Doppler Radar Forecast of Life

Radar image courtesy of the National Weather Service

Radar image courtesy of the National Weather Service

“What’s the weather going to be like today?” The Boy asks as he gets dressed in the morning.

“Calls for a chance of rain, supposed to be warm,” I say.

He walks to the car in a heavy sweatshirt and no rain coat. So I ask him why he chose that outfit based on the weather forecast that he just asked for.

“The weathermen are usually wrong,” he replies.

“Well why in the heck did you ask me for the forecast then if you know they’re not very accurate, and when you’re going to disregard what they say anyway?” I ask, slightly irritated.

“I don’t know. I wish they were right. I want them to be right. I just want certainty. I can keep hoping, can’t I? I don’t believe them, but I can hope. So I ask,” he replies.

Yes, yes my child, you can hope, even though your logic doesn’t really make sense. I want you to keep hope alive. And yes, we want certainty. And yes, we rarely get it and life is just a crapshoot anyway, all unpredictable and not-forecasty. Yet we keep asking for the answers, even when we know we won’t get them. There’s comfort in having something to hold on to, even if we know in our hearts it’s not the right answer.

And in the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if we’re warned it’s going to rain or not. We can prepare to some extent, but if it’s gonna rain, it’s gonna rain. If it’s not, it won’t. There’s not much we can do about it, and chances are we’ll get a little bit wet anyway even with an umbrella. At least I know my calves always get wet and my hair frizzes something fierce.

We’ll have periods in our lives of high pressure, of gray storm clouds, of  days with the sun shining brightly, others with a bit of a mix which can give us a lovely rainbow for a fleeting moment at the end, depending on your perspective, depending on where you’re standing. There’s not much we can do about any of those conditions other than be as prepared as possible, be flexible when our preparations fail us, and look to the sky for a surprise gift every now and then.

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Get the Party Started

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I went home for an impromptu weekend visit when I discovered my mother was not doing well with additional medical issues. One morning, my sister and I took the kids to a bakery owned by a fairly famous pastry chef. My sister described all the delicious pastries, and how my parents have ordered cakes for special occasions in the past year. There happened to be a cake in the case they had not tried yet but had really wanted to. I bought it, and my sister asked why on earth I was spending an exorbitant amount of money on an ordinary Saturday. I pointed out today was no ordinary day.

It was a day to be celebrated because it was a day ending in a “Y.” I explained that every day is to be appreciated and celebrated, and that I’ve decided I don’t offer such gratitudes often enough. Plus, I really like good cake.

Mom was still alive. We were all still alive. I had enough money to even consider buying an over-priced cake. Global warming hadn’t killed us yet. And J. Roddy Walston & the Business was playing in town next month, AND I had VIP tickets.

I write to keep myself honest–to help me practice what I preach. So I decided on Saturday I’m eating to keep me honest too. I don’t want to wait for special occasions that might not come to pass to celebrate life and the joys and smiles and love. So we went home and the kids sang a Happy Appreciation of Life song, to the tune of Happy Birthday. It was all off-key and we made up the words with too many syllables as we went along, but there was a lot of plate-licking and belly aching. So indeed, it was no ordinary day.

And today a colleague swooned over a recent spa experience–the massage, the cucumber water, the marbles in the foot soak, the facial. This person does not get to enjoy spa experiences often, so it warmed the heart to hear her recount her joy and peace. I mean really, who realistically has the time to feel luxurious and enjoy spa experiences often?

And so I decided today also is no ordinary day. Off to make a Spa Day at Home for myself and the kids tonight. Why wait? What am I waiting for? Godot? We deserve pampering and feeling appreciated, every day. It’s important to be grateful for what we have, big and small, even in times of crisis and grief. It’s important to celebrate our gifts in life: each day, each moment, each person, each cake. I am grateful I have cucumbers at home to make cucumber water, candles to light, marbles for a foot soak, bubbles for a bath. Children that giggle during the massages and little nails to paint.

