Archive for Spirit

Love Song

Sunday night I was listening to music as I prepared dinner, and one of the songs that came on was a love song that a friend of mine had teased me about liking. It’s a chick song, sappy and romantic.

It was my friend’s contention that songs like that are silly and unrealistic, much like chick flicks. (You’ve figured out this friend is male, right?) You know, I didn’t argue with him because I don’t really disagree with him, not completely anyway.

There have been times that I have tried to fight what I now call “my chickly nature” but I’ve largely given up that fight. Hugh Grant’s got a new movie in which he plays the same character he always plays? I’ll watch it. They’ve turned another Nicholas Sparks novel into a movie starring impossibly fit and good-looking actors? Let me just grab some kleenex. Some pop band has a new hit describing undying love to a catchy beat? Here’s my 99 cents.

I think men are opposed to these kinds of sappy romantic songs/movies/books because they feel it sets a pretty high standard to live up to. I’m just projecting here, but I’ve heard how some women talk, what their expectations are, and that’s a lot of pressure for men to perform. And even a more mature, level-headed, and experienced woman who may not “expect” her man to wax poetic about how her body is a wonderland, is probably still hoping he feels that way. And wouldn’t it be great if he let her know? Yeah, it would be so much easier for men if other men didn’t put these things out there in the universe for them to be compared to.

What occurred to me as I sipped a glass of wine and made chicken cacciatore was that these songs and movies make it hard for women too. No, I’m not talking about the unrealistic expectations they place on their men, setting themselves up for disappointment, but the unrealistic expectations they put on themselves.

Because I think the truth is, women aspire to be the kind of women that inspire the devotion and adoration expressed in sappy love songs—-and that’s a pretty high standard too. It’s amazing the lengths some women will go to to be loved. The Little Mermaid, afterall, was willing to give up her family and the life she knew, even changing the very essence of her being for the man she loved. Even women who don’t go to those lengths may still do and sacrifice a lot for the love of their husbands and family.

So should we abandon the romantic ideal since very few seem to be able to live up to it? I don’t think so. If men and women are striving to be more loving and lovable is that such a bad thing?

Thanksgiving Gratitude List

‘Tis the season of gratitude and thankfulness. And I’m a big fan of gratitude as a spiritual practice and a mental health aid. It’s practically a law of nature that in any particular moment, I’m okay. When I can live in the now, I feel a lot better. And one of the tools I use to live in the now is gratitude. Even in the worst of times, there is always something to be grateful for.

So with Thanksgiving just a couple days away, I thought I would write about the top 8 things I’m most grateful for today.

8.  Living in San Diego

With the exception of a few years, I’ve lived in San Diego County all my life. I love it. We do plan to leave here when we retire so that we can enjoy a lower cost of living, but I love my hometown. And it’s not just about the weather (although that is part of it). In the span of a couple hours you can go from the beach, through a major city, through the mountains, and into the dessert—or to another country. The tourist attractions that we take for granted, our beautiful harbor and beaches (beautiful, not warm)—they’re all things to be proud of. I could go on, but you get the point.

7. Living in the United States

With the recent election season, I think this one’s been on my mind more lately. Despite the contentious nature of this election, after the votes were counted there was no violence or armed uprisings. I try to remember (and to remind the kids) that that’s not something to take for granted. In a broad sense I feel safe here. I don’t worry about cops or militias breaking down my doors. If someone takes or damages my property I believe I have recourse. I generally know what to expect from my government and law enforcement. These are important aspects of freedom and security that I think we often overlook.

6. Financial Security

It gives me great peace of mind that we are not living on the edge financially. This is no accident, of course. We’ve managed our money and our lives so that we could have our financial peace of mind, and I’m grateful for that.

5. Loving Friends

I have a group of friends that I know I can count on, that love me unconditionally. I don’t get to see them as often as I would like because everyone’s so busy, but I know they’re there for me as I am for them.

4. Clean Water

I am so incredibly grateful that I can go to any number of faucets in my home, turn the handle, and get endless potable water. That’s just not true in so many parts of the world. When I visited the Clinton Library, I found a cool glass bottle for storing and serving tap water like some restaurants leave at your table. Proceeds from the sale of the bottle benefit Water.org, an international organization dedicated to getting access to safe water for everyone. I wish I’d bought more to give as gifts so I could help remind other people how fortunate we are.

