Tag Archives: friendship

Everyone can use a little “pruning”…

13 Jan

By the title above and the fact that I live in Florida, you might be led to think this post is about regularity… thankfully (at least from my viewpoint) it’s not!  It’s about making room in your life for new growth, new experiences, new insights – no matter how old you are!  In fact, today is the youngest you’ll ever be again in your life, and if you’re reading this post, it is so much better than the alternative…

It’s probably obvious to you that we’re all born into the world completely pure, unadulterated, fresh, … we are like an oak seedling just sprouted. We are ready for nourishment, sunlight and warmth (love), and ready to take on the world. For most of us at this point, life is good.

By mid-life, we’ve weathered seasons and storms and our branches bear witness to years of events.  Our heads are filled to the brim with memories of experiences, hurts, biases, judgments, opinions of right and wrong, conditions, critiques and rules — so much so that there is barely room for anything or anyone new.

oakWe find that we are now solid oak trees, each of us bearing a customized pattern of branches forged through a unique set of events, circumstances and relationships. These branches bear witness to our life experience and often form a mismatch of uneven projections shooting out in myriad directions. During warm summers (the good times in our life), these imperfections stay hidden, obscured by bountiful leaves and we can fully bask in our beauty.  When winter sets in (the less than perfect times of our life), as it invariably does, our branches and scars are exposed bare leaving us feeling vulnerable and bare.  Over the years, our “branches” build up layers of  moss and hide skeletons of dead wood – emotional baggage – that can impede our natural growth. Sometimes this buildup happens overnight (such as a lightning strike or other stressful event), but more typically it accrues over time, seemingly unnoticeable as we go about our daily routines.  That is, until something jolts us to observe that dead wood and moss impedes our  future growth.

A colleague once told me (after a tumultuous time in my life):  “You really need to prune your life – get rid of the dead branches (the toxic relationships and ways of thinking that no longer serve you) to make room for new growth.”

The analogy was “bang on” (as we say in Canada) and her advice came flooding back to me today as I read the following:

1003924_560500844040225_309166825_nIt hit me – to accomplish ANY of these things means getting rid of dead wood in our heads… taking out the rote programmed reactions and ways of thinking.  Replacing the emotional baggage and dead end thinking with considerate, thoughtful, intentional responses to life.  One at a time…

“Learn to love without condition.”  Wow, this means I need to be conscious of and lower the biases (and judgments) that lead me to love others with conditions.  (The conditions are like a wall intended to protect me from future hurt – but ultimately it limits potentially great relationships!)  I need to consciously CHOOSE to accept and simply love people as they are, without conditions, (just as I would like to have happen to me.)  This sounds like a good habit to adopt.

“Talk without bad intention.”  Sometimes I reassure myself that I already do this, but if I am brutally honest, sometimes the good intentions are skewed when I am talking to someone with whom I have an imperfect past.  If there has been some mal-intention on the part of the other (even perceived) some mal-intention back could occur.  To talk without bad intention requires me to clear my head of judgment, before I speak, so that the words come out pure and the tone is positive.  This gives the other party the chance to simply be and respond without their defenses being up.  Sounds like another good habit to practice.

“Give without any reason.”  If you’ve grown up with a scarcity mentality like I did (there’s never enough money, food, jobs, time, energy to go around), giving can end up being biased and giving ends up with some sort of expectation.  Giving without reason means letting go of the need to get anything back in return (today or any day!)  Giving without any reason, just because I can – this is another habit that will enrich my life!

And “Care for people without any expectation.”  For me, this one hinges on my childhood learning of the “Golden Rule (do unto others as you’d like them <expect them> to do unto you.)”  This learning always set me up for failure because it implied that there would be reciprocity – that kindness begets kindness, generosity begets generosity, and so on.  The reality is that when I expect (not hope) something of others, I am imposing on them MY rules/code of behavior, my background, my need to  control – and that is simply not fair.  Letting go of the dead wood that expectations bring allows me to care for others as I can, while first taking care of my own needs (first.)

