I try to keep my posts lighthearted when I can. I also try to keep the subject material as non-controversial as possible. Today, however, is not one of those days. Today I would like to write about a very difficult time in my life and how grateful I was for all of the assistance I received. It’s another lesson in perspective that I hope my readers will listen to with an open mind.
I’ve taken a great sense of pride in my independence over the years. As an adult I had always supported myself, paid my bills, and, to the best of my ability, been a solid citizen. When the recession hit, I was in the process of getting laid off from a very lucrative job that I absolutely loved. Within a matter of two weeks every promising job interview I had dried up. Those positions didn’t get filled by other candidates. They simply went unfilled or the positions were eliminated. I’d been between jobs before and unemployment wasn’t ever something I wanted to stay on. It was something to tide me over until I could find another position. It never took more than a couple of months. In fact, I was so convinced that I would find a job quickly that I didn’t even apply for my unemployment until three months after I lost my job.
But 2008 was something for the record books. I applied for every single job that came up that I was qualified for, every single job that I was overqualified for, and even tossed my hat in the ring for jobs I had no chance of ever obtaining. I was averaging 100+ job applications a month. And my phone wasn’t ringing at all. When I found out I was pregnant with my darling baby boy, I contemplated terminating the pregnancy. But, being the optimist that I am, I decided that it was time in my life (I was approaching 30) and that I really wanted my child. The decision wasn’t easy. I’ve always been a believer that you shouldn’t bring a child into this world if you can’t support it. But I was willing to work at Wal-Mart if that’s what it took. (Wal-Mart never called me in for an interview either.)
My doctor helped me apply for state medical, so that I could have quality pre-natal care. And the months continued passing. My unemployment covered the basics for nearly two years, even though I constantly had to fight to get it due to a clerical error when my file was opened. I want to make it very clear that I never sat back and said “well, I’m seven months pregnant, so I should just give up on looking for a job until after the baby comes.” I have literally thousands of electronic application confirmations from those two years. I was always sure that a new job was just a week or two away. I interviewed pregnant and did my best to hide my growing belly.
I swear my son knew my concerns even before he was born, because I went into labor on a Friday night. He was born on a Saturday morning and I was back to applying to jobs on Monday. But there was nothing. Thousands of job applications with my extremely impressive resume resulted in a total of 4 interviews over two years.
State Medical was one thing to me. A perfectly acceptable social security net to bridge the gap for people who don’t have employer based coverage. But reality came really crashing in on me when my unemployment benefits were exhausted; I had no money coming in and an 8 month old baby boy at home. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed my son. He, however, had other plans. From birth he had serious latching issues. Nothing the nurses did seemed to help. I worked with him for two weeks, but he kept losing weight. There were many, many tears shed, and I felt like a failure. I pumped, but… between supplemental formula feedings and the stress I was under, there just wasn’t much to be done. So, what do you do, when your son needs specialized formula (he had milk protein intolerance) and you have no money to buy it? What do you do when there just isn’t a job to be had?
You turn to a social safety net. In my case, this was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). There was nothing else to be done. I had exhausted my financial reserves, my 401k refund, and my savings accounts. I walked into the Department of Human Services office and wanted to cry. It was the most desolate place I ever remember being in. The tenor of the office is depressing and the individuals there just have an air of being completely beaten, downtrodden. There were crying children, exhausted parents, and elderly people… everyone just looked miserable. I felt a deep, searing pain in my stomach, just being there. Oh, how the mighty fall.
The first time I used my Link (benefit) card, which was only for groceries mind you, I had to fight back the tears. The reality of my situation was just unbearable. I tried to tell myself that I paid taxes into this system for years, but it didn’t help. I felt ashamed. I felt like less of a person.
I was only on the SNAP program for two months, because a job finally came through in July 2010. It was part time, for much less than my previous salary, but it was work and it enabled me to get off the SNAP program. I was elated the first time I bought groceries with my debit card again. I felt saved. I felt human again.
