Scarlette Letter – Week of September 14, 2015

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

Gratitude – I’m grateful for compassionate people. I am so moved by the number of people volunteering to assist those who’ve lost everything they own in the Northern California wildfires

Affirmation – I am giving

Attitude – Confident

Activity – Ran fifteen miles on Saturday and hiked 21 miles on Sunday, some yoga and strength training at home between work and other obligations and time with friends and loved ones

Nurture – Yoga and meditation

Enrichment – Wayne Dyer – “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

Quote: “Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions”

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – I’m assembling piles of things I can donate to the fire victims. They have been inundated with donations and are requesting just money, now, which I don’t have piles of, though I will donate what I can to the Red Cross and to GoFundMe.

I am weeding through things, now, so when they do need additional clothing and household items, which they’ve stated they will, later this week and next, I’ll have them assembled and organized. I’m trying to find out if they need any horse halters and leads to gather up the loose livestock that managed to survive, I have several in storage I will dig out if they can be of use.

Connection – I went to a concert with a friend I met through other friends. We’ve never spent one on one time together, so, it was almost like a “first date”. I spent some wonderful time with my Sweetheart this week, a little more than usual, and it was lovely.

Simplifying – Part of my giving to the fire victims will serve, doubly, as lightening my load. Closets and drawers are much fuller than they should be and I have so many new and like new items that I’ve only worn once in the past year or so. I am so hoping that someone in need will be delighted with them.

Journaling – My Thoughts

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. (Continue Reading)

Social – Instagram (begoniascarlett), Facebook Page (Scarlette Begonia), Twitter (@BegoniaBegoniaS)

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.

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

Scarlett’s Letter May 19, 2014 – Pop Some Tags

Pop Some Tags

I’ve had it! I feel like Jackie Chan in the Hanes “tagless” t-shirt ad jumping around trying to rid myself of the annoyance of tags in clothing. They are so annoying! Some itch, some scratch, some hurt. And for some fashionistas, myself included, the brand name means a lot to us, and there I stand, scissors in hand, deliberating, “pop some tags and have anonymous clothing or keep the highly sought after branding and be miserable?” If it’s Target brand, then, who cares? Snip.

Here I sit in my comfy sweats, my highly coveted “Ed Hardy’s” and the tag inside, in the back, is right at the top of my butt crack and it’s all scratchy. Do I cut the tag out? Or leave it and keep fiddling with it, which makes it look like I’m picking my seat an awful lot?

An Effort to Evolve

Have you noticed? There seem to be so many more tags than their used to be. There are labels for fabric content, in seventeen languages, and laundering instructions, in seventeen languages and weird hieroglyphics for the illiterate, I suppose. I don’t understand the pictures, so good luck with that. Then there is the size tag and the brand tag. I could probably buy a full size smaller in not for all the tags stuffed inside my clothing!

Cut it out. That’s what I do, if it bothers me, I cut it out. Poppin’ tags.

An Effort to Evolve

Do we really need labels? In clothing? On mattresses, couches, pillows, lamps. How about the sticky labels adhered to items you don’t want sticky stuff adhered to? Can’t “pop” those too well.

Labels are bad.

Labels are bad in another respect; the sticky, gummy, labels we apply to ourselves and the annoying, scratchy, itchy, labels we apply to others.

Many folks I know carefully classify people, with labels, like a scientist might a new species; genus, class, species, etc. They begin any account with the race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status, any and all diagnoses, height, weight, sexual orientation and/or marital status, of any person involved in the story. She was a large, poor, white woman, German, I think, about five feet tall and five feet wide. I think she’s Christian, probably voted for Bush, divorced.

We label the ones we love, repeatedly, and expect them to somehow overcome their shortcomings; my nephew is ADHD, on Ritalin, can’t focus, doesn’t do well in school.

We label ourselves; I’m overweight, Gluten intolerant, pre-diabetic.

We even classify ourselves by the prescriptions we take, there’s a weird kinship in pharmaceutical similarities.

When I’m speaking with a chronic labeler, telling a story, and I introduce a person to the story, I use their name, if I know it, or simply their gender. The listener is nearly aghast at the fact I’ve left out so many critical details. Often, they’ll ask me to further classify, or label, the person. I will often say, “Human, you know, a hominid”.  I try to set a good example, there’s probably a label for that.

Enough! Enough. Don’t you see? Labels are limits. Labels are excuses. Labels stand between you and your goals, your happiness, your self-confidence. Labels inhibit, you, and those you label. Cut it out. Break free. Be free. Pop some tags!

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter November 16, 2013

A short letter, tonight, I promise.

It never ceases to amaze me, even after all the airline miles I’ve accumulated; I awoke this morning in New York and had lunch in California. And I was even in Texas for a bit, today, too.

And, since all I did was sit on an airplane for three hours, run through an airport and get on another airplane for four more hours, I had a little time to just sit and think.

I am completely exhausted. Totally. And, by telling myself I am completely exhausted, I am, now, in fact, completely exhausted, whether I actually was to begin with or not. That’s how it works, in case you were wondering.

I believe, 100%, totally, completely and without exception, we are what we say we are. If we say we are tired, we are going to feel tired. If we say we feel sick, we are going to feel sick. If we say we cant’ do something, we have no reason to even try.

Have you ever had someone say horrible things to you? Mean things, about you? You’re not smart enough. You’re not athletic enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re too slow, you’re too out of shape, you’re too old, you’re too young, you don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough patience, you don’t have enough education, you’re dumb, you’re fat, you’re ugly. Ever? Has anyone close to you ever said anything to you that was anything other than positive, respectful and supportive? I’m sure. I’m sure, and more than you realize. So, do you believe them? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Don’t you ever talk to me that way!

But if there were someone in your life that you were extremely close to, trusted more than anyone else in the whole world and they told you any of those things I listed above once, would you consider the possibility that it were true? What if they said it to you over and over and over, day after day after day?  Do you think you’d eventually think they may be right? Would you eventually be convinced?

Did you ever fib, maybe just a little, as a kid? Perhaps in order to get out of something you knew you’d get in trouble for; breaking a vase or a window, trampling the new flowers in the flower bed, eating the last twelve Oreos? And did you ever continue to deny the incident vehemently and repeatedly, to the point where, eventually, you believed your own lie? It happens. Even to adults. We can convince ourselves of our own lies if we speak them often enough.

