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2011 in Quotes…

14 Dec

In my training classes, I use a lot of analogies to illustrate key concepts – sometimes with metaphors, other times by storytelling or “painting a picture” using language.

Analogously, 2011 for me can be described by a few relevent quotes… (which follow below).  I’d be interested to know if any of these ring true for you as well.

2011 in hindsight…

I will remember  2011 as a “revolving door” year.  It was a whirlwind of experiences as new and old people in my life interacted to form a patchwork quilt of experiences in love, friendship, career, work, finance, relationships, travel, challenges and fun.  While the “revolving door” represents the series of people, places and experiences that came, went, or lingered; sometimes the door revolved so fast it made my head spin.  I hope to finish the year ultimately ahead, but it was not an easy year.

As a year goes, 2011 was one of

  • Good (some great people such as my kids, my brother Dan, my parents, incredible true friends in Florida and around the world, and new acquaintances);
  • Bad (the incompetent “little boy” realtor and a “fake” friend who highly recommended him hoping to get a kickback; self-centered acquaintances and family; lawyers); and
  • Downright Ugly (hypocritical and greedy U.S. banks; in-your-face disrespectful building inspectors — beware if you need an inspector in Pinellas County FL!)

2011 in Quotes…

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go… Some people move our souls to dance, they awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom… Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our hearts for a while, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same…” — anonymous.

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn

“Life is a series of moments. To live each one is to succeed.”  – Corita Kent

“There comes a point in life when you realize who matters, who doesn’t, and those who never will. There is a reason that people from our past did not make it into our future.” – anonymous

The cure for boredom is curiosity… there is no cure for curiosity.” – Ellen Parr

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

This one is particularly true with the state of the world economy and how it interferes with some of our best laid plans for adventure:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”Mark Twain

And, finally one of my own:

I would rather be financially poor and emotionally rich, than the other way around… one can always print money.” – Carol Dekkers

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON WHEREVER YOU LIVE, WHATEVER YOU CELEBRATE…

and wishing you a 2012 filled with health, wealth, wisdom, and great adventures!

Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 3)

29 Nov

This is a follow-up to two postings I did in January 2011: Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 1) and Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2).  Now that it is almost the end of the year, I find myself with more thoughts, so I hope you will enjoy this latest installment.

SunsetDear Daughter,

You are so lovely and grown up, and it is a joy to watch you fulfill your hopes and dreams!  Godspeed to you and the wonderful life you have made.

As with my earlier posts, I hope that you do not mind the mom-isms below – take them or leave them as you will.  My purpose is simply to share with you some of my hard-learned lessons in the hopes that you might avoid some of my missteps.

If I repeat myself or seem to overemphasize certain points, please consider that my memory is not as sharp as it once was, and that it’s been several months since the last post to you. So here goes:

  • Follow your dreams!

When you set out on a path that leads to your dreams, do not be swayed by short-term failures, missteps or naysayers.  There will always be those who stand in your way of reaching your goals, (because they have their own ideas for you,) but they cannot live your life.  Friends, lovers, family, and others who do not support you may need to be set aside while you follow your dream. Some of these will pick up the pace and choose to support you – embrace them; others will continue to call out from behind – ignore them.  You need positive people in your life, not drama queens with their own agendas.

  • Do not stop doing something new out of fear

Fear of failure or of the unknown or fear of “what people will say” often are unfounded fears that stop us from doing exactly what we need to do (to move forward in our life).  We are raised in negativity (I apologize for continuing this cultural trend!) Did you know that by the time a child is two years old, on average he/she has heard the word “no” over 67,000 times?  This is not a good trend for later life! 

If you entertain thoughts about failure, balance them out with the joy of outstanding success — and you’ll find that the fear subsides.  And, if you hold a fear of “what people will say,” then you are not the daughter I know. You always try new things, challenge the boundaries, and succeed beyond all expectations.

This mom-ism is more intended for me!  I need to overcome my childhood where the constant reminder was “don’t do that – imagine what the neighbors will think!”  I now no longer care what my neighbors (or anyone else for that matter) think, and I relish in the independence and freedom that comes from this new insight.  I find that the best experiences in life come when you are doing what you want to do, not what others expect.

