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Monday, November 28, 2011

More than Shades of Gray

 I have a very good friend who occasionally infuriates me by his tendency to see everything in black and white. If someone is having a hard time at work, it's "Why not just find another job?" His answer to a friend's difficult marital woes is "Why did she stay this long? Why didn't she just leave?" Everything in his eyes is just that simple and clear-cut.

I wish it were so simple. I see the shades of gray. In fact, I don't just see the shades of gray, I see the colors as well. The beleaguered worker doesn't just find another job because he experiences the red-hot frustration of a sometimes difficult boss and the green glares of envy in the eyes of several coworkers as they play office politics with him. On the other hand, he also has the golden glow of friendship and genuine concern from several other co-workers. He is also tickled pink every day because he truly enjoys the work he gets to do everyday. Getting another job is anything but black and white.

It seems simple enough for the woman in the blue-tinged loneliness of a bad marriage. Yet, what those on the outside never saw were the occasional bright red flashes of love and even passion between her and her jerk-of-a-husband. There were the warm brown moments of familiarity, as comforting as a cup of cocoa on a cold day, that came from knowing someone so long and experiencing so much with them. There was the flush of pink embarrassed cheeks as she imagined sharing what she had endured with condescending friends who "would have known better" if what had happened to her had happened to them. There was the gray-steely resolve she showed for years as she was determined to make her marriage work no matter what. So deciding to leave and getting up the courage to do so was anything but black and white.

Most things in life aren't black and white or even gray. If we truly look at a situation, we will see it flushed with vivid, realistic and emotional color. To discount those colorful experiences is to cheapen and dismiss those experiences.

Trust Me, You Need This

Take today's blog photo, print it and keep it with you at all times. Feel free to make copies for kids, co-workers, friends or spouses.

You see, this a rare find - something often heard but almost never seen. It is the ever-elusive Round To It. You hear a lot about Round To Its but its nearly impossible to find one, yet here it is.

The next time you find yourself or someone else saying that they'll do something when they get a Round To It, hand them this uncommon excuse eliminator.
  • Your co-worker says she'll review your report when she gets "around to it." Hand it to her.
  • Your kids swear that they'll get "around to" cleaning their room. Hand it to them.
  • The hubs says he'll get "around to" mowing the lawn. Hand it to him.
  • "I'll get around to scheduling that doctor's appointment, you say." Hand it to yourself!
People who are waiting for the opportunities to get a Round to It, no longer have that as an excuse because her it is!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratitude List

It's impossible to be happy without being grateful. If you think about it, spoiled children (and adults) always seem disgruntled and unhappy because they are ungrateful. They feel entitled, as if they are owed something, and when they get what they think they deserve, they still aren't happy because now they want (deserve and are entitled to) something else. It's an endless cycle of misery.

Yet, if we are grateful - thankful - for what we have, we are then in a position to be happy with what we have. It doesn't mean that we don't want more, but it does mean that we don't spend our time pining away for what we don't have and wishing that what we do have was something else, something better.

It means you can enjoy a ride to work in your car without wishing you were riding in something else and headed somewhere all together different. It means you start a daily scavenger hunt, looking for what is good, what is working and what you can accomplish and enjoy. Gratitude enables you to see the good and the positive without the the tireless focus of what is wrong, broken, and just not good enough that plagues the entitled and ungrateful.

A lot of people advocate keeping a daily gratitude journal where you find something(s) to be grateful for everyday. I think this is an excellent practice. If you aren't up to daily journaling, then take some time during the Thanksgiving holiday to come up with 10 things you are grateful for that have happened in this past year. And, I guarantee, you can come up with 10. I've come up with 20, but I'll share 10 here with you now.

1. Health
2. Incredible vacation.
3. Spent extra time with my dad.
4. Completed several major projects at work.
5. Published two books on Kindle and recently added the paperbacks to Amazon.
6. Relaunched my movie/TV blog and am enjoying writing it.
7. Met a great guy.
8. Reconnected with a few old friends
9. Got back into cooking/baking as a hobby
10. New hairstyle

Nothing earth-shattering but things that have made my life a little better and brighter and for that I am grateful for. An attitude of gratitude can make all of the difference.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Favorite Funny Quotes

One week from know, we'll be celebrating the Thanksgiving (and a really long weekend, if you were lucky enough to get it off), I thought I’d leave you with some of my favorite funny quotes. If you didn't get the holiday off, Happy Thursday!
  • "The meek will inherit the earth – if that’s okay with everyone else." – Author Unknown
  • "The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you." ~ Rita Mae Brown
  • "Forgiving without forgetting is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will die." – Floyd Wickham (sales expert)
  • "The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget constraints." – Elaine Ambrose (humor expert)
  • "Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men." - Kin Hubbard
  • "Pro and con are opposites, that fact is clearly seen. If progress means to move forward, then what does Congress mean?" - Nipsey Russell
  • "I must be wishing on someone else's star because it seems someone else is always getting what I wished for." ~ Unknown
  • "A word to the wise isn't necessary; it is the stupid ones who need all the advice." - Bill Cosby
  • "There are two different kinds of people in this world: those who finish what they start, and" – Brad Ramsey
  • "Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out." ~ Unknown
  • "I've never been married, but I tell people I'm divorced so they won't think something is wrong with me." ~ Elayne Boosler
  • "If crime doesn't pay... does that mean my job is a crime?" ~ Unknown