I’m off public health insurance (even though I have no employer coverage so I have NO coverage) but my son still gets health care through the state. I’m grateful every day for my less than ideal job and that, somehow, I managed to retain my optimism through everything that went wrong those two years (because there’s a lot more that I’m not sharing here). And I am extremely grateful to know that there is a safety net out there for people like me. As much as I hope never to have to use it again I sleep better at night knowing that the system is there for those who need it.
The lesson in perspective is this:
If you’ve never had to utilize a social safety net, you don’t get to judge those that do. I’m sorry, but you haven’t been in their shoes. The 80’s mythology of the “welfare” recipient who drives her brand new Cadillac to the welfare office is just that – a myth. The majority of people who utilize the benefits are just like me, people who had no other option. They are people who would like to get off the benefits as soon as flipping possible. Of course, there will always be the few people who manage to game the system. But those few people aren’t the norm. I am the norm. And I can tell you firsthand just how degrading and dehumanizing that experience really was. I challenge you, any of you, who believe that I’m exaggerating, or out of the “norm” to go sit at a social services office for an hour or so and observe the degradation first hand.
After you’ve gone home and washed the lingering feel of depression and desperation off yourself, you might find that your perspective has completely changed.
Life is about living. I’ve said this before. You only get this one life and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’ve also pointed out that any “diet” that doesn’t let you live isn’t sustainable. Well, we put that theory to the test this past week. My son’s father turned 38 (yeah, he’s old… but still cute) and you know what birthdays mean… cake and food. In large quantities, generally speaking.
It started Thursday with a fairly healthy dinner of homemade hamburgers on fabulous whole wheat buns. But then came the cake… four layers of chocolate death, overloaded with miniature chocolate chips and filled with whipped cream. Top that with buttercream icing and you have a sugar coma just waiting to happen. We all had a slice (well, everyone but the little man, who still staunchly refuses to eat anything “normal”) and as we were all sitting there settling into our food comas I asked “so, who votes I take the remainder of this cake to work tomorrow?”
There was an immediate consensus, so there was no repeat of chocolate overload in our household the next day. Friday is our usual cheat dinner day so we had pizza. I love pizza Fridays. But then Saturday… Oh lord.
I took the birthday boy (err… man) out to dinner. We hit up a highly reviewed local Brazilian steakhouse. If you’ve never been to one, let me explain. It’s all about the meat. It is meat, meat, meat, and more meat. There’s a salad bar, sure, but as yummy as the offerings there, the main attraction are the numerous gauchos walking around with various cuts of meat on spits, offering you everything from lamb, to filet, to rib eye steak. There are sausages and chicken legs and bacon wrapped goodness everywhere you look. You pay a flat rate for each diner and in return you get a little disk.
When you flip the disk to the green side, you’re swarmed by gauchos, all sweet and polite and bearing meaty death anyway you like it. Flip it to red and they leave you to stuff your face in peace.
Needless to say I warned the birthday boy to wear loose-fitting pants. After overdosing on meat we went back to my sister’s house for beer and board games. My brother-in-law is a game reviewer, so he gets all kinds of cool games to play for free (in addition to press passes to events like Comic-Con, where he meets people like William Shatner, Robert Downey Jr., and Nathan Fillion… he’s such an asshole – because he never invites me!!! LOL).
Anyway, the games are always new and interesting and we have a blast playing them. On the way back to my sister’s house though, I said to the birthday boy “ugh… you better hope she’s not planning cake or anything.” This earned a very heartfelt groan from the passenger seat.
Our little man had a blast running around with his cousin, until he tried to slide under the railing to the stairs feet first. We all had a heart attack when my niece started yelling for us. Mind you, we were only five feet away, but the stairs are around a small corner in my sister’s usually very child safe house. Thankfully, our little snot is a little too big to fit all the way through and no harm was done (unless you count our nerves being completely fried).
A reprimand for the little boy and huge hugs for the little girl and all was well again.
… and it was time for cake. Oh, the poor birthday boy.
When the night of fun and games was over my brother-in-law was packing up the cake. I adamantly told him “we are not taking that home”. There was a small fuss, but in the end I was brooking no argument.