So we are celebrating only on extraordinary days. Days that end in a “Y.” Some days with hugs and laughter, some days with cake and ice cream, some days with watching the sunset quietly, some days with “chicken butt” jokes, some days with dance parties in the kitchen while making dinner which may or may not be pie, some days taking the day off and hitting the beach, most days with wine.

I think every day that ends in a “Y” is worth celebrating. I don’t think we should wait to celebrate our gratitudes and appreciations in large and small gestures. I think we should take every opportunity to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary moments. Bedazzle as many moments in a day as feasible. It’s time to get this party started.

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Connecting the Dots

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I’ve only recently felt I deserved to claim I am a writer. It’s a tenuous claim, because when people ask what I write, I tell them I write a blog. Many people dismiss this as not really being a writer, because technically anyone can start a blog.

Then they ask what I write about. Here’s where I wither and surrender my claim of being a writer. I don’t know how to answer. I’ve stammered various versions of the following: I write about doing hard things. About being brave. About living authentically and vulnerably. I write about life and people and connections.

And this is when no one believes I’m really a writer–my topics suck and are anti-captivating. I mean really–I can’t even explain it coherently, how on earth can I be a writer when I can’t even be an explainer? I think they think it’s more of a personal journal of my life that’s made public because I write about random kid stories, sexual assaults, dating, running, brain injuries and dancing. So I feel compelled to throw out a feeble footnote to save the conversation–that one day I may compile my essays into a book.

I am so lame, I think. I wonder if I should stop telling people I write. Because I don’t write in the hopes of publishing a book. I don’t write for fame or accolades. I don’t write to keep people updated on my life. I don’t write to over-share. I don’t write because I’m a writer. I write because I’m a Connector and Validator.

I’ve come to realize this is my calling in life. A second career, if you will. A Storyteller who Connects. Connects the dots that are events and thoughts into my version of Truth, and then I connect those musings to you. And then Reader #1 is connected to Reader #2, and so on. I find great meaning in knowing that some stories, not all my stories, but some stories, sit snugly in your heart and resonate in your soul. Not forever, but for a bit. And some stories fit more snugly than others. But at the end of the day, through a Connection, a difference was made somewhere in this world.

I write to validate. So that you know I hear you. I see you. We walk around fearing, thinking, “I’m the only one who…It’s just me who…” Nope, sorry, you’re not that special. In that way at least. You are special in so many other ways. And we’re special together. But I can hear you. I can see you. And through my stories, you can see parts of yourself in me. And I in you. And we validate and connect. Just the way we are.

I’ve come to realize writing is merely an extension of who I am; my life’s work is really just being me. When old friends ask what I’ve been up to lately, all I can think to say is, “I’ve been busy loving people and connecting with people and being kind to people.” This hasn’t always been the case–I did not used to like people.

This past year I’ve had several friends in various stages of crises. I hope I’ve been a good friend and have been there for them in their times of need. I hope I’ve been their soft landings when needed, and the person to shut down Pity Parties when After Hours drags on too long. I’ve come to realize my friends feed my soul, and connecting with them and validating their pains and strengths and courage feeds my soul. I’ve come to realize creating and nurturing connections, and seeing and hearing and validating people, feed my soul.

My neurologist and I have elevated our relationship now to a different plane. He’s an egotistical bastard who thinks he’s always right. Problem is, he usually is when it comes to his professional work, so this is a reinforcing dynamic. Fortunately for me, he is usually right, and it looks like my head is finally starting to improve (cross fingers here). I told him at our last appointment how much he has meant to me, how no one else would listen to me, and finally, after 18 months, I felt heard. We started talking about his work, his long hours, his frustrations with the medical field and health insurance and his hours and his patient load and his mortgage and his kids’ college tuitions and his passions for creating art and his dreams and what is important to feed his soul and just how hard all of that is. We discussed my current treatment plan and my next appointment time. And when I left, he shook my hand. And hugged me. I mean hugged me. I knew then, he had not been heard or validated in a very long time. He has made my head feel better, and I have made his heart feel better.

I build connections. I validate. I’ve come to realize that’s really all I want to do in life. I’m an aspiring Dot Connector. So maybe when people ask me what I write about, I ought to say I write about connecting dots, and that I share my stories to share myself to the friends I know, and friends I have yet to know.

