Hiding and Guilt

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hiding-from-customers

 

Almost a year ago, I met a man.  I was looking for an architect who would do some pro bono work for small, local businesses.  These small businesses were willing to make a financial commitment to their businesses and make physical improvements to buildings in a blighted area.  I wanted to make sure that the end results were beneficial to the district and the business owners.  I wanted to get the most bang for our buck, as my organization was giving out grants to encourage these improvements.  A name of a local architect was recommended to me, and I gave him a call.  From our first phone conversation, we hit it off.  I explained what I needed and what my organization was hoping to accomplish.  He generously offered to meet with building and business owners.  We made an appointment for an initial meeting the following week. Continue Reading »

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Remembering That We Are Women

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About five years ago, I received an email from a woman.  She was someone I knew through work, but not very well.  I still remember the date:  January 2, 2008.  In her email, she told me about a New Year’s resolution that she had made.  She wanted to reach out to the people in her life that she admired and wanted to get to know them on a more personal level.  It seemed that I was part of that resolution.  She and I knew each other professionally.  We were often in meetings together.  Oftentimes, she and I were the only women in attendance.  Her resolution was to reach out to women like me, women she knew in a professional sense, but wanted to get to know on a more personal level.  I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback.  Why did she want to know me?  What was this all about?  I remember briefly wondering if she was going to try to sell me something.  Pampered Chef?  Candles?  I hated those kind of “parties” where women got together and then were forced out of politeness to purchase something that they didn’t want or need. Continue Reading »

Disappointment

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Disappointment.  How to get over it?  How do we move on from situations that disappoint us?  I often struggle with that question.  Over and over in our lives, we are confronted with disappointments.  How do with deal with it?  How do we move on and let go?

Some disappointments are quite insignificant.  For example, today I really wanted a Big Mac.  By the time I got around to getting my lunch, it was well past lunchtime, and I was really hungry.  I was looking forward to my sloppy burger.  I sat in a long, long line at the drive-up window waiting for my turn to order.  I didn’t mind the wait.  I was having an enjoyable conversation on the phone with my son.  I didn’t allow impatience to sneak in.  Finally, I had my food, and I pulled into a parking space to quickly eat before returning to the office.  I pulled my fries out of the bag, and they looked terrible.  They were too dark (which is odd for the crazily regimented McDonalds.)  OK, it wasn’t the fries I had been craving anyway, so I set them aside and grabbed my Big Mac.  I instantly knew that this wasn’t good.  Thunk, thunk…the bun was as hard as a rock, and it was cold, too.  Yes, I was disappointed, but I dealt with it.  In case you’re wondering, and T was wondering, I ate it anyway. Obviously, I’ve learned how to deal with the everyday, minor disappointments pretty well.

It is the larger disappointments that I’m not so good at dealing with, facing, letting go, or getting past.  How do we deal with the things in life that don’t go our way even if we have put our heart, our soul, and a vast amount of energy into it?   How do we deal with disappointment over something that didn’t go as we had envisioned?  How do we deal with tragic loss?   I’m not good at all in dealing with the larger disappointments life throws my way, and that bothers me.

December 11 is a fine example of ME hanging onto, not being able to let go of a disappointment.  My superstition, hatred, and fear of November is another example.  Believe me there are a host of other disappointments, but this isn’t about MY LIST of disappointments or regrets.  What this is about is the fact that it’s finally sinking in that I need to learn how to LET GO of disappointment instead of replaying it over and over in my mind…looking for a way I could have changed the outcome.

I have decided to face this head on.  I am going to begin dealing with the subject of disappointment just like I would deal with a challenge that I might face at work.  I am going to begin by educating myself on the mechanics of disappointment.  What is a common reaction?  What is unusual?  What is normal behavior, and what is over the top?  Once I identify where I fall on the scale of what is considered “normal,” then I will educate myself on what to do about it.

