Life isn’t easy. We all say it, but I’d never fully appreciated the weight of it until a recent conversation with a friend. After years of struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally, she’d relocated, lost her livelihood, and encountered life-changing upheaval that would make even the strongest of us crumble under the devastation. Her stamina was faltering. Her bank account dwindled down to nothing and she was losing hope – fast. Despite courageous attempts to change her circumstances and tremendous sacrifices, she felt defeated and out of options. Standing on the rocky shore of her existence after years of fighting to survive, she was wondering out loud if her ship would ever come in. Continue reading
I remember taking a college course years ago, during which my very caring but objective professor explained that children have evolved from being assets to investments. “Think about it,” I recall her saying. “In the past, children worked on the family farm or contributed to the overall functioning of the household. Now, we invest in our children. We work to support them. We build our schedules around them, train them, sacrifice our time and resources for them – all in preparation for sending them out into the world, away from the family.” In essence, she was agreeing with Jennifer Senior, an author who recently said in her book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, that “children [have gone] from being our employees to our bosses.” Continue reading
“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway…
Give the best you have and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.” – Mother Theresa
Very few things in life really last. Our children grow up and our roles as parents change. Holidays and special occasions come and go. Years with our loved ones fly by as just fleeting moments in time. Our favorite projects, at home or at work, often reach a peak before coming to an end, signaling that it’s time to move on to something else. In extreme cases, what we build and strive for can be torn down by others or taken for granted, never fully appreciated for the dedication and love that was poured into it. So why do we expend so much energy on things that may not last? Why do we plan, strive, devote ourselves to pursuits that will likely be temporary? Continue reading
Last week I stopped for a cup of coffee on my way to work. Standing on a line with seven other people, I took advantage of what would be the last quiet moments of my morning before entering my fast-paced office; I took a few deep breaths, smiled at the Latin music playing overhead and chatted with the friendly stranger behind me. The woman in front of me, however, was a different story. An impatient woman with an abrasive demeanor, she walked up to the counter to order her coffee, barking her words as though they were a command.
“Sugar?” asked the polite barista.
“Gimme two,” the customer snapped back. “And don’t use skim. I want regular milk.”
As the barista put the lid on the top of the cup, the dragon-lady in front of me sighed and rolled her eyes, giving an impatient backward hand-wave, that rude way of speaking volumes without saying a word. “You’re slow and incompetent,” it implied. “Hurry up! My time is valuable and you’re inferior.”
But the two words she should have said, she didn’t. Grabbing the coffee and walking out the door without even acknowledging the man holding it open for her, she plowed down the street, never even bothering to say, “Thank you.” Continue reading
A dear friend contacted me recently, out of her mind with frustration. It seems her employer had just derailed her pet project again, changing his mind and her team’s direction for the third time in two months. The change, sadly for her, will mean longer hours, heightened stress, and the certainty of a missed deadline for which, inevitably, he will hold her responsible. But perhaps even more significant, to her the change means a total disregard for her expertise and a lack of appreciation for the hours and dedication already poured into the work. After years of experiencing this dysfunctional pattern, my once passionate friend, a driven project manager, is now feeling nothing more than ineffective and deflated. Unwilling to expend her energy on what seems to be a losing battle, she has decided to stop trying so hard and simply “go with the flow.” But even as she says this, I hear the doubt in her voice. She wonders out loud, “Does this acceptance mean I’m growing up or does it mean I’m giving up?” Continue reading
I come from a long line of performers. In addition to winning adult Charleston contests at 12 years old, my grandmother often entertained her neighbors and grandchildren with silly characters she’d create, dances she’d whip up on the spot and skits designed to make us all laugh. My grandfather’s creative outlet was a Hammond organ. I used to sit at his feet, mesmerized, while he’d play. My father, meanwhile, fancied himself a doo wap singer. He’d burst into song whenever a phrase or word would suggest a lyric he’d remember. And my mother? She was a dancer – and I’m told a very good one at that. I myself spent years as a triple threat, an actress who could sing and dance, fully immersed in the process of trying to “make it” in show biz, so it was no surprise to me when my daughter was also bitten by the bug.
A few weeks ago, my very talented daughter was invited to audition in New York City, for “one of those national television voice competition shows.” (I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you which one or they’d have to kill me. Well, actually, they’d have to sue me; it said so in the contract.) And as I watched her bare her soul, present her best self to a room full of strangers and wait for acceptance or a rejection based not just on talent but on so many other factors, it occurred to me: there is SO much we can learn from performers. Continue reading
On a Friday night about six months ago, I was engaged in my usual routine. It was close to midnight and I was hunched over my computer keyboard banging out another freelance project. Trying not to think about the dishes that still needed to be washed, I also attempted not to obsess about when I’d squeeze the laundry into an already packed weekend, and kept a responsible eye on the time; my daughter would need to be picked up on the other side of town soon. I was falling asleep, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by a growing “to do” list, and listening to the voices of happy people as they walked home from a night out at the local bars and movie theater. I was quietly but deeply resentful. And that’s when it hit me: It had been a long time since I remembered to play.
In the early 1900’s an aspiring cartoonist was fired from his job at the The Kansas City Star. According to his editor, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
The young man’s name was Walt Disney.
I want it. My daughter wants it. My closest friends want it, and I’d bet my life on the fact that you do too. There are classes on how to achieve it, books written about the subject and philosophers have always mused about lifestyles that are most conducive to it. Yet with all of this longing, all of the resources on how to grasp it, it’s still very hard to come by. I’m talking about inner peace. The most fortunate of us have to contend with day to day stressors of making ends meet, getting the kids’ lives in order, finding and keeping a good job, and finagling the time and money to pay our ever-mounting bills. But in extreme cases, some of us have to contend with fear and literal threats to our physical, financial or emotional survival – sometimes all at once. Regardless of our experience, we all want the same thing: to find a state of serenity and wisdom, a sense of purpose and contentment that would rival the life of a Buddhist monk. The truth is we can find it, it’s just that sometimes you have to fight like a gladiator to get it. Continue reading
Back in November I read something by Dr. Phil that, well, disturbed me. Rather than sum it up myself, here’s a passage from Get Rid of the Have-tos and Should-dos, an article about the holidays that appeared in the November edition of O Magazine. Continue reading