Swinging. Boogers. Toilets. Sex.

I have been writing my whole life. Practically. I was first “published” when I was seven years old, in my elementary school’s creative writing collection. For the record, NOT every child in school was published, there was, indeed, a selection process, of some sort. The publication wasn’t too fancy, several pages, mimeographed (that probably dates me), stapled together and sent home to all the parents to enjoy. I’m hoping Mom hasn’t shredded it along with all the family photos and important letters in her last spree. The piece I wrote was on being Amish. I’m not, but at that point in my life, I thought it would be really cool because you could have lanterns and candles instead of boring old electric lights and you’d have to have horse drawn carts instead of boring old cars. In high school, again, I had two short stories published in the school’s creative writing journal. One was about not liking peas. I can’t remember the other, but I think it was even better than the “peas” one. Who knows? It, too, probably got shredded. I’m beginning to think Mom’s shredding is a subtle statement she is trying to make about my desire to be a writer.

I also love to write letters and was an avid pen pal for many years with dozens of pen pals from all over the globe. This hobby I continued for a decade, or more, until all of my pen pals ended up on Facebook and we already knew each other’s news and saw each other’s pictures before the snail mail even got posted.

I did write a novel once, about ten years ago. It was a “romance” type story, with an element of suspense. About four hundred fifty pages worth. I based part of it on some plausible but not yet developed technologies. Before working up the nerve to do the final edits and submit it to anyone who might be interested, the technology came to fruition and is actually, now, very common, sort of making the story ordinary. It needs a serious revision. So, in the meantime, I’ve lost the computer “the book” was on, or, at least the hard-drive. And the password to open it. It was a masterpiece, however, I assure you.

Blogging. I never imagined myself enjoying blogging nearly as much as I do. I didn’t think the shorter, less formal form was really my style. I was wrong, I find it liberating! I can use slang, and cuss, and employ all the quirky little run-ons and conjunction overuse I so enjoy in speech. I can write like I speak, with emphasis in unusual places, to add interest. I can use as many commas as I like! And exclamation points! I fucking love punctuation! I have a lot of ideas I want to write about, mostly on topics of “importance”; self-esteem, self-confidence, health, nutrition, success, fulfillment, spirituality, fitness, and relationships. I have learned a great deal about myself, about people, about personal growth and life in the past several years and I feel like I have information and methods that may help others overcome their personal struggles. I am passionate about these ideas. I like to add a little humor for levity and to prove that life really shouldn’t be all that serious. We should laugh. We should laugh everyday. We should laugh really hard, everyday. Life is too short to be so damned serious all the time. For these reasons, I will categorize my articles as “Life is Funny” and/or “Life is Serious”. I love it when life is seriously funny! That’s just the best.

The more articles I post, the more I learn about what people seem to enjoy, to prefer. When I write about more serious topics I usually get a few “likes” and maybe a “follow”, but no real “searches”. When I write something shocking I get a whole bunch of “likes” and several “follows”. When I look at the stats, the article that has more searches by keyword than any other ever I’ve written, is an article titled “Upside Down Pineapple”, which explores rumors revolving around swingers.  The longest comment I ever received was in response to an article on going commando. The most likes and follows I’ve had in response to any article, recently, were after I posted the one about boogers and toilets. It’s like we’re all a bunch of grade schoolers, laughing and snickering at dirty stories and potty talk. But, hey, whatever works.

I used to read posts on a blog called “Girl With a One Track Mind“. She wrote about her experiences with rather indiscriminate sex. She wrote fairly well and her content was quite interesting, but she got busy with other stuff and pretty much stopped posting to her blog. She was shocking, usually, but highly entertaining. I also follow certain YouTube channels, Jenna Marbles being one. She is funny and yet, often, has a worthy message. I think it is entirely possible to be funny, a little shocking and still relevant and worthwhile. This is something Scarlett strives for. I love to entertain people, I love to make people laugh, with my unique style of quirky humor and dorkiness. And yet, I really seek to be understood. I have a message, I have learned some very important lessons in life and want to share my experiences that others may benefit. To mix these into a medium is very challenging.

I do have a message I want to get out to the world. I really want to make a difference, in a serious way. And I still want to laugh, and make people laugh, too. There is a balance between silly, shocking and serious, and I feel like I am the epitome of that. I believe that is probably my message to the world above and beyond any other. Be silly, a little shocking, be serious, be everything, not one without the others, not one more than the others. Be seriously silly, be funny and fierce, have fun and be focused. So, what I’ve learned from the feedback and activity on my posts thus far is that I need to write serious shit and include references to sex, drinking, toilets, boogers and swinging in order to attract the largest audience, and to hopefully, make the positive mark on the world I seek to make.

 

 

Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC
Museum of Sex, NYC

Toxic

As I smeared deodorant/antiperspirant all over my armpits this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder; is this going to be what kills me? Everything we do, everything we use, everything we eat, drink, breathe or absorb into our skin contains some level of “toxins” that alter the way our bodies function, believed to contribute to disease and chronic health conditions. We wonder why diabetes and cancer and other horrible, life-threatening diseases seem to be on the rise; the answer is all around us. On us. In us.

I try to buy and use “non-toxic”, “natural”, “organic” products whenever I can, but, quite frankly, they don’t all work as well as the more chemically based products on the market. Deodorant being one. I have tried several “natural” varieties and they, quite literally, stink. Going without has not worked well, either. I value my friendships.

In reading and re-reading and re-reading again (and again) Jillian Michaels “Master Your Metabolism …”, I am convinced that the more pure food and products we use, the more pure our environment (home and yard) can be, the better. True, we can’t be in control of every aspect, for example, this week, my mother’s gardener put highly toxic chemicals all over the lawns. I can smell them from inside the house, days later. I can also smell something coming from the dishwasher, a steam tainted with a quasi-lemon-“flavored” chemical substance. I use organic products to wash my dishes, but I have a hard time avoiding the toxic steam coming from the kitchen. But, again, I can’t help but think, the more I do, the more I will benefit.

Cleaning products, personal care products, air pollution, impure and over treated water supplies, genetically modified foods, chemical ingredients in food, pest-control products in our homes and on our pets and even on our skin, lawn and garden products, everything. There really, truly is no escape. So, the best we can do is to try to limit our use and ingestion of “toxic” products. Not that it’s a lost cause if we can’t eliminate them all, really, any measures we can take will be beneficial. Just remember, all we can do is all we can do, but something is better than nothing. Dabbling is always better than wallowing.

