Archive | November, 2010

Holidays got you down? Abort, retry, ignore…

29 Nov

This has not been an easy year for many people, including yours truly, and I’m just not getting into the so-called “Holiday Spirit” of giving, giving, giving!  I can understand the frenzy and excitement of the holiday season when one has small children to entertain and family members who gather near and far, but when those are fading memories and if you are not into commercialism, it can get to be just too much ado about nothing (aside from the religiosity of certain days).

As a self-employed professional whose work is exclusively traveling to foreign cities (and countries) to deliver keynote presentations, training seminars and consulting services, I’ve never had the luxury of corporate festivities. In addition, my children are grown and living elsewhere (yes, I’m close to them), and I live a single life enriched with friends and the companionship of one remaining cat.

I have no wish to rehash or restore the married years of yesteryear, and the consumer-retail-marketing aspect of the holiday season really holds no allure.  “Buy, buy, buy – get diamonds for your love – the best time of the year” – it’s all so nauseating.  All I want to say is Bah, humbug, who cares?  I’m living life in the present and I am happy with my choices – they just don’t match the joyous couple – center of the universe – apparently blissful existence that television and media purports as being essential.  So, why then do I feel anxious about the impending holiday season?

Does anyone else feel like this or am I an anomaly?  In the U.S. when there is only one day off for Christmas Day, it is common to find many people celebrating (or getting through the day) alone – it’s the reality today!  But, society, advertising and our media don’t seem to get this.  (I guess the almighty dollar still trumps sanity.)

With 46% of American adults currently single, we ought to celebrate and find ways to thrive without needing to be (co- or otherwise) dependent on others.  While humanity remains a social sport (we are “social beings” say the sociologists) it is not a guarantee that holidays will be a social event.

So, instead of saying bah, humbug, turn off the Christmas music already (hey, we just got finished with the election blues a couple of weeks ago!) – I’ve decided I’m going to resort to the Microsoft way of dealing with the holidays this year: 

Abort, retry, ignore!

Abort retry ignoreHere’s how I propose to use these three IT (information technology) based approaches to solve problems:  The next time that I am irritated by Christmas tunes or frustrated by holiday traffic jams or don’t feel like talking to a “Happy, happy, joy, joy” elf-like acquaintance about their holiday preparations, I’m going to:

Abort — Get out of the situation:  if it’s a store with obnoxious music, I’m going to walk out; if it’s a shopping mall parking lot – go somewhere else; if it’s being besieged by a friend who wants to go on and on about their wondrous preparations, I’m going to excuse myself and escape to my own space.

Retry — If I cannot get out of the situation (abort above), then I’m going to reframe the situation in my mind through meditation or gratitude thinking. For example, when the music triggers memories (good or bad) that I might not be prepared to revisit, I will change the channel in my head to one with positive energy:  think about how fortunate I am to have good weather, good health, good friends, good fortune — whatever it takes to get me out of the funk-of-the-moment brought on by the holidays.

Ignore — if the first two approaches don’t work (or are inappropriate for the situation), I plan to use the MS third tactic – IGNORE.  When I hit the ignore button in my brain it will turn the distraction off!  If it’s someone who is incessantly babbling, I will imagine that their mouth is moving without any sound coming out!  (Think of Peppermint Patty’s teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons saying “Wyap wyap…”  I’ll be sure to say “uh huh” at the end when their mouth stops moving!)  If the offending trigger is music, I want to turn it off in my head and ignore it.  Nothing can enter my brainwaves or make me anything but happy without MY permission, so I plan to ignore whatever it is and go on with my life!

What do you think?  Would this be an option for you as well?

Your life is your choice!

Remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be today (I love the saying “the Present is a gift you give to yourself!)  and you are the best that you will ever have  – and that’s more than enough for the world.  (Remember you have to love yourself completely and unconditionally – that’s all that really matters in life!)

Have a great week, and let me know how the Abort, retry, ignore approach works for you. I know that I’m going to practice it at least a couple of times this week!

Carol

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So many reasons to be thankful

25 Nov

It’s interesting how we typically need a special occasion (like Thanksgiving) to realize how grateful we are (or can be) for the little things in our lives.  And, then when we do, it might be trivialized because of high visibility and self-consciousness of the occasion (such as at a big Thanksgiving family gathering!)

So…. here’s my short list of 50 things I am eternally grateful to have in my life:

1. Health

2. Healthy grown children

3. Unconditional love from same grown children

4. Ability to see the positive when life throws you lemons

5. Ability to feel what I do without having to stuff it (divorce is a wonderful thing!)

6. Friends who truly care

7. Acquaintances who might turn into friends someday

8. “Friends” who don’t care (they teach me the value of #6!)

