Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's Just Another New Year's Eve ...

“… another night like all the rest …” Thank you, Barry Manilow.

Yes, it’s the end of an old year and the beginning of another. I see too many people stressing about their plans for this evening (or “Amateur Night,” as most people in the bar business like to call it).

As the end of one period and the beginning of another, it is significant. But why? In actuality, it is no significant than any other moment, because each moment is the same ending and beginning; therefore, every moment is significant.

What sets New Year’s Eve apart from every other night is the fact that we have been conditioned to believe that this one night is more important, more of a chance of new beginnings, than any other night – and all because of a change in a number.

The day you got your new job, got married, quit smoking, and/or bought a house have more importance than a simple night of having a glass of champagne at midnight – which you can do any night.

I’m actually quite surprised there wasn’t more of a hoopla made on December 20, 2012.  I would’ve thought the eve of the world ending would be considered a little big.

Look at all of us; we stay up late to watch a ball drop at the precise moment the new day begins. Isn’t every night that important? Because there are so many people in this world going through so many bigger, individual events, the way we have set this night up to be has turned more into a night of expectation – which, for many people (outside of a good party), can turn out to seem more like a night of empty promises.  There are too many people disappointed by not celebrating the moment with a special someone and a kiss at midnight – more than any other night.


Simply because it has been forever, it is a holiday. And any one of us can take it and make it something enjoyable, positive and happy.

If you buy into the adage about “whatever you’re doing at midnight New Year’s Eve will be what you will be doing the rest of the year,” – or something like that – why not go out of your way to make sure you are smiling?

No, you don’t need a reason, either; but maybe this will help you feel there is one:

Because New Year's Eve is an event, there is the same energy out and about this night as Christmas. It’s palpable. There are a great many people going out to have a good time, and their energy collects together and connects. Just go out and stand among them and feel it – but do NOT hold yourself as separate or apart, or make silly comparisons about what you feel that they have that you don’t. Concentrate on the energy, really feel it. That will lift your spirits. Unless you believe it won’t – because you will be right. I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m just aware of the fact that truth is an individual thing; your beliefs are your own truths. If you believe nothing will work, then nothing will.

Then again, if you totally felt like that, you would probably not be reading this right now.

A part of the energy around NYE in the excitement for the new year is the simple excitement for the new. This is part of the reason adults are so willing to make a big deal out of this night, because after so many years and trials and tribulations, there is very little new to experience – which isn’t true. It is, however, a very popular collective belief.

Don’t be lonely. Even if you are a single in a sea of couples, if you are there with them you are not alone. Share the night with anyone and everyone around you. Be aware of how much your own negative attitude will shut you off from so much going on, including possibilities of any kind that a closed mind will blind your eyes to.

Make this night yours. Don’t set yourself up for expectations you really don’t believe will be met. If you go out, go out knowing that you and the rest of us are all celebrating the same event together. Be wherever you are. Right there and nowhere else. Tell your inner cynic that since it’s a holiday, he or she deserves the night off.

Our bodies were made to dance all by themselves; no one else is needed. All you girls know that there is always a group of us on the dance floor, and we all make room for whoever wants to jump in.
Let go of expectations. Feel the positive energy and the sense of new. Share the smiles. Make it your night.

That’s another thing our bodies were designed to do solo – to make things happen.

If you are at home alone, spending the night all by yourself, remember that you are choosing to do so. And if you are miserable, I can guarantee that your New Year’s Eve will not meet even any of your smallest expectations.

Make the night yours. Do something you enjoy. Watch the ball drop or don’t. Have a glass of champagne or don’t. There are no rules to having fun, and there are no regulations to New Year’s Eve (except the valid one about not drinking and driving).

If you feel negatively that New Year’s Eve is just another night, understand that you are condemning every other night of yours as insignificant.

The bottom line is that how you celebrate or whether or not you celebrate it is a choice. You have more input to everything you feel than you think.

Remember, that if you don’t take control of your own happiness, other people and circumstances will. You are not supposed to be a victim; you are a creator. Celebrate that.

Have a Happy New Year.

Or not.

Again, your choice. 

(But if you feel like dancing, even alone in your kitchen, I have a great playlist for you! Stepping Out or Staying In: Music to ring in 2016)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What's Your Super Power?

Did you know they are playing episodes of Wonder Woman (with Lynda Carter) on METV? I found out yesterday and immediately set my DVR (I can’t wait for Saturday!).

The other day my best friend got a birthday card from her daughter that said, “Mom, I finally figured out your secret identity” and it had a Wonder Woman logo on it (she also got her a Wonder Woman coffee mug to match).

Today, I wore my favorite sweatshirt; it's black with the word DORK in big red letters, as in your face as Superman's "S" (yes, that’s me in the picture up there).

These three things got me thinking about super powers. (That is how my mind works.)

I’m sure that even the most realistic of you out there have at one point considered the possibility of having some kind of super power. Those of you with kids have probably had in-depth conversations on the subject.

After much deliberation and careful thought over the period of about five minutes, I realized what my own super power was:

I am ridiculous.

I won’t give examples (although the picture may be some indication). If you’ve read anything else here, you may have already come to that conclusion anyway.

Whatever you may think, as far as I’m concerned that is a super power, and I embrace it. That part of me is what allows me to have fun, to see the bright side in anything, to comfort me. It is consistent and strong. I can always count on it to be there. It provides me amusement wherever I am (and my own amusement matters more than anyone else’s).