I know someone close to you that treats you badly, tells you horrible things about yourself, repeatedly, every single day. And you let them. And, you trust them, because they are closer to you than anyone you know. You believe them, without a doubt, you have been convinced, after years and years and years, a lifetime, of being told the same lies over and over and over.

That person is you.

We speak to ourselves in ways we’d likely never tolerate from others, no matter who they were to us. Think about it. How often do you tell yourself you can’t do something for one reason or another? How often do you look in a mirror, or at a photo of yourself and say something negative about your appearance? How often do you attempt something, make a little mistake and tell yourself you were right in knowing you couldn’t do it in the first place?

How do you suppose you’d feel about yourself if your parents or someone else equally close to you told you, on a daily basis, maybe even several times a day, that you were ugly, you had too strong of a chin, a fat belly, thin hair, an unsightly birthmark, hairy arms, that you were bowl legged, too tall, flat chested. Next time you walk past a mirror, catch what it is, exactly, you notice about yourself.

We are horrible to ourselves. Listen up! Listen to the things you say to yourself when you aren’t paying attention. I’m serious. Listen to your self speak, your self doubt. This is your self control, your negative self control. You control yourself by limiting yourself with every negative thing you think or say. You are standing between you and everything you need to reach your goals, your dreams and your potential. We truly are our own worst enemy. And, even worse, since we are so horrible to ourselves, often we allow those around us to act in kind. In fact, if we can’t treat ourselves with love and respect, doesn’t it seem a little unreasonable to expect others to rise above?

In fact, people will treat us in the manner they see us treat ourselves. We set the expectation, the precedent, with our own self-respect.

Let’s look at this from another angle. Do you know anyone who spends a great deal of time complaining about ailments, or being tired, or unhappy, broke, or how about people who respond, habitually, with “I can’t, because …”? Or all of the above? Do you like spending a lot of time with them? You know they are a lot more capable, well, smart, strong, healthy than they think they are and they just need to change their attitude and do it. You know it, in their case, but what about when you’re chatting with yourself. Well, pot, this is kettle, and you’re black.

Am I right?

What do we do about all this negativity? Stop it. Cold turkey.

Start making a concerted effort, listen to the voice in your head and how you speak to yourself. Make note of when you think or say things, to yourself, that are, in any way negative or derogatory. And correct it, right then and there. Whatever negative thing you catch yourself thinking or saying, correct it, out loud, if possible. This will take both practice and persistence, but it works. Begin to compliment yourself for the very things you used to criticize yourself for. Soon, you will find you feel more energetic, healthier, smarter, faster, stronger, more capable, more confident and, best of all, happier.

This practice, though, is much like building physical strength, endurance or stamina. You can’t just raise yourself off of the couch on January 1st and go run twenty miles if you’ve never run a significant distance before. You will have to work out, regularly. And, you’ll have to keep building those muscles, forever. Let’s say you work really hard, for several months, to be able to do 100 push ups. Once you achieve that goal, you can’t just stop doing push ups and continue to be able to do 100 push-ups. If you stop doing push ups regularly, you lose the ability to do so many. Developing a positive “self-speak” policy and a healthy self-confidence, like working out, requires regular practice to maintain. Daily, for the rest of your life.

Develop some kind of practice, or routine, that you can incorporate into your day to bolster a healthy conversational relationship with yourself. If you find you always criticize yourself when you catch your reflection in the mirror or when you see pictures of yourself, put up more mirrors and take more pictures. I’ve talked to you about “selfies” before! I believe in them! I always have!

Selfie 11/16/2013
A Selfie a Day –  11/16/2013

I also find a great benefit in journaling every morning and every night. It doesn’t take a great deal of time and it sets the tone for my day before it begins and puts everything in perspective, again, before it ends. I actually write down all the positive things I would like to tell myself in order to evolve into the person I intend to become; stronger, healthier, more grateful, more tolerant, more forgiving, etc. And, then, at night, I revisit each of those points, again, and write down all the things I am grateful for. It is a great meditative, centering exercise and takes no more than ten minutes, morning and night. These practices work for me, find what works for you. What can you do to make sure you’re treating yourself with the respect you deserve? So, do it.

 

 

 

 

Stanly

Today, I took a trip back in time. Two, actually.

The first, at the airport. I am now part of the TSA Pre-Check program. I received an unsolicited email from United, my airline of choice, stating that I was enrolled in the program. I suppose, as often as I fly, and since I have not made an effort to blow up any airplanes, it is assumed I’ll have no desire to do so any time in the future. A safe assumption. So, I don’t have to remove my shoes, my 3-1-1 baggie, my scarf, my sweater or light jacket. I do not have to remove any of my computers from my bag. I just toss my bag on the belt and dash through the scanner. This reminds me of simpler times. Another loosening of the leash; upon boarding the plane, we were all told we no longer have to turn any of our small personal electronics off for take off and landing; my phones, my Kindle, my iPad, all can stay on, in non-transmitting mode. It’s like someone granted me a block of free time. I was unsure as to how I should busy myself as the plane door was closing. This time has always been devoted to frantically ensuring every device was completely off. This newfound liberation, this freedom, seems so foreign in a world that has been so up tight for so long. The TSA agents and flight attendants were near jubilant in their efforts to wave us through security, all smiles as they assured us we could leave our phones on during the entire flight. I haven’t seen such glee at the airport, on behalf of employees and travelers, alike, in a very long time.

While the plane door was closing, with my newfound block of free time, I opened up a black, hard covered book with gold letters on the cover. This, the other trip back in time, was a little less pleasant. This book I read today, moved me to tears. In public. On a fucking airplane. My dear, near lifelong friend, Clarissa, showed me the book when I visited her home last week. Clarissa Lynn Coupon. It was a book written, from the copyright, just a couple of years ago, but told of a time I recall well from nearly three decades ago. It was a self-published book, written for a group of long-time friends and distributed amongst some number of people. As books will, they have been circulating from family to family and from acquaintance to acquaintance. It is hard to say just how far and wide this story has travelled. I dare not hazard a guess.

The book.
The book.

