Tag Archives: relationships

Quality Time Vs. Play Dates

6 Aug

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Certain times in our lives are more flush with close connection. For me, elementary school, high school, and college were such periods. No one carried the adult responsibilities we do today, which made friendships easy to cultivate and maintain. Everyone was in close proximity, which made things convenient, particularly when living on the university campus. There was always someone around to share a meal with or to chat with. And it didn’t matter what time of day.

I also recall wonderful summers with my grandparents that were rich in social interaction. There was a slow lazy rhythm to the August days. My grandfather would go to work while my grandmother and I ran errands, baked cookies, and tended to all things domestic. Then when my grandfather came home, we’d eat dinner together. Afterward, we’d go for a walk or work in the garden. Sometimes we watched a show on television. Other times we read books together.

In my twenties, when living in Manhattan, my friends and I would take the city by storm. We spent hours verbalizing our dreams over glasses of wine and walks in Central part. Even in my thirties, I still had some single friends with whom I pondered the meaning of life while sharing meals and life together. Although my friends’ marriages altered the dynamics of our relationships, there were still incredibly meaningful moments spent together. When my friend’s son was an infant we’d take him in the stroller for long walks, cherishing him and each other. We lived in the same neighborhood so it was easy to get together on a regular basis.

But then there are the seasons where no one has time to do anything. When both parents are working and kids are hyper-scheduled, and no one’s children attend schools anywhere near their homes, which results in hours of chauffeuring time. That sentence is a mouthful for a reason. It’s exhausting and exhaustion doesn’t lend itself to intimacy.

But human beings need depth intimacy. Whether falling in love or maintaining friendships, relationships need time to grow. Without that time, there are gaps in connection.

Of course when people pair up and find a significant other, most of the relationship investment gets funneled into that union. But as a friend of mine said to me the other day, (and she happens to be married), “It’s unhealthy to make your spouse your only go to for companionship. It’s way too much of a burden on one person and it makes for a stale marriage. We need to feed our friendships too.”

Modern life doesn’t accommodate well for depth relationships. With everyone’s busy schedules, we pencil in “play dates.” These might consist of a coffee, a dinner, or if we can spare a few precious hours, maybe a movie. In an age when people rarely even talk on the phone anymore, play dates are welcome. But I miss the wonder of unstructured, spontaneous time when it was easy to cross the street and hang out with someone.

The more we indulge in a frenzy of hyper-scheduled activities, the more difficult it becomes to nurture quality time. Even people living under the same roof are not necessarily bonding well. We can’t stand to sit still for longer than a few minutes before looking away and grabbing our Smart phones.

The only way off the merry ground is to step off it, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, if everyone else is still on the ride. Loneliness settles in and we wonder if anyone else is feeling it too.

Years ago I worked in an outpatient program that served the high functioning, elderly population. Not many of our clients had a history of mental illness. However, many met criteria for situational depression and anxiety brought on by the death of a spouse or retirement or illness. People were lonely and little to do during the day. They came to our program in the morning, attended a psycho-education lecture, ate lunch and then attended two process groups. Within a few weeks most folks were thriving again thanks to the friendships created and a renewed sense of meaning.

I’m a fan of play dates. In fact, I have two today. But I’m even more a fan of quality time that emerges when there is no plan, no rush, and no strain. When intimacy just happens like the sun rising and setting each day.

Momentum: When The Tide Quickly Changes

23 Jun

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The other morning I went surfing. As is typical of summer, the waves weren’t doing much. The sets were coming slow and when a wave did break, it had little gusto. I had to paddle hard to catch it and when I did, the wave’s momentum often just petered out, leaving me standing on my board like a gymnast on a balance-beam poised for dismount.

Summer surfing can be frustrating when you have too many mornings like this. After all, the whole point of surfing is to catch a wave and feel the rush as you ride it all the way to shore. There is nothing on the planet like it.