9. A promising emerging (still) career

10. Invitations to speak (present) around the world

11. Unconditional love from the Royal We (me, myself and I)

12. Friends/acquaintances around the world

13. Self-esteem (and the new understanding that you can never have too much)

14. Pets (and the spirits of those who have gone before)

15. Parents who are still alive

16. Family members with their own families

17. Ability to see the humor in things (SNL situations abound)

18. Tampa FL weather

19. A house (even over-mortgaged)

20. Promises to myself

21. Inspiring writers (like my daughter!)

22. Uninspiring writers (who make #21 more relevant)

23. Sense of adventure

24. Youthful outlook on life

25. Freedom to associate/speak/disassociate

26. Freedom to do what, when and where as I choose

27. Incredible shoes (with more space in my closet)

28. Receptivity of foreign audiences to listen to me in English (when it is my only fluent language) when it is not their first language

29. Travel and the opportunities to do so

30. Nature

31. Wonder of life all around me

32. Ability to forgive myself

33. Ability to forgive others (when warranted)

34. People in my life who are willing to forgive me

35. Foresight to (hopefully) learn from past mistakes

36. Good humor to laugh at the past

37. Optimism

38. Good craft breweries around the world

39. Food and friends and fun (at the same time)

40. Florida weather (again and again)

41. Enough money (and work) to pay my mortgage

42. Simple needs

43. Smiles from strangers

44. Empathy and understanding (both giving and receiving – often different people are involved)

45. A future (and a vision that draws me to a achieve an incredible one!)

46. The ability to cut toxicity from my life (this is a new-found skill – I was a hoarder before!!!)

47. The present (in whatever time zone) – it’s a gift we give to ourselves

48. Being short on airplanes (so I don’t need first class always!)

49. So many things for which to express thanks

50. The past (so that I can learn from it, remember the good times, and smile at life’s nuances)

Wishing you a life filled with everything you want, desire and deserve – in other words the best of the best!

Carol

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Does a Victim Substantiate a Bully?

19 Nov

The whole issue of bullying still resonates with me since the tragedies of a few weeks ago… and the posting I made around that same time.

Statements by someone I once loved still haunt me.  After a verbal tirade, the person said

“A victim substantiates a bully.  You know there wouldn’t be bullies in the world without willing victims.”

I was stunned to hear that an educated person would say this, and I wish I had asked him the rationale behind his statements.  One of the Four Agreements (that I have previously referenced in various posts) is Agreement #3: Never Assume.  This means that when someone says something we do not understand/accept/make sense of, we should ask for clarification before we assume we know what it means.

Today I better understand my role in that co-dependent relationship and realize that my inability to stand up to the other person was part of why the relationship soured.  However, even now I wonder whether the statements were the words of an irrational person or whether society holds the same views.

Do you agree with the statement that a victim substantiates a bully?

Certainly, there would be less abuse in the world if those who are victimized could stand up for themselves strongly and steadfastly immediately.  Do you think it would make a difference if the victims could distance themselves from the situation, and become empowered enough to report bullies or disable them through strong words and actions?

I remember being told “I wish you’d stand up for yourself instead of withdrawing from the disagreement”, and on the occasions when I did stand up for myself and yelled louder than him, I quickly learned that so doing encouraged escalation that didn’t stop until I relented.  In such situations, I wondered why I’d even bothered because it was easier (and quicker) to ending things by not engaging in battle.

I wonder how many victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse have experienced a similar situation.  In retrospect, I do not know if I was actually a “victim” (it does not matter because the relationship ended years ago) — but I do know that the experience of being dismissed summarily was intimidating to say the least.

I have empathy and respect for anyone who finds him/herself a victim of abuse, and frankly, it is NOT your fault.  Victims happen – they are not born – and become so at the hands of people who for whatever reason feel justified to overpower another.

stop bullyingI found a great article online today called How NOT to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy where the author states that early parental guidance to teach empathy to children can prevent bullying behavior in later life.  I tend to agree.  It is said that we live what we learn – or is it we learn what we live?  Either way, if a child is brought up in a home devoid of respect for others, it is likely that they will continue to disrespect others.  Parents who do not teach their children to be empathetic  are (in my humble opinion) negligent parents.  And those who are bullies themselves teach their children that such behavior is okay.

What do you think?  Do you think that bullies would exist if there weren’t potential victims?  What has been YOUR experience with this topic?

Have a happy, productive week!

Carol

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Hindsight and the Law of Attraction…

17 Nov

The Law of Attraction…

You might have heard of the Law of Attraction (as published in works such as “The Secret” and “Think and Grow Rich”).  The basic principle is: what you think and truly desire will come about if you wish for it earnestly and steadfastly.

Personally, I’ve experienced the power that envisioning your future can have on your present.  As a child I yearned for a life of travel to distant lands — today my work provides me with speaking opportunities to travel worldwide.  Visioning is powerful stuff!

