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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Self-Improvement is a State of Mind

I prefer to read non-fiction books, mostly in the self-improvement genre.  From weight-loss to personal finance to psychology, my personal library has been filled at times.  I've dabbled in autobiographies and read most of the former-child star-recovering addict books that hit the shelves throughout 2009.

In my quest to heal myself and get on with my purpose in life I have renewed my interest in reading some of the inspiring and empowering books that will enable me to change my way of thinking.  For instance, I just re-read Rhonda Byrnes', The Secret.  I had read it over two years ago and even saw the DVD.  However, when I read it this time, I paid more attention to the basic principles.  I want to start each day a new way by keeping just a few key points in mind.  We are all energy and connected in the universe.  The law of attraction tells us when we ask and believe we receive.  We must be grateful for everything positive in our life and remind ourselves to attract even more goodness.

I am finding it difficult to tackle these simple principles.  For so long, and maybe it's just a part of my fabric, I've been negative, depressed, and bogged down with feelings of worthlessness.  To pull yourself out of this puddle of quicksand takes enormous mental and emotional strength and at times I have serious doubts as to whether or not I can accomplish this task.  My intention is to live a more joyful and happy life but I am caught in an emotionally draining situation.  I know I can't just take off and run away to the beach by myself to think and reflect.  I have to face my reality.

There is a beautiful person I know who radiates positivity and warm energy not only in person but in her daily entries on Facebook.  Kasius is a successful fashion model.  My kids had an opportunity to spend some time with their cousin and the rest of the family in upstate New York this past summer.  When I asked each of my boys, separately, to name three people they enjoyed meeting and spending time with they each said Kasius.  I inquired as to why and they both talked about her positivity and how she makes people feel when she's around.  Kasius recently made a Facebook entry and I commented with the famous line "I'll have what she's having!" from the movie "When Harry Met Sally".  I just couldn't believe that someone who leads such a busy life takes the time to appreciate every little detail of her life.  She is a master at living in the moment and showing gratitude.  My niece replied with a suggested list of reading material to get me in the 'right' mindset.  As it turns out, The Secret, was on her list; and, I just happened to be reading it!  Irony,  coincidence, or the law of attraction?  You decide. 

I'm getting ready to tackle the next book on the list called, You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise L. Hay.  The title alone promises an exercise in deep soul-searching and an inner cleanse of the bad vibes that may be holding me back.  I am such a slow reader (always have been) but I hope to finish this book by the end of the weekend.  I anticipate that my next entry would include things I've learned about myself and basic principles I can take away to incorporate in my life.

My goal is to get inspired into a new way of approaching life that will benefit not only myself but those I love and the world around me.  I have an overwhelming need to shed all the crap and sludge in my life that is weighing me down (literally and figuratively) and to reveal a more positive and healthy me.  I can visualize myself taking off a heavy winter coat covered in heavy mud and adorned with symbols that represent negative things from my past.  The good thing is that I see my self emerging as a lighter and brighter version of me.

Realistically I know this will be a long process and it won't happen overnight.  But, every day is a new beginning and with every entry or confession that I make in this journal I am one step closer to being able to live a life of my truth.  Shedding the toxins within will not be cured by a two-week over-the-counter colon cleanse.  It will take work, effort, commitment, and enthusiasm; things that I struggle with on a daily basis. 

Deep down I want to do this and at this point I'm getting tired of hearing my own excuses.  I've got to "shit or get off the pot".  My time is limited and I would hate to leave this world not fulfilling my purpose.  To die now without achieving my goals and to leave so much untapped creativity on the table would be a sin.

First and lastly, I must thank myself for having the sense to realize the necessity of my mission and the courage to take the steps to make it so.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Will Never Forget

Repost in remembrance of 9/11/2001.
The baby-boomers have vivid recall and a detailed answer to the question, 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?'.  My generation of X-ers have an equally powerful response to the question, 'Where were you on 9/11/2001?'.  The terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 is the pivotal moment in history that has shaped my generation.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at approximately 8:50 a.m. my husband, my son Nicolas, and I were driving down Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, North Carolina on our way to a zoning board meeting to protest our neighborhood developer from squeezing 2 houses in a one-acre lot in our cul-de-sac.  We all planned to wear red shirts that day so that we would be visible to the panel of members.  We had the radio on and heard that a plane had crashed into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center in New York City.  Being from the tri-state area and having conducted business in the buildings, our ears perked up.  We were shocked as sketchy details were broadcast over the radio.  But, we were expected at this meeting and had to participate.  We didn't know the scale of the forthcoming disaster.

