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Friday, December 30, 2011

Seven things that truly matter

This will be my last post of 2011 and I want to keep it short, sweet, and on point, so there will only be the top seven. They say that seven is a magical and mystical number, and I think it is a good starting point. I have settled for seven since I have so many things that matter to me, way too numerous to name.

The past year has been an action-packed collection of incredible highs and discouraging lows. I have experienced, once again, the importance of focusing on the things that truly matter. To do otherwise is an enormous waste of time, energy, and resources. 
2011 reinforced some critical values and gave me some deep clarity and insight into the things that make my life as rich and blessed as it is.
Here are the top seven things that truly matter to me:
1. My family and friends.  Without them, I would be lost. They are the people who are my greatest teachers, my solace, my strength, my inspiration and my heart. This is not to say that they can also drive me mad. The goodness and generosity of my family is worth all the struggle, aggravation and stress that come with human relationships and dynamics. I love the people in my family, and extended family, with a ferocity and strength that is able to overcome the little annoyances and fusses that may arise.
2. My career. Years ago I would never have imagined how important my career would become to me. I was a stay-at-home mom for ten years and when I went back into the workforce, I had to struggle and deal with things that prevented me from really loving what I was doing. Working was a means to an end- a way to support my children and myself. While I still have to work to pay the bills, I actually love my work now. My career brings me incredible satisfaction and makes me feel complete as a person. I actually do get paid to do what I love- writing.
3. My marriage. Yes, of course I consider my husband to be part of my family, but as those of us who are married know- marriage is a very different “animal”.  I have been with my husband for many years, but we only married in 2011. Being a wife to the man I love has taught me that marriage is something that must be worked at daily, and it is probably the most challenging and difficult relationship in life. That said, it is also one of the most glorious and sublime states a person can hope to have. I was single, after my first marriage ended, for over 20 years. I didn’t think I would ever marry again. I was afraid to fail again, so I avoided the possibility of marriage for many years. But I have come to realize that despite the difficulties, frustrations, challenges, and heartaches- marriage is truly wonderful and I am so thankful for mine.
4. My health. Such a cliché but so very relevant, especially as one ages. I am so very thankful for my health and the health of my family and friends. Good health is the foundation of so many other joys and it gives possibility to so much. I never take it for granted and it is something that makes all the difference.
5. My sanity and sobriety. While there are many days where I question the former, the latter is something that truly matters to me. Mental illness and addiction bring incredible unhappiness, chaos, strife and misery to so many people, their families, and society at large. I am grateful to have both and I pray every day that all those who struggle with either, or both, will find the strength, grace, and courage to seek the help they need. I encourage ALL people to work to help those who suffer with these conditions in any way they are able. The differences between a life of sanity and sobriety, and that of mental illness and addiction, have no compare.
6. My integrity and self esteem.  Without integrity and self esteem, or self respect, life would be an empty and hollow existence. Even if you managed to amass a financial fortune or incredible fame, what would it matter if you weren’t a person with integrity? And if you live your life without self-respect or esteem, you can’t possibly find a way to enjoy all the other wonderful parts of life that make it worth the struggle. In truth, without self-esteem, self-love or respect, you can’t truly love anyone else in a healthy or productive way.  I am happy that I have reached a point in my life where I feel content and at peace with my integrity and self-esteem. It took many years, many lessons and a great deal of pain- but I feel that I reached the point of being comfortable, happy and proud of the person I am.
7. My spiritual faith and my love of country. As they say, last but not least- my faith and my love of country are two things that keep me grounded and bring me incredible joy. If I did not have either of these blessings in my life, I would truly be lost. I don’t push either of these things on anyone. I believe they are two of the most personal and private aspects of a person. But I will give testimony to the value and the goodness of both. I love God and I love my country and I am not ashamed for anyone to know. They have both brought infinite happiness and satisfaction to my life. I am grateful to both for my life, my blessings and my many opportunities.
I wish everyone a blessed, joyous, serene, and prosperous 2012. May you find the things in your life that truly matter to you, and find a way to live life to its fullest.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tis’ the season – alcohol, the holidays, and a fresh new start

Yes, tis’ the season to be jolly, festive, merry and full of holiday spirit and cheer. But why does it seem that holiday “spirit and cheer” must be alcohol-related? More and more I get the feeling that without alcohol, a great number of people are unable to enjoy social gatherings of any kind. Have we reached a point where fun and joy must include drinking alcohol?
At this time of year there are abundant holiday parties, open houses and family gatherings, and with them- much pressure to drink, and over- drink, which is a nice way to say “drunk”.  There is so much pressure to drink, it seems inconceivable to many that there are many of us out there who manage just fine without partaking. As a matter of fact, we may be having the most fun of all in our sobriety.

