Love

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Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

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Magazines are Ruining Your Relationships! (a meandering and nearly unstructured musing on relationships.)

“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”

“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”

Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.

We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.

Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.

Cosmo Spoof

Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.

Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.

Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.

Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.

1.)    American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.

2.)    Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.

3.)    There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.

4.)    It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:

We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.

Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.

Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:  

Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.

“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”

And you’re right. You don’t.

But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.

The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”

The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?

You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).

In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect. 

I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.

But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.

1.)    They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.

2.)    They feel secure together:  I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.

3.)    They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.

4.)    They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.

5.)    They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.

6.)    They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.

7.)    They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.

8.)    They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.

9.)    The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.

10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.

I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.

The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness.  So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly.  Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)

Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?

You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.

Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.

And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).

Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I Am Woman! (or: I Cry Over the Darnedest Things Sometimes)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with my semester winding down and finals to survive. I had wanted to post this particular topic much earlier in the week, but sadly, just couldn’t find a spare few minutes to sit still and write it out. But, late is still better than never.

As a woman I often feel like the very things that set me apart from the opposite sex are the things I get crucified for. If I cry I’m too emotional. If I’m quiet when I need to think I’m cold or angry. If I’m strong then I don’t need a partner. If I’m weak then I’m needy. All of this leads to an extreme amount of confusion and guilt that I try very hard not to cave in to. I am me and I’m good with that.

But every once in a while, my own emotions catch me by surprise and confuse me even more. I’ll start with the most recent time (there are two that I want to cover here).

On Wednesday, I arrived home from work to find my little one sick with a fever. He was lethargic and generally miserable, with no apparent cause. I cuddled him, kept on him to drink water, and finally gave him some Tylenol to bring down his temperature. I don’t panic over these things but I don’t feel guilty for that, because I have such a large number of kids in my family that I know when to panic and when not to worry. But as 5:00pm rolled around, I started worrying. See, I have a spin class on Wednesdays. I paid for it. I didn’t want to miss it but at the same time, I felt like a bad mother for abandoning my little one when he was sick.

It’s not like I was going to leave him in the care of a stranger or someone incapable of cuddling him with the same amount of love I give him. He was staying with his Nana (my mother) and I would be home in an hour. But as I was settling him in and taking care of the last-minute details I suddenly felt like a horrible mother. Despite the fact that I knew he would be okay and well taken care of, despite knowing that he didn’t have anything serious, I felt terrible.

This ties back in to my habit of feeling guilty whenever I take time to myself but it was obviously amplified by the fact that my son wasn’t feeling well. A brief discussion with my mother reassured me that he would be fine, that she would call me if anything happened – no matter how small, and I left for class. Class is a whole three minutes away from home (five if I get caught at a red light) but I cringed the whole way there, because there was a small part of me that was really happy to not be missing it.

I fell into my usual groove at class and for a good half an hour I actually forgot about work, money, relationship problems, and … my sick little man, cuddling at home with his Nana, waiting for me to come back. As I walked back to my car my shoulders slumped and my drive home was a study in guilt and anxiety. But when I got home, my little one was passed out comfortably on the couch in his little diaper, his Nana diligently standing guard and rubbing his little back. His fever was coming down and he was just tuckered out now.

My heart lightened as I gathered him in my arms and he touched my face for a moment and whispered “Mommy… Hi Mommy” before sleepily burying his face in my shoulder and returning to a restorative slumber. The guilt washed out of me as I realized that part of being a mommy is being able to pick responsible caregivers for my child. I trust his father. I trust my mother. I trust my sister. These are the people who care for my little one the most often and I know that they have me covered if I have to work, study for school, or even just attend a fitness class I paid for in advance.

That night I read a news story about a woman who killed her 22 month old son for interrupting her Farmville game. I was horrified and saddened, but instantly glad that I’m the kind of mommy who feels guilty for leaving her ill son with a loving caregiver for a fitness class.

**As an aside for those of you wondering, my little one was back to his perfectly happy adorable self by the next morning.**

The other event I wanted to write about occurred a week ago. Having noticed that none of my workout pants were fitting properly anymore (and therefore no longer suited to working out in because they kept trying to fall off me when I run) I took my mother and the little one with me for a quick run to JC Penney last Thursday during our usually weekly errand run. I grabbed three new pairs of running pants, a couple new shirts,  checked out and we left. My mother has mobility issues, so we had “rock star” (read:  Handicapped) parking.

