Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Get Love on Valentine's Day

Last year, I talked about the pressure put on people to “perform” or “get” on Valentine’s Day, and added a few suggestions for you to make the most out of yours. I haven’t been sued yet, so either none of my suggestions were taken – or nobody took them as far as I would have! (click here to read last year’s).

No matter what I said, then or now, the bottom line is that all of these so-called holidays that involve some type of “exchange” are nothing more than sales vehicles. The ideas and themes behind the holidays are genuine and have valid reasons for their importance as reminders; however, the meanings have been lost under an air of expectation as a result of marketing. I’ll say it again: “Nobody parties harder [each holiday] than those interested in selling it.”

That being said, many of us still buy into all of it having been set up for that since we were children. Whether or not we agree with the general consensus of things being ‘too commercial’, we still grow up with a subconscious expectancy, conscious resentment, or something in between.

This is where I am. I have never put much stock in the commercialism; I know what it is, I can choose or not choose to participate to whatever degree I want to. Valentine’s Day was never a big deal. I wore red because it was fun to be a part of a collective, for my own pleasure. I’m not a ‘flowers’ kind of person, and I enjoy chocolate every day. I’ve been single or on my own more often than not – I never had the chance or opportunity or conditioning or whatever to make it anything other than a day to wear red. This is good for me because I don’t feel any kind of lack, and therefore no resentment at the incessant advertising that attempts to sell the idea that true love only exists on and for February 14th.

I considered myself lucky to feel that way, because I see so many people sad and feeling lonely because they don’t have anyone to make that day significant for them. (Don’t worry; I have so many other issues to make up for the lack of this one!)

And then, one year something happened that made that particular day significant for me. Not because it was Valentine’s Day, but because it was a day of an event that was significant to me: a First Kiss. Google helped put a stamp on the event with a banner that featured a candy heart with the imprinted words “FIRST KISS”.

(At the time, I considered that to be a happy moment of synchronicity.)

Now, I have a significant event that happened on a day that gets noticed annually, even though the event had nothing to do with the day. I’m sure it’s quite obvious that my circumstances now are not the same as they were then. And, yes, I miss those days.

This brought up a unique Valentine’s Day quandary for me: I still have no expectations of the day of any kind, but its publicity is an annual reminder of what was. Of course it is something I remember without any help, but the yearly ‘prompt’ is overkill.

The Valentine’s Day need for a partner that has developed over the years for many people causes division in the meaning of LOVE. Love is love is love. One who feels real love for what it is will not draw lines between what type of love it is. If you split hairs on your definition of what you feel love is, then you lose all possibility of feeling it – in the same way – on so many other levels.  Romantic love, familial love, animal love, enjoyment love, friend love … the base level feeling is the same, unless you give one type more importance or value.

I miss that particular situation, yes, but I do not feel unloved. There were many types of love I left out in the previous paragraph, and if you understand love then you can fill in the blanks with any of them. There was one in particular that was left out deliberately because I wanted to separate it from the pack – if one type of love is more important than the others, this is it:

Self love.

Self love gives us our motivation, our ability to show love to others and to enjoy the love we feel towards us. If you want to feel love on Valentine’s Day – or any other day – learn how to love yourself (learn the value of it), and you will never feel there is anything missing.

To keep that one Valentine’s Day from being an isolated occasion (which will always give anything a feeling of more importance or of deeper impact), I make it less of a stand-alone event. No, I’m not going out and First-Kissing strangers – even though that could be fun. I give myself big events on that day; that way, each year when it rolls around I don’t find myself looking back with melancholy over one moment that happened to occur on Valentine’s Day. The back-door significance Valentine’s Day gave to my personal event, along with any residual feelings that were not positive have been lessened by the expansion of my focus. Narrow focus limits us.

Now, I celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day for me and from me, all in the name of love. I could buy myself a more expensive bottle of wine, a silly trinket, or I could visit somewhere I haven’t been before … one ‘out of the ordinary’ event to put my own stamp on the day. This particular year I had a stroke of luck that I used as my Valentine’s gift to myself (I won a drawing in November and took my prize on Valentine’s week); I’m sitting in front of a roaring fire in a charming Vermont retreat, with nothing to do but eat, drink, and write. It’s all about me here, and I am in heaven.

I don’t feel less loved on Valentine’s Day. In giving myself love and attention I am getting love and attention. Nothing is missing.

