The well is full, why no water?

The last several weeks have been a frenzy of activity. I had plenty to write, but nothing to share. I equate it to a well full of water that you can’t tap. Every day I write. Then I write some more. Just when I think I am done, I write another page. Unfortunately, the stuff I was writing was too close to the heart, too dear to share with the world. Until now.

What is the reason for my writer’s block? I am faced with being alone for the first time in 10 years. I may have chosen this path, but not lightly. Hundreds of hours were dedicated to contemplating this particular decision. Then one day, I woke up and the decision was made. Was it that last cup of coffee I drank that made the difference? Or my meditation by the pool? I can’t be sure how or why these things happen, but I feel relief to have an actual decision.

Decisions are not easy for me. I am constantly balancing like a tight-rope walker. I want everyone else happy, so often I am left in the lurch, and left unhappy. At times it is the right approach, but sometimes the weight of one’s personal unhappiness outweighs everyone else’s happiness. The saying about the straw that broke the camel’s back is true. My back (and my heart) were broken and there was no stopping the sudden crash to the ground. I couldn’t pick myself back up because I hadn’t the means. It was over. Decision made.

What was the final straw for my decision to end a relationship that wasn’t working? Hope. I had completely lost hope that I could be happy in the relationship. Sad, yet true. I needed to find hope so I could get out of bed each day because each day that passed (before the straw landed on my back) my hope waned. When you lose hope, you lose the will to live. To regain hope I had to make a change. Since I couldn’t change other people, I had to change my circumstances. To have hope, I needed my freedom.

I now stand on a mountain of hope. All around me is the opportunity for a happy today and a happier tomorrow. I can be sad about yesterday, but what is the point? I can only control today. Some people have told me “the grass is not always greener”, which may be true. My question is, what do you do when your grass is completely dead? Some things can be fixed and some can’t. Once you realize they can’t be fixed (like some aspects of my 11-year-old car) it is time to let go and move ahead. I feel relief that my hope and my writing well are full again. Blue skies and green grass are ahead, or at least I hope so.

Another Holiday, More Gifts?

On the eve of Valentine’s Day I began to question the number of holidays we celebrate and the amount of gift giving. It seems as if Christmas just passed and I finally recycled all the cardboard, when another gift giving holiday is imminent. Can’t people give gifts when and if they wanted too, instead of ‘having-to’ because Hallmark, FTD, or See’s candy made then feel obligated. Of course, no one ‘has-to’ do anything on Valentine’s Day, but if a guy does not give a gift, won’t he end up being chastised by his woman?

As a young girl I remember so many Valentine’s Day disappointments that I stopped expecting to receive anything on this holiday. It makes life a lot simpler to lower (or in this case remove) expectations. When I have received something on this annoying holiday, it is usually a dozen roses. I understand it is supposed to mean you are loving someone for 12 months, but it still seems a bit overkill. Why not send that person one rose every month for a year instead? Can’t we spread out the gift of love? Wouldn’t it be better to continuously remind the person that you love them, instead of blowing it in one shot?

The other difficult challenge of the holiday is, what do you do on it? Do you go out to dinner and a movie? Do you stay home and make dinner together? Do you go out to a play or the symphony? Do you go sky-diving? To me, the last option seems the most sane, unless you really love movies, plays or dinner. Last year I ran an 8k on Valentine’s Day and it was probably the best Valentine’s Day ever. It seemed a lot better than sitting around staring at an empty vase, or on a good year, a full one.

I keep asking myself why this day has to be for gift giving and different from any other day. Giving gifts doesn’t have to be limited to a holiday, does it? I really enjoy it when I receive a gift on a non-holiday. Imagine my surprise when I found a box of flowers from a Secret Admirer on my doorstep Friday evening. At least this year is good in the flower department (my vase is full). Tomorrow (like most other days) I will be working, doing laundry, making dinner for the kids, and if I am really lucky making some book edits. At least that is what I am expecting. Am I expecting too little? Although, who knows what surprises lurk around the corner of a holiday based on expressions of love? I hope everyone receives some expression of love tomorrow, no matter how small or large. Have a Lovely Valentine’s Day!

Little gift of love

I have been thinking a lot about what love is and what it isn’t. What does it mean when someone tells you that they love you? If they really love you, do they need to tell you? Shouldn’t they be showing you how they love you through little things they do every day? I know personally, I appreciate more showing and less telling. I am not talking about ‘physically’ showing here, although I am not averse to that. The confusion about love is not unique, as Webster’s dictionary contains 9 different definitions for love. No wonder we are confused about what love is!

When someone offers you their love, it is a precious little gift you can wrap up and hold in your heart. How many times have you found yourself giving love to other people, yet never receiving anything in return? Sure, it would be nice if all love was reciprocal, but it doesn’t always work that way. You finally get up the courage to tell someone you love them, and then they say they aren’t ‘in love’ with you. What does that mean? Love comes from a feeling you have inside toward someone else. It is an appreciation or a feeling compelling you to give a little bit of yourself to another person or what I call ‘little gift of love’. Sharing and giving – that is what love is about. You don’t have to be ‘in it’, it just is. You shouldn’t tell someone you love them because you are needy, instead, you should say it because you are giving love, not taking it. The idea that you expect them to love you back is a bit selfish, don’t you think? If you are full of love for yourself, it doesn’t matter if someone reciprocates your love or not.

