Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas to New Year's Day

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always a time of quiet and reflection for me. The shopping and baking and decorating are all done and I can relax and enjoy what feels like a moment suspended in time.

I like to look back. Once upon a time, it was looking back in frustration and anger at myself that I hadn’t done things I thought I should have gotten done. These days, I look back remembering the moments of joy, celebrating how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown—and the possibilities ahead of me.

These days I’m at peace knowing that if I listen to my heart and that intangible SOMETHING that seems to guide me, then I know all will be well. I’m at peace, able to know from (hard won) experience that no matter what things look like in a given moment, something good can come of it—and is most likely to do so if I cherish who I am and believe in myself and just relax into whatever the challenge may be.

I know that sounds odd. We’re taught—most of us—that things are supposed to be difficult, we’re supposed to strain ourselves to achieve success, and that if we don’t chastise ourselves for every perceived failing, we’ll never get anywhere! (And if you read here, you may well have also been taught that YOU couldn’t possibly do it anyway!)

What I have discovered is that the opposite is true. I’ve discovered—and thank God I have!—that the path that feels easiest, the one we’re most drawn to, is likely to be the best. When we are happiest and most relaxed is when we are most likely to be able to think of things that will actually work! When we believe in ourselves, accept who we are and work with our natural strengths and accept and allow for the weaknesses as part of who we are, that’s when we are most likely to succeed.

Note: When I say take the easiest path, I do NOT mean doing nothing! That may seem like the easiest path but in the long run costs us the most. Instead, I mean asking ourselves: If I took a step, an action, made a choice, what would be the easiest and feel the most natural and right for ME? Never mind what anyone else would do or what would be right for them—what’s right for ME?

As you look back, what are the moments from this past year that make you smile? How can you create more of those experiences in your life in the coming year?

When you look ahead, what are the possibilities that make you smile? Hold those images as vividly as you can in your mind for that’s what will motivate you to take the steps to make it happen.

All of you are a blessing in my life. One of the things that makes ME smile is the possibility that maybe, just maybe someone’s life will be easier or happier or the person will believe in him or herself just a little more because of something I’ve written.

I hope the year ahead brings all of you so very much health, happiness, and success at whatever you want most! Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas--Both Merry and Otherwise

Christmas is a complicated time for many. It is for me. My father died on Christmas Eve. Given the intensity of my feelings—both positive and negative—that cannot help but impact how I feel at this time of year.

The funny thing is that I always forget. I wake up on Christmas Eve depressed and grouchy and at first I always wonder why. Then I remember. And realize how it’s affected me for days.

Once I remember, I can make my peace with it. I light candles. I let myself remember the love. I remind myself I have overcome the effects of the damage he did. I let him go with love, honoring what he gave me that was good and wishing he had not been such a damaged, hurting soul himself. I bless his spirit and pray for its healing even as I blow out the candle I lit for him.

And then I go on with Christmas.

This year, I had a quiet Christmas with my daughter and then put her on a plane to see her friends. We are closer now than I would once have believed possible.

Christmas used to be difficult. I would feel as if I was walking on eggshells, sure I would forget something essential, or that a fight would erupt in my home. Then one day I realized I could create new traditions, that I didn’t have to do what everyone—or even anyone—else did. I could choose what was right for me. I could let it be imperfect and know that was still okay. I could take time to remember good moments of the past year and smile. I could count my blessings instead of my fears or sense of lack. I could send ecards (thank heavens for the internet!) to people who were important to me to whom I hadn’t sent physical cards. I could take time for moments that made ME happy—no matter what my family was clamoring for me to do.

I hope that today—and every day—brings you at least moments of peace and joy. And I hope that the year ahead brings all of us health, happiness, and much success.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ourselves, Version 2.2

Someone asked how one makes changes when one doesn’t know where to start. I have an opinion, of course. I believe the answer is always moving in the direction of smiling more often, having more fun, and feeling genuinely good. Not the momentary good of splurging on something we want or eating some treat. I’m talking about the kind of feeling good that lasts.

It’s taking a good, hard look at ourselves and seeing when have we felt truly good about ourselves—and doing more of it. It’s listening to that inner guidance that says: This is right—no matter what other people believe we should think or say or do.