If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. 

This is not a phrase normally used in reference to self love, but it more than applies here. We are taught that we can be so much happier and more satisfied when we’ve accomplished something on our own. Think of how much more is opened to us by expanding both of those thoughts to encompass loving yourself and treating yourself with love. Love is always returned in some way. What should be limited are any and all expectations in how it is returned and from whom it is returned.

If you want to ‘get’ love on Valentine’s Day, give it to yourself. You will only get by giving – and the best part is that you will always get by giving.

It’s a vicious circle.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Susie. I love you.

Thank you, Susie. I love you, too.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

F&*^ing Kids: A Perspective

Fucking kids!

If I had a nickel for every time I said that …

Why do we even have them? Speaking for myself, both of mine were surprises.

(Despite that, I still LOVE surprises!)

What is perspective? Perspective is a point of view. If you put a dot in the middle of a circle, you could stand anywhere on that circle and have a different view of the one dot. On the flip side of that same coin, if you stood on the dot and looked anywhere on the circle, even just a hair’s turn would give you a different view of the one circle.

Here is an example of perspective:

You’ve just come home from work after a long day and your kid immediately hits you up for a snack of pizza rolls the second you walk in the front door. While you know she is completely capable of waiting for you to put your bag down and take off your coat first, you know that the sooner you give her the pizza rolls, the sooner you can get to finally sit down ALONE with the cup of coffee you plan to reheat from the full pot you didn’t get a cup from in the morning when you rushed off to work. After you’ve put down your bag but before you even take off your jacket, you grab the bag of pizza rolls from the freezer, open the bag, dump a hearty amount on a plate and put it in the microwave. During the minute and a half they are ‘cooking’, you take your jacket off and rush into your room to change out of your work clothes and bra and whip on the sweatpants and T-shirt you threw on the bed when you took them off in the morning. You rush back into the kitchen, grab a napkin, and head to the microwave and open the door just as the timer goes off. With one hand you let the plate of pizza rolls cool for a moment on the counter while you grab a mug and pour the morning’s coffee into it and put that cup into the microwave with the other. While you’re patting yourself on the back at your forethought to get the pizza rolls in the microwave before you were ready to reheat your coffee – economy of time is important, and you wouldn’t have wanted to had to stand there and watch those damned pizza rolls ‘cook’ for a whole minute and a half before you could put that important cup of coffee in and watch that reheat for a whole minute – you realize that you are starving and grab a pizza roll off the plate and shove it in your mouth, chewing fast because it’s almost ‘magic’ time.

-- Wait! That thing is fucking delicious!

With thirty seconds to go until your coffee is ready, you spend twenty seconds eating half of those delicious creations and use the last ten to carry the plate to where your child is waiting in front of a video screen, throw it at her in the same manner a zoo employee would toss a steak at a lion, and offer up a prayer that what you left for her was enough to tide her over so you could enjoy your reheated coffee for a few quiet minutes for yourself as you rushed back to the microwave.

Two weeks later you are home alone on a Friday night because she is at a sleepover. You are wearing your usual “I’m home” uniform, and you’ve already decided that even though tonight would be a perfect night to go out and try to have a life you either didn’t have the money, gas, or motivation for it and chose to stay in. Because you’re still a little on the fence about making the official decision not to go out, you have no idea what you want to do. You putz around for about a half hour before you decide on watching a movie; you spend another 20 minutes on deciding what you want to drink and whether or not it should be a grown-up drink (just because you can). It’s another half hour gone before you decide on the movie and drink and you’re finally sitting down in front of the TV – then you realize you forgot a snack. The night’s indecisive theme hits you and before you play that ‘what do I want?’ game and waste any more time you decide to have some of those delicious pizza rolls. (After all, they only take a minute and a half to prepare.)

Okay. You are FINALLY ready to sit down and watch a movie with your drink and snack and – BONUS – it’s only 10:30, so you still have time to watch the whole movie before you go to bed. You take a first sip of wine, put the glass down on the coffee table next to you and pick up the plate of pizza rolls, pulling it close to your chest as you sink back into the couch while popping one in your mouth. The opening credits begin on your movie and –

-- What THE FUCK did I just put in my mouth????