I don’t want to become cynical.  I don’t want to be a grouch or a recluse.  I want to learn how to LET GO of the disappointment in a healthy and constructive way.  I don’t want to be a Pollyanna, either.  While I know that there are lessons to learn from many of our disappointments, I now realize that some things are simply not fair.   That’s life!   Those are the ones that are difficult to let go of and move on from.  When life treats me unfairly, it makes me angry.  An angry person is not who or what I want to be.  The disappointments we all face are often not our choice, but how we deal with them is well within our control.  Now…I just need to figure out how to do that!

 

“We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world,”

~  Helen Keller

Sanctuary

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Sanctuary – A place of refuge or safety

 

 

Those of you who have read the blog for a while might remember that I moved offices several months ago.  I was a little apprehensive about the move.  I had really liked  my office.  I was happily settled there, but the move would make it easier for me to supervise staff and would save me many trips down the hall each day.  To complicate matters, I would be locating to an office I had formerly occupied.  I had worked in that old office during some of the worst days of my life, but I couldn’t really say, “Oh, I don’t want to move to that office.  It holds too many memories from a very difficult time in my personal life.”  Yeah, I didn’t think that would go over too well.  While they might think I’m a little quirky at work, they don’t actually think I am insane.  (I think!)

The office suite had been completely remodeled with new paint and new carpet.  It was now a tranquil color, instead of the former industrial blue.  It had always been a very bright and  sunny space.  I followed the advice of Seasweetie and placed a bowl of fresh lemon on my desk.  I don’t remember why, but I believe it was to improve the feng shui in the new space.  Below is a picture I took on move-in day.  There are the lemons in the little orange bowl I bought to add a little more color to the space.  The lemons are gone now, after growing a lovely crop of fuzzy mold.  I still have the bowl, though, and it’s usually filled with Hershey’s Miniatures.  🙂

 

 

The office has turned out to be a wonderful, calm, peaceful, place of comfort.  I have accomplished some of my best work in that space, and it has been interesting to come back to the same space under different circumstances.  There are four of us who share the suite of offices.  It doesn’t allow the same amount of privacy as my former office, but I find that I enjoy the company.  While I could close my door if I chose, I rarely do.  The only time the door is shut is if I am on a conference call or working on something that needs complete concentration.  (What I mean is that I have to shut it to force myself to concentrate and not allow the ADD to kick in and make my mind wander.)

One man and three women share the four offices and common reception area.  In the six months since we became office mates, we have formed sort of an alliance.  We chat back and forth through our doors.  We pooled our funds and set up a pretty nifty coffee station in the reception area complete with top shelf coffee and a variety of creamers.  We’ve brought in plants and hung pictures.  Never once has an unkind been word been spoken among the four of us.  This pleasant companionship has come to mean a great deal to me.

It’s been interesting to watch as our friendships have transitioned from the friendship of co-workers to real friendship.  What has even been more interesting is the fact that other people in our building have begun to notice.  Our office suite has become known as a sanctuary.  People often comment on it and stop in to sit in the reception area and relax for a few minutes.  The politics, alliances, manipulation, and undermining that go on in other areas, just don’t exist in our little suite.  Instead, we have created a pleasant, welcoming, and productive place to work.

This week  someone gave me a gift card for Chick-fil-A.  (YUM!)  Today the gentleman in our little group asked if anyone wanted to go with him to shop during lunch.  He needed help choosing a Christmas gift for his wife.  We all said that shopping sounded like fun, and I offered to buy everyone lunch with my gift card.  So the four of us took off for the mall during our lunch hour.  As we sat eating lunch, I realized what a curious group we made.  One man in his 30’s, a young woman in her late 20’s, and two older (ahem, one of them would be me!) women sharing lunch at the mall.  It was so enjoyable, and I realized how blessed I am not only to have a job that I love, but to be able to work with people I truly like.

