Posts Tagged ‘love’

A Solid for my Single Girlfriends

Friday, May 19th, 2017

RvL°n

I began this blog thinking the title might be “What I Love About Being Single” but realized I wouldn’t be entirely honest in saying I LOVE being single. Like almost everyone, I always hoped to find lasting love in a partner—but here I am, over 50 with no partner! WTF?! How did this happen? I was supposed to be celebrating my 30-year wedding anniversary surrounded by our loving children, looking forward to the annual summer trip to Europe with my hubby… NOT SO! Instead, I’m divorced, coming up for air after two post-divorce, crash-and-burn, long-term love affairs (the last one was a doozie, let me tell you!), one daughter who still doesn’t speak to me 10 years after I left an unhappy marriage with her dad, and no time for a vacation because I work for myself.

Now, I will be entirely honest. This whole “relationship” thing pretty much sucks! Obviously, the first few months are awesome: the sparkle of new romance, the flattery and attention, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling, and of course…amazing sex (my memory is getting foggy on this last one). Red flags? Please! Doesn’t every single person have “red flags”? Someone who doesn’t have any…well, isn’t this, in itself, a red flag?

Okay, so I didn’t believe the guy who told me upfront he was an alcoholic… And certainly, I was shocked by the one who secretly released a fire extinguisher all over my car because I pissed him off (I saw telltale footprints from him and his little chihuahua Uma in the powder). And then there was the one who was seeing several other women behind my back (and doing strange things with them involving coffee grounds. Don’t ask!). Looking back, it’s feasible that I’ve had some challenges in the picking area. What can I say? All the above “eligible” bachelors were damn cute, charming, sexy, and fun. What’s a girl gotta do to be with a non-insane, honest guy who isn’t extremely homely, boring, ignorant, and/or pot-bellied?

Since it’s probably too late for me anyway, I figure the least I can do is pass on the wisdom from my years of fun-but-futile frolicking:

  1. Watch out for guys who don’t answer your text messages for, like, a day or two. Talk about being near the bottom of their priority list!
  2. If someone says they drink (or smoke, or eat, or gamble, etc.) too much, but that they’re “trying to stop,” this stuff generally gets far worse before it gets better, if it ever does.
  3. If someone likes to be alone more than they like to be with you, start making really good friends with yourself.
  4. If someone avoids (at all costs) talking about your future together, you’re likely dealing with one of the zillions of commitment-phobes out there. They can be really clever and drop little “hints” to keep stringing you along, or silently nod their heads as YOU talk about your future together. The truth is in the action (or lack thereof).
  5. To highlight that last point, if a person says one thing and does another, believe what they DO.
  6. Beware adult males who live with their parent(s) in the name of “taking care of them.”
  7. Beware loner types. There’s always a reason they’re loners, and it’s usually not a good one. Let’s not forget the Unabomber…
  8. If the only time you hear anything about a guy’s inner thoughts and feelings is when you’re in bed together, he may be a maestro at sex, but have real problems with intimacy.
  9. If someone you’re with digs porn magazines – “soft”, “hard”, whatever – or porn websites, don’t be naïve (like me) thinking, Don’t all men read “Playboy”?
  10. If there’s “another woman” in his life, and she happens to be his spoiled, grown daughter who doesn’t think you’re good enough for her daddy, get out fast!

These are just some of the things I’ve learned…love is a battlefield, as the song says. Believe what I say, though—I chill on my bed with my bichon, Oscar, and my kitty, Turnip, and we hash these things out. Fur is very absorptive, by the way. Thankfully, these two besties of mine are the only ones in my life right now who have excessive facial hair.

The Love Budget – Do Your Deposits Cover Your Withdrawals?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Joe's Dollar

Ah, love. How do you define it, much less measure it? When I think about it, I flash on Valentine hearts, tiny purple wildflowers, skin-on-skin hugs and holding hands, a calm inner conviction that life is good after all… (Have you ever noticed that when you try to describe love, your words always come out sounding like a poem?) But as ethereal and intangible as it may seem, love is very real and actually far more precious than things touched, held, or counted…like money, houses, and cars, for instance. And lucky us—as human beings, we have the capacity to give and receive this extraordinary commodity. Many even spend their whole lives searching for it!