There are toxins in our homes, toxins in our environment. But that’s not all. “Toxins” exist in other aspects of our lives, too. There are toxins in our mind in the manner of toxic thoughts. Any thought that does not serve to promote our goals, to enhance our self-esteem, our growth as an individual, our happiness is toxic and should be avoided, removed and an alternative used in it’s place.

The “egoic” voice, as my yoga instructor calls it, our “superficial” voice, that voice in our head that talks and talks and talks all day, and sometimes, all night, very often is toxic. Listen to that voice. Actually, don’t. Identify it, and disregard it. Today, I caught my superficial voice tell myself, twice, that I’m fat. I’m not at all fat, I’m a size six. I caught that voice tell myself that my nose is crooked. So what, whose isn’t? The plastic surgeon’s wife, and that’s about it. And who cares. It adds character. Today, I caught my superficial voice tell myself I’m stupid. Wrong, again. Our superficial voice tries to make us irritable, grumpy, impatient, intolerant, judgmental, overindulgent, critical, controlling, and so much more. Have you noticed? Do. Treat that superficial voice, your egoic voice, as though it were toxic. Quickly neutralize it and replace it with something more wholesome and pure, your inner voice, your true voice. Find that inner voice, deep inside you, fueled by your true desires, your goals, your values and replace the toxic, superficial voice with what your true voice has to say. The true voice is “organic”, but it is polite and quiet, like all truly great leaders. Give your true voice a chance to lead, neutralize the toxic voice and you’ll find a level of happiness develop within your life you only ever imagined possible. Think of your true voice like Gandhi, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama and your superficial voice as Hitler, Saddam Hussein or Kim Jung Il. That should give you some perspective. The best resource I have found here is a book by Richard Carlson PhD “You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective”, and, for the record, any book he recommends is equally as valuable. I’ve read them all.

What other toxins poison our lives? Toxins within us that pollute our relationships, whether friendships, family relationships, working relationships, marriages or other long-term committed relationships. What are these toxins? Jealousy, deceit, dishonesty, control, and probably the worst enemy of just about everything, complacency. True, it is nearly impossible to completely eradicate these toxins from our natural disposition. With the help of our organic, inner voice, though, we can gain an upper hand on most of these relationship toxins once we’ve identified them. We can turn the tide on almost any relationship, as long as it isn’t abusive, by replacing toxic behavior with wholesome behavior. This. Takes. Practice. The behaviors that will benefit a relationship, any type of relationship are integrity, honesty, compassion, understanding, the act of genuine and active listening, tolerance, acceptance, interest and attentiveness. Just like replacing the toxic cleansers we use in our home with natural-based products, we can replace toxic behavior with behaviors that will grow our relationship, which will bolster it, that will deepen it, that will improve it. The best resource I can recommend for additional information is a book by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn, “The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships”.

While we’re talking about people in our lives, are there people with toxicity causing disease and dysfunction in our lives? It is a harsh assessment, but, sadly, necessary. In discussing relationships, above, I mentioned that any relationship was salvageable, as long as it wasn’t abusive. If you are in an abusive relationship, of any type, GET OUT and GET HELP!  If you are the abuser, GET HELP! An abusive relationship is most certainly toxic, and, again, can be any kind of relationship; friends, coworkers, family, significant others. It matters not the who of an abusive relationship, what matters is that you remove yourself from it. Fast. And find some support. Now.

If you are in a relationship that isn’t abusive, but is toxic, then you need to weigh some alternatives and make a move. Something has to change. Just like all toxins in our lives, toxic relationships have no place and we either need to neutralize them, or get rid of them. Harsh, I know, but true. You cannot begin to be who you deserve to be if someone, through their toxicity, is undermining your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your motivation, your energy and your enthusiasm.

Toxic relationships often have certain, easily identifiable elements; usually the toxic party is negative, most of the time. They may think in very black and white terms, all good or bad, they always need to be right, it’s their way or the highway. Most often, they are takers, but not givers. Their own lives tend to be extremely chaotic and that’s all they’re willing to talk about. Toxic people are usually needy and seek to become instant friends or lovers or partners and they will often idealize you, at first. Toxic people are usually passive/aggressive and can be manipulative, even exploitive. They are extremely judgmental. Toxic people are seldom satisfied, they always seek more and whatever you give is never quite enough, is denied or completely dismissed. Toxic people are needy and require constant attention, reassurance and validation, they are self-involved, self-absorbed, and not only are they only focused on their own needs, insecurities and emotions, but insist that your attentions also be so focused. Does this sound like anyone you know? Yes? So, what to do?

When we have toxic people around us, and especially when those toxic people are folks we simply can’t just “unfriend”, like on Facebook, we have to figure out how to deal. Distance is good, unless “the toxin” is close enough to you (as in, perhaps, spouse or family) that you can suggest they seek some professional guidance. I’m sure, if you’re like me, you have no limit of toxic people in your life. Usually, “unfriending” or “divorcing” these people, either literally or figuratively, while a solution, winds us up with a certain amount of regret. If we aren’t in a position to suggest they seek help, then distance and infrequency is, perhaps, a workable solution. Unless a relationship is seriously toxic, perhaps limited exposure is better than “unfriending”. Just like any toxin, if you must be exposed, limited exposure is best. I suppose we have to determine the level of toxicity, our ability to distance ourselves, or “limit” our exposure, and then execute a plan from there. It isn’t an easy topic. Identifying toxic people is FAR easier than knowing what to do about them.

In an effort to evolve into more healthy, happy, productive and fulfilled people, we need to care for ourselves on several levels; physical, environmental, mental, interpersonal, and emotional. One of the key things we can do to this end is identify things that will impede our progress or undermine our efforts. Toxins are high on that list, in every realm. Look around you. What’s toxic? Look within you, What’s toxic? Let’s do everything we can to remove toxins from our lives!

 

 

 

Shut up!

For as much excellent advice as I have, I do have my own struggles. That’s why my blog is called “an effort to evolve”. I am making an effort, I am figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, for me. I’m sharing what I think, what I figure out, what I find helpful with all of you that you can try it out in your own effort to evolve.