The story is told from the perspective of a young man and spans a decade or so of his life, weaving the tales of his evolution from boy to adolescent to man, a story of drunkenness, debauchery, deceit, drugs, dishonesty, infidelity and God. The story revolves around friendships that developed and endured this period of time, and beyond. The story, I assume, was solely for the enjoyment of this misfit group of friends, sort of a 1980’s version of “Bro’s before Ho’s”. But, I am reminded, as I am currently in custody of this black, hard-bound book with gold lettering on the cover, that stories do travel, and sometimes their arrival in a particular reader’s hands is miscalculated and most definitely unanticipated.

The “hero” of our story is Stanly. Stanly had a healthy fear of God and an uncertainty about religion that he seemed to struggle with for most of the ample book. He suffered a certain amount of turmoil as his parents divorced and as he tried to find his way, painfully and pitifully, through the loss of his virginity, and any semblance of sobriety.

After high school, I’m sure to everyone’s relief, Stanly finally managed to lose his virginity, to a girl he used specifically and solely for that fait accomplit. Magically, and only with the assistance of his good friend Dan, Stanly hooked up with Wendy and for the next couple of pages, really liked her. Loved her even. But, pages later, Stanly was avoiding her and wishing for the company of other female companions and, in fact, cheating on her at every opportunity, which, he admitted, wasn’t often. For the next, oh, two years or so, Stanly continued to see Wendy, to use her, pretty much, as needed. I read on, which was painful. I got within thirty pages of the final page, page 547, and skipped toward the end to a chapter titled “Forsaken”. In this chapter Stanly finally did the honorable thing and broke up with Wendy.

I know, this does not seem like the type of book I would generally read. It isn’t. In fact, reading this book was, by far, one of the worst experiences of my life, because the story, you see, is a true story, I knew Stanly, well, I thought, because, I am Wendy. And of much of this, I had no idea. For four years. For the better part of four years, I was being used. A booty call, piece of ass, I guess, when nothing better panned out.

You know that feeling you get when you receive really horrible news? The edges of your vision turn fuzzy and white? Like all the blood just drained from your body and dumped, suddenly, and sickeningly, into your stomach? Yah. That happened pretty much, repeatedly, throughout the entire volume. Every time I flipped a page and saw the word “Wendy” on it, I gripped the arm of the chair and braced myself. Do you have any idea what it feels like to read about yourself in a story like that, where the entire cast of characters are real and they all know you’re just someone’s booty call, piece of ass? I still see these people, in real life. Nice, right?

I find myself in the weirdest position and one that has robbed me of some sleep, some self-respect, some self-confidence and a bit of my usual glee, for a few minutes, anyway. It is hard to describe a brand new, open and bleeding, thirty-year-old wound. How is it even possible to have a brand new, thirty-year-old wound?  I am shaken, to the core, and reeling, and beating myself up for being shaken, to the core, and reeling. How asinine. Of me.

These questions floated through my mind as I feigned sleep, for a spell, last night:

Every man in my past, ever, has betrayed me, in some way, or in many ways, how will I ever trust anyone again?

I saw a quote the other day, by Ernest Hemingway, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” So, I shall. I do. I must.

Why do I care, thirty years later?

Because it hurt. I don’t really care, it just hurt. I’ll lick my wounds and I’ll be over it, or not. I only found myself Googling a list of therapists, once. The lessons I have gleaned from this and the ability to share those lessons is therapy enough. It’s all about the lessons we learn from our life experiences, whether ugly or utopian. And sharing those lessons in hopes they may help others in pain, guarantees bliss.

Is my self-respect in tact? To find out one has been so degraded, for such a long time, certainly must erode one’s self-respect.

Nope. Remember, we are solely responsible for our own self-respect, it is a reflection of us from within and has nothing to do with what other, lesser life forms, posing as people, inflict on us, for their own reward and benefit. Had Stanly been the least bit honest, or any more sloppy, had I known at any moment in time how I was truly regarded, I would have walked away, head held high. That this is a new, thirty-year-old wound diminishes my ability to walk away, head held high, none, whatsoever.

How, in the world, should I react?

Oh, I lost a wee bit of sleep fantasizing about public humiliation, via a Facebook wall post on Stanly’s wall, but what would that gain? Really, only further publicity and humiliation for me. And while it was mildly satisfying to talk of the tale here, I do so in fair anonymity, in a much less public venue, and with the careful passage of enough time to choose words carefully.

What have I learned?

Lots. That Ernest Hemingway is to be trusted on the topic of trust.

I am reminded, though I know, from the core, that self-respect, self-confidence and self-esteem come from within and are not the property of anyone but the bearer. No one can take our self-respect, our self-confidence or our self-esteem from us, no matter what. No one can diminish them in the least, we are solely in care, charge and custody of them and if they erode, even in the slightest, it is at our very own hands, solely, and only we can repair them. That alone is empowering beyond anything else.

I also learned that when someone you once respected, honored, trusted and admired, whether for three minutes, or three decades, shows their true colors, when honesty, integrity and even chivalry are replaced with selfishness, infidelity, dishonesty, deceit and disrespect, the only thing to do is to observe, acknowledge, accept and forgive.

In observing the true nature of the person, we realize they are completely separate from us, their actions are separate from us and lessen us in no way. In acknowledging that they are completely separate from us and that their actions are not for us to react to, we rise above them in honor and integrity and common, human decency. In accepting what has happened as something in the past, that can never be changed, we release it and relish, again, the only time in which we truly live, the present. And, the hardest part; in forgiving those who trespass against us, we are freed from the hurt, the pain, and any power our trespasser may feel they hold over us is diffused, forever.

It may seem odd to say, but I am grateful for having had the opportunity to read the black, hardbound book, with the gold lettering on the cover, dreadful as it was. The pain and the horror of the tale subside with each breath I draw and release, and I have had another rare opportunity to take a horrific situation and use it as a catapult to further evolve into the person I am destined to be; great today, greater, even, tomorrow. Thank you, Stanly.

Scarlett’s Letter October 25, 2013

Perhaps it’s because while I was walking to dinner last night, a man approached me and spoke to me in French. I’m trying to rationalize why, exactly, I allowed myself to cave, to enjoy one of my true weaknesses this morning. Two, actually. A café au lait, rather than my plain bold, black brew, and, a big, flaky, buttery croissant, probably my daily allotment of calories in one item and my monthly allowance of plain, white, enriched flour.

