Posted in friendship, inner peace, Learning, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, relationships

Happiness & Curiosity

curiosity

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, lately, and it’s been hard for me to want to write- not just here, but also on my novel, which is a total bummer. Mostly because I am part of an awesome critique group and I’m running out of chapters to submit thanks to this weird writers block…but anyway, I haven’t been feeling my level best, had some minor health issues that are slowly resolving, and the whole vibe has not been conducive to me writing, I guess. When you aren’t feeling well, it’s hard to think about anything else.

For the last few days, I’ve been feeling better though, and my thoughts have turned again, as they always do, to my happiness and what I might do to improve it. Some people say that happiness is not a destination you arrive at, it’s something that you choose to experience, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But I also know that when you live a hectic, modern life full of children and work and chores to be done…the first thing we throw out of the picture are the things that make us feel the best. Forget about long, lingering bubble baths and walks on the beach with the dog- sometimes I am lucky to take a three minute shower and can’t even manage a quick walk around the block with poor Lucy. The truth is, when it’s getting dark around the same time I clock out of work, I often allow myself to just move from my office chair to the couch and spend the rest of the night numbing out to Netflix.

There may be stretches of time when this is honestly the best I can do. Do I judge myself a little harshly when this is the case? You bet your ass I do. I go to bed, frustrated and disappointed with myself because I feel like I wasted these precious hours of my life, hours I can’t get back. I think a lot about stuff like that- probably a side effect of having lost so many loved ones over the past 15 months. Death has a way of making our own mortality very, very clear to us, doesn’t it?

The good news is that, without fail, my energy returns, and I can try again. Try to fill my hours up in a way that makes me feel better about my life, try to figure out how to experience more happiness. I always come up with the same things: Be outside more, move my body more, connect with my kids and friends more,write, meditate, pray, get the house in order, and go to meetings. Obviously, these are just the little, day-to-day things that work best for me, not the longer term, “big” goals. But doing just these little things make a huge difference in my life. My magic formula for deeper enjoyment of my every day life.

Most of those things are simple enough to slip back into, once I’m back in the right frame of mind. You know what I struggle with, though? The “connecting with people” piece. And I mean this is a struggle on every level- with my own children up to the stranger sitting beside me at a meeting. I know why. It has everything to do with me being judgmental, which is really just a symptom of my own insecurity and fear of being vulnerable, i.e., I don’t want to be judged, so I will judge you first. Well, with my kids, I mean, I’m just being a mom…and to be fair, some of the shit they say is just…lets just say it’s hard not to power roll my eyes, sometimes. But with other people, this can become really problematic. When you are super guarded, or you think you already know something about someone based on their body language, their appearance, or maybe their current shitty situation, you are doing both them and yourself a disservice. When I think back through my life, to all the people who graciously chose to get closer to me when I was just awful…I don’t know how I would’ve survived without that kindness. I don’t think I could have.

Luckily, I found an easy solution to this problem. Instead of being guarded and drawing away, I have been choosing to be open and curious. There is a physical sensation attached to both of these things- being guarded feels closed off, tight, impatient, and makes my eyes look anywhere but at the person. Being open and curious feels…well, open, obviously, and warmer, somehow, and helps me look at and hear someone so much better. When I am not quick to judge, I am much quicker to listen, and when I listen well, it is so much easier to connect. For me, connecting with someone, really hearing and understanding and empathizing with where and who they are, is the best high. When I listen with curiosity, when I am open, when I take five seconds to talk to someone after a meeting and let them know I heard them…maybe it doesn’t mean anything much to them, but that connection means a lot to me. When I have friends over here for a super casual dinner, when I spend thirty minutes walking outside with Cam, playing Pokemon Go- maybe it’s not big deal, but it feels like one to me. It feels like the key to everything, to be honest.

So, this week, and for the rest of this year, my goal is to continue to make time for the things that help me to experience happiness, and to be open and curious about people, rather than closed off and invulnerable. Not a lofty goal, but I don’t know…it feels important to me. I may be onto something.

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Posted in aging, beauty, family, friendship, inner peace, Learning, Life, love, Musings, People

Beautiful

It’s a beautiful morning here on the peninsula- still, the way only Sunday mornings ever really are, gray, misty, quiet. The only sound I could hear, as I sat out on my front porch with my mug of hot, strong coffee, was the clang of what I believe to be buoy bells- I could be wrong about that, but in my head, that is what those clangs are.

But that is not the kind of beautiful I want to talk about right now. I had an interesting conversation with my mom, yesterday. It probably wasn’t very interesting to her, but it stood out to me. It went like this- we were talking about my youngest daughter, Camryn, and how she is just getting cuter every day. I said something to the effect of, yes, she is just lovely, but it’s her personality that really takes it over the top for me, and my mom says “No, I think she is just beautiful, just a pretty girl.” To which I replied “Yeah, she reminds me more of Aisley (my older daughter) all the time.”  Then my mom says, and this is what got me thinking- “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but I see a lot of me in her.”