Life can be difficult, painful, crazy, and confusing sometimes.  Right now, my life seems to be a mixture of all of those things.  Today,  I was thankful for these good people who are a part of my life.  Their kindness and friendship are blessings.  Months ago, I worried about sharing office space, making a move, having another change in my life, but it turned out to be such a good thing for me.  The space we share has become my sanctuary from all the craziness in my life.  In that place, and with these people, I am able to find moments of peace.

I wasn’t able to spend time shopping with them.  I had an enjoyable lunch, though, and then I headed over to the hospital to check on my mom.  The situation is not good, and there isn’t a thing anyone can do (or will do) to make it better.  No, her leg wasn’t broken, but she has a torn meniscus.  Ordinarily, this could be repaired, but Mom isn’t healthy enough for surgery.  She is in a great deal of pain, but is only allowed a limited selection and amount of pain relieving drugs.  As a dialysis patient, medications can quickly become toxic.  The doctors are concerned that she will die if they were to perform surgery.  They are concerned that she will die if they give her enough medication to actually help with her pain.  What are they preserving?  Her quality of life is negligible at this point.  No matter what my personal feelings have been, past hurts and personality conflicts mean very little at this point.  It’s frustrating and painful to watch her go from one medical crisis to the next.  She has told me she wishes that she could just die.  What do I say to that?  I would be feeling exactly the same way if I were in her position.

I look back on the last two years, and I marvel at the sadness, the losses, and the changes.  But it is moments like today with my co-workers, that also show me that even during the worst of times, good things continue to come my way, too.  I have to be sure to keep my heart open.  I need to let the good in to help carry me through the bad.

Let Us Be Lovely

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I am a nice person.  I am kind and soft-hearted.  I truly do want those around me to be happy.

I am not perfect.  Yep, I certainly can be grouchy, pushy, even bitchy, but all it takes is one word from someone I care about (or even don’t!) and I will try my best to tone it down, be kind, cooperate.  Ask me for help, and I’ll do my best to help you.  Need an ear or a friend to listen?  Well, I will try to shut up long enough to be there.  Hugs, a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold?  That’s me.  It’s so darn easy.  It’s not too much to ask.  Strip everything else away, and human kindness (besides food and shelter) is truly the most essential thing we crave.  I’m not an expect by any means, but it might rank right up there with our most basic biological needs.  Most of us understand that.  We need kindness, and we are more than willing to give kindness in return.

As I said, I am not perfect, but I am not nearly as bad as I have been imagining myself to be.  The mind is a tricky thing.  Those who get a kick out of messing with people’s minds engage in a game that is way too easy to win.  It’s easy to get a person to become filled with doubt.  Play on their need to give and receive HUMAN KINDNESS.  Get them to love you, trust you, and then do a complete 180.  Next step, blame them.  Don’t blame them openly, just start feeling sorry for yourself.  Make them feel guilty and inadequate.  Make them feel that if they only tried harder, everything would be OK again.  Good people will want to help you.  You’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hand in no time.  This, my friends, is what is called a toxic relationship.  Beware!  The danger is out there lurking behind the eyes of people who will be ever so happy to tell you what a “great guy” they are!

Life can be complex and painful, or it can be quite simple.  Like breathing, or having a bowl of cereal in the morning, living a life of kindness should come quite naturally and easily to normal people.  It should be part of our daily routine.  Making a choice each day to be kind, to be at peace, to live honestly and with integrity, will bring us back to a place of rest and peace at the end of the day.

At lunchtime today, I sat in my car thinking, relaxing, and eating a McDouble.  The sun was shining.  The sky was that beautiful, crisp, dazzling blue of an early autumn day.  My sunroof was open, and a cool breeze ruffled through my hair.  I felt peaceful and content.  As I sat there in the McDonald’s parking lot, I looked around me.  The guy across from me was sitting in his car, necktie loosened, reading the sports page.  He looked up, and I toasted him with a fry.  He smiled.  I smiled.  Life is good, and I am thankful that today I took a moment to open my eyes to the beauty and kindness all around me.

