Bouncing Back and Forth

lust vs love

Her self description is: I’m Paula. I love sparkly things and hate cauliflowers. I believe in individuality and self-expression. Music geek. Love life in its simplest ways. Spend way too much time thinking and wandering. My brain is chaotic. I’ve never been pregnant. Nice to meet you. On her page http://tinkerthinker.tumblr.com/ she wrote:

A battle between the comfort of familiarity and the rush of meeting someone new.

Sometimes it does feel like a battle between that.

On one side, there’s the peaceful kind of love; the one that offers stability, comfort, and security. There are fights included, of course, but minor and infrequent ones. It’s mostly a soothing, tender love that dominates the relationship. And you think that’s all you want and need, until…

You discover a different side. It’s almost foreign to you and completely unlike the usual, stable type of feelings you get with that other person…but that’s precisely what makes it appealing. A rush.  An unknown adventure, inviting you in to discover it.

Then it becomes a problem.

The tranquility of spotting your lucky bracelet vs. the excitement of unfolding a new gift.

The hospitality in knowing that tomorrow’s Monday vs. the realization that with him, it’s always Fridays.

The boring vs. the new,

Truth vs. passion. Which in the end translates to love vs. lust.

And what sets them apart, is that love is always worth it.

That fairly well describes the fight within me that I let rage for years. The toll of bouncing back and forth between love and lust cost me dearly. So glad that confusion is long behind me. I am grateful to fully know now it’s love that matters. The other is just an itch that wants to be scratched and nothing more. The hardest learned lessons have become my most vivid wisdom.

Love is the rose.
Lust is the thorn.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Riddle: “Who Am I?”

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The following ‘riddle’ was written by an anonymous writer. The answer did not automatically come for me when I read it, but the solution made perfect sense once I got to the bottom. I encourage you to give it a try (the answer is at the very bottom of this blog entry).

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

I am completely at your command.

Half of the things you do you might as well turn over
to me and I will do them – quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed – you must be firm with me.

Show me exactly how you want something done
and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of great people, and alas,
of all failures as well.

Those who are great, I have made great.

Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine though I work with the precision
of a machine plus the intelligence of a person.

You may run me for profit or run me for ruin,
it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me,
and I will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

The best of these I have kept. A good bit of the worst I have shed or else diminished their impact. I am grateful to be the person I have deliberately grown into and the one I was led to be. (riddle answer below the Gandhi quote below)

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
Mahatma Gandhi

I am Habit.

When We Are Afraid

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I used to regularly be a liar. With my friends, in business and generally I was a ‘boy scout’ and told the truth. But in love relationships my words at times contained less than the full truth; sometimes very little of the truth.

Now living an authentic life I look back to see it was my insecurities at the root of my lying. I did it to be perceived as more than I actually was. And worse, there were times I was liar to cover my tracks of even greater dishonesty: being unfaithful. Deep down there was a compulsion to fill a hole within using the affection of someone new, however impossible it actually was. And oh, the stress, worry and anxiety of an affair! Doing wrong when one knows it’s wrong, then living with it is a sort of slow strangulation.

Lying requires a lot of effort. When you tell the truth, you simply remember what happens. When you lie you have to consider what you’re trying to hide, figure out a believable version of the opposite, give a convincing performance to sell that lie, and then remember it for the rest of eternity so you never get caught. Furthermore, it builds and builds every time you lie.

Lies, just like many other things, cause stress and anxiety. If you need proof, consider the polygraph machine (what’s come to be known as the “lie detector”). They don’t actually detect lies, specifically, but rather the signs of stress that accompany telling them. While stress isn’t a definitive indicator of lying, it’s often a good clue.

You probably know that stress harms your brain and body in several horrible ways. Since lying contributes to your stress level… you need to consider the impact of your secrets. The harm isn’t self-evident, but it readily exists in the numerous health issues you encounter in your daily life. By Adam Dachis http://lifehacker.com/5968613/what-lying-actually-does-to-your-brain-and-body-every-day

Secrets are poison. Any relationship seasoned even with small ones will suffer a little short-term and a lot eventually. Emotional intimacy can be based only on truth and honesty. To do otherwise is self-foolery, delusional and a touch of self-induced madness. My heart smiles and my mind beams with pride that I learned better to grasp and practice honesty today. I am grateful for the heartache that taught me how to be a ‘good guy’ who tells the truth and is worthy of someone’s complete love. Mistakes are great teachers if one pays attention to the lessons.

We tell lies when we are afraid…
afraid of what we don’t know,
afraid of what others will think,
afraid of what will be found out about us.
But every time we tell a lie,
the thing that we fear grows stronger.
Tad Williams

The How of Happiness

happiness!!!