So, we lived this past week. It’s a good thing exercising is a part of living as well and that over-indulgence only happens on occasion.
Enjoy life. Overeat once in a while. Try new restaurants. But know when to say no. Don’t take the cake home with you because if it’s in your house, you’ll eat it all.
But whatever you do, don’t skip the experiences just because you’re on a “diet”. After all, life is always better with a few sprinkles and a little icing.
Life is a series of crossroads but no matter the direction you take, you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Your life is a series of days strung together by choices that have been impacted and determined by previous choices. Every day there are new choices to make. Some are too small to give thought (So I want a tall or a trenta iced coffee) and some are so monumental that they appear almost impossible to wrap your mind around. As someone who used to obsess over every choice I encountered I find it interesting that I can now make decisions without thought. Every once in a while though… there’s that one choice that smacks me upside the back of the head and knocks me silly.
I’m a person of faith, not in the religious sense. I have faith in my life, faith in the people I love, and faith that, in general, everything is going to be A-OK. Everything works out the way it is supposed to in the end. That doesn’t stop me from wondering how in the hell things could possibly work out when I’ve got an impossible decision to make or I’m not sure which direction I should go with something. Faith doesn’t mean impervious.
I’ve embarked on numerous personal journeys the last four years of my life, some were voluntary, others were not, and all of them have led me to where I am right now. I’m facing another multitude of decisions that need to be made. Each of them requires thought and some of them have deadlines as soon as the next few weeks of my life. I’m feeling a little unsure and fragile at the moment, but it’s tempered by my cheerful outlook on life and the fact that I stand behind my decisions, no matter the outcome in the end.
You can’t cheat yourself out of the experience. You should never try to subvert your heart and you should always follow your instincts. I’m taking one step at a time on my own personal path of these crossroads with the knowledge that no matter how it turns I was brave enough to take chances, create my own destiny, and enjoy the ride.
The point of this lesson is that, as a person, I recognize my own insecurities enough to differentiate them from my instincts, and I try – every day – not to let them rule my life. I encourage you to ask yourself why you choose to react to life the way that you do. Is it instinct or insecurity?
Enjoy your crossroads, no matter the direction you choose to go and have faith that you’ll navigate your way to where you are meant to be.
By now it should be quite clear that I am not a writer. A poet, I used to be. A mother, I am most definitely. A woman striving to live the “good” life, absolutely. I share what I feel is worth sharing and sometimes I blog to clear my head.
Today is a little of both. I haven’t blogged in a while and my brain is swimming with thoughts I need to express; some of which may actually be worth sharing.
Progress, on almost all fronts, has stalled to a certain degree. Following a money crunch, I couldn’t re-up my fitness classes this session. And, without appointments to keep me on track, I got lazy. Well, as lazy as one can get when you still have a two-year old to keep up with and a life to live. I’m not gaining or losing weight and my clothes still fit great, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. I know I’ll get back into my classes because I enjoyed them so much and I actually miss them.
We took a family trip to the Dells, where I formed a whole new obsession for Bikinis. I now have four of them. My reasoning is that I’m looking for the “Perfect” bikini. But, since I’m limited to JC Penney (where I can charge them) I doubt the “perfect” bikini is going to be found this season.
My little man, who is so close to being 3 that I don’t want to call him 2 anymore, started swimming on his own during that trip. Safely bundled up in his life vest he now kicks and paddles back and forth from mommy to daddy and back again. He jumps off the short ledges, disappears under the water, and pops back up with an enormous grin on his face. It brought tears to my eyes. Bittersweet, proud, and sad tears that only a parent could fully understand. My beautiful little man is growing up and these “little” days will be coming to an end way too soon.
Warrior Dash is this Sunday and I’m fairly certain I’m going to die. But not before completing it. I’m more worried about the heat (projected high of 92) than the running; and the obstacles just look like fun to me. If I can finish under an hour I’ll be happy. But, yeah, I might die afterward. If I do – at least I’ll die with a smile.