Hindsight is 20/20 as the saying goes…

and I’m finding that the people I used to attract into my life were by and large those who treated me as I believed I deserved to be treated. My relationships often left me feeling sad and I’d wonder why people treated me like a doormat.  I now realize that these people didn’t just treat me like a doormat – it is their modus operandi – they treat everyone in their life the same way, especially those who tolerate such behavior.

In the last 5 years, I’ve experienced major life changes and learned a lot about myself and self-care. I’ve learned to set up healthy boundaries to prevent the doormat syndrome from happening again.  In addition, in the process, I realize that the people who made me feel inferior only did so with my permission. I can see that the people who I once considered to be friends – were attracted into my life (and stayed) because I didn’t realize that I deserved better.

Here are a couple of examples of how these “friends” behaved:

  • One person asked me to speak at conferences she was involved in planning, and invited me to stay at her home during the week.  When I accepted her invitation, she took great pride in talking about me (and another person she invited) at the conference by saying, “You should see how Carol and xxx think that I run a hotel… “In addition, she would trash talk about my choice of shoes by saying “Ooooh, look at Carol’s hooker heels” when I wore shoes with heels.  I admit that I often felt powerless that someone I considered a friend would talk about me like this.
  • Another person routinely would tell me when I was in the midst of an abusive situation that I deserved the treatment because I didn’t directly confront the offender.  She had never been in my situation but was quick to dish out advice and chide me that my decisions were flawed.  I often felt sad during her monologues, yet she was careful to sprinkle in complimentary nuggets so I wouldn’t ditch the friendship.
  • A third person would summarily disregard my opinions by telling me that my perceptions and recollections of events were consistently wrong.  Any protestation was returned with the silent treatment or disdain.  I felt invalidated and learned to question my intuition in this relationship.

I realize that these people treated me (and others in their lives) poorly, but I attracted them into my life because it matched the treatment that I thought I deserved.  I’m proud to say that I’m now equipped with the knowledge that I deserve so much better.  In so thinking, I can see that I am attracting higher quality people in my life.  Today, I am proud to say that my friends are kind, respectful, and high quality, emotionally healthy human beings.

About the three people (and others like them) from my past – I now stand up to them.  They don’t like the new boundaries or that I restrict my time with them, but they have no choice.

The Law of Attraction works and always did.  In hindsight, I can see that those whom I attracted (and who were attracted to me) did not treat me any differently than I believed I deserved to be treated.  Today, I know better and no longer tolerate abusive behavior.

Does this resonate with you and your experiences at all?  Do you agree or disagree with these observations?

p.s., today I can say “Life is good!” and getting better all the time.

Carol


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The cream always rises to the top…

15 Nov

My weekend was tumultuous to say the least, involving a family crisis and caring professionals.   Just when life’s waves seem to be manageable, painful experiences involving loved ones drives a “perfect storm” of people, emotions, and environment.  In addition, when one considers how people behave in a crisis – hindsight and reflection show a hodge podge of caring and concern.

Without going into details, it is suffice to say that tragedy was averted and things are on the path back to control and calm.  I am thankful for my friends and my adult children who perform at their best and illustrate it finely at the peak of a crisis.  When the perfect storm hits, I want them in my lifeboat! They are the cream that rises to the top in a bucket of milk (my analogy of society).

As in nature, there is always an equal opposite – in this case, those who are selfish defenders of their ego. Such narcissism becomes clear in the midst of such crisis.  They go about their everyday life in a self-centered fashion and expect everyone and everything to be at their disposal and circle around them as the sun in their own existence.   It matters not what is happening in a crisis or who is in need, what matters is that their personal ego remains intact and they still look good to the world.  If there is any chance to swoop into the center of the storm and seem a hero, it is this minority of people who will do so.

bell curve in natureI am sure you have seen this in your own life. It is like a bell curve of society – with outliers outside the majority of the general population.

At the one end, are the old souls in our lives who are like the cream that rises to the top – the giving, caring, unselfish souls who put everything on hold in a crisis to help out those in need.  Out of 100 people, there are probably 2-3 of these incredible souls, and I always feel graced to be among them.  It is these rare souls that you want in your lifeboat when the main boat is sinking.

Then there is bulk of the curve – regular, everyday, imperfect human beings who do their best to help out in a crisis, but do not really have any idea what to do. Their comfort zone seldom goes beyond normal, everyday life, and they wait for someone else to lead when a crisis occurs. This group is like the gallon of ordinary milk, and they are the main fabric of our society.  They will remain civilized (in most cases) but will still shove their way into a waiting lifeboat (so that they survive).