As we were walking to the car an elderly gentleman approached me from his van and asked me in a thickly accented voice “could you please give me a boost?” It took my brain a moment to process the scene… Me, my little one in my arms, my mother, this elderly gentleman standing next to a van with out-of-state license plates in the handicapped parking place next to us… Well, to put it simply, where I live I’m more accustomed to being approached by someone panhandling. Also, “boost” isn’t the commonly used term in my region.

Of course, once my brain (a little slow because Thursdays are my day off and I’m usually rushing around without thought) finally caught up I replied “Absolutely, of course!”

This elderly gentleman looked unbelievably appreciative as I got my mother and son settled in the car. He looked a little anxious as I backed my car out, but then relieved as I simply pulled in closer to his van so the cables would reach easily.

We fumbled for the hood release on my car – in my defense I’m not unversed in general vehicle maintenance, but my car is brand new and I’ve never had to pop the hood yet – got the jumper cables hooked up and his van started with very little fuss.

I smiled to his equally elderly wife, who remained seated in the van, as I closed the hood of my car. But as I tried to walk away I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Please,” he said as he stopped me, “For your time and trouble” as he tried to hand me four dollars that his wife had apparently fished out of her purse.

I was mortified. A kind deed should be its own reward. This couple was likely someone’s grandparents, I thought, as my mother and her grandson sat in my car.

“No, really, it was nothing. I’m glad I could help. Please, have a safe trip” I said as I held my hand up in a gesture of refusal.

It took a few minutes of assuring him that I wouldn’t accept his money, and then my mother refusing to take the money for my son through the window when he tried another angle, for him to realize that we really wouldn’t accept his money.

He said “thank you” one more time as we pulled out of the parking space, a look of gratitude on his face. I’m pretty sure it was that look that was my undoing because as we drove away I started crying. I simply couldn’t help it. The tears came out of nowhere and I’m still not quite sure of the cause. Was it that if that had been my grandmother (rest her soul) or even my mother, I would hope they would find someone to help that would refuse the little cash they had available? Was it simply tears of being glad I could help someone out? Was it the example I was setting for my child who, still too young to understand, that the deed is its own reward? Or was it that I suddenly thought “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t insult him by not taking his offer of compensation for my time!”

So there you have it. Women are emotional creatures. It is part of what makes us such appealing creatures. We’re emotional yet strong enough to endure almost anything. We’re loving but sometimes need time to process without being thought of as cold. We laugh when we should be crying and sometimes cry when we should smile. We have tough exteriors but are easily wounded. We’ll forgive easily but not trust without time and proof. And whether you realize it or not, we tend to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, which is why we do it so rarely… Love us for these qualities and we’ll never fail you. But please, please, don’t say things like “you’re so emotional” like it’s a bad thing, because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us when really, it’s perfectly natural for us to be that way.

If it’s good enough for me it’s good enough.

Smiley head happy

Smiley head happy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are our own worst enemies and, too often, nothing is ever enough. I’m five foot six inches and I weigh 140 lbs. On my medium frame this equates to a solid size six. I’m happy with that. But, to be honest, when I was a size 12, I was happy with that too. Sure, I wanted to improve my appearance and be healthy and fit, but I didn’t tear myself down over it. Now I’m active and I enjoy working out more. I want to be fit. I’m focusing on toning and eating well but not to the exclusion of everything else. Some people eat and breathe a certain obsession… I’ll never be one of those people. I don’t want to call them superficial because many of them are perfectly good, kind people in every other way. They’ve just been brainwashed to believe that looks are everything and that noone is good enough without airbrushing. I can forgive them for that.

That kind of mono-focused, zealot like obsession frustrates me. But that’s a topic for a different post. What I’d like to know is why is it that every person on the planet feels they have the right to weigh in (forgive the pun) on the subject of someone elses body?

My ex thought I was too heavy, another guy I dated just a little while ago thought I was too thin. My mother complains that I don’t eat enough, my co-workers say I’m wasting away to nothing, and still other people feel I have plenty of room for improvement. I didn’t solicit ANY of this information and, when I say I’m happy the way I am (when I was heavy, now that I’m not, etc) I get the oddest looks from people.