  • Be confident that you are exactly where you are meant to be

I love that you did not marry the first person you fell in love with, and that you are waiting until you find the right person (and are not settling for less!)  I also know that we do not choose who we fall in love with, but it is up to us to make sure that we take care of our own well-being first before we dive into a full relationship with such persons.  If someone you love wants to change “you” to suit their needs, know that this is not true love – it is controlled or conditional love.  The love that I wish for you is a love that is unconditional, pure, giving, and accepting, where you can keep up both yourself and your integrity.  The potential for co-dependence, unfortunately, came with your genes (I apologize!) and as with all hereditary traits, takes vigilance to keep at bay. You are a whole, complete, and perfect person just as you are, and your choice of a partner should complement the true you!

  • Forgiving does not mean forgetting

The saying that “forgiveness heals the forgiver” is absolutely true and I urge you to forgive as often as you can to stay emotionally sane in an insane world. People will disappoint, hurt, be cruel, and inflict pain on you – and often do so ignorantly or without caring about the impact on you.  The act of forgiveness allows you to move forward and realize another’s missteps, without necessarily allowing them back into the same place in your life.  Forgiveness means saying “I feel hurt by you, but I forgive you and can move on” but it does not mean “I will forget that you ever did this to me.”  Serial forgiveness of an habitual hurt is a different story — remember the adage “fool me once, shame on you… but fool me twice, shame on me” .  I believe this means that we should forgive an offender once (giving them the benefit of the doubt that it was an accidental occurrence), but a second time requires vigilance and a memory on our part.

Pride, arrogance, and vanity are not the same as self-esteem, yet they were interchangeable for many of our childhoods.  Self-esteem is confidence in oneself that comes from within, and cannot be gained from the approval of others.  If we encouraged our youth to have better self-esteem, we would see gang problems decrease (as people would no longer need gangs for approval) and bullying would drop dramatically if insecure people did not feel the need to prove themselves.

Safeguard your self-esteem and keep it fully charged – it is like the story of the cookie jar I’ve mentioned before. Keep your own cookie jar brimming with cookies (take care of your own needs first) before filling the cookie jars of others (giving your time and energy to others).  When you have high self-esteem, everyone benefits because you can give freely without resentment, and you can face disappointment because you understand that the reactions of others have nothing to do with you.

  • Relationships of all kinds depend on a symbiotic give and take

If you find yourself in a relationship (love, friendship, family) where you are giving or taking more than 50% over a long time, it’s time to re-evaluate whether the relationship is healthy for you.  When one person gives more than their share (more than half) and the other takes more, it is only a matter of time before resentment sets in. The giver will one day wake up to the fact that they have given too much and resent his or her own part in this over-giving and resent the other party (even if they love him or her) for over-taking.  Neither over-giving or over-taking is a healthy situation, and as a former over-giver I can attest that it takes a long time to get over the tendency to over-give and to forgive myself for doing so much over-giving in past relationships.  I want more happiness for you in your relationships!

  • Understand that it takes many people many more years to arrive at their “Truth”

We all find what we believe to be “the truth” of life almost as if it was a paragraph inscribed in a stone tablet. Our Truth embodies our values, our principles, our precepts, our boundaries, and sets a level above which we expect all others to adhere.  Unfortunately, your truth is strictly yours alone and just as no one else in the world has the same life experiences as you or I, no one else will have discovered this same truth. Some people never discover a truth at all and amble along in their life like a “pinball” in a pinball machine – being tousled by outsiders who tell them what he/she ought to feel or do according to the outsider’s truth.  Others come to realize their truth based on their life experiences or lack thereof and become entrenched in a belief system that negates all others who do not uphold their truth.  You can see evidence of this everywhere with extremism even in our society.  Value and hold dear the truths that you discover, and know that no one else will share the same truth or be as passionate as you are about it.  Respect and understanding go a long way in life, and really hold off the disappointment I often feel from others.

  • In closing…

I hope that you can glean one or two nuggets out of this mountain of words I wrote to you today.  Hindsight is 20/20 and I hope that your life moving forward can be a wondrous adventure filled with sights, sounds, and experiences that take your breath away.

In love and kindness,

Mom

p.s., It is a wonderful achievement to say that I love my life!  And it’s stellar with you and your brother in it giving me moments that take my breath away every day!

The Reality “Fog”…

16 Nov

FogYour life is YOUR story – and whatever you experience and feel is your reality.  Personally, the past few months have had its share of ups and downs dealing with false friends, real estate agents, inspectors, banks, movers, and various sundry “characters” in my story.  The good news is that I emerged from it all with a new beginning (having sold my “albatross” house – far too big and far too costly!) and now claim a wonderful waterfront apartment as my new home.