The other “tail” of the bell curve extreme has the selfish takers (you have met these I am sure) who push to the front of the lifeboat line because they are so loved that society could not run without them (in their mind’s eye!)  They are the squeaky wheels who get the grease (so to speak) in our society… the ones who use the shoulder lane to get ahead in a traffic jam and figure that their time is more important than anyone else’s or who cheat the system because they feel that their superior intelligence/beauty/talent affords them special rights.  It is these people who rock the lifeboats to the extent that they would push everyone else out if it meant their appearance is at stake.  Often these are the charismatic show boats in our society who mask their deep insecurities through pontification and puffery.  I do not know where they fit in my analogy of a bucket of milk, but perhaps they are the bacteria in our societal bucket – sometimes good and sometimes bad.  If such people choose to give positively (at their convenience and comfort) it is a bonus, but always unexpected.  Their history is spotty at best, and often life is better when they are absent. Thank goodness, I have more cream than bacteria in my family.

creamThis week will be emotionally challenging as we pick up the pieces after the crisis.  I stand steadfastly in support of my loved one and will do everything humanly possible to stay visibly and emotionally present in the coming days.  I will be a steadfast and positive support – no matter what.  I am happy to have cream in my milk bucket (my family) – especially my daughter who has been a blessing through all of this.  My son is also a courageous giver for whom I give eternal thanks that he has graced our family.

Please keep me in your thoughts and send positive energy this week as the cream, the milk, and even the bacteria makes its way (so to speak) to pasteurization and good health.

To your health and prosperity!

Carol

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Who benefits from nonsensical advice?

9 Nov

Twice in the last week I’ve encountered strangers offering advice… that seems to serve no useful purpose. Perhaps you can offer comments to help me make sense of the motivation if I share the experiences with you?

1. An overzealous student from one of my project management classes called me to tell me that his company had chosen another instructor from my company to teach their classes (he is not involved with the decision) and belabored the fact that the chosen instructor was male and an excellent instructor (as am I). After a few minutes of listening to his meandering comments, I asked him what could I do about the situation ( a corporate preference for another instructor) and he had no answer.  I thanked him for his “insights” and told him that I was terminating the call because there was no point to the conversation.  Aside from knowing that this person had a personal interest to talk to me, I do not understand the motivation to tell me something I already knew and can do nothing to change.  What do you think?

2. Aboard a United airlines flight home today, I asked for a tomato juice, and received a surprising response from the flight attendant. He said “Are you serious?  Do you know how much sodium is in tomato juice? I had a passenger have a heart attack after drinking 3 tomato juices last week.”  I was taken aback and returned to my seat with the “poisonous” drink in hand.  Again, I don’t understand the motivation behind such a comment coming from a non-clinically trained stranger.

Do you think that more people are dispensing unsolicited advice today?  It sure seems like it to me. What’s been your experience?

Happy Tuesday.

Carol

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Caring FOR someone versus Taking Care OF…

3 Nov

Have you ever discovered new wisdom by simply taking a close look at words in a sentence?  This week I stumbled upon the subtle difference is the word term “Taking care of” and “Taking care for” someone.  When we have children, we take care OF them until they are able to take care of themselves – and hopefully this coincides with adulthood!

However, when we are talking about independent adults, we can only take care FOR them!  What I mean by this is that we can give loved ones our well-intentioned advice, our love, and our caring, but only they can take care OF themselves.  Behaviors are always the responsibility of the individual (unless rendered incapable such as someone confined with Alzheimer’s or other affliction).

Our job is to take care OF ourself – our well-being, our feelings, our own happiness and no one else can do that for us (nor should we expect them to do so in the world of healthy relationships!)  I realize that in my co-dependent former relationship with the father of my adult children, there were unrealistic expectations that we would take care OF each other.  Now in a healthy emotional state, it is clear that our relationship was doomed from the onset – we can only ever take care OF ourselves and hope that in a loving relationship someone cares FOR us.  When we expect someone else to take care OF us – we will never be happy.

Today, I do not expect nor would I ever want anyone outside of me to take care OF me!  It is my responsibility to take care OF me, and if someone in my future comes along who would care FOR me (i.e., love me as  a partner not as a co-dependent taker), that will be an interesting and unexpected surprise.  But no matter, taking care OF myself is number one and will always be.

One snippet I read some time ago stated that we need to keep OUR cookie jar full (in other words satisfy our own needs) first before we care FOR others!  Too often (especially as women) we are taught to make sure that everyone else’s needs are satisfied first and there is no one left to take care when we need anything. We need to take care OF our needs first – similar to the safety announcements on airplanes that say “put on your own (oxygen) mask first BEFORE assisting others.”

Just some food for thought.  Take care OF yourself, and then take care FOR others.  (Not the other way around!)

Wishing you a happy hump day (Wednesday)!

Carol

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