Un croissant et une cafe au lait. Mais oui!
Un croissant et une cafe au lait. Mais oui!

So, this nice looking man approached me, on the street last night, as I was scurrying off to dinner, and he addressed me in French. I’ve had years of French in junior high, high school and in college. I don’t speak a word of French. It’s one of those things you have to practice daily and put to use in order to retain. Use it or lose it. Flustered, I responded, “Je ne parle pas, francais, un petit peu seulment”, which I think means, “I don’t speak French, only a little bit”. Only a little bit, as in, you’ve just heard everything I know with the possible exception of “my name is Scarlett.” I could probably dredge that phrase up if I had to. He didn’t ask. He continued, in French, “Parlez vous anglais?” I replied, simply, in English, in my boldest California accent, “yes”. And he continued his charity organization donation schpeel in perfect, English, in a bold, California accent. I kid. There is no California accent, we have the blandest, least identifiable dialect in the world, which, I suppose, distinguishes us from everyone else in the world.

Glittery city
Glittery city
View from the window at The Plant - Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant – Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant - Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant – Organic where I had dinner
The Plant - Organic, San Francisco
The Plant – Organic, San Francisco

I am of French descent, but I don’t think I look any different than any other Cali girl walking briskly down the streets of San Francisco. I was even wearing “the uniform”; tailored gray slacks, black blouse, black cardigan, black shoes, black coat. The only flair, or personal style I added to the bay area working girl uniform was a scarlet red scarf with small white polka dots and a scarlet red cross body purse. I like to add a splash of color, usually red, sometimes pink or magenta. As a matter of fact, I wear something scarlet daily, whether visible or not. And, I generally wear polka dots on Fridays. Why not, I ask, why not? Most ladies in the city wear scarves with their coats, rarely scarlet, though. I’m just wondering if my splashy flashy flair is what set me apart as, possibly, foreign, and, specifically, French. I don’t know, but it totally made my night, and, as evidenced by my breakfast selection at the café downstairs, my morning, this morning, too.

I had a banana with my croissant. I know, having a banana and a croissant with my café au lait is really not all that interesting, until, until you try to throw your shit away. In San Francisco. Have you ever tried to dispose of rubbish of any sort in San Francisco? It is not so easy. There are no less than three garbage receptacles, sometimes more; compost, recyclables and trash. True, there are almost always pictures posted nearby to provide some guidance, but, truthfully, they don’t. As a matter of fact, I think the pictures only complicate things as I don’t think any two pictures are the same. After eating my banana, I stood in front of the three garbage receptacles and looked for a picture of a banana peel. I would assume the banana peel would go into the compost can, but, there is no picture of a banana peel, only what appears to be a picture representing the sticky pork bun I ate yesterday at lunch at the dim sum place. I fished my cheaters (glasses) out of my purse and squinted at the pictures again. Nope, no banana peel. I quickly glanced over my right shoulder, then my left, to make sure no one was monitoring my trash disposal activities, and I quickly slipped the banana peel into the compost bin. Now for the paper wrapper the croissant came in; recyclable or compost? I’m pretty sure the croissant wrapper appeared on the picture attached to the compost bin, so, in it went. I left quickly, just in case I’d guessed incorrectly and the garbage police were nearby.

Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?

Thankfully, I still had coffee and was not yet ready to dispose of that troublesome item. I made my way upstairs to the training center I’m working in this week. There is a coffee service and a few pastries set out for us, but, I’ve already nourished and caffeinated myself adequately. Next to the coffee service area, though, are more garbage cans. Three. Compost, recycle and trash. There are pictures, again, to assist in your endeavor. The pictures are different than the ones downstairs, and, to my joy and delight, a banana peel is pictured on the compost bin example. I did a little happy dance. People were looking at me a little odd. Have you ever seen someone do a little soft shoe in front of the green compost bin? Right.

Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?

I proceed into our classroom and practically tripped over a trash can. A single, unlabeled trash can. I glance inside, there are apple cores, Styrofoam food containers, half full (always the optimist) coffee cups, candy wrappers, plastic wrappers, napkins. All in one bin. Is it weird that I’m excited? I now know exactly where I’m throwing away everything I need to discard while in this amazing city; in the single, unmarked trash can in my classroom. I’ll just take the laundry bag from my hotel room, collect my rubbish for the day and discard it here, in this single and very un-confusing trash bin. Apparently, with the purchase of this trash can must come a service of sorting the contents, or, perhaps, when one purchases this trash can you must agree, under some unmentionable penalty, to properly sort the contents into the appropriate receptacle before it is removed from the office suite. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ve found my solution!

Just a plain, old, ordinary garbage can! I can deal with this!
Just a plain, old, ordinary garbage can! I can deal with this!

So, what lessons can I take away from my experiences, today? First, if I don’t speak French on a daily basis, I lose the ability to speak French. At all. There are so many things in life that the “use it or lose it” rule applies to; fitness, health, strength, flexibility, mental acumen, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-motivation, progress towards our goals and our life purpose. Everything in life worth having requires constant use and practice. Think about it.

My second lesson today; sometimes we have to find a way to apply life’s rules in a manner that best suits our individual needs. Not to cheat, but to find a way to make it all work. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work well for others. When we are looking at boosting our self-esteem, our self-confidence, our self-motivation and our self-discipline, we can read twelve different “self-help” books with twelve different sets of rules and find that no one of them really suits our individual needs. Perhaps we have to combine some ideas from one with ideas from another. The whole point is to find something that, ultimately, works for us, and, to just throw the rest away! Whether we’re going to discard the unwanted items in the compost bin, the recycle bin or the trash bin is up to our interpretation, too!

Let’s Get Cookin’

It’s that time of year, my favorite time of year. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. I agree. Presently, on a cool October morning, overcast, damp and chilly, I sit in a coffee shop in Downtown Napa, writing, sipping and getting things organized for the rest of the day and for the upcoming weekend. It is warm and cozy and smells divine in here. There is enough activity to be interesting, but not so noisy to be overwhelming.

Where I am enjoying my morning.
Where I am enjoying my morning.

