LIVING LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE


the other side

“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”  ― Oprah Winfrey

It’s been nearly two months since I started my cleanse. And, almost exactly one month since it ended. I have been living in this newly-designed life for a bit now and it is finally feeling like my new normal. Remarkably, so much has changed since before the cleanse when I set this unofficial line of demarcation. It turned out to be a truly distinct moment in time when life as I knew it became altered. Without question, I’ve shifted, as I have so many times before, moving along my own personal continuum to achieve some level of personal success and satisfaction. We all make the journey through life, seeking fulfillment and pleasure and, for some, it comes in big bursts and for others, like me, it sneaks up on your subtly without you really noticing it until, suddenly, it is there and you can’t avoid recognizing the alteration. If you’re like me, that feeling is like crack – you want more and more, constantly seeking out personal growth and enlightenment. And, the further along the continuum I travel, the deeper the chasm that exists between my life now and my life before.

Now, I’m living life on the other side. My life feels oddly new and different and yet I know I am just a more improved version of the same person I have always been. My cleanse – both the emotional and the physical – allowed me to distance myself from the elements in my life that were no longer working. Gone are the inconsequential relationships that sucked up my time but provided no meaning to my life. Thankfully, I am no longer a slave to Facebook, constantly seeking some type of validation or creating an artificial sense of belonging. In fact, I have had countless experiences over the past few months where people commented to me about the goings-on of acquaintances on Facebook and I have felt an incredible sense of satisfaction that I was no longer in the know. I am not privy to all the status updates and, while I miss seeing some of the photos and have definitely missed way too many birthdays, my peace of mind is far more important and I feel liberated from the monotony of scrolling through posts in order to reinforce to myself how much better everyone else’s life is than mine. The other day, I was texting with a girlfriend and commented that I am missing so much by not being on Facebook and she generously retorted by saying that I am missing nothing. Those who I need to be talking to, I am – case in point my friend with whom I was having a lovely text exchange. I can count on two (maybe even one) hand the number of people I regularly communicate with in contrast to the dozens and dozens I would banter endlessly with or force myself to create relationships with “offline” and I am certain my interactions have taken on a much higher quality now. That means everything to me.

The most important element of how I am living my life is how I look at myself, overall. I’ve recently had to confront my challenges with being happy and accepting contentment. Being an eternal seeker, I am endlessly looking at the ways in which I can better my life and, while I am not naturally a negative person, I do tend to focus, personally, on my weaknesses as a tool in which to measure my requirements for growth. Sure, I am hard on myself and tend to have perfectionist tendencies, but I wholeheartedly appreciate my process for raising my own performance standards. And, most significantly, I do not impose any of my standards on anyone else. This drive for improvement is absolutely an internal process. As a result of this, there is always a sense of incompleteness to my life. Just as I can reach above the bar, I raise it, quickly forcing a new goal and setting a new standard. I recognize that this limits my ability to bask in my success and appreciate my accomplishments so it is something I am working hard to improve upon – without, of course, forcing myself into yet another competition with myself to make advancements without acknowledging my progress.

Just this past week, I received some great news about some financial matters I was dealing with and the outcome was relieving a huge burden off my shoulders. Something that I had been struggling with for nearly two years was coming to a resolution and I was able to exhale a gigantic sigh of relief. The elation from the news – the exact solution I was hoping for – was short-lived. Within a few days, I felt a nagging sense of anxiety growing within me but I could not place the source. This has become uncharacteristic for me because, since the cleanse, I have been very in touch with my feelings and emotions and have not allowed myself to run away from my feelings. The removal of food as a distraction from my stress or anxiety has been enormously beneficial as I am constantly present and working through whatever is causing me difficulty. In fact, in complete contrast, lately I have had an unusual sense of calm about me and have made my peace with a lot of the aspects of my life about which I am typically uneasy. It took me by surprise to feel this sense of deflation and to experience this overwhelming stress. What quickly came to mind is that I was manufacturing my own duress. Like many times before in my life, I was a filling a void and keeping myself in what felt like a safe and familiar bunker. Something needed to replace the worry that had been ever-present in my life for the past several years. In contrast, peace and solitude are unfamiliar to me so it is not all that surprising that I would create something to help me comfortably stay in the familiar state of discomfort. When the reality sunk in about what was happening, I felt defeated. All the hard work I had put in – not just in the past few months – but in last decade, seemed worthless. My bad behaviors were rearing their ugly heads once more.

Alas, fret not. This story has a positive outcome. I took my struggle to the place where it belongs – therapy. I dissected the hell out of it and woke up to a new dawn. Simply being able to understand what was happening was a dramatic improvement (admitting you have a problem is the first step…). There was no running away or hiding out from what I was feeling or experiencing. Instead, I had confronted, head-on, my own foibles. I recognized, regrettably, how I had simply replaced one ailment for another and was now able to dig deeper.

Wearing our skills is the hardest part of personal development. We can intellectually absorb what needs to be done differently and study the new behaviors required to live more happily, authentically and successfully. However, when it comes time to demonstrate what we have learned, many, like me, struggle. It is like performing the dance for which you have learned all the different elements but have not put them all together at once. Within me, there is a deep belief in how I need to operate in order to achieve my own personal satisfaction. Plus, I have all the information and knowledge required to accomplish my tasks. I simply have never truly taken my desire, married it with my knowledge and put the pieces together to execute. And I kind of understand why – I have been afraid to fail. I have internalized some kind of idea or expectation that once I arrived at my destination, I would be good to go. I’d fire on all cylinders and there would be no looking back. But, as I have heard more clearly over the past few weeks, life is not about arriving at a destination, it is about the journey. There is no pass or fail – it is a series of trial and error and, hopefully, learning from errors to have fewer as time goes on. I get that. I can do that.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

This is what my life looks on this side:

I am living a healthy lifestyle. My eating is not perfect but it is greatly improved from where it was and I feel really comfortable with my choices. I have a different relationship with food and I have a strong sense of willpower to make the right choices. I have not re-introduced sugar or caffeine into my life and wheat is pretty much on the outs as well. Dairy makes a rare appearance and only in the form of the occasional cheese in a salad or a sprinkle of parmesan on a recipe. Plus eggs. I love eggs. I hardboil them and pop those suckers into my mouth for a quick protein fix after the gym. They make me happy. I have learned to enjoy cooking and have found recipes that reinforce that I can eat delicious food while still avoiding those items that cause me difficulty. I survived Easter and the presence of two growing boys who have a nonstop parade of cookies and ice cream with grace and, remarkably, little difficulty. I open my freezer regularly and see those familiar demons – pints of Talenti gelato – and it causes me no dismay. I will eat dessert again, when I choose to. I get to decide when and what. It does not choose me.