And I don’t need anyone else for that. It comes from me, and me alone. I will never be without it. It makes me Me.

Of course, if your imagination is limited only to the stereotypical super powers found in comic books and movies:

I’m strong enough to carry a dead-weight sleeping child from a car to her bed without waking her up.
I levitate when I feel love.
I fly in my dreams.
I’m teleported to you the moment I think of you, wherever you are.
I am invisible when I put my headphones on.
I can make boo-boos go away with a simple kiss.
I am younger when I’m with my friends and older when I’m with my children.
I can let you know what I’m thinking without saying a word.

..and I am on the Internet. That makes me immortal.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm Now 48 (But I Will Probably Never Grow Up)

Today’s my birthday! Yay, me! I enjoy my birthdays like nobody’s business. Am I immature? Maybe. A little over the top? Probably. Ridiculous, even? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.

And I like it.

There is a small part of me that cannot believe I’m this age. 48! Almost 50! Whoa, that’s like … ancient to my 13 year old self, the one I still identify with the most.

Did we ever think we would be THIS old?

I get to thinking about maturity. It’s an annual thing I do every birthday, the day I consider to be my own personal New Year. I certainly don’t feel like what I thought a mature adult would feel like, but what I’ve realized is that whether or not I act it is not only up to me, but up to my own perception of what maturity is, right? Or even whether or not it matters?

Remember when we would tell people to “act your age, not your shoe size”? How do we know how we are supposed to act at a certain age if we’ve never been that age before? Are we supposed to measure our level of maturity by how we compare to others?

I have never been fond of comparisons, in any capacity - except for sugar substitutes … they are not better than real sugar, and they don’t taste the same, either … and margarine - butter is better … And decaf – no, thank you …

Okay, comparisons of food and food substitutes are all right, but not people comparisons. We are told that we will always find someone better or worse off than we are in looks, body types, financial status, attitudes, you-name-it. Why? Does it really matter? Looking down on someone we consider less fortunate in any way is not a substantial way to build ourselves up (it really isn’t all that compassionate, either). Looking at someone we hold in higher esteem than we hold ourselves may give us something to strive for – if our envy doesn’t get the better of us – but it also serves as indications that we consider ourselves “not good enough.”

Who is it up to that determines what maturity is? I work hard, love and support my children, try to prevent them from the consequences of Head Up Ass Syndrome (usually by direct example). I do the best that I can. And I make a conscious effort to try to do better each day.

Is that not mature of me?

But I will also be the one to attempt a cartwheel after 20 years (and laugh at the pain I felt for a week afterwards), play on swings, face a camera with my open mouth full of partially-chewed food, go out of my way to push people’s buttons at every opportunity, embarrass my children in public … and wear a tiara on my birthdays.

Is that immature of me?

Why? If I’m trying to manage my responsibilities, who is anyone else to judge how I handle my down time? I embrace my ridiculousness. It keeps me sane – well, it keeps me going, anyway. We all do what we can to get by, to stay afloat, to keep our heads out of our asses.

How many times have we heard others talk about what we miss about growing up? How many times have we expressed the desire “to be young again”? Why can’t we understand that while we may have experienced some serious hard times and mourn our ‘loss of innocence’ to world tragedies, that keeping and maintaining that innocence (and joy and enthusiasm) – outside of circumstantial occurrences – is for the most part our own choice?

What we feel, think, focus on, reflect, ponder, and are is a result of our own thoughts. We have more control and choice than we allow ourselves to believe.

We can almost look at growing older as what we deal with when playing sports as children. There will always be people pushing us to perform a certain way, while deep inside we just want to enjoy the game.

We should enjoy the game, right? Because it is like they say: no one gets out of this alive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to push my big, fat, birthday excitement in other people’s faces. After all, I’m wearing a tiara.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Surprising Moment of Maturity - From ME

Two years ago this month, I woke up to see a “For Rent” sign in the front of my building – for my apartment. I’d been out of a job for 8 months – you know the story: single mom barely making ends meet. It’s unfortunately quite common.

Needless to say, I was a little stressed.

I made it through that without having to move, with the loving, encouraging – and financial – support of my family and friends. (I do know how fortunate I am.)

I was still reeling from the loss of someone very special to me within that year, and within the next four months suffered two more devastating losses, the second of which – in a bizarre, morbid, unusual turn of events – led me to a new job. Knowing Mark’s sense of humor, his bequeathal to me of that job was, I’m sure, quite tongue-in-cheek.  He knew that I would be asked often how I got into that line of work. Thank you, Mark. J

For the first time in my life, I was doing what I wanted: I was being paid to write. I can still feel the rush of energy I felt when I got the call from the dear friend, offering me the job. It had a significant impact on everything: my financial situation, my quality of life, my enthusiasm, my confidence, and my mental outlook, despite the sad circumstance that led me to it.

My life changed. I was in a position to begin supporting myself – by myself. I began to be able to do a little more, including making a good dent in paying backwards. My schedule became more flexible. I started taking myself more seriously, taking more time to commit to and write my own projects. And I began to get really excited about my future. There were so many new opportunities this job opened up for me. I talked often about how grateful and happy I was to have it.

There have been other significant events that have happened this past year and 8 months since I began this job. Apparently, I am still enjoying quite a roller-coaster ride.

Last night, that dear friend who offered me the job called to tell me that the position was being terminated in two weeks.

(Judy, I’m so sorry you had to be in that position.)

