Friday, August 29, 2008
The idea came to me today that as my life continues to evolve, what I've set out on, unwittingly, or rather unintentionally, is a journey of a lifetime. I don't mean to say I've done it without wit - hopefully there is that ;) and I wasn't completely without intention, but now I see more clearly, having trudged to the top of another hill.
Those of you with the stomach to hang in for the next chapter have probably often wondered at my risk taking. There was the move to St. Louis for what seemed very good reasons at the time, and then to Atlanta a few years later for more solid reasons.
Both of those moves were for incredible opportunities that didn't work out. Truth is people do this all the time. They make a big move and it fails. Other times it works. I'd guess the ratio is about 75% success to 25% mistake.
But then who is to say it wasn't worth it? Isn't that like looking back at a bad marriage that begat beautiful miraculous children and saying, "Yeah, it wasn't worth it."? Welcome to the realm of paradox my friend.
I did have fantastic successes in St. Louis - I got to have time with the kids, extra when between jobs, bought a beautiful house, left a bad marriage and met some truly wonderful people. I got involved with AFG (alanon family groups) and into recovery, what I call emotional bootcamp, and had a cool job when I decided to leave.
Atlanta has also been great for other reasons. I've had this year of "lying fallow" while I looked for what was to be next. I got to reconnect with family, old friends and again, have met some beautiful people. I love Roswell and the river, bought a fly rod, volunteer and manage to keep so busy I still need a calendar so I don't screw up appointments.
I've worked some, enjoyed some windfalls, and had lots of time to myself - a very good thing for someone who needed a chance to think things through.
The details of how aren't important, but I've come to see that my resistance to working inside another law firm make perfect sense. I have to move on, into something else. Tho I may consult since I still love eDiscovery (electronic discovery for litigation).
Managing a non-profit make sense, but while I have management experience, I lack NP experience, even tho I've worked around and in (as a consultant) the field for years. So maybe that idea will have to wait.
Teaching draws me and that may be where I end up, for now. I love kids of all ages, love to engage them in learning, surprise them, show them the fun of just being alive. Maybe that's what they need most, that and the sense that someone cares about them, no matter how surly they are.
My sense is that moving into administration will come, but probably not as a typical principal, but rather as an innovator, working in a very forward thinking program. At least that's the dream.
My volunteer work for homeless teens has gripped me, as has teaching in what used to be called "inner city" schools. Now they are "urban children" - a much better label. No, I don't have to do it the hard way, but my drive to make a difference will not let me rest. At least not now. There is too much work to be done helping to heal the world, even if it's just one person, right now.
The homeless kids? I'm not ready to be in direct contact with them just yet. I know how hard it will be for me to trust that they are ok on the streets. Not that my faith isn't strong, but my heart is deep and wide. It's important that I get ready to face the reality of their lives before I get involved with them. And it's a real committment. You don't get to know these kids, befriend them, and just disappear.
So for now I'm helping with fundraising and donations.
My own "clearing" continues, and must be further along before I can take the next step. I'm literally getting down to the essentials in my life. Less physical stuff, (much less) fewer attachments to people who aren't also deeply embedded in life and the challenges of living intentionally, and dropping my own inner baggage.
Yeah, ok, it's wrenching too. But I know there is a fantastic reason, even if I don't get it yet.
I told a dear friend today that like bread rising there is sometimes so much going on under the surface. You have to look carefully to see it, but it's happening, usually right under your nose!
Such it is with a pilgrimage. Ah, look at that word "grim" in the middle there. Yep, that's where I've been for the last few weeks, but somehow faith (and maybe stubbornness) has carried me thru.
I'm not at the promised land, but I do know it's inside me. Like Dorothy and the ruby slippers, I've carried it all along.
My journey hasn't been easy. I'm thinking that's built in, when you take chances and are determined to push forward. It hasn't been easy for my friends and family either. Sometimes I could have done a better job of counting the costs.
And yet here I am, sensing that I'm closer than ever to what I've been doggedly pursuing.
It has something to do with inner strength, spiritual opening, and making a difference.
I may turn everything upside down, but like a toddler whose work is play, there's a reason. There is intrinsic value.