Sometimes, I don’t mind the slowness. It’s nice to be out in the water and have days where I can simply sit on my board and think (or not think) while the gentle lull of the sea rocks me back and forth. It’s nice to feel like a baby in the cradle with God looking down from above. However, sometimes this lack of action irritates. I don’t want to sit around waiting, or to feel the initial thrill of catching a wave, only to have it take me absolutely nowhere. Then I think, “Why didn’t I go to Pilates this morning? It would have been better for my back.”

Yet yesterday morning took me by surprise. As I positioned myself for a wave I felt certain wouldn’t break well, I found myself shocked into awareness that the tide had changed. This wave had speed. Its momentum took me by surprise and ended up knocking me off my board after I caught a bit of its buzz. As I tumbled in the surf, I could feel its foam rage above me. This wave was going forward whether I was prepared or not.

Surfing is a crapshoot. So is life. You never know what you’re going to get. You can get a mushy, little wimpy wave that does nothing for you or one that almost drowns you. Sometimes you get one that is perfect and takes you all the way in. The best are the ones that excite you without throwing off your balance and that have no one else riding it. Then there is just the right degree of safety, comfort, delight, and edge. Those are the cowabunga days where you thank your lucky stars you got off your lazy ass and put on that damn seal suit.

Surfing reminds me that there is nothing more important than suiting up and getting in the water. If you stay on the shore, you will never catch a wave. Yes, surfing can kill you, but I’d rather die playing than never playing at all.

Surprising New Life

30 May

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Walking through the streets of D.C. last night with friends, I stopped in front of a church to examine a cluster of paper butterflies strung along the side exterior. I found this extraordinary. There was something so beautiful and fitting about this image. Moving in the direction of the church spire, the butterflies were on a mission to heaven.

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The irony of the moment did not escape me. Butterflies are notorious symbols of transformation. They start as eggs, transition to caterpillars, and then morph into cocoons. From that chrysalis  state, they eventually emerge as butterflies. It is not an easy metamorphosis. To the outside eye, the cocoons look ugly. They look like nothing. They look dead. All color and life force drains temporarily from them.

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The butterfly’s transition is one of nature’s miracles. It is a glaring reminder that profound change requires a stage of withdrawal and contraction, yet nothing in our society supports this truth. We’re supposed to get over pain quickly, immerse ourselves in external activities, and fake it ’til we make it. This completely contradicts the natural evolution process.

As I went through a painful period in my life this year, I became that chrysalis. Other than somehow finding the energy to work, I contracted. I rarely went out socially, I cried day after day for months, and spent considerable time alone except in the company of a few select friends who didn’t judge my process. Meanwhile the world screamed its bad advice, as I withdrew.

I spun my web blocking out the noise as best I could because the caterpillar undergoes transformation alone. She does not take a lover into the cocoon or host a dinner party in it.

It’s an arduous process breaking out of that lonely shell, but when you do burst out of the cocoon, you are no longer the same. You become a whole new being and yes, you fly in the direction of heaven, flying on the wings of faith. You dazzle the world with your bright colors because you are now beautiful, transformed, and free.

Small Acts of Self Love Are Actually Huge

25 May

Therapists are big on saying how important it is to love oneself.” Just love yourself,” we tell people, as if this will solve every problem in the world. Yet what does it really mean to love yourself?

For a long time I thought loving oneself meant you looked in the mirror and liked the face you saw. Or it meant that you cared enough about your body to exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. While true that these are aspects of self love, there are many more facets to it.

Small acts of self love are actually huge. You learn to love yourself when you slowly have minute but extremely hard won victories. Self love comes when you take one step at the beginning of an incredibly difficult journey. Self love comes when you choose not to reject yourself, even if you stand by and watch the rest of the world cavorting without you. Self love comes when you stop looking in the the window of that party and instead make your own, even if it’s just you as the guest.

Acts of self love come when instead of focusing on other people, you focus on yourself.

Acts of self love come when you choose forgiveness instead of bitterness, envy, or hate.

Acts of self love come when for every negative thought you have you realize you’re only hurting yourself.

Acts of self love come when you say you will embrace every f*&^%% painful moment of your life without numbing any aspect of it.

Acts of self love when you say, “I deserve more.”