What do you think? What would you say I write about?

Posted in Mindfulness, Relationships | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Forever Friends

2013-12-22_13.48.06 My heart plummeted and I let out an audible sigh as I turned the corner and saw the For Sale sign in their front yard. I knew this day was coming. I was happy for our dear friends as they write the next chapter of their lives centered around an amazing professional opportunity. Which happens to be about 4 hours away. And though this should be about their new adventures, sometimes things just really are about me. Or should be.

We’ve known this family for years now, since our oldest children started kindergarten. Like all good relationships, we came to know each other slowly as our paths kept crossing. God sprinkled them in our lives through school, soccer, scouts, a shared love of good drinks and laughter, and a shared appreciation for sardonic humor and funky music.

Through the years, we’ve shared countless meals, drinky drinks, holidays, family secrets, and life lessons. There’s been a lot of yelling, laughing, destruction of property and nine-hour dinner parties. They are like family to us, I trust them with my kids, with my heart, with my secrets. I know this trust will remain even after they move away.

I didn’t always used to be this way. I used to be very guarded and weary of letting anyone into my life, my heart, my soul. I didn’t trust that people wouldn’t leave or disappoint me. I didn’t like the feelings of sadness or grief or discomfort. So I was always friendly to people, but the friends I revealed my true self to were few and far between. I did not feel comfortable letting people see the real me. I didn’t feel comfortable with building these relationships that always come with risk of getting hurt in some fashion.

But in the past 7 years, I’ve worked hard at feeling the bad feelings fully so that I can feel the good ones just as intensely. I’ve worked hard at opening myself up to good people who take good care of me. I’ve worked hard at taking things as they come and accepting people and things just as they are. Because I know that’s how others can accept me for who I am.

And so I’m grateful I’ve done this hard work at a time that God sprinkled this robust family into my family’s path. Through the years, this family’s Husband has taught me to be vulnerable and brave and to own both my strengths and flaws. I never, ever, neverever ran with another human being before; and never, ever, neverever thought I deserved to wear a race bib. He is patient and kind and persistent however, and pestered me to register for some races with him with the promise of beer at the finish line. The races  turned out to not only be empowering, but a lot of fun and now sort of a tradition for us, mostly because I like to drink. I, in turn, pestered and annoyed him enough to not only consider, but to enjoy, distance running and he’s a half marathon pro now who gladly sacrifices his toenails for a good run and nice swag.

The Wife has taught me not to be so Judgy McJudgy and to be more patient and to be a More Fun Mother. I’m an introvert and can only take social settings in small doses. I’ve learned from her the beauty of just being social. I still can’t do it as well or as frequently as she does, and when we’re together I gladly shrink into her shadow. But I’ve learned her beauty arises from her willful connections with others. I’m still learning to be that beautiful. She is someone who gives everyone a chance. I am glad she gave us a chance, and by her graceful example, I’m learning to do so as well.

Their Kids have taught My Kids how to play baseball and tennis, what on earth Furby Booms and Orbeez are, and that baseball games are really more about friendships than statistics. Child #1 has taught them that it is indeed possible to walk down the stairs while reading, and that you can never be too young to be sarcastic if you’re cute enough. Child #2 has taught them that “actually,” saying anything in a definitive voice lends authority and an air of truth, and that a loud, scruffy voice and a sensitive soul can reside in the same body. Child #3 has taught them that glitter and shaking your bum is in fact encoded on one’s DNA, and that the littlest ones can in fact lead and be the fiercest.

They are the kindest, most gracious people. They will help anyone in need. In fact, Husband tries very hard to convince Wife to please not take in any more animals. They’ve reminded us of the value and meaning of true friendship. We really are family to each other. In fact, Wife and I are the designated Aunties to our respective daughters for when they are older and in trouble. Her daughter is to call me–I will bail her out of anything, and I will never tell her mother. Same goes with my daughter. This sadly is a true and useful pact–if you knew our daughters you would understand. I mean really, who doesn’t need her own personal bail bondsman or personal tattoo advisor?