In two weeks, I’m out of a job. The job that made the biggest difference to me and my life in so many ways.

I have to say, I was surprised at myself by how well I took the news. I waited to write about it to see if I was just in shock and would wake up depressed. I didn’t; and I realized why:

I still feel the gratitude I felt when I got the job. With the new experience (and training) I got from it, I have more confidence in my abilities. I’m in a better position to get this same type of job than I was two years ago. I was able to do so much more this past year, for myself and for my kids. Nothing can take any of that away. I can still drive a school bus, so I’m not totally busted.

It's not the end of the world. I still have so much to be thankful for. My future is once again uncertain, but right now I feel like the new high school graduate; everything is open to me.

Judy, I still can’t thank you enough. The job … your guidance … the things you’ve said to me.

You, too, Mark. You chucklehead. <3

Do you know what else I have?

Proof that I have grown. 

I JUST REALIZED SOMETHING: My last day of work is my birthday. Since I don't believe in coincidences, I shall take this as a sign, and accept it as A GIFT.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mom, What's a Terrorist?

Last night, my 10-year-old daughter Brynn and I were on the computer together, and we started to see tribute posts about 9/11. I made a comment about how many years it had been since that day. She looked up at me in question, and I realized she knew nothing about it.

The first thing I said was that it was a terrorist attack.

“What’s a terrorist?”

That question threw me for a moment, because so many emotions hit me at once. I think part of me was surprised that she wasn’t familiar with it – but part of me was also happy that she didn’t, because it is a definite testament to how fortunate we are.

Surprise, pleasure, pride.

I was troubled, too; because by telling her I would be sticking a pin in that bubble of innocence, the one that is part of the carefree childhood we all look back fondly on, those days we realize we can never get back. I debated not telling her.

Then, I considered how she might find out from someone else. Would that person speak in anger or in fear? Would another’s telling her color her perceptions? Make her afraid?

I decided to talk to her about it. I wanted it coming from me.

Sadness, resolve.

My ‘story’ about that day is a little difficult, but not nearly as bad as so many others’.  I’d already written about it a couple of times. The last time I wrote about it was in 2013, because I found myself on a plane that September 11th . Coincidentally, that was only a few months after the Marathon Bombing and this blog that I started a week later, writing about that day.

I told her what happened, without anger and without fear. I showed her pictures.

At one point she mentioned the Marathon Bombing. We were at my best friend Donna’s house that day when we heard about it and rushed inside to watch the news. My daughter and my friend’s daughter were both 7 at the time, and Donna and I were careful how we spoke in front of the girls. Brynn said that she and Faith were a little freaked out when they heard the word ‘bombing’ – which explains why they never heard the word ‘terrorist’; they couldn’t get beyond the word they knew that scared them.

The way Brynn talked about that day was the way we all talk about a big event. “I remember exactly where I was when this happened.” That made me a little sad, too, that she has one of those moments in her life.

I also told her about how it changed people. How nice people began to treat each other. I told her what it was like to live in Boston and not hear planes flying overhead, and how I stopped my car at the intersection of North Washington and Causeway and got out in the middle of the street to stare up at the sky that first time I saw a plane overhead again.

I told her about how different it is to fly now. How I recently noticed that I actually filter myself, watching how I joke and what I say, when I’m at an airport. I don’t do that anywhere; not even around her.

I told her about my brother, who was in a plane when it happened, flying home from his Army base to attend my wedding, and we didn’t know where he was for hours. What that must have done to our mother.  How cut off everyone’s cell phones were. That that was why Bobby was with the first group of soldiers in Afghanistan when war was officially declared.

I talked about my wedding to her father, just 10 days later, that we almost postponed. About how the florist had called me to nervously tell me that I wouldn’t have the flowers I chose at the wedding, because all of her deliveries were behind. The florist was nervous because the bridezilla she spoke to before me gave her hell because she wouldn’t have the orchids she wanted. Brynn’s reaction to that tidbit was surprise at someone else’s lack of compassion, and I was happy to see that.

I told her that we were the only American couple at the resort we chose for our honeymoon in St. Lucia. And how the entire dinner crowd at the Couple’s Night reacted when the emcee came over to our table, asking us where we were from. As soon as we said, “Boston,” the room erupted in applause. It made me uncomfortable to take such a tribute that was meant for so many more deserving people; but I understood it. All these people that were so far away from what happened, giving support in the only way they could.

She saw the pictures of the tributes from other countries.

I showed her pictures of the towers. She recognized them from television shows. I showed her the videos of the South Tower falling, letting her hear the surprised reaction from everyone around, because no one expected them to fall.

I talked about the people who died, those who were on the plane and in the areas of the crashes. The bravery of the passengers of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The firemen and police. The everyday people who sent or brought supplies to the people who were tirelessly searching for survivors. And those who helped to just … search.

We had a nation of heroes, doing whatever could be done.

And I told her about the courage that people showed after that. To rebuild. To continue living after losing loved ones. To carry on, one day at a time. We lost lives, loved ones, jobs, businesses, emotional freedom, and innocence. But we were united.

Now, fourteen years later, we are separate once again, quibbling over our differences. We talk about 9/11 still in anger and fear.

I could not tell my daughter about any of this in a way that would make her angry or afraid. Fear is limiting, and anger, while it has a useful place, is dangerous if continued too long.

In the book, “Ask and it is Given,” Abraham-Hicks has a description of what they call an “Emotional Guidance Scale.” Much like the 7 stages of grief, it labels emotions on a scale of 1-best to 21-worst, with love being the best and fear/despair being the worst.

