Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why you should never ‘white flag’ the ‘red flags’ in dating

If you are constantly having to explain yourself- your whereabouts, who you’re texting, who you’re talking to, looking at, eating with, meeting with, talking about, and who may or may not have your attention at the moment – you need to leave.

If you feel yourself tense up at the thought of having to tell your significant other that you will be late, need to work longer than expected, or had a crisis come up with family that needs your attention – you need to leave. You are not free.

If you find yourself constantly defending his actions with friends or loved ones, because he has more stories than life – you need to leave. He only deceives.

If you have a nagging voice inside your head that constantly tells you this is ‘not the one’ no matter how much he tells you he ‘is the one’. Listen to it. The voice is smarter than you because it has no emotion. You need to leave. Let him be. He will be just fine without you. After all, he was fine before you, and no matter how much you’ve opened his eyes and heart, they will likely close back up for a while after you go. But now that he can remember how it feels to be in love, he will likely find it again with someone better fitted for him. You will both be better off, for the lessons learned in heartbreak.

Love does not have to be difficult. If it feels more like war, it’s not love. What you actually have is the battle of the egos between two people that are highly attracted to one another, but have no tenderness because there is no room for spirit when so much ego is involved. Sure, couples can work through this, but in truth, they shouldn’t have to – especially during the ‘dating’ phase. My mom always said that if you need a counselor when you’re just dating, you should just – leave. Life is much too short to spend it fighting, defending yourself, defending him, picking up his broken pieces, rationalizing his actions, or constantly trying to make him happy by making yourself more miserable.

We all deserve more.

It’s easy enough to believe otherwise. I know this from experience. After two failed marriages, my thoughts were that it must be my fault. It didn’t matter that both of them had addictions that interfered and broke down the infrastructure of us. I felt like the only common factor was me.

It wasn’t until I embraced the idea that I really do have so much love to give, and that someone out there will receive it without repercussions, that I discovered the him that gives me no reason to leave. I had to love myself and feel that I deserve more than pain and doubt, that in fact what I deserve is to receive what I offer – trust, honesty, belief, support, and unquestioning, unending love.

If your relationship does not lift you up, it’s dragging you down. Raise your flag and surrender to yourself, not because you’re ‘too weak’ to withstand the turmoil, but because you’re too smart to believe it’s your destiny.Image

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Good, Better, Best

When I was but a wee teen, I had the privilege of hearing the first most influential speaker of my life. It was at a church retreat, and the speaker went by ‘Deacon Don’. Although he was of my mom’s generation, and we teens were of the mentality that our parents knew nothing, most of us were captivated by his talk. His story was both universally appealing and personal, and his message resonated with us, not necessarily because we had been raised in as rigid of an environment as he, but because we had all felt the pressures of being human and living the tedious and sometimes tumultuous process of developing into young adults.

While I don’t recall the exact stories he told, the message lives within me to this day. As a child growing up, his father challenged him in every aspect, always responding to Don’s successes by saying ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest. Make the good better and the better best.’. If he brought home a report card with all A’s and one B, his father would challenge him to bring up that B. When he won a race in track, it would be the same. How could he improve upon winning an entire race? By achieving a faster race time, the next go around of course.

I remember thinking, ‘Geez, how much better can he get Mr. Dad? He won the race, he achieved perfect scores, what do you want from him?’. As a parent, I still agree that this level of expectation and pressure is overkill. However, as an adult, I must say that I finally understand the true point of this. On an individual level, if we’re always striving to be better than the self we were yesterday, we’re always going to be moving in the right direction. How can one truly digress if we’re so focused on progress? This isn’t to say we won’t have failures, pitfalls, and straight-up rock bottoms. But if we’re focused on improvement, we won’t find ourselves trapped there at rock bottom, because we always have our old selves as a shadow competitor. Therefore, we always have something to accomplish – a purpose, a goal, a record, something tangible and close in memory to better and a reason to make the best of ourselves.

In this journey called life, we will always encounter someone who is better, stronger, faster, wiser, funnier, ‘better’ than we are. If we have that innate competitive spirit, those are the people that can make us or break us, if we choose to focus on our competition. By focusing on outside competition, however, we lose sight of the internal workings of our own psyche and accountability is lost. Blame is always directed at someone outside of ourselves. In truth, our harshest competition lies within. We have demons. Each and every one of us.