So when is the last time you played like that?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
1. Be really romantic and solid at first, then get all flaky.
2. Don't like what she cooks. Complain or go eat out - alone.
3. Don’t offer to help with the dishes after she cooks dinner.
4. Skip the housework – yours, hers, ours.
5. Don’t offer to do her small household repairs or help with yard work.
6. If you can do repairs, act like you can’t.
7. Procrastinate on everything.
8. Make big plans but don’t do anything to make them happen. Blame her.
9. Don't save any money.
10. Blame her when you're broke.
11. Join a band. Practice in the garage. Late.
12. Ask her to move in with you, then complain about all her stuff.
13. Boss her kids around.
14. Yell a lot.
15. Don't have a clue about how to make up. Forget all the flowers guys give on TV and in movies. Play dumb.
16. Never swallow your pride or admit you're wrong. It's not your fault!
17. Never just give her a hug when she's mad.
18. Be grumpy about little stuff.
19. Be nitpicky. Perfectionism rules!
20. Get mad if she leaves the room during an argument to cool off.
21. Follow her and say more stuff.
22. Tell her you plan to get back in shape, but don't.
23. Be excited when she buys you a great road bike, but don’t use it.
24. Gloat secretly that you can lose weight by thinking about it, and she has to work out.
25. Wonder who she might be meeting when she works out.
26. Don't surprise her with little gestures of affection.
27. Get affectionate only when you’re trying to “get lucky”.
28. Stay mad for a long time.
29. Wonder why you don’t “get lucky”. Be resentful about it.
30. Make her call you when you're going to be late.
31. Drive her car all the time. Don't pay for gas.
32. Expect really big gifts on holidays and your birthday.
33. Don't reciprocate. Don’t plan anything at all.
34. Be spontaneous all the time.
35. Try to laugh off flubbed dates that you didn’t plan. Better yet, make it her fault.
36. Forget important dates.
37. Tell her not to worry about your kids. None of her business. She’s not their mom!
38. Expect her to love your kids.
39. HATE girls night out.
40. Ask where she is all the time.
41. Read her email.
42. Call her when she is out with her friends - repeatedly.
43. Refuse to play games in the sack, or follow directions.
44. Hate chick flicks - go, but complain a lot.
45. Be surly to her friends. Don't socialize if you can help it. Except with your friends.
46. Be jealous of her friends.
47. Don’t dance – be jealous when she dances. Even if she loves it and is good at it. Hate that she takes lessons.
48. Don’t take dance lessons with her.
49. Be mean to her in public. Start arguments over dinner.
50. Don't ask how her day was.
51. When she’s going thru a hard time, don’t ask how you can help.
52. Don't talk about the tough stuff. Avoid conflict at all costs.
53. Take your stress out on her.
54. Don't forgive her mistakes.
55. Be moody.
56. Accuse her of all kinds of things. Make stuff up.
57. Bring drama into her life. Not the good kind.
58. Lose your job.
59. Let her support you for a year (more if you can get it)
60. Still don't do the housework.
61. Don't be vulnerable.
62. Attack when you feel insecure.
63. Bring out or develop a mean streak.
64. Save up lots of money and don't tell her about it.
65. Develop your road rage talents.
66. Drive fast and dangerous.
67. Be rude. Pick on clerks.
68. Talk bad about people behind their back.
69. Hate your mother.
70. Be or get addictive about something! Video games, work, drinking, sex, your scrips... offer them to her!
71. Be disappointed when she doesn't share your addiction.
72. Talk about old heartbreak and ex-girlfriends.
76. Swear like a sailor. Be shocked if she cusses.
77. Love it when she looks nice. Assume she does it to make you look good.
78. Hate it when guys look at her.
79. Pretend you're smarter than she is.
80. Ask to wear her clothes.
It's all about you!
This past June I got a chance to see some great gals I love back in St. Louis.
It's been fun to stay in touch with visits, emails, calls. Freaky how I have such connections to friends in Charlotte, here in Atlanta and back in St. Louis.
This feels good, and I have to take some credit for trying to stay in touch, tho I never do as well as I'd like. For instance holiday cards are not my thing anymore. I'd like to be that kind of friend, sort of. I love getting pictures and letters from friends and family! But I don't really want to do the work of putting that all together myself.