This scale is a help for those who are trying to work their way out of negative feelings. Identify where you are, and try to work your way up. Anger is number 17. It’s a great motivator initially, and definitely better than despair, but hanging on that rung too long becomes destructive.

I choose love. I am not always there, not by a long shot, but I do aspire to it. I believe that we can do better, be better, by being more loving towards one another. I dislike the idea of ‘fighting’ for anything. I try to follow the adage, “Promote what you love, instead of bashing what you hate.” (I also like George Carlin’s “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.”)

This does not mean I condone anything. It does not mean I’ve forgotten anything. But I can control how I act, now, and now is what matters. Now is what sets up later.

I will not teach my daughter to live in anger or fear – that would discredit all of those brave people who picked up the pieces and continued to live. I try to teach her compassion and love.

I never forget. I never forgot. I remember September 11, 2001 with sadness. I think about all of the people - those who died, and those who lived, those who fought, and those who waited at home. And the rest of us.

I talked to her about what life was like before and after that day, the changes, big and little, since then. I even told her that I choose to refer to terrorists as bullies, because I believe in the power of words. Their emotional reaction can be desensitized or built up, and that can make a difference in the power they hold over people.

My daughter can choose what she believes and how she feels; and she will, like we all do. But I will not teach her that the world is a terrible place, and to start her at the low end of the scale would do just that.

But what I choose to focus on is the comfort, support, unity and love that came out of it.

Life is about all of it. Good and bad. This and  that. We will never have one without the other. Never. Because it is the good the highlights the bad, and vice versa. This means that you have a choice of what you will focus on.

My thoughts are with everyone today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What is Courage?

If you are on FB as much as I am (or even a little less), you’ve probably seen posts about Caitlyn Jenner, and even more posts that begin with “I’m so sick of Bruce Jenner being called a hero … “ and memes that mock his “courageous” status as a publicity stunt and not worthy of being compared to “real” hero, like a soldier, veteran, cancer survivor, etc …

The Google dictionaries basically define the synonyms courage and bravery as “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “ready to face and endure danger or pain.” A hero is defined as “a brave person.”

I have a question for you that I alluded to in my last blog: Do you think Caitlyn Jenner didn’t know the worldwide backlash she would get for what she did? You don’t consider her moving forward in spite of that brave?

I wonder how many times you yourself have kept your mouth shut out of some type of fear of reprisal or repercussion (or even personal discomfort), and I wonder, too, if your own audience was as large as hers is?

What she did isn’t as brave as a soldier fighting for our country? Or because she has money and a television show that makes her less brave? This whole “who is more courageous” argument is beginning to play out very much like locker room conversation.

I’m going to be brave here – because I know full well that what I say next will piss some people off, and others will deliberately misunderstand the point I am going to make:

How is a soldier brave for doing his job? Something he or she signed up to do?

I’m sure I completely lost attention from a few people after that last comment – those that are quick to judge without looking at a bigger picture, the same who are posting hateful memes about other people and their decisions. What I said is by no means any type of condemnation or denigration of their sacrifices, but it is a valid perspective. Just like every perspective is, and isn’t.

Hey, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. We – myself included – need to stop tearing each other down. We need to be aware of the bigger picture. We need a little more perspective.

I have the utmost respect for the men and women in the military. I come from a military family and my brother served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I salute you all for your bravery, because I can’t honestly say I could do that.

Of course, now, if I stretched that last statement of mine further, I must be a coward, right? Because I won’t engage in battle and fight for my country?

Let’s go back to our definitions of courage and bravery:

“The ability to do something that frightens one; ready to face and endure danger or pain.”

The ability to do something that frightens one.

Think about that.

Ready to face and endure danger or pain.

Think about that, too.

Do you fully understand what those two statements mean? It means that when you are being brave, you are only battling your own fears; your fears of the unknown and your fears of what you feel may happen to you for facing that fear.

Taking that one step further:

The only person who can accurately gauge the courage of a person is that person alone and no one else, because only that person knows what he or she had to overcome to do or accomplish something.

Think about any time you had conquered one of your own fears, no matter how small – I’ll bet at the time, it didn’t seem so small, did it?

People who make comparisons between their opinions of another’s bravery are not only slighting the other person, they are slighting themselves. Without even realizing it, they are downplaying their own moments of bravery.

Susan Jeffers said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” This quote has been repeated so often the real meaning is lost – like so many other important statements (Bible verses included). What fear we feel is personal to each one of us, so how is anyone else able to judge our courage if they don’t feel the depth of our fear?

A simple example could be the child who finally stands up to a bully, whether for himself or in defense of another. In the mind of that chi
ld, that bully has the power to hurt or kill him. How is that child less brave than a soldier in battle?

It is perspective we need to be able to judge less.

At the very least, we need the perspective that allows us to realize the limits of our own perspective.

I never considered myself to be brave. I never thought myself to be a coward, either. I liked to think that if the time came for me to have courage I would – never paying attention to the full scope of the idea of doing something that frightens me, ready to face (danger or) pain.

I know now that I am braver than I used to think. I have consciously began to face my fears and do things in spite of them.

I faced my father when I was 21.  You may not think that’s a big deal, but my relationship with my father consumed most of my life up until that point. That wasn’t easy for me.