Around 10:30 a.m. our meeting was over.  While we overheard some discussions in the hallway of the government building about what had since transpired, we still did not know the scope of the events.  We hopped into the car, put on the radio, and listed to the magnitude of the events of 9/11.  Fearing the worst, I immediately picked up my older son, Justin, from his fourth-grade elementary class.  I figured if we were gonna die, we would at least be together.

When we arrived home I immediately put on CNN and clicked from channel to channel to see the constant repititious showing of the videos.  Needless to say, it was surreal.  Tower One, Tower Two, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the mass of people covered in soot, dust and God knows what else trying to escape Manhattan, it all seemed like a bad movie.  I was overwhelmed with tears.  At this point I wondered if I knew anyone who may have been in the Twin Towers at the time.  Having worked in the insurance industry while living in Connecticut is certainly was conceivable that a colleague or two may have been in the vicinity.

I made a couple of telephone calls to former coworkers and friends and found that, indeed, meetings were scheduled for that day and a number of offices were hit where former work mates may have been.

I lost four former friends and colleagues that day.  Even though I now live in Raleigh, North Carolina (a good 11 hour trip from Manhattan) I still feel the pain and crazy emotion of that day.  Distance may have removed me from some of the fallout but in my heart I weep with the families and friends that were left behind.

Rudy M. was a colleague from Johnson & Higgins who worked in the claims department.  I had heard so many wonderful things about this man from my teammates who were lucky enough to meet him in person.  I spoke to him on the telephone a couple of times and his humor, laid-back personality, and positive energy always shined through.  I remember reading his obituary which pointed out what a great family man and soccer coach he was.

Rich G. worked in the middle markets department of Johnson & Higgins when I first began my career at J&H as a technical assistant.  We worked in the same area and I recall him coming in most mornings with a smile, 'good morning', and infectious laugh.  Rich enjoyed playing tennis and was devoted to his wife and family.

Laura L. worked as a broker in the casualty department of Johnson & Higgins.  She was smart, motivated, and fun-loving but also very direct.  She was studying for her MBA when I knew her.  She traveled to Colorado during spring break to go skiing with LeAnn.  She had the prettiest green eyes that when she grinned or laughed would squint ever so slightly.  Laura and I had interviewed for the same position at J&H;  when I heard she was one of the victims of 9/11 I felt guilty for having got that job.  I thought about her two very young boys who would grow up without knowing what a wonderful woman she was.  I felt guilty that I still could mother my boys.

Bob B. was a friend and co-worker at my first real job out of college at Arkwright Mutual Insurance Company.  I worked there from November of 1987 until January of 1990.  My desk faced Bob's office for my entire tenure at Arkwright.  The door to his office was about six feet away from the edge of my desk.  While I wasn't Bob's assistant, I learned a lot from him.  His talents and knowledge far surpassed his position as an Underwriter.  What I loved most about Bob was his passion for music, his easygoing personality, his amazing sparkling blue/green eyes, and the love for his wife Laura.  I have great memories of going to Sam's in Port Chester to enjoy happy hour and shuffleboard with Bob and the gang from work.  Bob was a great conversationalist and had trivia in his back pocket about every band or song that was played in the background music of Sam's bar.  Bob and his wife Laura were kind enough to let Monica and I stay over their house after we saw the Pink Floyd concert in Long Island.  I also remember having the surprise baby shower for Bob at the office before his first baby, Veronica, arrived.  I knew he would be a great father.

So, as the ninth anniversary of this tragic event approaches I choose to honor those folks who I knew and actually interacted with.  They were some of the thousands that had their lives robbed on that tragic day.  I keep their memory alive not only with my own thoughts but I share my experiences with my kids and now through my blog.

The current controversies surrounding the site of the tragedy have me contemplating what is 'right'.  In my heart I believe the site of the World Trade Center should be a memorial to all of those that lost their lives.  It should allow a place to reflect, read the names of all of those who perished, and be kept a good distance from any commercial venture.  As far as the mosque or community center being built near the site, my opinion is that we have to go back to the origin of what our country stands for and why it was established.  One of the rights of freedom to practice your religion without persecution should be kept in the forefront of our minds.  We were taught in elementary school that the United State of America is a 'melting pot' of different people of various cultures gathering to exercise their right to freedom.  To go against this standard would be hypocritical.