For me, this demon takes physical form. I have never been in battle with myself on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. However, my physical form at 5′ with a muscular ‘stout’ build, has always been my arch enemy. No matter how much I try and become less ‘stout’, no matter how many miles I run, no matter how many times I kick the old rugged bag or lift weights, it’s never enough to transform the reflection I see. I never make the good better and the better best, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

While that may sound depressing, even hopeless, I think I have finally found a silver lining, and therefore, a victory in my own war. The fact that I love the internal Heather, the ‘light’ that shines through me and encompasses and sometimes even (hopefully) helps others, is healthy – even purposeful and fulfilling enough to keep me sane and motivated. Still, in a very simple sense, staying active in my physical battle, and never throwing in the towel means that I stay physically healthy and driven. I am fully aware, at 37, that my battle has everything to do with vanity and nothing to do with actual health, as I am not overweight or unhealthy. I am also fully aware of why I am never satisfied. I was targeted as a chubby teenager, made fun of, even laughed at. I wasn’t asked to prom, and didn’t date anyone worthwhile. I watched as my mother constantly struggled with self-image, and constantly battled the same war as me. However, my mom didn’t commit. She didn’t keep fighting the fight. While she spent her life taking care of others, she didn’t take care of herself. I always wanted to be a mom just like her, except that I didn’t want to give up on me. And on the day that she took her last breath, what she didn’t know was that my prayer and promise to myself was to keep fighting for the sake of me as well as for my children. I felt her regret, and there was only the one.

So I wake up each day with a purpose, and usually many purposes, but one thing holds true; I want to remain focused on making the ‘me’ better, so that I can be the best me I can be. While I know that I will never ‘win’ that victory, and that my reflection will never be the ‘best’, I at least know that I’m doing everything in my power to make that a reality. In the end, I want no regrets. In the end, I will know I have done my best. Ironically, that is exactly what my mom always told me was THE most important thing I could do.

 

Anticipation Proclamation

It’s been 26 years since the passing of my dad from his terrible suffering here on Earth, to the warm comforting arms of Heaven. It’s been 25 dreaded Father’s Days for me, his only child. Yet, for the first time since his passing, I am actually looking forward to this Father’s Day, and I had forgotten what it was like to anticipate, even become giddy at the thought of celebrating the life of a father. I am meeting the parents of my boyfriend for the first time this Sunday, and I could not be more honored. As an only himself, Doug’s relationship with his parents is incredibly strong. How could I not love these parents that created and raised such an amazing son?

As my mind has played around with this notion for the past week, I’ve experienced everything from shyness and hesitation to excitement and anticipation. Meanwhile, Doug has assured me that they will absolutely ‘love me’ every step of the way. That’s how he rolls, after all. As I step back, four days out, I’ve come to realize some things. Fatherhood is every bit as important as motherhood. Being raised (after the age of 11) by a single mom, and being one myself, I tend to take for granted the roles that fathers play in the lives of their children. Whereas moms are typically the ‘easy’, father’s take on the more difficult role as the ‘heavy’. I’ve seen this with my own 13 year old’s father, but it’s only now that I’m truly understanding the difficulty in assuming that role.

No matter how much you love your child, as a father, you are expected to always be the parent, the disciplinarian, the ruler. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen fathers that would sooner shoot themselves in the foot than take on that role. But in the case of Doug, that simply was not the case. When it was time for the business of parenting, the tough-love to come into play, Jim was the man for the job just as my dad had been. That sort of ‘no-nonsense’ parenting has fallen off the wayside with many in my generation. Yet I know, for a fact, that it’s effective. Tough love can mean the difference between raising a self-sustaining adult and an adult who still possesses entitlement issues, expecting everyone and anyone to come to their rescue. I’m not saying that mother’s cannot also demonstrate this style of parenting, of course. My mom, due to circumstances, had no choice but to parent this way. But by and large, for most two-parent families, this is the norm, and fathers tend to get sadly overlooked.

So this Father’s Day, if you have a dad, give him a big hug and say ‘thank you’. I’ve had a stepfather for the past 16 years, and he took that role on in the most loving and selfless way, even though I was already an adult when he officially stepped in. Even after my mom’s passing, he continues to succeed in his role, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Dads are strong, protective, and wise. Let’s give them their due. Without them, we would be in a much darker place.