I left an abusive relationship. Some may feel they would never be in one – that is wonderful. But I was. And I got out – two years after I wrote an “if anything happens to me …” letter. That wasn’t easy for me.

I officially announced to anyone within ear- or screen-shot that I was a writer. Small for you, maybe; but not for me. I know how hard it was to feel that I was denying myself a large part of myself for most of my life – I can’t imagine how hard it must be for others who’ve denied more.

I wrote and published about a few bad times in my life. I still feel some measure of fear every time I hit “publish.”

I don’t smile much because my teeth are bad. I’m finally in a position to begin taking care of it, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This has been something that has affected me for a very long time. I’ve learned to hide behind my hair and change the way I talk, because I’m insecure about it (that is an understatement). But I’m in the process of taking care of it now, and pushing on to not let it restrict me the way it used to. I am extremely self-conscious every single time I talk to someone or meet someone new. Even now. You have no idea what this is costing me to admit this to you, those of you that have only seen me in careful pictures (and I don’t yet have to worry about internet memes the way some people do). 

Guess what? All of that makes me brave and courageous. How do I know? Because I know how much each one of those steps costs me. Yay me.

Guess what else? None of it has anything to do with you. I don't have to explain or make you believe that overcoming any of these issues was brave on my part, nor do I have to take your assessment of how brave my actions have been.

We can only assume the depths of someone else’s courage, but we will never know because we are not them. If we can’t honestly know how frightened or fearful of some type of pain a person was regarding doing or being something, then we can’t honestly know how courageous they were. 

Are the people who valiantly ‘fight’ a battle or disease more courageous than those who aren't fighting anything physical? If so, why? How is that type of selection made? And what about the fact that some people's fear of death is less than their fear of mockery or shame?

There are so many different types of courage; we should not be invalidating any of them by judging only certain forms as valid. We shouldn't be comparing anything.

We all have our own obstacles to overcome. All of us. And all of us are brave and courageous and heroes when we make the decision to stand up for ourselves to ourselves, without letting the fear of what others may do to us in any way.

This is also a method of being true to our own beliefs. I have mine; you have yours. I am allowed mine just as much as you are allowed yours. I’m not even asking you to change what you believe.  I’m just suggesting that you try looking at things from a different perspective – not to change your mind, but to open it enough to allow the hate room to escape. To understand that the hate and intolerance you carry for others festers inside of you and robs from you even more than the people your force it on.

If you feel that someone else's actions or efforts are heroic or brave, celebrate it and be inspired by it. If others feel that a person shows courage, and you don't agree, keep it to yourself. By demeaning what someone else feels is somehow worthy, you are taking away something that could inspire them in some way.

We are all in this together, and we waste so much time judging, hating and blaming others, and drawing lines between us that shouldn’t be there, instead of celebrating the hero each one of us can be.

Be brave enough to be yourself.

Be more courageous by allowing others to be who they are. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why the World Needs Caitlyn Jenner

Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner. And she’s beautiful.

My, my. We’ve come a long way, baby, haven’t we?

Our favorite leaders, artists, writers, singers … what makes them special is their nonconformity, their breaking free of the pack, their innovation. The innovators are the ones moving the world forward. What is an innovator? An innovator is the pioneer who challenges and changes the norm.  

The people we revere in history were considered to be the rule-breakers.

Over the past thousands of years we have encountered many rule-breakers. These people – these innovators ... these teachers ... they make us think – by ourselves and for ourselves. People who’ve taught us about collective and personal freedom. Isn’t that why America was born? Didn’t our ancestors leave an oppressive atmosphere for the sake of freedom? What did we do with it? We united together to take away the freedoms of others.

What about those teachers? We revered them, then ridiculed them, and ultimately crucified them. Then later on we would look back and think, hmmm … he wasn’t so bad.

Too late.

How is it that we can blatantly applaud the innovators, the rule-breakers, the people who put their lives on the line to make our lives richer and ridicule others who are making different changes? This selectiveness, this hypocrisy needs to stop. Because that is what it is. Are people only allowed to be different only because they do or make something a collective group deems to be useful or beautiful? What about the person who is able to create a beautiful life for herself? Is she wrong because she does not share your personal definition of what is beautiful and worthy?

How the hell did any of us people who hate anchovies get past the serious fault of those who like them?

Any person, situation, thought or idea that challenges the boundaries of exclusivity, privilege and intolerance benefits every single one of us.

Caitlyn should be praised for having the courage to stand up for herself, to be herself, knowing full well the backlash she would be up against. How many of us would have the balls (yes, I said it) to stand up to global ridicule?

She is a wonderful teacher for our children. She is showing them that no matter how old you are, how you’ve lived your life, that it is possible to change, to be real and honest. Aren’t we teaching our children to be themselves? Be the best YOU you can be. Be yourself.

Or is that conditional?

Be you – unless you are different. If you are letting your children see your mockery of anyone who is not like you, what are you teaching them? How likely is it that they will find the courage to be who they are, if they are worried about the ridicule of others – even yours? Isn’t the ultimate goal of a parent to see their child happy? Or does that depend on them being and doing what you or anyone else thinks they should be and do?

It had to be Bruce Jenner. There is not one other single person in the world who has gained the respect and attention of the world enough that this would reach everyone. He was a man’s man, a superstar world athlete, handsome, father figure, and even reality show television star. He was also old enough that no one can accuse him of being a foolish child. No one hasn’t heard of him – and that means no one can continue to keep their head in the sand and pretend to be ignorant of the word transgender. The line has been crossed, the tipping point reached, the pressure relief valve activated. We are now officially part of a new reality.