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fretting about Tomorrow

The same therapist that explained the connection between the past and depression explained to me that anxiety is future-based. People who suffer from anxiety worry about what would, could and should (or shouldn’t) happen. They approach tomorrow with a sense of dread and fear that seeps into their daily lives. Fear paralyzes them and stops them from taking action. They are simply overwhelmed.

If you ordered a product, you wouldn’t worry about it arriving defective or broken. You expect it to come in good working order. If it does arrive broken or with parts missing, you’ll handle it at that time, Yet, we don’t do that when we worry about tomorrow.

Some of our worries are well-founded. If you mailed off a payment knowing you don’t have the money in the bank to cover it, you’ll probably be worried … and rightly so. If you are cheating on your spouse, you probably should worry about getting caught.

However, many of our worries are unfounded. We make bad situations potentially worse when we speak them with words like always and never. I’ll never have enough money. I always meet the wrong men. I will always be stuck in this situation. Things will never get better.

Talk like that creates a lot of anxiety. We take the power of our imaginations and use it for the negative. We think of all the possible worst-case scenarios. If something has ever happened to us that supports our negative thinking then we will replay that event over and over again and assume that since it happened once before, it will, more than likely happen again.

As I said in the last post, if your anxiety is debilitating and preventing you from moving forward, you might want to consult a therapist. However, if you feel you can handle it, the best antidote for anxiety is planning. Plan for the thing you fear. Do as much as you can today to prevent the negative tomorrow from ever taking place.

As soon as I have a plan in place and begin acting on it, I feel better. I feel more in control. You might not be able to solve the whole problem but the act of doing something is making progress and you climb a mountain one step at a time.

After I’ve done all I can do, I acknowledge that I’ve done all I can do. It might not be perfect. The problem might not be solved but it might be a little better. If it isn’t better, at least I don’t have the regrets that I didn’t do all that I could.

I went through10 months of unemployment. As soon as I lost my job, I called the bank to see what I could do with my mortgage. This touched off a 10 month battle to try and keep my house. Talk about anxiety. Where would I go? How could I find an apartment without a job? Then my imagination kicked in. I would have to return to Cleveland, humiliated, and live with my family… at 41 years old. I’d be depressed. I’d be even fatter and I was convinced that I would have lost all will to go on. I invisioned myself wrapped in a blanket sitting on the sofa in the basement in my pajamas with a hair disheavled, tears in my eyes and a box of Kleenex at my side (what can I say, I have a vivid imagination!).

I did all that I could. I borrowed from family and friends. I tried to save up my meager unemployment money to make a payment. I contacted HUD, all of my congressional representatives, made a complained with the Commission of Banks, used my tax refund money and prayed relentlessly. It was overwhelming. Many, many tears were shed.

Finally, I realized that I had done all I could do and although it wouldn’t make me happy, I was willing to put my house up on a short sale. I hated the thought but I had no regrets because I had done all I could do. As I was heading home to call my agent, I got a call. It was a job offer and it saved my home.

I was fraught with anxiety that entire time but when I was working toward a solution, I felt a little bit better. Doing something, at least for that time, helped.Taking action helped combat my anxiety. If I had to do it again (and I really hope I never have to), I would add talking back to those negative thoughts and using my imagination more proactively instead of letting that negative movie play.

It doesn’t make sense to worry about things that haven’t happened yet; but it takes real actions and hard work to overcome those anxious thoughts and emotions.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yesterday is a Memory

A therapist once told me that depression is rooted in the past: regrets, guilt and not being able to deal with things that happened in the past. Those events grab us and refuse to let go, influencing and often ruining or self-esteem, our relationships and our general outlook and response to life.

Breaking the chains that shackle us to past events is critical to being able to move forward. I wish it was as easy as “just letting go” but often it isn’t. Sometimes we need the help of a professional … and there is nothing wrong with that. As a black woman, I come from a culture that often equates therapy with weakness when in fact nothing can be further from the truth. Therapy can be the strongest, bravest things you can do for yourself.

Other times, you don’t need a therapist, you need to change your way of thinking. Sometimes it comes over time, other times it takes hard work. My mom died when I was 15. The last time I saw her I left in anger. I lived with the guilt of that for years. It took me becoming an adult to realize that she probably realized that I was 15. My behavior was an episode of teenage psychosis and she knew that. She still knew that I loved her. It took time to come to that realization, but once I had it, I was able to let go.

