Sign Up for the Get It Together Girl Newsletter

Monday, April 30, 2012

Friends, Frenemies and Enemies ... Oh My!!

There is a saying that I’ve never really understood, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” What does that mean? I guess it means that if your enemies are close then you know what they are up to. However, it me, it also means they are close enough to glean a lot of valuable information about you (that they can later use against you) and, of course, they are close enough to stab that knife deep into you back.

For me, the saying should say, “Keep your friends close and your enemies as far away as possible.” To me you should keep good people close and ethical, loyal and positive people even closer. Surround yourself with people who see the best in you and who you can encourage and support as well.  Basically, you should see the best in each other.

I try to keep the time I spend with spiteful, negative and jealous people to a minimum. This has not been easy but it’s been worth it. There are people I have known since grade school that I’ve slowly moved out of my circle. After a series of events, I realized they didn’t want the best for me. In fact, in a couple of cases they actually went out of their way to see me fall and then kick me when I was down. Sure, we’d known each other forever, but how much is that worth when the outcome is so detrimental?

I didn’t make a scene or have a dramatic confrontation; I just slowly stopped calling and seeking out their company. I also closed down when I did see them (we ran in the same circles). I didn’t tell them about who I was dating, what job I was applying for or confide in them about any family issues. I was polite and friendly but on a very surface level. Eventually, I moved to another city … which made it avoiding them a lot easier! LOL! 

This also applies to family. Choosing your family isn’t an option but how much time you spend with them and how much you share with them is up to you. A close family is a beautiful thing but when that close family specializes in tearing you down, harping on your mistakes or verbally harassing you it ceases to be a thing of beauty. There are members of my extended family that are very extended and that is a very intentional decision.

Luckily, I don’t have too many enemies but for those few, I want to me be so far away that they’ll have to throw that dagger if they want to stab me in the back!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making Memories

My mother told me once that after I turned 25 I’d be amazed at how quickly time flies. She was right. In the blink of an eye, kids I used to babysit have kids of their own. While I was still having fond memories of my 10-year High School Reunion, my 20th crept up on me! Time flies. So it’s become important to me to capture memories.

Photos are a wonderful way to remember places you’ve been, the people you know and the person you used to be. In 2001, I traveled to South Africa. My camera was broken so my boyfriend let me borrow his. To my horror, I got half-way around the world only to find that his camera was broken too! I have vivid memories of that trip but what I don’t have are pictures. 

As a writer, I also keep a journal and I keep many of my old journals. Looking back, I have detailed accounts of experiences I had forgotten I had! LOL! I also have a great snapshot of what I was thinking and feeling at several important junctures in my life.

I’ve never been one for scrapbooking but people who do have albums and mementos they can truly treasure.

More than personal remembrances, your photos, journals and scrapbooks can live on and be passed down to your children and grandchildren. Those items can provide an intimate portrait of you and the times you lived in much better than ever could.

Time flies! So take some time to capture it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Worth the Effort ... Really It is!

I know a lot of people who avoid exercise like the plague. In fact, they don’t even consider exercising until the doctor tells them that they have to do it. They recoil at the thought of sweating. They look at weights and machines as something akin to torture devises! However, I want to take a little bit of time to taut the virtues of exercise for everyone. Yes, this means you – even if you don’t need to lose weight or have received a doctor’s mandate.

Recently, I was slammed at work and spent about two months coming in very early (6:00 AM) and staying late. Keeping up with my morning workouts was impossible. Now that the crunch is over, I’m getting back to my old routine and I have to say, I missed it.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever and mood enhancer. I noticed when I start my mornings with exercise; I leave for work in a better mood. Throughout the day, I find that even in stressful situations, I’m less tense and don’t experience as much of the physical symptoms that stress creates.

It sounds counterintuitive but exercise actually gives you a nice energy boost. So when you say you don’t have the energy to exercise, the ironic thing is that exercising anyway will give you more of the energy you crave!

When I exercise regularly, I can see a definite difference in my ability to focus and in mental clarity overall. I feel sharper and better able to get my work done.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a painful, stressful or negative experience. The trick is to find things you enjoy to do.

Go for a walk. (put on some good music or walk with a buddy to make it even more fun).
Dance or take a dance class.
Play outside and run around with the kids.
Golf and walk (instead of taking the buggy).

If there is an exercise you actually do enjoy, take a class or join a club. I’m a member of a hiking group. A good friend of mine joined the YMCA so she can have access to their pool.

No matter what you do, do something! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who Cares!?!