It’s taboo almost, in todays society, to be (oh my god!!) happy with yourself and your looks. My teeth are a little yellow, my thighs and rump have plenty of post baby saggage, there’s a little loose skin on my belly, my arms still jiggle a bit and my nose, as cute and upturned as it is, is started to show my age. How can I not want to get all of this corrected… either through some (supposed) miracle cream or plastic surgery?

The answer is simple. I love myself. Just the way I am. It’s like when you’re in love, truly in love. The person you’re in love with is the most attractive person in the world to you. If they put on a few extra pounds you don’t love them less. That’s how I feel about myself.

I have the confidence, despite my cellulite ridden thighs and saddle bags, to wear a bikini and show off my post baby body in all of it’s jiggly greatness. I know that at the resort there will be women who are horrified that I would wear a bikini,  because I’m not slender enough. I know there will be women there who look at me and think “I’d be happy to look like that”.

Someone will always have an opinion and that’s fine with me. But they can feel free to keep it to themselves. The way I see it is so many people are so unhappy with their own body image that theyhaveto project their own unhappiness by criticizing others. I feel nothing but pity for those people… because they’ll never know how truly free you feel once you’ve accepted yourself exactly as you are.

Strive for more, work for your goals, but in the meantime accept yourself for the you you are right now. And for goodness sakes, keep your misery to yourself because, honestly, if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough.

A Dream That Lingers Like the Scent of Fresh Baked Bread

dreams and wishes. 62/365

dreams and wishes. 62/365 (Photo credit: nicole.pierce.photography ♥)

“I have a dream” … such simple words that are rarely voiced out loud anymore. I wonder if dreaming is a dying art form in a world filled with instant gratification. Does anyone truly dream anymore? Or am I the only one? I have no fear of sharing my dream with the world, I’d shout it from the Sears tower if I thought anyone cared. It’s been the same for quite a while now.

I dream of a house – cottage like in its charm – in an almost rural town. In this town I know my neighbors, I’m on the PTA, and I volunteer often at my children’s school. In my cottage home there is a sense of organized chaos and a feeling of love. In my yellow kitchen I stand after a day of work, cooking dinner while my son and daughter play in the large back yard. The sounds of laughter and dogs barking gleefully drift in the window to blend with the happy smell of supper. Behind me a pair of arms slip around my waist and a gentle kiss is planted on my neck from the man who holds the other half of my soul. Dinner is a time where the whole family gathers around the table and discusses their day, where my son is admonished for sharing scraps with the dogs and my daughter giggles gleefully over the adoring attention from her daddy.

I’ve had this dream called “boring”, ‘cliché”, “unimaginative”, and, my personal favorite “an affront to women’s rights”. But it’s still the same dream and I honestly couldn’t care less what others think of it.

My dream focuses around family, always has. It doesn’t matter my career, or his career, or our combined annual gross income. What matters is that home and family are the haven within which true happiness lies.

I want my children to have the childhood I had. One where they could play safely around the neighborhood until the street lights came on. Where you knew your neighbors and if your kids misbehaved it was relayed to you before your kids even made it back to the front door. Where the teachers in the schools know and care about each student individually. Where recreation time doesn’t consist of sitting down in front of the TV, Wii, or computer for hours on end! I want a community that’s close to the water (river, creek, ocean, lake, whatever!) so I can teach my kids to fish and row a boat.

Most of all I want my kids to be kids. Exercise should still be play for them (and me!) instead of work. They should be able to explore and get dirty without me worrying about something horrifying happening to them. They should be able to test (and, subsequently, learn) their boundaries so that they can become smart, respectful, and well-rounded adults someday.  They should be allowed to challenge authority in a safe environment, because they’re going to do it regardless.

This is my dream. A safe, secure, loving home where I can let my kids enjoy being kids. A home where they can spend their entire lives, where I can retire and finish out my years on this planet…

… and it should always smell like fresh baked bread.

Change is NOT a four letter word.

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Change.

You hear it all the time about relationships. I don’t know what happened, he/she changed. Too many people look at change as a bad thing. We get comfortable with our partners and we want everything to stay the same. But then we complain that there’s no excitement or passion left anymore. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is such thing as bad change. But the majority of people continue to grow and evolve throughout their lives. Hobbies, pursuits, passions, all these things change with the years. I think more likely, the problem is that your partner evolves while you stagnate. You’re comfortable and settled and, to be honest, stuck in a rut or a period of non-development, and they end up leaving you behind.