3. My Job

I’m grateful to have a job. And I’m grateful that it pays well, isn’t stressful and awful, and that I don’t work long hours. I get to work with smart, dedicated, funny, (mostly) friendly people. Being employed, of course, really helps with that financial security I’m also grateful for.

2. Health

I am so thankful for my health and the health of my kids and husband. Life means health crises at some point, but right now we’re all healthy, and I’m so, so grateful.

1. My Husband

There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having found my husband, for having him in my life. I could write a whole sappy post on this topic, but that’s not the point (and really none of your business). Suffice it to say he’s the #1 thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

What are you grateful for this year?

Visiting Arkansas

This week I’m in Arkansas.

Five years ago my best girlfriend moved here and brought my goddaughter with her. The nerve! My mom moved out here a couple years later to retire near her sister. Both my mom and my friend moved to Arkansas for a lower cost of living, a slower pace, and to be near family. So after being harassed for the last 20 years by my cousins to come for a visit, I’m finally here.

Although the purpose of my trip is to visit people I love, I do hope to see a few of the sights while I’m here. I’ve heard about various things to do and see over the years, but also I picked up a nifty Northwest Arkansas Travel Guide ebook for $3.

Northwest Arkansas

My parents, aunt, uncle, and cousins live in Northwest Arkansas. Of course, the big story in this corner of the state is Bentonville, where Walmart is headquartered. Happily, I’m going to be in NWA for the first Friday of the month, and Bentonville has a festival of sorts every month—music, vendors, crafts, food samples, etc. The theme in November is Toyland. Yes—you guessed it—sponsored by Walmart. But the travel guide promises a “lively crowd,” so why not check it out?

Walmart also supports Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Their sponsorship allows free admission to the permanent exhibits and many of the temporary ones too. While I’m in Bentonville I may also check out the Walmart Visitor Center. Putting aside the controversy surrounding some of Walmart’s business practices, Sam Walton’s journey is the exemplification of the American Dream, so for that reason alone the visitor center could be interesting. And, hey, it’s free too!

One of the days I’m here, we’ll head out to Eureka Springs. A Victorian resort village on the National Register of Historic Places, it attracts artists, musicians, outdoors people, and newlyweds. It’s supposed to be quite charming.

But today we’re heading out to hike Hawksbill Crag, one of the “most photographed points and locations in Arkansas.” We have plenty of parks and hiking at home too, but when San Diego is your hometown, things like rivers and trees (and seasons) are kind of extraordinary. I want to enjoy the change of scenery and the fall colors—and not just through the windows.

Little Rock

I’m going to spend a couple days down in Little Rock too. The highlight of that part of my journey will be trick-or-treating with my goddaughter. But while she’s in school, I plan to check out the Clinton Library—excuse me, the Clinton Presidential Center. My husband and I plan to see all the presidential libraries (GAP YEAR!), and although we live 2-3 hours away from TWO of them, we have yet to visit one. Well, I guess we always take for granted the things that are in our back yard, don’t we?

I also hope to check out Central High School, where the “Little Rock Nine” attended school after Brown v. Board of Education. How brave were they? Even with federal troops looking out for me, I wouldn’t have had the guts to show up for school. Also on my Little Rock list—Big Dam Bridge (the world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge) and River Market District.

If I can squeeze it in during the couple days I’m in Little Rock, I also hope to get out to Hot Springs. I’m going to see if I can talk my girlfriend (and myself) into thermal mineral baths and Swedish massages at Buckstaff Bath House.

The Buckstaff is the only remaining operational bath house within the boundaries of the Hot Springs National Park and has been in continuous service since 1912.

I had no idea Hot Springs is a national park until I started doing research for this trip. Nice!

Sooie

Sounds like a lot to get done in a week, doesn’t it? Probably is. So to save time, I’ll forgo learning the Hog Call. Think I’ll stick to my Eight Clap.

I Quit — Being the Victim

When it comes down to it, there is very little in this world that we have control over. We can only control our own decisions and actions. Our environment and other people respond to our actions, but we cannot control what those responses will be. Sometimes things do not unfold as we think they will. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Still, I quit being the victim.

Notice I quit being the victim, not a victim. As I said, I don’t have control over anything but myself, so that means that sometimes I’m going to be a victim—of crime, of Mother Nature, of incompetent management, of heartbreak, etc. When I choose to pity myself and say, “Poor me”—that’s when I become the victim. Stuff happens; it’s how we react to it that defines who we are.