Please continue to remember, vividly, the details of where you were on 9/11.  We must honor those who unwittingly sacrificed their lives.  We must never forget!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Never Daddy's Little Girl

My dad was an alcoholic.  He was also a gambler, sex-addict, food addict and cheater.

There, I said it.  I got it off my chest.  I've released the dragon, so to speak.  This is my truth.  This is my story.  This is my pain.  This is the scar that won't heal.  The wound that's been festering for over 40 years.

In the words of good ole Dr. Phil, "you cannot change what you don't acknowledge".  For some reason this fact has been tucked away in the back of my mind ever since I heard it.  I most likely pushed it back in one of the files of my mind long ago because I was not ready to deal with it.  To confront something so huge takes a lot of courage and balls.  The evolution of time and recent events has pushed me to speak my truth.

I'm not going to blame my parents for how I am today but let's face it, our family life and experiences do shape the adults we become.  In a way, it sets the foundation for the person we build that is our true identity.

My father worked hard to support his family and contributed much to the community we lived in.  He volunteered for the United Way and participated in urban planning.  When my father did come home from work at 5:00 p.m. (when he wasn't at a meeting) the first thing he'd do is pour himself gin, vodka, or a martini.  I'd hear the clinking of the ice dropping in the glass and it was like a punch to my gut.  A reaction worthy of Pavlov's dogs.  The evening would begin and we weren't sure what was in store for us.

My mother had a nice well-rounded meal on the table:  protein, vegetable, and a starch.  A bottle of wine was on the table.  When we were young my brother and I would drink milk with dinner, when we got older we were offered to taste the wine.  We would taste it but revert back to milk.  There was no mystery to alcohol; it burned our throat and we were over it.

The effects of being a child of an alcoholic are many.  I am beginning my journey to figure out why I am the way I am, as an adult.  There's no doubt that my childhood experience with an alcoholic father has had some impact on my adulthood.  Probably more of an impact that I realize at this point.  But I am just summoning the courage to figure it all out.

I started this entry as my father WAS an alcoholic.  As of this writing, to my knowledge, he is still alive.  I don't know what his current status is or if he is sober.  I haven't been close to him ever in my life; I was never 'daddy's little girl'.  He put his job and volunteerism before his family.  He never said, 'I love you'.  He never encouraged us to 'be' anything.  There were no cheers in the crowds for me and my brother.  We just coped every day with the contemplation of, 'will he pass out?', 'is he in a bad mood?' or 'should I bother asking for his help?'.

I don't believe we were physically abused.  But, we are all products of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse.  As kids, my brother and I watched our father degrade and cut down my mother.  He used that same tactic with us.  He always had to outdo us kids and showcased his intelligence over our progress and growth.

I officially cut ties with my father a couple of years ago.  He has never really been a part of my kids life.  This is a blessing but a sad truth at the same time.  How could I expect that he would want to be a part of his grandkids life when he barely took an interest in his own kids?!

My parents got divorced when I was 25.  They should have gotten divorced way before then.  My mother had the strength and courage to walk away and save herself.  She is a strong and beautiful woman.  She put up with a lot of shit growing up.  If they hadn't got divorced when they did my mother wouldn't have lasted very long.  He broke her down and wore her out so bad.  Today, I am more than grateful that she has been the BEST nana and grandfather to her grandchildren.  My sons are so lucky to have an amazing woman in their lives.

I was never a daddy's little girl but I am my mother's daughter!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Change or Not to Change?

Change.  When used as a verb meaning, 'to substitute; exchange; alter; vary'.

As we reach the middle of our life we reflect on who we are, what we have achieved, and what is our plan for the remainder of our life.  Instinctively we assess whether or not we are conducting ourselves in a truthful manner.  We ponder whether or not the time we spend doing what we do is worth it.  We may find ourselves caught up in a corporate job, for instance, and realize 'this is not me!'  We may look at our home lives and say, 'if it weren't for the kids, would we still be together?'.  Or, we may just simply say, 'who am I?'.

