Archive | January, 2012

Surviving in 2012 – Practice the P word…

29 Jan

How many times do you hear people lament at the end of a day with “I really need a drink (or a break or a massage or ______ …fill in the blank)” ?

Our days are increasingly filled with hours of stop and go traffic, rush-rush-rush, hurry up and wait, dropped cellphone calls, disconnects and misconnects, voice mails, emails, texts, and interruptions – hardly what our founding fathers (and mothers) would have imagined.

Is there a key to putting aside the hustle-and-bustle so that we can enjoy moments of zen (happiness and peace) during the day?

I believe the answer lies in the “P” word – Patience – a word celebrated and recommended by formal religions, self-help gurus, and philosophers throughout the centuries.  You might find it puzzling to know that past generations would be impatient (after all, life was so much slower in years gone by), but since the beginning of time, Patience has eluded us.

Life today is increasingly complex and runs at nanosecond speed, and impatience prevails.  Its results are not pretty as it manifests  into such negative outcomes as:

  • road rage (impatience with other drivers),
  • disgruntled employees (impatience with bosses),
  • robberies (impatience with one’s finances),
  • divorce (impatience with a partner),
  • fights (impatience with another or a situation),
  • restraining orders (impatient outbursts),
  • among others.

Impatience can be an autonomous reaction (without pause or thought) to a trigger or situation.

Patience on the other hand is a deliberate response to the same situation.  Patience calms the mind, quiets the soul, soothes frayed nerves, and allows us to focus on what we can control – such as our response.

Patience can be difficult (especially in stressful situations) – but can become natural through conscious practice.  Patience is similar to remaining calm in the midst of a storm, and in today’s “stormy” world – we have more than enough opportunities to practice!

What do you think?  Do you agree that the P word – patience – is an important survival tip?

Win/Lose or Win/Win… It’s all up to us

26 Jan

Am I the only one who is dismayed by the Win/Lose or “win at another’s expense” mentality today? Is it just I who does not understand the celebrations of “good fortune” gained by taking advantage?

Today, calamities like foreclosures, unemployment, disease, layoffs, deaths, tornadoes and other misfortunes are not personal or predictable – yet to listen to those who benefit from other’s losses, you’d think there must be skill in avoiding these.  Today you can be on the sunny side of the street (financially or otherwise), and tomorrow you can be down and out.  While lifetime employment used to be the norm, today millions of unemployed say otherwise.  No longer are personality, work ethics or  skills enough to stay employed – with so many Americans out of work through no fault of their own, it could just as easily be you or me!

Yet our press favors the 1% rich or those who act like them, as “winners” and disregards everyone else.  (Perhaps this sells more papers.)  For example, headlines celebrated the good fortunes of condominium bidders who “earned” a property with bids less than 10% of what owners paid for the same properties only 4 years ago.  “Properties bought for a mere $7500 that sold for over $50,000 in 2007,” boasted the article.    What about the homeowners who lost the properties in foreclosures and whose dreams of home ownership (let alone life savings) were shattered by job loss and foreclosure proceedings?  When someone wins and someone loses, our society suffers.  Sure, one side wins financially at the expense of the other, – but I believe society ends up with a net loss in terms of morale, stress, and fallout of family breakups.  (The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that the 50% US divorce rate was actually 75% here in Florida.  I wonder if there is any relationship with FL’s unemployment figures…) How does it affect our societal health when a segment of society takes advantage of others left foraging for their necessities.

A couple of weeks ago, the same newspaper described how hundreds of homeowners in Florida used a loophole to pocket insurance proceeds for vacations and luxuries intended for home sinkhole repairs.  Fraud perhaps, but legal according to Florida law – and the “proud” recipients beamed at readers from full-size photos.  The insurance premiums of all Floridians will increase because of these wins.

I believe that the universe has infinite capacity for abundance when it comes to prosperity and positive energy.  Witness the upward energy amplification that enthusiasm and optimism can generate in a crowd!  There is no indication that the universe needs to balance prosperity with misery or wins with losses.  Win /win situations lead to openness, innovation, creativity, health and increased fortunes for all.