It’s making changes by making sure we like what we’re doing. Example: If your goal is to get out more, start by asking yourself what you really enjoy doing. If you don’t know, decide to experiment knowing that if some things don’t work out, that’s okay. Set up rewards when you do something that’s hard for you—rather than beating yourself up if you don’t. If your goal is to be more giving, choose ways that will make you feel good—no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do—rather than because you think it’s a cause you should support. If you’re trying to get yourself to do something you think you need or should do, ask yourself: What might make me WANT to do this? How can I make it fun—or if it can’t be (think going to the dentist), then what could I do afterwards as a reward that would make me smile or laugh?

What does all of this have to do with becoming a better person? Everything! If you stop and think about it, odds are you’ll realize that every time you’ve done (or not done) something you regretted, it was because you were afraid. If you’re smiling, anticipating something good, or laughing, it’s hard to imagine also being afraid. If you KNOW you can create moments of happiness for yourself, then the actions or words of others have much less power to intimidate you and you’re less likely to do or cling to things (or people) that are not healthy for you.

I know that in my own life, the times I’ve made the worst mistakes, taken actions or said things I regret, it was because I was afraid. When I feel safe and happy I don’t do that. I don’t need to. The more I’ve discovered my own strength, the more I’ve found my ability to create happy moments in my life, the easier it is to do new things, to be kind toward others, to love people and—when necessary—to let them go and truly be able to bless them. And the lovely thing I’ve discovered is that as I change what I do, others change how they respond to me. I don’t have to twist myself into a pretzel to be who someone else wants me to be and at the same time I can let them be who they are—which means I’m less likely to trigger the other person’s fears and they can be kinder and more accepting of me. I’m discovering that neither I nor anyone else has to be perfect to be worth knowing and caring about and wanting to have in my life.

It’s a process, of course. One I get better at with practice. And as you can see from my recent blogs, I don’t always succeed—at least not instantly. But I recover more quickly these days.

It’s not how most of us were raised—to look for ways to be happy and appreciate ourselves. We were taught, most of us, to believe that anything worth doing had to be difficult. I believe just the opposite—that the safer and happier we feel, the faster and better we’ll do whatever it is we want and need to do.

Here’s hoping that each of you are able to find lots of reasons to smile this week and to appreciate the best of who you are.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Poison Apple of Self-Pity

Rereading my last post I feel the need to reiterate that it wasn’t and isn’t about self-pity. Self-pity is like a poison apple. It may temporarily taste good but it’s still poison.

The reason to look at things like what I wrote about last time is to learn to recognize patterns. OUR patterns. What mistakes are WE making? What could we do differently in the future? What different results do we want next time around?

Example: So much of my unhappiness could have been avoided if I had simply asked people if they had said what my ex claimed. Or if I hadn’t cared what other people were saying. I love what Wayne Dyer says: “What you think of me is none of my business.”

And that’s the key. We need to find a way to value who we are—and if we don’t like something then change it. Then we are not vulnerable to what anyone else says or thinks because we know that no one can be liked or valued by everyone. Ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters. No matter how much someone else likes or approves of us, it won’t be enough if we don’t like ourselves.

Now, I’m starting from a position of belief that every person is worth loving and that finding that ability to love oneself is the best insurance that one will neither abuse anyone else nor tolerate abuse. It is in finding our own strength and value that we find the only emotional anchor that really matters in the long run. A good therapist can help us let go of the lies we were told and see the good in ourselves that we cannot see without that help. And ideally we internalize those things so that we believe them whether or not anyone is around to tell us. (Note: We also are then far more likely to surround ourselves with other people who see the good in us.)

In a way it comes down to results. Do we have a right to feel self-pity? Of course! Will it get us what we want? No, because it makes us hostages to what others do and say. It reinforces our sense of helplessness.

I believe that the only way we find both the courage and wisdom to make changes that will make our life better is when we believe it’s possible. And that means focusing on our strengths and our ability to change what we don’t like. It means being honest with ourselves and if there are skills we need that we don’t have, choosing to acquire those skills—whether it means doing research, taking classes, talking to people who know what we want to learn or ....whatever it takes.