Working out has become a regular way of life for me.  Most weeks I am at the gym 4-5 times, if not more. I simply love it. I have found some great new classes, including spinning, that keep me engaged and enthusiastic, and I also enjoy my hour on the elliptical many mornings during the week. It is my time for me and I treasure it. I have learned how to prioritize myself and ensure that I get what I need to feed my soul in the most important ways. And, of course, the results feel wonderful! While I have not lost as much weight as I had hoped to by this point, I am on a steady path of progress. There is no more doing battle with my closet. Everything fits and I get to choose, happily, what to wear each day. What used to be a shaming session in the morning is now a blissful romp through my wardrobe of old favorites. I am re-establishing my relationship with lots of clothes that were tucked in the back of my closet in order for me to avoid remembering how they “used to look.” I feel like a fit person and, even this morning, as I was pumping through my spin class, I kept checking myself out in the mirror, acknowledging that I still have a long way to go. What’s different is now I have a great sense of acceptance for who I am. The reflection that stares back at me is a beautiful one that I am proud to look at. I accept my mission and will do my best to achieve my goals but, even if I stop exactly where I am, as long as I live my life in such a way that makes me feel satisfied with my efforts, I believe I will be ok.

The past is behind me. This was the important lesson I learned in the last week. I have talked so much about wanting to reframe my picture and cut out the elements that no longer fit. I am finally ready to do this authentically and sincerely. I no longer want to look backwards. The past, for me, simply doesn’t resonate any longer. Sure, it informs who I am today but there is less and less to be learned from that and, more importantly, I need to spend my time focusing on who I want to become. I am taking stock in what I have created and there is great pride to be derived from architecting a life all on my own. The survivor moniker doesn’t fit me but I can’t avoid acknowledging that I have managed to get myself to a place – with an awesome amount of hard work – where I am really strong, really confident and really amazing. I am so proud of who I am today and, without question, I am living the life I am supposed to be living. Everything in my life is within my control. There is no longer anyone who can disrupt me in the way my family and others have done so in the past. So, I can leave all that behind me because it served its purpose and I have drawn the last vials of blood left in that body. Now, I am ready to move forward.

My relationships are wonderful. I have always sought to have a large group of friends to compensate for all that was lacking from my family. There has been an insatiable need within me that, no matter how many friends I had around me, was never satisfied. Of course, no one could fill that whole. I had to learn how to do it myself. Now, I am much more content with just a few close friends, a couple of acquaintances and my wee but mighty family. I really need nothing else. Those with whom I want to spend time, I do. I choose how and when I spend my time and I am extremely selective about those with whom I give a part of myself. Partly this is because I don’t have a lot of time or emotion to spare and also because I think it is a gift to give of one’s self. We should all be very discerning about who we let into our lives and how we share pieces of ourselves. I have the most amazing circle of trusted companions, led off by MVP, my best friend. Our relationship has flourished in this new era and I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put in to help chaperone me on this path. Without question, my family is my rock – my husband and kids continually giving me a sense of peace and provide a home base for me. They have shown me that family can be a wonderful thing and I work hard every day to be a better partner and be the best mother I can be to my children, allowing them to realize their potential and their dreams in a loving and nurturing environment.

I am happy. I don’t necessarily feel it every day and I get moody and frustrated but, at the end of it all, I am happy with where I am and what I have accomplished. I am putting out a better version of me into the world and that is undeniably the best feeling ever.

So, now I am signing off for a while. This blog has served me well for many years. It has helped me traverse the jungles of my mind and the valleys of darkness that have scared and challenged me. The purpose was originally to position myself professionally and, as the wind blew me off course, I found a whole new destination of finding myself personally. I am grateful to everyone who has read this and shared their feedback, rooted me on and offered such meaningful and valuable words of encouragement. It is time for a new chapter and I will certainly start anew with a new blog to reflect my life today rather than to focus on yesterday. I am happily walking through this door.

NOMINATION


LIEBSTER AWARDI haven’t had a whole lot of time to write lately which, I suppose, is both a good thing and bad.  On the positive side, my lack of time is a direct correlation to the amount of time I am investing in my startup (and, I am pleased to report, not fruitlessly). What disappoints me is that I love writing my blog and I am always excited to see what will come out when I dedicate the time to focus in on what is going on in my head and venture out on the expedition that naturally follows. Sometimes the words call to me and sometimes, with focused attention and consideration, I can take myself to places to find those words and I am always amazed at what I find.

Fortunately for me, my friend and fellow blogger Claire Sinclair staged a little intervention by generously nominating me for The Liebster Award which is an online award offering from bloggers to other bloggers. Liebster comes from German and has a variety of definitions including dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, and endearing.  All adjectives that come to mind when I think of Claire and ones I would like to have associated with me.  So, I’m grateful to Claire for paying it forward to me and I am excited to not only share what I am asked to as part of this nomination but also pay this recognition forward to other bloggers whose writing I find to be engaging and transformational.

First, I need to answer the 11 questions that Claire has laid out for me and then I need to provide 11 random facts about myself. I love these type of exercises but, if I had to do it differently, I would probably ask friends and family to provide me with 11 random facts about me. In fact, after this is done, I might just do that!

I was recently having a discussion with my best friend regarding how I might like to celebrate my 50th birthday. (Seeing that in writing, by the way, freaked me out just a little bit). It’s still 2 years away – or I could say that it is only 2 years away – so it was one of those wistful discussions about something that we really don’t need to focus on right at this moment but might be fun to think about.  Frankly, now that I have articulated it this way, I’m not seeing the fun in it so much! Anyway, he asked me what I might want to do as I typically celebrate milestone birthdays in a pretty vigorous way. My 40th was a big blowout in my yard with (as I phrased it at the time) “every single person I love.”  Apparently, I loved about 80 people because we had a packed house. I did truly love every minute of the party – especially the sea of friends strewn across my back lawn, passed out from way-too-much-celebrating. One of my friends had donated a bunch of feather boas to the party and I found loose feathers randomly around my house for months thereafter, reminding me of the joy of the celebration. It was a unification of people from all periods in my life. People who meant something to me (at 40, I thought I loved them all). It was wonderful and it made me happy.  Following on the heels of that, when I was approaching 45, a friend who had attended my 40th reminded me of how much fun we all had at that party and instigated a 45th birthday celebration. I don’t think it was ever my intention to indulge in a mid-decade acknowledgment but it sounded like a good idea at the time and, once again, we celebrated en masse.  It was a Hawaiian-themed event, again in my yard, and, while there were some new faces this time, it just made me happy.  Since then, my priorities have changed – my entire life has changed. So, when I think about turning 50, I think of it through a new lens.  And that lens is much more reflective. When my best friend and I had the discussion about how I might like to celebrate, I shared that I wanted to be roasted but, perhaps, not with such a negative connotation. I wanted to hear what the people I cared about the most had to say about me.  Seems fitting. As does this exercise.  So, let’s go!

