Archive | April, 2011

Books, books, and more books…

25 Apr

Are you like me and love books?

I didn’t realize how many books I owned until I started to clean out my bookshelves because I anticipate a move later this year.  So far, I’ve donated over 100 hardcover books to Friends of the Library (a non-profit resale endeavor) and have another 100 ready to go.  And I won’t be finished donating even then (and I’ll still have at least as many books on my shelves!)

I have always loved books.

There is something special about turning high quality pages that a Kindle just cannot capture.  Most commonly, my books are positive and forward thinking books non-fiction, and as I take each one down from its shelf and consider whether to keep it or donate it, I often remember where and when I purchased it.

For some of the books, the keep or give decision is easy – my grown children outgrew my need for parenting books. For others, the decision is not so easy – such as the books on gardening that I haven’t cracked open for years, but which topic remains an interest.  Cookbooks are similar – I used to love cooking, but my interests waned for a number of reasons, and now that I live a single life, I don’t find joy in cooking solo (aside from the fact that recipes are often for larger quantities than one.)

Did you know that close to a million books are published annually by the top 10 book writing nations? 

The USA is first, followed by England, each with over 250,000 books published yearly. That’s a lot of original thought and intellectual capital being expended every year!  And for me, it only takes a few well written words to convince me that there are new ideas everyday!

Books have been a faithful companion on my life’s journey.  Unlike the internet, where anyone with a mouse can add their opinion everywhere, authors take care to craft their message for their audience.  And on more than one occasion, I have wondered just how an author could have known my life because their messages felt like they especially crafted for me.  Melody Beattie, Patricia Evans, Cheri Huber, don Miguel Ruiz and others were such authors for me.  Shared experiences reassure me that my perceptions and ideas are as sound as I know they are!

What is your experience with books?  Do you like reading online (such as with a Kindle) or do you prefer the old-fashioned low-tech books?  What would your life be like without books?

Have a good week!

Carol

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Alone but not Lonely…

22 Apr

I waited literally months and months to be able to proudly announce this!

This is not to say that I’m finished my journey towards full acceptance that being alone is a choice and an honor to myself, but rather to announce to myself that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am.

When I got divorced five years ago after an adulthood of being married, I looked around to find that most of my friends were acquaintances who live around the world (that is still true), or neighbors who weren’t really friends (my next door neighbors allowed my ex-husband to live with them for six months after the divorce), and local “friends” who chose sides and were unavailable to me.

wildflowersI felt totally alone for the first time in my life (having grown up with 4 siblings, this was a rare occurrence) – and the isolation and loneliness felt like it was going to swallow me whole.  At the time, I yearned for friendship and the company of anyone who would share a coffee with me!

You’ve probably heard that the universe (or God) seldom gives you more than you can handle – and that all good things come to those who wait – and in retrospect, I have to agree. I would never wish the isolation and utter loneliness I felt on anyone – yet I know that loneliness can be a state of mind as much as a circumstance.

As an extrovert, being alone was not a natural state, but today I applaud the solitude and refreshment that comes from loving one’s own company.  Today I CHOOSE friends who reciprocate my giving, and I no longer tolerate people who use me.  I realize that I deserve people in my life who respect and honor me – and I am cutting out people who do not.

For the first time in my life, I honor that  my new best friend (me) deserves only the best treatment from others – and I will not accept anything less on her behalf!

This wasn’t always the way – when I loved others more than I loved myself, I would end up giving others more than I gave myself and I felt sad that the reciprocity simply wasn’t there.  Now, I realize that the only one who will ever take care for me is me!  You can never be lonely when you are happy to be together in your own company!

Do you agree with me?

My message to you with this post is this:  If you feel lonely in your own company, commit to changing your outlook – one day at a time. 

In other words, commit to becoming your own best friend and finding fun and happiness with him/her.  You will be the only friend you’ll find who is guaranteed not to leave you!

My journey has taken five years (and I’m still traveling) – but it has been well worth the hills, mountains, valleys and swamps I’ve traversed to get here.  There are still days when I recall my daughter’s words after the divorce:  “Mom, you have to walk through fire for a long time to get to the other side, but it WILL be worth it!”  She is too wise for her 27 years!

Begin with becoming your own best friend and cheerleader – today!  Learn to celebrate the great things about you, yourself and you (sidenote: The Royal We is “me, myself, and I”!)

Start by writing down (get a pen and paper right now) 50 things you like about you- or are grateful for… and keep the list with you. 