I love watching their family unit grow and develop through time. As each child reaches a milestone, as each child forges his or her own friendships and takes his or her stance in the world. As each child makes decisions based on developing value systems. Of watching Husband and Wife navigate through in-laws and friends and their own separate needs. Of watching this Couple choose daily, in their small and large decisions, to love each other unconditionally and choose to do another day together, for themselves and for their family, even when they disagree. Especially when they disagree.

So this is more than merely an ode to forever friends. This is a reflection of how far we’ve all come in life. We’ve witnessed so many life events between and within our two families, so much joy and celebration, so much sadness and anger, so many milestones that slowly, day by day, carved a solid friendship. This is a reminder to me of the joys and rewards that come with being vulnerable and authentic, that there is always room in our circle of friends, that it takes a village to not only raise our children, but to nurture all of our souls. This is a reminder that I am so wealthy to be blessed with such beautiful friends who have made such an impact on my life and my children’s lives. This is a reminder that it is these connections and relationships and memories that are the stuff of life. This is a reminder that I’ve got my priorities straight when I choose to focus my time and love to people like my Forever Friends. And this is a reminder that no matter what, no matter how much time passes, no matter how many miles away, I can and will stalk them like a ninja because I’ve cleaned their toilets. You’ve been warned.

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How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

"The Bee Gees - How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by The cover art can be obtained from UK: Polydor, USA/CA: Atco.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? via Wikipedia -

“The Bee Gees – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” by The cover art can be obtained from UK: Polydor, USA/CA: Atco.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? via Wikipedia -

How do you heal a broken heart, a friend ponders painfully. First, one must let go of the beloved one. Sounds simple, but what does that mean really? Well, the obvious things are you stop seeing the person. You stop talking to the person. You stop being one another’s beloveds. You stop sharing parts of your day, your self, your dreams, your thoughts, your heart.

It used to be more clear-cut back in the day–before this newfangled technology of the interwebs, but some time after fire was discovered. You’d break up, lament to your friends, drown in your tears listening to sappy music, freak out if you saw the person at the mall or movies or happy hour, and that would be the end of it. You would likely think about the person a lot, maybe hear about the person through mutual friends. But that would be that.

These days it’s harder. Do you stay Facebook friends? LinkedIn contacts? Twitter is public. You can see the history of your text exchanges. You can see all the old emails. It’s so easy to stalk or otherwise stay connected through tenuous threads. They’re not real, active, authentic connections. But they’re ethereal enough to hold out for some hope, to hold on to some illusion of connection. We share so many parts of ourselves and our thoughts and our dreams so publicly, that it’s easy for anyone to catch the pieces that we throw out there. Our beloveds can just reach out, and they have a piece of you.

There are no good answers to how we navigate letting go these days where social media is part of our lives. But really there are also no good answers when we really look at our lives and our selves. I mean really, every person, and every experience, is a stitch in the fabric of our beings. Do we ever really let go?

We don’t really. We bring parts of everyone with us. One Great Love left a love of red wines, an eggplant parmigiana recipe, and the most beautiful memory in upstate New York of seeing the night sky lit up in more stars than I had ever seen, and have yet to see again. One Nice Guy left experiences of holding the Stanley Cup and Detroit and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and his grandfather who always called me the China Girl, and the realization that nice isn’t enough for a relationship. One Great Love left an intimate knowledge and comfort with sexuality, and the now deep-seated knowledge that self-respect is vital in well, everything. One Husband left two small children and a belief in me that made all the difference. One Great Crush left the reminders that we are all broken, that we all have struggles and are worthy of love, that timing matters, and coping skills other than smoking pot are desirable. One Fond Like introduced me to sushi and Thai food and great white wine, but would not introduce me to his father because I was not Jewish. One Good Love left a new way to embody kindness and mercy, knowledge about scotch and motorcycles, and a box of channa masala mix.