A healthy relationship, one where the couple isn’t joined at the hip and don’t have to share every little interest with each other (read: codependency) can survive; even thrive, in times of change. Change can keep you falling in love all over again for years. People need to be whole by themselves. They need hobbies and pursuits that are their own. They need to learn and grow as individuals as well as part of a couple. The unhealthy relationship, the one where people give up the core of what makes them individuals, will never survive change. Because you’re far too dependent on the other person to make you happy to ever actually be happy.

So let’s say you’re in an unhealthy relationship; can you make it healthy? That depends on whether or not you’re willing to work on yourself (ditto for your partner, because it took two of you to get there) and make changes for the better. If you two have enough in common that you enjoy, an undeniable bond, and a lot of love, you should be able to make it work. You’ll need to be supportive and encouraging of your partner and yourself. You’ll need to step outside your comfort zone and make time for personal pursuits. You’ll need to schedule time to connect with your partner as well.

Most of all, you’re going to have to be honest with your partner and yourself. You’re going to have to hash out everything that doesn’t work and then let it go so you can focus on what does work. Dwelling on what’s broken never fixes anything. By turning your focus to what does work, the things that go right, you can work to repeat that behavior and build on it. I’ve seen relationships survive change, infidelity, lying, and a whole host of other “deal breakers”. I’ve seen relationships thrive in times of chaos, because the couple is supportive of each other and honest with one another.

I’ve also seen relationships die because one partner felt they needed to hide their desire for change or the change itself, even when the other person would have been supportive. Change makes us uncertain and if you don’t feel you can trust your partner to encourage you and cheer you on, it can be a daunting thing to share with them. Sometimes you have to rip off the Band-Aid or open the book. Lay everything on the table and bare your darkest inner corner to make progress. Is it scary? Of course. Will you come out on the other side (no matter the result) better off? Absolutely.

A person should never live in fear of being who they are or who they evolve into. Someone who truly loves you will accept you, flaws and change and all. Your partner should be able to accept your deepest fears, listen to your most secret dreams and nightmares, and grab a pompom and cheer you on for your every accomplishment. And you should provide your partner with the same.

Do you remember when you fell in love, the conversations you would have. The long and involved conversations about your life, your past, and your dreams for the future? When was the last time you talked to your partner like you did when you were still dating? If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, then I’d be willing to bet either you have evolved (at least a little) or you want to.  Have a “dating” conversation again and see what happens.

Strive for that healthy relationship. Look to grow as an individual as well as a couple. Focus on what goes right, try to avoid what goes wrong, and for goodness sake, stop fearing change. Change keeps things fresh.

Just a random musing from…

~LDd

Live. Laugh. Love

Free Live Laugh Love Texture

Free Live Laugh Love Texture (Photo credit: inspire*dream*create*)

Live. Laugh. Love.

These are three words that I live by. No, it hasn’t always been easy. I remember, years ago when I was married, I had a husband who always needed more. More money, more things, more everything. He would stress over every little thing. Back then I gave great advice. “if there isn’t anything you can do about it right now, then just breathe and let it go. The solution will come to you when the time is right.”

I used to live by that advice too. The recession was more than monetarily devastating for a lot of people. For many people it was a time of uncertainty. A time that threw people into chaos and left them feeling a lack of security in their lives. People like me, who were doing everything right, still couldn’t get out from under the cloud of a bad economy. I liken what followed, the constant worry and anxiety, to post traumatic stress disorder. Once you’ve lived through a time where there was nothing you could do to make your life better or easier you worry that the bottom is going to fall out from under you again. Constantly.

It took baby steps to embrace life again, even when it’s chaotic. I used to enjoy occasional chaos because it kept me on my toes. I’m slowly getting back there. I refuse to worry about the things that I cannot control and I focus on living my life every day, laughing as much as I can, and loving with all my heart.

Just a short thought for the morning.

~LDd

I’m Not Afraid Anymore

Words associated with Fear

Words associated with Fear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personal development; it’s the reason I went back to school. It’s the reason I tend to overanalyze things I do or say, and it’s my motivator during this transitional period in my life. For three years I felt like I was living in limbo. Everything always seemed to be up in the air. Fate, life events, a catastrophic alignment of the stars, whatever the force was, it simply didn’t want me to be able to get comfortable or feel secure. Because I’ve got this optimistic brain, I look back on the last three years and I see the happy times. I see what I did right and how much I’ve grown as a person. I’ve become a good mother, a reliable provider, and someone who knows her own value. So when I look back, I have to believe that there was a reason I wasn’t allowed to grow comfortable and settled.

