home, a recovering cashier at a dollar store, formerly a strong and independent business woman, who I knew was unique with her use of the word “antiquated” in an exchange with the customer before me, a brief and lively conversation with an distinguished older man in the Whole Foods beer aisle; everywhere I turn, another interesting person, another great conversation, a long, long talk with a good stranger.

Again, I’ll find myself, this week, three-thousand miles from home, alone in a hotel room, with only my thoughts, social media, an occasional text or Facebook notification, and the idea of an article to share, to prevent me from the full realization of my aloneness. During the day, with work and my clients and business lunches with familiar, client associates, I am fine. It is in the quiet nights in my room that I am reminded of my solitude and I can hardly wait for my next long, flight home or chance meeting in a restaurant, and, hopefully, a long talk with a good stranger.

 

Swipe Left

Life evolves, sometimes in ways you, perhaps, sort of expected, but certainly didn’t want. I am officially “single”. I got the “I love you but I’m not in love with you” break up line. I can’t argue with that, partly because I’m not even really clear what it means. It sounds like an excuse, but I don’t know, and if it is an excuse, then there is a real reason he doesn’t want to share, so, it’s not in my control. After some tears, some thought, and a little bit of a pity party, I decided I’d tell myself what I’d tell any friend going through the same thing; change happens, change is good, change causes growth, so evolve.

I’ve never really been “single” before. Really. I’ve always seemed to move from one relationship to another, from junior high school on, with only brief lapses in between. The only time I was not in a relationship for a period was for the first couple of years after leaving my husband. But a persistent friend become the love of my life, who, last week, told me he loved me but was no longer IN love with me. Partly because I’m seeking distraction, and because this whole “single” thing is a novel circumstance, I’ve decided to embrace my newfound status and to experience it fully. I’m not necessarily looking for love or marriage and definitely not hook-ups, but I am looking for new friends, interesting people to do interesting things with, and if, after some time, friendship evolves into something more, great. I believe in love, I believe in lasting love, and I may be so naïve as to believe in soulmates, and none of those things will ever find me sitting at home moping around.

I have lots of single lady friends. Some have profiles on online dating sites, others do not. I always thought it sounded dreadful and I’m not quite ready for all that business. My son and his friends have played around with a smartphone app called “Tinder”, and one of my very happily single friends swears it’s a ton of fun for meeting people, whether for dating, or friendship, or, probably in her case, especially, hook-ups. I’m always “app-curious”, so, I have downloaded it, installed it, logged on and am thoroughly enjoying it! Holy crap!

The way it all works; you set up some parameters, called “discovery preferences”, which consist of age ranges, gender preferences, and distances you are willing to consider in a “match”. Your pictures come over from your Facebook profile and you can edit, reorganize, reorder and even add or delete them as you see fit. You write a bit about yourself in the (limited) space provided. It takes a lot of space for me to express myself, especially on the topic of “myself”. I managed.

The next step is to hit the little “flame” icon, at which point you are presented with a picture of a person with a first name and an age. Beneath that is an orange “X” and a green heart. Also a little “i” for more information. No one uses the little “i” for more information, or the orange “X”. If you want to see more information, you “swipe right”, at which point you can see additional pictures, if available, and read anything they may have posted. If you don’t wish to proceed beyond the initial photo, you “swipe left”, which dismisses, forever, that person as a potential “match”. If you like what you see, you tap the little green heart. Meanwhile, other people are looking at your profile and are either swiping left, or right, and maybe even hitting the little green heart. If you have tapped each other’s little green heart, you are a “match” and you’re both sent a notification screen with your profile pictures, side by side, and a banner reading “It’s a Match!”. You’re supposed to begin an in application text conversation shortly thereafter. That’s how it all works. It’s quite fun, and a real ego boost, let me tell you. I have to keep my phone plugged in at all times because it keeps buzzing and vibrating and chiming for new matches and new messages. I may have to quit my job just to manage all of this! In twenty-four hours, I have twenty-six matches and twenty some ongoing conversations with men who’s little green heart I tapped! So, yah, men I thought were good looking and who actually wrote something, using fairly good speech, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Or who hired someone else to write their one paragraph bio. Either way, an effort was made and I was duly impressed enough to tap his little green heart!

An Effort to Evolve

I have definitely swiped left, more than right, though. Again, I’m not desperate, just exploring this great big, new, world called “single”. On occasion, I have swiped left, intending to swipe right, and, as far as I know, there is no way to undo that action. So sad, a little green heart, potentially, lost and gone, forever. I have always had a propensity for getting rights and lefts mixed up when acting hastily, or after a glass of wine. When asked for directions, I will often use my right and left hand in narration, and sometimes even turn myself right or left, as I envision the directions I’m giving. Just to be certain I don’t misdirect anyone!

An Effort to Evolve

So, I’m not really here to talk about my status, or break ups, or single life, or my ego, or little green hearts. I’m here to talk about “swiping left”. What if we were able to look objectively at things in our life and either swipe right to keep them, or swipe left to make them go away forever? Wouldn’t that be cool? “I’m not happy with my current job”. Swipe left. “I’m unhappy with my poor health”. Swipe left. “I am uncomfortably overweight and I know it’s going to impact my long term health, longevity and quality of life”. Swipe left. “I’m dissatisfied with my financial situation”. Swipe left. “My relationship isn’t as fulfilling as it once was”. Swipe left.

We DO have that power, the power to “swipe left” and make things that aren’t working for us change. Okay, truth, the result isn’t as immediate as on the Tinder app, but the action is. The first step in making the changes in your life you desire is the decision to do so. There! That’s your “swipe left”! When you take a moment to look objectively at your life, versus your dreams, hopes, and desires, identify those things you want to change and make the decision to do something about it and, more importantly, make the decision to begin immediately! Swipe left! Swipe right! Little green heart!

 

An Effort to Evolve

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!

Love is Like the Stock Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, actually …