Many years ago, I came to the realization that alcohol brought nothing positive to my life or relationships, and I made the decision to live a sober life. I have never regretted that decision. Before that epiphany, I too used to enjoy drinking at social gatherings and holiday outings. Due to some serious life-changing events and thought-provoking situations, I came to understand that for many people, alcohol is not something that will ever bring great tidings of comfort and joy, at any time of year.
I am not trying to be a downer during this time of great rejoicing and holiday festivities. I am only seeking to offer an alternative lifestyle choice that could change people’s lives and the lives of their loved ones forever. Many who read this may realize that they could give themselves, and the people in their lives, the greatest gift of all- a life of thoughtful sobriety and a healthier way of living.

I urge everyone to look introspectively and really assess what part alcohol is playing in their lives and how it is affecting their home life, relationships, professional careers, and health- both physical and mental.  

The truth is, you don’t have to drink alcohol to be the life of the party, and more importantly, you don’t have to drink alcohol to function in your everyday life. If you find that you have lost the ability to make that choice, and you are drinking to self-medicate or get through life, I humbly and compassionately urge you to please get help. There are so many resources and organizations to choose from. It may not be easy, but I promise that the pay-off will be worth it. Take it one day at a time, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and make 2012 a new start and beginning.

So without judgment or self-righteousness, I implore everyone to take some time to consider an option you may not have realized, or may have been too afraid to face. A life of sobriety is something to consider. I wish you peace and joy during the season of renewal and hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is sincerity dead?

Sincerity is a hard topic to discuss and understand, but I feel compelled to make the attempt because the concept intrigues me. To really do it justice, it is important to first understand what sincerity really is and what it implies. What exactly is SINCERITY?

sin·cer·i·ty  noun \-ˈser-ə-tē, -ˈsir-\
Definition :  the quality or state of being sincere : honesty of mind : freedom from hypocrisy  (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

The Oxford English Dictionary and most scholars state that sincerity  from sincere is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound (1525–35). Sincerus may have once meant "one growth" (not mixed), from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow).

So basically, in a nutshell, it is being real, truthful, authentic, honest and good in your thoughts, actions, and words.  I like that.

But what value does sincerity hold in our world today? How sincere are we? If you follow most of the news and media, sincerity doesn’t seem to be high on the list of important values. It actually seems to be a dying concept.  You have leaders and politicians, on both sides of the aisle, who routinely lie, cheat, steal and manipulate for their own gain.

You see “celebrities” who marry for publicity and feign emotions on camera, which make them millions of dollars for basically doing nothing. There are coaches, religious leaders of every faith, people from every walk of life and profession, rich and poor alike; and they all have one thing in common- an enormous lack of sincerity. What happened to being honest, truthful, and REAL?

We see it in our workplace, our families, and in every facet of our lives- people who can’t or won’t be real. They put on a façade or a fake persona to either impress or manipulate those around them. I suppose it is easier for some to try to dupe those around them into thinking they are nicer, smarter, more honest or likeable. Or maybe it is a way to get what they want without showing their true intentions, especially if they have a hidden agenda of some kind or another.

I have seen people, especially women, who will present an image of sweetness so over-the-top that they almost ooze with syrupy goo. But who do these people think they are fooling and what is the price of this charade? Most of the time, insincerity is obvious and desperate. The sad part is that many times, the chronically insincere begin to believe their own hype and falseness and they lose the ability to actually feel their real feelings and thoughts because they become lost within the prison of their false personas.

I don’t like liars. I never have and I never will. I realize that everyone does it to some degree. Sometimes lying is used to spare people’s feelings- I get that. Sometimes we have to lie in social situations because the truth would be uncomfortable and dicey. We all have examples in our lives where we have had to be insincere. It should be the exception to the rule- NOT THE RULE.

