Distractions From Life

Nothing like the birth of a baby to prevent you from writing for nearly a year. Since this was not my first child, you would think I would remember the challenges of having a new baby in the house. Now when I have a few minutes to spare I don’t think about writing. I think about eating, resting or just falling asleep. These are the things that new mothers do (or dream about) because the rest of the time they need to constantly focus on keeping the baby happy. Or at least not crying. Well, how about not crying too loud?

Motherhood has its ups and downs. Today as I look at my 10 month old Jacob I see so much of his father in him. His smile. His laugh. His plentiful hair. He is so much that I am not. He is innocent. He has very simple needs and I have the feeling he doesn’t worry like adults do. He really knows how to live in the moment. When he needs something he needs it now. Now you understand why babies cry all the time. Living in the moment seems so easy for children while adults spend time planning, organizing, and worrying. It is no surprise that so many people have depression due to all the worrying. Why can’t we just live for the now?

It seems our brains, although powerful, can also lead us down paths of thought that are not healthy. The mind is capable of so many things yet most days I would like to turn it off parts of it. Why can’t I just do a task or eat a meal without having all sorts of other thoughts going through my brain. I just want to enjoy a quiet moment and most of the time I can’t. Your brain is like a computer that shows one program on the screen while other programs are running in the background. Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realized you didn’t remember driving that last stretch of road? Somehow your mind wanders to think about other problems instead of focussing on the road. (Like keeping the car on the road is not a problem?)

Lately I have been so busy with one task after the other I haven’t had much time to think. No time to worry. My only concern was whether I had enough milk and food to feed my baby for tomorrow. Now I see that still was not living in the moment because I was worrying about the future! Our darn brains. I understand why we watch too many movies and television shows. Watch others makes us feel like we are living in the moment (albeit someone else’s moment) and this distracts us from our own worries and fears. How do we force ourselves to live more in our own life and worry less? How do we prevent distractions from impinging on our critical moments in life. The giggle from a baby. A hug from a loved one. These are moments to cherish and should not be interrupted by the solving of a work problem in our head or worrying about what we are making for dinner tonight.

I sit peacefully on the sofa in my living room with my eyes closed. I take a deep breath in. I listen to the sounds in my house to try to focus. I hear the whir of the washing machine, the almost inaudible hum of the television and the sshhhgg of the dishwasher. All the sounds seem to mix together, at least until I hear baby Jacob and his quiet whimpering. Again he needs something and my focus is back on him.The baby has forced me to live in the moment.  The only other thing I have done lately to live in the moment was to write this blog. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t plan it. It wasn’t on a to-do list. What can you do today to  live in the moment without distraction?

Sunshine, Freedom and Love

What is sunshine, freedom and love? It is not a hippie saying from the 1970’s (I don’t think?) or a slogan for Arizona. It is actually part of a quote from the back of a necklace that will inspire me for the upcoming year. While everyone else is contemplating what presents to buy for Christmas during December, I am reflecting on the past year and contemplating goals for 2012. What do I want in the next year? How do I want to feel at the end of the year? Where do I want to focus my attention so I can be happy? What will my life look like in one year? Will I feel fulfilled? Will I feel happy?

Last year when I thought about my life at the end of 2010 I came to the sad and frightening conclusion that to accomplish my goals (to be happy) something was going to have to change in my marriage. At the time I didn’t know it would actually come to an end. I had an inkling, but I didn’t know it would actually happen within the year. I also had no idea that a new love would fill my heart so quickly. So many things that happened during the year were driven by my goals, yet many things happened unplanned. Sometimes the unplanned things are the sweetest. Even though I am goal driven, I recognize that you cannot plan everything. Life has unexpected twists and turns and you have to accept those and smile about them.

