Tag Archives: family

We live what we learn, then learn what we live…

27 Jun
learning to ride a bike - _MG_2933

learning to ride a bike – _MG_2933 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

You’ve heard the saying “We live what we learn” and the concept is truly how we raise our children in Western societies.  Parents and influencers teach us how to live based on their actions (and some of their words).  For our formative years, we live what we have learned, and often it is exactly as these people have taught us to live – by rules, customs, dogma, unspoken approval/disapproval.  Over time, our personalities emerge and either gel with our families – or they don’t (and we soon find out just how “disdainful” that might be!)

As adults, I believe the opposite thing happens.  When we are on our own in the world, living, loving, getting hurt, falling down, becoming successful, being disappointed, etc. – these ALL lead up to a series of New Learnings based on what we live.

While learning and growing is always a positive step – WHAT we learn is not necessarily so.

I have learned that the naive trust of others that I grew up with and carried through during many years of marital “bliss” was misguided.  Today, I no longer trust without verifying (a good thing) based on learning through life’s lessons.

I seldom get comments on my posts (maybe the content is solely my experience and isolated to my polarized view of life!) – but I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from your life!

In exchange, I offer you my list of adult learnings (and a + or – denotes whether this was a positive or negative discovery!)

  • The Royal We (me, myself and I) must come first, foremost and exclusively (except when small children are involved!) This is hardest for women, as we were taught to take care of the world (and everyone in it) before we take care of our own needs.   +
  • No one else can love me unconditionally except for me (and to expect anything else was folly). Self-love is the greatest love (thank you Whitney Houston)   +
  • Trust, but Verify – believe what others say at face value, but verify it with other sources.  Learn when someone deceives or violates your trust to verify before trusting again:  “fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice —– SHAME ON ME!” +
  • Despite the traditional view that we “need” others, we come into the world alone, die alone, and traverse this life alone. We might “want” others, but we do not “need” others  +
  • “As for worrying about what other people might think – forget it. They aren’t concerned about you. They’re too busy worrying about what you and other people think of them.” – Michael le Boeuf   +
  • Alone and lonely are two different concepts. Alone = state of being solo.  Lonely is something that can happen even when surrounded by lots of people.  Alone does not equal lonely (and I am seldom lonely in the company of  the Royal We)  +
  • Never be a partner to anyone about whom you say “I hope I am never on their bad side” because eventually you WILL be!  +
  • Mean doesn’t go away.  (I mistakenly thought that cruelty was a learned behavior that can change.  Unfortunately, it is a character defect.) –
  • Never make anyone a priority for whom  you are only an option.  +
  • Become your own best friend – it is the best company you can ever find!  “Wherever you go, there you are!” +
  • Dating is an interview process – never ever settle for a second-rate candidate!  +
  • Make sure the Royal We (and your intuition) approves of your friends. +
  • Family (and friends) can be toxic to your health.  Life is too short to ingest poison.  –
  • Attitude trumps skill, looks, status, environment.  Always be positive! +
  • There are reasons that people from your past do not make it into your present or your future.  +
  • Never, ever waste a heartbeat on people who don’t matter.  +
  • Realize that a chance meeting with anyone on the street may be having a rough day – if you have a smile to share, do it! +
  • The Golden rule is a great theoretical rule for religion and children. People are far more selfish in practice.  –
  • Say no before saying yes to something that you will regret. +
  • Give freely without expectation of thanks or reciprocation! Giving and receiving are two unrelated concepts – giving is about you. Thanks and acknowledgement is all about the receiver (as is any reciprocity!)  I know that a perceived lack of gratitude (and acknowledgment) usually has nothing to do with me. +
  • Never stop learning.  I am learning that there is SOOOO much I don’t know that I don’t know. +
  • There is no one, true religion for all mankind +
  • Learn from your past (sometimes there are no lessons except how to avoid crap in the future) +
  • EVERYONE deserves respect no matter their age, creed, status, look, etc.  Be tolerant even if you do not accept their way of life – everyone has a right to live as they please without infringing on others. +
  • Don’t turn down an opportunity before it is presented. +
  • The internet is forever.Never write, post, text, tweet, or Facebook anything you would not be willing to say in public! +
  • You (and me) are whole, complete, and perfect just as we are. +
  • Be yourself!  Trying to be someone else for someone else sacrifices the great you and robs the world of your talents. +
  • There is nothing wrong with me! (and there never was.  Just because people in my past and present want me to change to SUIT THEM has nothing to do with me!) +
  • Having a boyfriend or significant other means NOTHING! I am beautiful, lovable and deserve love in this world, period. +
  • Never override intuition – anyone who says that “your perception is wrong” is delusional and emotionally unavailable.  (I lived this and now know better!) +
  • Not everyone you meet in the future is a clone of your past. Protect your heart. +
  • Be grateful for what you have! +

To my silent readers, do you have anything to add?

