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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.