To put it quite simply, I wasn’t done “growing up”. I can admit to myself now that it’s going to be a lifelong process, this “growing up” business. I’m the type of person who wants to put down roots and be settled. But that also means that I have a tendency to stagnate and give up a large portion of my personality. Just because I want to put down roots, doesn’t mean that’s a natural desire for me. My inherent desire to explore and create, to jump without looking and dance in the rain have been overridden by the events in my life that have caused a deep desire for stability. And they’ve been at war with each other for years.

I’m slowly learning how to appease them both; my sense of adventure as well as my need for security and stability. Part of it was learning that I really, truly can rely on myself. The other part, the harder part, is learning that I can rely on others when needed. I don’t have to do everything myself. I can trust others to handle some things so that I can have time for myself. I’m still in the baby steps phase of that but I think I’m progressing well.

I no longer feel guilty for going to bed at 9pm, or going to the gym and putting my son in the daycare room, or asking someone to babysit him so I can go out. It’s getting easier to ask for help. The amazing part is how much better I feel about myself now. It’s not about looks or my physical appearance. It’s a happiness with me that comes from deep inside. It started about a year ago and it’s really bloomed the last two months or so. I feel like I can conquer the world. I can make a decision to do something and just do it, without worrying over every little detail. I can dance without feeling like someone is judging me. I can look at the world, and people in it, without superficial judgment.

I went to the gym yesterday in a form fitting workout tank and capris – an outfit I never would have worn without a jacket of some sort for fear that people would judge my fat arms, post-pregnancy belly, or jiggly backside. Even two years ago before I put on weight, I wouldn’t have gone out in public in that outfit. I wouldn’t have cared that I completed 5.2 miles on the elliptical in 56 minutes. I would have worried about who was watching me while I was doing it. I wouldn’t have stopped to pick up dinner where I actually had to go inside while sweaty and slimy from my workout, still in my workout clothes.

But this week, I did. And it’s been empowering. Because now, when I want to do something, my first thought isn’t “what will other people think?”; it’s “how accomplished will I feel when I’m done?”. So, to that end, I start my running program this weekend.

I know the connection here might be difficult, but if you knew how much I hate running on a treadmill you might understand. See, I have to run outside to pace myself properly. Where others can see me. In broad daylight. I have to go to a runners store and run on a treadmill in front of an expert and get my feet fitted for proper shoes. There is the possibility for judgment lurking at every step. And… I. Don’t. Care.

That felt good enough that I’m going to say it again. I don’t care about how other people judge me. I care how I judge me. After my 5.2 miles I wasn’t winded. I could still breathe normally, a little heavily, but steadily. Today, my legs feel great. I’m not sore or stiff. I want to keep going.

I’m registering for Warrior Dash tonight. 3.1 miles, 12 obstacles, lots of mud… last year I was an envious spectator. This year I’m doing it. I don’t care if it takes me two hours to complete it or if I have to go completely alone. I don’t care if people watching laugh when I slip and fall face first in the mud. I’m doing this for me.

At first I thought I’d do it to rub it in HIS face that I could but I was wrong. He has nothing to do with this, except maybe that I no longer fear that he’ll judge me. I’ve wanted to do these things all along but I was too afraid. I’m not afraid anymore.

I’m going to conquer the world – or at least my little corner of it – and nothing, no one, is going to stop me from being the best me I can be anymore.

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not” – Andre Gide

~ LDd

“Free” Time.

I have “free” time these days. That’s a new concept the last three years. No it’s not coincidence that my lack of free time coincides with my last long-term relationship. Life was complicated for a long time. First there was the economy crashing and my lack of employment. Then there was the pregnancy thing. Then there was my job, school, and my son. I still have a job, school, and my son (most of the time). The only variable that changed was the end of the relationship. That is not to say that it was his fault I didn’t spend more time doing things I enjoy.

(Off topic musing: You’ve been warned)

See here’s where the female and male mind tends to differ on the topic.

He would say: “You do more things you enjoy now that I’m gone, so you must be happier without me.”

She would say: “I no longer feel so guilty for you being at home with our child while I’m at work, plus taking up the slack while I’m studying, that feel I inclined to give up my activities so that you/we can pursue yours.”