Who cares? I do! And, I hope you do too. The world could use a little more caring. One of my favorite shows is ABC's What Would You Do? They stage a bunch of dramatic situations to see who will stop and help. There have been scenarios where a boyfriend is verbally abusing his girlfriend, or where kids are bullying one another. There have also been scenarios where people at another table are overhearing a serious conversation and the goal is to see who will have the courage to intervene.

The show focuses on those who stop to help but they always mention an almost always greater number of people who don't get involved. Some of these people claim they are too busy. Others say it is not their business. Some didn't even notice what was going on around them. However, all of the people who stop share one common trait: they care and they are concerned.

Of course, in some instances it might be dangerous to stop for a stranger, but I maintain that even if we don't stop for that stranger, we should stop for those in our circle. We have family, friends, and co-workers who could use some of our care and concern. If someone in your circle is suffering, you should at least make an attempt to reach out.

You may be rebuffed. Your offer to help may be ignored; but, make the effort anyway. There are some manipulative people out there who don't deserve your concern. However, as the saying goes, "You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater" I truly believe there are more good people than bad. Don't let the exploitative personalities shut you off from doing some good for others.

Doing good doesn't have to cost anything more than a little time. An encouraging word, a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent to or just someone who'll listen all count as caring activities. A lot of times, I think we tend to think in terms of grand gestures. If it can't be a big deal, it isn't worth doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's often the littlest things that make the biggest difference.

So I'll ask again. Who cares? I do and you should to!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

That's been the United Negro College Fund's motto for almost 40 years; so much so, that it almost has lost its meaning. However, it is true - a mind is a terrible thing to waste. I don't think enough of us realize that as we cruise through our days  largely on autopilot. We need to make a point of exercising our minds, lest we waste them, or even worse, lose them.

Challenge Conventional Wisdom
Why do we believe what we believe? Be it religion or politics or how we view other people, how did we come up with those particular ideas? Largely, it was parents, families and our communities who helped shape us. They gave us a set of beliefs a long time ago and many of us, for the most part, have stuck with them.

However, it is okay to doubt and to question. In fact, you should doubt and question. We, as a society, need to stop taking things at face value and really think about them. I have questioned my faith repeatedly, searching for answers, asking tough questions and it has served to make my faith stronger. On the other hand, when it came to politics, I questioned and asked tough questions and I didn't like the answers I received. So now, I'm an independent who has crafted my own political views. Views that suit me and not just where I grew up and who raised me.

Challenging conventional wisdom also means listening to the views of others and really hearing them. This doesn't mean you have to change your mind, just open it a little. When I say listen and hear, that is exactly what I mean. Listen with the intent of understanding which is a lot harder than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can state your case.

Start searching for answers and you might be surprised at what you find!

Learn for Life
If we want to exercise and nurture our minds, we also need to recognize that education doesn't end when school does. There are tons of learning opportunities all around us. The Internet puts a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips - so much so that encyclopedias are virtually a thing of the past. The same computer we use regularly for recreation can be used for education. Heck, you can even google things you are curious about on your smartphone.

And curiosity is key. It is the key to a fascinating life of learning. Young children go through a "Why" phase when they want to know everything about everything. Although we grow out of that phase we need to never stop asking "Why?" or "How does this work?" or "Where can I go to find out more about this?" The great thing about learning outside of an academic environment is you control your learning. You can focus on things that interest and appeal to you.

People also provide an incredible opportunity to learn. Talk to someone of a different culture or faith or even from another part of the country about how they do things. You might be fascinated by the differences yet drawn in by how much you actually have in common. 

Talking to older people can be a living history lesson. Through their stories and experiences, history can truly come to life. Likewise, older people can learn a lot by talking to someone from a younger generation. Instead of making assumptions, you can gain a greater understanding of their point of view and line of thinking.

Learning is one of those things that makes life worth living. So learn! Don't let your mind go to waste.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's a Start...

This blog is dedicated to the people who have done someone else wrong. I’m talking about the people who have lied, cheated, stabbed someone in the back or otherwise used or manipulated someone … and got caught. This blog is dedicated to those people who offered an apology to the other person and were amazed that their words didn’t carry more weight.

Saying “I’m sorry,” is a great start but that is all it is … a start. It’s the start of a long race to rebuild trust, let bruised egos and hurt feeling heal. I’m sorry when said sincerely can carry a lot of weight but look at it this way. The action cut a deep wound in the other person, a wound that will need to be tended to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. A wound that may require bandages and stitches. A wound that even with top-notch care will still take time to heal and even then, will most likely leave a scar.

