Friday’s Focus—Just Say It

Drop a friend a note just to say hello and to wish them a great day and weekend or if you have a special someone, leave a note tonight before you go to bed, where they will find it in the morning with the words I love you. Or you can draw a heart, or smiley face, or whatever. Just something that adds a little surprise, a little fun, and a great big smile 🙂

Have a good weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Stumbling From Perfection

I don’t know very many people who are perfect. I don’t know any actually, but there are certainly a lot of us who put our face forward acting as if we were and thinking anything less is unworthy; even shameful. It’s from this place of striving for perfection of whom we think we should be—the perfect parent; perfect spouse; perfect child; perfect employee; perfect person—that one day, we will inevitably stumble.

And when we do and we reveal ourselves of the imperfections of being human, we either ask forgiveness or are asked to forgive. Is there a limit to the number of times we forgive? Do the numbers change when we ask for forgiveness of others instead of ourselves?

Some people say there is no number—you forgive as often as there are stars in the sky, and then there are people like my ex-husband who held steadfastly in the belief of three strikes and you’re out.

I’m not sure which is harder, forgiving someone else or forgiving ourselves. I think that we tend to be much harder on ourselves, allowing feelings of shame and degradation for not being “perfect” to cloak us into feeling unworthy and unloveable.

Perfection isn’t real, but forgiveness is.

In those moments when we fall out of who we think we should be into who we really are, in our various stages of sometimes awkward, sometimes raw humanness, learning as we go, we need to remember that underneath it all, in each one of us, there is always the connection of grace and divinity. And for that, there is nothing to ask forgiveness for.

I Do

In the bright morning light of a new dawning day
The road stands open before us,
and beckons, “Come… this way.”

So take my hand as I clasp yours in mine
and we’ll walk this road together
until the end of time.

I recognized your soul and you knew me from my heart;
and now that we’re together,
God nor Devil can tear us apart.

It’s more than each other’s hand that we hold;
It’s the lifetimes of love
that have never grown cold.

Together we will each other’s company keep
until the day there’s only one,
but even then we’ll not weep.

For another life together lies beyond this, I know.
My lover, friend, companion;
Our love stays pure as snow.

Let’s take our steps together, hand in hand, heart to heart;
And I promise to love you forever…still…
never again in our love, shall we be apart.

Friday’s Focus—Keeping It Real Beyond the Holidays

The holidays of 2014 are in full swing with less than 2 weeks to Thanksgiving, 5 weeks until Hanukkah begins, then Christmas the week after, and finally New Year’s coming in with a blink of an eye only a week after that. Whew!

Barring natural disasters, there is no other time of the year that so much attention is given to the importance of family, friends, and loved ones and extending helping hands and kindness to strangers and those in need than during the holidays of November and December.

Volunteering suddenly goes up; donations to food kitchens rise; coat drives pop up; angel cards appear in town centers stapled to green-painted plywood trees, each denoting the age, sex and suggested gift for a child or senior in a shelter or a home; Toys for Tots bins sit ready and waiting in any given location throughout the city.

This is all wonderful and great and endearing, and it’s exactly these types of acts that help make the holidays feel special—showing and experiencing the kindness and generosity of the human heart and spirit; The way we should be with each other all year long and not just in November and December.

Let’s break through the amnesia that comes in January and continue to do something nice and thoughtful for the next person after the holidays. The calendar should not dictate when we need to offer a helping hand. Needing help doesn’t end after December and being nice, thoughtful, and considerate of the next person shouldn’t either.

Let the generosity of your spirit and depth of kindness for each other continue all year round. Coats may not be needed in June but food still is and basic necessities. Soup kitchens and shelters don’t close after April. Offering help and acts of kindness can take many forms regardless of the time of year.

Let’s take 2015 and make it the year of keeping it real. Keeping the real feelings of love, patience, tolerance, and kindness that we make such an effort to show during the Holiday Season and extend it to wherever it’s needed, to whomever it’s needed, regardless of the time of year.

Have a good weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Making It Work and Making It Worth It–My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips

There is no shortage of articles on how to have a successful relationship or ways to save your marriage so with my husband and I celebrating 20 years together this past June, and an 18 year wedding anniversary in December, there’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that I feel can’t be repeated often enough and I’d like to share them here.

We all want to be loved and accepted, and we all want someone we can call home. Relationships are tough enough to navigate and some people need the rawness of experience to really understand these bumps in the road, regardless of how many relationship articles are written about them!