Perhaps there is some pleasure in taking advantage?  It is really a win when success comes at the expense of a corporation, government or people.  Does it matter that it is not illegal?  Can society gain when some bend moral values to justify unethical behavior?  When winning comes at the price of an unfair (or unscrupulous) advantage is it really a superiority of wit, skill or intelligence that prevailed? More often than not – it is sheer luck or opportunity that separates the winners from losers… and if the win/loss mentality continues much longer, we will all pay the price.

Win/Win events give us Hope…

Tonight, in a departure from regular news, a network broadcast featured the story of our local Gulfport, FL idea to assist one of its own. This coming Saturday, instead of following the Win/Loss trend, neighbors are gathering at one resident’s house to repair damage from a kitchen fire, clear brush, and in the words of the homeowner “do in one day what it would take me two years to do.”  It was uplifting and motivating to listen to both the recipient and the helpers talk about the plans.  Participants are donating time, supplies, skills and equipment – all of which will create a Win/Win situation for both the homeowner and the community. 

Why are there not more Win/Wins?  It all starts with an idea, a wish for a better future, and a willingness to give rather than take for oneself.  Win/Lose may be primitive capitalism, but Win/Win benefits all.

What do YOU think?

Recovery from Childhood – a Lifelong Journey…

24 Jan

I am a big believer in The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and his recent book The Fifth Agreement.  In summary, don Miguel teaches us to get over the seemingly innocent agreements we entered into and made (often unconsciously) in early life.  We accepted these in childhood as a done deal imposed by parents with the noble intent of “domesticating” us into submission and assimilation into a civil society.

Our parents typically raised us in the same way they were, without consideration that such ways might not prepare us to deal with the disappointments and realities of adult life.  Case in point:  life is not fair, and there are no guarantees of respectful treatment, yet many of us learned to follow the Golden Rule.  Others were taught (especially females) to take care of others first and foremost (see my previous post Put on Your Own Mask First for more about this…)  These concepts don’t hold in adult world where others are focused on self-interests (as well they should.)

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement are worthwhile investments for anyone seeking to understand relationships – especially because both books explain how to work with others and ourselves in daily life.  I love the writings and the works!

In spite of studying and practicing The Four Agreements (1. Live with Integrity; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Never assume (ask questions instead); and 4. Always do your best) – I face challenges to overcome “childhood teachings”- even though decades separate me from those years.  Moreover, in talking to friends both older and younger, I am not alone!

Why is it that we spend the first 15-20 years learning how to live (childhood) and the rest of our life overcoming the same?

Some people do not have childhood baggage.  I know people whose childhoods abounded with unconditional love and acceptance, and their parents treated them as the apple(s) of their eyes. As a result, one friend has so much self-esteem that co-workers tire of her incredibly healthy self-image!  Unfortunately, I think that this situation is more the exception than the rule.

Is there ever a point when our parents can no longer get under our skin, or when they are no longer the voices in our heads?

Even though I am middle-aged, I routinely get emails from my father chiding me for not calling enough (I call every week), emailing enough (I respond and send emails all the time), thanking enough for gifts (no matter that I have).  These emails bother me, and it bothers me that they bother me!  I should be used to the treatment by now… and one would think I would stop hoping for acceptance!

As an accomplished professional, I know that I am a great person – so why would I still hold out hope that my father will someday notice this?  As a child, I learned that 97% was never good enough – it was always 3% short of the perfection that meant acceptance.

Why do we keep hoping for change in others even when we know that we can only change ourselves?  Why do grown women seek approval from judgmental fathers (and often marry similar men)?  Why do grown men keep hoping they will buy that perfect gift for an unapproving mother?  Why do we strive to make our parents proud long after it shouldn’t matter?

I know that parental love is expressed by pointing out shortfalls and faults, yet I still hold onto the dream that someday just being ME will be enough.  I’m not alone in the lifetime journey of recovering from childhood and some people have it much worse. I read about similar struggles on blogs, in discussions, and in listening to friends and colleagues worldwide!

I am optimistic as I watch my son and daughter-in-law raising two daughters in a loving, accepting and supportive home, and it warms my heart as they show their princesses unconditional love.  Even so, I wonder if anyone has a childhood from which they do not seek to recover.