I’ve heard people who have cheated or stolen from a loved one express frustration that the other person wasn’t magically healed by the sound of an “I’m Sorry”; as if those words were synonymous to Abracadabra or Open Sesame! There is no magic to a verbal apology. As Bette Davis once said, “Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

The aggrieved person is going to have to go through a healing process that includes: sadness, anger, not to mention doubts and questions. This is to be accepted and understood. Rushing someone through this process won’t speed it up but will actually slow it down.

Instead of being frustrated, try working on your side of things. The apology might have been the beginning of healing for the other person, but for you it’s the beginning of a lot of hard work. You now have to prove that you are worthy of their forgiveness. You’ve talked the talk, now you must walk the walk.

You must be honest.
You must be transparent.
You must be patient.
Most importantly, you must not repeat the past behavior.

A song once said that “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” However, for the guilty party that hard word is followed by lots of hard work.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Watch What You Say

Your words color your current world and they even predict your future. Since they have that kind of power, it would make sense that we be very careful with the words we choose to describe ourselves and our situations.

Avoid Hyperbole
Hyperbolic language is extreme language. A rainy day becomes a raging storm. A cold become pneumonia. Don’t go overboard in describing your situation. If it really is that bad, by all means, say so. But if it isn’t, don’t go there. A cold is a cold and rain is just rain. Don’t use your words to build up your situation and make it more than what it is.

Making a bad situation worse is a great way to gain sympathy but it is a lousy way to improve a bad situation.

Be Specific
Vague words and sweeping generalizations can make a bad situation worse. You can say “My boss absolutely hated my presentation.” That could be true, but don’t use that sentence if is better conveyed as “My boss liked the presentation but she hated the figures I used to prove my point, she really questioned the numbers.”

Vague and unspecific language can create a paralyzing sense of overwhelm.  Productivity and positivity never arise from overwhelm.

Create Your Reality
Your words matter. If you feel you will never be promoted, you probably won’t be. In fact, if that is your belief and what you are speaking over your life, then your work will probably suffer as well as your attitude.  Believing you will be promoted doesn’t mean you will be promoted, but it does mean you will be more focused, more productive and more positive and that can open doors you may have not considered.

Your words have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be careful about what you say. It does matter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lessons Learned

I don't know why but for some reason, the other day while sitting in traffic, I started thinking about what i've learned over the past forty "cough-cough" years. I figured I would share those lessons with you today. Feel free to add your own in the comments!
  1. Older does not necessarily mean wiser. There are a lot of old fools out there!
  2. When someone tells you it’s not what you think; usually it is exactly what you think it is.
  3. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you just doesn’t kill you. Sometimes it makes you stronger or smarter and sometimes it doesn’t.
  4. Anyone who starts to give you advice with “All you have to do is,” has no idea what they are talking about. People who know what they are doing know it’s always harder than it looks.
  5. Truth lies in a person’s actions and not in their words. Watch what they do more than you listen to what they say.
  6. What someone does to someone else, they are capable of doing to you (and eventually probably will). Don’t think you are so high and mighty that you can avoid what’s happened to others who have gone before you.
  7. If someone doesn’t treat you right in the beginning, they won’t change their ways later.
  8. On the road to success the people who look like you might not be your biggest helpers. Sometimes the hand that holds you down will look very similar to yours. Other times your helping hand will come from someone who doesn’t look like you, share your gender or membership in a certain minority group. 
  9. When you need expert advice, get it from an expert … someone who has successfully done what you want to do and who knows the subject matter.
  10. You never know who’s watching you so act accordingly.
Enter your own lessons in the comments below!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring has Sprung

In Charlotte, North Carolina this year, we had no winter. In fact, it rarely even got cold enough to snow. The flowers bloomed early and we've pretty much had spring-like weather since late February.

Still, there is something about Spring.The flowers bloom. The trees are gorgeous. The days are getting longer. It's basically just a wonderful time of the year.

The thing l like best about spring is that its all about rebirth and new beginnings. Trees that appeared dead months before are vibrant and full of life. Days that were dark and cold are quickly becoming longer and warmer. 

Spring has a lot to show us about the cyclical nature of life itself. We all go through our own personal winters. We experience our own long dark days, the cold chills of misfortune, and sometimes blizzards of bad news. Yet, eventually, spring does come. Things might be different but they will get better. Spring is on the way with its warmth and beauty.

Spring comes every year and you can count on it. Bad times don't last either, they pass just like winter. If you are experiencing a dark time, this blog is for you. 

Your spring is coming. You can count on it.