I can’t take away those experiences from people, nor would I want to deprive them of such a growth opportunity, but here are some steps I’ve learned along the way that that I’ve found to have made the road a little easier to navigate.

My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips:

1. Relationships are rarely, if ever, an equal 50/50 split for long and the rare moment it is, know that it is fleeting and won’t stay that way for long. Relationships are fluid; they are a living thing and need constant feeding to keep it alive. It takes two to stoke it so when your relationship turns to a 60/40 or 70/30 shift of balance, see it for what it is in the moment. The key is to make sure it doesn’t stay in that tilt for long, and then bringing it back into a more even flow. This is best done by being aware of your relationship and what’s happening. One of the worst things you can do is to keep score. It’s underhanded and not fair. Relationships are an everyday give and take the balance is always changing.

2. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Crystal balls tend to be in the shop a lot getting fixed and no one is a mind reader. Well, there are some people who may be, but don’t assume your partner/spouse is one of them unless they have this crazy hidden talent they didn’t tell you about. If something bothers you that is happening with the other person or in the relationship, talk about it. And when I saw talk, I mean have a conversation—don’t accuse or point fingers. Good conversation starters are “I feel that,” or “It seems to me that….”. No one can judge you for how you feel or tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong.

3. Don’t assume. If you don’t talk about what you’re feeling, don’t assume that the other person will be able to navigate your moods based on your sighs or eye rolls or door slams.

4. At least try to see the other person’s point of view. It’s said if you truly want to understand someone,walk a mile in their shoes. While you don’t need to walk a mile in your partner’s shoes to understand whatever is happening, you should at least try to be in their shoes for the situation at hand. You might be surprised by what you learn.

5. Be friends. Unless your relationship has been based on pure sex, there is something in there that got you two together in the first place. Sometimes, liking someone and being friends with them is just as important, if not more so, than loving them. While love is important, it’s that underlying friendship that I’ve found to be the core of every successful relationship and the respect for each other that is the bind. If a relationship blip becomes too hot, it’s that core friendship that can allow a work-through of whatever is going on.

6. Listen. And I mean really listen. Don’t listen for the other person to stop talking so you can add your point of view. Listen to what is being said and also, what is not being said. Some people don’t know how to articulate their feelings or are uncomfortable stating how they feel so they’ll tend to imply what they’re feeling. If you don’t understand, ask the person to clarify.

7. Allow the other person to be just that—their own person. Give them room to breathe. You may not always understand why they do something but each of us is on our own path and must learn to live our own lives, which includes making our own mistakes. Support them, don’t judge them, and don’t get together with someone because you think you can change them. Relationships are not pet projects. If you really feel the need to change the other person, you need to look to yourself instead or else, you shouldn’t be with them in the first place.

8. It really is the littlest things that mean the most and help keep things fresh. A cup of tea when it’s not asked for, a random chore done for the other, and even notes left for each other to find. My husband and I leave notes for each other all the time, saying anything from I love you to Have a great Day! We leave them all over the house or in places we know the other person will be looking in.

9. Tell the other person how you feel about them every day. Let them know that you’re thinking about them or just wanted to say hi, instead of using the call or text to remind them about some errand that has to be done or to vent about the kids.

10. Forgive. Whatever it is, forgive. As hokey as that may sound, I’m a big believer especially having been on the receiving end of forgiveness more often than I should have been! Unless you can say with utmost certainty that you would never do whatever it is they did wrong, or you really don’t want to be with the person anymore and don’t feel that your relationship is worth fighting for, then forgive. You can get mad and you don’t have to like or agree with whatever was done, but the only way to get past the inevitable relationship bumps and grinds, and move on and grow is to forgive.

Relationships can bring you to the heights of ecstasy and drop you to the depths of despair. They can be the bane of our existence or the only existence we want to live for and ultimately, a mirror of ourselves. I hope that my experiences here have given you pause, and will help enrich wherever you may be in whatever relationship you’re in and help you take things deeper.

Changing the Rules of the Game

Whether we realize it or not, every day, in any given situation, we teach people how to treat us by our reactions and where we set our boundaries.

No matter how much we’d rather believe that the way we’re being treated is the other person’s fault, it takes two. If that other person is so bad, why are you allowing it? That’s right–allow. To see how we teach others to treat us is not always so obvious and it takes a chunk of honesty to recognize it.