Here are my answers to Claire’s questions:

1. What do you rant most over?  Hmmm.  That is a tough one.  There are definitely things that bug me in life but some of my big triggers are centered around people who are not accountable and people who are disloyal or untrustworthy.  Stuff usually does not cause me to rant. I might get really aggravated about how slobbish my husband or kids are but that doesn’t really get me going. People behaving badly really does.

2. Why did you start blogging? This one is easy!  I started my blog back in 2010 to help support my consulting business. It started, purely, as a business blog. It was intended as a vehicle to help give voice to my perspectives on workplace matters like diversity, women’s leadership, work/life alignment, etc. Almost without my realizing it, I suddenly started sharing personal stories about my life and noticed that people were paying attention and offering really meaningful feedback.  And, more importantly, I recognized the catharsis of sharing my story. Practically overnight, I stepped away from the business focus and made this about my life and my personal journey of humanity.

3. Do you have an idol, who is it and why? I don’t really have idols. I think idols are unrealistic because it assumes that someone is more than human. I have people who I really admire and who have inspired me. They are probably not who you might expect. They are everyday people who really motivate and excite me. They are my most favorite people in the world. So, my idols, if you will, are the following people and I’ll tell you why. First, my husband. He and I are completely different in so many ways but he is someone I truly admire. He has a sense of love and loyalty that I don’t always understand or appreciate. He has been so committed to me for nearly 23 years and has never once wavered on how he feels about me, despite me giving him lots of opportunities to do so. Next, are my kids. Perhaps because my older son is a teenager and more mature, I have begun to see aspects of him that I genuinely appreciate and applaud. I can envision who he might be as an adult. His confidence and sense of morality surprise and delight me. There are definitely days when it feels like the roles have reversed and he is the teacher, guiding me through unchartered waters. I cherish the moments when he stops and takes time to talk to me or ask for my help and I find myself transported and inspired. My younger son is also a role model for me because of his uncanny ability to express love and compassion in a way that I have never seen possible in my own life. He is an old soul who can empathize with those around him. Even when he is facing adversity, he finds a silver lining to adhere to and provide himself with a ray of light that represents goodness. I admire his openness and his kindness.  Finally, one of the biggest influences in my life is my best friend. He is an inspiration because he models behavior that encourages me to expand myself in ways that I never imagined possible. I have a genuine appreciation for his triumphs which he acknowledges modestly yet thoughtfully. He has taught me to be present and to appreciate the simplicity of my life that provides me with pure joy. He has forced me (sometimes reluctantly) to acknowledge parts of myself that I would have otherwise ignored. He is a catalyst for growth and change because I get to luxuriously cherry pick through the field of wisdom he offers both intentionally and passively. All of these people encourage me, whether they recognize it or not, to be a better person and raise the bar in my life.  They are my idols.

4. What is the best advice you have ever received? Believe it or not, the best advice I ever received was from someone I ultimately didn’t end up respecting very much. But, this one piece of advice has stuck with me for years. It is about parenting. When my children were very young, I lamented about not having any free time to myself. She, on the other hand, had teenagers and was seeing the world through a very different lens. She said to me “Right now, you just want 30 minutes to yourself. One day, you will be like me and wish you could have 30 minutes with your kids.” I have never, ever forgotten her words and I have honored that notion as my children have gotten older. It caused me to focus on being more present with my children and respecting the time I had with them. And, while I am not quite at the point where I cannot even get 30 minutes with them, we are definitely headed in that direction so I am very conscious about finding meaningful time with them and tuning into what they may want or need. I meet them where they are and find ways to incorporate myself into their lives rather than vice versa.

5. Where is the farthest you have traveled? I am not as well-traveled as I would like but I think I literally just came back from the farthest place I have been to.  Yesterday morning I returned from Ecuador. It was the first time I had been to South America and, outside of some trips to Western Europe like Italy, England and Germany, it is the farthest I have traveled from home.

6. If you could be living anywhere in the world, where would it be? I have thought about this one a lot. As I said, I am not well-traveled and most of my travel is domestic and as a result of work. So, I don’t get to experience a lot of the destinations I am fortunate to travel to outside of the airport, taxis and hotels. I never imagined myself living outside the U.S. and I don’t think I have any great desire to do so.  I might want to live in London for a while or somewhere in Europe.  I love cities with lots of energy. Having grown up around New York City, I have a healthy love and appreciation for it yet am happy to get to leave there and come home to the suburbs. I also really love the ocean. It calms me and grounds me. So, ultimately, I would probably choose to live in the Bay Area, near the water but close enough to go into San Francisco and experience the city that I love so much.

7. What is your favorite indulgence? I love handbags. Beautiful, designer, high-end handbags. I cannot get enough of them. I spend way too much on them and all my close friends know I covet them. I believe in earning my rewards and am holding out for a particular Louis Vuitton tote that I have had my eye on for years. When my business reaches a certain level of success, this will be my treat.  For now, however, I overindulge on lesser expensive bags like Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, etc.

8. What are your pet peeves? My pet peeves are aligned with my rants. They are mostly behavioral. I have no patience for people who are not authentic. I cannot tolerate disloyalty, arrogance, or entitlement. Those things drive me crazy. I am not a neat freak or squeamish about certain foods. The word “moist” does not send shivers down my spine. I struggle with being tolerant of others who believe they have a different set of rules assigned to them.

9. What are your favorite television shows? There are probably too many for me to mention. I watch WAY too much television and am trying to cut back. I really enjoy well-written shows with incredibly deep character studies. Probably my favorite show of the moment is House of Cards. I became hooked last year on Orange is the New Black. I still love Mad Men and am sad to see it go. I am a big fan of most things HBO and Showtime. On network television, I continue to enjoy the drama of Scandal (it is my guilty pleasure) and cry each week at Parenthood, even though I would admit that it is schmaltzy.  And, I simply love The Good Wife.  Such great writing, such great characters and I am obsessed with Alan Cumming!