Sincerity is an important value- a virtue to be sure. Sadly, it seems to be something that has lost a great deal of importance in the age of electronic communication. Studies have shown that more people lie in email and text messages and in cyberspace because it is just so easy to do so without effort.  Is being “real” and sincere so terribly hard? Is honesty an outdated concept just because there are so many more ways to be dishonest?

As I thought about writing this post, I was afraid I might come across as preachy or judgmental. That isn’t my intent. Really, at the end of the day, the person who loses their sincerity and the ability to be real is the biggest loser of all. They do drag others into their web of insincerity and phoniness, but at what cost to themselves?

Embracing insincerity and losing the ability to be an authentic and sincere person is one of the most empty and desperate conditions a person can face. It is a loss of integrity and credibility as well as the creation of a fake persona and soul. You can’t really know, or love, an insincere person because they are an illusion, a phantom, and an empty shell. Sincerity takes guts, maturity and self-esteem. It is a defining characteristic in an actualized person.
My hope is that we will find a way to return to sincerity in its purest form and intention. I can think of few things more wonderful than to be able to be a man or a woman who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires- free from hypocrisy and agendas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cultivating a grateful spirit and attitude is a worthy pursuit

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues."  - Cicero

Thanksgiving should be much more than a day when families gather together to eat and watch football. Thanksgiving is an important opportunity and a chance for all Americans to take an inventory of the things each family should be thankful for, as individuals and as a nation.

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many-not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."  - Charles Dickens

Here is a list of twenty important things families can contemplate and be thankful for on Thanksgiving:
1. Good health- Being in possession of good health should never be taken for granted. Good health is a blessing at any age.

2. Family members- Each family member should be appreciated for their own special gifts and unique place within the family.

3. A Home- Having a home is a basic need in every person’s life. Be it ever so humble, there truly is no place like home- whether it is a one room shack or an opulent mansion. Especially in this economy, where so many people have lost their homes, it is important to realize how much of a blessing a home is, and how easy it can be to lose one.

4. Freedom- Being born into a democracy where people have free speech, human rights and the right to vote is truly something to be thankful for every day. Living in a free country is a gift that people have given their lives for. Gratitude for freedom is something to teach young children, who don’t know any other kind of life than a free society.

5. Our Military and their families- It is very important to remember the men and women who defend our freedoms and our way of life. They are all over the world, often away from their loved ones. Their families sacrifice for our freedoms too.

6. A job- Considering the current state of the economy and unemployment all over the nation, a job is truly something to be thankful for. When a person loves their job, it is even more of a blessing.

7. A happy marriage/relationship- So many people take their spouse or significant other for granted. Thanksgiving is a time to think of how precious the gift of a loving partner can be.

8. Good friends- Truly good, loyal, and constant friends are one of the greatest treasures in life. Acquaintances, co-workers, or casual friendships are not the same as a true-blue friend. Their value is immense.

9. Enough food to eat- Thanksgiving is a holiday which for many, is filled with good food and bountiful meals. It is an important time of year to remember those who are less fortunate and to show thanks by sharing with those who have none.

10. Religious/Spiritual faith- For many people, faith is a gift which sustains and nurtures them in a way that nothing else can. If a person has faith, it is a blessing which should be acknowledged on Thanksgiving.

11. A Car- Having the ability to get from here to there is something many people take for granted. For those who do not have one, it can make life very complicated.

12. Clean Water- Anyone who has lived in most of the United States all of their lives probably can’t imagine not having clean, drinkable, water. Sadly, in a great number of people in the world do not have it. It is truly a blessing on many levels.

13. Free education for all citizens- An education is critical to attain many of the other blessings and opportunities available in our country. Many places in the world do not provide a solid, free, education to everyone.

14. Good roads and a well-functioning infrastructure- Most Americans would be shocked to know how terrible the roads and infrastructures are in other nations. We are truly blessed to live in a nation that has running water, reliable electricity and sewage systems which are cared for and maintained.

15. Tolerance- By and large, Americans are tolerant and accepting. It is the cornerstone of our democracy. Thanksgiving is a good time to contemplate and be thankful for the accepting and welcoming spirit of tolerance of others- regardless of: gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or any other differences.

16. Honesty and integrity- Living in a country where most institutions and government are honest and fair is a true blessing. There are many places in the world where people are routinely cheated and abused. They have few protections from corruption and have no one to advocate for them.

17. Value of the individual- There are places in the world where the individual has no value, rights or standing. To live in a nation where we have rights as an individual, as well as part of the collective, is something to truly be thankful for.