Although love isn’t quantified on any type of universal scale or psychic adding machine, it’s pretty obvious that some people have more of it in their lives than others. The whole discussion gets even more complicated when you consider all the different types of love, the relative qualities of each kind, what attracts it, what blocks it, why some people seem to need more than others, and on and on…

In my own experience, the only crystal clear thing about love is that the more of it I have in my life, the happier I am. Being practical – I’m a single mom, after all – the issues of love and relative happiness seem clearer when I envision them ledger-style in an overall “Love Budget.” According to this system, love that goes out to others and/or the world makes up what I loosely call “withdrawals,” which are balanced by “deposits,” when people or other sources shine love on me. Confused? Okay, here’s a breakdown of the accounts in my own Budget:

1.   The Self-Love Account – For me, this column in my love ledger is hands-down the most important! Self-Love must be kept consistently funded, because other accounts in my Budget (see below) often need transfers from this one to keep them operational. The great thing about the Self-Love account is that I can add to it in so many wonderful ways: taking care of myself by exercising, getting enough sleep and healthy food, and giving myself little pleasures such as a good book, a good movie, a good burrito, or a good massage! Also, ironically, when I help someone else without expectation of reward or reciprocation, I find a surprise deposit has been made to my Self-Love account. Basically, when I treat myself and others with respect and compassion, this column is in the black, where I need it to be.

For me, another critical source for replenishing Self-Love is connection with – actually, complete reliance upon – God. When I put effort into improving my Spiritual relationship, there is an amazing surge of love that can raise the balance to near-overflow!

2.   The Family Account – This account reflects love activity with family members such as aunts, grandparents, nieces, siblings, and cousins, i.e. extended family members whom I don’t live with, but who are important to me and with whom I share many events in my life.

Deposits and withdrawals in this column are pretty consistent, owing to the fact that this account has been around a long time, and I’m really familiar with its typical dynamic. I know which family members to expect deposits from – thanks, sissy – and which ones usually require a disproportionate emotional payout. Actually, it all balances out pretty well, because if funds get low in this account, I start spending more time with the payers than with those who like to take oversize withdrawals.

3.  The Children Account – The balance in this account has to be continually funded by transfers from Self-Love, because it could be decades and maybe never before you see some real love deposits from your children. As disappointing as that sounds, keep in mind: it is a parent’s job to love their children, not the other way around. However, I will add that there is some positive funding here from the satisfaction you get watching your children grow into healthy, responsible, independent adults who manage their own budgets successfully.

4.  The Friends Account – My basic goal in this particular account is to have it include friends who deposit and withdraw in roughly equal proportions. Of course, this follows along with the concept of the best friendships being those that include a healthy balance of give and take.

When there are people in this account making consistent major withdrawals with little to no deposits, I sometimes have to cut off future transactions with them. They can easily start eating their way into my Self-Love account, and the resulting resentment has Budget-blowing potential.

5.  The Significant Other Account – Unfortunately, the balance in this account – for me, anyway – has been pretty volatile. This is probably owing to the fact that falling in love makes me stupid, and I wind up making vast payouts with little coming back from the payee. If this sounds like you, watch out! Love blindness can be similar to an out-of-control spending binge, and even your Self-Love repository can go bust in the fall-out. For some of us, shutting this account down for a while is the only solution.

So there you have it – my Love Budget. How does yours look? Be aware that a Love Budget is also subject to the influence of outside economic conditions such as mental or physical illness, addiction, codependency issues, and unresolved emotional baggage. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from working on those Self-Love deposits, and the best part is, we can always add to this balance without having to depend on anyone other than little ‘ol us.

(image courtesy of http://thomashawk.com/2008/01/eat-at-joes.html)

Golden

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

005

 

Love was golden barrel cactuses, candles, a brilliant red-and-orange Paradise,
Bike rides, blue skies, blue eyes,
Days of meant-to-be, forevermore, here is where I’m supposed to be.

 

Outside was wind through trees, hawks swooping close, a coyote’s cry,
Car rides, rib-eyes, no lies,
Passion splashing everywhere, pleasures never felt before.

 

Inhaling deeply the richness of orange blossoms, egg scrambles, the smell of his skin,
Wheat-colored hair, cat on the chair,
Hope for always, a picture was painted foretelling eternity.

 

Joyously casting troubles aside, talking close for hours on end, laughing, understanding,
Sharing secrets, no regrets,
Completely safe in strong arms, tall stature, warm bed.