I’m preparing for July 1st, when my new, back to basics eating habits are fully enacted. I’ve been cleaning out my cabinets and fridge, trying to put new practices into place in increments and cleaning out all the “junk”. I’ve always been an enthusiast for whole foods. But I’ve been accepting of the “junk” in our lives as a necessary evil or perhaps, just a familiar friend. But as I more actively read labels, more and more products go back on the shelves permanently. Mac and Cheese? HOLY CRAP. Bye. I can make that from scratch in the same amount of time the boxed stuff takes.
I realized that the whole grain, high fiber, super yummy, no HFCS, etc bread that I buy from Trader Joes goes bad in a matter of days if I don’t keep it in the fridge. At first this upset me. Then I realized – wait for it – REAL FOOD SHOULD GO BAD IF NOT REFRIGERATED!!! I know, right. It was like a super startling epiphany. It is NOT natural for bread to sit on your counter for two weeks and not sprout mold. It’s not natural for it to stay soft for two weeks without refrigeration. There’s a lot of things about our food that we’re used to that isn’t natural. In fact, it’s biologically, ecologically, and chemically just wrong!
And at the same time, there are other things that work in the reverse. Fresh eggs, just laid, can last for weeks (over a month) on your counter or in the coop. But, once washed and processed, they must be refrigerated and they keep for two weeks – Max. I watched an episode of “how it’s made” that included Eggs and it infuriated me. Now, keep in mind that I already buy cage free, organic, humane brown eggs but was willing to substitute regular eggs when money is tight because there’s a big difference between 88 cents and 2.49+. Not anymore.
Hens (which normally have a life span of 8-16 years depending on the breed and living conditions) are kept in an environment where they are exposed to artificial UV light 24 hours a day, to simulate daylight, and fed a steady diet of hormones, both of which increases egg production. They lay 1-2 eggs a day (normally the best breeds lay a max of 1 egg a day or an average of 1 every 36 hours) and reach the end of their “useful” lives after only 72 weeks. Do the math, that’s a little over a year. And then, of course, they’re sent to slaughter where their unnaturally large chicken breasts (sometimes over a pound each) are sold to consumers for 3-4 dollars a pound.
I’m sickened. Truly, some days I think I should become a vegetarian, because the way we treat the animals we consume makes me sick to my stomach. But I’m far too honest with myself to try becoming a vegetarian. What I can do is purchase meat from animals that have been humanely raised, organically fed, and ethically kept and slaughtered. I already did this when I could afford it. Now, if I can’t afford it, then I either eat less meat or none at all. I can’t keep contributing to the artificially low-cost of meat that is achieved through such heinous methods. It’s a personal decision, and one I came to surprisingly easily.
This will mean some tweaking of my budget come July, because in addition to getting rid of all products that are highly processed and cooking from scratch, I now have the added expense of higher quality meat and eggs. I’m hoping this will balance out with the lower cost of fresh veggies, grains, rice – etc. We’ll see.
I don’t understand how we became so accepting of all of this, pardon my French, shit that we allow in our food. In a relatively short period of time in human history we moved from a 100 percent natural diet where even canned goods were generally homemade to a diet that is 85% chemically or genetically modified. And we wonder why we’re fat. Evolution hasn’t provided us the genetic tools to digest this garbage we’re stuffing into our bodies any more than it’s provided us a way to clean the pollution from the air before it goes into our lungs and our bloodstream. How is it that at the same time we learn more about the human body and how to keep it healthy, the more processed and polluted our food becomes. Technology is allowing us to learn so much more – but it’s also allowing for the development of all this shit that’s going into our food. We were healthier in our food habits back when the human race, in general, didn’t know anything about how, why, or what was healthy.
You wanted to eat, you had to cook. I bet it was a lot easier to eat less (for example) potato chips, when you had to obtain, peel, soak, and fry your own. Hence the logic behind my new lifestyle… When you think about food and snacks, you’re more likely to reach for fruit, vegetables and nuts if the alternative is time-consuming prep work and cooking. That should be reserved for major meals. And if all you have in the house is healthy snacks, you won’t be eating a full bag of potato chips or M&Ms, because they just aren’t there to be eaten.