10. Do you have any tattoos and if so, what are they? I do have a tattoo!  I was always against tattoos until I wasn’t. One day I just knew that I wanted one and that it was the right thing to do. I had lost a great deal of weight and had injured myself kickboxing, resulting in a hairline fracture in my right ankle. Having never been athletic before, it was significant to me that I had reached a point in my life that I was active enough to have a sports-related injury! I wanted to commemorate this with a tattoo right in the place of the fracture. The big decision was what to put there. I knew I needed to have something somewhat discreet because of my work and, while I respect and appreciate others who have big tattoos, that is still not my thing.  I just wanted something symbolic for me.  I carefully researched it and ended up with the Japanese symbol for “truth.”It is meaningful to me because truthfulness or honesty is paramount to me and, when I fractured my ankle, I felt like I was finally living a truthful life. I have had the tattoo for nearly 3 years and I still get excited when I look down on it.  It makes me proud and happy.

11. Do you have any regrets? NO. (And neither should anyone else.)

And, now, 11 Random Facts about Me:

I doubt much of this will come as a surprise given how much I have shared in my blog but they are all little facets of my personality that, when pulled together, create the me that most people see.

1. I always believed I would die before I turned 25 so, as a young adult, I never made any plans for my life. I assumed I would be gone by some untimely form of death. Ironically, I met my husband 4 months before I turned 25 and we got engaged the day before my 25th birthday. I’ve always wondered if this was the universe providing me with more certainty of life beyond 25 and the bones of a plan.

2. Despite the fact that I most identify with being a Jew (because of my mother’s family), I grew up with no religion. This has been a struggle for me my entire life because it was one more item  in a series of aspects of my life that made me feel like an outsider. I did not even have a religious denomination to align with.

3. I watched a man have a stroke right in front of me and it was the scariest thing I ever saw. My mother’s third husband was a bit of an alcoholic and he was not very healthy. One Saturday afternoon when I was probably 11 or 12, we were sitting at the kitchen table where I was working on a project for school and he was just hanging out and chatting with me. All of a sudden I saw his arm go up in the air as if we was grabbing for something and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Unintelligible noises came from his mouth and, at my tender young age, he seemed like a Frankenstein monster to me. I ran upstairs to my mother’s bedroom and crawled under the bed in fear. I knew I had to do something to help so I called our neighbor and asked him to come over and help us.

4. I am terribly afraid of developing Alzheimer’s. There are genetic links on my father’s side of the family and perhaps on my mother’s as well. As someone who stores everything so neatly away in my mind (memorializing all experiences through images, smells, faces, etc) and am dependent on this information to help me navigate the world, I cannot imagine how I will retain any portion of my identity if I lose the ability to connect to these memories or be able to articulate my thoughts through words.

5. I have an overwhelming fear of heights. I have never been on a roller coaster nor have I experienced most amusement park thrill rides. I don’t get motion sick. It is an intellectual fear mostly. I am perfectly content flying and never have fear looking out the window when taking off or landing or even looking down to the ground from midair. But, even walking up the steps to the High Line in NYC, my knees get a little wobbly.

6. I did not speak until I was 4 years old.  From what my mother told me, I uttered words here and there but was mostly silent. Ironically, I learned how to read by the age of 4 by studying books that my mother’s sister sent to me. I taught myself and would read quietly in my head. Suddenly, sometime after my fourth birthday, I started talking in very complete and thoughtful sentences. It was believed that the reading helped me to use my language. Frankly, I think this is all some family folklore and, in fact, that I was actually talking but, being the third child, no one actually paid attention to me and didn’t realize that I was talking in full sentences long before 4! The reading part is, for sure, true.  I remember the books that I devoured long before I went to Kindergarten and recall entering Kindergarten with a very advanced reading level.

7. I have a very hard outer shell and a very soft inner core. Most people who do not know me think I am pretty tough and hard to get to know. I tend to not be very friendly and inviting when you first meet me because I am still quite shy.  I was painfully shy as a child and would never introduce myself to other kids and used to be terrified of calling other kids on the phone to invite them to play because I so dreaded potential rejection. Nowadays, it is unconscious to me. I don’t realize that I often stand back and observe when I meet people rather than jumping into the fray. I have heard people refer to me as aloof, standoffish, elitist and I laugh. None of those adjectives even remotely accurately reflect who I am. I am definitely harder on the outside and tougher but I am thoughtful and reserved and, once I let you into my life, I am a total mush and you can easily break my heart.

8. I met my husband on a chat board before there were really chat boards. It was 1992 and we had both logged onto a very primitive chat board for work reasons. You had to come up with a name – a “handle” – in order to chat on the board and I called myself “Red” (because of my red hair at the time) and my husband was “Dano” (because of his name). Of course, the first thing I said when I saw his name was “Book em, Dano!” I needed some technical help but he and I somehow started a friendly chat that went on and on and on. We had a wildly-surprising instant connection that was palpable. We quickly moved our exchange to the telephone  and I remember laying on the floor of my bedroom in my Park Slope apartment talking to him for hours on end. He had a girlfriend and I was seeing a few people at that time but we both knew, after the first call, that we were meant to be together.

9. My husband and I got engaged 4 months after we met while living on opposite sides of the country. I was so young at the time and didn’t bother to think about the complexities of a long-distance relationship (or any relationship, for that matter, as I was a dater – not interested in long-term commitments). Nor did it occur to me the need to test drive the car before you purchased. I went with my gut. As I have experienced only a few times in my life, I was magnetically drawn to him and there was nothing I could do to tinker with that. I knew that I had no choice but to be with him. 23 years later, I think the same is true.  We had the most unconventional relationship and didn’t really “date” in the true sense of the word.  We simply met and coupled up instantly. Neither of us questioned whether it would last and we never broke up.

10. I am the first in my family to attend college. My sister, who is 14 years older than me, returned to community college after she had already worked in a series of administrative jobs in Manhattan. Both my mother and sister were legal secretaries and my father was a high school dropout who went on to become a NYC police officer and then a small business owner. My brother also dropped out of high school and went on to earn his GED after he enrolled in the Navy. My attending a university immediately following my graduation from high school was a dream for my father (and he had hoped I would continue on to law school – sorry, Dad). My mother never put much thought to it because it was out of her scope of imagination to think that I would attend a university on a full-time basis and complete my Bachelors Degree.  She assumed my life would look just like hers. It was a differentiator that distanced me from my family and was the beginning of my journey of understanding life beyond the very limited walls of my highly dysfunctional family.

11. I have been on television a number of times and had always dreamed of having a career in television. As a young child, I was on Romper Room several times and on Wonderama.  As a young adult, I was an audience member on the Phil Donahue show and was able to ask questions on several of the shows. I had a crazy crush on Phil Donahue and nearly stalked him in order to figure out a way to get a job working with him. That never panned out and I figured out I had to settle for a more practical job in publishing. I never lost my love of the talk show and always dreamt of becoming the next Oprah!