18. Appreciation for literature, art and culture- Our society has a great love of all types of artistic, creative and beautiful expressions. Americans are blessed to have access to such enriching activities.

19. Peace of mind- A true blessing. If a person is able to find peace of mind in their life, they have discovered one of the greatest things life has to offer.

20. Abundance- Having an abundance of food, clothing, and other worldly goods is something to be very thankful for. There are many who want for the most basic needs and if a person is fortunate to have abundance, it is a duty to share with those who do not.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  -  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy."  - Jacques Maritain
In addition to these twenty- each family should strive to make their own list each year for the things which they feel most grateful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Six months till half a century

One of the most used clichés of all time is "Life is short". And it is true. I never realized how short until fairly recently. I have been thinking about time and age and life and death a great deal of late. Probably because in exactly six months from today, I will turn 50 years old. Half a century! How does that happen?  Where does the time go?
 We don’t think about it very much, but about 100 years ago, a large portion of people never made it to 50.  
Here is a list of 59 people who didn’t make it to age 40.

By today’s standards, 50 is considered very young to die, and is still considered “middle age”.  I have an uncle who is almost 94. He  turned 50 forty- four years ago! That really puts it in perspective. But consider that there are still many people who never make it to 50 and that in certain regions of the world, 50 is considered old because the life expectancy and quality of life is radically different from what it is in this country.
Global life expectancy tables

So, here I am, looking 50 right in the face. My last 6 months of being in my 40s. The last decade has been an amazing adventure. As an example, I will share some of the highs and lows of the last decade:
I started working for the Department of Defense, which changed my professional life
I met, fell in love, and married my husband
I became a grandmother, twice
My youngest child turned 18 and my two older children got married and “grew up”
I began to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a professional writer
I accomplished many personal and professional goals
I experienced the death of a grandchild
I embrace a life of sobriety
I have had my spiritual and “religious” faith tested and have maintained and grown in it
I have watched both of my parents retire
I have seen friends and co-workers die, some at a very young age
I experienced 9 months of unemployment in 2009
I have seen the world change and technology grown in ways I could never have expected
As I approach my half century, I feel intense gratitude, love, joy, optimism, strength, pride in my personal and professional accomplishments; and I look forward to many more years with my loved ones and friends. I am not afraid of getting older, looking older or even feeling a little older. I am embracing and accepting that aging is inevitable and I rejoice in it.
Getting older doesn’t have to be a negative or depressing event. Quite the contrary! Consider the alternative- death. And although that too is inevitable, I am not focusing on it. I hope to have many more years to spend with my family, husband and loved ones. I have been fortunate and blessed in my life and I accept that when the time comes, I will be ready. I am thankful for the last 50 years and hope for a future that will allow me to continue growing and learning and becoming the person I was born to be.
I am so thankful for the last 50 years- the good, the bad, the ups and the downs. I have experienced incredible joy and devastating losses. I have seen the best life has to offer, and the absolute worst. But I can't complain because I have LIVED, and loved, and fallen and risen. I have made terrible, aching mistakes and I have triumphed over incredible adversity. 
I look to May 12th, 2012 with a sense of wonder and great humility, and I hope and pray that the   future will allow me to continue growing and learning and becoming the person I was born to be.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Letting go doesn't mean giving up