I believe I reached my mid-life 'crisis' a few years ago; when I hit 40.  I began to speak up when I did not agree.  If the service at a restaurant or store was not up to par, for instance, I would let them know.  I believed it was my duty to use my voice to state the obvious in the hopes of effecting change.  Many times I filled out the Old Navy survey not only to get the additional 10% off on my next purchase but to let them know, in the additional comments section, that the clearance area (where I hover) was really too disorganized and messy.  I further offered that they may benefit from spending a little more time in making it presentable so that all of the clothes they wanted to get rid of would move more quickly, perhaps, if the shoppers could conveniently find their size.  When the waiter came over to see 'how is everything?' I would actually tell them the truth.  Imagine that!  At the same time, if I enjoyed a display or the waitress was especially attentive I would offer recognition for that as well.  I thought, "if I don't speak up, who will?".  I'm sure there are other people thinking the same as me but how many will muster up the courage to actually be honest and say it out loud?  This vocalization, I believe, is my duty.

As a thinking and feeling human being we have the right to be ourselves.  To conduct ourselves using our skills, talents, and brains is the gift we give to humanity.  Our uniqueness as individuals is what separates us from each other.  And, our similarities we share bring us together.

What happens when you conduct yourself the way you truly are and you are shunned as a result?  You wonder what is wrong with me that I alienate people?  How come folks can't handle the REAL me?  Why do I have to alter my behavior for people to accept me?  Why is it so bad to tell the truth and piss people off?  Why do I have to sit and contemplate if it is wrong to be who I am?

More importantly, do I need to change?

If I were to substitute what I truly am thinking and feeling with words that are more socially acceptable and conforming to society's standards so folks don't get their feelings hurt, am I really being true to myself?  Why do I have to smooth over the language to placate the receiver of the message?

For the past couple of years I've lived as a homebody, shut-in, a 'hikikimori' (the Japanese term for people who isolate themselves from society and live as a recluse).  A few times a week I venture out into the 'real' world and run my errands and get stuff done.  But, mostly, I am content with staying at home.  The reason is I've been burned.

There have been times over the past couple of years in which I've started new entrepreneurial ventures and gotten 'out' there.  When I stepped away from the corporate world back in 1995 it was under the guise of me concentrating on my family.  I told my boss, "it is not my job that loves me, it is my family who loves me".  And, I left a well-paying position to concentrate on raising my son and expanding my family.  The truth is, I was sickened by the back-stabbing politics of corporate life and refused to be a part of it any longer.  It was just a showcase of fakeness and lies.  I realized that the company didn't give a shit about the people and they were there just for the almighty dollar.  I gave up a lot back then.  I gave up my identity, my self-esteem.  I had achieved so much when I was working in the corporate world that that is where I built my self-esteem.  When I walked away from corporate life, I gave away a part of myself.  I've been trying to rebuild myself since.

Since then, I've made many attempts at being  self-employed; working for myself rather than 'the man'.  I've been a mortgage broker, got my real estate license, sold stuff on e-bay, and am currently an independent sales representative with AVON.  I went back a few times to a corporate setting, when I felt really desperate for money.  Honestly, I wanted to literally kill myself.  I was disgusted how the workers (drones) just fell in line with the monotony of the day and kept working and following orders.  It literally sickened me.

So, getting back to change.   I know that I could never go back to a 'real' job in the 'real' world.  I just can't see myself adapting to their culture and sitting with my hands folded saying, 'yes ma'am; no ma'am'.  The thought makes me puke.  I will not keep my mouth shut when I see room for improvement in a store that I happen to frequent.  If the soup is too cold; I will let them know, right away.  If a language arts teacher continues to misspell my son's name on e-mails to me, I will definitely call her out and bring her attention to her mistake.  If a 'friend' has pushed me to the limits and uses and abuses our 'friendship' I will let her know that 'I'm tapped out'.  If my brother's reaction to my insanity reminds me of my father I'll let him know.  I have no edit button left.

I have only so much time left on this earth.  Every day is a gift to me.  My gift to the world is me being myself and contributing my skills and talents.  If it doesn't come out politically correct then too bad.  If you can't handle the heat get out of my kitchen.  I'm me, damnit, and I'm not gonna change for you.  If you don't like the way I say stuff or act then that is YOUR problem.  If you walk away, it is your loss (or gain, depending on how you see it).  I'm just gonna be me because when I am me I feel like I am being true to myself.  I am raw, vulnerable, and real.  It is easy to put a mask on and hide your identity.  Taking is off is hard but it is freeing!

Let you be you.