 

Things too beautiful are frail, I come to see, and sadly cannot carry on,
Knife flashes, pain slashes,
I am cut and bleeding, but my trust remains.

 

The moon shines while again I hear the song – our song, the stars sending me messages…
Can’t believe, unable to conceive,
I cling to the precious moments, and curse myself for them still.

 

Too much loss for all at one time, I took the road of up and down,
Many years, more and more tears,
Unholy monsters drag away what is good and true.

 

The heart dies inside a whole spirit and body, and must be shed to sustain,
Nothing left, sad and bereft,
Asking Angels to hold my hand down the rougher path of the living.

 

 

 

It’s Stronger to Forgive

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

032In stillness, when the silence seems almost magical and we sit by ourselves in a comforting, peaceful place…we can sometimes hear the whispers of Higher things. One of these is forgiveness. Make no mistake, however; though its voice is soft, forgiveness brings us power and strength beyond comprehension. Although many think forgiveness is a sign of weakness, of submission to or acceptance of injury from others, nothing could be further from the truth! Forgiveness comes from a highly evolved soul, one which knows that we can pardon others’ hurtful behavior while at the same time not remain a victim of it.

Forgiveness reflects love of self, so to find it we must turn our attention inward instead of outward. It is within every person’s reach, and yet impossible to achieve without at least some willingness on our part to feel it. In other words, to forgive is a choice, and some of us need to go through the pain of not forgiving before we’re ready for its healing effect.

The Pain of Anger

Why is it painful not to forgive? Because without forgiveness, hate is like a ball-and-chain, keeping us bound to the thing we loathe. In a very real sense, we give up our power to whatever we hate. Consider all the pleasures, happy thoughts, and creativity that could fill the hours we spend brooding over some person or situation we resent. Hate also breeds retaliation, causing more injury, destruction, and sadness…and of course, more hatred. Simply put, anger and animosity only lead to more of the same, and our entire lives can pass beneath this dark cloud of negativity.

Unlike the gentle tones of forgiveness, the voices of hatred, vengeance, and bitterness are loud, adamant, and raucous. They noisily grab our attention with promises of immediate gratification, causing us to say and do things we feel guilty about later on. Unfortunately, however, besides being the loudest voices, they sometimes yield short-term rewards. When we act out our resentment, we gain a false sense of power, righteousness, and superiority. In the anger equation, we are right and someone or something else is wrong! And let’s face it, who doesn’t love the satisfaction of being right? (Of course, we’re “right” according to our own view of what that is…) Also, if others cower to our bullying, we feel mighty and in control.

In its extreme form, intense anger demonstrated by tantrums, yelling, and physical aggression can be a physiological stimulant that accelerates our heart rate, breathing, and muscular tension, among other bodily effects. These sensations can actually be a “high” to some, who unconsciously look for a “fix” again and again. In this way, anger is like a drug, and one to which many become addicted. Like any addiction, however, the behavior and feelings often must be escalated to achieve the desired release.

Even on a lesser level of intensity, dwelling on the people and situations that are unacceptable to us can take up so much of our time and emotions that it becomes a distraction from dealing with other less compelling but very real emotions and problems. Things we might unconsciously wish to avoid are non-glamorous aspects of being human, including fear of close relationships, anxiety in social situations, confusion, low self-esteem, boredom, lack of motivation, feelings of failure…the list goes on and on. Like any escape from reality, however, anger blocks pleasurable feelings as well, like satisfaction at reaching a goal, appreciation of beauty in the world and people around us, and gratitude for the gifts we have in our lives. The saddest consequence of clinging to antagonism is that we become “stuck” – unable to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Working on Forgiveness

To forgive, we sometimes need more than just willingness. We actually have to work on changing our attitudes. Depending on how gravely we feel someone has injured us, this process can take time. The good news is that if we persist, we will always – ALWAYS – succeed in forgiving. Furthermore, even if we can’t forgive someone fully yet, we’ll feel better immediately just by taking small steps to try. Think of forgiveness as opening a window just a crack in a stuffy room. The fresh air we let in revitalizes us so much, we will want to open the window even more.

It’s crucial to understand that we cannot forgive others until we have forgiven ourselves. You’re probably wondering what you must forgive yourself for… The answer will be different for each one of us. What are the things you need to look at about yourself and your behavior that are or have been harmful to others or to you? It’s time to come clean about these things – write and talk about them, take responsibility for them, and make amends if needed. Now, here’s a real challenge: if you’re in conflict with someone else, say, a person you simply can’t stand, apologize to him or her for your part in the dispute! Sound crazy? You won’t believe how you’ll feel if you give it a try. Amends can also take the form of simply making better choices in the future. In many cases, we ourselves are the ones to whom we owe the greatest amends.

