life lessons

What Does It Mean To Be a True Friend?

Lately I have had more than my share of friends and acquaintances ask for my opinion on sensitive subjects, or just share with me a situation they are facing. These are work related, relationship related and family related…all very personal.

My first thoughts tend to be, “Do they want to just vent, do they want me to validate their choices, or do they want my honest opinion?”

I find most people just need to articulate their dilemmas and are simply looking for confirmation that they are reading the situation correctly. These people seem grateful to hear a different perspective regarding implementing what they already know. Sometimes just receiving validation that you are in fact on the right path is very empowering.

Lucy-Giving-Advice

The really challenging situations are when friends confide in me that they are doing something causing my brain to yell in big red letters, “RUN AND DON’T LEAVE A FORWARDING ADDRESS!!”

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Yet whether due to guilt, hopefulness, regret or any other emotion, the reality is that most every human being walking the face of the earth has occasionally experienced this.

So, what does it mean to be a true friend? Do you sit quietly as you watch a friend enter a tunnel hoping that the light at the end isn’t an on coming train? Or, do you tell them that you hear the whistle and see the smoke?

No one wants to rain on a friend’s parade or burst his or her bubble. No one wants to see their friends choose a path that is certain to cause heartache and sadness. We are faced with many situations in our lives where there isn’t a clear and right answer. I watched a TV show last year where a singer accused his former wife of giving up on their love. Her response was, “How could I know that the 9th time you went to rehab it would work”? She gave up on the 8th time.

My point in sharing the above story: No one really knows if this time the outcome will be different, even if the odds seem stacked against it.

Since I don’t have a crystal ball, I have decided to do the following: Unless I am asked my honest opinion, I will keep my thoughts to myself, although wondering whether I am indeed being a true friend. I welcome all comments.

crystal-ball

My book, 12 Ways To Discover What Makes You Tick is filled with practical exercises and suggestions regarding growth through awareness of how and why we react the way we do.

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Aren’t you worth investing a few dollars in order to make healthy changes that will ultimately give you the perspective needed to improve your interpersonal relationships? Lots to gain, little to lose!

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When Life Kicks You in the Ass

I am not talking about making lemonade from lemons.  I am not talking about dealing with life’s little challenges.  I am talking about when life truly hits you with a full-blown-out catastrophe. 
A 24-hour pity party with a box of chocolate won’t help.  A glass of wine with a friend doesn’t cut it.  And the sage old advice about life not giving you more than you can handle is pure bunk.
When the disappointment seems unending.  When your sadness seems like a life-sentence, when there are no good solutions, how does one go on?
When it come to mistakes we’ve made, unfairness or the many injustices  others have done to us, it really only hurts us if we obsess about it.  Fostering hurts and wounds only keeps them alive for us.  The other guy has moved on and more likely than not is not affected by his or her actions.
Whether you were over looked for promotions.  Whether a fire or other natural disaster took your possessions, whether you experienced a loss of a friend or family member, the reality is life does continue.
I read and hear about such tremendous challenges people go through.  I read and hear about where their lives are years later.  So many are stronger, and although have the physical and emotional scars continue to keep going.  Yes, some better than others.
I believe the reality is that most of us will experience situations that will question our faith, question ourselves, cause us to wonder if it really is worth it and have us wonder whether the world wouldn’t be better off without us.
If this sounds like a familiar story line, one just needs to have seen the Christmas movie called, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I have no answers or solutions.  I have always felt it is not the trouble we get into that is important; it is how we handle it that speaks of our character and worth.
So, when life seems to kick you in the ass, whether you helped it or truly are a victim, accept it, own it, look for solutions and move on with your life.  It is what survivors do.
 
 

Until it is Gone

 “I miss the good old days.”  Or, “I really miss my dad.  I think of him everyday.  I would give anything to have more time with him”, are said way too often.  This could also apply to any family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker.
Although many make the time to be with their loved ones, are we really doing a good job of appreciating them while they are still in our lives?  I don’t mean to judge or would I even attempt to say how much time is the right amount of time.   I just know when parents and grandparents are gone; it never seems to be enough.
When I was younger and would go to a restaurant with my family, we always felt bad for the couples that had the newspaper up to their eyeballs while eating with each other.  Now, of course, the whole family sits around a dinner table with the expectation that all the electronic devices are also invited to dine.
I remember a time when adults would talk and children would color or play with their food.  I now see toddlers in their high chairs with a propped up computer screen for them to occupy their time.  REALLY?
Who are these people that think this is a good idea?  Meals, whether at home or in public should be about sharing, lively conversation and laughter.  Have we gotten so far out of touch with what is really important? Do our children have to grow up and move on for us to try and make up for all the years we didn’t get to reallyknow them? Do we need to lose people before we really appreciate them? 
Don’t be the person who regrets not appreciating what you have now until it is gone.  But more importantly, don’t be the person who regrets not spending time with the people you care about in your life until theyare gone!

Something to not just think about, but upon!