Bruce, I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through. Caitlyn, I’m sorry for what you will go through.

No one looks sideways when a woman votes or runs in the Boston Marathon. No one bats an eye walking into a classroom or getting onto a bus when they see varying degrees of skin color in the front seats. It wasn’t always that way – and many people fought it and died because of it, but it is normal for us now.  

It will still be a while before the LGBTQ community is no longer labelled as a separate, different sector of society. But we’ve hit another milestone, and it’s a big one. From today on, the word transgender is a part of world vocabulary. No one can deny its existence.

This means we are one giant step closer to a new normal. We still have a long way to go. One person’s sexual and gender orientation should never be the choice of or under the dictation of another person or group. There will still be fallout; people will still fight against this, and torment, torture and crucify those who are an active part of it.

And, maybe, some lives will be saved. Maybe another tormented soul will see the value in his or her own life, and stick around to make a positive difference in the world.

I’m going to die one day. So are the people who are actively against world peace, tolerance and love of thy neighbor. Even if they attempt to pass on their hate and segregation to their own children, it will be watered down and tempered by the fact that what was ‘different’ in their lifetime will be a known facet of the lives their children and grandchildren. It will not be different, which will make acceptance and tolerance easier.

I will leave you with three things to ponder:

1.     Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner. How many of you lost your job or died because of it? Did it ruin your marriage? Are you gay now (if you weren’t before)?

2.     What if a transgender, gay, or any-sexual teenager decided not to commit suicide (despite all the bullying) and grew up to create the cure for cancer? Would you not allow your loved ones to use it because of where it came from?

3.     If your Creator decided not to smite him for what he has done, what business is it of yours to try and do so? Isn’t that usurping someone else’s authority?

I hope I’m alive to see the new normal, where there is more love and tolerance shown towards each other. Where people are validated because they exist in this wonderful, diverse fabric of life.

I do wonder about when that happens, though. What new line will we find to divide ourselves with then?

Caitlyn, you go girl!

N.B. This is my second commentary on a perspective of the transgender discussion (my first: An Abomination to God) and not the last (I'm marinating at least two more). We talk about 'sides to an argument' as if the subject were square and the perspectives are limited, but they are more like arcs in a circle: unlimited, connecting, overlapping and recycling. Who knows how much more I will feel like saying?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gratitude and Living in the Moment

My stupid cat just climbed up on my lap, and as I was petting him I realized I was smiling, which made me smile more.

It’s Sunday morning. I spent the first part of the morning drawing out on my porch, listening to my iPod and drinking coffee. It was perfect.

When I first got this apartment three years ago, it was the Sunday mornings when I had that quiet time to sit on the porch in the sunshine that I began to fully be aware of how much I enjoyed what I have. My daughters would be with their fathers, and I would be alone. I could get up when I wanted to, wear what I wanted (or didn’t want) to wear. Just walking barefoot through my kitchen to my coffee pot was fun and new. And then I’d grab my notebook and go out onto the porch and write. I could go back into the kitchen to refill my coffee and see things that I had to take care of and instead of stressing that I should do them, I would smile at the thought of having stuff to have to take care of. Then I’d go back on the porch and not give them another thought.

And I appreciated that I finally found mornings enjoyable (at least one). I’m a night owl, and always was. I never thought I could find that type of peace during the morning hours.

It is definitely the little things that make me happy, and I look for them everywhere. Stolen moments like this are always the best. Although, technically, isn’t every good moment stolen? We always have something to do, and it’s when we make the choice not to do a ‘have-to’ that we find we are in the middle of our own spontaneity and are actually happy. Sometimes, that choice is made for us by every little thing we let get to us and we just stop and … stop.

Remember that line from Risky Business? “Sometimes you just gotta say, ‘What the fuck.’”

I’ve had many moments like that, but now I’m making them a little more consciously - and before I get to that point of needing to take a break.

And in the middle of that time I take for me, that time I actually make for myself (sometimes even planned in advance), I actually find myself smiling. Like now.

I have –and have always had – so much to be grateful for. I have so many of those moments, stolen or planned, that still make me smile when I look back on them.

I remember one day when I was in high school and I was sitting at the bus station waiting for the bus to Boston. I wasn’t having a very good day (I think I was depressed all through high school) and I saw a classmate there and she and I just started talking. It was one of those random moments; we didn’t hang out together and only saw each other as much as we did in school because our last names began with the same letter.  But I will never forget that day, that one isolated moment, when I was actually in that moment.

(Aren’t those conversations the best?)

So many moments with my friends, whether it’s someone I’ve spent regular time with or not. When you are all of a sudden aware that you are having a good time or at least content with the moment, even when circumstances may not be the way you want them to be.

--Is it wrong now in the midst of my gratitude that after the sixth interruption from my daughter while I write this I frustratedly think, “I will be so grateful when she leaves!”?

We all need time for ourselves, by ourselves or otherwise. It keeps us grounded and a little saner than we would be otherwise. We need to be spontaneous, or just let things happen. We need to be, not do. We need to really notice and acknowledge the good.