The hardest job is to develop more love and compassion toward yourself, but when you do this, the ability to forgive others comes naturally. If you get mired in resentment toward a particular person, here are some tricks you might try. One is to silently wish the very best for them (even if you know you’re lying initially). Do this every time you get caught up in anger at the person, and you’ll find the feelings loosen up and disappear over time. Another strategy is to make a short list of the person’s positive qualities, and read it to yourself daily or whenever negative thinking threatens to take charge of your brain!

One other fully guaranteed bitterness-buster is to make a list of the things you’re grateful for in your own life, apart from your anger at anything or anyone else. This is basically a positive displacement exercise, because if your mind is full of gratitude, there’s no room left for destructive thoughts.

Spiritual Help is Limitless

Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” In just these few words, Pope expressed that the act of forgiving requires more than just our mortal ability. As human beings, we make mistakes, have misunderstandings, and hurt each other. That’s where all the anger and hate comes from in the first place. Without something more powerful than our own limited mental and emotional capacities, we frequently aren’t able to forget or let go of that which has caused us pain. This is where we must reach out for spiritual help, and once we do, we are ultimately granted the strength to forgive no matter how deep the hurt.

What is your “something more powerful?” Many call it God, but others prefer terms like Universal Order, Higher Power, or Spiritual Center. It really doesn’t matter what we name it, as long as we are aware of two critical things: that He, She, or It has infinite power over the world and every single one of its troubles, and is a loving force that cares about us deeply as individuals.

Forgiveness and love are something we’re all born with. It is “life,” people, and painful circumstances that then start chipping away at us, teaching us to fear and to build protective shells around our core. If we didn’t have to create these insulating layers between ourselves and the world, we would all be able to trust, and freely love and forgive each other. It’s food for thought, wouldn’t you say? Maybe the true challenge and goal of life is to find your way back through all that accumulated defensiveness and hatred to reconnect with your whole, forgiving self. Seen in this way, the return journey is worth every step.

Thoughts on Hope

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Hope is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all…   — Emily Dickinson

Hope. Even hearing the word brings to mind comforting thoughts of relief, satisfaction, serenity. Hope is something encouraging and enduring, filling bleak spaces with strength beyond fear, triumph over crises, and light amid darkness. The presence of hope can be the difference between joy and depression, persistence and giving up, success and failure – even life and death.

Hoping for something is not the same as wishing for it, as the things we wish for are usually more illusive. When we wish for something, there’s often regret over or denial of an unfortunate reality, like wishing you could sing as well as your favorite rock star, or wishing you’d studied math instead of history in college. Hoping, on the other hand, generally refers to more realistic things in the present or future, so there’s no sadness over past things that cannot be changed.

The dictionary defines hope as “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” However, be careful about this, because if hope comes with strong expectation, it can actually be destructive. When we don’t acknowledge that hope for something is not a guarantee of its being realized, we set ourselves up for pain and disillusion. For example, we hope our children will be healthy…we hope our finances will be stable…we hope our love relationships will last forever. But what if our children become ill, or we are laid off at work, or our marriage fails? Our hopes instantly transform into disappointment, often leading to bitterness. Reeling from the impact of these crushing emotions, we’re prime targets for the opposite of hope – despair.

Wearing us down and clouding our perspective, despair holds us back from moving toward the happier places of acceptance and gratitude. When we despair, it’s impossible for us to see the gifts that actually come from not getting what we hoped for!

If you’ve ever experienced your hopes “crumble,” chances are you have learned to be careful about allowing yourself to hope. Perhaps you’ve found that making outside, external things or situations the center of your hopes is not worth the anguish of being let down. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on hope altogether. Doing that would make you hopeless!

