Thursday, March 29, 2012

Watering The Lawn: Envy Doesn't Grow a Garden

The dictionary defines envy as a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.  Everyone experiences it at some point in his or her life.  Whether it be a small child wanting her friend's new Barbie or an adult who wants her friend's income, envy strikes everyone.  Some people spend lifetimes envying others, while certain people develop an immunity to feelings of envy.  Most people will never achieve a level of being completely immune to the effects of being envious.  It goes against human nature to not want something terrific that someone else possesses.  However, trying to get into a position where envy occurs infrequently is a good goal to have. Envy comprises an emotion that causes cognitive dissonance, grief, and angst and should be avoided when at all possible.  That, unfortunately, is easier said than done.

It can be difficult viewing another person's success, prosperity, or happiness and not wanting the same things for yourself, especially if you feel as if you don't deserve them or will never be able to attain them.  Envy creates a vicious circle.  The primary problem with feelings of envy lies in the fact that if a person spends his or her time and energy wanting what others have, they are not dedicating the same amount of resources to achieving those things for themselves.  They waste time on wanting, when they could expend energy on manifesting wonderful things in their own lives.  Envy drains a person of the ability to craft from both hope and hard work, a life that brings fulfillment and satisfaction.  It is a black hole that sucks time, energy, and potential.

Someone once told me, "The grass wouldn't always be greener on the other side of the fence, if you spent more time watering your own lawn." This is such a true statement.  Everyone, including myself, should spend more time on their own gardens.  Look deeply inside yourself and determine which flowers you want to blossom in your life, and then make every effort to provide them water, sunshine, and energy.  Guaranteed, that with love, hard work, and devotion, the blossoms of your life will crowd out and subdue any weeds of envy.  Create your own beautiful space, your own fantastic life directing all that is you to the effort of making this short amount of time we have on earth profoundly meaningful.  Water your own lawn diligently and just see how wonderful your life can become.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


"Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact he possesses one."--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"How can we accept another to keep our secret if we have been unable to keep it ourselves."--Francois de la Rochefoucauld

"We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows."--Robert Frost

I've been thinking about secrets lately.  Everyone holds them, but almost to a person, everyone has the compulsion to confess them to someone else.  Once someone shares a secret, that person can no longer claim sole ownership of the information and the secret loses any benefits it might convey to the owner. In my opinion, it is okay to have a secret or two, it's even healthy.  We all need something to have that completely belongs to us and no one else.  We all need to have little cores of truth about ourselves that no one else knows.  I consider it a reserve of sorts, impenetrable and secure, that one uses when utter devastation occurs.  It is that last ditch sense of self that can be called upon to rebuild oneself when all is lost.  Secrets can be a good thing if they are chosen wisely, carefully, and used sparingly.

"Everyone is like a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody."--Mark Twain

"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other."--Charles Dickens

"His mind of man, a secret makes/I meet him with a start/he carries a circumference/in which I have no part."--Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Karaoke Life Lessons: Enjoying the Skin You Are In

Last night I went to karaoke.  My sister and her friend intended to meet me there at 10pm precisely, but did not arrive until almost midnight.  I had not been in a bar by myself in a very long time.  It felt weird to just be in the midst of a bunch of people and be obviously, significantly alone.  Nonetheless, I think I handled it well.  I walked confidently to the bar, ordered a beer, and placed my name in rotation for the singing.  Then I found a table and just sat back and observed people.  I fiddled with my phone for a bit, making it seem as if I were busy texting and not self-consciously sitting there.  After a few minutes of that, I put my phone down and I did some thinking about being alone and about why I even cared about how it looked to other people.  I actually really thought about the emotions coursing through me....a little anxiety, a little irritation, and some chagrin at even giving a damn about being on my own. After half a beer and some introspection, I happily determined that my feelings of anxiety and irritation were unnecessary, and if I had to, I could go out alone again and still have a good time. Another beer and two songs later when my sister and friend arrived, I was completely in my element, and enjoying myself thoroughly. 

Karaoke has become much more than just an evening out for me.  It is a place where I start really thinking about things for some reason, and I always learn something when I am least expecting it.  I have enjoyed my own company for as long as I can remember, but there are certain environments which usually require friends, a bar being one of them.  In certain circumstances, friends buffer you from feeling exposed or vulnerable. They empower you. Last night, however,  I realized that I am completely okay being alone pretty much anywhere I go these days.  Whatever discomfort I feel eventually passes and as long as I act confidently, things generally go very smoothly.  I need to remind myself to just act naturally and be me.  My me is good enough for being with company or being on my own, and there is no reason to feel anxious about anything.