I do have control over how I react to stuff (good and bad). I don’t seem to have a lot of control over how I feel, but I always have control over my behavior. If I take on the role of the victim, if I send out invites to my pity party, I’m giving power to the person or circumstance that is causing me grief. Being a total control freak, it took a lot of work and time to realize how little control I actually have, so I don’t want to turn what little power I do have over to someone else.

And because I have control over my behavior, I need to take responsibility for my actions and decisions. If I contributed to my victimization, I need to own it. If I failed to take action, and that failure to act led to the situation, I need to own that too. When something doesn’t work out the way I planned, it’s up to me to determine how to respond. Do I whine to everyone who will listen? Do I curl up in a ball and hide under the covers? Or do I take steps to set things right and make things better? Do I put up a fight for myself?

I’ve found it sometimes helps to allow myself a specific period of time to feel the unfairness of it all, to just feel my feelings and acknowledge how sucky the situation is. But when the allotted time is up, I do my best to lift my chin, pull back my shoulders, and put one foot in front of the other.

One step at a time.

This is the third post in what may or may not be a five-part series. Last week I wrote about quitting finishing, and the week before that I wrote about quitting fixing people. Come back next week to see what else I quit (maybe it’ll be this series).

I Quit—Finishing

Winners never quit and quitters never win. That’s what we’re told, right? But sometimes quitting is exactly what we should do. Still, not finishing what I start is particularly challenging for me. So much so that quitting is actually growth for me. How can not finishing what you start be a positive move?

Books and Movies

Library BooksI’m so bad at putting down a book I’m not enjoying and walking away from a bad movie that my husband teases me about it. Nearly every book I read I get from the library, and most movies I watch are borrowed from the library or rented through my Netflix subscription, so my monetary investment is quite low. I think I keep reading/watching because I think the book or movie is going to get better. Someone recommended it to me or I saw something that made it look promising, so maybe I just haven’t given it enough time. No, usually I have. My initial impression after the first couple of chapters of a book or the first 20 minutes of a movie is usually accurate. These days I’m trying to value my time more by giving myself permission to stop bad books and movies.

Classes

Since finishing graduate school, I’ve enrolled in a few classes of various sorts—a modern dance class at a local studio, a course related to my new profession at a university extension program, a software class at an adult education school. I invested a fair chunk of change in the dance and extension courses, but almost half way through each one, I decided to quit. The dance class was supposed to be fun, but I found I enjoyed the idea of taking a dance class much more than the reality of it (including the commute and not getting home until very late on class nights). I decided I’d forgo the money paid in advance and drop the class.

Similar story with the online extension course. I wasn’t really supposed to be enjoying the class so much as learning stuff that I could use in the profession I was pursuing. But I found the online “classes” weren’t offering anything that wasn’t already in the textbook. When the team for the group project nominated me to lead, I decided I was done. This class wasn’t for entertainment and was quite costly, but I decided I’d rather have my evenings and weekends back and lose the money I paid for the course than endure the torment of the recorded classes and group project with a bunch of strangers. It took me several days to decide on this course of action because I also felt like I was letting my teammates down. (I got over it.)

Food

I come from a family of big eaters. I used to be teased about “eating like a bird,” and like most people my age, my parents told me to finish what was on my plate. They may have even whipped out the starving children in Africa bit on me from time to time. Those experiences—along with just living in the United States—have cured me of that avian-like eating style. But I need to quit finishing everything on my plate.

A number of researchers have found that we use visual cues (like all the food on our plate is gone) to tell us when we’re full rather than listening to our bodies. When we have bigger plates, we put more food on them—and then finish the bigger portions. Restaurants serve large portions, so we eat the large portions. None of this information is new to me, but I’ve been receiving this message multiple times in the last couple of weeks, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to quit finishing what’s on my plate.

Quit – Don’t Fail to Finish

I think most of us have unfinished projects creating clutter in our minds and homes. I wonder how many of those things are projects that we’ve quit, but refuse to acknowledge having quit. Instead we feel a little bit like failures because we have these unfinished things that we never seem to find the time to do. How liberating would it be to say, “I’m not going to finish that,” and free ourselves of the burden?

What have you quit finishing?

This is the second post in what may or may not be a five-part series. Last week I wrote about quitting fixing people. Come back next week to see what else I quit (maybe it’ll be this series).

Switch to our mobile site