On the other hand, after a bad experience dating a pathological liar, cheater and conman, it would have been easy to paint all men with that dark and evil brush. So, I got to work. I tried to find the lessons in that whole sorry experience. Most importantly, I realized that he was one man and was not a representative of all men. Ironically, the next man I met was the same age, height and from the same city as the conman. Yet, I judged this new man on his own merits and not on the behavior of the one that came before him. Gratefully, he is nothing like the other guy and would not have deserved to pay for the other guy’s actions.

Letting go of the past is critical to being able to live today, which is the goal. We cannot do anything about yesterday. All we can do is learn from it, make amends for it and move beyond it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

44 and No More

Heavy D died today. He was one of the rappers that helped color my college years. When I read that he had been found dead in his Beverly Hills home, it struck me. It struck me because one of my favorite rappers from back in the day had passed. And, it struck me because, at 44, he was just one year older than me.

We are all guaranteed one thing. Just as we came in this world, we will leave it. Wealthy or poor, good, bad or indifferent, we will all die. However, as much as we love and cling to life, none of us want to face our mortality. It’s the ultimate elephant in the room. Seeing someone your own age brings it home in a way that is all too real.

I remember when my mom died; it was another jarring jolt of mortality. She was 44 too. The interesting thing is none of my friends wanted to talk to me about it. For one, they didn’t know what to say (and there really wasn't anything they could have said). Secondly, I realized that talking about my mother’s passing made them think about their own mother’s mortality, and no teenager wants to confront that inevitability.

But I have learned to take comfort in one truth. Each day is precious and should not be taken lightly or for granted. Every day I try to do three things: laugh, love and savor.

Whether I’m laughing at myself, my dog, a funny story or a sit-com, I find most things go better with a little levity. Laughter helps me to keep things in perspective and from taking myself too seriously.

I try to show love every day, if not directly through words, through my actions. Calling my dad, listening to a friend vent or helping another friend with car trouble, these are the things that show the people in my life that they are loved and appreciated by me.

Savoring is essential. Most mornings or nights when I walk Marty, I have the opportunity to gaze at a star-filled sky or see a sunrise. I might revel in a favorite dessert or a good glass of wine. While I was on vacation a few months ago, I walked leisurely on the beach enjoying the sand between my toes and the waves splashing against my legs.

Mortality for me doesn’t mean dreading death, it means cherishing life all that much more. I don’t know how long I’ll be here but I plan on making the most of it while I am.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What You Can't See

We might not all be from Missouri but we do live in a state called, "Show me." We believe in the physical, the literal. We have to see it, touch it, and smell it before we believe it.

Imagination, visualization and to an extent, even dreams, have taken a backseat in our practical and factual society. Heck, they might not even have a backseat; they might as well be pushed to a corner in an overcrowded trunk!

When it comes to our desires, our ambitions and even our dreams, we focus on the physical or tangible component. We can see and touch the one we love. We recognize the promotion because it comes with a new title, a bigger office and a larger number on the paycheck. We know we have arrived by the ZIP code we live in or the car in the driveway.

Yet, there is an undeniable power in seeing the unseen. All creation begins with a thought and thoughts are born in that realm of the intangible. We might not be able to touch them but they are just as real as what we can hold in our hands.

A person with a serious illness who can visualize themselves as healthy increases their chances of recovering. Athletes picture themselves winning the game or crossing the finish line. A dieter who can see themselves thinner and healthier has a better chance of losing the weight. Seeing success, visualizing the possibility is the first step into making it a reality.

It is not silly to visualize or spend a few minutes seeing your future. In fact, it’s a big part of your success. Every day spend a few minutes seeing yourself achieving your goals. It makes a difference. It keeps your motivation high and your goals at the forefront of your mind.

You don’t need a vision board or any intricate process or procedure. Just close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and see your success.

Once you can see it, then you can believe it, and then your success is right around the corner.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Flying By

It seems like this year has flown by. We are in the first few steps of the march towards the end of the year. It happens so fast, which is why it’s important to slow down and savor life right now. We won’t have that chance again.

I have a friend who is a true workaholic. She wears her 16 hour days like a badge of honor. In her estimation, it’s a good thing that her boyfriend broke up with her because he couldn’t handle her schedule. It’s a good thing that she catches every bug that comes around and works through it (she’s a trooper!) … it means she’s working hard. It’s a good thing that she doesn’t have time to rest or eat right. Health can wait.

I often wonder what she’s working for. What is the end game? I’m not saying that work isn’t important and that we shouldn’t give it 100% but I do think that we have to have a little bit of perspective about it. It’s been said that no one on their death bed ever wished they’d spent more time at work.

Life, like a year, goes by quickly, and before we know it, we’ve got more years behind us than ahead of us. In what seems like a blink of an eye, the kids go from diapers to school to college. Time truly waits for no one.

So use your vacation time. Enjoy some time with family. Work a little fun or relaxation into your schedule. Don’t put off every date night or plan to visit the parents at some nebulous time in the future.

Investing a little time today can save a lifetime of regrets tomorrow.