Have a great week and celebrate you!

Carol

Happy Mother’s Day – be a Mother to Yourself!

13 May
Mother's Day card

Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might sound a bit circular to you to suggest that you be a mother to yourself – but I believe that most mothers (no matter how wonderful) fall short of being the nurturing, caring, unconditionally caring mother we all need to get us through life.

Through this blog and in everyday interactions, I hear stories that range from mothers who are exceptionally giving and accepting to downright bitches on steroids who poison every person they meet.  We cannot choose our mothers, but we can choose how they affect our adult life (or at least we can try!)

Just as I believe in the Type Y management theory (most people will do the best job they can given the knowledge and education at hand) versus the Type X (people innately need to be micro-managed or they will cheat and do the least) – I believe that most mothers (and fathers) do the best job they can given their knowledge and education about parenting. (Of course there are exceptions – we read about them in the daily press or see them on Reality TV!)

Because today is Mother’s Day in North America, I’d like to focus on mothers (and the same wisdom can apply to being a father to yourself!)

What We Need from Mothers

Childhood memories might not be as distant to you as they are to me, but no doubt the good, bad, and the ugly of childhood sticks with us all.  We all bear the wonders (and the baggage) of growing up and I venture to guess that no matter where or when you grew up, it was not all honey and roses (if it was, then I applaud you for an ideal childhood or a selective memory!)

What would the ideal mother give? Here is my “laundry list”:

  • safety (from the physical and emotional affronts we face in the outside world);
  • security (with basic food, shelter and clothing taken care of);
  • acceptance (to know that we are whole, complete and perfect just as we are);
  • love (unconditional if that is even possible);
  • truth (that life isn’t fair, that there are good and bad people, that we deserve love, and that no matter what we can make it.)

Moreover, the perfect mother would remind us that we are good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, deserve love, and can make it no matter what or who life throws at us.  But, like a Barbie doll – such an ideal is only a fantasy.

My mother did her best to raise five children (only seven years apart) and offer a nurturing environment – given her knowledge and parenting skills, and I am truly grateful.  I always had a home where I knew someone would know my name and I could fall asleep without fear of violence or hunger – I am grateful, especially when I know that not everyone had this luxury.

Lifelong Mothering can only come from Within

Regardless of what your mother was like, I believe that EVERY mother falls short of being the ideal mother we need(ed).  The good news is that no matter who was/is your mother, we all have the opportunity, starting today, to be the ideal mother to ourselves.  We can give ourselves the inner pride, security, safety, unconditional love, acceptance, and truth to become the best we can be!

Many books attempt to teach us how to nurture ourselves and overcome our childhood – including  as the Inner Child, I’m Ok- You’re Ok, There is Nothing Wrong with You, Co-dependent No More, The Four Agreements,  etc.; but few teach how to be the mother you need(ed) for yourself.

Being able to rely on unconditional love and undying support of the ideal mother can only come from within. We owe it to our inner child to give him/her the nurturing in the way we need, from someone who knows us better than anyone possibly can.

Starting today – evict the Inner Critic

The first step to being a mother to yourself is to evict the harsh inner critic who takes up valuable real estate in your mind.  Replace this critical voice (you’re too xxx, you’ll never be yyy, don’t even try to do zzz!) with that of the ideal mother (you are perfect the way you are, you can become yyy, don’t just try but do zzz!, you can do it!)

Tell yourself what an ideal mother would say:

...you are extraodinary…you are beautiful…and you are loved.

In The Four Agreements, author don Miguel Ruiz says that Agreement #1 is Always live with integrity.  In other words, never tell yourself anything that you would not tell a best friend.  Be supportive, loving, accepting, proud, nurturing, and giving to yourself!

The second step is to write down the characteristics an ideal mother (or father) would have (or could have) provided in your life, and then start doing them for yourself!

Does this make Mother’s Day sense?

What do you think? Is this simply airy-fairy, psycho-babble?  I can tell you that the Royal We (me, myself and I) plus my inner Mother is a formidable team (newly formed!)

Does this ring true for you (or anyone you might know)… please comment!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Carol

Childlike is not Childish…

26 Mar

What a joy it is to watch confident children under the age of 10 at playgrounds or at social events!  They make new friends quickly, are color-blind (to race and gender), approach adults with sincerity, are uninhibited, and look at the future with wonder.

When I take my 8-year-old granddaughter out to a playground or the beach, it amazes me how quickly she makes new friends with other children.  There is no judgment, no hesitation, no sizing up of the other -a simple sharing of time, energy and fun for the duration.  It is nice to see children who are color-blind (not sensitive to racial differences) and gender neutral playing together as fast friends.