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, You! Over Here!

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Something strange happened to me  one day last week, and it got me to thinking.  Strange things are always happening to me.  I am a magnet for the world’s oddities.  I happen to believe that it’s because I am open to new experiences.  I am always waiting for meaning in my life.  I keep the lines of communication open to the world beyond.  I have a lot of friends there.  They might want to get in touch with me!

I started, what has now become a tradition, a few years ago.  Souper Sundays.  I love to make big batches of soup in the winter.  I love to have people over for Sunday dinner.  And thus, Souper Sundays were born.  If you like soup, and it’s Sunday, then c’mon over!  The kids always knew that friends could be invited for Sunday dinner.  My parents often came, too.  Through the years, we have had regulars Sunday guests.  Some still come for dinner on Sundays.  Others, not as frequently, but always they know that they’re welcome.  Out of Souper Sundays, another tradition has grown, too.  In the summertime, Cheeseburger Sundays have replaced Souper Sundays.  We don’t just serve cheeseburgers.  Last Sunday, we had hot dogs and brats, too, but you get the drift.

When I told my (former) therapist about Souper Sundays, she claimed that I “collect strays.”  I had never thought of it in such terms, but she was right.  I hate for people to be alone or lonely.  I want those around me to feel welcome and cared for.  I want to trust that people are basically good.  Oh, and have I mentioned that trusting and welcoming people into my life has bit me in the butt a time or two? 😦   For the most part, collecting strays, as my therapist called it, has been one of the most rewarding things in my life.  I have an eclectic group of friends.  I cherish the hell out of them.  I’ve met some of the best people in the world, because I have been willing to take that chance and reach out to them.

Tonight as I drove home from work, my phone rang.  It was one of my best friends, a 70-year-old man.  He frequently comes over for Souper Sundays.  Yes, he was a person that I brought home and made a part of our lives.  He also became one of the most influential people in my life.  He became my mentor and my shoulder to cry on.  He became a friend to T, who loves to fish with him, and he became like a grandpa to the kids.  I was so thankful to hear his voice tonight, to talk and laugh with him, and to hear the smile in his voice as we caught up on each other’s lives.  I felt so thankful as I drove along talking to him that I had to burst out and tell him how much I loved him.  He laughed so genuinely and said, “I love you, too.”  Good friendships are priceless!

Back to the incident last week.  After meeting T for a quick lunch, I stopped by Target to pick up a few household items.  I was browsing around in the women’s clothing department, when a woman stopped me.  She said, “Can I ask you a question?”  I said she could, but instead of asking me anything,  she stood there scrolling through pictures on her phone.  I waited, but was a little freaked out.  What kind of picture was she going to show me?  Did I look like someone she knew?  Once she found the picture she had been looking for, she flipped her phone around for me to see.  “Do you think this dress is appropriate to wear to a funeral?”

Oh, my.  No.  It most certainly was NOT something that I would wear to a funeral.  It was the kind of dress that I would see someone else wearing in such a situation and wonder what in the hell they were thinking!  It had spaghetti straps and was a maxi dress.  I LOVE the new maxi dresses that are out this year.  Too bad I will never get a chance to wear one!  I’m so short that it would look like I was playing dress up in my mother’s clothes.  Even if I hemmed a maxi dress, it would still never look right on me.  Maxi dresses are for beautiful, tall, stately women.  To pull of a maxi dress, you must be lanky and elegant.  That is NOT me!   Hey, accept what you have.  I love the dresses, just not for ME.