On my list of things to do today is to dig up the pumpkin soup recipe I made, traditionally, for many years, before the kids went out trick or treating on Halloween. I always believed in family dinners and pulled them off on a regular basis, until both kids were in high school and we had multiple activities in multiple directions, every night of the week. So, even on Halloween, for many, many years, there was a family meal. We’d have my pumpkin soup and the kids would be off to trick or treat. I usually stayed home, dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family, answered the door and doled out candy. It was our tradition. My soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook. I have many, many cookbooks. I love cookbooks, really good, quality cookbooks by esteemed chefs. I like to browse through them, given the time, especially when preparing to entertain. I read them like novels and sometimes I will find myself amidst a pile of cookbooks and half an afternoon has vanished.

My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.
My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.

My pumpkin soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, the one cookbook I always reach for first, my “go to” guide to all things kitchen. Fannie Farmer, revised by Marion Cunningham. There may be a newer version out there, mine is pretty faded, splotched and tattered from many years of use, but it is this book I love, no matter its antiquity.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.
My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.

My mom has her favorite cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens one. She gave me a copy, too, when I went off to college, I think, but I no longer have it. My man has his favorite cookbook, always on the windowsill, at the ready, “The Joy of Cooking”, his “go-to “guide, that, and anything that Jacques Pepin said, ever.  No complaints, no complaints, he is a master in the kitchen and never have I been disappointed.

An old standard.
An old standard.
My man's favorite go-to cookbook.
My man’s favorite go-to cookbook.

There is a “neighborhood” wine tasting party in his neighborhood in a couple of weeks. Sadly, I won’t be there to attend, but he’d mentioned maybe making pumpkin soup, so, I thought I’d send him my recipe, I mean Fannie’s recipe, or Marion’s. The recipe I’ve used many, many times. We’ll leave it at that. The recipe I use calls for canned pumpkin puree, which is fine and, even by my standards, can be obtained in a suitably organic, sustainable variety. Otherwise, I’m not much of one for canned food. I buy organic canned tomato sauce and fire roasted tomatoes from Whole Foods for a fast, weeknight spaghetti sauce, but, generally, I prefer fresh. I thought I’d look up pumpkin soup recipes on my favorite “go-to” online recipe resource, AllRecipes.com, and I found pages and pages and pages of pumpkin soup recipe. I only wanted one, one that used fresh pumpkin, as an alternative to my recipe and the canned pumpkin puree. Pages and pages and pages, and many of them with many reviews and many stars, which would be my obvious selection criteria. I mean, really, who would choose to use a recipe that had only a few stars, or none, and only a few reviews, or none? My point, exactly.

Too many pumpkin soup recipes!
Too many pumpkin soup recipes!

So, today, at some point, I am going to gather up two recipes for pumpkin soup, the one I’ve used with fantastic results for many, many years and another that I decide on from AllRecipes.com, I’m going to tuck them into a sweet, romantic card I’ll find, no doubt, at Target, fill it with mushy musings, and address it to my Sweetie, far, far away.

Recipes. It occurs to me that recipes are much like life. Think about it.

We are all trying to piece together a life for ourselves that ends up like a beautiful cake, the perfect crumb, texture, moistness, flavor, the loveliest icing, decoration, and garnish. There are as many lovely cake recipes as there are people on the planet, I’m nearly certain, if, ever, you could gather together every known cake recipe of all time. I mean, I have “The Cake Bible” and in my entire life I don’t think I could ever bake every recipe in that one book alone, though the idea intrigues me in a “Julie and Julia” kind of way. Food for thought, no pun intended, and you know, I am the Queen of Puns.

If I were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of my dreams and you were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of your dreams, I’m 99.9% certain we’d have different recipes and that our idea of the cake of our dreams would differ considerably as well. So it is with finding the recipe for our perfect life. We all have unique, individual ideas of what “our perfect life” would be, and even over time, our ideas are certain to change. Just like I may decide carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is my favorite, I may change my mind, at some point, and declare red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting my favorite. That’s okay, our goals, purpose and passions in life change like our preference for dessert, but, generally speaking, we have a few favorites we are always happy to see on the dessert menu!

If I were to make a carrot cake or a red velvet cake, again, there’d be countless recipes from which to choose, and each would be a different combination of different quantities of ingredients. Almost certainly, for carrot cake and for red velvet cake, there’d be common ingredients across a majority of the recipes; flour and sugar, for example. Again, so it is with building our perfect life, there are likely to be key ingredients we are going to want to include for best results.

So, if I wanted to piece together a perfect life, what would my recipe look like? That’s the first question, always, what kind of cake do I want? There are several ways to approach selecting a recipe, one is to consider the ingredients you already have on hand, the number of people you intend to feed, the cost, the nutritional value, another is to see a picture or read a recipe, and no matter the contents or cost, that’s what you want to bake!

With choosing the recipe for our perfect life, then, do we consider the ingredients we already have on hand? Or do we start from scratch using the pretty picture and yummy sounding recipe as inspiration? That, you must decide. Do the ingredients in your life, now, include things you want in your final recipe? Your home, your family, your career? Likely so. Or, are you in a place where you are gathering those ingredients up and don’t have them on hand, just yet? You see what I say?

There are going to be those secret ingredients, too, that all good cooks have, that ensure their success. A dear friend of mine, one I’ve known since kindergarten, is a well-known, successful pastry chef. She has always loved to cook and to bake, even as kids, she’d come over to my house after school, now and then, and we’d get out my Betty Crocker Cook Book for children and we’d whip up a batch of cookie dough. We’d practice our fractions and halve the recipe, or quarter it, and, once in a while, we’d even bake the cookie dough. Usually not. Anyway, she went on to enter the Napa Town and Country Fair cake decorating category every year beginning in high school, and she’d win. She decorated cakes for all us girls for birthdays and other occasions. She graduated to baking cakes, having attended a culinary program at a nearby community college, and, year after year, her cakes won at the local fair. She’d be asked to produce a recipe, which she had, in her mind and would have to transcribe it in written form to be published in The Napa Register. Every year she won, and every year, it was, essentially, the same cake recipe. Chocolate with a rich, chocolate filling and frosting. Her success was in the quality of her recipe, and she applied it consistently, and won. Consistently. She has since gone on to accomplish great things, I’ve seen her name listed in Gourmet Magazine a time or two, which considering the number of pastry chefs in Napa alone, is quite an accomplishment.

How it all started.
How it all started.