Like most people who are single, I have the desire for a relationship. As I step back and look at the road ahead, I realize that how I have lived in the past probably will not be the same in the future. Instead of searching for someone to make me happy, I am looking to make myself happy. I really just want a companion to share life’s trials and tribulations with. I hear a lot about the ‘last call’ of the day to share ups and downs with. I realize that ‘last call’ can be with a friend, family member or a romantic interest. It doesn’t really matter which one. All three make me happy. The big realization from last year was that I have spent most of my life trying to make other people happy – but now it is my turn to make myself happy. Sort of a departure from my previous view of life. Everyone I know seems to be looking for ‘someone to make them happy’ or ‘someone to love’ or ‘someone to marry and have children with’. As I look at life from a new perspective, I am awed at the way I incorrectly viewed life before. Is it a result of a divorce or simply reaching a certain age that makes you see things this way. I seem to be looking at how to enjoy the 2nd half of my life instead of like the first half which was spent accomplishing things (careers, love, marriage, children). Now that I see life is so short, instead of accomplishments, I want happiness. I choose life over things. I choose relationships with people over money and success.

The quote on the necklace I wear around my neck is,”To live one must have sunshine, freedom and love”. I found this necklace in the oddest of places. I was passing through Denver airport during a layover and stopped in a jewelry shop. The necklace called to me. The necklace has a picture of a sunflower (reminiscent of my favorite flower, the black-eyed Susan) and on the back was the quote. As soon as I saw the quote, I knew the necklace was destined to be mine. Rarely do I have these ‘aha’ moments, but I felt it right then. The necklace (and quote) would carry me into the new year and beyond as I identified how I was going to accomplish happiness in the next year.

Not to say that the last year was not filled with happy moments, happy times, a love I will never forget as well as emotions of sadness, regret, and fear. To have emotions is to live – regardless of the type of emotion. I guess for the next year, I don’t want just emotion, I want happiness. As if my life depended on happiness. In reality, life does depend on happiness and my road to happiness will be paved by my goals. I don’t know why this necklace found me. Sometimes strange things like that happen to me. Like when you desire a solution to a problem and the solution appears at the exact time and place you need it. Funny how that this happens to me with people also. Strategically placed in the space-time continuum forever changing the course of my life – just when I need them.

For next year I have a vision of what I want. It is just a question of when and how the universe will give that to me (or how I will go and grab it!). I don’t know if I believe in divine intervention, but there seems to be some sort of intervention happening in my life these days. Maybe it is my positive thinking. Maybe it is good karma. Maybe it is just chance and luck that I see as something bigger than me. One thing I do know is that inspiration comes in strange forms, and this one happened to be a simple quote on the back of a $29 necklace. What will inspire you this year and help you reach your goals in 2012?

Getting into the Swing of Things

I hadn’t been Swing dancing in 10 years, so watching the people on the dance floor Friday night made me wonder, can I do that?. I don’t think I could do it that well when I was 32, how would I do now? Would I be better? An opportunity to take lessons from Lindy Hop dance champions presented itself over the weekend, so I decided that instead of letting life pass me by, I would give Swing dance a second try.

During my first lesson on Saturday I realized I remembered very little Lindy Hop. I gave it my best effort and was able to pick up most of the steps pretty easily. I soon discovered as I rotated around the room with different dance partners, that every man would lead differently. The idea of letting a man lead me in anything was a foreign concept to me. I lead projects by day and children by night. Would I ever be able to let a man lead on the dance floor? Although it was hard to let a man lead me, I saw that is was necessary. Particularly if I didn’t want to fall on the floor or crash into my dance partner. I suddenly discovered that there was a parallel between my dancing and relationship failures. It was caused by my inability to let someone else lead. To let a man be a man.

After 4 hours of swing dancing, I got the message. I understood. I saw improvement over the day as I relinquished control and let someone else lead. I stopped anticipating the next move. I was just dancing, living and smiling. Dancing became a metaphor for how I needed to approach relationships, but it took a day of dancing for me to understand it. Talk about drilling in a message!

I decided that after today I was going to stop guiding, pushing or anticipating and just enjoy relationships the same way I danced. A man likes to lead so he can feel like he is in control. A woman will enjoy it a lot more if the man leads. Why? Because sometimes he is waiting to lead you in a really great move, but you missed the cue because you were too busy worrying about what was next. So close your eyes, follow the lead and enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Life’s Imperfections

It is true. I admit it. I am not perfect at relationships. However, at least I tried.