Praying situations away or praying for people to change doesn’t work. You might as well accept that now. Believe me, I’ve done it for far longer than I should have. Then, when nothing changes, what do we do? We blame the situation or the other person for our misery. It can’t and isn’t always about the other person. How about you? What are you doing that is enabling the situation to continue or the person to continue to treat you that you find so problematic?

If nothing is changing for you despite pleas and prayers, and wishful thinking so hard and deep on every star you wish upon, that they fall in your lap from the powerful pull, it’s time to look inside yourself.

What is your story? What are your rules and boundaries that are no longer working for you? Take any corner of your life and note spaces and people where you feel things aren’t going the way you want or think they should. Is it really because of them? When it seems like no matter what you do, nothing is changing, then that’s the time to take an honest assessment and start making shifts: Rewrite the rules, change your reactions, and move some of those boundaries while removing others.

By changing your reactions and your expectations, and by default the way you treat others, you will teach others how to treat you. We’re all saints and sinners with good days and bad but no one is exclusively one or the other. Be how you wish to be treated. Be the kind of person you want to attract. This isn’t giving in or giving up who you are, but it is giving up control instead. It could be giving up what we thought we wanted. It is giving up what is really the dream of someone else in our life. It is giving up of that perfection we are told we should all be.

You’d be surprised at how much our expectations and reactions get in the way of how we really wish to be treated and get what we want out of life. If you’re not happy with a relationship, maybe it’s not that you need to seek a better mate, maybe you need to be a better mate yourself. If you feel you’re not getting the respect you deserve, maybe you haven’t shown enough respect for yourself. If you don’t care, why should anyone else? If you want something then say it, shout it, go get it! If you don’t, the other person is not a mind reader and it’s not their fault that they couldn’t inuit your desires. No one walks over you or gets away with anything you don’t allow them to.

The good news is, we all have the power to change the game. To change our game—reinvent it. Too often we think that we can’t because we’re either too scared, have feelings of unworthiness, or maybe it never occurred to us that this is something we could do. We are all capable of amazing things and the bottom line is that no one else but you has the power to make the changes to your script. And yes, change can hurt those involved but without making the change and taking the chance on hurting the other person, you end up only hurting yourself and is that really a sacrifice you want to make?

Sending love and good vibes to the moon and back and wishing everyone a bottomless cup of coffee, chai, or whatever it is that will get your week going to a great start!

 

I Want…

I’ve been quiet for a while so I thought it was time to post some things I’ve been thinking about….

I want my breath taken away by something beautiful, not knocked out of me by anxiety.

I want my heart to ache from loving so much it hurts, not aching from hurt love.

I want my eyes to see beauty and hope in all corners of nature and humanity; even ugliness and hard lines have a duality that embrace some good.

I want my mind to come up with possibilities and solutions where thinking out of the box is the norm rather than staying boxed in.

I want my soul to create opportunities of inspiration, aspiration, and celebration not just for myself but for whomever the magic touches.

I want to dream of ideas and worlds that change the questions of “What if” and “When” to the sentences, “Yes,” and “Right now.”

I want to walk out of the shadows of my ancestors and add my own colors and stories for my descendants.

Finally, I want to thank all those who are or have been in my life even if for a moment or a day, and for helping me choreograph my dance, add colors to my canvas, and for being an audience to my stories.

Peace.

Defining Ourselves

I read something the other day that asked how do we define ourselves? The article went on to say that it was another way of asking the Mother of All Questions: Who Am I? I became intrigued with the idea of how we define ourselves as the underbelly to that Master question.

Throughout time, philosophers and religious seekers have asked the question, Who Am I? Depending on what religious or philosophical texts you read, there are many answers, but general agreement seems to be that we are not who we think we are in this physical manifestation. We are more: We are an extension of the Universal energy (or God or whatever your name for it is) that brought us to be born in this human body in the first place.

Personally, I experience this connection—this extension—in my deepest meditations, yoga practice, or when I sit in Nature and in balance with what’s around me. In those moments, the truth of oneness becomes undeniable.

If you asked me to define myself, I would rattle off that I am a wife, a media project manager, a yoga teacher, a writer, and a daughter. In reality, those are labels of the things I do and are to others. They define my roles in society and my abilities but they do not define me. Labels are made up and so are the associations with them. I don’t believe labels define a person. I believe that moments do. If you take any defining moment in your life—it’s in those moments that we reveal who we are and our true nature.