Being happy has not been a natural occurrence in my life.  It is something I have had to work at. It surprised up on me when about two years ago in a group of people the words “I’m happy’ came from my lips. Frankly, it startled me at the time. Without a doubt the statement rang true when the words were first formed in my mouth and continue (at least the vast majority of the time). My adopted motto “every day is a good day, some are just better than others” is a truthful statement whenever I speak it (which is often!) although it confounds some people.

Every moment of my life is not spent in some sort of frolic in bliss. Outside of fantasy, delusion or a drug induced state I don’t believe that is possible for anyone.  What changed about my level of happiness from what used to be is inside me. My external circumstances actually became more challenging with much pain and heartache to wade through. Through hard work, intention, help of others, study and understanding I allowed happiness to arrive in my life in spite of what was going on around me.

“The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” is the title of a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky PhD, a professor at the University of  California-Riverside. In it her research indicates that around 50% of my happiness comes from a generically determined “set point”.  She explains:   The set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight.  Some people are blessed with skinny dispositions: Even when they’re not trying, they easily maintain their weight.  By contrast, others have to work extraordinarily hard to keep their weight at a desirable level, and the moment they slack off even a bit, the pounds creep back on.

Where I got lost previously was the belief that changing my external situation and location could change my level of happiness.  In her book, Lyubomirsky indicates only about 10% of my level of happiness can be explained by differences in life circumstance or situation.  Of small consequence are conditions such as rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced and so on.  It is humbling to realize decades spent attempting to be happier through changes in my external life at best barely had any affect.  I moved all over the country and even to a foreign land, changed wives, lovers, jobs, homes, cars, etc. and none of it had more than a temporary effect.

Sonja Lyubomirsky explains:  One of the great ironies of our quest to become happier is that so many of us focus on changing the circumstances of our lives in the misguided hope that those changes will deliver happiness…  An impressive body of research now shows that trying to be happy by changing our life situations ultimately will not work. 

If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented.  They make things happen.  They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings.   If an unhappy person wants to experience interest, enthusiasm, contentment, peace and joy, he or she can make it happen by learning the habits of a happy person. 

In other words, I learned to finally be happy by getting off my butt and seriously working at it instead of searching to find it like a prospector looks for gold.

Gratitude beyond explanation sings in my heart and mind to be where I am today.  To everyone and everything that helped me get here… THANK YOU!

The Constitution only guarantees
the American people
the right to pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself.
Benjamin Franklin

Taken from a post from September 30, 2011

Remember Your Reflection

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How some one sees me is only one view.

Each interpretation of the person I am is different.

None is completely accurate, not even my view of myself.

Humility and gratitude are the best paths to self-awareness.

I am perfectly imperfect.

I am unique.

There has never been another just like me. There never will be.

Coming to know my true self is the path to an enlightened view of others and the world.

How very important it is, to see the reflection of yourself and to keep that reflection in sight— despite how much you have been pushed and shoved, forgotten and ripped, lied to and deceived! It seems like the number one most valuable thing you can carry with you is the constant appearance of your own reflection for the beauty and wonder that you are and it’s a fight and a struggle to keep that. If you had a treasure box filled with magical things— this would be the one thing it seems like people want to destroy or to take away or in some cases to even make their own! But you must remember your reflection, you must see yourself illuminated and you must remember, against all odds, remember. C. JoyBell C.

Today my gratitude is simple but large for the my growth in the last ten years. Sometimes I forget until I see an old photograph or read something I wrote long ago. If a year can make a big difference, then with dedication a decade can be utterly life changing. I am the ‘poster child’ of proof that big change is possible.

Just because I liked something at one point in time
doesn’t mean I’ll always like it, or that I have to go on
liking it at all points in time as an unthinking act of loyalty
to who I am as a person, based solely on who I was as a person.
To be loyal to myself is to allow myself to grow and change,
and challenge who I am and what I think.
The only thing I am for sure is unsure,
and this means I’m growing,
and not stagnant or shrinking.
Jarod Kintz

Fundamental to Living Well

TheEverygirl_LivingWell_AccessIntuition

I came across what’s below in an email a friend sent several years ago and found it particularly meaningful. Hope it serves others as well as it did me.