This is Camryn, who looks just like my mom at this age
This is Camryn, who looks just like my mom at this age

Now, why would I take that the wrong way? I was confused, and told her as much- I was honestly not connecting the dots. “Well, ” she said, “I don’t want you to think that I am saying I am beautiful…” And the conversation went on, and then I was in the store, so I had to go, but her words stayed with me.

At first, I was baffled, but then, after a while, I was sad. My mother, one of the most beautiful women out of all of the mother’s I have ever met, doesn’t want me to think that she would be foolish enough to call herself beautiful. More pointedly, my mother doesn’t think that she is beautiful. Now, I struggle with this all the time, and I understand, but when your own mother, who happens to be so pretty that people are constantly commenting on it, says something like this- it really strikes a chord. And I have something to say about it.

This is my mom and I on my last birthday- she is gorgeous
This is my mom and I on my last birthday- she is gorgeous

Listen, ladies, lots of you may know this on a certain level- that there is more to beauty than a flat stomach, and a pleasing face- but when it comes down to it, I think we have a tough time internalizing and believing this truth, as it applies to us. But you know what? Fuck that. You are beautiful.

You look in the mirror, and maybe you see ten or twenty extra pounds, but your mother looks at you, at this person she loves, and she sees you vibrant and healthy, and everything you have ever been, and all of the things you are going to be. She sees you, and you are beautiful.

This is what you see.
This is what you see.
and this is what you are.
and this is what you are.

You see a picture of yourself, and you see gray hairs coming in, or crows feet, or maybe a face you don’t even recognize as your face anymore. But your children look at you, and they see the person they love more than anyone else in the world. They know your soft, cool hands that would soothe away nightmares, and the safety of your embrace, and the way you know what they really need when no one else does, and you are stunning. Nothing in the world could mar that kind of beauty.

we love you exactly as you are.
we love you exactly as you are.

You maybe don’t even bother with the mirror anymore. You long ago lost the idea that anything about you could be appealing or pretty. But let me tell you, your grandchildren? There is no place in the world they would rather be than in your lap, snuggled into your arms. There is no better place they can think of than your presence. You are the most beautiful person in the world.

This is beauty you can't mess with.
This is beauty you can’t mess with.

You may not fit the format that has been laid out before us- maybe you are too skinny, or not skinny enough, not quite there yet, or past your prime, maybe you hate your thighs or suck your stomach in, think your legs are too short or your boobs are too small. Maybe you spend a lot of time wishing things were how they used to be, or just different than they are now. Well, stop it. Because someone, the most important ones, look at you, look into you, and they see all of the things you ARE. Your great laugh, and your sharp wit, your kind heart, your willingness to be there, the ease with which you give.

Gorgeous laughter
Gorgeous laughter

Whoever you are, wherever you are at in your journey through life, you are beautiful. Way more than just a pretty face, my friend. And that includes you, my beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, funny, strong, mom. I love you. I would be proud to have daughters just as radiant as you are.

My beautiful mother. And me. I'm not so bad, either.
My beautiful mother. And me. I’m not so bad, either.
Posted in beauty, fun, humor, Life, Musings, People, random

Dear Glamour Magazine

Here is another old one for your reading enjoyment. I am still in the Nanowrimo race, and not quite ready to throw the towel in. So, I am recycling- FOR YOU. Please, don’t let my efforts be in vain. 🙂

After The Party

Dear Glamour Magazine:

I have been a subscriber to you off and on for the last fourteen years. It has come to my attention recently that you and I have nothing in common anymore, much like a friendship you outgrow over time. The main difference being, of course, that you and I were never really friends- you were always more like that super put together chick with the great skin and ridiculous figure I would run into at seven eleven when I had last nights make up under my eyes and chocolate smears on my sweat pants.  Yeah, that’s pretty much how you made me feel, like you were smiling politely to my face but the minute I shut your cover, you were whispering to all your anorexic super model friends “Did you see what she was wearing? I mean, seriously, why even BOTHER?”

I understand you are…

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Posted in beauty, escape, family, kids, Life, love, People, random

Don’t You Wanna Dance?

dancing

Good morning. Hopefully, I can get my thoughts down on the page, here, in some sort of cohesive manner- I slept fitfully last night, with a stuffed up nose that kept changing sides, and a rotten headache, to boot. I finally got up fifteen minutes before my alarm went off and used my new espresso maker for the first time…so, I am exhausted, over-caffeinated, and loopy. This ought to be entertaining, at the very least.