The defining moment for a firefighter battling a blaze reveals his courageousness in his desire to save people. The defining moment for parents reveals themselves as love when they stay up all night nursing a sick child. The defining moment for a lover reveals selflessness when he puts aside his own desires when he sees his partner in need. Even defining moments that at first glance reveal something negative, really aren’t. Taking it deeper, even a person caught stealing is not a thief. Yes, per the label he is, but the defining moment of theft reveals that he is a fearful person. Someone who is hurt and in need.

We need to be careful here also of mistaking our reactions to events as tells to who we really are. When we are pressed in situations, most of us react until we learn not to. Don’t take that reaction to be the answer to who you are. Take it deeper into what’s behind that reaction.

These defining moments can come to anyone at any time. They don’t need to be earth-shattering life events. They can be simple, and small, but hugely profound in their reveal. I found myself in my own defining moment recently when I was practicing Yoga. I was having difficulty keeping a balancing pose, so in a third attempt, I yet again, renewed my intention and shifted my focus. As my foot came up against my standing leg and my arms rose above my head, my thoughts suddenly shifted to “I am love. I am love. I am love.” With each repetition, my pose became surer and straighter. That single moment was a defining one for me. So who am I? Lots of labels, and lots of things to many people and yes, I am an extension of the universal energy, and I am also love.

Who are you?

 

Wondering About the Seven Wonders of the World

Question for this Thursday—and no peeking!

What are the Seven Wonders of the World?

How many did you get? If you are able to name them, good for you and I bow to your memory! But if you’re anything like me, coming up with anything beyond one or two was a struggle. The only one I could readily name is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and my husband could only name the Taj Mahal. Together we were able to remember the Great Pyramid of Giza, but after that we just stared at each other.

Curiosity got the better of me so I did a little digging and discovered that there are not just the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (and sometimes an Eighth), but there are apparently other “Wonders” as well: Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Seven Natural Wonders of the World, New Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and Seven Wonders of the Solar System, and many other Wonder lists that aren’t relegated to the number Seven. As a matter of fact, a Google Search of the Seven Wonders of the World resulted in 33,800,000 hits (!!).

For those of you like me, who couldn’t remember the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (also known as Seven Wonders of the Classic World), here they are:

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Later historical lists included more “contemporary” sites such as the Taj Mahal (the Wonder my husband came up with) Stonehenge, the Colosseum, Great Wall of China, and Cluny Abbey. Maybe they were added because the only one left from the original list is the Great Pyramid of Giza!

Many of these lists are subjective and were created from the public surveys and compilations guided by groups such as The American Society of Civil Engineers, CNN, New 7 Wonders Foundation, USA Today newspaper, New7 Wonders of Nature, and CEDAM International to name a few.

Thinking about all of these Wonders inspired me to create my own Seven Wonders of Renata’s World. I’m not a time traveler or a world traveler and these wonders aren’t all man-made, or all natural-made but they are Wonders to me nonetheless. In no particular order of Wonder, here is my list:

The strength of a tuft of grass or dandelion to find the spot to push through and grow in between cracks of cement
The power of thunderstorms
The grace of an ocean wave
The depth of feelings of relief, acceptance, and gratefulness when forgiving and being forgiven
Falling asleep curled up in your lover’s arms
A Parents’ hug
Falling in love

If you were to list Seven Wonders in your world what would they be?

Blogging From A to Z: Zippy

Z

I knew from the beginning of this A to Z challenge that I would end it with the word zippy. I tried other Z words—zelig, zaftig, zoo, Zelda (Fitzgerald, not Nintendo’s Legends of), Zippo, even my older brother Zoltan was a potential candidate, but nothing quite stuck.

So I decided to be true to the word that apparently won’t let me go and wants its place in the alphabetic line of this challenge, and thus I offer up the word zippy. It’s a pretty versatile word actually: the classical definition is to be very quick and speedy or fresh and stylish. It can also be used to sarcastically describe someone who moves molasses-slow and for those of us who remember or who are comic book fans, Zippy was an iconic comic strip from the early 1970s created by Bill Griffith. Personally, I have no particular associations with this word except that it makes me smile and it’s fun to say.

I love the peppy and lively energy of the word. Taking this deeper, I think I wanted to end this month-long blogging event on a high note and a smile. After today, I will return to my regularly scheduled programming of posts so I want to thank all of you who have stopped by, visited, and those of you following me since this challenge began. I met some truly wonderful, incredible, inspiring people—writers, artists, photographers, and just plain folks with an outlet and something to say.

So to my fellow bloggers, artists, and soul travelers, I want to wish all of you a very zippy day.

Just took it deeper. 🙂