What special moments I’ve had, driving in my car alone late at night with the music blasting, or driving with a friend (music on, top down) in the sun, not talking, just feeling the wind in my hair and feeling that right then, everything is right. And then, of course, talking with my friends – even when they’re giving me the kick in the ass I need – because I feel their love and support. Dancing off steam in my kitchen; a quiet drive or moment just sitting holding hands with someone, knees touching; or an impromptu, just-what-I-needed dance with another friend in their kitchen after spending a sad day at a funeral for someone special. Waking up and being surprised to find breakfast on my nightstand from my daughter for no reason (yes, the one I’m waiting for to leave the house now). Listening to either of my girls humming or singing contentedly when they are involved in their own activity. Spending time doing nothing with my youngest daughter when she just looks up at me and tells me how happy she is to be with me.

– she has been my strongest example of how to live in the moment. She who will stop whatever she is doing just to throw her arms out wide and yell, “I LOVE this!” She always takes the time to declare her happiness with whatever she is doing.

(In case my other daughter is reading this, and pissed that I couldn’t wait for her to leave: You were my lesson in exploring, and finding the wonder in the new.)

Pennies add up to dollars; moments add up to real time. Take the moments when you can. Be aware of them. Notice when you smile. Share your smiles. Smile at strangers; it costs nothing and you may really help their day. Breathe. Hear the music. Dance. Live. Recognize the newness of each moment.

Ferris Bueller said it right, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I’m making sure to pay better attention. That fucking cat just flexed his claws in my leg, but I'm still smiling.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This AND That. April Showers, Monday Mornings and TWO YEARS HERE!

It’s rainy, cold and raw outside. If Mondays had a weather pattern, this would be it as far as the common, traditionally-collectively-accepted idea of Mondays, goes. Today—right now—I am that common. (On other days, of course, you’d better believe I am absolutely un-fucking-common!).

In my constant effort (and I say that because sometimes that’s what it feels like—even though I know better) to learn, be grateful for everything and be happy, I will not call today a bad day. Despite momentary emotions, I know that it’s not. Today is a this and that day. You can’t know this without knowing that. One of those days that make you appreciate other things better.

For some of us writing is a form of expression. We write what we feel, think and believe. I know that I can come across as preachy, snarky, bitchy, pissy, pathetic, fun, mildly (!!!) opinionated, sexy, ridiculous (my favorite) and foolishly-to-many optimistic (never say die!). It’s all true; it’s all me. Some days I’m a fucking ray of sunshine and other days … well, on other days it’s obvious that this fucking cheerleader has dropped her pom-poms. Right now, I’m looking at them lying in a heap on the floor and thinking about kicking them across the room.

Before I go on (and because it has to do with part of my subject today and because it’s a happy thought): Today is an anniversary! This blog is two years old! I’m going to take a moment out of my whining to celebrate this auspicious occasion. I am a writer (and I still love saying that), and I’ve known this formally since I was 10 but only recently gave myself permission to be one. The response I’ve received has really been overwhelming. Not that I need outside validation here; I do this because I have to. It has opened up some doors and provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t put myself out there. (More proof that following your passion works). Plus, if I ever get lonely, I have the options of accepting the numerous offers of the internet trolls who see my best-out-of-three-taken (had to make sure the hair showed right) profile picture, tell me I’m “intriguing” (is that a fucking buzzword nowadays?—I hate it, by the way; ‘intrigued’ is a temporary condition, regarding anything) and ask me to “write a book” with them. (Yes, pick-up lines are now vocationally focused.)

Either way, I have options!

I write what is true for me, whatever it is at the moment. And I am as long-winded as I feel (got that, Mom?). I try to be positive, even when I’m not fully feeling it. I’ve actually tried to just write pissy, and couldn’t. It HAS to end on a better note. That is not a strategic maneuver, it is what I need to do for me. People with rose-colored glasses, the fucking cheerleaders, live that way. No one even has to read what I write, but I’m putting it out there; I’m putting myself out there. This is how I entertain myself and work things through. Simple journaling isn’t enough anymore (although I still do it); journaling is private, and allows me to continue to hide and pretend. I’m not doing that anymore. I don’t have to be anyone’s cup of tea other than my own.  I have to admit that I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone many times, here and outside, and being a little more real each time. All of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. I have to balance things, too. What I put out can’t just be my highest thoughts, because there is more to me than that. And I am learning to fully accept all of me, unshaven legs and all.

Yesterday I was just saying that I love the little reminders I get on FB about what I was doing “on this day” over the past couple of years. Not that I need reminders (I remember a lot), but they can be fun, and sometimes there are pictures! And sometimes there are pictures … sigh. Some days, I don’t like them too much.

The reason for this morning’s … nostalgic introspection doesn’t matter. The less I focus on the reason, the less I will feel these lower-based energies and the sooner I can pull my head out of my ass—out of the darkness and into the light, so to speak. Situations, circumstances and other people are what they are. Their “meanings” are what we believe them to be and our feelings about them are determined by those meanings we’ve given them. People, places, things and events don’t make us feel a certain way, we decide how we feel about something, and we react. How we react is our own choice. Paying attention to the beliefs and perceptions we have about something and being able to figure out why we believe or feel a certain way will help us understand our own reactions and help us re-direct them. I’m not telling you that; I am telling me.

I am telling myself that it is okay to feel this way. To not just like myself when I’m ballsy and obnoxious. This and that. Total acceptance. The more I accept and allow all of me, the better I can do that for everyone around me, right? And by validating the feelings that I have (even the lower ones) I am showing myself the love that I deserve, not from anyone other than myself. Unconditionally. Everything will be okay, baby.

--No. It’s all good now.