I read, a lot. Sometimes I have more time to read than others, and sometimes, I just have a hard time fitting reading into the whole work, work out, prepare healthy food, attend to important relationships and get enough sleep, routine. But, reading really should have as much a place in my daily routine as waking up in the morning. I find it THAT helpful.

I will admit, I have had some struggles on almost every level lately. Yes, good ideas have still been coming to me, and I have made some progress in my evolution, but there have been some struggles that have been retarding my efforts to evolve. Despite my belief that happiness is something from within, that self confidence is the catalyst for the happiness you find within, and that you, solely, are responsible for your attitude, your actions, your behavior and your evolution, my attitude has been, well, sort of sucky lately. And, on several levels. Ok, on every level.

On the home front, in many of my relationships, with work, with fitness and with my healthful eating habits. I have found myself more prone to negativity and cynicism in conversation with those close to me, and in my thoughts, more prone to anger and frustration while traveling and driving and, well, just getting through the day. This slump has touched every part of my life. So, what gives? I need to shut up.

Shutting up is the key, and I misplaced the key, there, somehow, for a while. Maybe it got lost when I made the move into my mom’s house. Perhaps I mislaid it during the holiday season. Or maybe it got lost in the shuffle in all of my travels for work and my vacations. But, I mislaid this very important key. Shut up.

I found the key yesterday. Right where I left it. Right where I found it in the first place. And since finding the key yesterday, I have discovered it in a few more places. Now, that key is everywhere, like I was meant to find it again. Now, I vow, no matter how busy life gets, no matter if there are moves, or travel, or challenges, that key will be safely in my grasp.

The key is to shut up. Just shut yourself up. Well, no, to clarify, shut your ego up.

To explain. A couple of years ago, I read an excellent and life altering book by Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now”, that’s where I first found the key. After reading his book and employing as much of his teachings as possible, life got really, really good. I had incredible optimism, I had incredible energy, I accomplished tremendous things, I grew outrageously as a person, I achieved highly at work, my relationships were all aglow. I rocked everything in my universe. Then, somehow, somewhere, I forgot about the most important lesson in the book, the key to the whole thing. To shut up.

Yesterday, sitting in one airport after another, one delayed flight after the next, frustrated as hell, I pulled out my Kindle and was accosted with an ad for Audible, an audiobook subscription service through Amazon. I’ve had Audible before and never used it though I paid the monthly fee month after month after month after month and finally ended the service. The “free trial” book they were featuring in the ad on my Kindle yesterday, though, was by Eckhart Tolle, “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”. The title alone made me feel good. And he is absolutely brilliant. I clicked the banner, signed up for my “free month” and my “free trial”. I downloaded the book and started to listen. His voice is as magical as what he writes. In the first chapter he recapped the relationship between us, and our ego. The ego, in a very simple, condensed version, is all the chatter that goes on in your head. All the “think speak” you hear in your mind, the voice you think is you. It isn’t, this is your ego. You are separate from that voice in your head that you listen to 24/7. Once you learn to separate yourself from your ego, all that noise, you learn to just shut up. Think about the constant dialogue in your mind, is it not mostly focused on the past or on the future? Pay attention. It is. Or it’s going on about everything that makes you mad, sad, frustrated, upset, etc. Either way, not much good is going on in that singular dialogue. Cynicism, bitterness, self-criticism. Your inner dialogue batters you, constantly, with self criticism; I’m not smart enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m unhealthy, I can’t, etc., etc., etc. So, basically, you spend every waking moment focusing on the past you can’t change, the future you can’t reach and self-talk that is self-destructive, and, coming from a “reliable” and believable source, you. So just shut up.

Interestingly enough, after listening to a few chapters and picking up that lost key, I instantly felt better. I felt in control. I felt much more positive. Happy. Even though I was still sitting in the deepest, darkest, recesses of San Francisco International Airport, at a gate in a terminal I didn’t even know existed, waiting for a delayed plane. I picked up my Kindle, again started surfing for some books on relationships and found one that piqued my interest. I downloaded it and started reading it after boarding the tiny plane bound for Sacramento. I had plenty of time to read because there was a mechanical issue that required a mountain of paperwork to be completed before we could depart. We were aboard the plane for nearly an hour before we finally took off for the nineteen-minute flight. But, I was happy. Reading. And in the relationship book, everything I’d just heard in Eckhart Tolle’s new audiobook was being echoed, almost eerily, by the author, Marie Forelo (whom I admire and follow). I hadn’t realized she authored the book until I’d read the first chapter or two. But, again, the key, which she outlined foremost in her book, is to shut up. Shut that voice off in your head, or acknowledge it as separate from you and dismiss it. This is the single, most important, vital step to creating your own happiness. By shutting up that egoic voice that focuses on the past and on the future, you can be present in the only time that you can control, influence and live. Now. The present.

This concept was the main thesis of Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”, the book that had such a positive impact on my life a couple of years ago. To find myself haphazardly revisiting this concept in not one, but two, unrelated sources on the one day I probably needed it the most seemed more than just coincidence. A blessing, to say the least.

I am shutting up again. I am acknowledging that egoic drivel in my mind and dismissing it. I am, again, regaining control of my thoughts, working on actually living in the present, not just preaching it, and living in the present, now, with a little more clarity, with the key in hand. I am certain that in very little time, with only minimal effort, I will be back on track in every area of my life. Right where I want to be.

What I hope you’ll take away from this; explore separating yourself from that voice in your head. Learn that you are separate from all that noise. If you are interested in learning more, look up the books I referenced above and devote some time to their well-worded lessons. And, above all else, just shut up.

 

There is beauty and magic in every moment we live in the present. Shut up! And let it happen.
There is beauty and magic in every moment we live in the present. Shut up! And let it happen.

Knock, Knock

It is said that opportunity knocks but once. Really? And, frankly, I don’t often answer my door, unless I’m expecting someone. I screen calls, too, so leave a message. I think this is the modern approach, those rare times when we are home, we prefer to be selective about interruptions. Am I right?