But I use the blog, and now Facebook, and that seems to work too.
About a year ago I blogged about how cool it is that friends sustain us when we don't believe in ourselves. I'll repeat myself since the old blog vaporized when the company flaked out and I didn't have time to deal with technical issues outside of work.
Last year, about 15 months ago, I was listening to the song You're Beautiful for a few weeks, over and over (this is my thing, OCD with music). Now that I listen to it again, today, I realize there are lots of other ways to hear it. Could be a goodbye song...
Anyway, last year it hit me like a ton of bricks one night that I've had friends for my entire life who see the beauty in me, even when I don't see it myself. Maybe especially when I can't see it.
And in some lovely way they carry this spark of my essential wholeness, my essence, with them. When I'm ready they give it back to me, but always keep a small part in case I lose my own sense of that spark... and I do this for them too.
It's a great thing to be an optimist, and to be able to see the best in people. It took me hundreds of years to see this about myself, these traits. It was really in working on intimate relationship issues that I began to think this combination a liability. (Doesn't help you find the best guys - just the guys with the most POTENTIAL.)
Now I see that it's a wonderful thing to know that my friends are great, even when they don't see it. I love that I can remind them of their beauty. Maybe that is the best part of friendship.
And in romantic relationships I can be more disciplined about seeing what is, not letting myself get carried away with what someone could be, and just see who they are. As I've said before, a lot of guys are great starters, but lousy finishers.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I once thought safety and progress came from power - now I see these as only partly true. Remembering that I'm wired for progress, as sure as the sun rises, then I was always looking for power. Unconsciously, subconsciously, but nonetheless, it was a key theme.
Back Then my notions of power were centered around the intellectual, emotional, sensual and sheer loudness factors. I abused my first husband with intellectual prowess, and the second with emotional superiority. Neither served me or the marriages well, and I now see that it was foolhardy at best. Destructive at worst. (Can I get a witness!?)
I've tried the traditional forms of power, and found that many men, friends and family wanted to stay with the "witty factor" or the "intimidation game". I can strongly report that in the long run these are false idols, easily crushed in the light of introspection. Sure, it's fun to be witty or sexy, etc. but in the long run it takes too much energy to be edgy or svelte at all times.
It's like faith. Surface things come and go, but G-d is consistent, as is true power.
Today I see power as something that best comes from harnessing our fears and working from a place of compassion and peace. There is a profound difference, when you are willing to crack yourself open for love, to work from kindness, and set good boundaries.
Authority from this place of authentic power strengthens all those who receive it, learn under it.
It's interesting to watch how much energy people put into their particular favorite forms of power. If they are all about being funny, or smart or sexy, I know that they are still looking for authentic power. It's usually a side-effect of immaturity, but not always. Sometimes it's a defense mechanism :)
In serious intentional relationships we have to start with trust and build from there. This means mutual power and mutual interest (which affects power). You have to trust the Other to at least give a damn, Scarlet.
And be smart enough to see your blind spots.
Nothing else makes any sense without the context and foundation of "I believe you" at the base. This includes the corollaries, "I believe in you." and "I believe you care about me enough to not hurt me intentionally."
What happens without trust? Suspicions, accusations and conflict. Relationships fall apart, deals are broken, clients lost, marriages fail, children leave angry and bitter.
So what engenders trust? Certainly acting faithful, trustworthy. Just as love is not a feeling, but an action; a series of a million acts, trust is a billion acts of ethical lovingkindness, both to ourselves and to another.
How do trust and ethics link up? Simple, if someone is ethical you trust them. When they aren't, you don't. Even if you can't understand why you don't trust them, if you really pay attention you'll realize it was some unethical, or untrustworthy act.
Now consider people you consider to be very ethical. Normally that translates to deep trust as well. These are the people you set up as executors of your estate, AND you sleep at night.
But being trustworthy is also about being capable. If you trust someone to administer your estate because you know them to be ethical, but they've never touched complicated financial matters, you may be naïve (at best). And you're setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe even resentment.
This brings us around to the very large question of what are people capable of? We never really know, do we?