I have no trouble jumping back on the horse that threw me – the horse known as Relationship. Sometimes I wonder why I want to be on the horse to begin with. As I stand in the mirror reflecting at this newly single person, I reflect on the question, “What is a relationship failure?” Is it being married for 50 years but not happy? Is it never getting married because no one was good enough? Or is it marrying a person you thought was great, but broke-up with at some point down the road?

In my case I married. Sadly I reached a point where I could not longer make the people around me, or myself happy in the situation. This leaves me wondering if ending an unhealthy relationship is really a success rather than a failure? At least I know what makes me happy or unhappy. Does it make sense to keep going down a path where you know you can never achieve the life you want?

If people waited until they were 100% sure to do something, then we would all be dead. Why? Because we would be afraid that food was not safe to eat, that we might injure ourselves getting out of bed in the morning, or kissing a child will contaminate us with germs making us sick. Perfection and the existence of life (including relationships) do not align. When you say ‘people’, you are really saying ‘imperfection’. Sometimes it is the imperfections that we love most about people. Doesn’t it give them character?

Would you rather live and experience life with all its flaws, or sit on the sidelines doing only what you can do perfectly? The problem in life is the moving pieces. In the puzzle of life, the pieces are constantly shifting and changing shape. To me it is better to take a chance and gain experiences – love, hurt, anger, loss and maybe ‘fail miserably’ in the eyes of the judgmental. It is better than being paralyzed by perfection. My life is filled with great memories and I will not wonder “what if”, because although I don’t have a perfect life to show for it, I have lived. There is a saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. In my case it feels better to have lived and been imperfect than to have never lived at all. Which life would you choose?

A Place to Call Home

Downtown San Diego is blanketed in a gray mist. Unfortunately, the blanket is chilling me to the bone instead of warming me. As I sit on the balcony overlooking the other high-rise buildings of the city, I wonder if all cities are pretty much the same. Do the buildings look the same? Do the cities have the same aroma? Do the same background noises fill the air? I hear the squeaking brakes of a stopping bus, the wind pushing its way between the buildings, and the occasional siren drowning out all other sounds. The sounds of the city are so different from the sounds of my home in the suburbs, yet surprisingly, I can hear one familiar sound – the sound of tweeting birds. Even here amongst the towers of concrete and glass, the birds have found a place to build their nests, and a place to call home.

In the distance nestled between the buildings, the American flag is fluttering in the wind. Like the birds, the flag does not need special surroundings, just a place to live. Isn’t that what we all need? A place to live. A place to exist. A place to feel safe. A place to breathe in and out. A place with everything we need to get us to that next moment. It may be a moment of joy or sadness, but a moment nonetheless. We should be thankful for being alive, shouldn’t we? Thankful for being given this moment of existence and everything leading up to it. Just like the flag or the bird – it is just a place like any other, yet somehow a home.

Birds adapt to their surroundings, as do people. It doesn’t really matter where you live – just ‘that’ you live. At times in the city I find myself unable to sleep because of the number of sounds I am unaccustomed to hearing. Sometimes I like the sounds because it is comforting – I realize I am not alone. I look around and see an array of empty balconies in the adjacent building. There must be people somewhere? For the moment I am feeling alone even though I am surrounded by sleeping people. I am awake. Alive. Breathing. Living. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why am I here alone at 6:20 AM on a balcony observing the city while everyone else sleeps? Somehow I have found myself in a place called home.

Is Work Really ‘Work’? And Should It Be?

A colleague mentioned to me recently that they didn’t work. How do you collect a paycheck each week from a company, yet not work? If it isn’t work, then what are they doing for 40-50 hours a week? Playing golf? Eating? Sleeping? Having fun? Suddenly I realized that work should not feel like work. Who wants to have a job where every day is like plodding through 4 foot high snow in flip-flops? Not me! Sure, I like wearing flip-flips to work, but I will take the trimmed grass or the paved path. Someone else can have the snow.

As I look at my career, I feel very lucky. I found a job I actually like (and have fun at), and as it turns out I am relatively good at it. I spent many years of my life searching and analyzing what I like to do, and sought out ways to get paid to do just that. When I hear people talking about their job searches, it is not very often that I hear what a person’s passion is. Does no one have passion? If you can find it, then you can follow the path to enlightenment or at least a job that is not work, but fun.