How often have you thanked yourself for who you are?  Start with saying “thank you for being…” and watch the difference it makes,

Or try the third person technique:  if you can’t get to 10 quickly, pretend that you were looking back at your life and writing about yourself in the third person.  (Here’s an example:  Carol is an eloquent and passionate speaker.  Carol cares about people more than things…)

When you focus on becoming your own best friend, self-love emanates from within and you’ll become happier by the day (no matter what your external circumstances).  Being alone and not lonely is one of the greatest gifts my divorce has given me – I love being with myself, and I am truly grateful for who I am – for me.

Wishing you a happy weekend, whether you spend it alone with your new best friend (YOU!) or the company of others!

Best,
Carol
p.s. It is EARTH DAY today… I am grateful that YOU are on this earth and reading this!


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Balancing what I know with what I don’t…

20 Apr

In many ways I feel like I am living a “Benjamin Buttons” life

(a reference to the circa 2009 movie of the same name where a baby was born as an old man and progressively got younger as he chronologically aged).  I married young, had two wonderful children in my 20’s, and now enjoy a single life where I love myself, appreciate good friends, and am grateful for health, work, career and a happy life.

In many ways I feel like I’m living my 20’s today – I have the freedom I never had when I was married or raising children to go out whenever and wherever – and I love it.

Along with my youthful outlook is maturity, and I realize just how much I do not know about life or the world!  Maybe that is the beauty of my current life and my place in it!  I know what I know (professional expertise) and I am learning everyday that there is so much that I don’t know (and maybe never will).

  • I know that friends come and go, but I don’t know when new ones will come and old ones will leave.  Somehow there is always a balance of good friends that is just short of 5 at any one time.
  • I know that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be fair or balanced.  I have no idea why this is so.
  • I know that it is more than okay to be me and to love being so!  Since I am not a child, I do not understand why others seek to change me (for my own good.)
  • I know that I am a giving and generous person (who often put others first to my detriment).  I do not know (and am learning that it doesn’t matter) what others think of me.
  • I know that my perceptions and feelings are valid, just are those of others. I do not know or purport to know what goes on in anyone else’s head.
  • I used to think I knew about love, and now I know that I know nothing at all.
  • I know that I know very little about human behavior aside from my own.
  • I know that I do not like conflict, loss, confrontation, accusations or cruelty.  And I know that there are people who do.
  • I know not to take things that people do or say to me personally (it is more about them and their experience), but it still feels personal. I do not know how to perfect this practice.
  • I know that I will never be able to predict (with any accuracy or precision) the reactions of others.
  • I know that girlfriends are the joy and stability of life.
  • I know that there are reasons that people from my past did not make it into my present.
  • I know that mean doesn’t go away and fortunately, neither does nice.
  • I know that friends can be the family we CHOOSE for ourselves.
  • I know that there is no guarantee that siblings will be friends.
  • I know that people are always surprising – sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad.
  • I know that change is the natural state.  I do not know how to make more of the good things last longer and the bad ones disappear.
  • I know that for every “get rich quick” scheme there are people who were taken.
  • I know that I am grateful for the people, places, pets, nature, parents, children, and friends who grace my life today.
  • I know that they will not always be there tomorrow.
  • I know that I don’t know what I don’t know…

When I was younger, I used to think I knew more about life than I did not.  Today I think just the opposite.  Maybe that is a sign of maturity – or maybe it is proof that I am young at heart!  And I am quite happy to know that I have so much more to learn.

Have a good week!

Carol

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Loving and Losing… it’s never easy for me

15 Apr

I have to tell you

that I wasn’t always a pet person, but someone who used to be important in my life convinced me that pets would be a good way to teach children about love and loss.  They may have been right.

I haven’t thought about the statement for over 20 years, but I remembered it today as I lost yet another beloved pet.  In recalling the past (I wanted to save my children from the eventual pain of a pet dying and was overridden), I realized that day was my first foray into pet ownership.    I realize that, even as an adult, I don’t know if I will ever get used to the losing part of the equation. As I look back at my life (beyond pets too) I ponder the saying “Is it better to have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all?” – I can’t say I know the answer.

Today came unexpectedly (which was different from the gradual demise of two dogs and an old-age kitty within the last 3 years) – my little female sugar glider was lethargic and I took her into the vet thinking it was just malaise of some sort.  When the bad news came that she was dehydrated and would have only a 10-15% chance of surviving a necessary surgery, I said a tearful goodbye and she was euthanized.  I cried in the office, I cried in my car, and I’m crying as I write this.  Crazy? Perhaps, but she was the cutest, most gentle little creature and a mate to my little male, and I loved her.  And, I believe she loved me back.

As a short aside, I came into sugar glider “parenting”  9 years ago- just a few months after my daughter gifted one to her boyfriend as a birthday present.  Somehow, he (the sugar glider not the boyfriend) ended up living with me and I’ve been in love with the little creatures since.  Up until today, I had a fixed pair of sugar gliders (they do well in pairs when one is fixed) who were halfway through their expected 15-year lifespan.