Dr. Randy Pausch, who died recently, said to give people time, and they will impress you. I absolutely agree with this. And yet look at how little time we give to those around us to do it better.
This is where that loving support in a relationship comes up. Let's call it compassion in action. If you can replace frustration with compassion, you've simply changed your frame of reference.
And even if someone doesn't respond, at least you know you approached it - the misunderstanding, the conflict, or broken promises - the best way possible. With loving kindness. Let's face it, not everyone wants to see their blind spots. (grin)
It's partly because to try to describe something so multidimensional is so much work. Words fall flat. If I'm praising or celebrating something good, it seems simplistic to me. If I'm complaining it is just poor taste.
So I don't.
But most of what we do each day revolves around working with other people. Colleagues, spouses and partners, children, the clerk at the lunch counter.
If we come into a relationship with our best selves, we may get to discover our full selves - more of who we are - if we are serious about the splunking that relationships cause.
Not many people are.
I've always been one to push myself in a big way. This took some thirty odd years to acknowledge, but it bears noting, as it is a big part of the way I am wired.
This makes me difficult to live with, at times, even for me.
Pushing forward is both helpful and can be harmful in intimate relationships. Just like we don't insist our children potty train, anymore, or demand that they walk when we are ready, we have to learn how to support each other when we are working up close and personal.
I once heard a family specialist (or maybe a dear friend) described siblings as the great motivators for younger kids. The little ones go thru periods of developmental challenges and get bratty and intolerable for a few weeks or months. The parents are (hopefully) duly supportive and set good limits. Older brothers and sisters, in the meantime, have little patience and are prone to using Kid Rules - age-old ways to make your point, such as "Too bad.", "Get over it." and loving smack down arguments, if not flat out wrestling or careening thru the house and yard.
The expert noted that this helps younger kids get thru their learning curves, motivates them, pushes them. And it isn't all bad, tho it's tough to watch the dynamics as a parent, sometimes. It's also hard for me to watch my dogs try to work out their roles in the pack (with growls and bites and even fights), but this is how they are wired, so I tolerate as much as I can stand.
In our intimate relationships we also push each other and often end up in conflict - we push limits, boundaries, and for more good stuff. We want so much from marriages and LTRs (long term relationships) that it is sort of comical, when you think about it.
My grandparents didn't put up with a lot of shenanigans, (my great grandmother got divorced around 1919, way before it was acceptable) but they didn't expect to be "fulfilled" by a spouse, tho they may have hoped for as much. They expected tough times to come around, and expected to weather them as well as possible. They were aware of their place in the long history of human progress, and expected to be a part of that, for their children and grandchildren. As we all know, they built things to last.
Without over-romaticizing the early part of the last century, which is so common, also note that the balance of power was different.
Recently I read something about power, in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone was debriefing survivors of the Cambodian atrocities, and found that what these severely traumatized people wanted to talk about came down to two questions: Who is in charge, and How much do you love me?
If this is true, that these are two of our most fundamental concerns, then isn't it interesting that they are brought together in a committed relationship? There are power struggles and there are "love struggles".
Happy couples figure this stuff out early on and never look back - simple. They find some balance of power and are secure in the love they share (which takes a lot of work) and yeah, live happily ever after.
The rest of us, most of us, wonder if we can achieve that, and then set to work finding the "right" person, being in love and courting, bump up against hard issues and either track into some semblance of peace and raprochement, or we clatter along, neither completely unhappy nor happy, and then others go off the rails and end it, sooner or later.
This entry is about power then. And I have to stop and recommend a book, The Power of Two, about working out differences and issues. One of the best books I've ever read on the topic, as it isn't theory as much as How To with very clear examples of good and bad ways to talk about difficult subjects.
This seems the crux, to me, of a good relationship: Balance of power, ability to solve conflict. Sounds simple doesn't it?
Still, most mere mortals give love little thought, once they settle in with someone, instead work to make a living, raise the kids, and then wonder what happened when it gives way.