I look at the things I wrote about in my last post and know already things I will do differently should I ever find myself in a similar position in the future. But I don’t think it’s likely to happen because I’m not likely to ever feel trapped or without options. I’ve learned to know myself too well to believe that ever again. I’m too well grounded in liking myself to care whether or not someone else understands or approves of the choices I make or who I am.

Why look at the past at all? To recognize and let go of any lingering lies about myself or the world around me (including friends) that I may not have realized I still held. To notice what my past pattern of handling something was so that I can plan for how I want to handle things differently in the future. (After all, if we keep doing the same thing, odds are we will get the same results and I’m still rewriting my future.)

I can look at the past and look at what has been good and know that those things go on my list of what I’d like to have in my life in the future. I can look at the things that didn’t serve me well and ask myself what would be better.

Here’s hoping that each of you are on your own path to creating the life you want to live. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seeing the World As It Is

For many of us, I think we learned early not to trust our own perceptions. We learned not to notice lies. We learned to believe things were better than they were. Because that’s how you survive in an abusive home when you’re a child. And it’s not always a bad strategy as an adult. When we see the best in others, sometimes that’s what we evoke. But not always...

I suddenly found myself remembering this week times my ex-husband may have lied to me. Times I ignored what would have been red flags to someone else. ("If I were unfaithful would you want me to tell you?") I found myself remembering what (acccording to him) other people supposedly said about me—and that I didn’t have the courage at the time to ask them if it was true. (A friend supposedly upset with me that I was getting divorced. My therapist supposedly agreeing I’d make a really, really good liar—and maybe I was one. Another friend supposedly disparaging my writing. My in-laws supposedly worried about my mental health.) And so it went. For years. Only a chance comment to a friend this last visit back east to see my son made me realize he hadn’t simply misunderstood what she’d said, he’d outright lied about speaking to her at all the day he claimed what he claimed.

I recount all this not to bash my ex. Or to suggest that it’s good to hold onto old grievances. Not at all. What I am suggesting is that not seeing the world as it is can sometimes hold us back from making changes that would improve our lives and that believing lies and being afraid to challenge them can keep us trapped and isolated—usually because those lies in some way resonate with our own fears. As always--it is the assumptions we do not think to challenge that trip us up!

So once again it’s a question of balance. I believe it’s good to recognize that there are wonderful people in the world and at the same time learn to recognize that some are not. It’s good to pay attention to the signals we’ve been trained to ignore so that we recognize when someone isn’t trustworthy. It’s good to recognize and let go of our dependence on the opinions of others and belief in lies we’ve been told—especially lies told to us by abusive people in our lives.

Looking back, I know that what stopped me from challenging the things my ex said was the fear that if I did so and they were true, I might have to walk away from people who were important to me. As long as I didn't ask, these things I was so afraid were true might not be.

How do we get past this kind of fear? By expanding the circle of people we know. By risking making new friends and new connections. By discovering that we are both strong enough to manage on our own and that we are also people others might want to know.

It’s all part of this journey we’re on.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I’ve been tagged and so I’ve been having fun answering the following questions:

A ~ Available? Yes
B ~ Best friend: really tough to choose and don’t want to hurt any feelings
C ~ Cake or pie? Pie.
D ~ Drink of choice: coffee
E ~ Essential thing used every day: toothbrush
F ~ Favorite color: teal
G ~ Gummi bears or worms? bears
H ~ Hometown: Buffalo, NY
I ~ Indulgence: Chocolate (or is that a necessity?)
J ~ January or February? Hmmm. Tough one. January for new beginnings but February for rare lovely warm days.
K ~ Kids and names: Not sure what this is supposed to be. My kids? I don’t name them on my blog.
L ~ Life is incomplete without: good friends
M ~ Marriage date: 1974
N ~ Number of siblings: 2
O ~ Oranges or apples? Depends on the season but I suppose apples have a slight edge
P ~ Phobias/fears: heights
Q ~ Favorite quote: "The past does not equal the future.”—Anthony Robbins
R ~ Reason to smile: sunny days, good friends, my children, funny movies, chocolate, kindness
S ~ Season: spring
T ~ Tag three people: I like these things but a lot of people don’t so I don’t like to tag them.
U ~ Unknown fact about me: I like country music for the stories the songs tell and the inherent optimism in so many of them. (examples: I Hope You Dance, Unanswered Prayers)
V ~ Vegetable you don't like: brussel sprouts
W ~ Worst habit: staying up too late
X ~ X-rays you've had: shoulder, mammograms, dental
Y ~ Your favorite food: chocolate
Z ~ Zodiac: Virgo


I’ve put up my (artificial) Christmas tree. Haven’t decorated it but will do that a little at a time, smiling as it takes on a festive look. I like creating new traditions for myself and letting go of old associations with this time of year.