I know that loss is a part of life…but

I just can’t seem to get used to it.  I understand that every living thing evolves, changes, moves away, grows up, dies, becomes another person or simply disengages – and I can accept that easily when love is not involved.  It’s the loss part that inevitably comes with loving pets, people, friends, lovers, where I have a problem.

It seems like I am on a “losing streak” these days having lost two dogs, one cat and one sugar glider in the space of less than three years; along with several “toxic friendships” (all take and no give) that I no longer could accept.

Pets are wonderful — when you give them love, they love you back unconditionally – wow, I like that.  But the pain of loss makes me wonder sometimes whether the loving part is worth it.

Okay, now I’m not talking just about pets anymore. I think it applies to friends, family, husbands, wives, lovers, people everywhere!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I believe in reciprocal love. I think that we can love, but we really cannot ever expect that love to be reciprocated.  One of my favorite sayings is:  Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option – and I am learning to apply it to all types of relationships.  (I haven’t yet perfected this – I still get fooled into relationships now and again, but I’m getting more savvy at taking care of me first!)

I know I have the capacity and the goodness to love other people, I just don’t think it necessarily ever comes back.  When I am there for someone when he/she needs support, when I give fully of myself and become vulnerable, when I really love someone, I have to realize that it will someday result in a loss – AND – furthermore, it may not be reciprocal.  I wonder if the emotion of feeling like you are “in love” and feeling like such love is reciprocated is really worth it in the end.

With half of marriages ending in divorce, and many like mine were wake up calls after being married to the wrong person for half my life, and with so many people fixated on changing others, I wonder why anyone bothers to invest in love at all.

Or, maybe  my experience with “love” was really not love at all.  If love means that someone else accepts and supports you unconditionally, without defenses or conditions, then perhaps I have never been loved.  Maybe the “expectation” that love should be reciprocal or kind is simply misguided on my part!

I do believe that I have experienced pockets of love in my life – I believe that my parents, my children, my pets, a few close friends, and myself DO love me and I am truly blessed with them all.  Any other expectations of love, as I am feeling today, are simply beyond reality – and I can deal with that.  People choose to love or not, and I am learning to watch people’s actions over the “I love you” words.

Am I alone in my feelings towards love and loss?  At this point, I’m not sure loving anew would ever be worth the loss down the road.  What do you think?

p.s., Rest in peace little glider… I miss you.

Have a great weekend all!

Carol

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I never used to…

4 Apr

It’s a funny thing how the past invades our present. Even with our best intentions of living in the present (like “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, our brains are hardwired with memories of the past.

I find this coming to bear when I hear my inner voice saying “I never used to…” do/say/feel/think. Does this happen to you?

Perhaps this is how our soul tells us we are moving forward to become the person we are intended to be!   It is a way of tracking the positive changes in our lives!  (At least it is for me.)

When I hear a voice telling me “I never used to…” I know that I am growing!

Here’s my list of things “I never used to… (do)”

Examine friendships: In the past I would most of the work to nurture a friendship or relationship even when it was toxic. Today I know friendship is a give-and-take and it is up to me to “choose” whether to be friends with those who simply take.

Think BEFORE I buy (especially something is on sale); Today I realize that a “bargain” holds true only for things I will actually use!

Be self-indulgent; In the past I always put my ex-husband and my children’s wants before my own.

Say no to others (especially when they used guilt); Today I choose to say no when saying yes would overburden me.

Forgive myself; I used to beat myself up over and over for shortcomings of the past.

Protect my dreams; today I know that even well-intentioned people say cruel things they don’t mean.

Walk away from abusive behavior; in the past I would stand there and take abuse because I thought I had to – today I walk away as soon as I recognize it.

Realize that mean adults become mean seniors and people don’t change when they grow old.

Realize that love doesn’t have to hurt. I now know that real love means acceptance – not trying to change another.  I am so grateful for the love of parents and children!

-Trust my intuition; Today when someone tells me I’m crazy and I know I am not, I can laugh at them!

Be happy alone! I used to believe that being with anyone was better than being alone – and now I love my company!

Pick myself first! It is a pre-cursor to loving others.

Love who I am. It’s taken a few years to outgrow the poor relationships I tolerated in the past, but today I know that my happiness comes from within.

A friend told me this week that we tolerate disrespect from others when our self-esteem is low.  How true!

Don’t allow toxic people to invade your well-being (even if they say they love you!) Respect yourself above all others and you’ll find love in return.

It has been an adjustment to live the life I was intentioned to live after so many years being married.  My daughter, wise beyond her 26 years, tells me “sometimes you have to walk through fire to get to a better place”!

As a well-seasoned fire walker in life, I have to agree!

Wishing you a happy week ahead!

Carol

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