Now it is time for me to nominate and pose questions for my nominees:

1. What is your biggest fear?

2. If you were a superhero, what power would you most want to have?

3. What is a dream that has stuck with you?

4. Who has been most influential in your life?

5. What is your dream job/career?

6. If you only had three words to describe yourself, what would they be?

7. How do you think others describe you?

8. How do you define courage for yourself?

9. What stresses you out the most?

10. What is one behavior in your life that you would like to change?

11. Complete this sentence: I will no longer accept….

Thanks again to Claire for nominating me! This was fun.  I’m going to be reaching out to other bloggers to nominate them too!

FINDING MY TRUTH


truth“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

I have a tattoo on my ankle that I had inked right before I turned 45. Ironically, the thought of getting a tattoo turned my stomach and I never understood why people would permanently mark up their bodies. Yet, almost overnight, my position shifted and I felt an even stronger urge to imprint on my body something that was so overwhelmingly important to me. Perhaps it was the fact that I was in the midst of a powerful journey to discover my own truth and had just suffered a hairline fracture in my ankle (resulting from some foolish sparring in a karate class). When I was back on my feet and thinking about the significance of the injury – it was the first bone I had ever broken because, for the first time in my life, I was getting in touch with my athletic self – I had no doubt in my mind that I needed to symbolize the shift in my life. I wanted to honor the movement towards a new space in my life. I implicitly knew that the tattoo could only say one thing “Truth.” I settled for a Chinese symbol and am reminded every day how powerfully important truth is in my life.

Writing, for me, is a form of truth-telling. It is, for sure, a healing process – an attempt to declutter my mind. I write to sort out all of the experiences and related emotions that sit heavily in my mind, often blocking me from clarity. I write to expel toxins that are cleaner and more palatable in the written form than as random musings in my head. I write because I have to. When I am not writing, I get backed up and weighed down. Because the process allows me to find and convey truths about myself, the absence of it somehow robs me of my authenticity.

As a relatively private person, it is challenging to find opportunities to shed the blankets of lies that were the hallmarks of my life growing up. When I share my stories and reveal the truths about where I come from, I feel lighter and the healing process continues. I vowed not to perpetuate the sins of my parents and the only way I can insure that I don’t step into the traps left behind by them, I need to transform myself with full transparency. And that takes effort and courage and requires an endurance for pain that often seems beyond my capabilities. Writing feels like a safe shuttle to move me towards my destination but I know that, by doing so, I am shedding my cloak and letting the world see the shards of glass that surround me from the shattering blows I endured day in and day out for so many years. And that can feel a little bit uncomfortable.

I’m not entirely sure why I have exhausted so much energy trying to convince everyone that I am ok. I suppose it started as a shield to prevent anyone from looking any deeper because I was not prepared to reveal how broken I was. Then, as I became more accepting of my truth, the act of convincing others helped to enable me to believe the tales I spun about how I had healed and figured everything out. My brand has been that of a survivor. I have prided myself on my ability to rise above the storm and escape with only a few minor cuts and bruises.  Nothing that a band-aid and some rest can’t fix. I should be able to go on and lead a normal life.  My life should look just like everyone else’s.  I could fall in love, get married, raise kids, have a career, make a home for us, have friends and be joyful and fulfilled. I have always assumed that if I wove this tale artfully and set my intentions to create this existence, it would come to be.

Those were not truthful words. Instead, just a load of bullshit. Here’s the truth.

*************

My life sucked as a kid. I was born into a marriage that was destined to fail before it even began. My parents met while my father was a police officer walking a beat in the Bronx and my mother was a secretary. It was the 1950s and they were both married to other people at the time. They engaged in a very indecent affair that, for my mother, was exciting and validating because she was always living in the shadow of her decidedly more attractive and more acceptable older sister. Her rebellious self was pissing off her parents – Orthodox Jewish immigrants – and her insecure self was winning over someone else’s dark, handsome husband. My mother’s sole desire as a young adult was to escape her home life and she accomplished this by settling for the first Jewish boy to come along. She would satisfy her parents and seek refuge. This began a series of impulsive acts that would lead her down a path of destruction, taking out all who got in her way. My mother made choices that served her needs at the moment and did not have the emotional capacity to examine or understand the impact of her actions. She behaved like an adolescent through much of her life but never more so than when it came to affairs of the heart. Her neediness for the acceptance of men to validate her and attempt to erase her deep insecurities overshadowed everything else in her life. This rose to the top of her needs hierarchy, resulting in neglect in anything that did not drive her towards fulfillment of these objectives. At the age of 18, right after she finished high school, her parents threw her a beautiful wedding and she married a man she never loved – and probably never expected to. It met her needs at the moment and, until something better came along, she was willing to make that sacrifice. My mother was never formally diagnosed with any specific mental illness but she clearly suffered from some type of narcissistic disorder, resulting in erratic behaviors for which she was incapable of any remorse.

My father, born in Italy, emigrated to the United States as a young boy with his parents and younger brother and sister. They were traditional Italians who valued family above everything and worked hard to create the American dream. My father, a high school dropout, ended up in the military and, upon release, found his way to the police academy along with many of his fellow veterans. Being a police officer in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s was both exciting and revered and he quickly adopted the lifestyle. He also married young and he and his Italian wife started their family right away, bearing a daughter and son. My father was a handsome man and had no problems attracting women. Between his good looks and the cop lifestyle of drinking, gambling and philandering, it was no surprise that he ended up engaging in an affair with my mother who was quite taken with this man who was so very different from the world she came from. Their entanglement was exciting and taboo and built on lies and indiscretion – the unfortunate building blocks that formed the foundation for my family. As I uncovered the truth of my parents’ early life together, I never clearly understood how they met and ended up with each other. In fact, it was only when I was much older did I learn how their relationship began and that it produced a child. forcing them to make decisions which would shape the lives of those of us who came later. So began the lies. The lies that created more lies and, ultimately, destroyed all of us along the way. When both of my parents died several years ago, they left behind, collectively, five children, five spouses and an array of grandchildren, all of which were encompassed in the pile of lies that could fill the fiction aisles of thousands of libraries.

My sister – the product of their affair – became the unwitting pivotal story point in my family and, in many ways, her existence was the lie that held us all together. Her paternity was continually called into question as my mother created different stories, depending upon what she needed or wanted and how it could work to her benefit. The questions around her conception, while most of us ultimately knew the truth, became part of our family dynamic. This lie was the strongest element of our family. And, we all knew that, had my mother never become pregnant, my parents might never have ended up together and our family might not have existed. Throughout my childhood, I tried to piece together all the confusing and contradicting facts that I discovered while eavesdropping on conversations or searching through my mother’s private drawers in her bedroom. Like a sleuth, I was searching for facts to help me understand this life that never made sense to me. While other children were flipping through photo albums and were regaled with their parents’ love stories, sharing how their families came to be, I was searching for the missing clues to piece together the puzzle of my family. Conveying a sophistication inappropriate for my age, even as a young child, I inherently knew our story was filled with lies and I relentlessly sought out the truth. Regrettably and, perhaps, understandably, the adults in my family carefully manufactured alternate realities to preserve their lies in order to protect themselves but their efforts wore thin over time. And, I felt like a puck being knocked around the ice as I was swatted away when I went seeking out answers to the questions that would help me understand my truth.