Pruning the dead wood in my  life takes concentration and work to properly trim (not chop) so that I remain whole and healthy.  Too much pruning at once or in the wrong season can be worse than not.  Figuring out new habits, such as those above, is a journey to remove the old (negative) habits of judgment, bias, reaction, and reliving old hurts, and replace them with new (positive) habits of acceptance, love, response and openness.

While old habits die-hard – I realize that this old dog can learn new tricks and the added bonus is that my new life is enriched, full, and thriving!

Wishing you a great week!

Carol

 

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

2 May

I don’t know if it’s the email spam lists I’m on or where I hang out (the beach) or what’s on TV (I seldom watch) – if you’re not coupled up, you just don’t count.  In the news, the debate about gay versus straight marriage has become tantamount as if marriage and coupledom is the only way of life.

But consider that with over 1/2 of marriages ending in divorce, and an equal split between singles and married adults in the US and one has to wonder why the 50% of singles are nonplussed.  When I survey most of my single friends, many would prefer to be in a committed loving relationship to being alone and would love to find love (wouldn’t we all!)  One friend of mine is miserable because she loves many male friends but professes that she really needs to be “in love.”

The pursuit of love (in my estimation) is a red herring – looking to “find love” should be a misnomer because love is all around us (and in us).  Romantic love (the kind in the movies and fairy tales) is fun, often fleeting, but it is only one kind of love – one that depends on another to fulfill us.  That’s where the problem lies – reliance on anyone other than ourselves to feel love!

Having been married half my life to someone who truly loved himself (and I him), I am discovering that the key to true love can only be found through “selfless self-love” – truly accepting oneself for the combination of beauty, faults, strengths and weaknesses we see in the mirror.  Many grow up without the self-esteem to know that we need to be attracted and attractive to ourself first and foremost before we can truly share love with anyone else.  Yet this is the ultimate truth – self-love is the root of happiness!

I frequently quote don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements because I truly admire and embrace the essence of his work.  The First Agreement “Always live with integrity” truly expresses the core concepts behind self-love.  I used to think that this agreement simply meant one should be honest and ethical – but that is so far off!

“Always live with integrity” means never, ever say anything to yourself that you would not say in love to a best friend.  So, the “I’m too sensitive, too xxx, whatever” needs to be banned forever from one’s vocabulary (both to yourself or to others!) and replaced with “I am who I am and I love me.”  Taking care of oneself first is like putting on your own oxygen mask first on an airplane – it allows you to function AND be able to share with others!  For me, this was an incredible concept as I was always told (and taught) and experienced that I had to give before I received.  Yet, by not giving myself the love I truly deserved, I gave away my sustenance and what I needed to truly survive.  Self-love is not selfish, it is selfless and necessary!

If you’ve read this far (and I’m almost done my rant for the day!) – you might be thinking that I am professing to become as narcissistic as the person I am no longer with, but this is wrong. Or you might be saying “how could you grow up without knowing self-love and putting yourself first?” (It happens to more than me, I guarantee it!)

I’m not saying one should become obsessed solely with oneself, but rather that finding love in the world means starting with truly accepting and loving ourselves.   We truly deserve our own true love.

So, what’s love go to do with it?  Loving yourself in all your splendor is the right thing to do – and once you’ve mastered that – love has found YOU!

Have a great week!

Carol

Why Do I Care What YOU Think?

4 Apr

Why do we care so much about what other people think (about us?)  Every day I meet people who bemoan about how someone in their life diminished their achievements, pooh-poohed their plans, or expressed a lack of support for their ideas.  Somehow we’ve gotten it into our heads that people who purport to love us (and tell us that they only want the best for us) have opinions worth more than our own!  And this is such a fallacy!  Yet we do the same thing to other people without even intending to.  (Which begs the question:  If you knew that your opinion caused someone to feel badly about themselves… even to the point of giving up – would you think a bit more before YOU spoke?)

Realistically, it is only YOUR own opinion of yourself that should matter. And yet we falter…

I grew up with the adage “How can you do/say/think that?  What would the neighbors/friends/strangers think (of you?)  It was almost as if people on the street without any regard to you or your life should have a level of control over who you are! It was as hogwash then as it is now, but so many are still caught up in the trap of “what would so-and-so think?” – the truth is that it just doesn’t matter.