Consider this: a new way to hope. Focus your hopes on yourself instead of on things, people, and situations around you. You were born with the light of hope inside you. The truth is…it has never left. Maybe it’s been buried under mounds of sorrow about things you hoped for that didn’t come true. No matter what or whom you’ve lost – no matter what fact, crisis, or circumstance you think has stolen your hope, you only think you’re out of hope. You aren’t. There is an abundant, infinite source of hope that you can see if you’re willing to look for it. This is the unfailing force giving you the power to keep walking forward when all the chips are down, the ability to enjoy a hug from a friend or the smell of a rose during troubled times, and the strength to see future possibilities ahead instead of looking backward at the things you wish had been different. What you focus on grows in strength. Focus on the hope within – the hope for your potential to grow through anything and everything “life” hands you. In the strangest of ironies, the most painful things in our life can actually help us practice the most profoundly healing application of hope. What an awesome opportunity!

Remember that hope looks forward, and regret looks behind. To look ahead or back is your choice. Yours, and yours alone.

Breaking Down my Break-Up

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

“Every boyfriend is ‘the One’…
          Until otherwise proven.” ~ Marina and the Diamonds

Well, here we go again – coupledom to singleton. After five years with my boyfriend, I truly believed for a while that he was “the one.” Now I’m left to wonder if the idea of a lifelong mate is just some gimmick created by Hallmark cards, which seems likely, especially after hearing about the Captain and Tennille splitting up after 39 years! What happened to “Love Will Keep Us Together”?

Nonetheless, as the wise ones say, “It is what it is.” Fortunately, I know from experience that as bleak as something might look and feel right now, it is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. In fact, if I can see this ending as more of a beginning, my whole outlook changes from gloom to gratitude.

If you’re facing a break-up, take heart. Connect with the part of you that feels relieved, because usually by the time a relationship has come to the point of separation, you’re getting so little from your partner or hurting so bad anyway, the end is sweet freedom. Remember that when you let go of something in your life that’s not satisfying you or serving your needs, you are opening yourself to the Universe, with its infinite possibilities.

As with any loss, there is an unavoidable grieving process to endure, but with heavy doses of self-love and positive inner dialogue, it can be less of a struggle. Some people stay in a bad relationship just to avoid having to go through the grieving, but this is only delaying the inevitable and usually just compounds the pain.

Don’t Believe Everything You Tell Yourself

Grieving a relationship is not always fun (okay, it’s the opposite of fun), but we make it far worse when we listen to the drama committee in our heads, authors of ball-busting one-liners like, “I put five years into this for nothing!” and “I should’ve ended it sooner.” Really! There’s a false assumption here that the time devoted to a relationship that eventually ends, is time wasted. For me, when I was with my ex-boyfriend, I was mostly happy and full of loving feelings. How can I regret that, however it worked out?

Or how about that other little mental zinger, “I’ll never find love again”? I’m over 50 years old, so my mind is like a bull’s-eye target for this one. The good news is that age also brings some wisdom, and I’m aware that when I start using words like “never,” “ever,” and “forever,” I’m writing a bleak future based only on my current sadness. It’s pointless, untrue, and a sure way to chase off the joy available to me here and now.

Last but not least is the ever-famous, “I should’ve seen the red flags.” Okay, let’s be realistic for a moment here. Doesn’t just about everyone have a red flag of some sort? Sure, crushing a guy working on his or her criminal record might not be the greatest idea, but knowing his lifestyle, would you even be attracted to him? Certainly there are all levels of red flags, but if you trust yourself and your instincts, you’ll know whether to proceed or not. If you don’t trust your judgment, you’re probably due for an important life lesson anyway. In my experience, even those who consider themselves “careful” about love get burnt, especially since people tend to conceal their less desirable traits at the start of a relationship. Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather hold onto my optimism about love and relationships rather than avoid even taking a chance. Let’s face it – intimacy with another is never without risk, but on the other hand, staying safely alone is not exactly a recipe for happiness.

Forgiving Them, Forgiving Ourselves

After a break-up, all those much-talked-about stages of grieving start popping up. One minute you feel compassion and longing for your ex (sadness), and the next you’re wishing them a slow, agonizing death (anger). There are times we suddenly become junior psychologists, certain we know what motivated their deal-breaking behavior, i.e. “He had a really rough childhood,” or “He just never learned to express love.” Surely, if we simply explain their core issues to them, they will have all the insight they need to change (bargaining). And of course, once they realize how dysfunctional they’ve been, they’ll come back to us (denial).

It’s all normal – every crappy bit of it. Hang in there, though. The acceptance stage is on its way!

For those of us who tend to be sensitive and overly responsible, it can be tempting to try and “fix” the other person’s issues with kindness and nurturing. My attitude about this has changed, thankfully. In reality, every adult has choices, and to accept others’ unacceptable behavior, whatever the reason for it, only enables them to continue it. It’s time for both people to grow up!