I am really trying not to over think things lately.  It's when you start thinking too much that you become self-conscious.  I see this in my oldest son, Jack.  He thinks way too much and thus exhibits more shyness than my other two children.  They live quite a bit more in the moment than Jack does, and I wish he had more of their ability to just be present and not be concerned about anything else.  Maybe as I age, I will become a better model for him in this regard.  I am going to be more present in everything I do, and more willing to put myself in situations where I am not terribly comfortable, but still work within the parameters of them to have a good time.  I want Jack to be able to do that...feel comfortable in his own skin wherever he goes.  I think it is one of the better gifts I could give to him, and definitely one I know he would appreciate.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equal Measure

Sometimes in life, circumstances present themselves which surprise you, stimulate you, make you stretch and grow, and know yourself on a deeper level than before.  I have always believed firmly that you learn not from the situations themselves, but from your reaction to them.  How you move within them, and how the space becomes defined and delineated by your actions provides the most important aspect of the experience.  It is what you do, not what is done to you that causes the growth.

You can never hope to control the world around you.  It spins on its own axis as you spin on yours.  The best you can hope for is to control your reactions to things, to be mindful of how you behave, to have some foresight to possible consequences of your actions, and to deliberately make up your mind to act in a way that best serves your needs and the needs of those present in your life. By combining critical thinking, deliberate action, and then introspection, a person can learn a great deal about herself as well as go through life evenly and smoothly as possible.

Lately, I have been rethinking this particular philosophy. It seems to me to be limiting in allowing a person true knowledge, deep understanding of oneself. Sometimes not thinking about things, but just going with the sensation of them provides learning opportunities too.  I am one of those people dominated by my thoughts.  I over think things and forget to feel. I fail to ride out my emotions and experience the sensory input that life gives me.  I stop feeling with thought. On certain occasions one should be a feeling being and not a thinking one.  Emotions provide just as much potential for self-discovery as do thoughts and actions.  I should remember this more often because I have had some situations and instances recently while not completely devoid of sentient thought have been more directed by sensation and emotion.  Through them,  I have come to realize some profound truths about myself.

Finding yourself can be difficult and we should avail ourselves of whatever opportunities come our way to dig a little deeper, to feel a little more, to think acutely and critically about ourselves.  Discovering and integrating all the aspects of your personality, your preferences, your limitations and your dreams is liberating and it is something I hope to achieve someday by thinking and feeling and reacting in equal measure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fleeting Things and More Poems

Arachnid's Touch

Unlike the silk of a fine-spun web,
they do not touch at any point.
Instead, they run parallel threads
and orbit  each other in patterns of mistrust.

Like an entrapped fly, gently caught
he cradled that lie and held it still with quiet force.
A spider's delicate, deadly bite
drained their love brittle and dry
until it cracked from unspoken cruelty.

She tasted him like barnyard dust
that settled behind her teeth.
His name became a profanity on her lips,
her losses, a lifetime's work.

The Museum

I am a museum.
My body, artifacts artfully arranged by gravity.
My mind, a montage of catalogued memories.

Behind refracted light,
glass-enclosed, free from tarnish and dust
lives static the exhibits I visit.

The one perfect autumn afternoon at the beach, 
when the curvilinear lines of the sloping sidewalk
melded with motion, smooth and infinite.

Long shadows, straight sharp spokes of shade from the railing
intersected my walk as your fingers intertwined my own, 
creating harmonious, aesthetic interruption.

The sea, persistent as a lover, wore away the sand
as you wore down my defenses and I said yes.
Love would always smell like salt.

Miracle of Sorts

The other day she cried,
an impossibility of belief--believed.
Seen with my eyes, salty water seeped from jagged cracks of rock.
A miracle of sorts, on par with sea parting and water to wine.
I made cold, unfeeling granite weep
my magic--unknown to mere mortals.
I should hold pride that I have a gift for rarities such as this.
But the sobbing stone scares me,
I want to undo my miracle and cannot.
I thought I would feel differently when done,
but now my pleasure is all pain, 
my innocence burned by guilt.
Her stoic heart so broken, can never be rebuilt.

Fleeting Things

Angry, foolish thoughts go home.
I won't accept, nor welcome you.
To fight the forces surrounding my song
composed notes of embarrassed pink and blushing reds,
I sing green and blue instead.

I understand what has been said,
the lies are yours, not mine.
You cut me with your words, 
bludgeoned my bones with belief,
though blackened, still I sing.

My anger like fire grows,
consuming what I felt for you, 
intent on eating me too.
But I transcend this conflagration
and sing away those fleeting thoughts.

The Boats

Low, gray skies
pressure the darkened lake,
but abandon it to the fog
which grows legs 
and creeps about in wild motion.

Boats sleep upon the shore,
like summer ghosts, chilled and waiting--
hibernating against winter's imminent descent.

Like the boats, we rest apart,
never touching any of the other.
Holding ourselves flat against the earth, the tangible
we hope to be swallowed, welcomed
beneath the heavy comfort of dirt and rocks.

Sad and forlorn, we linger
pathetically proud 
in our disdain and dependence.
We wait,
we rot,
and the fog dances endlessly on.

Monday, March 12, 2012

But She Likes Michael: Unrequited Love

My son Jack came home from kindergarten the other day a bit down and dejected.  I asked him why he seemed so blue and after some gentle prodding and reassurance he spilled the beans.  My little boy loves Madison, the prettiest girl in his class.  His face lit up while listing all her perfect little girl charms, and he finished by saying, "I really like her, Momma." It fell quickly, however, when he followed up with a deep sigh and said, "But she likes Michael." poor baby.  Six years old seems like such a young age to learn that unrequited love can be a complete bitch.