The opinions of others have nothing to do with me (or you!)  I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences over the years and I am always amazed at the diversity of evaluations that come back from attendees.  They range from the polar opposites of “Couldn’t stand the presenter, didn’t learn a thing…” to “Best presenter I’ve ever seen – make sure you invite her back. Excellent!” – all from the same presentation! The rest of the audience lies somewhere in the middle, with the majority of people offering no comments at all.  What should I believe about my presentation – the best, the worst, or somewhere in the middle?

None of them!  All of the opinions from the audience are from THEIR perspective – based on what they like and how they perceived me. No one knows me except for me!  When I speak, I give it my best and that is all I can do.  When I leave the stage and feel good about what I’ve done, that is all that should matter – I’ve done my best.  Yet, of course I do read the evaluations (and they are the basis on which I am asked back!) – and they do still affect me.  BUT I am learning to ignore the outliers (both positive and negative) because they are so much less a reflection of me than of the audience members and their own frame of mind!

The only approval we should ever strive to meet is our own.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past two years on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a fan of author and motivational guru don Miguel Ruiz and his landmark book The Four Agreements. When my daughter first gifted me a copy almost 10 years ago, I read it but the concepts just didn’t sink in at first.

Now, 10 years later, I fully embrace the concepts even though I still get tripped up by life’s little circumstances that suck me in and zap my energy!

Cover of

Cover of The Four Agreements: A 48-Card Deck

The Four Agreements just for introduction purposes (see my other posts on the subject for more insights) are:

1. Always live with integrity: I used to think this meant to live honestly (with high ethics and morals), but it really means: become your own best friend!  Love yourself unconditionally and never, ever say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend!  (i.e., Banish your inner critic and rid yourself of the negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough – any of these!  Replace them with positive and realistic self-love endorsements such as “You are kind. You deserve love. You are a great person! (Which goes beyond appearances!))

When you’ve had a lifetime to build up your defenses with a damaging inner critic (mine was so strong it almost led me to suicide!) – often put in place to protect you from the (inevitable) onslaught of unsupportive but well-meaning people in your life – this can be a major life change!  But it is necessary – if you are not your own best friend who loves you for all you are – you’ll never find happiness. Happiness starts and ends within – so start today by loving yourself!

2. Don’t take anything personally: This one was also tough for me, but it makes so much sense.  Think about it – if you wear something new out to a party and three people come up to you saying variously:

  • “What a great color on you – great outfit!”
  • “Oh, from the looks of that outfit, you’ve gained a few pounds.”
  • “You look tired, maybe it’s the outfit, you really shouldn’t wear those colors.”

Who is right?  As I’ve stated above – none of them are “right” – they are all opinions.  If you feel good about yourself and how you look – that is all that matters.

When we stop taking the responses of others personally (they are not personal – they are only a viewpoint from another,) life gets so much better!

3. Never make assumptions: Agreement #3 also takes getting used to. When we realize that not everyone thinks like we do, it makes sense to stop and ask questions to clarify what others tell us.  A couple of years ago I was dating a guy who I really cared about and he told me after a few weeks that “I have no feelings for you.”  I was devastated because I took it to mean that he didn’t care at all about me, and I immediately started crying when he said this. He couldn’t figure out why I’d be upset because he meant that he wasn’t in love with me, he cared about me but wasn’t in love (he was going through a divorce at the time… I should have seen the red flags there!)  My interpretation was that no feelings = no caring.  I’ve since learned to try not to react and instead ask questions first to make sure that what I hear and interpret is the same thing as what is meant.

In life, we make so many assumptions about WHY others say, think, do, or act based on OUR opinions.  When we ask questions to find out WHY – the answers may pleasantly surprise you!

4. Always do your best: This one can be the easiest to embrace because it is tied to #1. If you are always doing your best, it is harder to tell yourself you could have, should have… anything.  When you do you best (at the time, given the information and resources at hand) – you can never could have, should have done anything differently!

All in all, it really shouldn’t matter to me what YOU think about what I write, what I say, what I post – yet it still does.  We are at the core, social creatures who are domesticated to care about others and respect the opinions and thoughts of others.