Lets’ talk about the front door a bit more. When you knock on someone’s front door, how long do you hang around waiting for them to answer? Does it depend on whether they are expecting you, or not? And if they are expecting you, how long do you stand there before you grab your cell phone and text or call them, “Hey, I’m at the door.” Like opportunity, we don’t tend to hang around on the porch for very long, we most certainly don’t set up a tent and wait for the occupant to let the cat out. We knock, we wait, tap, tap, tap the toes, and we leave. Opportunity is less patient than we are. If opportunity even comes to the door. I think that is a rarity.

I’m not speaking literally, here, either. If you are sitting home waiting for opportunity to actually knock on your door, you are far beyond disillusionment. By “knock on the door” it is generally meant, make known, present itself, be available. I apologize for the explanation, but I was married to a man, several years unemployed, who never left the house, ever, in search of work. He would send out a couple of emails once a month or so, maybe place a call here or there, and troll websites, alt + tab style, when I walked into the room. I tried explaining many times that no one was just magically going to show up one day with a job offer for something palatable for $120k per year. Or even $12 per hour. Or at all. So I walked out the door, and opportunity, indeed, was not on the porch waiting for him. I kept walking.

Opportunities go well beyond just employment. And, again, won’t often, if ever, actually walk up on your porch, let alone rap on the door.

So, if opportunity figuratively knocks but once, and we aren’t answering the door, are we missing opportunities? In my opinion, we’d be remiss in waiting for opportunity to knock on our door. I actively seek opportunities in every action, every interaction, every association, everyday, every time I make any kind of contact with anyone, at all. I am all public relations all the time.

Tell me the last opportunity you took advantage of. What was the last opportunity that presented itself to you? What do you consider an opportunity?

op·por·tu·ni·ty

/ˌäpərˈt(y)o͞onitē/

Noun

A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.

Synonyms

chance – occasion – opening – possibility – time

We must seek out opportunity, but first, we must recognize opportunity. To me, an opportunity presents itself anytime I have a conversation with someone, whether in person, via email, text or other means, I believe that interaction equals opportunity. By nature, people are always looking for associations, people are always looking for commonality, a lot of folks are seeking ways to advance their needs, their agenda, their interests. People love to talk about themselves and there is no one, anywhere, that we don’t have at least one thing in common with. “You inhale? Hey, so do I!” You see, common ground.

I see opportunity in very general terms. A conversation, a meeting, an acquaintance, it may not end up with a higher paying job, a real estate offer, or some other fortune, but I have, first, increased my circle of acquaintances and second, honed my people skills. With every meeting, every conversation, heck, with every smile, I improve myself and my ability to interact with others in some way, however small, imperceptible, insignificant, I have added another straw to the thatch roof of my self-confidence.

If I am seeking a specific opportunity, I am a bit more assertive and a lot more focused. I go find doors, lots and lots of doors, specific doors, and I knock, I ring the bell, I text and call and say, “Hey! I’m at the door!” I think of seeking opportunity a lot like a game show. There may be several doors, or curtains, or whatever, and there could be good things, or better things, behind any one of them. I aim to keep playing, keep answering those questions correctly, until I see everything behind every door. I play until I have multiple options to choose from.

Beware of some of those prizes behind those game show doors, though. Not all are prizes, not all are opportunities. Sometimes, especially when we are in search of something very specific, what may seem an opportunity is actually a scheme. For example, if we are trying to lose weight, we may be tempted by ads for quick fixes, pills, Franken-foods and other gimmicky things that promise us quick results with minimum effort. Nope. Not going to happen, and if it does, it won’t be lasting. Trust me on that one. Similarly, if we are looking to start a home-based business, often we will be approached with listing services and other “resources” that require us to pay money up front for some (negligible) benefit.

I spent Saturday with my son, we attended a high school graduation party for the son of long-time family friends, friends I’ve known since any of our now grown children were born. Of course, any time you visit with friends, opportunities abound. My friend has recently taken up paddle boarding, a sport I am very excited to try, we chatted about it during our visit and we will be going paddle boarding in the not too distant future! Knock, knock!

After the graduation party and a charitable grocery trip for my starving college student, and a pit stop at the gas station to top off his tank, I took him out to dinner to celebrate excellent grades for the semester, a B in calculus, a B in chemistry and an A in English. On his recommendation, we went to “Burgers and Brew” on R Street “on the grid” in Sacramento. I do love that town. We had a fantastic meal and a nice chat. He wanted me to see a bar a couple of doors down, “The Shady Lady Saloon”. We popped in, and to continue our celebration I bought my kid a scotch on the rocks. Correction, I ordered him a scotch on the rocks, and a club soda for me (after my beer with dinner and a long drive to Napa ahead). My son headed to the men’s room as our drinks were being poured. When the bartender placed our drinks in front of me at the crowded bar and I reached for my credit card, the nice looking man (with his wife) said, “I’ll take care of it.” I thanked him, a little embarrassed, not really knowing why a strange man, with his wife, would be buying me and my kid a drink, but, hey, opportunity knocks but once! Knock, knock. Conversation ensued, naturally, and I told him we were out celebrating my son’s good grades. We discussed schools and majors and career interests. My son returned and I told him to thank the gentleman next to him for the drink.  The conversation continued. My son is a mechanical engineering major and is interested in automotive design. This man is in aviation and offered my son a tour of their facility. Fortuitous. Opportunity. Everywhere. Even in saloons. Knock, knock.

Yes, in saloons. In bars. I met the man of my dreams drinking stout beer and eating beer flavored ice cream, alone, in a bar. Opportunity. Everywhere. Knock, knock. Do you hear the knocking, now? If I were afraid to go places by myself, if I were not a little bit outgoing and willing to speak with strangers, what opportunities might I have missed? When a stranger speaks to you, even if they seem to be “hitting” on you, a little conversation never hurt. You can learn a lot about people with a little conversation and a little observation. It never has to go any further than that. But, opportunity is buried within many of those conversations, if you can only listen for the knocking. Knock, knock.

I have had unbelievable conversations on airplanes. On trains. In shared ride vans and airport shuttles. People, at the very least, are fascinating. And, with each conversation, the opportunity to become more comfortable, more confident talking to people, advancing your ideas, your product, your passion. Sometimes these chance conversations will bear real fruit with a sale, a valuable contact, a critical piece of information, a good restaurant recommendation, or an introduction to an associate that can be of benefit. If you give people a chance, for the most part, they really do want to help out other people, to share, to connect, to be a hero, to provide an opportunity. Knock, knock.