He and I talked for a bit more about how not everyone a person likes always likes him or her in return.  I tried to make him understand that even though he had feelings for her, she wouldn't necessarily feel the same way towards him, and that it happened all the time in life.  The protective, "How dare you not love my baby as much as I do!" mother in me, however, had to give that Madison girl a little dig as Jack and I ended our conversation.  I told him that obviously she had no taste when it came to men and she probably wasn't good enough for him anyway.  Ooops....I think I need to work on a few things in regard to good parenting.

Jack recovered pretty quickly.  Most kids usually do.  He now seems to be infatuated with Taylor, who happily likes Jack back.  Nonetheless, it got me to thinking about unrequited love in general.  Everyone has crushes in their lifetime.  That overwhelming, burning, longing sensation for someone can drive anyone a bit crazy.  I remember wasting hours thinking about my crushes, wondering what they were doing, fantasizing that they would eventually notice how wonderful I was and then sweep me off my feet "Sixteen Candles" style.  I recall feeling completely nervous and tongue-tied in their presence.  It's amazing how emotions turn you into a fool over someone who doesn't even know you exist.

I think that although crushes can be quite painful, and unrequited love hurts like hell, they provide good learning opportunities for kids and young adults.  Experiencing such intense emotions for someone can spark creativity, imagination, boldness, and definitely introspection.  Some of the most beautiful poetry and music have come from the fountain of unreturned affection.  The gifts of a crush also include growth of a more personal nature. Loving someone secretly causes flights of fancy and inspires art, but it also makes us familiar with the powerful feelings of first love, demands us to manage those emotions, and ultimately teaches us how to deal with disappointment and unfulfilled desires.  The last lesson will prove to be the most important for the majority of people.  Life doesn't always give us what we want and we need to know how to shrug off disappointment and move forward with light hearts full of hope.  When we cease to hope, we cease to live fully.

I want my children to feel deeply and passionately and to learn from those emotions.  I want them to love and to lose and to love again, because each time they do they become more resilient and more knowledgeable about themselves and life in general.  I know they will have many crushes throughout their lifetimes, but I also know that these joyful/painful episodes will help to shape them into people who know what they want from a partner, who will know how to love well, and who will also understand that they need to be well-loved in return.  And luckily for Jack, even with his poor pea-picking heart crushed for a day or so, he understands that there are plenty of opportunities for liking and loving.....just ask his new friend Taylor.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Releasing Regrets

Facebook has a lot of things to occupy your time--some of them fruitful, much of them inane. In my opinion, the little quotes and funny sayings comprise the best part of Facebook.  Sure, the addicting/time-wasting games provide hours of mindless fun and catching up with high school and college friends both amuses and interests me, but the little nuggets of wisdom or humor I come across on occasion really resonate with me.  I've always been a sucker for a good quote.  I love being able to feel a philosophy or understand a grand idea with in the span of a sentence or two.  As a matter of fact, I used to put a quote a day up on my chalkboard not only for my students to think on but because the quote generally held something for me to ponder as well.

The other day someone posted, "Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted."  For some reason that quote spoke to me.  I liked the honesty of it.  The majority of what we do comes from what we want to do, whether or not we consciously acknowledge that fact. I think that when people look back on their experiences, they attribute blame to circumstances or other people for the things they regret.  Honestly, however, pretty much everything we do, we created.  

In one way, blaming circumstance for regretful actions or events acts as a panacea for us.  The feeling becomes less caustic because we can deflect the responsibility for it onto someone or something else.  This, however, proves to be a short-term fix.  One part of our brain always refuses to believe the stories we weave, and subconsciously we continue to feel the effects of regret. Because we refuse to recognize them as our own mistakes, however, we can do very little to mitigate the effects of regret.  We cannot deal with things we do not properly acknowledge. I think it is when we own our actions, experiences, and intentions we finally alleviate the sense of regret.  By recognizing that we did what we wanted to do, engaged in behaviors we desired, or created situations that we needed for one reason or another,  the regret doesn't linger quite as long.  We own it, acknowledge it, and release it eventually.  We can never release what we do not consider to be cannot give away something you yourself do not own.  Own your history, learn from your mistakes, take your regrets and find the lesson in them and discard the rest.

Life is too short to live feeling badly about things that you cannot change, words you cannot take back, and events that are permanently set in time.  The great thing about being human is that we continue to grow and learn.  We are a dynamic species and if willing to put in the hard work of introspection and the strenuous effort of acknowledgement, we can eventually become people who are happy with ourselves.  Our past is makes us who we are today, but not in a static way.  We constantly draw upon the past to put the present into context, and it is solely up to us to use what we know to make the present as meaningful as possible by not clouding it with regrets. We are our own worst critics.  The hardest people to forgive are ourselves. Nonetheless, we need to forgive our own mistakes and not be constantly critical of our errors in order to live well and happily. So never regret...just learn, integrate and grow.  That is definitely something on which I am going to work.  Learning, growing, and being at peace.