So really, we don’t ever let anyone go. We bring parts of people with us every day, in the stories we recollect and share, in our preferences for food and drink and music, in our belief and sense of self, in the way we view ourselves that may have originated in how our beloved viewed us. All of our beloveds become part of us; each is a golden thread in the tapestry of Self, woven in and out of experiences and joys and sadness and memories and stories we tell about them in the future to our therapist, to our friends, to our children, to our next beloved.

So I say to my friend, don’t hold on so tight. That is how we heal a broken heart. When you hold on so tight, you don’t realize that the connection your white knuckles have wrapped tightly around is only an illusion. Exhale, don’t hold on so tight. Exhale, and you can feel your beloved settle into your soul. Into the proper place of your being. You hold on so tight because you’re afraid of losing your beloved forever. This tightness, it’s suffocating, it’s painful. My friend, our beloveds are right there with you, always.

Posted in Dating, Empowerment, Mindfulness, Relationships | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

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“Please. Don’t do this. Don’t go,” I said softly. No, I begged softly. I tried not to beg loudly because that’s unbecoming. But my pleas were in fact begging. Because I knew if he walked out that door that night, I would never see him again. He said he had to go, he had to go think, he needed space, he said he’d call. And he never did. We broke up a week later by email.

I knew the moment he said he had to go, I knew it was over. I wasn’t asking him to spend the night after dinner. I was begging him not to walk out of my life. I wasn’t ready. I thought I had more time with him. He was ready though. And so for the first time in my life, I didn’t beg beg. I let him go.

A friend recently told me how she had a bad night with her husband–they were arguing, and she begged him to give her more time, to stay in the relationship until she could change. She was working on her issues, and she begged him to keep giving her a chance. She said the next morning, she realized she did not like that. She did not like who she was in those moments that night.

See, it was the tone she didn’t like. It was the place of origin from where that tone arose that she didn’t like–the place deep inside her where insecurity and neediness and uncertainty live. The request, the begging, came from a place inside that wants certainty, it’s trying to quell the anxiety of not knowing. She knew that begging for the sake of being in a relationship is not who she wants to be any longer. She knows now the person she wants to be is the person who uses her words to voice her feelings and needs in an appropriate way. She knows she wants to be the person who is comfortable in her own skin. Not a person who begs to stop the anxiety and discomfort for the sake of not losing a relationship.

I know this place inside of her, because I used to live there too. Begging in itself is not bad. I’d likely beg for my life. Beg for my children’s lives. Beg for food if we were homeless. But I won’t beg to be loved. I won’t beg to be in a Couple. I used to. Oh, how I used to.

This summer, I was at a beach with a friend. I had not been to that particular beach in seven years. Sitting on a bench at night, I suddenly remembered the last time I was there, on a bench at night, seven years ago. I was on the phone with my then-boyfriend. Oh, I loved him so. There had always been something electric between us. We’d been through a lot through the years, off and on, mostly off. But when it was on, my God, it was On. And I was on the phone with him that night seven years ago. Something about the conversation, his distant tone, something incited panic in me. I knew that night. I knew it was over. He didn’t actually leave me until months later, but I knew that night it was the beginning of the end. So for months, I begged in not-so-subtle ways. I called. A lot. I was needy. Very needy. I panicked. A lot. I was trying so hard to hold on to him, to the relationship. Until one day, he just stopped calling. I did not like who I was in those months.

I’ve since learned that it’s not the question. It’s not the plea in itself. It’s not the content that matters. But it’s from where the plea arises from that matters. I am no longer the person who frantically claws at the nearest thing when she feels she’s drowning in confusion and uncertainty and pain. I am no longer the person who reaches out to fill her soul. I am no longer the person who feels she needs something outside of her to calm her insecurities. I am no longer the person who depends on external validation and love to be love, to feel love, to give love.

I have since asked people to not go just yet. I have since asked people to come back please. But it has not been begging. Because it comes from a place of being vulnerable and authentic and for a process and the practice instead of an outcome. It’s in these details that make all the difference. It’s in this internal shift that makes all the difference.

The old saying goes Beggars Can’t Be Choosers. Indeed. When I used to beg, I could not choose myself over others, I could not choose loving kindness over desperation. I could not choose self-respect over neediness. I could not choose unconditional love over heavy expectations.