I’m in Provo, Utah this week. I just returned from dinner with a colleague and on our drive back to the hotel I noticed an illustrative example of a missed opportunity. There were, not one, but two huge billboards, close together, one just after the other “Wanted! Storage Containers”. Between the two billboards was a property, a dirt lot, and in the middle of the dirt lot was a storage container with a sign on it, “For Sale”. Are you looking for an opportunity that’s within sight, within a stone’s throw? Look around, they may be more obvious than you know. Ask around, people may see the billboards you don’t. Or the storage containers. Either way. Knock, knock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful

Powerful! Look at the word – powerful. It is full of power. Are you? Empower yourself. Be full of power!

Don’t let anyone “make you” feel something.

My kids “make me” feel tired
My mom “makes me” feel guilty
My husband “makes me” frustrated
My boyfriend “makes me” happy
My life “makes me” sad

Whether a good feeling or a bad feeling, they are your feelings and no one else is actually capable of “making you” feel anything. You are completely in charge of your feelings and how the actions or words of others cause you to react. Realize that and half the battle is won. I’m never going to say it’s easy, I struggle with this issue constantly and have to consciously listen to how I talk to myself and correct my thoughts, and words, to reflect the truth. The truth is, for all of us, we, alone, have to power to choose to be tired, or not, to be guilty, or not, to be frustrated, or not, to be happy, or not, to be hurt, or not. Attributing someone else with the responsibility of inflicting those feelings onto us is depriving us of the power to take control and ownership of those feelings and change them. For the better.

It is human nature to react to the actions and words of those around us, to let those words and actions define our moods, our responses, our feelings. To make matters worse, the closer someone is to you, the more reactive you tend to be to their words or actions So much of our lives is impacted by our moods and our feelings, that by letting others “make” us feel or react as a result gives the other person complete power over us. We lose ourselves in not being in control of our feelings.

When we allow someone else to dictate our feelings by reacting to their words or actions, intentional or not, it is often said, “we let someone get our goat”. This is an old saying that I recently heard the explanation for. Whether urban legend, or not, the explanation I heard is as follows: racehorses, being very high strung and excitable, often have companion animals to keep them calm. This is particularly beneficial before a big race. Often, a suitable companion animal for a horse is a goat. Before a race, some less than savory racehorse owners would steal their closest competitor’s horse’s goat, hoping the horse would be so out of sorts at the loss of his or her companion, they would be unable to perform well in the race. That being the story, don’t ever let anyone get your goat. Whether intentional, or not, if the words or actions of someone close to you has you reacting, stop. You are in charge of your reactions and of your feelings. Take control. Do something positive, whether in your head, or physically, and maintain control over your feelings.

To do this, we really have to pay attention to the conversation that goes on in our heads. This is extremely beneficial in many areas we may be seeking to evolve in. But if you want a more cheerful, sunny, happy outlook on life, take control of your feelings and of your reactions. Listen to your internal conversation and correct yourself when you hear “so and so makes me feel so …” This will take significant practice, the sooner you begin, the better. Be diligent. As soon as you begin to gain mastery of this, you’ll find your general outlook and attitude are vastly improved.

Shit gets serious, though. The control we allow people to exert over us goes way beyond just the feelings and reactions we have to their words and behavior. This goes beyond feeling grumpy because your significant other left the toilet seat up. In a lot of relationships, especially family relationships; parents, children, siblings, spouses, one party exerts power over the other willfully and knowingly by prompting a predictable, desired reaction. Manipulation. In other extremes, one party exerts their control over the other party through deliberate and malicious acts of violence, abuse, whether verbal or physical, and neglect. Humans are far more savage than we give them credit for. Out of fear of greater harm, out of fear of abandonment or loneliness, or for lack of knowing what else to do, we often allow this to continue until we become unrecognizable as our former selves. Or worse. But, we need to know, we have the ability, at any point in time, always, and without question, to regain control. We are powerful. All of us. And equally.

I have a friend I’ve known since high school, so, for over three decades. She was beautiful, vibrant, popular, and usually the life of the party. She had a joie de vie I always admired. She was daring and wicked and fun. She was a couple of years older than me and I always looked up to her as someone I’d like to be more like, though my tendency was to be a bit quieter, I was, at that point in my life, never really the life of the party. I was at the party, no doubt, but never the life of the party. She had a string of men after high school, but one, in particular, she seemed to always come back to. He was loud, phony, but somehow destined for fairly good things. They eventually married and started a family. From the outside, they seemed a magazine cover sort of family; incredibly good-looking and quite successful. She was progressing well in her own career even without having gone to college. His career was solid and he made good money. As the years passed, though, she changed. Her self-confidence deteriorated. Her health was deteriorating. Her vibrancy and joie de vie were completely gone. He was abusive. He never laid a hand on her, his weapon of choice were words. He told her, daily, that she was ugly, that she was stupid, that she was worthless. Years of this and she believed every word. She couldn’t hold a job, and though she still had school-aged children, she turned to drinking. First it was just in the evenings after the children were tucked in. Then she began to sneak drinks earlier in the day. Before long she was drinking straight vodka beginning in the morning, just after dropping the kids off at school. Her alcoholism progressed to the point where she was hospitalized, near death. She recovered, thankfully, and her doctors told her that her liver was so damaged that a single drink could kill her. By this point in time, she was separated from her husband and battling for custody of her children. She was still lost, though, as an individual, and she did drink again. She was admitted to a rehabilitation program and made a long, grueling recovery, only to drink again. She is still alive, and is now sober, but only because of the incredible support her family is providing her. She is now divorced and her children are in the custody of other family members. Every day is a battle to regain her health, her strength, her self-respect, and her integrity. Her friends and family always fear she will relapse. She struggles to find the most basic of employment, and then to keep it. She still has many ongoing, chronic and incurable health issues. All because of the words of someone who vowed to love, honor and cherish her. Hateful, mean and untrue words. Sadly, and very hard to say, it is all her fault. She had no reason to believe those words, to let them destroy her, except that no one has ever taught us that we are in complete control of our own feelings, our own reactions, that we actually have all the power we need to prevent someone from hurting us and destroying our lives. Until now. I’m telling you, if no one else has, you are in control of your own feelings and your own reactions. Be strong, brandish your power. You have the power. You are your own superhero! Save yourself!