Lately I have been focused on the concept of what it really means to let go of people and things in my life.
The other day, I had a profound thought as I was reflecting on people who have dropped out of my life and those who have chosen, for whatever reason, to cut off our relationship. At first, it made me feel angry and a little hurt, but then I had the realization that there is really nothing to be hurt or offended by if a person chooses not to be a part of your life. In fact, they are doing you a favor.
Why would anyone want someone to feel obligated to be in their life? If a person doesn't JOYOUSLY and enthusiastically embrace the friendship or connection, why hang on to it and suffer? LET THEM GO! And let them go with acceptance and peace.
In regard to relationships with others, there is simply no point in trying to "win" someone over or convince them to see your value. If your worth as a person is not seen by another, there is little reason or incentive to have that person in your life. What's the point if their heart is not in it?
We are conditioned to feel fear and hurt when others "reject us". But we must accept that it is healthy and productive to understand that people are different and have conflicting opinions which can impede the ability to form attachments or sustain a relationship. Sometime people simply grow apart; sometimes they have different values, interests or lifestyles. And sometimes, there are obstacles that prevent a connection or bond from forming or continuing.
When relationships and connections end, there is more room for better people and things in our lives. Time is short and filling it with individuals or relationships that are hollow, insincere or without real value is wasteful and useless. It doesn't bring anything to either person's life.
There are circumstances and cases when letting go of emotionally harmful or unavailable relationships or people is the only choice and course of action we can take.
But there are times and circumstances when letting go of relationships or people in our lives is really just a poor excuse for giving up because it involves people we are responsible for, or those who rely on us. Letting go of primary relationships (family), spouses, or lifelong friends due to selfishness, thoughtlessness, pettiness and immaturity is quitting and a breach of trust and respect. Letting go has nothing to do with breaking commitments.
Healthy "letting go" is a process which involves a deep and honest assessment of the situation and a personal inventory of the reasons why someone or something should be cut from your life. Once that process has been thoughtfully and reasonably completed, and it still makes sense to let go of the person or relationship from your life, there should be a feeling of peace and detachment. Letting go should bring value, harmony and respect to your life and it is a healthy and worthy act.
Letting go is a way to say goodbye without resentment, bitterness or anger. Releasing those toxic feelings and emotions, and working toward new and better relationships and people, is one of the cornerstones to a more fulfilling and serene life.

 “Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.”  - Unknown


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Acceptance is the gift you give yourself

"If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Too often we are led to believe that we must fight and rail against everything and anything we don’t like or understand. This can become exhausting and as futile as a 5 year old child’s temper tantrum. Accepting is not about apathy nor is it about failure. Acceptance is about embracing that which is, that which can’t be changed, that which must be endured.

Wikipedia says- “Acceptance is a person's agreement to experience a situation, to follow a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit.

Acceptance as a concept appears in Eastern religious concepts such as Buddhist mindfulness, and in human psychology. Religions and psychological treatments often suggest the path of acceptance when a situation is both disliked and unchangeable, or when change may be possible only at great cost or risk. Acceptance may imply only a lack of outward, behavioral attempts at possible change, but the word is also used more specifically for a felt or hypothesized cognitive or emotional state.”
Within Christian beliefs acceptance is characterized as forgiveness.
In the Muslim community, acceptance of Allah as their higher being is similar to people that are considered Christian and how they accept God as their higher being (Bates, 2002) .
As for Judaism it has showed to have some similar beliefs in that they accept the Ten Commandments as a way to live and have a good and fulfilling life (Mcdowell and Stewart, 1983). Beliefs can be used in different ways to be related to acceptance especially in everyday life although beliefs may be more based on religion.
Beliefs and acceptance overlap, however, they can be very diverse. The acceptance of ones beliefs is important to show commitment and structure of ones life. Not only is it vital for survival it is a utility that is used in everyday relationships. For a single person to be accepted from a friend of theirs has shown to have an impact on an individual’s self esteem and well being. In fact, without the acceptance could lead to psychological issues.”

Whether acceptance is driven by one’s personal beliefs, religious motivation or intellectual process, there is great peace and comfort which can be gained by its practice. It is important to understand that acceptance is not about hopelessness. Quite the contrary, it is about trusting and tolerating in a positive and mature way. Acceptance is a path to peace and inner harmony.

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us."
- Joseph Campbell

Sometimes acceptance is the best we can hope for. It shouldn’t have a negative connotation. Acceptance takes great strength and even more bravery. It is NOT about giving up or giving in.
It is about enduring and recognizing. Acceptance takes great wisdom and character.

Monday, October 10, 2011

“Crazy bloggers” may think their content is popular, but it’s all about schadenfreude

Has America become the home of the crazy and inappropriate? What happened to admiring people with character and boundaries? Apparently, for a growing segment of our society, crazy is the new brilliant. There is a trend towards admiring abnormal, obnoxious and dysfunctional behavior. Case in point, note this article in Forbes Magazine, “Why crazy people make better bloggers.”  You don’t say?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.
The author’s reasons, in a nutshell are:
1. We’ll say what you won’t.
2. We speak the truth.
3. We’re more entertaining.

And now I will state my rebuttal to this premise.