So now I Choose. I choose to use my words. I choose to examine my intent; examining it, turning it over and under and feeling all its nooks and crannies with both of my hands and heart. I choose to do things that are good for me, even if they’re hard decisions, even if there’s pain and loss. When given a choice, Be a Chooser, not a Beggar.

 

Posted in Dating, Empowerment, Mindfulness, Relationships | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Marriage Salad

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I was the last of my friends to get married, and the first of my friends to get divorced. I do tend to do things ass-backwards. So I don’t know how much stock anyone wants to put into my advice on relationships. I can offer empathy, however. I’ve had practice, because unfortunately, since my divorce, several of my friends have as well, or have voiced serious problems with their relationships whereupon the dissolution of the marriage is a very real, and a very sad, possibility.

One such friend is really struggling today. She’s working hard to make things work. She and her spouse have been together for a very long time. They’ve each grown a lot individually and as a family. As in any relationship, the reasons why they’ve reached this crossroads are numerous. As they work through their issues, she oftentimes feels overwhelmed and confused. What should the focus be–working on her stuff, his stuff, couple stuff? How much weight does she put on each part of this puzzle that makes up her life? She is fully committed to this, but who is she doing this for?

“Some days it is for him. Some days it is for the kids. Some days it is for protecting all we have and all we have built together for all these years. And some days, it is really for me,” she says.

And I say this to her: Yes.

This. This, what just you said, my friend, this is what we all do for any relationship. It is never just one thing. Or two things. It is all of this mess, all these moving parts in all of our lives. For you, for him, for the kids, for the abstract and concrete life you’ve built. For the days ahead. For the days past. For today. For all of that. For all of you. None of it can live in isolation.

I tell her she is over-thinking. Making this harder than it is. For now, she is doing it all for the right reasons, at the right mixed ratio that changes by the minute. These are the next right things. Just as she’s doing it. In her confused, angst-ridden way. This. This is the joy of life. The sorrow of life. The complexities of life. The crux of life.

There is so much there. Yet, it is all there is.

We can’t compartmentalize life and our relationships and our selves into neat little silos, and ration out proportions. No, when we live, really live, we bleed outside the lines. Our bright neon, intensely hued parts of ourselves bleed all over ourselves and others. So it’s all of what she’s concerned about, tossed like a salad. And all of those pieces make up who she is. You cannot pick one and ignore the rest. You can not focus on only one priority.

Some people might urge her to think about the children. Some people might urge her to think about her spouse. Some people might urge her to think about herself. Some people might urge her to consider the quality of the life they’ve built, and it can’t all be that bad to throw it all away, right? Whose needs come first? Whose needs are the most important?

Everyone has a point. The children’s well-being is paramount. How do we minimize negative impacts on them, yet role model healthy, respectful relationships? The spouse has coped with a lot through the years, he’s a good man. We must consider his sacrifices and his love and his grace, all of which are immense. Don’t forget that we are also taught to put our oxygen mask on first before helping others. If she loses herself and doesn’t tend to her needs again, then others suffer, and does the relationship really work out in the end?

I can tell her about the angst and confusion and visceral pain I felt for the longest time as my own marriage disintegrated. I can tell her how for the longest time I stayed for the children. I can tell her how for the longest time I stayed to preserve the sanctity of marriage. I can tell her how for the longest time I lost myself and tended to everyone else’s needs first. I can tell her how I wavered every moment of every day for the longest time about what the next right thing was. I can tell her how one day, in one moment I will never forget, I knew how this story would end. But this is her story to write, not mine.

I don’t know the ending to their story. They sure as hell don’t either. But placing the added pressure of making choices based on the “right reasons” is not going to help them write the end of their story. So long as she is considering all of these issues, there’s no right or wrong answer. Each day, the proportions of each consideration will wax and wane. And it’s in this changing landscape that offers no certainty and no clarity that she must live. It is in the patience she must muster up that she will be able to feel what decision resonates. It is in the ability to sit still and just be in this mixed, tossed salad of life that she will be able to discern what the next right thing is for her, for her spouse, for their children.

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