Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"As if love weren't already complicated"

I truly believe that Americans found a couple of holidays to get them through the trudge to spring that is February such as Groundhog Day and President's Day. Loads of fun in New Orleans comes to a screeching halt when it turns midnight on Ash Wednesday.

And then there's Valentine's Day.

From the kindergartner who's told, "Yes, you must give a valentine to all the kids in your class. Even the ones who tick you off," to the married man who has been buying the same box of chocolates and fistful of flowers for the past 30 years, this is a tricky holiday.

Apparently, there is a counter-holiday known as Singles Appreciation Day. Or S.A.D. for short. Yikes. It is true that Valentine's Day is on par with New Year's Eve as date night. For singles with the full import of the American marketing machine working against them, it's easy to just want to skip from the 13th to the 15th of the month. I dare say that anyone in a relationship can also have that terrifying moment of trying to figure out the "right" expression of love.

Here's an interesting idea. "Be Your Own Beloved". I think that this notion is pretty sound. We've been told over and over that we do have to love and respect ourselves if we expect others to do the same. For those of us raised in midwestern communities with phone books that look like excerpt from a Lake Woebegon novel, it is an uncomfortable task. We were not raised to look haughty or full of ourselves. It is a fine line between self-esteem and cocky. Or so we're told.

I'm just talking about treating ourselves the way we want a special friend to treat us. It means turning off that horrible tape in our heads that tells us we aren't (insert here: good, pretty, smart, thin...) enough. It means respecting, loving, and caring for ourselves.

What about scheduling regular massage? A night out with friends? Tickets to a ball game or a special event? Be in love with yourself. Spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, heck even pets, will leave us at some point. We are the only companion who will truly be with us for our entire lives. Take a little time to love and appreciate who you are. Be your own best friend, your own beloved.

So, go buy yourself some flowers, a nice box of chocolates, maybe a bottle of wine. Even if you have another who is your beloved. Loving yourself is the best gift you can give to those you love.

Love is complicated. Make it simple. Love yourself first.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Can we all just take a deep breath, please?

Is it just me or does there seem to be an extraordinary amount of fear and paranoia in the world these days?

Where your attention goes is what you focus on, what you develop and grow. If you believe that the world is as bad as you think it is AND that they are coming to get you, then yes, they are. It's that kind of drop by drop self-inflicted water torture that will surely be your demise.

You can choose what you believe and it will change your life. If you want life to be a little easier, a little sunnier, a lot less scary, then direct your attention the positive of life and stay away from what brings you down. Maybe that means limiting your flow of news. Maybe it means intentionally making a date to be with people who lift your spirits and not suck the life out of you. Maybe it means seeking to understand another's point of view. Whatever helps you to be less terrified is good.

The world will be the biggest, baddest, scariest place if you let your imagination go there.

The reverse is also true. When we stare down our fears, we realize that we spend a helluva lot of time worrying about things that will never happen. It takes a tremendous amount of energy trying to plan a response to all possibilities and to maintain that line of defense against any number of monsters under the bed. Living all jacked up on fear is no way to live, really.

On behalf of the human race...just chill a little, ok?

Monday, February 4, 2013

In the Clearing

Last week's view was snowy and cold. "The Melon Collie" also visited and put me in mind of my middle age. I did have lovely times with my children and friends. I also attended two funerals and learned of the passing of one of my church moms from my hometown.

Hazel was 99. Helen was 78. John was 15.

Life lessons are not easy. At any age. From my middle view, I realize that I need to expect weeks like this. Ones that have richly wonderful days and days that are challenging. And sometimes, the day holds both.

I read this quote from Terry Hershey's "Sabbath Moments" this morning. It is from Rabbi Harold Kushner's book, "When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough."

"I don't like being hurt...but when I protect myself against the danger of loss by teaching myself not to care, not to let anyone get too close to me, I lose part of my soul. If we believe that in order for life to be good, we have to avoid pain, the danger is that we will become so good at not feeling pain that we will learn not to feel anything not joy, not love, not hope, not awe. We will be emotionally anesthetized."

Speaking from personal experience, there are damned good reasons, times, and life moments for emotional anesthesia. For without it, we may not get out of bed in the morning, or worse, we may choose to end our life to escape the pain.

Right now, my view from the middle of life is coming out of the first part of life with a pretty different take on living. It feels a little like walking along a forest trail and coming into an unexpected clearing in the woods of midlife and taking one's eyes off the trail to actually look up to see where you are. To pause for a moment and re-vision life in other ways, determining a new trail or staying with the current one. Perhaps finding a different partner to travel with. Watch growing children find their own trails, ones that are hopefully near your own.

Living an authentic life is challenging, it can be tremendously difficult at times. But without living with an open heart, we can't truly appreciate how utterly amazing and miraculous life really is. I notice a lot of people my age who find themselves in this clearing and ask, "How did I get here?" Many choose to go running back on the same trail they came from, hoping to reclaim their younger life and the familiarity of it. I've seen some be greeted in this clearing by grandchildren who have lit a new flame inside of their hearts. I've seen some take their time in this clearing and ask, "Is this all there is?"

Yet others reach this clearing and they are hardened by life or have been deeply hurt by someone they loved and trusted. I can fully understand the desire to withdraw to seemingly protect oneself against being hurt yet again. I know how feeling nothing at all at times is better than feeling pain.

From my place in the clearing, I'm choosing to be open to life. This is not for the faint of heart. But what a tragedy if I choose to close myself off from life and all that it entails. As the saying goes, "growing old is a privilege denied to many" and if we choose to fully embrace life, risking with our whole heart, what kind of a second half of life can we create for ourselves and for those we love?

One of these days, I'll start on the path out of the clearing. And who knows where I will go? What I do know is that I am excited about the next part of the journey.