One of the things that has fascinated me since I first began to notice it, is the weird way you can divvy people up into two groups when it comes to certain things. For instance, there are mustard people, and mayonnaise people-not all of them are hard core, but if forced to pick one or the other, there is a clear division. There are Coke and Pepsi people. Furthermore, there are Coke and Diet Coke people, and there is a whole subgroup of Dr.Pepper people. (Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that when you tell a Dr.Pepper person that his drink of choice is not available, they almost unfailingly will then ask “Do you have Root Beer?”. I am not making this up-ask any waiter or waitress if this is the case, and they will tell you it is.) There are dog people and cat people, night owls and early birds, readers and illiterates (Kidding!), and there are dancers, and those who do not dance.

I am a mayonnaise eater, Coke drinker, cat person (sorry Lucy, I love you, I do), early bird, reading non-dancer. I can give you pretty simple explanations as to why I am most of those things, but I can’t tell you why I don’t dance.

Because the thing is, I really, really WANT to dance, when I am out and about and other people are doing it. Gosh, it looks like so much fun, and people nearly always smile when they dance, as if there is nothing else in the world they would rather be doing. There is nothing more amazing than watching a great dancer do their thing…like, seriously, Chris Brown? Yeah, I know he’s got some issues with anger, but put that aside for a moment, if you can, and watch the dancing…I mean, how in heck does his body move like that, and with apparent ease, a perfect expression of joy? And Justin Timberlake? I mean, c’mon, there goes the whole myth about white dudes and rhythm, for sure.

But I’m not even really talking about people like that, that are professionals, famous, polished, trained. I’m talking about just every day normal people who, when they get on the dance floor, become this other thing, totally into the music, unaware of the world around them and totally unconcerned with the crowd. Wow, I admire them so freaking much, and I am envious, I really am.

You know who I am even more envious of , kinda? The dancers who get out there and are just as into it as the people around them that are great, only these dancers just suck, bad. Only, they could give a shit less, because for them, it’s not about being great or impressing anyone, it’s about having a wonderful time. I suspect that some of them may have no idea that they are really bad dancers, that in their own minds, they are on fire, but no way every last bad dancer I’ve seen is completely in the dark. They just don’t care.

I am not brave enough to fall into either of these categories, and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I don’t think I am really a terrible dancer- I won’t dance in public, but I assure you, I have done plenty of it in the privacy of my own home- mostly alone, but sometimes with friends or my older daughter, and they didn’t seem horrified or embarrassed for me. I’ll admit, I’ve danced in front of a mirror or two, and I’m alright.

Yet get me out in public, and I start hyperventilating the minute I start to sense that people in my group may be wanting to dance…because, inevitably, one of my girlfriends eyes will light up at the start of “her song”, she’ll grab my hand, and say “Oh my gosh, we HAVE to dance.” And I am always the killjoy that is all, “Um, NO, we don’t…you go.”. And on it goes, her begging, pleading, bargaining, me digging my heels in and finally exclaiming that I have explosive diarrhea as I high tail it to the ladies room. When I come back, my friend has found another friend to dance with, and I sit and watch, wishing I was out there, too.

It’s so funny, because I am an extrovert in every way but that one. If you were to ask someone else to describe me, self-confident would most likely be in the top three. But when it comes to dancing, I am the eternal seventh grade girl, terrified of being asked, of not being asked, and of all of the people in motion around me, who are clearly better people than I. I feel like my inability to enjoy dancing is the peep-hole into the secret, rotten truth about how insecure I really must be, and it’s impossible to hide when there is music and a crowd.

Twice in my life, I have danced joyfully in public. The first time was at a country-western bar that I sneaked into with a fake ID when I was twenty. I don’t remember much about the night, aside from learning why it’s never a good idea to take your whole paycheck with you into a bar, and that I danced. The boy who asked me was big and ungainly, and he had big sweat rings under his arms, but he seemed nice and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I told him I didn’t know how, and he said “That’s ok, I’ll help you.” And this big old ungainly dude literally swept me off my feet. I don’t think my feet touched the ground, he whirled me and swung me and, somehow, his grace rubbed off on me. I will never forget that night. Well, that part, anyway.

And the last time…the last time was at my boyfriends brother’s wedding, and everyone was having so much fun. My daughter wanted to dance so badly she was barely sitting in her chair. “Go!” I told her. “But I’m scared.” She said. I saw that longing misery in her eyes, and when I told her not to be afraid, I knew I was in big trouble. How could I ask this of her and yet refuse to be an example? So I took her hand, and out we went onto the dance floor, and we danced as if there was no one else in the world. It is one of my happiest memories, and for her, I’d do it again. I never want her to look back at her life and wish she’d just gone ahead and danced…like I do, sometimes.