This poor woman asking for my advice obviously owned the maxi dress that she had pictured.  Uh oh…  I didn’t know what to do.  First of all, it was definitely NOT appropriate to wear to a funeral.  I felt bad, though, when I looked up at her.  She looked so hopeful!  She said,  “What if I wear a white shawl with it?”  (Oh, boy…..yuck!)  Also, she didn’t look like she had a great deal of money to spend.  I don’t mean to be judgmental here.  Been there, done that, recognize the look.  So, I went against my fantastic fashion sense, and gave her some practical advice.  I suggested that a white shawl may look a little too perky for a funeral.  Yeah, I think I used the word perky.  I suggested that maybe she could use a lightweight, short-sleeved flyaway cardigan.  I told her that it was such a versatile piece of clothing to own.  You could pair it with so many things, and it just so happened that I had seen one a few moments ago that would be just perfect.  (Perfect if you HAD to wear a maxi dress to a funeral.)  This woman and I took off across the department to check out the cardigans.  When she saw it, her eyes lit up.  YES!

We were both so happy about this fashion find, that I forgot that she was outfitting herself for a funeral.  Heck, I think we almost hugged.  I quickly apologized for her loss.  She reassured me that it was no big deal.  Very old person, more like a family reunion.  Well, OK…

You would think the story would end there, just a tale to tell, but no.  Yesterday, I was in kind of a cruddy, sad mood.  I was driving down a busy street on my way to lunch.  I was feeling kind of (no, VERY) lonely.  As I drove along, I glanced up.  There she was.  Wow.  I was shocked.  There was the maxi dress woman walking along on the sidewalk.  It looked like she was just out taking a walk on a beautiful summer day.  She looked up just as I looked over at her.  In the moment that I recognized her, she also recognized me.  Her face lit up, and she waved like we were old friends.  There.  That is why I keep on trusting and believing in the goodness of people.   Most people…just not all of them.

27 (well, 31) Years Across The Table

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T and I have been married for almost 27 years.  We dated for four years before getting married.  I was 15 years old when we started dating.  He was 17.  You can do the math on that one.  I often wonder how many times we have done certain things, said certain things.  How many meals have we shared? 

Meals are very important to us and to our entire family.  From the beginning of our marriage, we have shared the evening meal together whenever possible.  As the kids began coming along, that evening meal became even more important.  It was the one time each day when we were all gathered together without any distractions.  We shared our days, and our lives, with each other. 

Now with our kids growing up and having busy schedules of their own, we never know from day-to-day how many people will be at our dinner table.  Some days, it is just T and I with little Lola.  Other days, our table is full with all of our kids and a variety of their friends.  Either way, there is a daily gathering at our table each evening.  During good times and bad, our family shares the evening meal each day.

T and I have been finding it increasingly difficult to have private conversations.  There are always interruptions, second opinions, and distractions when we try to talk to each other at home.  By the time we find ourselves alone at the end of the day, we are often too tired to care about talking.  This past year, we have started meeting each other for lunch a few times each week. 

This has been a stressful week for me.  I am juggling way too many balls at work right now, and preparing for work-related travel next week.  Tonight, I am giving a presentation at City Council, and I will miss that important evening meal.  I was engrossed in my work this morning when my phone buzzed with an incoming text.  T asked me, “Do you have your hat on?”  I just smiled.  I had told him this morning that I had on my “Bitch Hat,” and I wasn’t even out of my robe yet.  Before I was even out of bed, I was responding to work emails via phone.

It’s kind of an amazing thing to me whenever I get a text from him.  I know the effort it takes him to compose a text.  T is NOT a techno geek.  🙂  He sent another text asking me to meet him for lunch, but that I better not be wearing the hat around him.  T always has a way of reminding me of who I am and where I come from.  He brings me back down to Earth.  T is my past.  He is green grass and days spent fishing.  He keeps me grounded and reminds me of the things that I truly hold dear in my heart. 

I enjoy the lunches T and I share.  We are two different people when we meet during the work day.  We are both in “work mode,” not Mom and Dad or Husband and Wife mode.  We don’t talk about the kids.  We don’t talk about household matters.  We talk about our mornings, what we did at work so far, or what our afternoons hold.  We are T and Pam.  We meet for a few moments several times each week just as ourselves.