In this journey of life, I’m finally learning to put MY OPINION of myself first… and everyone else’s second to tenth.  It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but if I don’t accept and love myself – how can I expect anything of anyone else?

p.s., Comments?  I’d love to hear YOUR opinion – it doesn’t change the fact that I did my best in writing this post, but I’d still like SOME feedback.

p.p.s. Remember to register for the upcoming True You Discovery retreat May 3-5, 2013 in beautiful St Petersburg Beach, FL. Visit www.spiritualconnections1-trueyoudiscovery.com for full details.  I also wrote about this in my last blog post.

Have a good week!

Carol

 

Hope and Expectation – Two different Constructs

15 May

Our life’s journey to discover happiness is a solo adventure (happiness comes from within) and no one other than you can make it happen for you.

Having said that, we compulsively enlist others in OUR pursuit of happiness and load them up with expectations of which they are often unaware.  It is “expectations” that cause relationships to unravel, tempers to flare, and what-once-appeared-to-be-love, to die.  No matter what we were taught in childhood,

expecting anything from others is unreasonable. 

We can hope, but we can never expect!

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This is the key point of this post:
Hope and expectations are completely different constructs (concepts)!

  • Hope is something we create internally and through our desires we project out into to the world – hope depends only on us:  our dreams, our goals, and our thoughts.  We hope for an outcome, we hope for things to happen, and we hope to feel a certain way when “it” happens.  Hope springs eternal and does not need others to be involved in our journey.
  • Expectations are a completely different thing because by their nature others are intimately (and often unsuspectingly) involved every step of the way.  While they are also created internally, expectations are immediately infused with judgment and criticality based on “what would we do.” Expectations are like writing a screenplay for others and chiding those who don’t play their role the way you’ve intended. “Unfulfilled” expectations create detours and unnecessary delays on our road to happiness.

When you hang on to hope and let go of your expectations, life becomes easy!

Here’s some examples of the differences between hope and expectations:

Practice letting go of your expectations of others and replace them with hope.

Wishing you a happy week!

Carol

Unconditional

5 Apr

Unconditional…

A Dr. Suess concept concocted as a dream, half-baked, and fed to the masses eager for acceptance and love.

Whoever says life in any way is unconditional has mastered self-love (which can be unconditional), and accepts the world at face value and the terms it presents.  Relationships with others are, at their core, conditional on what each party can get out of it.  When one party’s conditions are that the other give completely (while they take completely), the relationship ends. Sometimes conditions are parasitic, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes conditions change. But there are always conditions.

Love is based on relationship(s). Life is a complex web of rules and conditions.  Always changing, morphing, ebbing and tiding.

Not bad, not good, just is. Life is a conditional reality.

Have a happy day – and love yourself for the wonderful person you are!

Carol

Do Mean Girls Grow Up?

6 Mar

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~ Dalai Lama

If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  – Anonymous

Nice mantras, good ideals I grew up with, but hardly apropos in real life when it comes to mean-spirited women (who probably started out as mean girls.)

The Past

I grew up around mean girls – you know the type – the fashion princesses and cheerleaders in high school who made life miserable for anyone who was not.  I learned to fantasize that their home life was less than ideal or that they would fail at adulthood – anything to keep their taunting at bay.  Some were not so lucky and still hold the scars of teen torment into their adult years.  Who knows why girls (especially) are mean to each other… but that’s all part of childhood right?

The Present

As an adult, why would it amaze me to meet mean women?  After all, mean doesn’t go away (one of my mid-life learnings!) , but I never really thought about this until I met two of them this weekend!

Coincidentally, there was a new pilot TV show launched on ABC called GCB (based on the book Good Christian Bitches. The series considered renaming to Good Christian Belles but settled on just GCB.) The central theme is a group of women who have not changed much since their sniping, bitchy teenage years in Dallas, TX.  A main character returns to Dallas as a thirty-something widow of two teens, having been the biggest queen “B****” in high school.  She thinks she is reformed (in some ways she is), but her neighbors are former friends who remain proud current-day GCB’s and display nasty behavior in front of husbands, children, and congregations.  This series joins the crowded stage of women-behaving-badly shows like the myriad of “Housewives of xxx.”