So, what’s your recipe? Mine includes the following ingredients:

Purpose

Passion

Values

Guiding principles

Roles

Goals

I decorate my cake with carefully selected ingredients, including:

Self esteem

Self-confidence

Self discipline

Inspiration

Motivation

Enthusiasm

Action

Every now and then, I have to adjust the ingredients a little, add a little more self-confidence and a little less action, or I may re-evaluate my roles and goals, but, in the end, the same key ingredients are always in my recipe. And that is my recipe for personal success, that’s how I piece together my perfect cake.

When you look at the ingredients list, though, each and every one of those ingredients are rare and somewhat elusive. Like making an exquisite cake, some of the ingredients may be very hard to find, very hard to come by. We often struggle with identifying our passion, but we must in order to find our purpose. We have to know our roles in order to be able to identify our goals. All of this takes time, a lot of discernment, constant consideration and occasional adjustment. Other ingredients will need to be continually replaced, refreshed. You’d never use old eggs or outdated cream in your cake recipe, would you? Likewise, my self-esteem, self-confidence, inspiration and enthusiasm need to be refreshed daily, for best results.

And your recipe may differ from mine in the source of your ingredients, though, in all likelihood, the same key ingredients will be there. You must have passion and purpose, you absolutely require values and guiding principles, and I can’t imagine a recipe not including roles and goals. None of these key ingredients are going to mix well and rise properly without self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, and inspiration. And it all requires action, like baking the ingredients, otherwise, you’ve just got batter!

As we become comfortable in the kitchen, the recipes we use regularly are rarely written down. I’m fairly certain that most of the meals we cook, nightly, week in and week out are not carefully measured and read out of a cook book. We know how much salt, pepper, and smoked paprika we like on our pork chops, we aren’t measuring an eighth of a teaspoon of each, precisely, based on the written recipe. And I’m sure we all use slightly different amounts of slightly different ingredients. The results are all good, I bet I’d like your pork chops nearly as much as mine. My point here, is that our daily recipes, our most successful and relied upon recipes, are from memory, are so familiar and reliable that they are comfortable to us, and we don’t have to labor over specific instruction to prepare them. And, our daily recipes that we are so comfortable with, that we rely on for sustenance, regularly, are completely individual and unique, as each of us are as humans. We are all masters in our own kitchens, we all have our unique masterpieces. My Sweetie and I both love to cook, when he cooks he does things his way and the result is fantastic. When I cook, I do things as I’ve always done, and the results are wonderful, if I do say so myself. We do things differently for different reasons, based on different resources and preferences, neither of us is more or less right, just unique, just individual preference, just habit.

So, whatever you come up with, ultimately, as your recipe for your perfect life may contain many of the same ingredients as mine, but as master of your own kitchen, you may use a whisk where I’d use a wooden spoon, you may use Canola oil where I’d use EVOO. The results of both will be extraordinary, guaranteed, but unique, I promise. Put your apron on, read a few cookbooks for inspiration, and get cooking. Life was never meant to be just batter, but better. You can have your cake and eat it, too!

Selife

I am a believer in “selfies”, I’ve talked about this before. Selfies, of course, being self-portraits, usually taken with one’s smartphone or webcam, or a camera with a timer. Selfies can be taken alone, or with others to add some variety and fun. How does taking pictures of ourselves help us realize our potential and approach fulfillment and true happiness? Self-confidence is the largest contributor to our success, our happiness, our fulfillment, our ability to evolve into the person we hope to be, the person we choose to be, the person we deserve to be. If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? By taking pictures of ourselves, selfies, we become more comfortable with who we are, what we look like, we learn to enhance our smile, our look, the angle that the camera favors most. Basically, we learn to find a way to like the way we look, which makes us feel more confident about our appearance, we feel better about ourselves, and this, in turn, being the truth in beauty and handsomeness, just makes us look even better. It’s self-perpetuating.

I am often with people who resist having their picture taken, they don’t like the way they look. In other words, they are walking around the planet, on a daily basis, going out into public, working, shopping, visiting, unhappy with their appearance. Ashamed for one reason or another. Can you imagine how this must drain one’s self-confidence? How can we be confident if we are ashamed of our appearance, or simply unsure or uncertain of our beauty? True, none of us are truly immune. Many very beautiful people underestimate their looks. The truth of the matter is that beauty truly does come from within. Beauty is a beacon of confidence. Can you think of a star, a model, or some personality that is deemed beautiful in spite of the fact, when really looked at, feature by feature, are somewhat less than classic beauty? There are surely as many less than beautiful beautiful people as there are truly beautiful beautiful people. Start really looking at what Hollywood, the fashion world and the media consider beautiful. So much of what we consider beauty, on the exterior, is make up, airbrushing, artificial enhancements, professional photography and superior lighting. And we all use these images as a measure for our own appearance, and, if we fall a degree short, we become ashamed of our appearance and our confidence suffers.

Building self-confidence and developing a strong sense of self, a strong self-image is one of the first and most important steps on the path to fulfillment and happiness. A strong self-image and the resulting self-confidence is what we will rely on in our effort to evolve. Whether today is the first day of your journey to a happier and more fulfilled version of you, or if you’ve been on the path to ever increasing happiness, success and enlightenment for years, our self-confidence is always a work in progress. We don’t just achieve self-confidence and we’re done, like nourishing our bodies with regular meals, our self-confidence requires regular care and nourishment. If we simply stop eating we waste away and become malnourished, hungry, and eventually starve. If we eat poorly, our bodies and our overall health suffer. Our self-confidence is no different. We will need to feed it and we will need to nourish it with high quality ingredients to keep it from starving, to keep it healthy and vibrant.

We must make a daily practice of thinking and behaving in ways that bolster, rather than undermine, our self-confidence. This can begin with the practice of meditation, affirmations, expressing gratitude, eating clean, vigorous exercise, healthy relationships and friendships, reading nourishing books, blogs and articles, acquiring a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, healthy self-speak, and, yes, even a daily selfie.

We love to see progress and by keeping an album, either in print or digitally, of our selfies, we can see the self-confidence illuminate, by degree, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. The more comfortable we become with our image, the comfortable we become with ourselves and the more confidence we gain.