When you like what you do, it is a lot easier to be good at it, don’t you think? Edison would not have been an inventor if he didn’t completely love every minute of it. He did spend every minute inventing, but not because it was work. It was his passion! He would not have tested thousands of ways to make a light bulb, unless he liked it and he found it rewarding.

Even if you are stuck (for the moment) in a job that isn’t your passion, try to find one thing you like about it. With that bit, think about other things you like to do. Discover your passion and follow your heart. Make this year the year to live your dream. Do what you love so you can live and feel like you are no longer ‘working’. Because no one really wants to work, do they?

I am getting too old for this #%$&*$

Last night I was out with a group of friends for a birthday celebration. After a nice quiet dinner, we all went to a bar. I was looking around and realized that I was old enough to be the parent of most of the people in the bar. The music was extremely loud even for my already damaged ears. It was at this point that I realized I was getting too old for this #%$&*$.

I don’t know why I thought the music in the place was too loud. I turn up the radio in my car quite loud (as I am singing along) but for some reason this was giving me a headache. Maybe it was the type of music or the strange compilations of music. I think I heard some Beastie Boys, but I was in disbelief about that. Why were they playing music that was popular 20 years ago? Maybe my hearing was worse than I thought.

The other thing that I became painfully aware of was my shoes. I was wearing black slip-on shoes with a wedge heel, which just couldn’t compete with the flame-red platform heels I saw some girl dancing around in. I am not ’40 and flashy’, but at least I can admit it. At least my black top and skirt fit me and I didn’t have a muffin top because I tried to squeeze into jeans 2 sizes too small. I commented to my friend, ” I may feel old in here, but at least I don’t feel fat”. Somehow after having two children, I still felt like I had a better shape than most of the girls in this bar.

As I looked around at the men (or boys?) in the bar, I have to say I honestly didn’t see anyone that was really ‘hot’ or even good-looking. Clearly the attractive men were not hanging out at this Scottsdale bar. Then again, maybe my taste has really changed, because I really don’t see anything wrong with balding, gray hair, or short guys – as long as they are funny. (I say this as I look over at my tall, dark and handsome husband who also happens to be funny). Maybe the generation gap was just way too much, or it was the idea that I could have been changing these people’s diapers while I was in high school. I like to think of myself as ‘generation’ agnostic – I can get along with anyone of any age. Seriously, this bar made me feel like I landed on another planet.

I realized that I don’t want to be 21 again. I already learned all the hard lessons, so why would I want to relive that? However, I still love to run, do yoga, eat great food, dance, and laugh as hard as I did when I was 21. I guess now the focus of my life’s pleasures are much different. Now instead of hanging out the bar until it closes I would rather stop by a gelato place on the way home and arrive home shortly after midnight (instead of stopping at Denny’s at 3AM and arriving home just before sunrise). Now if I get very little sleep it is because I am writing or doing something else I deem productive. Maybe when I was 21 I thought bar hopping was productive, but now it seems almost as wasteful as watching TV. So I am definitely too old for bar scene, but I am definitely not too old to live.

Are you a turtle or a bird?

Communication happens when people can express their feelings without fear. I can do it. Can you? If you can’t, why not? What is preventing you? Are other people really that scary? Sometimes I wish people could be more open to discussion. Even to argue. Instead, people often crawl inside a shell and hide like a turtle.

The safety inside the shell seems nice until you realize that you are alone. If you don’t come out, you will remain alone. This is your choice. I am out of my shell, and in fact, I think I lost my shell completely. Where did I put that anyway? It doesn’t matter because I don’t need it. I have transformed into a bird – my wings are open and I am soaring above the ground. Sometimes I wonder if armor, like a shell, is just to keep people out. Are we really just keeping ourselves in, thereby preventing life? What exactly are we protecting anyway?

Relationships don’t happen in a shell because they will soon die. Even a turtle needs nourishment of some kind. How are you staying alive if you are stuck inside your shell? Are you really happy in there? Is this what you want and need? Don’t you want to live, to love and just ‘be’ instead of withering away in a cramped up space literally inside yourself? Really, your shell of fear is the only thing standing between you and your happiness. What will it be? Do you want to be a turtle, or something else?