Friday’s Focus—Valentine’s Day 365

Over the course of the past week, I kept hearing about “the holiday weekend.” What holiday weekend? I thought to myself every time. Presidents day? Well, yes on Monday….Superbowl’s over….Then I’d think of the date and remember, oh yeah. Valentine’s Day.

I never thought of Valentines’s Day as an actual holiday. It’s not like a day the country celebrates with fireworks or the banks close or there are school plays about it. To me, it was always just a day that meant flowers, chocolates, and a stuffed animal professing its love to me with big plastic eyes.

I have nothing against the day and have enjoyed my share of its tokens. It’s fun, yeah. Who doesn’t like the extra attention, and from a woman’s perspective, yes, it can be exciting but I just don’t think of it as the kind of (holi)day that we need 6 weeks of plan-ahead shopping for our sweethearts and lovers. I remember seeing cellophane hearts lining store shelves as early as January. Really?

Unless there is a jewelery box with a “K” on it, or dinner reservations that offer more of a choice than a 4 p.m. or 10 p.m. seating (in other words, things that need a little bit of planning), for more of us than we would like to admit, our tokens of affection will usually end up from a last minute trip to Walgreens or CVS for that holy trinity of card, chocolates, and a stuffed animal.

Personally, I don’t want commercialism to dictate when or how I tell my husband I love him. We share that with each other all year long. Of course it’s nice to get flowers. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, but if I had to choose between waking up to the coffee maker prepped and ready to go, with note taped on it and my husband’s handwritten “Good Morning! It’s almost ready” and a heart drawn underneath;or a clean kitchen after an attempt at playing Master Chef the night before; or getting a text in the middle of the day with a goofy emoticon and the message “Miss you, can’t wait to see you again” on any given day versus getting flowers and chocolates on that one day of the year, I don’t think it will take you too long to figure out which one I’d choose.

Valentines’s Day is nice and sweet but showing the love we share for each other—our sweethearts and spouses and significant others—shouldn’t be capped into that one day of the year. True love, really deep, passionate, throw you on the bed, make your heart sing, and add a bounce to your step kind of love is something you can’t help but share on more than just one calendar day and it would be because you want to, and not just because the commercials tell you to. It doesn’t take much to show how you feel, but boy, does it go a long way.

Enjoy whatever comes your way on February 14 and just keep in mind that showing someone you care for them and love them doesn’t begin or end on that date. Boxes of chocolates and flowers are available all year 🙂

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Being the Center of Your Own Universe

It’s only natural to want the people you love to be happy. Who doesn’t want to see their family and loved ones content and taken care of? But what if that happiness comes at the expense of your own feelings, to the point where you specifically change the way you do things and go about your own life just to secure someone else’s happiness?

A few days ago, my husband and I had tentatively planned on doing a day trip for the upcoming weekend. I wasn’t really thrilled with going but I said I would because I knew it would make him happy to go to this place. I didn’t know it at the time, but he really wasn’t up to traveling, but was prepared to go because I said I wanted to. We were both willing to make the trip because we thought it was what the other person wanted.

After a bit more discussion, he looked at me and said “Do you really want to go?” I made a face and answered, “No, not really,” to which his shoulders slumped and he smiled and said, “Good, I’m so glad you said that because I’m not up to it but I thought you wanted to go so I was willing to give it a try.” We both felt such relief sharing how we honestly felt. A short while later, I said to him, “I still feel bad about not going. I know you like it there and I wanted you to be happy,” to which he responded, “Don’t worry about it. You’re not in charge of my universe.”

KABONG. Though it hasn’t been often, he’s said this to me before, and each time, when I thought about it, I realized I was doing things to ensure his happiness at the expense of mine. It’s not bad or wrong to want someone you love to be happy—it’s what you do in a healthy relationship, but, when you consistently sacrifice your own happiness and compromise your feelings to make someone else happy, it’s not good or healthy anymore for either one of you. Another person’s happiness does not nor should depend upon your actions for them. Your actions are not the center of their Universe dictating how happy or content they feel. I’ve understood this on a subtle level but this was one of those cartoonish Kabong moments that it finally sunk in.

I think a lot of that had to do with setting my mother up into an Assisted Living facility last week because she couldn’t live alone anymore. The emotions from that decision rocked everyone in my immediate family. Even though we knew it was for the best, there was (and is) still a lot of emotion involved. She is still in the adjustment period and in thinking of ways that I might be able to make it easier for her, I realized that I couldn’t do any more than what I had been. With stunning clarity, it finally became obvious just how much I was making myself the center of her Universe and yet, no matter what I did, I would not be able to solve her problems, resolve her issues, or make her any happier. That’s a role that is hers and hers alone, as it is with each one of us. I will continue to care for and look for ways to make my loved ones happy but this time, from a more decidedly healthier stand.