By the time I was born – 14 years after my sister’s birth – my family was deeply shrouded in a fabricated life that was designed to preserve the truth from escaping. My father was a full-blown alcoholic, numbing himself from the guilt and shame that distanced him from his close-knit family and my mother had become a sociopath, physically and verbally assaulting her children for reasons I will never understand. She needed to maintain control and worked tirelessly to preserve her fictional existence. Anything my siblings and I did to jeopardize that was met with wrath and fury. In fact, as one would expect with someone as disturbed as my mother, there was no clear path to avoid her ire and, depending upon when she felt vulnerable or depressed, we could come under fire for no reason at all. Add to that the instability of the alcoholic who did not suspend his philandering after meeting my mother and the result is terrifying. And no place for any child to be raised and be expected to escape unharmed.

*************

I am no longer trying to convince everyone that I am ok. Because I am not. It has been 47 years since destiny brought me into the life of people who were consumed with lies. For many of those years, I perpetuated the lies and tried to blend into the crowd. But, in truth, most people don’t look like me. Most people don’t share my history. Most people cannot understand or empathize with what I have endured. Many people think I am cold and distant or uncaring and elitist. Others who have taken the time to get to know me and have pushed to unpeel some of my layers recognize that I am kind and loving and overly protective of myself and those I care about. At my core, I am simply trying to get from day-to-day and survive the truth of who I am. I strive to move beyond and live a wholly authentic and honest life and, yet, until I shed my own shroud, I will still be living someone else’s life instead of my truth.

STONE WALLS


stone wall

“Sometimes our walls exist just to see who has the strength to knock them down.” 
― Darnell Lamont Walker

I’m surrounded by writers.  Everywhere I turn, another friend or acquaintance has set their proverbial pen to paper and launched a blog or started writing for local media. Nowadays it is so easy to get a byline by simply releasing your thoughts through your keyboard and pressing “publish.” Some of it is quite good too. I find myself in awe of the talent and ideas that are making their way into the world. I admire those who diligently find topics and put their mind to pulling together 500 or 1000 meaningful words day after day.

I am not one of those writers. In fact, I have never labeled myself a writer. Despite my never-ending desire to release the words that desperately sought refuge from my brain, I never felt much confidence about my ability to write and I resisted the urge for many years. After spending four years in college as English major with an emphasis on journalism, I wimped out when it came time to get a job. I ended up on the business side of publishing and never dipped my toe back in the creative waters after I left school. In fact, the genesis of this blog was as a business function. I started writing it 5 years ago because I thought it would help my business. My goal was to write about topics that my clients cared about to help develop a voice that people would pay attention to. I wanted to be taken seriously as a thought leader. And, as I have shared before, without much intention, my writing quickly turned personal and I, quite unexpectedly, found an outlet for all of the words locked deep within me that needed freedom. I found salvation through the tapping of the keys. I released so much of what was bottled up and needed to be said. I gave myself a voice that would otherwise be silent. I knew I would never be able to utter the words I wrote as I could craft the message so much more elegantly and eloquently when I escaped to the quiet of my desk or with my laptop in a remote spot wherever I was traveling – setting free whatever was burning inside me.

And then, without warning, it stopped. The well had dried. My ink had run out and there was nothing new to say. No interesting or compelling way to share my joy or mitigate my pain. No opportunity to offer wisdom to others who might be suffering silently and would be moved by my message. After all, what was the point if not to help others? What is my purpose if not to change someone else’s life, helping to move another human being even an inch off the spot where they currently sit? My fear became that of the tree that falls in the forest and no one hears… Without the receipt of my message, to me there is no point. I might as well just sit and talk to myself.

I suppose people might still have been reading but I lost interest in myself and didn’t feel like anything I had to say would shake anything up or create a safe port in the storm. I began to bore myself with my same old story. Nothing new here, folks. Just the same old baggage that I cannot spin one more time. Yet, words still churned around in my mind, aching to get out but without an adequate site for landing. They just spun around and around, attaching themselves to one another, forming familiar sentences and paragraphs as I drove or sat on a plane or looked wistfully out of the window of a train. They seemed so interesting and alluring as they danced around, mating in my mind but, as I began to scribble them onto paper, they looked exactly like the words I had scrawled so many times before.

So, here I sit.

Perplexed.

Frustrated.

Bottled up.

The words need to come out so I will try a fresh approach. I will tell a new story. I will share my words in a new way that might not look as familiar as the ones that came before…at least not to me.


There is a stone wall that sits far in the woods. Over many years, the wall was erected, one rock at a time, mixed with concrete to hold it together. Its materials are varied, pulled from loose rocks that were leftover from other projects. Not carefully chosen but, instead, grabbed aimlessly from a large pile that lay, ready for disposal. The wall is repurposed. The care and effort that went into building this wall is questionable. On the one hand, it is sturdy and solid and, on the other it might be perceived as vulnerable and weak. This wall was designed for security and privacy. Its stones are thick and, despite the lack of care that went into the construction, there are no cracks in the seams and no light shines through. When the wall was fully built, it completely eclipsed the light, keeping out evil and good equally. A design flaw, for sure, as the intention was always to keep out the dark and leave a space for the light. But, in its haphazard design, no such space was created.

This wall is ugly – not one that sparkles when the sunlight reflects off of it. It is unsightly and anyone who might encounter it would find it hard to look at. Those that stumble upon it are confused by it and find its isolation odd. When they try to push against it, certain there must be a weak spot, an opening to gain entrance, they are met with failure. Attempts to apply pressure and find a crevice to begin to dismantle it reveal the strength and impenetrability of this neglectfully composed structure. Ironically, there is no compromising its integrity. The stones will prevail against any effort. Of course, most discover it rather accidentally and are not equipped with the proper tools to destroy it. And, most give up quickly, realizing that it is not worth their effort for this is just a random wall in the woods.

This wall was intended to be retractable and temporary – a shield against the elements, pulled out only when needed but, because of the shabby design and poor materials, it has only one position. It is either up or completely destroyed and no longer in place. And, no wrecking crew has deemed it destined for destruction. So it stands firmly in place, keeping out the light, without its cracks, without its leaks.