Immediately, you open your mouth to spit out the partially chewed, disgusting concoction of processed cheese, imitation tomato, and triple the amount of pretend meat back onto the plate, throw the plate down on the table in disgust, suck down half the glass of wine to get that terrible taste out of your mouth and slam that down, too. Then you grab the damn remote, shut the TV off, and head straight to bed, giving up.

That is perspective. Same pizza roles. Different reactions. So many factors played into my enjoyment of them one day, and my disgust of them another day.

For a few years, I went through my own personal hell with my teenage daughter (this is not to say that I am done with that, either). Choices that she was making were affecting me in so many different ways. Of course, I wasn’t doing enough for her. Of course, it was my fault her life was the way it was. Of course, I had to deal with her father’s blame and outbursts on top of hers. While all of this was going on, I still had to function ‘normally’ – go to work, deal with other issues and other people, and try not to let this affect my younger child (at least, not too much).

I was in my boss’ office to raid her candy jar. It usually takes me a few minutes to grab the chocolate I want because it’s always at the bottom of the jar and I have to empty it onto her desk to get to my favorite pieces (and then, of course, put the rest of the candy back). I was just pocketing my bite-sized Hershey bars when she asked about my daughter, knowing that I had some ‘heavy’ things going on. She was sitting at her desk and I just threw myself in the chair across from her and ranted on and on about my fucking kids.

My boss is ten years older than I am, the half-way age between me and my mother - not too old that I would consider her of a completely different generation that she would have no idea of what I was talking about - and she did grow up in the ‘60s, which meant she wasn’t totally from a ‘simpler’ time.

She let me vent for a bit. Actually, I swore for a bit – I was past simple ‘venting’. I was ready to run away before I pulled all of my hair out (I like my hair; I want to keep it. Can’t be a Breck Girl without it).

She patiently listened to me with this particular look on her face. I say ‘this particular look’ because I can’t quite describe it. She was almost smiling somewhat, but she also looked sympathetic. And when I was done, she basically told me that things would improve.

At first, seeing that slight smile put me off a bit. I know my first reaction was to feel that mildly arrogant huff that we feel when we feel we are being patronized. But after she started talking a bit more, I realized she wasn’t being condescending.

She began telling me of certain exploits of her own fucking kids (and I’m sure she left many bigger details out), who managed to pull off more – different, rather – shit than my own, even without the added benefit of world-reaching technological exposure.

I consider this woman to be a better mother than I am – or at least, more of a real one than I am. Not only is she still married to their father, she cooks for all of them (you did see how prominently the microwave figured in my perspective example). And here she was, telling me about her own personal trials with her kids – kids who I would have said were raised better than mine.

It still wasn’t right away that I got any real comfort from our conversation; I did get some, but I got more out of it later when I realized a few other things.

My parents love me. I’ve always known that, even when I couldn’t stand them. My father raised us to live in fear of him, and I always resented that. When my firstborn started ‘acting up’ I only then understood why he chose that path of ‘parenting through fear’ – it would have certainly made things easier for me with my daughter if she feared me, because she wouldn’t have dared to say the things to me that she had just been starting to say. I still disagreed with his method, but understanding it made a huge difference in my understanding of him. It also showed me that ‘my way’ didn’t necessarily work out too well, either. I called him to tell him that.

I was in my 30s when I made that call.

Here I was, expecting my daughter to appreciate ‘all that I do’ for her as a teenager, and I was only just getting a glimpse of understanding my own parents’ methods - when I was in my 30s.

It was when I was having to really work at not reacting too … inappropriately(?) to my daughter during our many go-rounds that I had a tiny breakthrough: what she does, who she becomes has nothing to do with me.

One of the arguments I constantly used against my father all those years ago was that I was my own person. I still feel that way. And I don’t give my child the same credit. It's not all about me. While I have many responsibilities to my children as their parent, my ultimate responsibility is not for them. Whatever they do, good or bad, is their choice. Do the things that they do affect me? Of course. But I am not here to gain glory of any kind through them, and their choices ultimately only affect them. And I can be fair to them (which is not the same as giving them what they want) while being fair to myself to not let their choices wreak havoc on my life.

I understand that this is a bit of a fine line to understand, and not totally easy to explain. Certain perspective is needed to be able to fully comprehend what I’m trying to say without the first gut reaction of getting offended. I didn’t have it when I first sat across from Diane’s desk that day. I don’t have it all now, either; but I’m getting it. And I’ve noticed that this bigger perspective allows me a little more breathing room. I haven’t run away yet, and I still have my hair (chemical hair-product use consequences notwithstanding).