I’ve stocked environmental “logs” for my fireplace for the colder weather we’re supposed to have in a few days.

I’m still...processing my visit to see my son and all the emotions tied to that. I know some of my fears for my son are tied to some of my own experiences as a child. I know that some of my fears are due to hurting as I see his opportunities diminishing. I know that I need to balance what I think I’m supposed to be able to do with reality. I know that maybe what’s needed is to think so completely out of the box that I think of possibilities I (and others) never have before.

I believe deeply that in every challenge is inherently an opportunity or blessing as well and so I am asking myself that most powerful of questions: What good could come out of this?

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Home Again

I’m home again. Literally and emotionally. And yet echoes of my trip back east remain. How much of one’s life does one give up to try to save another? What if it is one’s adult child? How does one know when changing what is can’t be done? How does one sort out emotional blackmail from real probabilities? How does one make peace with what may have to be?

On the plus side: This time I could say “no” to the convoluted schemes. This time I could refuse the emotional blackmail. This time I could see things I hadn’t grasped before. With and about my ex-husband. But...the questions about my son are still there. The issues are still real. The grief is still raw.

Life doesn’t always come with simple answers. Despite my optimism I know that all too well. My own life is the only life I really have any control over. I know that too. And yet...and yet there is a part of me that wants to heal other’s hurts—even when it’s someone who has hurt me. Even when I know that the odds are I won’t be able to help someone see how they are hurting themselves. There is grief in having to let go and fear in letting go that one is letting go too soon—that if one were just clever enough, just had a little more patience, just loved a little more unconditionally the person could find their way.

But then that’s how we grew up, isn’t it? Trying to fix the hurts and pain so that our parents could stop hurting us.

So the question becomes: Is this the same kind of tilting at windmills or is there really hope of getting my son to change his behavior? And how far do I go trying to make it happen? What will happen if I can’t? How much of my ex’s dire predictions are true and how much an attempt to manipulate me?

As I said, difficult questions and emotions.

Here’s hoping all of you are having easier weeks than this one was for me. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quick Note

Just a quick note to let all of you know I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!

I’m visiting my son who has down syndrome and lives with my ex-husband. It’s been an....interesting...visit. Yes, that’s the word. Let’s call it interesting. Better than some alternatives I might choose. It’s a short visit but no visit that involves interacting with my ex-husband is ever simple. There is always miscommunication, differing expectations, and echoes of regret that things are the way they are. Even so, this has been one for the record books.

Still, I got to see two friends, one of whom is recovering from advanced breast cancer. It looks as if, against all odds, she’s beaten it. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

I no longer live with chaos every day. That’s a reason to celebrate.

Every miscommunication is getting resolved. That’s a reason to celebrate.

I’m seeing my son. That’s a reason to celebrate.

Each time I visit, I process another level of emotions about my marriage and that’s a reason to celebrate.

I’m able to step back, watch old fears surface and let them go or see the situations in new ways. I’m able to shake my head at the scared, unhappy person I used to be and see how much I’ve changed. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

Right before I came here, a friend emailed me a prayer I love and that I must admit I’ve repeated to myself frequently on this trip. It goes something like this: God protect me from all harm, seen and unseen, and let me do no harm to anyone including myself. (I’m paraphrasing the actual prayer because this is the form that resonates most with me.) And that’s a reason to celebrate.

This isn’t an easy visit. It’s one of the hardest in some time. And things don’t look as if they are going to get simple any time soon. And yet...I’m able to step back and let it unfold as it will. I’m able to trust that I can and will handle whatever the outcome of the latest chaos will be and that good will come out of it. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

I hope that all of you are okay and I apologize for all the blogs I haven’t had a chance to read or respond to right now. Know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),