Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One Is Silver....

I am grateful for old friends. Those are the ones that have known you the longest. Those friends know about your flaws and have loved you all these years anyhow. They realize that you have made mistakes; they realize you have a life that is busy and doesn't always involve them; they also realize that, when they really need you, you will be there for them. I am so grateful for these friends.

I've found newer friendships to be more tricky. There seems to be a lot of judgment and expectation attached to them. As adults, we've developed life experiences that affect how we interact. We are caught up in situations that affect who we let in, who we relate to or click with, and how we react to things.

What I've realized is this: we all (and I SO include myself in this) need to stop and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Instead of assuming that someone is not a good friend because they (fill in the blank: skipped your party/dinner/event, couldn't help you with (whatever), or didn't agree with what you said/did/wrote), assume that they are in a different place in life than you are, and are devoting their energies in that direction. Assume that their current situation in life is different than yours (of course it is!), and that their take on life is obviously colored by that situation. Assume that they care, and they need you to care. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are putting one foot in front of the other on their journey, a journey that is often difficult, and that sometimes your paths will cross. When they do, smile, say hello, and ask, "How are you?" And when they answer, listen to them. Don't move on to talk about your life, your angst, your joys. Listen to theirs. They will truly be grateful.

So, this is my Thanksgiving promise to myself: I will give people around me the benefit of the doubt that they truly do have the best of intentions, and I will do more listening and less judging.

I'm off tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with an old and dear friend. It will be so good to be myself around her, and to know that all the years will melt away as we reconnect, laugh, and nourish each other. For this I'm very thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peaceful Easy Feeling

That's kind of my state of mind today...what a pleasant surprise! I'm cash poor right now, and yet I feel calm, rested and happy. We enjoyed a weekend close to home, doing mundane chores, getting homework done, but also hosting a friend of Rebecca's for about 24 hours, a trip to CiCi's for pizza, a quick trip through the Super WalMart (hey, we got out right at $40, I'd say that's an accomplishment!) then back home and played a game in front of a nice fire, followed by s'mores.

Then, yesterday morning, our annual Thanksgiving service and feast at UUFF (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg) -- a morning filled with song, fellowship, and community as we welcomed old and new friends into our Fellowship Hall and later around the tables for a bounty of traditional and non-traditional dishes.

This topped off with a brisk four mile walk, yet another fire at home, and a snuggly warm good night's sleep with flannel sheets and cats for insulation all add up to a great weekend.

Now I am looking at a short work week, a trip 'home' to Norfolk for Thanksgiving with a dear friend (since fourth grade) and her family, and then back to the 'burg in time for the weekend.

Peaceful easy feeling. Not a feeling that comes over me often, and I embrace it now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Trying to think good thoughts for my sister and her husband. For the past almost ten years, he has owned a company that designs and installs luxury pools and landscapes, and guess what? People aren't putting in pools much these days. He had to declare personal bankruptcy (which protects my sister's credit) and is now tasked with finding work in an industry that has seen business drop by 75%. He is currently looking at something in San Antonio, and right now it looks promising, so I am doing my best to send positive energy their way.

It's tough to watch someone who earned their way to succeess without benefit of a college education suddenly lose everything and have to start all over again. It is a real test of their confidence and stamina, but Scott is by nature an optimistic guy. Whatever company does end up with him will be very fortunate to have him...he has excellent people skills and is extremely conscientious and reliable and talented.

They say every time a door closes, a window opens to new opportunity. I hope that is true for Karen and Scott. Change is not easy, but it can be very exciting and freeing, also. I hope this holds true for them and their family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And a poem for mom:

Sounds of September (2008)

The call of the blue jay does it for her,
My mother once told me.
That clear, insistent reminder,
Of the stillness that would soon be.

Clouds whispering to a blue sky,
Thirsty leaves rustling in the trees.
A tired butterfly drifting by,
Stealing some life from the breeze.

As the nagging geese set the mood,
The excitement of summer gives way,
To the quiet, the peace, the solitude,
Of a young mother on an August day.

She notices each sound, quiet and clear,
And allows them to briefly transport her,
To that promising, melancholy time of year,
And the sweet, sad sounds of September.
Ah, I just figured it out. This is why I like writing/blogging: It is cathartic for me...

Catharsis: A technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed material to consciousness (The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition)

There you go.
And one more previous thought:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

good days and bad days

Not having a good week; post-vacation reality has set in: bank problems, terrible news, friends suffering losses, sick, unsettled situation at work, and PMS add up to a cranky girl. While I am be no means a giddy person (my nickname will never be 'bubbles'...) I do tend to remain very content with my life and see the positive side of things, and can usually roll with the inequities of life. This week is just a little more overwhelming than most. I do believe a large part of my inability to handle things more gracefully lies with the thyroid (hormones suck!) but it would be nice if I had a better ability to rise above it all. This to shall pass. This is when I like to reflect on the following essay:

A Positive Outlook Is Overrated, by Barbara Held

Barbara Held is a professor of psychology and social studies at Bowdoin College, and the author of Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching. Trained as a clinical psychologist, she practiced therapy for many years. Held lives with her husband on the coast of Maine. Photo Courtesy of Barbara Held
"I believe that there is no one right way to cope with all the pain of living. ... If we are prevented from coping in our own way, be it 'positive' or 'negative,' we function less well."