Wishing you a peaceful week where you experience self-love and an ongoing recovery as you move forward in your life!

Carol

Tolerance for Divas? Not on my watch…

23 Jan

Is it just me or are there more “diva” women around than ever before?  I am noticing that there are more “women behaving badly” who act like spoiled two-year olds with their women friends.  Often, such women attribute their abhorrent behavior to “going through a divorce” or “I’m in a bad place” as rationale for mistreating tolerant and giving friends.

I do realize that men treat women badly, and women treat men badly, but today I want to talk about women who treat non-romantic, purely platonic friends poorly – just because they can get away with it.   This came up on my radar again today when one of my best  friends called me to talk about a situation that arose over the weekend.  One of her women friends yelled at her in a parking lot and she wanted my opinion on whether she deserved it.  After listening to her (the story follows), I realized that she was subjected to “diva treatment” at the hands of said-friend and it was totally unwarranted.   As I listened to her relay how she was embarrassed, amazed,  and ultimately saddened by the way her friend treated her, I thought about how I have endured similar treatment by women who at one time I had also considered friends.

Here’s the story:

  1. Jess (my friend) went out with Tracey (the one I’m calling a diva) to a beach bar for a drink before going to a party, and after ordering a drink, Tracey decided she was bored with the selection of men and wanted to leave. Jess had just started to enjoy her drink and told Tracey that she wanted to finish it first. (Diva infraction #1: Jess didn’t immediately follow Tracey’s request to leave.)
  2. When they got to the party, Tracey got a phone call from her boyfriend who wanted to meet her at another place, and Tracey told Jess they had to leave immediately. Jess told Tracey that they had just arrived at the party and she wanted to stay for a few minutes to talk to a few friends they had come to see.  (Diva infraction #2: Jess asserted her right to talk to others.)
  3. When they left, (Tracey stood by the door pouting until Jess was ready to leave 15 minutes later), Tracey blew up at Jess in the parking lot yelling that Jess was self-centered, selfish and really didn’t know how to be a friend!  Classic “diva” behavior!

Now if these were middle-school pubescent teens, one might forgive such an outburst, but these were mid-forties women dressed to the nines going out for a couple of drinks on a Saturday night.  If it was an isolated incident, maybe one could attribute it to an error in judgment.  But this isn’t isolated behavior – it is classic, spoiled, mid-life diva-esque behavior on the part of those who never grew up.  Unfortunately, those of us who were taught to tolerate others often forgive this type of behavior until it spirals out of control.  As a result, we end up having to release such toxic friendships, with the result being a smaller and smaller cadre of friends to hang out with.

In the end, my friend Jess was disheartened and asked what it was she did wrong; what had she done to incite Tracey’s outburst?  She even pondered what it was she did to “deserve” such treatment. (Jess is one of the most tolerant, and giving human beings I know!)  The answer is that it was not Jess’ fault for Tracey’s bad behavior and there is little she can do to prevent a future outburst (aside from trying to talk to Tracey about how she feels.)  More than likely, Tracey has always gotten away with such tantrums and sees her behavior as “normal”.

I had a friend Lisa this past year who was just like Tracey – she would leave any occasion the minute that she was not 100% entertained or if the men in the room did not adore her “accoutrements” (she used to tell me that “any guy who does not stare at my chest must be gay”). It became too much of a burden to tolerate her diva behavior: she bored way too quickly, was entirely self-absorbed, and she would abandon me the minute a good-looking potential boyfriend walked into the room.  I realize that there are simply too many middle-aged “divas” looking for new friends they can abuse and I am simply no longer up for it.  Saddly, there are others like my friend Jess who are finding out the same thing (even though this was the first major blow-up at Tracey’s hands.)

It occurred to me that women often treat their “friends” much worse than others would tolerate, and it is those of us who are givers (and over-givers!) who suffer the most at the hands of these “divas”.  We misguidedly take responsibility (and blame) for the bad and immature behavior of others – and it has nothing to do with us!

