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Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Mother, Myself

Three years ago today my mom passed away. Sometimes the loss still feels raw, but when I think back to those days, weeks and even months right after she died,when it was still so new, I know I have come a long way settling into this life without someone I dearly loved.

Like all humans my mother was not perfect. There is a tendency to deify people when they've died that I've never agreed with. I think it diminishes their humanness and gives the rest of us a level of faux perfectionism we can never attain. I prefer to remember my mom as real and flawed - just like me.

My mother did have me beat in a couple of areas that I am always trying to emulate. She was extremely non-judgemental and rarely said anything negative about anyone. Her former colleagues to this day will tell me how she was a pillar of integrity, someone who never bought into workplace gossip and kept her opinions to herself. I don't think of myself as a gossip, but I know I sometimes do vent to a close friend, having a good whine for a moment of two.

I like to think I'm pretty good on not being judgemental. Well, if I'm being completely honest, I can't say that's one-hundred percent true. I do judge people. I judge them on how they treat others, how they treat themselves, and how they impact the people and world around them. So apparently I'm 0 for 2.

I kind of want people to use words like "gracious" to describe me, like they did her,but given my affinity for "that's what she said" jokes and appreciation for expletive laced music, I've got a feeling that's not a word people would use to describe me.

Where I have tried to be different from my mother, in a way I think is positive, is I am much more demonstrative, both verbally and physically. I tell my children I love them every time I talk to them, and I am a much more affectionate person. I think if you love someone you should say it. Often. Partly generational and partly personality, I am a more open person. I like that. I never heard the words "I love you" from my mom until I said them first. At about 20-years-old. The amazing thing was, once that wall came down, she then began to say it all the time.

My mother took up yoga in her late 70s, became a Reiki Master at 80,and never stopped learning. That is something I want to carry on. I want to never stop being curious, to always want to try something new, and just be open to what shows up.

Maybe the trick is to take the strengths we saw in our parents, improve on the weaknesses, and then mix it in with the things that make us, us. "When you know better you do better," Maya Angelou famously said. As a daughter and a mother, my hope is that we all just keep getting better with each generation. I think there's no better tribute than that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fear and Dating in Las Vegas (or anywhere for that matter)

Now isn't this what we all want? To be kissed in the rain, in Paris, while also wearing really cute boots?! Were that it was that easy...

I've been talking to my girlfriends about relationships this week. Who am I kidding, we talk about relationships and dating all the time, this week I've just been taking note a bit more.

One friend cracked me up when she said she wanted to start a support group for women who don't choose well. I could be the poster child for this group. Seriously. But I know for a fact I'm not alone.

The common thread is of course is all everyone wants is to be loved and love back, but getting there is fraught with a minefield of opportunities to get your heart broken, embarrass yourself and end up much the worse for wear. But hopefully you come back not just bruised and battered, but wiser for the journey.

I keep thinking I should be better at this by now, but are any of us good at love, or are we all just stumbling in the dark?

I was talking to a friend today about how much I loathe dating and how it makes my stomach hurt. My brother's theory is people don't send themselves on dates, they send ambassadors of themselves. You know, the best behavior - perfect manners, laughing in all the right places. holding your stomach in and being delightful. Then, as time goes on the masks come off and you see who people really are. Often it's disappointing, but once in a rare while, when the constellations align, there is no disappointment. That's when you know you've gotten lucky.

It isn't all about luck, there are some things to remember. If you make it past a cup of coffee and commit to a meal, you might just want to remember these things.

1. Stop thinking anyone is going to rescue you, complete you or make your life idyllic. They won't, and you need to complete yourself. That said, a rescue once in a while is pretty nice.

2. Don't accept anyone loving you any less than you love yourself.

3. It really doesn't matter if he leaves the cap off the toothpaste or she doesn't clean the kitchen the way you would. What matters is, is this a person you would want to be stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire with? Is this someone who is calm, consistent and there for you? Forget the minutiae, it's the big stuff that really matters.

4. Make sure you're with someone who knows what it's like to love someone more than they love themselves. This is where parents have an advantage. We're used to giving, even when we feel like we can't anymore, and putting someone else's needs ahead of our own is a daily practice. The key is finding an equal opportunity giver.

5. Attitude is everything. Through ups and downs and all life throws at you, choosing well means choosing someone you can laugh with, cry with, and know they've got your back. I know I want to spend my life with someone who isn't thrown off by insignificant things, and can handle the big things as well. No one's a rock all the time, but knowing you've got a steady person to navigate the trails with makes life a lot easier.

6. You are not a "magnet" for bad boys or the victim of bitchy, angry women. YOU do the choosing. There's no one to blame. It's up to you to choose better. Stop blaming anyone else for the casting you do for the movie of your life.

When I was talking to a friend today about this topic, she laughed and quoted "thirtysomething," - "Fear, doubt and insecurity are my roommates." Yeah, that trio lives with me too.

The best advice I can give you is this. People will tell you lots of things you might want to hear, but they show you who they are with their behavior. When they show you who they are, believe them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In the Waiting Line

As many of you know, I wrote a book. A novel to be exact. And now that I have an agent I am waiting to get word that it will be bought by a publisher and I'll be on my way to holding a copy of my book in my hands, which I must say will be well manicured for the occasion.