I am so confused by reason #1, I had to re-read it a few times to fully digest the concept. It is depressing that we have come to a point in our civilization where people have come to believe that just because you CAN say something, you SHOULD say something. I vehemently disagree with that entire concept. I am an extremely open and candid person. Some people would even say outspoken. BUT, I maintain sensible and healthy boundaries and limits. I admire transparency and openness, but there are many, many things that should not be shared in a public forum, especially a blog. (See my other posting on a similar topic To blog or not to blog )
I love that we live in a free nation and we have the ability to say just about anything we want to; but we have gone to an extreme level of personal information sharing that much of our society have started to become desensitized to outrageously inappropriate  content- on their televisions, in blogs and articles, and in “real life”.

Bullet #2, is also very disingenuous. Truth?

Here is how Webster defines the word:

Sincerity in action, character, and utterance
(1) : the state of being the case : fact
(2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality
(3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true <truths of thermodynamics> c : the body of true statements and propositions

So, I suppose by definition, a “crazy” person would certainly not always have a very clear concept of TRUTH. They may have their own truth, but I doubt that any rational person would believe that a mentally unstable individual would be someone who is capable of understanding what truth really is.
And last, but not least, #3, which makes the claim that crazy or unstable individuals are more entertaining. I thought long and hard about that one. I supposed for people who love chaos, thrive on drama and embrace madness- yes, a crazy blogger would certainly be more entertaining.
Is that the reason people are reading blogs? Isn’t that what television shows, ala Jerry Springer, “The Real Housewives of here and there”, “Desperate Housewives”, any daytime soap opera or “The Jersey Shore” are for? Those shows are supposed to be “entertaining” with all the crazy and drama anyone could possibly absorb without having to go on medication themselves. If you want a fix of crazy, any of those programs will give you a front row seat.
I love that line in the Jack Nicholson film, As Good as It Gets - “Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here.” Do most people really need more “crazy” in their lives?  I know I don’t.
The last place I want to see crazy is in a blog. I love reading blogs that are funny, clever, honest, thoughtful, inspiring and give me something to think about. When I go “blog shopping”, the LAST thing I am looking for is crazy. To me crazy does not bring a good image to mind.
Here are a few definitions of the word:
full of cracks or flaws : unsound  crooked, askew
being out of the ordinary
distracted with desire or excitement
passionately preoccupied : obsessed

Another article which got some attention last spring was an article in Vanity Fair, which USA Today covered‘Robert  Pattinson admires Charlie Sheen: 'I like crazy people...'  
 and He tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales that he admires Charlie Sheen and his "little escapades," explaining, "I like crazy people who don't give a f---."
Frankly, I don’t believe he would enjoy being related to Mr. Sheen or any other person who doesn’t “give a f---“for very long. They tend to wear out relationships and go through friends rather quickly. There is hardly anything entertaining about a psychotic, madman on a path to self-destruction. But I digress.
To sum up, I don’t believe crazy should ever become a “virtue” or be celebrated as some kind of wonderful, fun, truthful or valuable condition. Most of the time, it is exhausting, confusing, erratic and pitiful.

My feeling is that the one and only reason people enjoy reading blogs written by “crazy” people is the same reason they enjoy watching crazy people on television. In one word, it is called schadenfreude. It isn’t a compliment and it isn’t a reason to write a blog filled with mad ramblings or telling all of your personal business. It makes people feel better about themselves because YOUR crazy is so much crazier than THEIRS.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th recollections