Acts of self love come when you say, “Ouch. That hurt. Don’t do it again!” And mean it.

Acts of self love come when you say, “God help me. Take this cross from me. Not my will, God. Yours.”

Choosing to love yourself isn’t the easy route. It’s the road less travelled. Of that I’m sure.

Love Is A Selfie

8 May

The other day I was talking with a friend. He mentioned a photograph he’d seen in a collection entitled “The Ten Worst Selfies.” The picture he described was of a woman scantily clad in underwear and bra taking a selfie while her six year old son looked away towards the wall. If a picture says a thousand words, this one sums it up.

I didn’t even see the photograph. I can imagine it though. I know the scenario all too well.

When my parents were alive, no one took selfies. My father however was the poster child for narcissism. True to the myth, he was in love with his own image.

I might as well have been in the bedroom watching my dad take a picture of himself in his underwear with my head turned to the wall. I saw my dad in his underwear many times. I also heard him making love with the girlfriend of the day, week, month or year, as his bedroom was right above mine. I heard him call each of them “honey” as if she was the most gorgeous, wonderful and ONLY woman on the planet. In reality, she was always one of MANY. I recall a Christmas Eve when we went to two different women’s houses where my dad wooed each. Then Christmas morning we went to a third girlfriend’s house. I agued with my dad in the car that he needed to pick amongst them instead of stringing them all along. Lying to each was cruel.

My dad needed multiple women. One pussy wasn’t enough for him. His ego needed constant stroking. That he was a divorce attorney served him beautifully. He always had vulnerable, broken women before him whose husbands had broken their hearts. He would be that great guy who would treat them better.

In his mind, he loved them all and treated them well. Yet if one got upset with him, there was always someone else waiting in line next for him, so he never had to experience any kind of genuine loss, remorse, or heartache. He also never had to be accountable for his behavior.

My dad was truly evil. But I look around me and see mild versions of the same behavior happening everywhere in our society. A relationship doesn’t work out but no matter. We can just start texting and instant messaging someone else. Why not cultivate something new and improved? Heck, let’s do that while we’re in a relationship so that if things fall on rocky ground, we’re already planting the seeds for our next venture. We might be bummed initially at the time of a break up, but those endorphins from the first flush of attraction are quite the rush. That sparkle is so much better than the hum drum of a long term relationship, the bickering, and the tending to each other’s needs. Not to mention how cool we look when we can bag another babe or guy instantaneously. That’s quite the super power to have. Why not post a picture of our new situation  and see how many likes we garner, as if we’re all the prom king and queen from high school?

We justify our actions by saying we want more, we want something new, it’s not healthy or normal to practice monogamy. We say we had a right. We did nothing wrong. We didn’t hurt anybody. It’s all good. Be a little more open minded. These things just happen.

We live in a carpe diem society high on instant gratification and low on emotional maturity or self-sacrifice.

We all yearn for contentment and love and relationship and yet we’re doing very little to learn how to sustain long term care and appreciation of one another. I think we’re all guilty on some levels, myself included.

I am that young child watching her parent take a selfie in a sexual, seductive pose. I am that child who witnessed so much crap that I feel I could vomit. I am that child who vowed I’d never be treated like a disposable object or commodity. I am that child who declared no man would ever define whether I was beautiful or not. And I am that child who grieves for what I see in the modern world wondering if love is real or a mirage in the desert.

Perhaps love is a selfie. And it’s very selfish these days.

Who Are You When The Prince Doesn’t Appear?

25 Mar

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When I was a little girl and saw Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” for the first time, I was horrified that the evil queen ordered the huntsman to kill Snow White and to bring her heart back in a jeweled box. “Why would she do that?” I thought terrified and bewildered simultaneously. “Run Snow White, run!” I called out to the screen, as if the cartoon heroine could hear me.

Children are extremely impressionable. I also remember Snow White wistfully singing in that God-awful, breathy voice:

Some day my prince will come
Some day we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go
To be happy forever I know…..