To demonstrate the power of self-confidence, try this little social experiment; dress in your homeliest clothes, don’t do your hair, your makeup, or anything. Now go somewhere very public like a shopping center, a mall, or a tourist attraction. Walk around and think to yourself, over and over, as you walk, “I look terrible. I look awful. I feel ugly.” And I’ll bet you do. You are probably somewhat slouched in posture, you are looking down or away from people. There is nothing about you that says “confident”. I’ll bet people pass by you without really looking at you, you blend in and your negative self-speak makes you somewhat invisible. Now go home, take a nice shower, have a nourishing meal, say your affirmations, get dressed up, do your hair and makeup, if applicable, and go back to the same spot. This time, think very positive, uplifting thoughts about yourself, “I look great, I am beautiful/handsome, I like the way I look, I feel awesome, I’m amazing.” My guess is, you are looking up, looking at the faces of those you pass, making eye contact, smiling, and getting smiles in return. You are a beacon of confidence and you get noticed, favorably, as a result. And, getting noticed favorably further boosts your confidence. Several years ago, I had my Girl Scouts perform a similar experiment at a local festival to demonstrate PMA, positive mental attitude. They had fun with the experiment and learned the power that lies within to change, not only how you feel about yourself, but also, how others perceive you. It’s pretty powerful. All we need to do now is adopt the second experiment as our daily modus operandi.

When I was younger, I loved to take pictures, and more, I loved to be in pictures. If there was a camera around, I was likely close by, hoping to be included in the photo. With friends, I was usually the one, and still am, that insisted a group photo be taken. I usually had a camera handy, with a timer, and would facilitate such a photo. There was also a phase in my life where my self-confidence and self-image were poor. And in that period of time there are very few pictures of me. The pictures I saw of myself, I loathed. I took many pictures of my kids, their friends, family, sights and scenery, but I rarely allowed the camera to be turned towards me. When I undertook the project of empowering myself with self-confidence once again, after reading books and listening to audiobooks, I learned of many ways to bolster and rebuild the confidence that once carried me happily through life. One book I read suggested the “selfie”. I practiced this, taking dozens of pictures to keep the one I could almost stand to look at. With daily practice and diligence, I amassed a collection of “selfies” I was happy with, that I actually quite enjoyed looking at. And with each click of the shutter, each photo added to my album, my confidence grew and my happiness, fulfillment and success grew in response.

Though a small part of regaining self-confidence through a healthier self-image is just a small piece of the puzzle, it is demonstrative of how the whole puzzle goes together. We may take dozens of pictures to find one we’re satisfied with, at first, as we become more and more comfortable with ourselves. In our journey, we may try many, many, many different ways to make strides in regaining our self-confidence, some we will be pleased with, others we will likely discard. Like getting the perfect shot, the perfect selfie, finding the perfect steps, practices or means to rebuilding our self-image and our self-confidence, we may make many, many, many attempts before we are satisfied, before we find something that works. We simply need to stick with it, we simply need to continue to make the effort. Life itself becomes a selfie, the picture you make it.

As an avid hiker, I am rather notorious for always wanting to see what’s around the next bend on the trail. This is true, as well, in driving through new cities, or walking through an urban center I’ve not visited before. I am curious and have an insatiable appetite for wanting to see just a bit more. This is how our journey towards happiness, fulfillment and reward should be. We should always be striving to see what lies ahead, what’s around the next bend in the trail, the next intersection in the road, the next block in the city. Never be satisfied, there is always more, there is always room to evolve further. Self-confidence, like exploring a trail through the woods, is never truly complete, there is always more to explore, another adjoining path, a trail up the hill to the left, down into the valley on the right. Never stop.

We, alone, have the power to become exactly the person we desire to be. We, alone, have the power to evolve into a happy, successful, enlightened and fulfilled person. But, we, alone, must decide to do so, we must take the initiative, make the commitment and fuel the evolution. Getting comfortable with who we are, inside and out, is going to be one of the keys to unlocking our potential. Silly though it may sound, and silly it may seem, especially as you begin the practice, a daily selfie is going to assist you in your effort. I swear it. So, get that camera, practice your most winning smile and shine on! You beacon of confidence!

 

 

How to Have a Hot Body! Mirrors and Pictures and Porn! Oh My!

You hear a lot these days about having a “healthy body image”. I need clarification. Does that mean we should be healthy about our body image as is, or should we have an image of ourselves healthy? Having struggled with this in the past a bit myself, I really think the latter should be the goal. I think it is important to love your body enough to want to make it healthy. I think in making an effort to evolve into more healthy ways, for the sake of our bodies, it is important to nurture and care for, appreciate and savor, in every positive nuance, every positive change.

We were all given a body to carry us through our lives. I, personally, choose to do everything in my power to make it and keep it has healthy as possible. That I think healthy bodies are more attractive is my opinion. That someone else prefers a more voluptuous physique is their opinion. To me, it does not come down to just shape or size, it comes down to health. It is absolutely and irrefutably proven that excess body weight, or voluptuousness, if you prefer, is less healthy and is linked to an increased risk of long-term health conditions, disease and even early mortality. Like my car, I do all the suggested maintenance so that it will last me as long as possible. And not cost me a ton of money to fix. Or suffer an early, untimely demise. But that is my opinion, again. Your opinion matters as much and may differ from mine. Ultimately, the point I want to impress upon you is that one of the biggest factors in self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem, happiness and fulfillment is going to be a healthy body image.

Stick thin, muscular or voluptuous aside, whatever you are, whatever you prefer for yourself, be proud of it and be proud of where you’re at in the process of becoming healthier, if that is your goal. Revel in the glory that is you and your journey if you choose to embark on one. If you are making an effort to evolve, no doubt, whether visible or not, your body is better today than it was yesterday. If you are happy with where you’re at, then rejoice and celebrate. The important thing is to love your body for what it is and what it does. If it looks like you want it to, fantastic. If it doesn’t, and you have realistic goals for how you want it to look, then worship your body by committing to those goals. In other words, no matter what your body looks like right now, love it. It is your home, a house for your soul. The one you get. The only one you get. And, like a house, if you don’t like the one you have, the best you can do is move. If you don’t like the body you see right now, then move. Get it?

What matters most, is that you are happy, comfortable, healthy and confident in the body you have. And if you aren’t, you need to find a way to get there.