As Jess and I talked, I thought about a stand of trees in a forest – some trees tall and strong, others tall and brittle, others large and looming.  The trees that are strong and tall simply bend and sway in strong winds without complaint. The tall and brittle ones tolerate minimal wind with branches snapping at the slightest breeze.  Jess and I and Tracey and Lisa and other women are all part of a similar forest.

Some of us have grown up to learn to tolerate the tirades and verbal abuse of others – and we learn over time that wind and storms are not about us – they simply surround us.  Others, have somehow grown up to feel they are privileged to deserve special, sheltered treatment and who blow up at the slightest breeze.  Most often, these “divas” justify their right to snap and behave badly by blaming others for even the smallest breeze.

Going forward, I believe that as women, we need to stand up for the givers among us and say “no more!” to the divas who treat us poorly. Slowly we can hopefully change the world…even if it is one diva at a time.

p.s., Here’s a link to the Self-esteem: Personal  bill of rights – a great reminder that we deserve great treatment from others – especially ourselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Zw99gPKvs

Have a great week!

Carol

Gaslighting – A message to Women from a Man: You are not “crazy”

12 Jan

I seldom write a column that purely features another’s post, but today is an exception.  I came across the following Huffington Post article and it resonated so well with me that I have to share it with you.  It is called:

A message to women from a man:  You are not “crazy”

A few excerpts follow below…  I am intrigued by the article for a couple of reasons:  1. The author (from his name and photograph) does not seem to be of Western descent which makes his candid (and true) observations even more relevant and powerful based on traditional views of women outside of the west; and 2. I have no idea why it would take another male to tell me that I was never crazy (or why I ever believed that I was crazy when males I loved needed a scapegoat for their bad behavior.)

Here’s an excerpt from Yashir Ali’s post:

A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

WOW – OMG – holy crap!!!  And I say that in all honesty!

I do not have a litany of male relationships in my past on which to draw (my father, a 23 year marriage that ended in divorce, a 5 year relationship, dates here and there) – but all of them (and I’ll include my mother here) – told me that I was overly sensitive, irrational, and crazy should I ever address or question what my heart told me was bad behavior.  The statement above confirms what I always thought but never dared to speak:  emotional manipulation is about the sender and their need to cover for bad behavior.  It really has nothing to do with the receiver!

What is it in “our” (at least my) female DNA that reduces and diminishes powerful business women (like me) to a whimpering mess when a significant male in our personal lives repeatedly tells us we are crazy?  Why do we believe things about our person as being true just because someone we love spews vitriol at us?  We are forces to be reckoned with and have taken our places aside men in the professional world – and thrived! – yet we are reduced to tears (and accept the treatment) in our personal life by males who we would easily challenge (or report for abusive behavior) if we met them in business.

Why do we so readily give away our power, override our intuition, and accept lies from people when we fall in love?  More and more I believe in the adage:

Love IS blind!

Another excerpt:

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

Do me a favor, read the article here,

A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”

and let me know what YOU think.

I feel relieved to know that I am not alone with the emotional manipulation of my past, however, it pains me to know that it may be so prevalent that it might be an epidemic!

I wonder if we attract dysfunctional people into our lives… and whether there is hope for the future.  I can only speak for myself but I know that I am hypersensitive to anyone who walks, acts or in anyway resembles my exes.

What do you think?

Carol

The top 10 affirmations for 2012… The “Royal We” Checklist

2 Jan

2012 is already starting to be an awesome year – and it’s only two days old!

Instead of having a list of resolutions about what I want to change about myself and my current situation, I want to follow my advice about self-love by practicing what I preach.  In other words, “walking the talk”, doing what I say I am going to do, being consistent and living with integrity – well, you get it.

A bit of background…

I spent most of my life being told:rear view mirror

  • what to believe (a strict no-questions religious upbringing),
  • how to feel (“Carol, you should feel happy about …”),
  • how to dress (vanity is the work of the devil),
  • why I do what I do (“you are purposely making me late so that you will make me embarrassed”),
  • how to be a friend (“you have to be a friend to have a friend” – ignoring the fact that I had any rights in any relationship not to put up with verbal or other abuse!),
  • how much others loved me (“I’m only telling you this for your own best interests because I love you so much”), and
  • how much more they knew about me (“I know you better, Carol, than you know yourself”),
  • and so much more, and the worst part of it all was that

I believed them and allowed these people in my inner circle of life to override my intuition and self-love.