Ultimately, however, unless I can find a way to forgive the other person – and that doesn’t necessarily imply ongoing interaction with them – I’ll wind up bitter and disillusioned. That’s the last place I want to be, if I am to move forward in joy and serenity. For me, forgiving someone else starts with forgiving myself.

To prevent an attitude that I “failed” in a relationship, I have to take a close look at my behavior during it. Was I controlling, demanding, or manipulative? Was I honest? It can be humbling to evaluate my part in relationship problems, but if I only focus on what “he did to me,” there is absolutely no chance I will learn and grow from the experience. My introspection may even show me I have amends to make to my ex, which is even more humbling, but can be put off until I’m on more solid emotional ground. Again, though, taking responsibility for my part, no matter what he did or did not do, offers me priceless gifts like personal growth, freedom from myself, and the certainty that my future relationships will be stronger and healthier.

Icing on the Cake

During the pain of a break-up, it’s vital to remind yourself that you are complete and whole in yourself. You have your own light already inside you, so you don’t need someone else to shine on you.

I’m a dessert-lover, so I picture myself as a cake. It is my responsibility – no one else’s – to keep me fully baked and tasting sweet. Having a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or partner can be incredibly fulfilling, but it’s still basically just icing on the cake. No matter whether you’re with someone or not, keep tending to the things that make you the best person…the most mouth-watering confection…you can be.

It can be difficult to focus on ourselves without blaming others. Pride steps in and blocks us. For me, it’s impossible without the strength of my spiritual Source, which I call God. I can honestly say, I have never been disappointed when I truly rely on God’s guidance and comfort. The name we give our own such Source is unimportant, as long as we realize that it is not us! This power exists independent of us and our limited thinking.

Who would think talking about a break-up could get this deep? But like all heartbreaking events and circumstances, it’s a chance to heal some old hurts and become more resilient. In the meantime, there’s the love of family and friends, satisfaction from the work we do, and of course, massages, pedicures, white buttercream frosting…whatever. There are indeed pleasures in life that rival sex, which is damn good news for us after a break-up! Why sacrifice all the beautiful parts of today by inviting more misery than is necessary because of a break-up? After all, the world awaits you – this second – with open arms!

Encouragement, A Gift You Can Give For Free

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

IMG_0894Encouragement is something given for free, but nevertheless in short supply at times. Understanding the reasons for this may help us to share it more abundantly. Could it be that we are so caught up in our own problems and issues that we’re unaware of the needs of those around us? Or are we so focused on ourselves that we are afraid to approach someone suffering a crisis, because we might say or do the “wrong” thing. Perhaps we find ways to avoid feeling our own pain, and are thus unaware or incapable of understanding what others feel. Instead, we rush around, running from difficult emotions, but the effort leaves us with no resources to help our fellows.

Sometimes we may even want others to fail, as this puts us in a superior position. We can then congratulate ourselves on how well we’ve handled things and thereby avoided being in a similar dire state. Perhaps we have secretly envied certain other people, so when they’re suffering we actually feel a sense of satisfaction.

If someone close to us shares that they are having a problem, the inclination seems to be to figure it out for them, to solve the issue and thus rid them of their discomfort. What we fail to see is that by giving them solutions, we are detracting even further from their self-esteem by telling them, in effect, that we don’t believe they are able to solve their own problems. It is not our job to fix other people, but trying to understand and encourage them can go a long way toward restoring some of their positive feelings about themselves.

Encouragement can be as simple as giving a smile or a hug to someone you know who is going through a hard time. It can take the form of validating their feelings, but even better, suggesting a new and more productive way of looking at the problem. Focusing on that person’s qualities – such as inner strength, faith, intelligence, good judgment, sensitivity, practicality – sheds the light of positivity and demonstrates appreciation of people for who they are, in spite of their troubles. This is a surer recipe for healing their battered spirit than discussing what they did wrong that caused their difficulties, or how they could improve. Chances are, we all do the best we can – and make the wisest choices we can – at any given moment. If our best turned out to backfire or be insufficient, it is hard enough to face this without the sharp edge of criticism. Lessons learned from failure take time…patience and gentleness with ourselves and others are invaluable.