Checklist of 50 Characteristics & Views to Continually Live Better & Better:
1. You are absolutely confident that you can achieve what you desire
2. You believe that things will always work out the way they should
3. You are optimistic about the people around you and opportunities
4. You are loving
5. You are kind
6. You are generous
7. You are trusting and trustworthy
8. You refuse to let the past define or limit your current reality
9. You are easily able to let things go and get over things that bothered or upset you
10. You are open-minded
11. You are flexible
12. You refuse to reflect on all the things that can possibly go wrong
13. You are confident about the future and how it will unfold
14. You are appreciative of the big things…and the small ones too
15. You are thankful
16. You are humble
17. You consistently rely on and trust your good intuition and insights
18. You realize that everything happens for a reason
19. You aim to live and learn from everything around you and all that happens
20. You never lose your cool enough to get out of control
21. You refuse to waste energy on petty issues
22. You never complain
23. You are empathetic
24. You are helpful
25. You don’t brag
26. You always bring positive energy to every situation
27. You know how to control thoughts and ensure they’re positive and constructive
28. You are peaceful
29. You are pleasant
30. You continually choose to feel good regardless of what is going on around you
31. You know how to elevate your mood when necessary and get to a better place
32. You are inspired and inspiring
33. You are motivated
34. You genuinely want the best for other people
35. You have lots of great positive energy
36. You don’t judge others
37. You never gossip
38. You have no need to win an argument or be right
39. You are never really offended by anything or anyone
40. You are patient
41. You are satisfied with the time it takes things to play out
42. You have lots of great relationships
43. You are grateful to be exactly where you are at the current moment
44. You are inquisitive
45. You are understanding
46. You are able to tap into your innate brilliance
47. You are healthy
48. You are in good physical condition
49. You are able to truly enjoy silence
50. You consistently observe and notice things you like and what is working
We currently may not have all of these characteristics and views, but if we are interested in having more and more positive momentum and more positive results appear in our lives, we will work to develop and strengthen each and everyone one of these things. There are certain things that are just fundamental to living well. Original source unknown

Since moving stored knowledge into intention and action, slowly but surely my living experience has consistently gotten better. My forward movement is far from perfect but like a work being sculptured, I am my own chisel and hammer that shapes me and all I perceive about being alive. I am grateful to the person who sent the list to me three years ago and to have rediscovered it this morning.

A man sooner or later discovers
that he is the master-gardener of the soul,
the director of his life.
James Allen

Seeing Beyond Just Looking

old couple in woods

I have no certainty where exactly I got the idea.  It may have been from something I read or several things I came across blended together.  It may have even been a spontaneous realization.  But in the last 10 years I have learned to “see beyond just looking”.  I can’t do it all the time.  Actually that is probably impossible for a human being.  If I could I suspect I’d end up over dosed in goodness like Woody Allen was with the “orb” in the movie Sleeper.  Seeing beyond looking does happen for me frequently and the more I intentionally try the more frequent the activity comes without thought or effort.

My discovery was I mostly only acknowledged what came into view.  I walked without really noting  what was right before me.  Mine was a bad habit of hardly never really “truly seeing” much of anything.  My mind seemed to always be racing forward thinking about where I was going, what I had to do and what issues I needed to deal with.  Or else, I was looking backwards trying to solve some past emotional riddle or find some meaning in an episode of life I wanted an explanation for.

What I began to do, inconsistently at first, was to just stop and really take in visually what I was looking at.  There was amazement the first intentional time I took 30 seconds to study a beautiful tulip, to see its unique form and texture and to take in its vibrant red color.  I was stunned to look and see so much always detail missed before.  It was during the early times of having these experiences with intention when I noticed how beautifully blue the sky really is (which is still one of my favorites to marvel at).

How touched I became when I locked my vision on an elderly couple watching the man help the fragile woman out of the car and attending to her to get into a restaurant.  Eating at the same place as they were I watched the smiles they exchanged while eating and from a distance the conversation they were having.  I saw a couple deeply in love just moving in slow motion;  true romance at half speed.  Without looking closely I would have dismissed them mentally as “old people” and hardly noticed them at all.

I found delight in watching a toddler in a park giggling wildly while chasing a grasshopper like it was the greatest find of the year.  Truly sitting and watching birds through a window enjoy a feast of crumbled bread I put out for them on top of a big snow allowed me to notice the quirky uniqueness of each breed and what appeared to be joy in the abundance they had found.  And then there is nature!  A walk in the woods or a park became a sensory banquet.

When was the last time you sat and watched a sunset or sunrise?  When was the last time you actually “saw” a person instead of just looking at them.  How long since you gazed in a mirror and actually saw yourself instead of just acknowledging your reflection?  How long has it been since you focused on something to the point to where you found sheer delight in what you were looking at?  For me I am glad to say “no long ago”.   I am grateful to have stumbled across this activity and to have cultivated the habit.  As time passes with consistent effort I find I am able to more truly see with greater depth and frequency.  If life is a feast, then this is the seasoning for the meal.