Just like yours, my story is laden with emotions, experiences, and observations that are unique to me.  No one else can tell my story or your story like either of us can, yet we often lose sight of this.  Frequently, we get caught up in thinking that we know another person’s story as well as our own.  I call this the reality “fog“.

As a case in point, last Saturday’s St. Petersburg Times featured an article about a  78-year old woman whose at-home death four months ago was only discovered this week by a property manager.  The article stated that the woman lived alone and that “there’s no evidence that there was anyone in her life as far back as 1992,” according to a police official.

The relevance of the article to my topic concerns not the woman’s death or the circumstance, but rather the judgements and observations by virtual strangers.  “She really was as much of a hermit as somebody can be… she really did not want anybody to come inside ever. It’s a sad thing for sure,”  remarked the managing member of her apartment complex.  A landlord from 16 years ago said “She kept her head down and walked fast and worked hard… I think she was upset that she didn’t have a family or wistful that she lost touch.”

Personally I find it astonishing that people who barely knew Joan Greeley (the woman) would so eagerly think that they knew her story well enough to tell it themselves.   Certainly the story reads better as a human interest story by including observations, but it illustrates that reality in absence of facts is really just “fog.”

I believe we can change this situation!  Before you judge another, get to know the people in your life personally – take an interest in their life and their loves.  Truly listen to their story and be patient to hear their perspective and insights.  Then and only then can you or I begin to see through the fog to envision their reality.

I know that I do not want others to tell my story without listening to what I have to say – how about you?  Let us give others the same courtesy and let them tell us their story!

Have an awesome week of listening, learning, and living!

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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Realities of mid-life survival

11 Mar

Do you know how many books today proclaim that success is imminent if you just buy them?  Thousands!  In addition, the self-proclaimed experts often have nothing more than their own experience of rags to riches “expertise” (sometimes just plain luck) that propelled them to fame.

Moreover, the number of books on the shelves for baby boomers especially women – who find themselves at mid-life having raised children, nurtured husband’s careers, and are now alone and broke is increasing.

According to a recent study, 46% of adult Americans are single in 2011.

Western-raised women are stereotypically taught to take care of everyone (at their own expense) and this practice has been handed down through the generations of well-meaning elders.  At mid-life having raised our children to maturity and independence, and having put our spouse through many college degrees and jobs, we find ourselves alone with a tawdry collection of hand-me-down furniture, discarded belongings, and a shambles of friendships abandoned in favor of raising our family.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Here I sit five years post-divorce, with two wonderful grown children who are independent and healthy (a big plus and a source of pride!), few friends (it’s difficult to set up relationships at mid-life and with a career involving travel), fewer male friends (at least not within the vicinity), an albatross of an over-mortgaged  house (because I had to buy the ex-spouse out at an exorbitant price to keep my son in his home),  and a career challenged like many today.  I’ve got baggage, but I’ve survived a lifetime of giving and being taken.

And, I am alive and well and have the chance to be happy!  At mid-life, I am starting completely over – in fact, at 50 paces behind the starting line when I consider that my financial situation is one where the ex-spouse made off like a bandit in the divorce due to a some unfortunate circumstances.  But, 50 paces behind the starting line with a chance of a second half of life of happiness and freedom is so much better than no life or the Stepford wife existence I lived a mere 6 years ago.

The realities of my life today are much different from the last time I was single more than 25 years ago!

If you are like me, maybe you can identify with some of these realities:

  • A garage full of garbage: that was left by my ex and my children when they moved out. Memories of a lifetime of child raising (toys), school sports (a motley crew of athletic equipment), boxes of discarded books (which “friends of the library” charity will happily take), tools, leftover paint cans, and garbage that my ex-husband promised to clean up (and didn’t) before he moved;
  • An over mortgaged house with zero equity: and rooms that I never walk into.  My 22-year-old son has promised me for months that he will clean out his old bedroom of the clothes and discarded bits that he left when he moved out 6 months ago.
  • Maintenance that I cannot do (or afford to hire to have done): my gas dryer stopped working and I know that a service man will happily see a “little lady” who can be taken for hundreds of dollars.  In Florida, there seems to be no work ethic or morals and the edict “do your research and know exactly what you need to have done before you hire anyone to come in” is the moral of the day.  I don’t have the energy to fight with men who want to rip me off so I do without the dryer (and other household maintenance).
  • Friends who are mine! When I was married, we had ‘our’ friends (his friends) who he worked with or we knew as parents of our kids’ friends.  Today it is wonderful to have friends who know me for me and who love me for me!
  • Toxic friendships that I must discard: One of the lessons I’m learning is that I was too giving as a person in my former life – I allowed people and “friends” to take advantage of my kindness. Some of those “friendships” include people who I thought were friends and who preyed on my giving nature. One such “friend” begged me to give her grown daughter some space to temporarily store an apartment full of items in my garage.  Six months and many un-returned phone calls and emails later, she (and the daughter) refuse to talk to me because I have asked them to remove the items. There is no thank you, no courtesy and no respect for the favor I granted them. It is toxic to our being when a “friendship” is one way without respect or give-and-take.  In my past life, I tolerated this treatment by thinking that somehow it was what I deserved, but today I know that such tolerance is toxic to me. When people in our life get angry when we set healthy boundaries it is a sign of toxicity. Any friend that abuses you was never really a friend.
  • LOTS of time alone: As an extrovert who lives alone, works alone from home (when I am not teaching out-of-town), has no local family, has grown children, and friends who have busy lives, I have a lot of alone time. The challenge after a lifetime of taking care of others is for me to be happily alone without feeling lonely.  There are days when I feel quite isolated and it is then that I long to be on the road working so that I will be among others. When I return home, it can be more lonely than when I am traveling alone for work.
  • A challenging career today: the economy has wreaked havoc on consultants and trainers – we are the first roles to be cut in downsizing and recessions.  I find myself overqualified and too long a freelancer to be considered for most jobs today. As such, my financial status (due to the economy and the divorce) is a fraction of what it once was, as is the income I once enjoyed.
  • Acceptance and freedom: I don’t know what your relationships are like, but I am happy today to be able to choose a restaurant without getting blamed that it was not a good choice (or feeling responsible for “his” happiness); to be able to make a sandwich the way I want (without being told I’m doing it wrong); and to buy a pair of black shoes with my money (without being told I don’t need them).  It is a joy to come home to my cat who accepts me and loves me for who I am not for who he thinks I need to become.  Acceptance and freedom are wonderful rights!

Today, aside from my financial woes (which are temporary), I am happier than I have been in years!

I have self-love beyond any I have ever experienced, a few honorable and true friends who are there for me (unlike the acquaintances we had as a couple), and a recognition that I deserve love and respect (which I never believed in the past).  I am challenged to live this new solitary life – and there are up and down days along the journey.

But — Life is good and getting better all the time.  It is not the same as I grew up to believe it would be – or that was my experience in my former life – but I am truly alive in ways that I could never be had I stayed in a loveless marriage.

The realities of mid-life survival can be stark – but the future is bright!

Have a great week!

Carol


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Do nice people finish last?

7 Mar

There is so much contradiction in books and on the internet today about whether nice people finish first, middle, or last in life and in business.  What do you think?

I think that it all depends on the meaning of the word “nice” especially when it comes to taking care of yourself first.  So many of us were taught that being nice means putting others first – but that flies in the face of good self-care.  A counselor once told me that good self-care means taking care of yourself first whether that means at work or in our personal life.  This is not how many 40-somethings were raised to believe, and we need to change our attitude and our outlook!

The counselor reminded me that the people who get ahead in life are the ones who make noise – starting in the hospital nursery.  The babies who cried loudest and longest get the most attention and have their needs met ahead of others.  The more content babies did not get noticed and some even slept through while the demanding babies garnered the love and attention of nurses.

In business, we observe that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” – those who self-promote, pontificate, forge ahead of others in line, and who demand attention get noticed more and promoted more.  The four-year-old prima donna behavior of “Look at me, look at me!” unfortunately seems to work when promotions are given out and bonuses are paid.

What about those who work well with others by cooperating, promoting their teams, and supporting co-workers – sometimes at their own expense. “Nice” people don’t stand out, and despite articles published that say the contrary, they can end up being invisible and overlooked while the brash, less considerate, and self-promotioning assertive people move ahead.  These people were the crying babies in the nursery who learned how to get their needs met early in life.

If you are a nice person and find yourself being left behind at work and in life, maybe it is time to examine how your behavior sabotages your own best interests.  It is never too late to learn how to set aside some of the seemingly “nice” behaviors that put others first and fail to get our needs met.  Only you can take care to make sure that your needs are met. No one else will put you first so you have to do it for yourself (and doing so ensures your survival!)

p.s., Take a moment out of your week to say thank you to a nice person today – they make our lives better just because they are who they are.  It is due time that they get ahead (finally!) for the niceness they bring to our world!

Carol

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