Judgment and having expectations are the opposites of encouragement. If we detect these two characteristics in ourselves, it is easy to understand why condescension or indifference might be our reaction to another in trouble. To the best of your ability, try to imagine yourself in the same situation and consider what reaction from others would comfort you the most. If we can do this, and practice at it, we will learn to give encouragement in a weary world, where truly, there can never be enough of this precious commodity.

Pig at a Party: A Story with a Moral

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

img-thing

A woman heard that a fabulous party was going on in a swanky club downtown. Anybody who was “anybody” received an invitation to this extravagant soiree, which featured live music, comedians, an open bar, and a gourmet-prepared, eight-course meal.

Hearing the sound of happy laughter, singing, dancing, and celebrating, nearly everyone in the woman’s neighborhood wanted to be there, as did the woman herself. She and many people she cared deeply about went to the entrance of the gala, but were turned away because their clothes were not elegant enough, and none of them were popular or powerful enough. All who were turned away felt sad and ashamed at being rejected.

The woman soon found out, however, that all three of her daughters were at the party! She was delighted they were part of such a splendid affair, but now more curious than ever. She decided to take a risk and sneak in to see them, which she managed to do by hiding underneath a cart of hors d’oeuvres being brought to the guests.

Well, the party was everything people had claimed it was! The décor, the 40-foot buffet table, the guests adorned with diamonds and gold…everything was a picture of wealth, success, and joy. The woman, amazed and overwhelmed, looked around for her daughters. But while looking, she noticed something so odd, that she had to rub her eyes to make sure she was seeing correctly. Sure enough, there was a fat, hairy pig sitting on the couch! This was no ordinary pig, though. Besides a sapphire-and-emerald tiara on its head and blue satin hoof-covers, this pig wore medals around its neck to show the many awards and degrees it had earned from renowned institutes of higher learning. The woman could only stare in wonder…

She began to turn to the people around her, pointing out the pig on the couch, which by now had carelessly pooped on the dessert tray. The others only looked at the woman coldly, because they knew that the pig was of great importance and that the party would end immediately if they said anything derogatory about it or even hinted that the pig might be better off outside. To make matters worse, the woman saw her youngest daughter go up to the pig and start playing with it! It looked like her little one adored this fancy pig.

But nonetheless, what was a pig doing at an elaborate party? The woman saw her middle daughter just then, and she went to her and embraced her. She told her daughter that she did not think it loving that so many of her dear family and friends – some of whom were also the daughter’s family and friends – had been turned away from sharing in this celebration because they weren’t rich or powerful enough. Also, why was there a pig here? As a mother, the woman felt compelled to remove her daughters from this strange and snobbish gathering.

She went to her youngest daughter, who was still laughing with the pig, and pulled her toward the door. After all, since this daughter was barely fourteen years old, the woman had the legal right to remove her from the premises! The young daughter was surprised and started crying, as she still wanted to sit with the pig, who had offered to share a French éclair. But as the woman was about to drag her daughter out of the room, she suddenly heard her cell phone ring. It was God.

God told her to leave the party immediately…alone.

In spite of her anger and fear for her daughters, the woman obeyed because she knew that God loved her and was never wrong. She let go her young daughter with a hug and kiss, and walked out.

There are a couple morals of this story, both of them simple.

  • No matter how expensively a pig is dressed and groomed, it is still a pig.
  • When you try to force others to do something they are not ready to do, you start looking like a pig yourself.

When We “Lose” In Love, Have We Really Lost?

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Most of us have had our hearts “broken” by a failed romance, some of us many times over. That special someone – the person with whom you shared your secret self, your problems and successes, your dreams, your feelings, your body, maybe even your living space – is gone. What we thought would never, ever happen while we reveled in the ecstasy of deep love and trust, has indeed come about and ripped us away from our beloved. It seems surreal, like a nightmare being played out in front of us. We think, how could this have happened? I thought he or she loved me! How could this person betray me, hurt me, and worst of all, abandon me, for reasons I can’t control or even understand?

In our grief, we cry and ponder what could have been. If only… she hadn’t cheated with someone else, he hadn’t been addicted to drugs, she hadn’t been afraid of commitment, he had treated me better, she hadn’t had baggage from her past that prevented us from getting closer, and on and on. With tightly-closed throats and stinging eyes that finally burst tears, we feel immersed in acute pain that seems to come from some unknown space between our brain and heart. What we had is gone. Something precious has been lost to us, something we wanted and believed in and were grateful for, even if we didn’t realize it before. Loss. Its sadness is unmerciful, its longing for a different outcome overwhelming and unrelenting. How, we think, can we possibly go on?