Taken from “Seeing Past Myself” – Don Iannone

Sometimes I have trouble
Seeing past myself
Blindsided by who I think I am
…oblivious
To the vast world of possibilities…
I clean my glasses twice a day
Unfortunately it’s to see what I want to see
And not beyond that
I guess I’m no different –
Than you, or anyone else.
My self-image directs my eyes.
There’s a solution you know
It’s not as hard as we think
Open our hearts to unknown possibilities
Accept that our version of reality
Is but one of many out there.

The real voyage of discovery consists of not in
seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

First Posted on May 25, 2011

Marriage in the U.S.A.

Divorce concept

Yesterday on a whim, I went to see a love-story movie called ” The Spectacular Now”. I did not suspect many people to be at an early afternoon showing, but was surprised the only attendees were two other late middle-aged men and me. I loved the film and believe a lot more men enjoy a romantic movie then they will readily admit. I suspect it gets easier as one gets older to openly be one’s true self.

By coincidence I later yesterday came across a Pew Social Trends article that included stats on the state of marriage in the U.S.A. I knew things had changed, but how much was surprising.

In the Pew research, when asked “Is marriage becoming obsolete” 39% of people of all ages said “yes”. The statistic become about five percentage worse with those under 30 and about ten percent better for people 50 years old or older. Either way, three to four people out of ten say marriage is obsolete.

In 1960 the average age for a first marriage was just under 23 for men and just over 20 for women. Fast forward fifty years and the average was almost 29 for men and near 27 for women. That’s around a 30% increase for the age of a first marriage.

In 1960, 45% of 18-24 year olds were married while in 2010 only 9% were. The trend is in the same direction with all ages groups from fifty years ago compared to modern times: 25-35 year old 82% married then compared to 44% now, 35-44 year olds 86% were married in 1960 compared to 62% today. Even for 45+ the statistics show 70% versus 61%.

I was not surprised to find the rate of co-habiting couples is rising. Less than a million couples were co-habiting in 1960, compared to 7.5 million in 2010 or fifteen times as many.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “The Marriage-Go-Round…” wrote, Getting married is a way to show family and friends that you have a successful personal life. It’s like the ultimate merit badge. Given how hard it is for so many people to find (and stay in) satisfying, long-term relationships in this day and age, I tend to think someone with a “successful personal life” has plenty of close friends and knows how to spend her/his off-hours in an enjoyable way. Or maybe that’s just how I make my self feel okay about being a middle-aged single.

Marriage has found me twice: once at twenty-two years old (too young) and again at fifty-two. Both ended up in divorce with much more of the fault being mine than my spouses. Interesting how hindsight gives such clarity. At the time both unions were falling apart I put the majority of  blame on my wife; DENIAL in all capital letters!

Will ‘the third time’ be the charm for me to be married? Honestly, I have no idea. My life is contented and I’m blessed with wonderful friends. Fortunately my health is good, I have a grateful outlook on life, an optimistic attitude about the future and am open to whatever form what’s ahead may appear. I know well what it is like to be miserably married. I am grateful that is not my life today!

Men marry women with the hope
they will never change.
Women marry men
with the hope they will change.
Invariably they are both disappointed.
Albert Einstein

Statistics and interpretations found on the following sites:
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/14/barely-half-of-u-s-adults-are-married-a-record-low/
http://www.MarieClaire.com
http://www.demographicintel.com/
http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/american-marriage-study-findings

Similar to a Blind Man

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I’ve lived. I’ve learned.

I’ve failed. I’ve succeeded.

I’ve found myself. I’ve lost myself in others.

I’ve been kind. I’ve been heartless.

I’ve been loved. I’ve lost the love I had.

I’ve been loyal. I’ve been unfaithful.

I’ve been hurt. I’ve been hurtful.

… that and more is the human experience.

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child. And you learn to build your roads today because tomorrows ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure… that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn… Veronica A. Shoffstall.

I’m just a man who learned about life similar to a blind person feeling his way; the way we all do. Too rarely have I taken the advice of the experienced, and instead depended on knowledge gained first-hand. Because of my habit of not listening, you’d think I’d stop giving unsolicited advice. Probably humming a song to them would have more meaning. I didn’t listen to most advice given. Most never listened to how I might have counseled them. “I told you so’s” have little meaning.

No matter how many people come into my life or how many become a fixture in it, 95% of my knowledge about living well comes from what I have done and didn’t do. Realizing every moment is a lesson, whether big or minute, has been one of my great revelations. I am truly grateful for the experiences I learned that from.

Experience is a hard teacher
because she gives the test first,
the lesson afterwards.
Albert Einstein