For most of my life, I put more credence into what others purported (and sometimes yelled to insist) to know about me, that I became invisible. In my personal life, I became the amorphous amoeba-like people pleaser that everyone else wanted me to be, and in the process, I fell-asleep to the wonderful, incredible, creative person who is me.

I woke up six years ago (and am happily divorced!) and have been on a path to self-discovery and acquainting myself with the Royal We (me, myself, and I) from whom I have withheld true love since birth.  It has been too long without self-love!

2012 is the Year for Us!

2012 is going to be my year of affirmation and true love for the Royal We, and because of this goal I am already a happier, healthier person.  I share my Royal We checklist with you in the hopes that your journey of self-love can advance to a place where you can become the great person you already are (and just don’t yet know!)

The Royal We Checklist

1. WAKE-UP:  Did I begin the day truly thankful to be in the company of the Royal We?  Did I thank myself for one great characteristic that I am proud to have?

2. GOOD MORNING!  Did I look at myself in the mirror and notice at least one great physical attribute? (I love how my eyes sparkle!)

3. PUTTING ME INTO THE DAY:  Have I planned my day to include at least one totally selfish, self-indulgent pleasure that I can do without anyone else? (It can be as simple as walking down to the seashore for 5 minutes because I live near the water or making sure that I look up at dusk to enjoy the sunsets that I so love!)

4. CHOOSE TO SHARE UNCONDITIONALLY: It is MY choice throughout the day whether or not to share a great aspect of the Royal We with anyone else – to give, to smile, to complement, to help, to be courteous – and if so, it is my gift to the world without conditions or strings attached.  If others choose not to receive or accept graciously, or reciprocate, that is THEIR choice and it has nothing to do with the value of my gift.

5. STOP THE GUILT programming from the past about anything in the present by affirming that the Royal We have rights!  We have the right to our own earned income (the Royal We works hard), good food (yes, we deserve to indulge in our favorite cheese even if it is more expensive), good friends (who respect us and affirm us) and great experiences that  we can afford.  The life I am living today with the Royal We is the only life we have.

6. THE ROYAL WE COMES FIRST!  Remind myself that I am the only one who can or ever should put the Royal We FIRST!  It was a lie that I was taught to put others first and that then others will put me first – it is not the way that life works!  It is a right of life that I should “put on my own mask first” before helping others… and it is about time that this becomes instinctual! (Sidenote: it is not a reflection on oneself when you have to terminate a “friendship” or other relationship that is toxic or off-balance or providing no value… it is a reflection on the incapability of the other person to be a friend to us.)

7. CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY ALONE WITH THE ROYAL WE.  We are on this earth to be happy – to make heaven on earth… yet so many others attempt to make it a living hell for themselves and others!  I choose to be happy today and everyday – content with the satisfaction that I am always in the great company of the Royal We!

8. LOSE THE ANTICIPATION and expectation of anyone outside of the Royal We. While “we” grew up with the Golden Rule and a giving nature, it is not an universal belief.  The only change I can make in life is about me – not about anyone else, and THAT IS OKAY!

9. STAY COGNIZANT THAT WE ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN BEHAVIOR. When others behave badly, as they inevitably will – it is THEIR responsibility (not ours) to clean up the mess without our involvement!  Just as we must take ownership of our own doings, others are responsible for:

  • their actions (yelling, berating, ranting),
  • their words (especially when negative, disempowering, disrespectful),
  • their tantrums (stomping, screaming, pouting, silent treatment),
  • their lack of support, and
  • their judgments!

When the person in question is over the biological age of 2, remember to be thankful that we have the Royal We to hang out with.

 10. LOVE THE ROYAL WE COMPLETELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY!  I am reminded of the mom-ism (a saying from my mother): “remember wherever you go, there you are!”  Finally at this awakened point in my life — I am truly grateful this is true.

WE, (The Royal We, that is) are going to have an incredible year and we hope that you do too!  Happy 2012!

Carol

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