I began to see it more when someone recently vented to me about their own fucking kids, someone I did not expect to hear these types of war stories from - not so much that I believed he would never go through anything because fucking kids make that impossible - but that he would talk about it. I almost felt that same smile on my own face that I saw on Diane’s that day – and I finally realized what it was: a combination of everything from relief of the isolation that these stresses make you feel, the feeling of accomplishment of knowing you can survive that shit because the first real issue is always the biggest mindfuck (I say ‘first’ because the shit never ends with our kids), but most of all it was genuine parental love. It’s true, benevolent understanding with the back-door knowledge of future success.

My best friend and I swap war stories all the time. Friendships are more valuable than most people realize. I don’t know what I would do if I had no one to talk to – once I got past my own arrogance in thinking that there was no one to talk to that would understand. I understand the idea of not wanting to ‘admit’ certain things to others – you don’t want them looking at you in judgment (especially since you are probably already harshly beating yourself up), and you really don’t want them judging your children – because you love them, despite their bullshit, and even if what you are thinking about them is worse.

Yes, you want to run away. I still have my moments of wanting the same. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that someone else is going through some variation of your same issue, because when we are in the thick of it, we feel exclusive to it, because no one could understand the pain and frustration we are going through. That feeling of being unappreciated, that martyrdom of taking on the blame – or the feeling of helplessness when you feel someone else is to blame. Even that ‘surprise’ that your child flipped that switch and ‘suddenly’ turned on you.

That feeling of being unappreciated can go much deeper than we realize, too. It attacks our self-esteem and sense of worth.

What we go through with our kids is hard. It makes us question everything. And someone sympathizing with you is not their way of saying what you’re going through doesn’t matter or is ‘small’ – because everything we go through with our kids is HUGE, so big that sometimes we don’t want to hear someone telling us that we will make it through (because we know they are wrong) – any more than I did when I sat across the desk from my boss.

I know that because now I’m on the other side of that desk. I’m on the dot looking outward at the circle, and you’re on the circle looking inward at the dot.


Fucking kids.

I love them.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Prove Your Love

(Anyone else hearing Taylor Dayne sing that right now?)

We have this notion embedded in our stories and minds that love is a thing to be proven, like some kind of scientific theory. While the chemistry of love – or, rather, basic sexual attraction – is something that can be measured physiologically, the emotional, feeling side cannot. In actuality, it doesn’t need to be, because it is always, always, visible.

Ovid said, “Love, and a cough, are not concealed.”

It is human nature to lean towards things we enjoy, are interested in … love. We live between two general ideas of love and fear – not hate, hate is a by-product of fear (we don’t fear what we hate; we hate what we fear). Our motivation is the drive for love – the happiness we want to achieve from being able to do what we love and/or being with whom we love. Whether our actual intention is to move towards love or it is to move away from fear, the direction is the same.

When we love something, or even just enjoy it, it shows. It shows in our faces, our attitudes, the amount of attention we give it, and for how long it can hold our attention. Why do we have hobbies? What accounts for our ‘special interests’? We join online communities/support groups to connect with others who have the same interests; we tattoo the brand of our favorite motorcycle on our skin; we devote time and money – our two ‘precious’ commodities – towards what we enjoy … what we love.

We do the same with people. We desire to spend the most time with or around those we enjoy/like/love the most. Our actions reflect our preferences. We invest time and thought in them. It shows. Our actions follow our focus of attention. Always.

Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Now, here, it is necessary to point out the difference between two very separate ideas that are almost always linked – incorrectly – together:

“Actions speak louder than words” and “If you love me you will ___ “

The first is the result of love; the second is the conditional manipulation of another’s love. Two very different pieces of fruit.

We know what love feels like. We know what we love, and we know what it feels to be loved. Even the person who considers him or herself the most unloved has at least one solid idea – even if that person feels that the only being that has shown him or her love was ‘only’ a pet. It is still love, and love is love is love.

You know when someone loves you because you can feel it. If you can’t, here are a few possible reasons why:

1.      The obvious: that person doesn’t love you.

2.      Unreasonable expectation: Love isn’t conditional; our desire for ‘proof’ often stems from our expectations of another - and any sort of expectation is unreasonable because we will never fully know the degree of another’s motivation towards love/away from fear. We ignore that we have expectations of another when they ‘follow through’ – but even that is the result of their core motivation.