(As an aside, I loved the Saturday Night Live mock trailer called Housewives of Disney! that you can find on Facebook or YouTube.  Send me a comment if you’d like me to send you the link to that parody!)

Will you Comment Please?

This weekend, I had two separate GCB-like (mean women) experiences and I would like your opinion.  I know that I am not perfect (or crazy!), but I was stunned to see such bitchy behavior in real life by women here in Tampa  Help me out – what is YOUR experience?

# 1. VERONICA (not her real name)

I was good friends with Veronica for about 2 years up until a few weeks after she started dating Bob.  We met him at a local pub and he hit on me first, but it was not reciprocal.  Veronica then started dating him and within 3 weeks they moved in together.  It should not have been a surprise to me when she asked if he could come with us and share the hotel room I booked and paid for in New York City just weeks later.  Originally I said okay, but realized that sharing a room with a new romantic couple would be uncomfortable so I told her no.  She got upset and they both stayed elsewhere. End of story – or so I thought.

While I knew she held a grudge and we stopped hanging out (he is not a nice person), it wasn’t until about two months ago that I found out that she was trash-talking all sorts of things about me (I found out from a mutual friend).  I let it go, considering the source, then ran into Veronica at a local wine tasting event on Friday night.  What a b**** she was there.  To my face she pretended to be as sweet as cream pie, but I knew that anything I’d say would be turned into venom against me.  It was an interesting evening as she squirmed when I went over to talk to her (she tried to avoid me) and simply exchanged small talk.

What would you have done?  Would you confront the person with their own bad behavior or do as I did and simply pretend not to know?

#2. BEATRICE (not her real name either)

Saturday I arranged for a new friend (of less than a month) and I to volunteer at a local event and I agreed to share a ride with her (she drove this time since I’ve driven her for the past month!) I drove to her place where I parked my car, and didn’t say anything to her about the fact that  she kept me waiting for 30 minutes (at the time pre-arranged for her convenience so she could have her “I need to sleep until noon on Saturday” time. Volunteers had to be there by 1pm and it was an hour drive.)  Enroute, I endured her tantrum driving to Tampa (I didn’t realize that traffic could evoke such foul language), two stops for her to pick up money and cigarettes rendering us 45 minutes late to the event.  I was embarrassed to be that late, but didn’t belabor the point since we were at least there!

All day she stuck to me like glue (I’m not used to people being tethered to me at a volunteer gig) and we ended up attending an after-party with organizers at a hotel courtyard.  One guy there was interested in me and I in him so we ended up spending a lot of time talking – and I probably ignored her.  As the party wound up and I got ready to leave with her, she disappeared!

As a friend, I got worried (she had too much to drink to drive home sober) and texted and called her to no avail.  I was DITCHED without a ride home and with no explanation or even courtesy to tell me she was leaving.  The next morning (there were no rooms available so I bunked in on the sofa of two guys who had a room – thankfully!) – as I was hailing a $50 taxi back to my car, – she finally returned a text saying “I am fine… you botched the friendship…. don’t ever contact me again.”   I asked the guys if I had said or done something reckless to her the night before and their response was simply – “we were there, she was simply gone, and wow, that’s f***’ed up!”

This GCB (she professes to be religious and righteous) refused to tell me what horrendous deed I had done to deserve being left behind, but other friends tell me that when alcohol and a guy are involved, bitchy women can become psycho.  How did I miss this whole segment of society to this point?  I realize that there really wasn’t a friendship in the first place to lose, but again, I am stunned at the behavior and would like to avoid this type of person in the future.  (She sent an almost identical text to a guy she had an “encounter” with just the week before when he left her on a Sunday morning.  So she has a pattern of dismissive texting.)

The Future… Advice please?

Do you think mean girls can grow up?  Do you meet these people when you are out and about?  How should I handle these people and what would you do?

Karma says that the Veronica’s and the Beatrice’s of the world will get theirs… and I do not wish harm on anyone.  But whiskey tango foxtrot, I do not need these people in MY life.

Have a great week!

Carol

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

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