Category Archives: giving

Pity Party

We all go there sometimes, with or without hats, streamers, and blow horns. We may have been invited by a disappointment, or we may not even know how we ended up there in the first place, hog-tied and teary eyed. Pity parties are the parties that everyone has gone to at least once. And if you have only attended once, count yourself especially special. We have a million things that make us happy. We have things in our lives that make our hearts smile, people in our lives that are there when everyone else goes to their own pity party and ignores the invite to ours. That’s okay.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less of a friend any more than it means we’re any less of a friend when we can’t step out of our own muck to join in theirs. Which is why reflection, during times of joy, is particularly useful and powerful for all of us. If thinking about what we don’t have can get us into our own pity-party, then maybe thinking about what we do have can get us into our own celebration of gratitude – which is typically much healthier, not to mention good for our spirits.

I spent too much time over the holidays indulging in my own pity party. I even pulled others in, and blocked some out completely. It’s easy for the guilt-ridden part of me to focus on that, to drown in my own stupid selfishness. But now that I’m done with that party and my sunshine has shone its rays across the horizon of life again, I find that I have no interest in going back. Sure, the raccoon bagged red eyes were a beautiful site. The hunched over zombie crawl of going through the motions has its haunting attraction. But maybe it was a little ungrateful and self-indulgent of me to be that version of myself. I don’t have Cancer. I have two amazing kids. I have some of the sweetest friendships, a man who loves me even through my obnoxious moments, and a dog who revolves her days around the comings and goings of her two-legged mommy. Sure, I’ve experienced lots of death & heartbreak. I’m 40.

Still, I have 100 New Years Resolutions, and only one year to make it happen. 365 days of self-pity-free openness to life. That should cover all 100 resolutions. I’m so far from perfect, and I’m not so rose-colored as to think that I won’t struggle with this mission. But like anything else worthwhile and life-changing, I’m taking it one day at a time. My wish is that everyone takes time this year to reflect on the good, take inventory of the blessings, to reach out to those who struggle more than ourselves, and journey toward that ever-changing silver lining. Pity parties after all are so 2016. 2017 is about JOYful gratitude.

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.

As for me…

This month, it will be four years that I’ve been the only adult in my home. That’s the longest I’ve ever been ‘head of household’. Ever. Right now, as I’m interviewing for jobs, there is on consistent theme going on in my conversations. I am Robin. I am the sidekick. I am not Batman. I may be at home, but I don’t want to be full-time, all the time, day-in and day-out Batman. I just don’t have it in me to be the happy boss lady. My mom was the boss. I was the minion. And maybe I wasn’t okay with that until she passed away, until I HAD to be Batman and was forced out of my sidekick flip-flops and into my superhero boots. Still, that has been my epiphany. Some people are born leaders, and admittedly, I always thought I was one of those. Maybe in a way, I still think I am – on an emotional intelligence level but NOT on a business level. 

I am the girl who will give everything away if it’s up to her, and no one is telling her to do otherwise. I am the girl who understands people’s hardships a little too well, and will cave in to their sob stories. And guess what? I don’t want to change a thing. I could’ve become hardened by now. By the grace of God, I haven’t. Have I grown wiser? Yes. At least I hope so. Have I stopped caring so much what others think? Yes. That sort of ended with the passing of my mom. So what’s a girl with sidekick talent and no live-in superhero to do? 

Wait for it.

That’s all. Don’t dive in. Don’t rush things. Just wait until his time is right. Can I get an Amen?!

After two divorces, the absolute LAST thing I want in my life is a husband who is NOT ready to be married, or be committed, or say ‘forever’. Robin is Batman’s sidekick because he respects his superhero and his superhero is respectable and committed as well. Robin didn’t just start following Batman around one day in hope’s that maybe…just maybe he would be accepted. There’s is a mutual friendship, and a mutual commitment. That’s how it should be. That’s how a marriage should be as well.

I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that Robin could handle his household just fine without Batman. He could pay bills, do laundry, handle the kids’ fighting, keep the yard tidy, shop for the groceries, get the mail – he could do all of that perfectly fine without Batman. Batman could do all of that without Robin. 

But no man (or woman) was created to be ‘a rock’ as Simon and Garfunkel would say. We were made for each other, in our own time, when we’re both ready. Because while both Batman and Robin are perfectly fine alone, together they save the world.

We will also save the world, in our own little way. Until then, we have daydreams and roadtrips. We have weekends and long talks. We have time to savor. Time together, until we have all the time we are given  and we are ready to fly as one. 

The branch and the tree

We’ve all heard that rusty old adage about the branch not falling far from the tree, but most of us were made from two trees. When you look deep inside yourself, do you see more of your mom or your dad? When you look on the surface of yourself, the physical traits, maybe the ‘you’ that you reveal to the outside world, do you see mama tree or papa tree? For whatever reason, during my morning meditation, my mind got stuck in this fascination, so much so that I started seeing everyone in my with their own bodies and their parents’ faces. It should be say that my mind is supposed to be clear for meditation and I take no drugs whatsoever.;)

My dad was the ‘people’ person of my parents. My mom also was a people person, but on a quieter less severe scale. Dad would do just about anything to make people laugh and he always wanted to rescue people & lift them up, even if sometimes there situations were much to heavy & they weren’t helping themselves. ‘That sounds a whole lot like me’ I think (outloud). And it does! Those are wonderful traits that can also be terrible traits when you allow yourself to fall too deeply into other peoples’ pits. Take that pit as a pun, if you want. As it is, I have completely and unintentionally duplicated my dad’s ‘good samaritan’ side, so much so that it almost destroyed me on numerous occasions. It turns out that dad’s ‘coat off his back’ looked better on him than on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am Christian. I strive to be like Jesus every day, but I am trying to be more like the man and less like his shoes. Shoes always end up falling apart.

My mom was the ‘strong’ person of my parents. She was the spirit that held our family together. She was my ‘little voice’, and the reason I made so many of the right choices I’ve made in my life. Don’t get me wrong. My mom was extremely generous too. She would let people come back and work for the company more times than I would’ve ever thought to. She had more confidence than she ever let on, but sometimes her pride would fail her. She trusted until you gave her a reason not to, and she believed that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. She was one of the least judgemental people I ever knew and she believed that everyone should have a fighting chance at success. I like to think that I follow in her foot steps. I like to think I landed close to her tree too.

I honestly feel that most of our branches that have fallen close to both of our trees. We got through life, get buried with burden, survive and bloom and grow. That’s how life goes. Some of us were blessed with two amazing parents, whether they remained together or not.

I was blessed in that sense. While my dad was just on this eart for 44 years, and mom for 64, they squeezed more love into their short lives than I can fully comprehend, which is why I am happy that this branch did not fall far from her trees, that I can still see the forest, and that growth is forever possible even after older trees die out.