All Things Considered, October 22, 2007 · Many Americans insist that everyone have a positive attitude, even when the going gets rough. From the self-help bookshelves to the Complaint-Free World Movement, the power of positive thinking is touted now more than ever as the way to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.

The problem is that this demand for good cheer brings with it a one-two punch for those of us who cannot cope in that way: First you feel bad about whatever's getting you down, then you feel guilty or defective if you can't smile and look on the bright side. And I'm not even sure there always is a bright side to look on.

I believe that there is no one right way to cope with all of the pain of living. As an academic psychologist, I know that people have different temperaments, and if we are prevented from coping in our own way, be it "positive" or "negative," we function less well.

As a psychotherapist, I know that sometimes a lot of what people need when faced with adversity is permission to feel crummy for a while, to realize that feeling bad is not automatically the same as being mentally ill. Some of my one-session "cures" have come from reminding people that life can be difficult, and it's OK if we're not happy all of the time.

This last point first became apparent to me in 1986. I came down with the flu accompanied by searing headaches that lasted for weeks afterward. Eventually a neurologist told me that a strain of flu that winter had left many people with viral meningitis. He reassured me that I would make a full recovery, but I was left traumatized by the weeks of undiagnosed pain. I really thought I had a brain tumor or schizophrenia. Being a psychologist didn't help; I was an emotional wreck.
Fortunately it happened that my next-door neighbor was a brilliant psychiatrist, Aldo Llorente from Cuba. I asked him, "Aldo, am I a schizophrenic?" "Professor," he pronounced, "you are a mess, but you are not a mentally ill mess. You are just terrified."

I told Aldo that two of my friends insisted that I cheer up. I tried to be cheerful for a week, but that only increased my distress. Aldo told me, "You say to them: 'Friends, I would like to be more cheerful, but right now I am too terrified to be cheerful. So I will let you know when I am not terrified anymore.'"

The moment I delivered Aldo's message, I felt better. Aldo had made it OK for me to cope in my own way, to recover at my own pace, to be my own mess of a self. That is when I began to realize that I had been tyrannized by the idea that everyone must always have a positive attitude.
Having flourished in my own authentically kvetchy way, I believe that we would be better off if we let everyone be themselves — positive, negative or even somewhere in-between.

Independently produced for All Things Considered by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
More previous thoughts:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Did you know you’re the best, Mommy?

My daughter says this to me on a regular basis. And I don't just mean weekly, I mean several times a day. She is also regularly asking me, "What did you like best about ___________?" or "What was your favorite part of __________?" But I am always hard-pressed to pick a best or favorite anything. I guess that's why I have a difficult time when someone tells me about the best (you can fill in the blank here...) I mean really, unless you've experienced all of the (okay, I'll use...eggs benedict, since I love food) there is to try, how can you possibly know it's the best? Certainly, it's the best you've tried, in your opinion. But then, maybe it was the fact that you had this eggs benedict at a restaurant on the California coast, al fresco, with the humidity hovering at a high 20 percent. And maybe you were sharing the eggs benedict with your oldest and dearest (dare I say it, best?!) friend. Absolutely, it may qualify as the best, in your book. But I'm betting it isn't the BEST.

The same is true with parenting. Of course my daughter thinks I'm the best...I am her only mother, and her loyalty to me is by nature very strong. She may meet other moms who are more fun, more patient (easily!) or more 'cool', but I will always be the best. I am what she knows, what she is familiar with, and to whom all her memories of childhood are so connected. But I bet there are better moms out there.

So, I'm not comfortable with superlatives. I feel there is always room for good, better and even better, but best is elusive. I feel the same way about experts...those who feel their life experience with (once again, fill in the blank) gives them superiority in that given area. Not true. For every definitive fact they may give you about (gardening, cooking, raising cats, etc.), I am fairly certain someone can give them an exception. That is what makes our life experiences so special. If we listened to the experts, we might not do things our own way. Throughout time, improvements have come from deviating from the tried and true. By all means, gardening (for example) requires sun, earth and water. But have a little fun, experiment! Make it your own.

That is all.
Some previous thoughts:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

the nuances of human relationships

After a weekend that was all over the map, I'm feeling the need to put some words down.
Thought I'd share with my friends (you know, the touchy feely, word lover ones... )

I'm overwhelmed with the subtle and not so subtle emotions that come and go with the various friendships in my life. How some connections are so positively crackling, and others are so tenuous. There are times I feel like my nerves are sitting right on top of my skin, I feel so alive. This weekend was one of those times.

It is amazing to me how gratifying and deep some of my friendships are, much more intense than love relationships of the past. And yet that depth in those friendships is love. It's a love that accepts, indulges, and forgives. It is the kind of love I hope to have one day in a love relationship, and I do believe I won't settle for any less.

Yes, I will hold out for a love friendship that transitions naturally into a love relationship. For now, my love friendships more than sustain me.

My First Blog Post

I wonder...is blogging just a virtual way of hearing ourselves talk? Is it a platform for espousing our viewpoints and soliciting validation for those viewpoints? Or do we really want to hear what other people think about what we think? I wonder.