Terrible as this experience can be, we can and will survive. Fortunately, we have a safety net that is always there, one which never, ever abandons or betrays. God. For those of us aware, God was the One who created our loving feelings in the first place. What a privilege, what a “piece of heaven” to feel that much love for another! It is time to be grateful that we were able to experience this, no matter how it turned out in the end.

Romantic love and intimacy are special gifts from our Creator, a tiny glimpse of the ecstasy we will find in trusting Him with all our needs. Graced with the close, wonderful feelings, the joy, the sense of communion with another, we need to remember that these sensations existed within us. They were and are part of us, whether or not their target was able to return them.

In thinking about relationships, spiritual and emotional maturity demands that love not only be expressed in words, but in actions. When our partner’s actions don’t match our instinctual sense of the supportive, nurturing, gentle, thoughtful nature of real love, we are aware of this on some level. It may take awhile for us to become truly conscious of the lack of consistency between our partner’s words and actions – our own emotions can blind us for awhile – but eventually, the pain catches up to us. No one of us wants to face the possibility of a loss of love, the possibility that the other person either cannot or will not be able to reflect our love back to us in its original, intense, selfless, beautiful form.

But in the end, and no matter how long we try to push it away, the limitations of our partner and their effects on the relationship become undeniable. This is the point at which we are forced to make an agonizing decision. Can we live with our beloved’s shortcomings, whatever they are? We absolutely cannot change someone else, and trying to negotiate their limitations is basically fruitless. Ultimately, the choice to be in the relationship – or not – is our responsibility. What do we want for ourselves? Conflicting feelings of pain and longing can make this decision seem impossible. At this point, think about that safety net: the sure guidance and comfort of God, Who has been loving and helping us all along (whether we knew it or not). By turning to this Source of all love, we are strengthened to take care of ourselves. There really is no earthly hurt or dire situation that cannot be handled for you by God.

Nothing happens by accident. If your “romantic ideal” lets you down in a way you cannot accept, try to see this as an indication that something better is planned for you. Be grateful for “better,” which means something more fulfilling and more satisfying is waiting for you. The door is open now. All that caring, happiness, physical and emotional ecstasy, closeness – they are not lost when their particular object disappears for some reason. They are still there inside you, part of your wonderfulness. You do not have to grieve their loss, because they are within you like a light that shines no matter how dark it is outside. Remember this!

Loving helps you to grow, but losing love can help you grow even more. If you can understand this on a deep level, with the awareness that an ever-caring God is handling all the details of your life, you will walk forward with courage, faith, confidence, compassion, and forgiveness. You will love again.

Soul Hunger

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Evening comes early on this gray, cold, and rainy day. I can hear it. The steady, hushed patter of raindrops hitting the pavement outside. Some are lightly slapping the leaves of trees near my window. It’s a comforting sound, quiet and consistent and natural. I imagine sitting under the eaves, wrapped in a warm, dry blanket. I am listening to the drops; feeling and breathing the cool, moist air; smelling the fragrance of the soil and plants and pavement mixing with the water. I could sit for hours like this…

Except that I cannot, because life’s demands and responsibilities don’t allow such immobility for long. Or perhaps I don’t allow myself this time – I am programmed to complete, to accomplish, to produce, to resolve.

This robotic state of productivity, however, can only continue for so long until my soul becomes tired and hungry. Hungry for union with my mystical, ever-present, ever-caring Source. The One that makes the rain and earth it falls upon; including the small birds that hide cleverly under leaves and intertwining branches. I know they’re there. I want to sit with them and be as they are: silent and watchful as God speaks in the gentle language of the rain. It is, for me, a compelling invitation to think; to be embraced in security which the world can never provide; to be part of a goodness more vast than even human love.

We are all like those little birds and animals that bow to the larger forces, taking shelter from the rain and hopefully listening for the eternal.

It is in these soothing, peaceful, warmly-wrapped moments that my empty soul is fed. Connection to the spiritual is as vital to me as rain is to all life’s creation. Let me dwell here until I am full, and thank my Creator for His bountiful whispers of love. They are always there, waiting for me to become quiet enough to hear them. Hunger feels raw and bleak and painful, but I know it is a true gift. If I did not have it, I would not seek the only thing that can fill it.