I was asked to write a piece for the wonderful Jungle Red Writers blog about what the wait is like, and would love for you to read it!

Deciding at this stage of life, mid-life, to do something so risky is scary. I lie awake some nights thinking I should have taken a different path, a more secure one, but something keeps me going, a drive, ambition and passion for what I do that won't allow me to stop.

I will either end up losing everything, or have the best story to tell when it's my turn to no longer be the journalist interviewing the writer, but the subject of the story instead. I am praying for the latter.

Life, I believe should be lived with passion. To do less than live your dreams is a slap in the face to the gift life is. We need to honor our goals and desires to create the life we were meant to and want to live.

When I was a life coach I worked with my clients on helping them to uncover what it was they wanted their lives to look like. I have tried to do the same with myself, not always so successfully because, well, it's a bit harder to be objective.

As much as I love others in my life, I have to live my life for me. To do otherwise would make me unhappy and make me less in my roles as mom, sister, friend or partner for someone. To be good for others I need to be right with myself.

So, I am bumbling along, perhaps really screwing it up, but I don't have any regrets (yet) because I know for life to be well lived you have to be authentically you. Be true to yourself, I believe, and the rest will work itself out.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Should I Be More Butch? Nah.

I read this very funny column this week by Alexandra Molotkow, about how she's a "failure" at being a woman. She cites problems with her lack of affection for babies, how she can't cook, and how she can't look good all the time while apparently smelling spectacular as well. I was not aware that we were supposed to do that.

My problem, as I see it is I like all the girl stuff WAY too much and maybe need to be less womanly and more like a guy's woman - you know, into sports and power tools. I never want to be thought of as frail or helpless. Though at almost five feet ten I don't think I would ever occur as frail.

After I read that column I started thinking about all the stereotypically womanly stuff I like to do - I sew, knit, bake, cook, crochet, I like makeup, clothes and shoes. I would rather make lunch for the people working in the yard or painting the house than do those things myself.

On the flip side I don't know what the hell a suicide squeeze play is, and pretty much everything about football (even though for four years I went to all of my son's high school games) completely confuses me.

These are not things I'm proud of. Somewhere along the line I missed the lessons on sports, power tools and spitting. That's right, I can't even spit right.

Perhaps it's because I was raised by a single mom and my brother wasn't into sports so I was never exposed. I envy my girlfriends who can talk baseball and know what's going on during a game. I don't want to feel like a sports moron, but apparently I don't care enough to do anything about it. Trying to learn football for me is like when my ex-husband, a very good bridge player would get me to be a fourth when they were short a player. The word "dummy" in those circumstances was quite apt.

I think what I really gleaned from Alexandra's column is that we all seem to wish we were different in some way. I'd like to be better at math and instinctivly know how to unclog a drain. Sadly, neither of those things come naturally to me.

Over time out of necessity I have learned to do some household repairs, but if I were to be perfectly honest, I'd much rather be baking cookies. If that makes me a less well-rounded woman, so be it. If a guy wants to date someone he can watch sports with I'm clearly the wrong choice, but I'll gladly read a book or write one while sitting next to them keeping them company. And I'll even make some brownies.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Science of Love

I'm fascinated by what makes people tick. If I hadn't become a writer I think I might have become a therapist. Though I think I'd specialize in happy problems - nothing too serious, which is why it's probably good I'm a writer!

The science of relationships really intrigues me, and it's a code I'd love to crack! Bu thank goodness there are many scientists much better suited than I to do this, so I just read. A lot.

One of my favorite books on the topic is "The Alchemy of Love and Lust," which explains in great detail what happens in our brains and bodies when we love someone. The impact of oxytocin, serotonin and a host of other chemicals that flood our brains when we're in love is real and tangible, unlike lots of other theories when it comes to love.

In a somewhat different vein is Dr. Helen Fisher's, "Why Him? Why Her?" which explains the above illustration of personality types. At the link is another link where you too can take the personality test.

I was not surprised in taking the test to discover I am a "Negotiator." According to Fisher Negotiators are: "Imaginative, idealistic, agreeable and introspective" (you think?!). Negotiators apparently respond to Directors who are: "Analytical, decisive, focused, independent and strategic-minded." When I read that I thought back to the most significant relationships in my life and thought, yeah, she's right.

So why am I interested in all this? Part of it is certainly the science, but I always want to know more about myself, and why I make the choices I do. I think we're all far less interesting than we think we are. I believe we're all pretty simple - we all want to be loved and love. We want to feel supported, cared for and that we're special.

But.. within that it does get a little messy. The path is not a straight one, and the older I get I see that life is far from black and white. As someone who is divorced I certainly don't claim to have all the (or maybe any) answers. I'm just like everyone else - trying to do my best.

What I do know is it's never easy, even if you find that person who feels like your missing puzzle piece. I also know, the older I get the less I feel it needs to be all my way and the more I see it's all about compromise and letting go of your ego.

Which is really easy to say as I sit here writing by myself...