Somehow, between childhood and the teen years, we lose this trait of accepting others at face value, replacing it with judgment, scorn, racism, sexism and “society” rules that keep us from easily mixing with people we don’t already know.

It also amazes me to see how freely children will dance to music – they seldom care whether anyone is watching or judging their moves.  Somehow we gain so many inhibitions when we grow into adulthood. Inhibitions stick with us for a lifetime – at least until we are so old we no longer care.

Any newspaper I pick up (globally) is filled with stories about disagreement and hate in today’s world, and I long for and wonder what happened to the children we were yesterday.  Can you remember what it was like to be uninhibited and free of judgment? Can you imagine what our world would be like if adults were more childlike and could accept each other at face value?  Racism, sexism, ageism, and other biases are learned behaviors – can you imagine how incredible life could be if we fostered acceptance instead of discrimination?

We need more childlike behaviors in our world today (not the childish ones we so often see).  What do you think?

Just food for thought on the first Monday of spring.

Have a good week,

Carol

Need more hours in your day? 3 Easy steps…

16 Feb

I remember days gone by when I wished for more hours in my day… no matter how I tried to rearrange things, I just couldn’t find all the hours I needed to get everything done. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and spent, and my kids did not get to see me at my best on many occasions.

These days, my children are grown and I watch around me as more and more people are in the same predicament that I was – and are equally harried and stressed.  For them and you, I present “3 Easy ways to create more hours in your day”.

1.   Reduce your load…Stop doing things that do not really matter

While you may feel that everything you do during the day from paid work to laundry to helping with homework to driving to soccer practice to …. (100 other things!) are essential for you to do, I disagree.  When I recall everything I did for so many people, I realize that they might have seemed essential (especially to me), but I know that there were things I did simply out of a sense of duty.  One way to figure out what you can stop doing that does not really matter is to stop doing something and then see if anyone misses it.

For example, I call several friends many times before they return my calls (if they ever do).  Once I stopped calling them (which I had done more for myself if the truth be known), some did not call me at all – I discovered that the “friends” do not miss me, and as a result, I can spend my time pursuing relationships that really matter.

For another example, tasks like dusting are one of the “mom” type duties that we often think must be done to avoid what others might think or say (such as a mother-in-law).  But if you stop doing dusting or do it only 1/2 as often, the results may not be noticed.  Voila!  Time saved!  Make a list of everything you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and see if there is anything that is non-essential, immaterial or that you can cut back on the frequency with which you do them.  You may be surprised to find out that there are things you do to satisfy your inner critic and no one else really cares.  So, stop doing these things!

A friend once told me “You can come over to my house and even write your name in my dust, as long as you don’t date it!”  I realized then that the process of dusting was less important than spending time with my children.  I stopped dusting so often, and surprise, no one noticed!

2.   Outsource what can be done more cheaply by someone else (and help another person in the process!)

Once you have pared down your list in #1., figure out what other things could be better done (from both a financial and emotional standpoint) by someone else.  You can outsource and win just like the big corporations!

For example, if mowing the grass is on  your list of “must do’s” and it takes you 2 hours to do it weekly, consider that a neighborhood teen may charge as little as $10. a week to mow your grass AND clean up the clippings!  Are your two hours worth more than $10. (let alone the sweating and stress it may cause you?) If the answer is yes, do yourself a favor and give the teen a job to mow your lawn – you will both benefit.  This single act gives you 2 hours to do something else!

If, however, you love to mow your lawn (I know people who do!), then find other tasks on your list where it might be more efficient to outsource the work to someone who wants and needs the work.  You will both benefit and be happier!

3. Accept help when it is offered

Too often those of us who are self-reliant and independent “cut our noses to spite our face” by not accepting help when it is genuinely offered.  Our misplaced sense of pride and feelings that we might “owe” someone who helps us – can actually work to our detriment!

When someone offers to aid you with something that would help you stretch your day, accept the help!

As I mentioned in a earlier post (The more you give, the more you … give) – the acts of giving and receiving  are not coupled.  So, if you feel that you would owe someone when they give to you, think about all the times that you give freely to others.  It is about time that you allow others to give back – especially when they are not the same people who have received from you.

These are three easy steps to more hours and more happiness.  Best of all, they come at little or no cost (especially when you factor in the price of your own heartbeats and hours you save!)  Prioritize your time, follow the steps, and let me know what happens in your life.

Have a great weekend!

Carol

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

Toxic People – It’s not really personal…

22 Jun

Toxic people are everywhere – and their effect on workplace, family, and personal morale can be devastating.