Love seems a lot easier to give than receive. If someone shows me love, I sometimes find it hard to accept and wind up in tears. Not tears of sadness, but joy and amazement that someone would share their little gift of love with me. You may be surprised where love comes from and how you get that precious little gift. It isn’t always in the shape of the “I love you” phrase. It can be words of encouragement in troubled times from a mere acquaintance, a hug from a friend on Christmas when they are sad and lonely, or a parent holding a sick child on their lap. So many types of love to amaze me! We have so much love to give each other yet we often hide it, for fear that others will see our vulnerability. Without love, where would humanity be? Being vulnerable is human isn’t it? Do you want to be an animal or a human? We should be able to give love away easily – it should seem like no effort and we should desire nothing in return for our gift.

It frustrates me that filmmakers so often portray love as rampant sex on the dining room table. Sure, people can have instant connections that result in crazy behavior, but how often does that actually turn into a long-lasting relationship or true love? Is it possible that those connections are merely a transfer of those ‘little gifts of love’. When there is a strong connection between two people, do people give away their love without really thinking about it? or without questioning why? Love seems to be a strange ebb and flow of energy between people. Maybe those electrical connections between people just a ‘little gift of love’ transferring from one person to another. If you are lucky enough to have someone share their ‘little gift of love with you’, hang on to it and protect it. However, don’t be stingy. Feel free to pass it on, because love is a gift worth sharing.

2010 Lessons Learned

Another year has passed and I am left wondering where the time went. I need a new clock with 30 hours a day instead of 24, because 24 isn’t cutting it. Even with the measly 24 hours per day, a lot happened in 365 days. Today I reflected on how many things changed in my life this past year and what I learned as a result. Some changes I consciously focused on throughout the year, while other opportunities randomly presented themselves. Here are my takeaways for the year…

Over the year I developed some new friendships and ended some old ones. Such is the circle of life I suppose. The idea of friends coming and going made me think about relationships in general. Whether with your spouse, your friend or just a new acquaintance, if you cannot communicate and respect each other, then you cannot connect. Connections are very important in our daily life. What is wrong with wishing the cashier at the market a happy holiday? The concept of connecting with people seems obvious, until you realize that some people can’t or won’t always tell you their true feelings (duh, they are not communicating!). Also, what you see on the surface may not be the reality. We all have problems and challenges in our lives, so why can’t we share them? Isn’t that what friendship is for? This year I realized more connecting and sharing (even the worst part of our lives or ourselves) felt a lot better than hiding behind conversations about the weather.

Respect seems to be something you earn by placing boundaries around yourself. Not the unhealthy kind of boundaries made of steel bars or moats with alligators, but the kind where people are forced to treat you like a person, not a doormat. I learned this year that pushing back definitely worked. When you demonstrate to others that you respect yourself first, then they can respect you next. I didn’t let family, friends, or customers at work push me around this year and I was a lot happier as result. I highly recommend it.

I spent a lot of time communicating this year and I am not sure the message or the end result always turned out the way I wanted. Sometimes I had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear OR listen to things I didn’t want to hear. “What?”, you say, you didn’t know that LISTENING was part of communication? No one wants to hear they lost a job or be ‘unfriended’, however, I experienced new doors of opportunity that opened when old ones closed. Accepting the situation and dealing with next steps was lot more fun that sitting around wondering ‘why me’?

People talk about hopes and wishes, but that is total crap. If you really want something, you decide what you want and then go out and make it happen. I want to be the person making things happen, not sitting around waiting for it. I recall a friend from years ago who wanted to get married and have a family, yet she sat around her apartment waiting for Prince Charming ( or some guy named Steve) to show up at her door. You cannot depend on others to fulfill your dreams. We are responsible for our own destiny. Instead of hope, you need action.

So many people this year talked about the sense of community (or lack of it.) What happened to the small town feeling where everyone knew you and your kids? What about lending your neighbor a cup of sugar? Unfortunately whether living in big cities or suburbs, people are divided instead of brought together. Letting the neighbor kids come by for a visit so another mom can get a much-needed break seems an obvious thing to do in a community, but who am I to say anything with cinder block 6′ high walls around my house? I may have the physical walls, but I am trying to remove the mental walls, at least for myself. Hopefully others will find the removal of the mental walls liberating too.

The more I learn in life, the more I realized how little I know. I can only hope that 2011 brings as many opportunities to learn, just different ones than 2010 – because honestly, I don’t want to relive the year. Hello 2011!

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words

Why is it that kids can drive you so crazy with their behavior? During a routine grocery shopping trip, my 7-year-old son became so irritating and annoying, I was ready to strangle him. Several hours later I felt like an idiot when I discovered that his bad behavior was caused by hunger. How could I have missed something so obvious? Why is it that a child with ample vocabulary could not explain his extreme level of hunger, yet could easily act so bratty?

