relationship

The Most Important Thing To Remember

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(Cousin Gini & me)

Last week I attended a memorial service for a distant relative. Gertrude was a cousin of my father’s. She and her husband had 6 children and one of them, Gini, was my age.

Growing up, I remember they would come to our house or we would go to their house occasionally. Because they lived an hour away, we didn’t see them often.

I decided I would take my mom to the memorial service so I could see my cousins, all of whom I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl.

We arrived at the small Baptist church, went in and found a seat.

My mom knew some of the people but I remembered very few.

I saw a woman with the same dress that I had bought a few weeks ago and had almost worn that day. I was glad I didn’t wear it.

I looked at the crowd of people gathering and wondered which of these women was Gini. I tried to remember the times she and I spent together but not many memories popped up.

I have a terrible memory when it comes to my childhood. My husband, on the other hand, remembers every detail practically from the day he was born. It’s a bit maddening!

I couldn’t remember the details of us playing together but I could remember the fun we had.  And I did remember I loved Gini.

Growing up with 3 brothers, I always wanted a sister.  I remember thinking that I had finally found my sister!

I also remember how sad I was when we had to leave each other. Although we lived an hour apart, we might as well have been on opposite ends of the earth. I remember the heartbreak not knowing when I would see her again.

Toward the end of the service, Gertrude’s six children got up to sing. That’s when I realized who Gini was. I could see the beautiful bright-eyed girl that I used to play with.

After the service, Gini was standing in the vestibule of the church. I wasn’t sure if she would remember me but I walked up and told her who I was.

She grabbed me and hugged me and said that she had thought about me as well.

I told her that I didn’t remember the details of us being together but I did remember how much I loved her.

To my surprise, she said that’s what she remembered and we stood there crying.

Then I told her that she was wearing the same dress that I had bought just a few weeks earlier.

Yes, Gini was the woman!  And at that moment, I wished I had worn it!

Even though we still live about an hour away from each other, we have vowed to get reacquainted.

I am looking forward to rekindling our friendship. A love like that never dies, it just waits for us to fan the flame.

Who do you love that you have lost touch with? Look them up and reconnect.

I bet they would love to hear from you!

 

Chutzpah & Heart

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I sat listening to a friend who was recounting a meltdown she had recently. Someone had pushed her buttons and suddenly, she found herself saying things she never thought she was capable of.

Afterwards she felt such regret and said, “This is not who I want to be.”

It became clear that her automatic reaction when triggered was to fight. She had developed that survival instinct as a little girl and it’s still there even though she’s an adult.

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means “shameless audacity.” I think of it as having guts, nerve or backbone.

I think this woman has chutzpah. And not all of us do.

There are those whose first reaction is to run away when there is confrontation. I fall into this category.

However, when I avoid the uncomfortable situation or person, I end up feeling defeated. My confidence and self-esteem take a hit.

A few years ago, the leader of an organization was continually putting me down. Even though they stepped over the line, I lacked the chutzpah to say, “I won’t be treated this way.”

Because I am a person who chooses to lead with my heart, I mistakenly viewed standing up for myself as being arrogant.  But each time I backed down, I felt weak and like I dishonored myself.  This was not who I wanted to be.

I had heart and not enough chutzpah. My friend had chutzpah and not enough heart.

Chutzpah by itself can come across as arrogant or mean. Heart alone can be viewed as weakness and a doormat.

The sweet spot lies where we have both heart AND chutzpah (heartzpah?! :). It’s not easy to find that place, it takes practice.

For fighters, it means forcing yourself to take a time out before you start saying things you’ll regret.

For those of us who take flight, it means giving yourself permission to stand your ground.

I think Brené Brown said it best, “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink back. Just stand your sacred ground.”

It can be scary and uncomfortable as we practice something new. But that’s where our growth lies, in those scary, uncomfortable places. And there is great joy  and peace of mind  knowing that you can handle anything or anyone who crosses your path.

In order to be the person you want to be, what do you need to practice more of, chutzpah or heart?

 

Burning Down The Wall

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In 2013, I took part in a fire ceremony conducted by Marcela Lobos (picture above is me with Marcela), a Chilean Shaman, that changed my life.

It was a cool September morning at the Omega Institute. Down by the lake, a fire had been started and we were instructed to find a stick.

Marcela, dressed in a colorful sarape and a beaded headband, told us that we were to choose something that we did not want to take home with us.  It could be unforgiveness, resentment, anger, ties to an old relationship, etc.

We were then instructed to breathe onto the stick to symbolically transfer that which was to be left behind into the stick.  Then, one at a time, we were to step up, kneel down and place our stick into the fire.

But there was one more thing we had to do.

When one knelt down at the fire, another of us was to come up and stand behind her to cover her back.  This was a form of protection, because our sister, kneeling at the fire, was in a vulnerable position.

When I heard this, I began to weep as I suddenly realized that I had never felt like anyone had my back.

Standing there with tears streaming down my face, I knew this was something I needed to change.

The part of my soul that was weeping longed for authentic human connection, with myself as well as others. But that was impossible because of the wall I had up.  I needed to know that I was ok and that someone was on my side.

When I was younger, I had trusted only to get stabbed in the back. I had been hurt and betrayed so I had chosen not to be vulnerable with the people in my life.  Up came the wall.

I realized vulnerability was not only what would bring down this wall I had built, it was the key to learning how to trust and to living a happier life.

Vulnerability takes practice. It is uncomfortable, it can be messy.  And I  often don’t get it right.  I learned that it is not good to be vulnerable with just anyone.  I can count on one hand the people with whom I can be completely vulnerable.

Practicing vulnerability has deepened my relationships and brought a level of joy I haven’t felt before.