Sadly, the craftsman who slapped the wall together forgot to build a door so he is destined to live inside, trapped. In his sloppiness, he forgot to build a door or window that would allow him to escape and he is imprisoned, calling out loudly for help but no one can hear him for, despite his poor work and mismatched materials, he is a brilliant builder and he could not help but create a solid, masterful structure. He worries that he will forever be held captive by his own calloused hands. That is, unless, someone realizes, after some time, that he has gone missing and they seek out to find him. Unless someone can sense the absence of his presence and realize that he is trapped inside the wall he so carelessly built around him.

This wall was intended to be retractable and temporary – a shield against the elements, pulled out only when needed but, because of the shabby design and poor materials, it has only one position. It is either up or completely destroyed and no longer in place.

Alas, our craftsman has lived a quiet life. He has kept to himself mostly so, while others would smile and wave and perhaps chat about the fine weather when they would see him in the village, he lived mostly invisibly and it would be quite some time before anyone actually noticed that they had not seen him. It would be a long stretch before anyone might wander past his lane to see if he had fallen ill or was simply busily working on his next masterpiece. Because he was inconspicuous to most, he may be destined to spend his eternity, encompassed by that stone wall, never seeing the fine weather or never glimpsing a friendly face again.

But, perhaps, one guileful adventurer might be so intrigued by the wall that he might build a ladder and climb to the top, high in the clouds and begin the painstaking effort of loosening the bricks, using the powerful tools required to loosen the stones and soften the concrete, allowing the wall to begin to tumble, freeing our quiet craftsman. Maybe one person will have the vision and the might to take on the project because they see that the stones, while shoddily glued together, all have beauty and can be repurposed in the most magnificent ways. It will be worth the effort to tear the sad wall apart and reclaim the materials and unleash the unfortunate artisan, hoping to teach him to be more careful in the future.

Perhaps.

And maybe, once freed, with the hindsight that only time and reflection affords us, the builder will learn the true meaning of his seemingly unintentional work.

SYNCHRONICITY


synchronicity2As writers, we all find ourselves blocked at one time or another.  We become disconnected from our words, incapable of stringing together a sentence to help express the thoughts, ideas and images that float endlessly in our heads.  The block can last for hours, days, weeks or even months.  Some writers suffer blocks for years that creates a profoundly deep internal turmoil. For me, I have never had a supremely long block….until now.  It has been about two months since I have been able to get my thoughts out and, even now, I am struggling to find ways to illicit prose that will be worthy of writing, no less reading.

Fortunately, I found some inspiration. I managed to travel outside my own head and look beyond the gates of my mental prison. I spent some time reading someone else’s writing which evoked thoughts of my own and the transition back to creativity began in earnest. I found words popping up in my mind and gravitating towards others that became sentences that became full-blown meaningful ideas. And, like the heavy rains that have recently filled our reservoirs to capacity, my drought began to ebb.

For these past few months I have been struggling to articulate what has been happening to me. I have searched for ways to give meaning to the immense shift taking place. Like tectonic plates, the movement is slow but the impact is great. I have known that this experience is shaping the next chapter of my life and, if harnessed properly, would offer me a strong foundation. I have been trying to express the roller coaster of emotions that I have been managing so bravely.

One of the guiding principles in my life is that nothing happens by accident. I believe we have certain controls over our destinies and, when used properly, this control can help guide us to the outcomes we need. We do not always have the outcomes we want but, often, we are led into situations that are precisely what we need when we need them. And, it is important that even in those moments when we feel disappointed or saddened at the circumstances, we look closely and understand WHY we are where we are rather than focusing in our disappointment. There are messages being communicated to us and, if we pay attention, they will enable us to take great leaps forward.

I have not lived a perfect life by any means and, while I have a strong moral compass and work tirelessly to always do right by the people around me, I know that I have made more than my share of mistakes. I have hurt people, let them down, made bad choices and journeyed down roads that I probably should have avoided. I have always been accountable for my actions and asked for forgiveness and, I live a life that is mostly free of regret. I understand that, not only cannot I go backwards in time and change the past, but also much of what looks to be like negative moments in my life has led to important outcomes. Not every time but lots of times. And, it is only with the fine perspective of hindsight that I am able to see this with acute clarity.

♦♦♦

Recently, I had a truly divine revelation. I stumbled upon this, unsuspecting that a big shift in my thinking was underway. I had an oddly coincidental experience. In fact, it was the second oddly coincidental experience which indicated to me that perhaps a pattern was forming. The  experiences were related to people in my life past and present. Two people who have played similar roles in my life but have absolutely no connection to one another. The most recent event left me marveling because it was so amazingly coincidental that it was almost too hard to believe. And, that was the indication that it was important. And, again, not believing in coincidence, I decided it was time to do a little bit of research. The details of the coincidences are almost irrelevant because they were just symbols for me to learn from. The deeper understanding of what was happening in my life was the important part. I shared these stories with my therapist whose face lit up as she danced in her chair. “You’re experiencing synchronicity!” This was the second time in as many months that she had made this declaration. Yes, it was a pattern.

The concept of synchronicity was first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s.  He described it as “the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be casually related.” Those experiencing synchronicity often see the experiences as meaningful coincidences. Synchronicity was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlay the whole of human experience and history — social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

Whoa.  A whole lot to process indeed.  But, when broken down, it is simple. There are messages coming to us all the time helping to guide us and provide understanding. Some of these are synchronistic events or occurrences that should not necessarily merely be written off as coincidence but, rather, as bearing light.

After I spent some time reading and researching synchronicity, I felt a calm come over me. It certainly did not explain everything in my life and it did not soothe my wounds but, like many other principles that guide us through our lives like faith, morality and wisdom, it provided me with a sense of clarity. I knew my objective was to dig deeper into the specific synchronistic occurrences because there was an important message in both of them that would help lead me towards a direction I needed to head in. I also recognized that it was time to start paying closer attention. I learned that synchronicity is all around us if we pay attention. And, while I usually pay close attention to the small things that take place, I often lack the confidence to believe in my instincts. I question myself regardless of how profound the parallels might be. I dismiss them as silly and ethereal.

So, now I am paying attention and it is truly extraordinary to see how the information presents itself to me. It is as if I have cleared out a space in my brain, carved a lane where this information can freely flow and I can process the experiences and events of my life in a safe space, allowing me to extract the vitamin-rich juices that will expand my understanding and allow me to derive both knowledge and comfort. The journey I have been traveling on has not changed all that much but I have a much more dynamic road map.