Instead of words, his body seems to become spasmodic as we walked up and down the aisles. He was banging the shopping cart into the shelves. I took away his privilege of pushing the shopping cart and he stumbled down the aisle losing his flip-flop. When he finally got his flip-flop back on he realized the existence of the little plastic ‘sale’ signs sticking out in his path and proceeded to slap each one with his hand as he sauntered down the aisle. I tried to control his behavior, but instead of it improving, it grew worse, like dandelions after a spring rain. Inside I felt like unleashing both verbal and physical lashings, but had to restrain myself in a public place with security cameras. Eventually I completed the shopping trip wondering why I thought taking a child into the grocery store was a good idea.

I arrived home and opened the trunk of the car and my son attempted to shut the trunk on me as I grabbed several of the grocery bags to lug inside. Not only did he refuse to help, he seemed irritated that I would ask him to complete such a mundane and boring task. Realizing I could stand neither his behavior nor his presence, I sent him to his room. Within 2 minutes he emerged from his room and asked ,”When are you going to give me something to eat?” I can only assume that he thought I knew he was hungry, when in fact I had no idea. A granola bar from the snack drawer and all was well. The brat was transformed.

Next time I head to the grocery store I will
1) Add the contents of the snack drawer to my purse
2) Provide the snack to all children at the store entrance regardless of their statements of, “I am not hungry.”

If kids could be as effective with their words in getting our attention as with their bad behavior, then parenting would be a lot easier. Then again, no one said that parenting would be easy or that our kids would actually speak to us once we taught them to talk.

The Last Book on Earth

At my last book club meeting there was a lengthy discussion about how technology is changing the experience of reading. The idea of the ‘Last Book on Earth’ was discussed as we considered the number of people reading on a computer, an IPAD, or a Kindle. The idea of reading paper books is beginning to look antiquated. Much like carbon paper and mimeographs were made obsolete by the photocopier, soon books could be replaced and instead of being ‘reused’ could land in the recycling pile. Think about how the IPOD, which enabled the instant downloading of music via the internet, revolutionized how we experience music. Why should the replacement of books be any different?

For some reason during this discussion of the potential obsolescence of books, I had a flashback to historic films about the burning of books during WWII and wondered if the elimination of paper books was really a good idea. There is something about the idea of holding a book in your hand that seems more solid, more real. How would people feel if a Minister or Rabbi read from an IPAD instead of from an actual Bible or Torah? I am not even religious, but the picture just strikes me as odd.

As I thought more about the idea of burned books, I decided to look up the list of ‘banned books’. You might be surprised by the books that have been banned by governments at one time or another. Previously banned books include 1984, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and even, Dick and Jane? Strange how the previously banned books made it to the top of my classics reading list in high school.

For some reason, I have a fear about letting a single entity (like the government) control books that ‘they’ decide should be available for people to read. I mean the government does control all of the libraries, don’t they? With the number of large corporations competing for our books buying business, this isn’t likely to happen, but it is possible.

Then again, if people want to read books, they can find them, but what if there were not actual books? Will there be ‘bootleg’ copies on thumb drives? What if the government could erase all versions of a book like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (another previously banned book) removing all recorded history of it. I could envision a technological burning of books that could occur. It could be done quietly with no puff of smoke, just a quiet whirring of a hard-drive. Scary isn’t it?

So as some of us grasp tightly to our paper books, others clear out their bookshelves (I wonder if bookshelves are next to go obsolete since we won’t need to store books on them any more?). The world as we know it continues to change from the elimination of books and even bookshelves. However, if you could save one book to be your ‘Last Book on Earth’, what would it be?

Why didn’t I get the message?

With text messages, voicemail, e-mail and instant messages, I am surprised that people have so many communication problems. How many times have you heard, “Did you read my e-mail?”, or ,”Did you see my text?”. We are all communicating at lightening speed using all these different mechanisms, but I have to wonder if our messages are actually getting through. I am not talking about whether the text or e-mail arrived, I am talking about the message we are trying to communicate. Confused? Me too!

Terabytes of data (and other numbers of bytes that I don’t even know the word for) are being generated daily, yet people are lost and confused because they aren’t getting the message. I used to think of communication methods as including written, verbal, and body language. That was easy, only three options. Body language makes up a significant portion of the message – something like 70%. No wonder we are left trying to decipher a message. Imagine trying to read a book with only 30% of the words!

The other thing that stumps me is deciding what communication to use and when. I get in trouble for sending ‘that’ in a text when I should have communicated in person. Is the quickness and efficiency of texting and e-mailing actually making us less effective communicators? Probably. Every day I see e-mail conversations that ultimately yield no decision or outcome. Time to pick up the phone and talk. Is that always more effective though? The phone lines and language capability are not always perfect. “Did you say you are shipping me nine cases of wine?” or “You will call me back on another line?” Repeating the message back and searching for understanding are the only way to receive the message. What? You don’t understand? How about I call you later and we can discuss it? The communication challenges continue, but we can’t stop trying.