I have another friend, from college. And, thankfully, this is a far less tragic story. But, still, tragic, in an unsettling way. We were extremely close for a period of time. Again, she was fun and outgoing. I’m, to this day, not really sure if she was my sidekick, or if I was hers. It may have depended on the party, but we were at them all. I actually think I corrupted her and, despite what she’d lead you to believe, she was never quite as deviant as I. We parted ways at some point late in college, just weird personality differences girls have as we mature. Years later, though, we reconnected through an online high school forum. My mom had kept me filled in with her marriage and other newsworthy items in the newspaper, as had mutual friends. Not so very long ago, a few years now, I had the opportunity to work near where she was living at the time. We agreed to meet. After work, I made my way to her house for dinner. She always planned to marry for money, and had managed to follow through with her plan. In spite of her college education, she did not work, except for charitable causes, which I respect. And don’t. But that’s my issue. She, well I guess, technically, her husband, had a nice home in a very nice area. When I arrived, I was given the tour and she and I visited, joking and laughing and carrying on, just like old times. It was wonderful. The doorknob turned and the front door opened, there stood the husband; a tall distinguished, sneering, sort of aloof, arrogant man. I am incapable of hiding any thoughts, so I’m sure I had a raised eyebrow and a look of disgust on my face, but we were introduced and I made nice. We had stimulating conversation throughout hors d’oeuvers, once he found out I worked in a professional field. She said barely a word, “more peas?”, was about the extent of it. It was as if she’d been exorcised the moment that doorknob turned. After dinner, she and I were allowed to leave together, without an escort, for dessert, and she returned to her “normal” self, save for a moment of stress over the ten dollars dessert was going to cost. I offered to pay, to avoid any issue at home, but she refused.

A few months later, we met again. We were, by coincidence, going to be attending the same sports event. As soon as we met, we fell into familiar banter, antics and conversation. We were talking and laughing and considering plans for after the event. Then it happened. Her phone went off, she quickly answered, and her face went robotic. When she got off the phone she said “he” wanted to go to, and she name-dropped some very famous and expensive restaurant, for lunch. She turned and walked away without even looking back. My friend was a slave. She sold herself for status and a country club membership. Not much more than a bearer of children, children who would be properly educated at the best schools money could buy, coached in the appropriate sports, and even their college admissions essays would be the product of high priced, consultative services. She kept house, or hired the proper housekeepers, and she kept appearances. She paid to learn to cook and had dinner on the table the second the doorknob turned. The exorcism was complete. And tragic. To be exorcised of your very self, your soul, your being, your freedom, independence, autonomy, is a fate nearly as bad as verbal abuse. This, I am quite certain, is an incomplete story, there will be a manifestation, not to be a witch foretelling of evil, but I am fairly certain that something unsavory will manifest on one side of that relationship, or the other. And happiness and joy and self-fulfillment will not be the manifestation of which I speak.

I have told the story of my friend that suffered physical abuse at the hands of her husband. I have also told of her eventual and brave escape from that marriage. That she saw her power, reclaimed her power and wielded her power. She fled, leaving everything but her children behind. They lived in shelters for abused women for a time, until something better could be provided through assistance she researched, through assistance and support from her family and from her friends. She made it out alive, with her self-respect and her kids. She found her way to self-sufficiency, to independence, to success. Her abuser rots one imprisonment after another. And though this story, at first, seems a happy ending, it does not yet end. She now battles for her life from another abuser, cancer. And though she is certain, as am I, as are all of her supporters, that she will again prevail, because she is powerful, this does mark a setback. I can’t help but believe, cancer as mysterious as it is to us all, still, that years of abuse, of denying her own power over her own life, of relinquishing that power to a coward of a man, could possibly have had some contribution to her eventual weakness to disease. It is believed by many smarter than I, that a life of stress is a major contributor to an increased risk of cancer. Is not suffering, physically, painfully, at the hands of someone who vowed to love, honor and cherish you, stress? Is not thinking you are powerless against not only the attacks, but also the attacker, stress? Isn’t attempting to contribute to the household income and raising the children in as normal an environment, though actually a warzone, stress? She found the power once, she is finding the power again. An aggressive and seemingly unstoppable cancer has, at this point, halted in its tracks. She has the power. She always had the power. So do you. Use it now. Whether your attacker is a person you are committed to, or a disease that eats you alive, find your power, wield it, and regain your self.

My story is vanilla ice cream and rainbows by comparison, but I do have a story. Mine is a story neglect, abandonment, really, and worse of all, of loss of self. Eventually, a story of finding power. A story of regaining power, and then self. Mine is a story that does not present itself well in this article, in detail, the details I will save for a better time. But I am currently trying to put to a fair and legal death a long, miserable and terribly lonely marriage. It is possible to be abandoned by someone who is still physically present, and it is no less painful, it is perhaps even more painful and cruel, than someone who actually, physically leaves. My marriage was to a man of addictions; before we met, the typical addictions of foolish and misguided youth, then as an adult, and in my presence, food, television, the internet. Benign though they may sound, they are as self-destructive, if not more so, than any other addiction. A relationship that began with hope and promise and the poison of expectations, it was loveless almost from the start. Oh, the words were spoken, ad nauseum, but words are empty when actions don’t follow. After years of cohabitation, marriage was agreed upon like an informal business dealing. There was no proposal, to speak of, more of a summit meeting around a wobbly, oversized and hideously ugly dining table. And me a hopeless romantic, a believer in one true love, in enduring passion and joy. The wedding night was one of me pleading for consummation from an unwilling, unenthusiastic, and un-enamored groom, and this set the tone for the next twenty some years. We were not lovers, nor husband and wife, as much we were really just “business partners” of a sense, and, eventually, sort of a real estate investment trust. For as long as we both could argue our stake in the business end of the bargain, and the real estate continued to stair step up to the ultimate conquest, a forty-acre ranch home, I managed to endure the unimaginable loneliness, the loss of self, of self-respect, and self-esteem. I was second to whatever fifty channels of cable television had to offer, to news talk radio, and to the Drudge Report on the Internet, then to an ill-fated, impotent and flaccid “day-trading” scheme that he could never actually consummate. Again. And still. I compromised my career, working only part time, in order to raise our children, acting as both mother and father for most of their youth. I was the only female Boy Scout leader in a Catholic troop, for Christ’s sake! He was a reluctant participant in their upbringing and employed yelling, criticism and hurtful name-calling as strategies to exert his dominance, to demand respect, as “father and husband”. Respect, always, is earned, not assumed, and never required. Mostly, he sat in his chair, eyes glued to one screen or another, yelling obscenities or cruel names at us if we dared demand his attention for a moment. When the economic crisis unfolded, and truths were withheld that resulted in the eventual loss of everything we owned, I bowed out. I found the power to bow out. And the moment I set myself free, finally, I found myself, a strong, independent, self-sufficient, driven and powerful woman. The power had been there, growing, all the while. In earning my half of everything we’d built, and lost. In raising the kids as both mother and father, in fulfilling their promise of college with not a dime to my name and no assets to leverage, in enduring the slander and outlandish accusations of a man who cannot understand being left, not because of another man, but because he is not worthy of my love. I found within myself a power so indescribably pure, so indescribably potent, that I know, without a doubt in my mind, I can do anything. I have overcome my challenges; I have rebuilt my life and have since found that one, true, pure and enduring love, passion and joy. The power continues to build and I want to use it to help those, who feel powerless, to become powerful. To find their own power from within. To evolve.