This isn’t a diet. It’s a return to the way we were meant to look at food. It’s a return to the way we were meant to eat food. And it’s going to be difficult as hell for someone who was raised on a “modern” style of eating. I’m not going Paleo, or Atkins, or Southbeach or whatever trendy title is being thrown around. I’m just trying to get back to the natural way of eating for humans. Fruit, grain, nuts, meat; Less additives and processing and more real food.
I’ve also been looking more into the future of my education. I want to go into Nutrition. Period. I don’t know how I’m going to manage the internship that’s required to get my R.D. but, that’s two years away – minimum. So I’m not going to borrow trouble. I’m just going to pursue my dreams and do what I can, when I can, to make things happen. If it means I have to get my Masters (which usually includes the internship) and take out a huge student loan to live on when I do it, then so be it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the different nutrients, vitamins, bacteria, and acids that occur in food. I find it amazing the way they work inside our bodies and I honestly feel that I’ve finally found my calling. So I’m going to reach out with both arms and step into the unknown. I’m going to hope that, through sheer stubbornness, everything works out.
I’m also looking at buying a house – but I think I’ll leave that story for another post.
In the first quarter of this year I lost 30 pounds due to stress. I had what was, basically, a nervous breakdown. I am the opposite of a stress eater. I suffer from stress induced anorexia, I also tend to not eat when I’m really involved or occupied by something. Obviously no one, not even me, was happy with my weight loss. But when I got a handle on things and was able to drag my happy, optimistic self back up to the gleaming surface of the world again, I decided I was going to seize this moment and turn it in my favor.
It was time to take something that was unhappy and unhealthy and turn it into something beautiful and empowering.
I resolved to eat better. Not healthier, per se, because I already focus on veggies, fruit, and moderated portions. But definitely more often and on a routine schedule – so I started packing a full work days’ worth of meals every day that included snacks and vitamin supplements. I limited my coffee drinking to before 11:00am and I increased my water intake to nearly a gallon a day. I started tracking my calories again.
I signed up for Warrior Dash, which forced my unmotivated behind to return to the gym (where I hadn’t been for 4 months) where I signed up for two boot camp and one spin class each week.
I’d lost the weight, which was half of what was holding me back. Now it was time to tone and strengthen.
So, to keep myself honest, this is my progress report.
To date: I’ve gained 5 pounds but lost: 4 inches on my hips, 1.5 inches on my waist, and 1 inch on my chest. I wear a size 6 jean (7 juniors) but I now have to wash and dry them on hot and after wearing them for an hour or so they sag in the thighs and butt. Official sizing charts put me in a size 4 (5’6” – 34, 25, 36) but we’ll see about that.
The bikini I purchased for motivation is, because I’m a moron and bought a large, too big on the bottom. So I’m going to have to buy a new bottom prior to our trip to the Dells at the end of the month.
On the exercise front: I can run a mile at a 6 mph pace without stopping or feeling like I’m going to die. My squats go all the way to the floor now and I have actual muscle in the back of my arms, as opposed to old lady pigeon wings. I don’t even complain about the diamond push-ups in boot camp anymore.
I’ve been lazy with my running program. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with school (I just finished another 4.0 semester which brings me to 3.88GPA overall) but the truth is I’ve just been more interested in having a life. I’m going to try to get back on board with the running, but I won’t kick myself too hard if I don’t, since I’m still taking classes during the week.
My food intake has improved, but it’s not perfect. I do great on the days I’m at work, but on Thursday and the weekends I forget to eat, I sneak coffee in the afternoons, I don’t drink enough water, and I completely forget about my vitamins. I’m working on a solution for this… Probably making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so I have no excuses not to eat. But, at least on average, I’m meeting my calorie minimum every day!
All in all, I’m glad I’m back to my shiny, happy self. I’m determined to continue on my path of personal growth and, barring another extremely traumatic series of events, am hoping to avoid any more nervous breakdowns because it’s really not the preferred method of losing weight.