Lucky Charms

Anyone who has ever experienced the joy of being in a new relationship with an old friend can attest to the butterflies that take up residency in the pit of the stomach; the nerves and anticipation at joining two worlds together; and the crazy infatuation that, if given the right nourishment, can blossom into the deepest and most transcendent of loves. Yet there are so many logistics that play into this major shift in lifestyle that the sheer ‘getting together’ can seem more like a chess game than the organic progression of spirit that falling in love should be. Somehow, if it’s right, the headaches that should logically play into planning seem to dissipate, and the whole world opens itself up to possibility where there once were only tightly locked chamber doors.

This is my life right now, and I simply could not feel more blessed. The only problem lies in the cluttered messes that have resurrected in the lives of people around me. When you’re in the state of unending bliss, it isn’t always easy to come up with solutions for people that aren’t in the same neighborhood. I find myself wanting to wave the magic wand my hand seems to have latched onto, and POOF there lives right into the same worry-free lightness in which I now live. My heart is exploding with a love that is both unconquerable impenetrable. I want to bless everyone and everything around me. While I’ve been in love before, it’s never felt like this. And I know that no two loves feel the same, but I’ve never been in love without worry, without doubt, and without some ominous gut-feeling that something unknown is lurking in the shadows threatening its very existence. Yet now, without that worry, I find myself strong enough to try and save the world from drama, natural disasters, scary scorpions hiding in the dark shadows of my best friend’s bathroom…whatever! But I am helpless.

I absolutely know that I would not be where I am without Faith, but I want that same Faith to quickly rush in and save everyone around me before they give up on God. It’s frustrating to look around and wonder (very quietly) what more can go wrong in peoples’ lives. Can’t I just swoop in with a bowl of lucky charms, four leaf clovers, and rainbows, and promise them that every obstacle is just a stepping stone toward the direction they are meant to travel? Sometimes I do participate in talks with God and actually say, ‘Can’t you just give her an inch? You gave me a mile!’. What I’ve learned is exactly that. I asked for an inch and have been given a mile, or a thousand miles really. My only prayer at this point is gratitude for what I’ve been given, and a large pleading cry for help for those around me that are facing some of their darkest hours.

All I know for sure is that those darkest hours turn into the brightest sunrises. They always do in time. It’s just the waiting that makes us edgy, cranky, hopeless, and (let’s face it) human! God’s time is always right on time, sometimes we just have to wait for it.

From the Ashes

 

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The most beautiful thing about life is that we always have opportunities to change its path. In the past three years, I have learned this well. Meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends today for lunch granted me the opportunity to hear her story, and learn her version of this truth in a way that left me literally in tears. For the sake of anonymity, we will call her ‘Jill’.

Jill and I met when I was only 8 and she was 6. We roller skated together, and quickly hit it off with our quirky personalities. Jill’s parents were going through a violent and malicious separation, and Jill herself had been witness to some pretty terrible physical fights, yelling matches, and emotional manipulation. So much so that she learned how to lie with the worst of them. Deception became a way of life for Jill, and a means for survival in such a deplorable environment. Her father was an alcoholic, and had taken to stalking and bullying she and her mom on a daily basis until he finally moved out of state and left them to clean up the many messes he had strewn across their lives. They lost their home, lost their support, and eventually lost friends who had continuously tried helping them.

Throughout the years that followed, Jill became more and more distant with me because she had started exploring the world of drugs and alcohol, which led to more lies and deception. Our friendship suffered, no matter how much I tried reaching out to her, because she was ashamed. She knew better. I never fully confronted her, nor did I burn that bridge, out of a hope that someday this ‘little sister’ would find her way and return. I decided at around 18 that I had no other choice than to love her from a distance. She had closed me out, locking the door firmly…. but not permanently.

Nineteen years and thousands of tears later, she let me back in. Only this time, she stands on solid ground with a good 6 years of sobriety under her belt. She spends her days and nights helping rescue others from the path that almost took her life. By the end of our lunch today, we were both sharing tears of gratitude. I am so proud of her, of what she has been through, and risen from, but more than that, I am proud of her for telling her story and changing her path.

Although our paths have been very different, we both have ended up finding the same answers. We have both struggled with such issues as abandonment, self-destruction, and co-dependency. But we have both come to the conclusion that none of these problems should ever define us, excuse us, or end our journeys. There is something to be said for rising from the ashes. We all must learn how to spread our own wings, make our own way. No one can do that for us. We all have different ashes from which to rise, and we all must find a way to unburden our wings. When we do this, and fully commit to flying as far from the ashes as gravity allows, we learn that we were actually meant to soar.