Since so many marriages end, and so many more relationships break without ever becoming solid, I wonder if we care enough to look hard at what lurks inside? The dark that lies within.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
For years I've been wondering why the entire freakin' economy had to run on consumerism - it just seemed a damn weak foundation for the Greatest Democracy on Earth (pre-Bush the Small, I would have agreed with that moniker).
The message I kept hearing was "Buy more, or we all die."
Two days ago I saw yet another panicky headline along these lines: if consumer confidence tanks, it will be a death blow to the anorexic economy (paraphrasing. Catchy headline, eh?)
How about, INSTEAD, we keep critical manufacturing stateside, save the educational system, boost family savings, and make productivity and technology gains chug the economy along and, incidentally, the rest of the world's economies. Yes, it's a full-scale reform, but otherwise we may become China's whipping boy for a long time.
Here is a great article about why the economy has tanked. Not all due to Bush's feats (or little feat) but at least it gives some credibility to the idea that the "machine" has eaten it's own guts.
Here is another article, from last year, about when the crash began, and why.
So what is really happening? Actually, it’s simple. The difference today is that China and other large investors from abroad, including Middle Eastern oil magnates, are telling the U.S. that if interest rates come down, thereby devaluing their already-sliding dollar portfolios further, they will no longer support with their investments the bloated U.S. trade and fiscal deficits. Of course we got ourselves into this quandary by shipping our manufacturing to China and other cheap-labor markets over the last generation.
If there were any justice in the world, every credit card company would be allowed to eat their losses (instead of riding consumers even after bankruptcy), and so would every one that took big risks in the mortgage industry. After all, they all made big money because they took big risks. It's Captialism 101 - let the free hand (of the market) work. If they had made low profits, the risks would have been low, and they wouldn't be crying about going under.
Let them eat cake.
The ethical consideration, for me, is that these big corporations made profits at unreasonable levels for years on the back of consumers. Yes, ignorant consumers, but then we don't let evil creeps sell drugs to children, do we?
Easy credit was an oxymoron when I was growing up. Once upon a time people had to earn their credit, and lenders had good reason to be cautious. If someone didn't pay, the lender lost out. No federal bailouts for really big mistakes.
Don't get me wrong - the problem isn't profits, it's exorbitant profits. Watch how the big oil companies start to twitch when we all notice how crazy it is for Exxon to post record profits while high fuel prices are adding to our collective economic woes.
My dream? One day people will start to notice pharmeuceutical profits.
I think I'll plan a trip to the Bahamas.... why wait?
In a career that spanned seven decades, Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality, and promoted a search for answers to what he called the "Big Questions" in the realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.Along the way, he became one of the richest men in the world, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the philosopher Charles Taylor and an array of prominent Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.
The short version is he was young, brilliant, got cancer, and died. Good news is that there is a lot that happened in between, including some fantastic work in the field of virtual reality for education. The glimpse into that field alone was well worth the hour to hear his presentation.
There was also the entertainment value of his lecture, and the simple voyeuristic pleasure of finding out if he really did know stuff. Like the secret to Life. I mean, he was dying and all, so maybe since he was obviously closer to Death than the rest of us mere mortals, he could loosen the veil a bit, peek behind and tell us (virtually) how it looks.
Yeah. He kinda did.
What I most enjoyed about Pausch was his high human, regular guy quotient. For a professor that is.
He spoke authentically, with passion, with humour and with some serious good insights. I found myself writing some of it down, and putting some quotes on the mirror at home.
My favorite: "Brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from people who don't really want it."
I'm not usually one to get all fuzzy headed about uplifting messages (please kill the person who makes big eyes on photos cats and dogs). But I was inspired. And it's true that it was the awful fact of his pending death (he was given 3 - 6 months, but lived a year :) that gave his message weight. Death is a great clarifier, if nothing else.
Funny to think about what you have to do for attention in this country. Either make a wreck of your life (have an affair while your wife is fighting breast cancer), don't wear underwear with a skirt - regularly (shudder), win an Olympic Gold (go Michael Phelps!) or die.
Check out the lecture for yourself. I'm still curious enough to see what he says about time management.
Even better - that a lot of people were curious enough to listen to Randy Pausch in the first place, maybe looking for confirmation of what we already know - That in itself is uplifting.
gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
April 10, 1899 in Chicago