This post is my way of keeping me honest about my progress this far. Pictures might be added at a later date.
“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.
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.
The next time someone assumes something about you that isn’t true:
Try to breathe. Take a step back. And remember not to assume something about them in return… (Mainly that they’re an a$$hole) because it’s counterproductive and only damages your own mental health. Remember: Keep Calm and Tread On.
I crush on my boot camp instructor. It’s not because he’s attractive (which he is) or well built (again, he is) or charming (yeah, you know already), it’s because this is what women tend to do. I’ve learned that each woman has her own belief as to why this is. I’ve quizzed friends about it and was very happy to learn that I’m not a freak, this is very common!. Among them are:
“It makes it easier to take being told what to do.”
“It gives me a reason to show up to every class.”
“I respect that he challenges me.”
“I know this person is helping to make me a better person.”
And on and on it goes. In the end my belief of why this happens goes something like this…
A woman’s (or man’s, I guess) instructor, whether fitness, educational, or other, is by any other definition, a relationship. It’s not an intimate (read: sexual) relationship in most cases but it is still a relationship. As with any other relationship, when it’s a healthy relationship a person will feel challenged, comfortable, secure, and supported. This is how my boot camp instructor makes me feel. He challenges me to do better, but in a way that makes me feel comfortable with my own level of progress. I feel secure in the instructions and feedback I receive and I feel supported in my progress and effort.
Over the years I’ve had professors, instructors, and friends who made me feel this exact combination and I’ve loved them all to a certain degree. I have no desire to flirt with, date, or sleep with my boot camp instructor. But I’d love to take his class more often, so that I get that exciting balance of comfort, reassurance, and challenge more often.
Makes me wonder if this is something that’s missing in my personal relationships, a need that I’m trying to fill, or if I just really need to be challenged more? I don’t have an answer to that yet…
Just a random thought for the day.
It’s too common for us women to feel selfish when we take time to do things for ourselves. Recently, I’ve noticed that it’s common for men to not understand the words “I’m doing this for me” when they come out of a woman’s mouth. Don’t ask me to what extent the two are interconnected, because I’m pretty sure I really don’t want to know.
I got a Brazilian wax so obviously it had to be for a man in my life. I started working out more… again, had to be for the men in my life. I take more time to go out with the girls, I take time to blog, I get a haircut, my nails done… etc. I feel guilty and, without fail, some man in my life thinks I’m doing it for another man. When I tried to explain this I got the dumbfounded stare. It was really rather annoying. So I explained “I do these things for me. I’m in a “selfish phase” right now and I’m very self-focused, that’s why I see so much less of you lately… because I’m taking more time for me.”
Why did I feel the need to say I’m in a selfish phase is beyond me. It’s how I feel, even though I know that’s not right. I’ve dedicated so much time in my life to other people that I know I deserve time of my own, but I have to actively remind myself to stop feeling guilty. It’s going to take time to learn to reshape my thinking on some subjects, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.
All of these things I’m doing now that I didn’t make time for before, I do these things for me. I want to be healthy. I want to keep up with my son as he gets older…. Maybe to some extent I do these things for another man. My son. But it is mostly for me, for selfish reasons. Because I want to see him go to kindergarten, and little league, and Disney World, and graduate College, and get married, and I want to see my grandbabies. He doesn’t care how I look in a bikini right now and all I care about is feeling good enough about myself to leave the house in one. I’m not going to be a fitness model. That’s just a fact of life. I just want to be comfortable with me. And the more I focus on me, the more confident I am in myself and the more comfortable I am with myself.
“I do this for me.” Those are the only words I recommend a woman repeat to herself, calmly, when she feels guilty for spending time on herself or when some poor, misguided male asks her who the other man she’s doing those things for is.
Just my short thought of the day –
Tonight I felt like I had driven the same stretch of road with the same sad song and same heavy heart a million times in the last few years of my life. For a moment, I felt like time had stopped; paused in a moment that could crush the soul. Driving away from some of the most important things in my life with the vibrant light of dreams and love fading sharply in my rear view mirror.