I’m working on becoming the center of my own Universe instead of or in addition to other people’s. Sometimes, going the distance to make sure someone is happy has roots deeper than feelings of love for the person and wanting their satisfaction. It can come from a need for a sense of approval, acceptance, or even a justification of our own existence. To discover the true underbelly of our motivations as to why we do things is a very personal road and is different for each one of us.

Today’s Focus is about bringing attention to areas in each of your lives where you may be making yourself the center of someones else’s Universe instead of your own. Look beyond the actions you take to make others happy. Don’t take away their lessons; their own path. It is not up to you to ensure someone else’s feelings or contentment no matter how you feel about them. While it’s generous and deeply loving to want to ensure someone else’s happiness, the flip side is it’s a disservice to them in that you’re taking away chances and opportunities for them to learn their lessons and walk down their path. You can hold them in empathy but you can’t use your life and your resources to make someone else happy without perhaps the biggest disservice of all—the sacrifice of your own life and energy.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Saying, “I’m Sorry”

Admitting you were wrong about something and then telling the other person you’re sorry, doesn’t make you weak or any less of a person or less of “a man”.

It can be scary to reveal our mistakes and fess up to actions or spoken words that don’t show us in our best light.

But at the same time, that vulnerability can make you stronger and deepen your relationship with the other person. Don’t let pride or ego stand in the way of taking things deeper with another person, including yourself.

Have a great weekend!

And That’s How It Started

Tell me about the first time
that
you climbed a tree
or ran a mile.

Tell me about the first time
you
rode a bike
or caught a ball.

Tell me about the one time
you
got caught in the rain
and a
stranger gave you his umbrella.

Tell me, again, about the time
he called when he said he would,
and then met you at the door with flowers.

Tell me.
Tell me this…
Tell me that…
Tell me these things,
and more.

And I will tell you, too.

We braided our stories over coffee and tea.

That is how it started. This is how we started.

Now as we sit across from each other,
steam rising from our mugs,
the words from our stories hang between us.

We have grown and settled to a place
that is comfortable and where speaking is not really needed.
Just a look or a gesture conveys
all we need to say.

The hours and years of the intimacy of all that I told you…

And all that you told me…
of the first time
that
you climbed a tree
or ran a mile….

Friday’s Focus—Mirror, Mirror in Our Hearts

You don’t need to wait for Valentine’s Day to show the one you love how you feel. I recently had the most interesting and telling conversation with my husband that not only showed us a lot about each other but showed me some things about myself as well.

Sit with your loved one and tell them all of the things that you learned from them since you’ve been together. Remember it’s not about what you learned about them (their favorite color or sports team) but about what you learned from them (I learned to see that things aren’t always black and white; I’ve learned to be more flexible; I learned how to cook!).

It’s an incredible mirroring exercise that will show you so much about your relationship and at the same time be a mirror for yourself in bringing to light how much you may have grown and changed that you normally may not have been aware of.

You can do this with anyone special in your life–it doesn’t have to be just your spouse but can be extended to friends and other members of your family.

Have a great weekend!

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

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—You’ve Got to Disconnect to Reconnect

Let’s start this focus off with a challenge:

The next time you find yourself waiting for something or someone, whether it be a visitor, lunch date, plane, train, or bus, don’t take out your smartphone as a distraction. That’s right. Don’t check email. Don’t surf the Web. Don’t tweet, post, or launch whatever social media has your attention and password.

Our addiction to social media and our insatiable need to be connected is actually keeping us separated from each other in the real world, making it seem more like antisocial media. We have become a people who use the Internet and all its fabulous sites and information and entrainment as a crutch from connecting with each other. What gets lost here, is remembering that it’s the human connection in the first place that generates all the great stories we read about and human-interest videos we watch on YouTube and Facebook.

So many people would rather watch life’s events via a device in 2D then a real interaction that asks us to step out beyond our comfort zones and engage with people and events.

Don’t allow your Internet connection to be your disconnection with the whole of your life.

The next time you find yourself with even 5 minutes of downtime waiting for someone or something, don’t be in such a hurry to reach for that phone. Instead, just be where you are and disconnect to reconnect with your thoughts and what is happening around you.

It’s important to remember that the real world is at our feet and all around us, and while social media has its fortunes and uses, it is only a  portion, a very small portion at that, of what life is really about.

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!