I have learned that life is more fun and less stressful when we can just be who we are and trust that we have people in our life who have our back.

 

 

 

 

Unexpectedly Feminist

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I am not a feminist. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and came to believe that a feminist was an angry, bra-burning woman who hated men.

I love men.  Some of my favorite people in the world are men; my husband, son, dad and brothers are at the top of the list.  So I decided long ago that I was not a feminist.

But what is feminism really?

The definition is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

This brings me to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech.  She said:

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”

Feminism is not about women being angry and demanding our due.

Patricia Arquette is talking about advocating for ourselves just as vigorously as we do for our loved ones and the causes that we feel so passionately about.  It is about us knowing our worth and working toward receiving the same treatment and pay as men.

We have, for too long, gone quietly about our business take caring of everyone else, giving ourselves what’s left, only to find there is nothing left.

It is time to stop being stingy with our compassion and acceptance when it comes to ourselves.

We must give ourselves permission to ask for what we want but first we must know what we want.

It is time we speak up and let our voices be heard without judging ourselves as arrogant or self-centered.

It is time we help lift each other up and stop calling women who assert themselves a bitch.

Go for that thing that may seem out of reach.  Celebrate yourself if you get it. Heap yourself with the same compassion you give others if you don’t.  Then go out and try again.

If we live our lives modeling feminism then not only will our daughters learn to do the same but our sons will grow up to be feminists too.  We owe it to ourselves to do this, we owe it to future generations.

 

Pay Attention!

Recently our son noticed how his sister loved to play music on her smartphone but had a very cheap speaker.  The sound quality wasn’t all that good but we never heard her complain about it.

Our daughter’s birthday was coming so he decided he would get her a new, better quality wireless speaker even though she had not asked for it.

When she opened the gift, she let out a squeal of delight. She was completely surprised because, although she wanted a new speaker, she had not asked for it.

Her delight was magnified because her brother was paying attention to what she liked (her music) and what she needed (a new speaker).

I think there would be less ugliness in the world if we simply paid attention.

I believe most people want to know they matter and what they have to say matters.  We have a tendency to be so caught up in ourselves that we forget to pay attention to what’s going on around us.

When we aren’t paying attention, our children can think we don’t care, our spouses feel neglected, even the people we meet in the street can be left feeling that we are cold and detached.

My grandfather taught me what a gift it was to pay attention.  Everyone agreed he was a great guy.  When asked why, they would say that he made them feel special. All he did was pay attention.

When I was talking to my grandfather, it seemed like we were the only two people in the world.  He would listen attentively and ask questions that pertained to what I was saying. He made whomever he was speaking to feel special because he payed attention.

I have also had the experience of people who talk incessantly and are not the least bit interested in what I have to say.  Whether it’s true or not, I am left with the feeling that they really don’t care about me.

As a volunteer for Step By Step (a non-profit organization that provides empowering workshops for women who are, have been or are at risk of being incarcerated), I have had the privilege to work with veteran workshop facilitator Sally Kohler.  Sally writes and facilitates the workshops for both women in jail and for when they come out.

Sally pays attention to the women who sit in her workshop. She is accepting and listens intently therefore many of them feel seen and heard for the first time in their lives.

Because Sally pays attention, these women begin to feel worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.

I have witnessed people transform their lives simply because someone took the time to pay attention to them.

The great thing about paying attention is that you can begin now and it doesn’t cost you anything.  I suggest you begin by paying attention to yourself.

Pay attention to the thoughts you have about yourself. If you wouldn’t say those things to your children or your best friend then why are you letting them clutter your mind. Pay attention and let them go.

By paying attention to what and, more importantly, who is in front of us, we affirm that they matter.  That simple act serves to bring more love, understanding and peace to our world.

 

Changing The Golden Rule

You’ve heard of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?   All I can say is it must have been a man who thought this up because no woman in her right mind would ever say anything so stupid.

I agree that the Golden Rule is positive in most situations.  In dealing with the people I encounter, I try to be calm, polite and kind.  All traits I appreciate in others when interacting with me.

However, recently I took issue with my husband treating ME as HE would want to be treated. Specifically when it came to my birthday.

When my husband and kid’s birthdays roll around, I try very hard to give them a special day. When the kids were younger, we had parties. Now that they’re older, they choose between dinner at their favorite restaurant or dinner at home with me making whatever they choose.  And the same goes for my husband.

With my birthday so close to Christmas, it has always seemed to get lost. With all the hoopla over the holidays, everyone is too tired and partied out to have yet another party, including myself.  As an adult, I have learned to accept this.  Or so I thought.

This year, I felt resentful as I thought about my upcoming birthday.  When I looked to see what the cause was, I realized the past few years, my birthday dinner consisted of takeout pizza.  I love pizza, don’t get me wrong, but on my birthday?!

When I thought about how my husband wanted to spend his birthdays recently, I noticed he doesn’t care to make a big deal out of it.  I realized he was treating my birthday the same way.  He didn’t understand that I wanted something more than takeout food.

I knew I needed to have a conversation telling him that I did not want to be treated like he wants to be treated. I wanted to be treated the way I want.

All that meant was either choosing to go out for dinner or having him cook dinner at home, NO TAKEOUT!

In case you’re wondering, he cooked our family a delicious meal of artichokes french, jambalaya and tiramisu. My favorite foods with my favorite people!  It was the best birthday ever because I felt heard and honored! Not only by the people I love but by myself as well. (And it was extra special because my husband doesn’t often cook.)

Where are you expecting your partner to treat you as you treat them?  A hint: Start by looking at where you’re feeling resentful.  Speak up and practice asking to be treated the way you want.

Remember the Golden Rule of Relationships: Do unto your partner as you would have them do unto you, unless they tell you otherwise.