I am not alone in the possession of this super-power. It lives within all of us. Sadly, in the trial that life can be, we let it sink deep within us, and it is often near extinguishment, buried in our bowels. Let whatever trials or triumphs life affords you, ignite that power. Nurture that power and let it possess you, do not let anyone exorcise it from you, it is yours, alone. Use it to find your voice, to find your destiny, to find your peace and solace in this challenging world. Your power will help you evolve into the whole and deserving person you are, capable of anything you desire. You are all power-ful. Take it, it’s yours.

Like a Boss

What is a boss? I always think of a boss as a leader, right? Or a manager. Someone in charge, someone making decisions and directing the actions of others. Someone who knows what the goals are and has a plan for achieving them. Someone qualified. With authority. Someone we respect. Someone we are supposed to obey.

There are good bosses and bad bosses, and I’m sure we’ve all had both in our work experience. What makes a boss a good boss? They lead with certainty but with patience. They are firm, but not harsh. They are clear, concise and reasonable. They clearly define expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences. They are respected. They lead by example, they provide guidance, resources and encouragement.

Who is the boss? The boss of you? It should be you. You are “in charge” of everything you do or don’t do. So, what kind of boss are you? Are you a good boss? Do you know the goals? Do you have a plan for achieving them? Do you lead yourself with certainty and reasonableness? Do you have clearly defined expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences for yourself? Do you seek out examples to lead yourself by? Do you have a resource for guidance and encouragement in your leadership role of yourself? This may, at first, sound a little absurd, but it is all quite necessary if we are to lead ourselves into evolving into the person we hope to become.

Whether we work or not, whether we are self employed or work for a company, large or small, someone is in charge of what we do, how we spend our time, and what we produce. There are all types of “bosses” in this world, in and out of the workplace.

Think of parenthood. Parents are “bosses” of their children, and boy oh boy, some are good, some are not, and the result is usually pretty evident.

My daughter was telling me a story about a poor parenting example she witnessed. She saw a toddler, probably about two years old, the child was whiny and fussy and eventually escalated into a full blown screaming tantrum. The mother was paying the child no attention whatsoever until the shrieking was well under way, then she sent the older sibling to the vending machine for a 20 ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper for the toddler. This pacified the child. This is horrifying on a couple of levels; one, no one should be drinking soda, in my opinion, it is merely type 2 diabetes in a can. Certainly, a two year old should not even know what a soda is, let alone “require” one for pacification. Secondly, the mother did not even attempt to communicate with the fussy toddler, to lead, direct or guide the child, she simply gave the child what it wanted without even a discussion.

I know, all children get fussy and whiny and will have screaming tantrums. Mine did, though rarely. I spent a great deal of time talking to my children, even well before they could speak. I always spoke to them with respect and treated them with dignity. I didn’t use baby talk, I didn’t “mince words”, I used the same calm, compassionate but firm tone, inflection and vocabulary I did with the people in the accounting department I managed. My children knew the expectations, the rewards and the consequences for their behaviors, and they always excelled at vocabulary in school!

I have had many bosses over the course of my career, many good, a few bad. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to perform satisfactorily for a “bad” boss, I’m sure you can agree. When expectations are incomplete, unstated or unclear, much time is wasted and there is a high degree of frustration on both sides of the equation. A boss with a volatile temperament makes for a very stressful work life. A boss who is apathetic and allows his entire department to underperform is, perhaps, even worse.

So, if you are your own boss, how are you doing?

Are you an apathetic boss? You want to lose weight, get fit, be happier, achieve certain personal, professional or educational goals. Do you have a plan you expect to follow? And do you hold yourself accountable for making progress towards those goals, according to the plan? Do you let yourself underperform, to the detriment of your goals, your desires, your dreams, your life?

Are you a volatile boss? Do you get mad at yourself for falling down on your goals? Self loathing is a terrible thing. Have you ever caught yourself saying “I hate myself?”

Are you a disorganized boss? Do you provide yourself with the goals, the plan, the guidance, the resources and the patience and counseling necessary to grow and achieve in the manner you hope for? Or do you just kind of plug along through life without direction?

Truthfully, not many of us are very good bosses of ourselves, or we’d all be trim, fit, happy and rich, right? Not many people really consider the necessity of being their own boss in just the matters of day to day life, but this is probably the one, single most important form of leadership we need as individuals. Without our own leadership, it is very difficult to grow and perform to the degree that other leaders in our lives expect.

Take note of people you may know that are successful at work or successful in other aspects of life; sports, hobbies, charitable ventures. They tend to have certain qualities that those who aren’t as successful lack. Self control, high self esteem, self direction, self discipline, confidence, organizational skills, time management skills, self-motivation. How many of these qualities include the word “self”? That means, quite simply, they are relying on their “self” to be the boss, to lead.

To be “like a boss” then, we need to develop those traits, characteristics and habits that allow us to become more in control of ourselves, to have a higher self-esteem, to be more self-directed, to have more confidence, better organizational skills and time management skills, to be more self-motivated.