I have come to understand some important truths about myself which belies a lot of what I previously believed to be true. With confidence and consciousness comes understanding. With confidence and consciousness comes  clarity. I have found myself to be equal parts content and angry. I have allowed myself to explore deep recesses of myself to know myself authentically. Rather than shield even me from the painful aspects of my being, I have put them on full display for me – and only me – to observe and analyze and it is a liberating experience. I have let go of ideals and idols that do not fit my truth. And, as with everything in my life, I struggle. And I grow. And I fall backwards. And I am confused. And I am euphoric because, at the end of the day, I know I am being truthful and accepting the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the ups and the downs and trusting myself above all else.

And now, I hope, the rivers of creativity will once again flow and my story will resume.

FIND YOUR WORDS


handwritten notes“What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters.  You can’t reread a phone call.”  ~Liz Carpenter

I’ve been so busy. No time to stop and capture the moments.  No time to write down my thoughts.  No time to unpack my bags and lay them out before me to see what lies inside.

I’ve been so busy.

The days swirl by in a blur.  They come, they go. Moments pass. I am forgetting them even before I can remember them. I have no time to write them down. I am losing time because I cannot capture my experiences and save them.  Savor them.  Treasure them. Digest them. Absorb them. They are rushing by too fast for me to catch up.

I write to remember. I write to process. I write to experience.

Today, I was reminded why capturing those words are so important. Life is not concretized for me without putting my words down on paper. In pen. In type. In crayon. It doesn’t matter. When it is written, it becomes real.  For me.

♦   ♦   ♦

I was rummaging through a bag today.  One of the many that lay nestled in the corner of my office. Some also hang on the back of the door.  I am a hoarder when it comes to bags.  There are so many purses and satchels and messenger bags and hobos and the array of utilitarian laptop bags. Each hold an assortment of items that are stranded behind only to be recovered months or years later when I return to resurrect an old favorite. Lipsticks and magazines; gum and mints; business cards gone astray; random pieces of paper with scribbled notes; aged receipts faded beyond recognition; boarding passes; and other various treasures that, when located, remind me of things I have left behind and moments that have since left me.

Today, I was pulling out an older backpack to carry my computer on an upcoming business trip. I remembered that there were some cables that I had left in this bag and was anxiously trying to locate them when I noticed another smaller laptop bag lying behind this one. Yet another in my collection. Another old friend with whom I had grown weary and found a replacement. My loyalty to the bags leaves a lot to be desired. I am a fickle friend when it comes to my totes and my husband groans each time a new one finds its way into my home.  There are closets full and, despite my disloyalty, I will never truly part ways. They all hold such dear meaning. They are all a part of my story. The smaller bag that was peeking out from behind the backpack was an old mainstay. We went steady for quite a while.  I bought this one to safely transport my precious MacAir when traveling and it was a road warrior like me. It was always at my side and, while small, contained some treasured possessions. I had retired the bag several months ago when I had to graduate to a big rolling laptop bag for work. I now needed to carry much more technology with me and the bulkier pieces were simply too heavy to heave on my back. The roller was my new catchall. I no longer needed my small black nylon case and, like the others, without unpacking its goods, I placed it on a shelf, knowing that one day I would return to recover it.  As I did today.

I was fishing through this bag now, looking for the missing cables. Alas, they were not there. Instead, I found note pads with scribbles capturing spur of the moment ideas while I waited for a flight or was on a train. I also found some cards from a friend. Two cards, in fact. I had long ago opened them after one was secretly slipped into my bag at the end of a trip and the other was mailed to my home. I carried them with me to remember them. It was comforting to me knowing they were tucked away in my bag because it was as if the words would stream out and permeate my being. The words so carefully crafted within the cards would secrete themselves into my skin, course through my veins and calm me. I didn’t usually pull them out to read them but I liked knowing they were there. They were meaningful.

I was surprised when I realized that I had left them behind and stopped for a moment to try to remember how I forgot about them. How could these notes – filled with love and encouragement, admiration and praise, kindness and warmth – have just drifted away, stranded along with the far-more meaningless leftovers of weeks and months and years of comings and goings.  These were precious gems. How could I have forgotten to remember them?

There was nothing else I could do but read them, devouring the words and letting them do their job. They warmed up my heart which was running cold. They softened my sharp edges, hardened by the lack of time, the rushing, the chaos, the inability to engage and connect. They made me long for a moment in time when I could feel the words and know they were real and salient. I drifted away in my mind, awash with emotions that only words so beautifully crafted and heartfelt can evoke. I was touched.

For me, words are everything. They are colors and shapes and feelings and smells and ideas and magic. They are my happiness, my sadness, my pain, my joy. Words are like photographs so beautifully capturing an experience, memorializing it forevermore. Without my words, I am empty and forgetful and disconnected and lost. With them, I am liberated and expressive and alive and engaged and vibrant.

And the only thing better than my words are someone else’s.

SEE


seeAs I shared last week, I am now participating in Five-Minute-Fridays, a virtual flash mob for writers.  My friend Claire, a wonderful blogger herself, got me hooked on this last week.

Here are the rules:

1. Write for five minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.

2. Link back to Lisa Jo Baker’s blog with the rest of the Five Minute Friday-ers.

3. Comment on the person who linked up before you.

This week’s word is SEE.  I saw it this morning and have not stopped thinking about it all day.  I just started the clock so here we go.

I want to be able to see myself as others see me.  I want to have a view that looks past what is so obvious to my eyes – my big nose, crooked teeth, the rolls that have developed in places I would prefer them not to be.  I want to see deeper into me.  I want to see a reflection that stares back at me that resembles what others see when they look at me.  I want to see the radiance.  The joy.  The beauty.  I want to see what my husband sees when he looks at me and remembers the girl he fell in love with.  I want to see what my closest friends observe when they sit across a table from me and we pour our hearts out to one another.  When they look in my eyes and see my happiness or are struck by my pain.  I want to see the energy, the enthusiasm, the vivid landscape of colors that I provide to them but I remain blind to.

I looked at some photos of myself over the weekend.  I struggled at first.  They were very lovely pictures of me and some were better than others.  But they all told a story about me that I could not read.  I spoke to my friend who studied the same photos and shared with me imagery and narrative about what he saw and WHO he saw when he looked at them.  After I put down the phone, I stared into the eyes of the woman in the pictures and tried to see her.  I forced myself to look past all the familiar flaws, all the shortcomings that I generally observe.  I pushed past what showed up in my mind when I looked with my eyes and I tried to look with my friend’s eyes.  I tried to look with my husband’s eyes.  I tried to look with my children’s eyes who see a woman who they love.  The woman who gave them life.  The woman who protects them and loves them endlessly.  I tried to borrow their vision to see.

And, for the first time, I was able to SEE me.