It is difficult to capture the feeling that is in my heart today. There is an aching stillness, a hurt that is hard to express with words. I can still remember so vividly the shock, the rush of panic, the feeling of despair and hopelessness that morning and into the next few months afterward. Even after ten long years, and another lifetime of new memories that have happened since, the events and images of that day are still burned into my soul… and it still hurts.
"For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter." - Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Life truly is impermanent and uncertain. Each day is a gift, and after September 11, 2001, that lesson became very meaningful and real. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing at the moment the planes hit in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  I was working downtown in DC at that time, and I took the metro from the Pentagon station every morning and then again in the afternoon. I had just arrived at work when the first plane hit one of the towers in New York City. It had to be an accident, I thought. Then the second plane and I knew. I knew and in an instant everything I had once known and believed was shattered.
How could this have happened? At that point, I was in shock, but then when they announced that the Pentagon had been hit, my world came crashing down. My sister taught at a school just a few miles away. My daughter’s school was within a few miles and my parents lived less than 5 miles from the impact. What were my sons doing, thinking, and how were they reacting? Suddenly, I desperately wanted and needed to know where and how all my friends and loved ones were! And I couldn’t. My mother had flown to Germany the previous day and she was agonizing over what had happened. And there I was, in the middle of L Street, trapped and unable to move as the world seemed to be crumbling around me.
"You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy." - Colin Powell
Mercifully, all of my loved ones were safe and well that day. In a matter of hours, we were able to speak to one another and be together in our horror and grief. But life was never the same. Not for our country, our state, our city or the little world within our hearts and minds. We had lost innocence and a belief that nothing like that could touch us. But it also brought us together and would steel us against future loss and tragedy. It would help us to get through other family tragedies which were to come. It gave us perspective and strength. Rebuilding the mangled buildings that the terrorists had sought to bring to ruin was a reminder to us that when faced with destruction in our own lives, you rebuild. You don’t leave broken, shattered ruins for your enemies to gloat over. You pick yourselves up and you begin again.
“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children" - George W. Bush
My heart still breaks for those who lost their lives, their loved ones, their sanity and peace of mind during those terrible attacks and the days, months, and years which have followed. The Soldiers who have died fighting the wars which followed, and knew what they were up against after September 11th are a testimony to the incredible bravery and passionate love of our way of life and our deep desire to preserve it for future generations. They, too, inspire me and remind me of the cost of freedom and liberty. Their sacrifice, and that of their families, reminds me to honor and cherish every day and to live with a sense of honor and dignity and to work towards being a good, decent and productive citizen and human being.
Today is a day to remember and reflect, but each and every day is an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to sacrifice for others. Let the spirit and message of September 11th be with us perpetually and mindfully. Let it live and let it grow within us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The power of positive thoughts and deeds can change your life

One should never underestimate the miracles that can occur if and when you change your attitude or actions in a positive direction. While positive changes must begin within ourselves, they also reach out and affect that which surrounds us as well.
When I talk about the power of positive thoughts and deeds, I am not attempting to sell some “pie-in-the-sky” platitudes or cute little catch phrases. I am talking about the very hard work it can take to adjust our ways of thinking and acting, and a dedication to improving life and making a real difference.
As positive change begins with the ways in which we think, feel, interact, speak and treat ourselves and others, we become more productive, positive and successful in all areas of life. Our personal life, our professional life and everyone we touch in those spheres will feel the shift in our attitude, demeanor and actions. EVERYONE WINS. We become better friends, spouses, parents, siblings, co-workers and citizens. We become more mature and more aware of others and ourselves, and this attitude can bring positive change in return.

"The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude." - William James
When a change toward a more positive life occurs, we are able to work through frustrating and painful situations and difficulties with less of the weight that negativity and other toxic feelings, attitudes and emotions have to bring us down. Embracing positivity helps us to avoid situations and individuals that bring us down as they continue to wade in the cesspool of jealousy, laziness, regret, anger, bitterness or ignorance.
Most people never realize how fortunate they are to have the chance to choose to live life in a different way than they did yesterday.

Sometimes it is hard to see beyond one’s own immediate circumstances and pain, but this can’t be an excuse to give up or indulge harmful, hurtful, or destructive ways of thinking and acting. It helps no one and hurts everyone. The pervasive negativity bleeds over into ever corner of society and the world. It starts in the home where those who should be loving one another the most, lash out and hurt family members. This creates a cycle of pain and can affect generations of people. If only they could love and appreciate and see the positive aspects of their own lives more completely, the change could take place towards a happier, healthier family life.
It is possible to change negative and harmful thoughts and actions. It begins with a decision and a commitment. Even those individuals who are bound by the unimaginably difficult circumstances, either physically, mentally or geographically challenged; the immense power of positive thought can make all the difference in life. Imagine the hardships that many individuals endure daily with pain, loss, fear, dread or terrible suffering. Although they may not be able to change the actual circumstances or situation, what is possible is to change their outlook and attitude.
Think of how much better the world would be if every individual were to try to double their positive thoughts and actions. Think of what a difference it would make in the lives of those who are most vulnerable- children, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor.

If tomorrow there were less self-absorbed thoughts and actions, less negativity and pettiness, less bitter or spiteful thoughts and actions and more positive and giving attitudes, situations would change for the better and people would lead much happier, healthier and productive lives.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning, a new chance to live life in a more positive way. It begins with me and it begins with you.