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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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.

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.