But life is about choices. The choices we make as well as the choices that are made for us. We can make the choice not to wallow. We can make the choice to acknowledge the pain of choices that don’t make us happy and then make the choice to make new choices. Tonight I chose to change the music, open the window, take a deep breath and let the pain of the pass float away on the evening air.
It may be trite and over stated, but you really do only get this one life. You get one chance to live. I choose not to waste my life complaining about what’s been done to me, how I’ve been wronged, or how the world has screwed me over. I choose to take responsibility for my choices, to own them and, even when I’ve been wrong, to be proud that I can acknowledge my poor choices and do something to even them out.
I’ve made choices that could have ruined my life… if I were the type to wallow or blame everyone else for my unhappiness or hardships. I’m thankful that I wasn’t raised that way. At sixteen I made the choice to drop out of high school. I own that decision. That choice was just one of many over the years that have made me who I am. It didn’t ruin my life. I didn’t let it. I’ve had horrible things happen to me. I’ve had uncontrollable events throw me into a tailspin. But I choose not to let every bad event, every broken heart, every rejection, every plan that doesn’t work out, I CHOOSE not to let those things bring me down. I choose to actively take part in my life.
I wanted to wallow the last few months. I wanted to cry and rail at the world. I wanted to blame the person who hurt me for destroying every dream I had. I wanted to sit down with pint after pint of Ben and Jerry’s and get horribly fat and complain about how it was something that was done TO me, not by me. We all have our moments. It’s how we react to the events in our life that define us.
Instead I chose to return to my adventurous roots. I put on my big girl panties and started looking for new adventures, new opportunities, new friends, and new choices that could improve my life. I chose to let go of the superficial things in my life and the repetitive stagnation of living on auto pilot. I chose to stop eating at the same old restaurants every time I wanted to go out. I chose to try new foods and new restaurants. Saturday night I ate octopus at a sushi bar… It was good! A couple weeks ago I chose to let down my hair, trust the people I love to take care of my son, and dance. Just dance. Like no one was watching. I haven’t felt that free in a long time.
Dim Sum in China Town. Moroccan cuisine in boystown. A walk on the riverfront or training for a mud run. A painful experience with an esthetician and a bottle of wax. New events, new experiences, these are the memories I want to take with me forever. Not the misery of a broken heart or a bad economy. The knowledge that I was strong enough to make the choice to explore my own horizons. I do these things for me. I do these things and make these choices because I want my child to enjoy the world around him without fear of what others think.
People ask me how I can be so optimistic when things are going so wrong in the world. The news is horrible every evening and everything seems to be “going to hell in a handbag”. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I pay attention to the news. I give it a respectable amount of thought, I mull it over, and then I choose not to let it ruin my day. I choose not to let it ruin even a minute of my life. I meet people with different viewpoints, different beliefs, different thought processes and I accept them as they are. I don’t argue with them or try to get them to see things from my perspective. Acceptance is a powerful tool in this life and I choose to use it to make my little corner of the world a better place to live.
I choose to live every day with my heart on my sleeve, an open book whenever possible, an honest opinion and spoken truth. I’ll put myself out there every day even if it means I get wounded a million times over. Because each choice that’s made for me. Every dream that appears to be shattered. Every bad day that I cannot control… I can still control how I respond to life. I can choose to change my dreams as opposed to giving up on them. I can choose to breathe in and let go of frustration on a bad day. I can choose to accept that the choices of others will affect me but that I can also choose not to let them bring me down.
I choose to live each and every day. Because this is the only life I have to live and I would rather choose to live with upbeat music, driving towards a new future, than to box myself into the belief that my best days are behind me in the rearview mirror.
Tonight I will choose to enjoy the silence and calm. In the morning, I will choose to wake up with a smile despite the pain from my current tonsil infection and I will go to work and choose to try to brighten the lives of others by being my usual optimistic, cheerful self and hope it spreads like a virus. (The optimism… not the tonsil infection. Just so we’re clear. )