The clouds will break to allow the sunlight in, cold will recede and allow warmth to seep in, Monday will give way to Tuesday, April paves the way for May, and the way I am feeling now will transform into something else. Something better.

Telling you has helped already. Thank you.

(I’ll pick up those pom-poms in a few minutes.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How to Fall Down

I came across an article on Upworthy that featured a short video from a series called “I Am What’s Underneath” in which participants talk about themselves while removing their clothing to “honor how style is not the clothes you wear.” As soon as I saw 87 year old photojournalist Lisl Steiner in her floppy hat with a short, curly bob exploding underneath it, green eyeshadow and red lipstick, draped in flowing browns, oranges and greens, cane, one suede boot adorned with jewels at the toe, and multitude of bracelets that jangled with every gesture she made, I was smitten with her. She called her style “no style” and referred to her makeup as the “look of a madam in a whorehouse.” 45 seconds into the video she talks about the accolades she receives when people find out her photographs were featured in Life Magazine and her response is, “And that’s all bullshit!” dropping her bag loudly on the floor (*mic drop). At this point I’m in love. She talked about her friends trying to get her on “fucking Facebook” and referred to Mark Zuckerberg as “creepy.”—the “fucking Facebook” comment did me in. When she said, “The first thing I do in the morning is put my war paint on. … But who cares at this point? It’s what I am and not what I look like. And, excuse me, but go fuck yourself if that’s a consideration.” That did it; she was my hero.

She had much to say, and gave me a lot to think about. I’ll more than likely be writing about her again, as well as the video series. I couldn’t watch any of the other videos yet because I was already getting distracted from what I was sitting down to write right now! As it is, I’ve already spent more time talking about her than planned. I’m off-topic, and I haven’t even started yet.

Ms. Steiner spoke about her age and the fact that she has to be careful of her frail bones because “her next fall could be her last.” She talked about having to walk like a duck for balance, and then mentioned one thing that has helped her considerably:

“When I was 16, I had dramatic art lessons. The first thing you learn is how to fall down.”

I know what she was talking about, but it was the way she said it that jogged a thought in my head:

How to fall down.

And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was taught how to fall down. Not in the physical sense, but in the psychological sense. In sports and in other various activities, athletes and participants are taught a correct way to fall; it is not to prevent it, but to allow it to happen while at the same time minimizing the chance of any serious injury. Could there be a way to learn something like that about the life-falls? We learn early that we will have troubles, get hurt, be disappointed, fall down. And then we are taught to get back up. My own father told me many times, “no matter how many times you get knocked down, you keep getting back up.” This was for both an actual fighting situation and for life.

But what about when you are falling? Is there a way to “learn how to fall down” that would lessen the potential for serious hurt and make it easier to get back up? To accept the fall and go with the momentum of it? Wouldn’t it be nicer to not have to feel really deep pain, and just get by with a short-lived sample of it?

I realize we have to fall sometimes. Without those experiences we would never fully know the good. One can’t happen without the other. There is perceived good and bad in everyone, everything. Without the bad, we would never see the good for being good and never have anything to enjoy.

Is it possible to teach something like that? I’m not talking about preventative measures; we can’t prevent the falls. Many try, though. They close themselves off from people, avoid new experiences, and write prenuptual agreements. They take few chances, unless they feel they have some type of guarantee or measure of protection. They live life almost in a flat line; no real lows, but no real joys either. In the end, they may have been safer, but they’ve definitely missed out on having a full life.

And then I realize my own contradiction in what I was just saying. I basically just said we need the lows to appreciate the highs right after I said I wanted to be able to learn how not to have such lows in life. The lower we go, the higher our potential is. I’m not talking about everyone’s idea of the strength we learn by going through hardships; I’m talking about the appreciation and enjoyment we enable ourselves to receive when good things happen. The lower we’ve sunk, the greater our enjoyment during the higher moments. We increase our capacity for feeling the appreciation of good things happening which makes us happier. The good moments are better, the better moments are wonderful. We feel more.

I’m aware of both sides of the coin. Life is not about this or that; it is this and that. There is nothing we perceive to be negative without there being a measure of the positive. And there is no good without bad. How could there be? If it weren’t for the contrast of each side we would not be able to see either side. I guess I’m being reminded that not only is the contrast necessary, but the measure of contrast as well. If I stare at my mental image of the flat line I can see that there is balance; the high points are as far away from the baseline as the low points. I enjoy those high points, and I wouldn’t be able to reach those heights if I didn’t go the same distance in the other direction.

With regard to attempting to teach anything about falling, I guess we just need to teach (and learn) what we see that we have been struggling with for generations: a sense of self, and the appreciation of our own wonderful uniqueness. Let them know they will fall, let them know to get up afterwards, but teach them the reason to.  When we suffer pain, we are not learning strength to be able to withstand more pain. That whole philosophy paints a grim picture of life in general, and only encourages people to avoid taking chances, trying new things, living a full life. The pain we experience reveals the depth of the joy we can have in everything else; it increases the pleasure we receive from the good things that happen. We would never know how good something is unless we are aware of how bad something can be. This and that. The contrast is necessary. We have to bless the contrast, all of it, and be thankful for the awareness of happiness.

When I’m 87, I want to be just as colorful and content (and as badass) as Lisl Steiner. I'll learn to walk like a duck and let my troubles roll off me like water off that duck's back.  I have 40 years to work on my appreciation of both this and that. I can only be as happy as I choose to be, and I'm grateful for more awareness of the choices I have.