Who’s a toxic person?  Someone who sucks the energy and the motivation out of you in favor of advancing their own agenda and “best interests“.  Often they might be disguised as “friends” who abuse you, family members who need to dominate you, or co-workers who demean you.  At a distance, it is easy to recognize toxic people in other people’s lives, yet sometimes it’s not so easy in our own life.

Why do we put up with abusive behavior from others where our own sense of well-being is jeopardized by these people?

I believe that some of it stems from our upbringing where our tolerance for unhealthy people is encouraged (such as the momilies like: be nice to your elders because they are older; you have to be a friend to have a friend; if two or more people are against you – it must be you; etc.).

About ten years ago, I was so surrounded by “toxic people” in my personal life that I thought I was going crazy (in fact, one of the most toxic people in my life tried to convince me that I was!)  At the time, I thought that I needed to be more tolerant of this behavior  (including abuse) in hopes of eliminating sadness and feelings of being used.

What I really needed to do (and am now doing) was to be less tolerant of abusive behavior and to cut out toxic people from my life.

AND, I realize that toxic people do not handpick people to befriend and abuse – they simply are so self-absorbed (and often downright mean) with everyone in their life.  They make their way into the lives of others quite insidiously – they start by innocuous demands and offers of friendship (making you feel needed) and then proceed to take your energy, your self-esteem, and your optimism.

When you are surrounded by toxic people, you can end up feeling like you must be crazy – after all, how can the world be crazy around you? Realizing that toxic people use others without it being personal – they will use family, friends, acquaintances, spouses, anyone to advance their self-serving agenda – can make it easier to deal with them in the long-term.  (It’s not personal!)

How do you know if someone is toxic in your life?  Once you recognize the behavior and how you feel when you are around them, it becomes a matter of identification and elimination (if you value your health).

Here’s my short list for detect toxicity (do you have others?):

  • Verbal abuse Toxic people will berate you, insult you, call you names, and disparage you.  (Friends don’t let anyone abuse their friends.)  For example, I once knew a toxic person who would disparage my clothes at every chance in front of colleagues and co-workers. If I wore a pair of shoes with a heel higher than an inch, she’d alert people by announcing “Look everybody, Carol is wearing hooker heels.”  Not someone I ever needed in MY life.
  • Lack of respect for your time: Toxic people will call you and demand support at all hours of the day and night – one toxic person I used to know called me repeatedly in the middle of the night for support when her adult daughter got arrested for drunk driving, and again when she thought she violated her suspended license.  At first I thought she really needed support at those times, then later I found out that she started calling people for support earlier in the evening and didn’t care how late it got as she continued to call people on her list.
  • Lack of reciprocity: Toxic people are energy-suckers who will drain your energy and then turn their back on you if you need support.  I have an entire garage full of abandoned mattresses from a toxic person who begged me to share my garage space with her desperate and broke daughter, then turned her back and refused to remove the items she no longer wanted after I asked for the space back.  To date neither the person nor her daughter have said a word of thanks nor have they returned phone calls asking them to remove their garbage from my garage.
  • Self-centeredness: Toxic people know how to get their needs met first by relying on the generosity of others, but do not give back.  One toxic person I knew used my time and support to soothe her broken heart during a divorce (I spent weeks doing so including trips at my expense), but does not notice when others need or ask for her support.  Self-centered people simply do not see anyone beyond their own immediate circle of people and their own needs.
  • Lack of consideration: When toxic people are short of money or resources, they see no problem taking (or more likely asking for) your money, time, resources.  When their situation changes and they come into the money, toxic people usually forget your generosity and will insist on equal division of costs going forward.  Sometimes these people will even take advantage of any weakness on your part to gain financial advantage over you – with no regard to fair treatment.
  • Bully behavior:  Toxic people often bully others and then justify their behavior by touting that they are only asserting their will on others.  I once knew such a toxic person who believed that there would be no bullies in the world without ready and willing victims.  How deranged!

What’s the best way to deal with toxic people in YOUR life?  It is never an easy situation – even when you identify who they are. My advice is to stop tolerating the behavior and make plans to move them out of your life.  Sometimes they may change as a result, but usually toxic people are ignorant of their toxicity and simply go on to find others they can use and abuse.

What is life like without toxic friendships?  For me, I’m finding that the solitude and satisfaction I gain from new, non-toxic friendships far outweighs the companionship that toxic people used to provide. Feeling good when you are with people who are emotionally healthy is a beautiful thing!

Toxic people – it’s really not a personal thing when they treat you badly!  But it is personal if you choose to keep these people in your life!

Have a great week!

p.s., Thank you to my current friends and my son and my daughter who have never been a part of the toxic influences in my life!

Carol

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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