Another aspect of unreasonable expectation comes from our lack of knowledge of the other person. We often expect another to show their love the same way that we would and miss when they are showing love the way they know how to show it. You could be sitting on his couch expecting him to sit and spend time with you, but instead, he is outside washing your car, putting special effort into scrubbing the tire rims – you expect him to spend time with you, and he is spending his time for you. Is his love less because it is expressed differently than yours? When you love someone, you know them.*

3.      Lack of trust: Here is a bit of a sticky wicket. There could be a lack of trust in another because they have hurt you in some way. The reason for their hurting you could be the simple fact that they don’t love you, or because they were following their own lines of impulses/compulsions/motivations – which, in some cases, is not a reflection of the measure of their love but a reaction to that inner motivation. There may be degrees of love – of preference  - but in certain situations that preference is more an aversion to what is feared as opposed to choosing what is loved (the lesser of two evils; making a value judgment choice between what will hurt and what will hurt less).

There is also the possibility that your lack of trust in another person has nothing to do with that other person and has everything to do with your own feelings of unworthiness. You might feel that you don’t believe in love, but if you look closer you will realize that you don’t believe someone could love you. Remember, when you say you don’t trust one thing, you are showing absolute trust in its opposite. If your reasons for a lack of trust stem from a feeling of lack in yourself, you will end up putting unreasonable expectations on the other person, forcing them to perform Herculean tasks in a vain attempt to prove something to you that you will never see unless you first believe it is there. Then, too, if they don’t express love the way you expect them to – because they don’t show it the way you do – you still won’t see it.
Forcing someone to prove love to you will never fill any lack you feel in yourself, either. Two individuals come together as one unit, but separate parts of the foundation. If either – or both are flawed, the foundation will not be stable. One bad day could topple it all.

Know yourself. Love yourself. First. Then you will be able to know and love another.

You never, ever, need proof of love from another person. If you think you do, you may want to take a good, hard look at things. Real love is involuntary and unconditional. Think about every single one of your preferences of any kind; you really can’t pinpoint the one reason for your fascination or interest – it may always be a mix of consistent themes, traits or attributes, but there is always one unknown aspect that solidifies your ‘connection’.

There is a common definition of ‘unconditional’ that many people accept/live by/adhere to regarding those they love: they love them in spite of how they are treated by them.

That definition is INCOMPLETE.

Unconditional means ‘without condition, unqualified, unrestricted’ – as in NO EXPECTATIONS. 

Yes, it is possible to believe you love someone even if they treat you badly, however, if you expect anything from them you are not giving love unconditionally. It is possible to love someone and let them go, because real love wants what is best for them – actually, what they think is best for them. I love you and I support you in your decision to be who you are, to follow your own path, to make your own choices – even if those preferences are not my own because I want you to be happy. That is love without condition.

If you think you have the right to force someone to prove anything to you, you may want to question your own ‘love’. Why do you need to receive something from another? What are you missing on your own? Validation? You will never get that fully from another person because that is not where it comes from. Do you think of love as a means for gain?

Don’t ever let yourselves be manipulated into doing anything to ‘prove’ your love, and don't attempt to use that same form of coercion on another. No person who truly loves you will ever think to force you into anything. If you are doing the forcing, you may need to check your mirror. How are you showing love by pushing your preference on another? By attempting to take away their own choice?

We are not supposed to try and make anyone happy, either. Trying implies work, and work is not love-based motivation. When we are ‘working’ at love our motivation is based out of a fear of losing it. We could never do everything the exact way someone else would want it or expect it because we don’t walk in his or her exact shoes. We don’t know.

When we do know, it is easy because our actions and reactions are synced to theirs in shared energy and vibration. It is not 'work'; it is a natural partnership, harmonious orchestration. Two individuals bringing their best selves to each other, but for their own selves.

It starts with you.

Love isn’t work; it doesn’t need ‘proof’. It just is.

Be the love you wish to see, and you will feel it.

Love is proof that it doesn’t need proof.

*We all have different traits, different methods of expression. There is a wonderful book that helps explain differences in expressions of love, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This is not just great for understanding others in love relationships but in all types of relationships.