Most of these traits, characteristics and habits begin with setting clearly expressed, measurable goals and an outline of a plan to move towards them. Most of theses traits and characteristics rely on replacing poor habits we may have with good habits we desire, and on being firm, clear and accountable for our own actions.

I have spent the last several years delving into my own “self-management style”, I have seen very satisfying change and growth and evolution. I often catch myself asking myself “how are you going to feel if you let yourself down?”. I’m not unreasonable, but I do truly feel bad about myself if I disappoint myself by doing or not doing something I expect of myself in order to accomplish my goals. But I don’t let a temporary setback completely derail me. If I disappoint myself by not working out one day, I don’t just stop working out, I pick up where I left off the next day. If I indulge in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on Tuesday, I don’t wait until the following Monday to “start my diet” all over again. The moment I set that spoon down, we’re back to eating healthy, wholesome and reasonably. I may give myself a pep talk, but I don’t beat myself up. I manage myself with compassion, but with firmness.

I don’t hate myself, ever, for disappointing setbacks. I love myself, always. I love myself enough to know that I deserve to be managed well. And, by loving myself, I am able to love those in my life genuinely and authentically. Self love is critical.

Many tend to think of loving oneself as vanity or conceit. Far from true. If you do not love yourself, you are setting a very bad example for those around you. If you do not love yourself, why should anyone else love you? Seems harsh when put to words, but think about it. You expect others to love you, but you don’t even afford yourself that respect. If you are self loathing, it is impossible for others to fill that void within you. You trudge through life with that void and it is perceptible to those around you. They may not be able to identify that you are self-loathing, just that you are not lovable. To be loved, you must be lovable. To be lovable, you must be loving, to yourself, firstly, else you don’t really know how to love others, to love at all.

Additionally, when you love yourself, you take care of yourself, you manage yourself. You don’t rely on others to do those jobs. This is a sign of respect and love for those around you. When you love yourself, you are naturally happier, again, to the pleasure of those near to you.

Where to begin? Start with a few goals and a whole bunch of self reflection on what changes you have to make to achieve those goals. Then begin to hold yourself accountable for progress. This isn’t something you do on January 1st then forget about, this should be something you discuss with yourself on a daily basis. That’s what a good boss does, makes the goals part of the daily agenda and part of the company culture, then provides loving guidance, direction and resources necessary to achieve those goals.

So, it’s time to get down to business. Like a boss.

Drinking the Kool Aid

I know the reference to “drinking kool aid” is rather morbid, having it’s origin with the Reverend Jim Jones Jonestown massacre, for those of you who didn’t know, but, in today’s vernacular, it basically means, “who do you follow?” So, whose kool aid do you drink?

We all are followers, like it or not. Copycats. We all have someone or some group of people we identify with and seek to emulate, whether we are fully aware of it or not. The “Raider Nation” is one of my least favorite examples. Nascar fans, a more tolerable example. And there are those folks who take on their favorite comedian’s or favorite star’s characteristics. Many years ago, when Jeff Foxworthy and his “you might be a redneck” routine was popular, my brother in law adopted the accent, the inflection, the tone of voice that Jeff used, and he never looked back. He still sounds like Jeff Foxworthy even if Jeff Foxworthy doesn’t sound so much like Jeff Foxworthy anymore. I had a little girl in my Girl Scout troop many years ago who loved the comedian Dane Cook and for a full year, never spoke an original word, everything she said was straight from Dane Cook’s material. I remember in fifth or sixth grade, there was a “popular” girl I wished I were a little more like. Never mind that she was short, round and blond and I was not tall, but definitely taller, skinny and had very dark hair. I invited her to my slumber party for my birthday, and she came. I tried so hard to be like her, I even copied some of her mannerisms, including covering my mouth with my hand when I laughed. This isn’t really particularly cool, or attractive, but for some reason, I adopted that habit because she did it. In a photograph my mom took at my birthday party, there I was in the picture with popular girl, and we both have our hands covering our smiles. I was sort of embarrassed, I guess I didn’t really realize how I was copycatting her. Long story short, I never became as popular as she was, and truthfully, I am okay with that. And, to this day, every now and then, I catch myself putting my hand in front of my mouth when I laugh. Now I just want to be Jennifer Aniston.

Who do you follow? Knowing we are all copycats and followers, we can actually work this to our advantage as we make an effort to evolve into the happy, productive, well-balanced people we seek to become. Who are your role models in your journey? Authors? Media personalities? Me? What characteristics or behaviors do your role models possess that you think would be beneficial to you in your journey? Their focus, their work ethic, their knowledge, their clarity? Are you trying to emulate those qualities?

Having positive role models as we begin to re-assess the direction our lives are going can be extremely helpful. Personally, I have gained a lot of knowledge and inspiration from Jillian Michaels, an unintended target. I just happened to pick up one of her books at Target. I read it cover to cover and it changed my life. Her books and workout videos were the catalyst for me to finally lose those unwanted pounds and unhealthy habits I’d been living with for twenty some years. In a time when I was seeking to redefine myself, heck, to actually get to know myself, I looked to Jillian’s mass media personality to provide me the resources and guidance I needed to find my way. The self confidence I gained from finally breaking the cycle of being overweight and unhealthy unleashed a power in me that has driven me to all kinds of new possibilities, achievements and attitudes.

If you haven’t identified any positive role models, you have the unique opportunity to “shop” for the flavor of kool aid you’d like! If you are new on your journey towards your personal evolution, grab a pencil and a piece of paper and write down three things you’d like to improve in your life. Google those three things, or go to Amazon and look up books on those three things. See if you can spot names that may be “authorities” or role models on the topics on your list. Read excerpts or view videos of them and see if their message resounds, if it inspires you. I’m not saying you need to run to the salon and have your hair cut like theirs, or stalk them, or anything like that! Just get to know their philosophy, their message, their methods and explore whether you think they may work for you. This in itself can be a process, but finding a guiding light, a flavor of kool aid that you really like, is a great place to find the starting point for your journey.

Having a positive role model, famous or not, can influence our health, our productivity, our self-esteem, the shape, direction and quality of our lives. I have a few flavors of kool aid I like right now, and I’m stirring them all together to make the best punch! We all need a little more punch in our lives! How about you?