As a young girl, this is what gets drilled into your head. Someday, a man will pick you. He’ll get down on his knee, pull out a box, and say, “Will you marry me?” Then you will tear up, wrap your arms around his neck and exclaim, “yes!” For most females this happens at least once in their lives and while it might not lead to happily ever after, it still is quite the princess moment. After all, it’s the apex of your life, right? To be chosen?

But what if you’re not? What if you’re not chosen by a life partner, or even by your parents? What if you grow up never fully feeling cherished, or like you belong to anybody? Who then are you?

My favorite answer? You are a flower.

Why?

Because flowers don’t sit around waiting for someone to pick them. They are beautiful and magnificent in their own right. Some get picked and put into a bouquet; others remain outdoors turning in the direction of the sun. Yet these distinctions don’t change their essence for their worth is not determined by anything external. They are divine creations of the Creator. Nothing in the world changes that truth.

Ladies, your worth is determined the day you were born. It is sovereign. No one can give this to you or take it away. You are flowers meant to bloom in your own right. Bloom away!

Fabricating Drama

12 Oct

If all the world’s a stage, my mom’s death in 2008, played out as a tragedy. She was found dead on the streets of La Mesa with pills scattered around her. She died from acute intoxication of amitriptyline, a medication given for sleep and to calm nerves. She had just been released from prison, after doing time for her fifth felony DUI.

Her death was the climax of untreated depression and alcohol dependence. It was a terrible event in my life, but I had anticipated it as a possibility because she had made previous suicide attempts. I loved her very much.

After her death, events in my life became quiet. There was no drama. Nothing was wrong. No one was in the ER or in jail. No one was dead. To counter the surreality of this, I developed the nervous habit of checking things to make certain all was fine. I discovered my anxiety increased because things were suddenly calm.

When you grow up around addiction, the resulting dynamics often lend themselves to “drama.” Things occur that are only supposed to happen in the movies or on a depressing t.v. show. You work hard not to fabricate drama, yet you’re so used to it unfolding, you stay on guard for calamity nonetheless.

One time my mom didn’t answer her phone for many days. I was in my early twenties and came into work crying, thinking my mom might be dead. I had called the police to see if they could do anything. Eventually, my mom surfaced. Over the course of my tenure at this particular workplace, my mom disappeared a number of times. Because of this, my boss pulled me aside and said, “This is beginning to feel like the girl who cried wolf. You have to stop getting upset.”

So I followed her directive. I became numb. I sealed off. I survived.

To practice detachment, expressions like, “Your emergency is not my emergency,” became personal mantras.

The funny thing about the wolf story is that the wolf eventually comes. My mom died. The drama became a reality.

I try to be a serene, peaceful person who lives in the moment. I often tell myself, “The worst thing already happened. Nothing bad can ever happen again.”

Sadly though, if you’ve lived with this kind of life experience, sometimes the fear of loss is just there, hovering over you when the  stakes are high. There was a time when I didn’t fabricate drama. There simply was tragedy. And the weight of it lingers like smoke hanging in the air.

Staking Out Real Estate

2 Jul

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For the record I have never purchased land but I am a firm believer in real estate. Yet I’m not necessarily talking about property. I’m talking more about how we stake out personal territories such as time, energy, work, and relationships. Just what are we investing in and what do we do with the precious commodities around us? Are we practicing conservation and are we protecting the eco-system?

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I ask these questions constantly. When I was younger, it seemed time, energy and opportunities were boundless. But like the precious acres that are being swallowed up by developments, if we’re not careful, we can lose the very rich lands we’ve been blessed with. How do we protect what it most valuable and ensure that others will benefit in future generations?

Two people I greatly admire are Teddy Roosevelt and Beatrix Potter, both of whom had the insight to champion land for conservation purposes. Thanks to Teddy, we haven’t completely “paved paradise to put up a parking lot” and thanks to Beatrix, the UK has national treasures preserved as well.

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Metaphorically speaking, how do we practice discernment, making wise choices so that we invest in our talents, relationships, vocations and commitments to humanity? How do we invest? For me, I’m constantly staking out real estate, surveying the market and talking to investors. I’m looking for property that will increase in value and to be a good steward of the land.

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