See, a woman who feels that she is “burdening” her partner with a heavy workload feels that he is sacrificing for her. So in turn, she’ll sacrifice things for him. Since responsibilities cannot be sacrificed this means that she tends to give up things she enjoys instead. The relationship ended and my responsibilities are no longer a burden that he must sacrifice for. So I am free to enjoy my free time any way I please.

One of those ways is putting my totally random thoughts into this blog. Not that I expect anyone to read it. But, if anyone ever does, here’s my disclaimer:

Statements here are completely random, tend to deal with the little musings of life and relationships, and take a fairly no-nonsense view of both the writer and the differences in male/female ways of thinking. Input is always welcome, but keep it friendly or I’ll punt you’re a$$ into oblivion. I don’t tolerate outright rudeness and while I enjoy debating differences of opinion, if you can’t have a logical debate, you’re not welcome here. I tend to go off in many different directions and I make no apologies. If you want more structure, start your own blog. I reserve the right to change my opinion and the disclaimer without notice or input from anyone (I am a woman, after all).

(Off topic musing concluded, let’s return to the show.)

Now that that’s been said, let’s get back to the subject of free time.

How does one, having not had free time in over three years, decide how to spend this newfound time?

Being the optimistic person I happen to be, I’ve come up with a few ideas.

1.)    When someone asks you to go out and do something, say yes if at all possible.

2.)    Return to your roots. I like to write and be creative. This will manifest here on the blog, in knitting projects I never finished, and through making more jewelry than I could ever possibly wear.

3.)    Plan fun things to do. Since I still have homework, work and my son. I’m penciling into my schedule all the wonderful summer events held in my area so that I can work my responsibilities around my desire to have fun in the sun.

4.)    Reach out to people. So far I’ve made some new mommy friends and found a person in my network that was able to recommend a crossfit gym. Which leads me to #5..

5.)    Get active. I lost a lot of weight due to stress the last three months and now, sadly, I feel skinny fat. Since my schedule is (mostly) my own again, I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym. I am, for the first time ever, actually excited about it. I have a bikini waiting and this summer I will be confident enough to wear it in public. I’m joining that crossfit gym my acquaintance goes to, I’m returning to the YMCA to get back to my water baby roots, and I’ve picked out a child seat for my bicycle.

Of course, there are still responsibilities that have to be worked into my schedule – house cleaning, organizing, etc… So it’s going to be a balancing act, but I’m not worried. The optimist in me knows everything will work out and that this summer is going to be one to go down in the record books.

So the closing thought for this post will be: There is no such thing as Free. No free lunch, no free time. Time costs us minutes of our lives and while we have to spend time handling our responsibilities, it will only make us bitter if we don’t use some of those life draining minutes doing things that make us smile. Smile more, people!!!

On Optimism

Optimism

noun 

1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

2. the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.

 I’m an optimist. I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking. I may get stressed and tired and frustrated, but I always know that it will work out. That these feelings will pass. I’m stubborn in the way that I don’t give up on people, challenges, or the world. There is always a bright side, there is always a solution, and there is always hope.

Optimists have the power to change the world. Because we are always looking for ways to make the better futures that we see. We look for color in the darkness and we see the true beauty in everything. We tend to not be shallow or superficial and sometimes we’re too honest, open, and vulnerable.

This means that we get hurt deeply when the people or things that we believe in fail us. We open our hearts in the hopes that others will do the same. We share our deepest secrets and speak from the heart. We are also thoughtful and tend to look for ways to improve ourselves.

 Even when everything seems to have gone wrong for others, when I look back I remember the good things more sharply than the bad. I’ll remember the happiness and smiles and laughter. The successes and triumphs as opposed to the heartaches and pains. I see the way negatives can affect people, the way situations can make life difficult, but I always believe there can be a resolution.

 So – When we’re hurt deeply, shattered to our core, do we give up trusting and having faith that things will work out? Absolutely not.

 We retreat, we lick our wounds, and we focus on a better tomorrow.

 But why would we continue to leave ourselves open to pain and hurt, you might ask?

 Because a true optimist believes that it is better to suffer an occasional hurt (or even an earth shattering agony) than to walk through life believing in the bad, ultimately turning cynical and, in turn, miserable. I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet a cynical, jaded person who is truly happy with themselves or the world.

I choose to be an optimist. I choose not to let events of circumstance or other people get me down for long. When I get knocked down, I get back up. And I’m damn proud of it.

 -LDd

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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