I have a friend, I’ve known her for over twenty years, which is about how old she was when we first met. She has the healthiest body image of anyone I have ever met. She is absolutely confident and happy with every, single part of her body. She dresses to accentuate the good and to reveal the best. That she dresses flamboyantly may be an understatement, but she illuminates every room she walks into with her confidence first, and the vibrant hue of her attire second. I have never seen her tug uncomfortably at any article of clothing to hide or camouflage any part of her figure, though it is good, great even, it is certainly not perfect. I have never seen her strike a strategic posture to mask something about her figure she was uncomfortable with. In the twenty some years I’ve know her, she has matured from barely past teenage to a woman, a mother and now a forty-something. And through that all, yes, there have been some additional pounds here and there, but still, she is fit, she is healthy, she is very physically active and, most important, she is as confident with her body image as ever. We should all want to be like that!

Really, we should, and I do. It is something I am making an effort to evolve towards, a healthier body image. I’m doing pretty well. At the very least, I have a clean and healthy lifestyle, with the possible exception of punishing my body with a little more wine than I should, here and there. With a great deal of commitment, and effort, I have a lifestyle that allows me to enjoy wearing the same size jeans I did in high school. This has not always been the case, I sort of lost my healthy body and healthy body image there for a decade. A decade and a half, if we’re being totally accurate. But, overall, I am pleased. I do my best to focus on the positive I see in myself; the way my jeans fit, my waistline, the tone in my arms and the shapeliness of my calves. I try not to focus on the things I can’t change or that will take longer to change; a scar, a stretch mark or two, the lack of tone in certain stubborn areas. I am, we are all, a work in progress, and just like any work of art, from the first brush stroke, from the first pinch of the clay, the first twist of wire, the first form of the glass, it is absolute beauty and only bound to improve with more work. Remember that.

Strategies for improving your body image:

Find a dream body double, someone, a celebrity or an athlete, whose body you admire, whose general physique is similar to your own. I admire Jennifer Aniston, Sophia Vergara, Eva Mendez, Jillian Michaels and Cameron Diaz. I know I will never have a body like Sophia Vergara. Never. I’d like a body like Jennifer, Eva, Jillian or Cameron, and while I may never achieve exactly that, it is not a totally unreasonable goal for me. Once you’ve selected some dream body doubles of your own, and, yes, I will share mine, if you like, go to Google Images and look at pictures of your body double, consider that your dream body image “goal”, if not your actual body composition goal. Notice how confident they look, so comfortable with who they are and how they look. Practice that. Learn to become so comfortable with who you are, in your body, that you can confidently look into the mirror, the camera, or just walk down the street, as you. So, when I look in the mirror, when I get dressed in the morning and undressed at night, I look in the mirror and see me, as Eva Mendez. Splendid!

For the ladies; I read a sensational book, and highly recommend it, “Veronica Monet’s Sex Secrets of Escorts: What Men Really Want”. It is a little racy, a little graphic, but, it is also full of fabulous suggestions and solid advice for acquiring a healthier body image, among other things. From looking at yourself in the mirror, to dressing yourself up, to taking pictures of yourself, all of which I have done, and do, and find incredibly empowering and rewarding. Once you get used to it. I have mirrors in every room, more than one. I make sure I can see a reflection of myself in almost every room I enter. It is against all things Feng Shui, but in this case, I will exercise my veto. The mirrors are a way to become more accustomed to you, your expressions, how you look. It is amazing how we are sometimes taken by surprise at our appearance if we aren’t accustomed to really seeing it frequently. Pictures provide a great benefit, as well. I try to take at least on “selfie” a day, either with my phone, my video camera or my computer camera. I have a whole gallery. And in that gallery of self, I can see the progression of self-confidence, the comfort I have gained with the camera and angles and lighting, make up, my hairstyles. I am okay with looking at me. I know this may come across as vanity, but it is really only an exercise in self-confidence. It isn’t vain to be comfortable with how you look, and to be accustomed to how you look in a mirror, on video, or in a picture. I cringe worse when I am around someone who gasps in horror when they see a picture of themselves, “I didn’t know I look like that!” than when I’m around people who are, perhaps, a little over-confident.

Know thyself. Another lesson from Veronica, but works for both genders. Learn about your individual body, its nuances, needs, preferences. Do whatever it takes, if you know what I mean. She recommends, “exploring” yourself, and, even, if you’re comfortable with it, watching some, yes, I’m going to say it, porn. The idea is to become more comfortable with our own sexuality, our sensuality, our power as a “goddess” (or god). Building our sexual confidence enhances our body image much more than we realize. There is a great deal of power, confidence and self-esteem derived from the fact that we are comfortable with ourselves in our sexual experiences. Men and women both prefer sexually confident partners in study after study after study. And knowing what you like, how you work, individually, and how to draw from your own power as “goddess” (or god) will enhance your enjoyment, as well, further inflating your body image. When we are more comfortable with our sexuality, which is something, sadly, that our society almost frowns upon, we become more empowered, more fulfilled, more attractive, have more enjoyable experiences and enhanced relationships by being more sensual, more knowledgeable and more confident.

On a tamer note; dress up, not down. No matter your size, your shape, your weight or your muscle tone, dress it up. Disguising your low self-esteem and poor body image in shapeless clothing only makes you feel worse. Clothing, fashion and all the wonders that go along with it are one of the biggest, simplest boosts to self-esteem we can garner. This is the one “immediate” fix, it may be the first step in the process to becoming the confident, diva, goddess (manly, god) you have locked inside of you. There are so many folks out there who hide behind a wall of fabric, cower in unshapely clothes and only dream of some far off day where they can wear “clothes like that”. Wear the damn clothes! Now! There are very fashionable, attractive clothes in every size and shape, made specifically to enhance and conquer! We’re talking swimsuits, pretty lingerie, jeans, dresses, blouses, shirts, suits, camisoles, whatever. Many fashion magazines have entire sections devoted to fashion for every body type. No one is discriminated against in the world of fashion anymore. Truly. A little wardrobe makeover and I guarantee, your body image will instantly improve enough you’ll want to take the next step.

Whether you are happy with the general shape of things, or if you plan to downsize or remain a plus size, matters not. We are all powerful, diva goddesses (or powerful, manly, deities, guys) and deserve to live a life with a healthy body image. Take some steps, read some books, some fashion magazines, search out other resources for positive advice for improving your body image. It is likely the single most important step in gaining the confidence we need to rule the world and to evolve into the happy, confident, fulfilled person we deserve to be.