Holding Up A Mirror

I received an email from a friend of many decades.  It simply said, “Was your last blog about our relationship?”  It was the one where I wrote about hurt feelings and keeping score.
I assured her she wasn’t the subject.  Then I asked her why she thought I was referring to her.  She thought that since we have had issues over the years, she just wanted to check.   Please, is there anyone out there who has not had spats and misunderstandings with family or friends?
She then went on to say that if I was writing about her, she wanted to take a look at her own behavior to see if there is anything she should perhaps do differently.
I thought about this on and off throughout the day.  Instead of her becoming defensive, she actually held a mirror up to herself to see in what ways she might be responsible.  She also didn’t stew about it; she asked me in a direct manner, looking for information, not a fight or an argument.
How many people actually self-assess?  How many people really give thought to their own actions when a situation goes badly?  Perhaps if more of us did, we could defuse situations rather than igniting them.
Something to think about.

Truthfully Speaking

Ever since I can remember, I was told that lying was wrong.  I was also told that ‘little white lies’ were okay.  The ‘little white lies’ were used to tell someone their hair looked good (when it was beach hair), you liked the couch they just bought (although it was made from the same material that your Great Aunt used for her drapes when you were a little kid).
And, we all understood the importance of telling a relative, “I’m sorry, I have allergies”, when confronted with an awful looking vegetable dish at her house.
 
 
 Somewhere between using ‘white lies’ to spare feelings, we have adapted them as a way of getting out of social obligations, attending meetings at school, or a number of other things that we don’t want to deal with.  Sometimes we just tell them to make ourselves look better.
What is wrong with just telling the truth?  If the other person isn’t happy with that, then they aren’t happy with it.  However, I am not advocating telling someone how he or she really looks in his or her jeans!
Perhaps if the people we are lying to wouldn’t give us a hard time and make us feel guilty, we wouldn’t feel the need to do this.
What do you think?

That’s How I Feel

I received a call from a longtime friend of mine.  I have known her over 30 years.  Our friendship has always been rocky at best.  Our biggest problem stems from an expectation and then a disappointment.  It is usually over something small that seems to get blown out of proportion.
“I called you twice, you called me once.  I wrote two paragraphs, you answered with one word.”  The end result is she tends to feel that I am blowing her off.
How many times do you find yourself in a situation where someone is saying to you, “But that’s how I ‘feel'”, when his or her feelings are hurt, although that wasn’t your intention?,  Or perhaps you are the person who feels slighted?
Friendships, like relationships, take work.  Somewhere between the giving of the message and the receiving of the message is ‘tone, intent, and attitude’.  Or, more likely, it is  perceived‘tone, intent, and attitude’.
 
 
I am not sure what the answer is.  I am not sure what the solution is.  I suppose the best way to handle any situation where someone is telling you how they feel is to listen to what they have to say.  Recognize they have a right to their feelings and then move on.
If you have a better idea, PLEASE share your thoughts.

 

Let it Go

There are several people in my life that have a hard time letting things go.  This could be the jeans that have been hanging in their closet for two decades, thinking they will either come back in style or they will once again be that weight (ok, I am guilty).  It could be a friend they met in high school whom they no longer have anything in common with and they don’t even like them, or it can even be the dream they had for themselves in their youth that is no longer attainable.

It is hard to know when it is time to move on.  Whether it is an idea, a plan, someone we met years ago or making a change.  I believe it is human nature to want to hold on even when it is time to let go.
My feeling is that not everything is meant to be, “Until death do us part.”  Yes, that could mean those leggings that you wore 20 pounds ago. Or the hairstyle that looked good in your 20s.
 
I remember reading a long time ago about people who are ‘transition’ people.  They come into your life when you need them, yet they aren’t necessarily meant to be lifetime friends. 
Life is hard enough as it is.  Taking on more burdens, holding onto the past if it drags you down, is this really in your best interest?
It really is okay to let go of the things that aren’t working for you.  What do you think?

What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference?
We were all seated around the dining room table.  Eating, laughing, playing games and enjoying the end of the year holidays.
My older brother observed the group.  Then, with much thought he said, “We have people here that are from the South, from the Mid West and from the West Coast.  We have several different religions, and every side of the political spectrum that you could think of.  We have people ranging from 10 to 70. Our family has a mixture of kids who are adopted, kids who aren’t, blended households and sexual diversity.”
 
Some are highly educated, some not.  Some well traveled, some not.  As my sister-in-law lovingly said, “We are a mixed bag of nuts.”
Under normal circumstances our group would not be friends.  Under normal circumstances our paths would probably not even cross.  And, yet, we had much more in common than not.  At least, in the things that are important.  And, we had a great time.
Raising kids, providing a stable environment, understanding our world, supporting friends, finding meaning and experiencing life. 
Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of judging the differences in each other we could embrace them?
I think so.  You?

Isn’t Life Ironik?

The reason the show ‘American’s Funniest Videos’ is so popular is because we are watching someone else’s family or pet do something ridiculous.  Most of us tend to have a sense of humor and play when it isn’t so close to home.
That brings me to my present situation.  My mother.  She has recently been moved to the ‘Memories/Reminiscence’ area of the assisted living place in which she lives.  My older brother likes to call it, ‘The place where the door does NOT swing in both directions.”
While we are sad and are dealing with very real and hard emotions, we find ourselves also laughing.  There are so many funny things that young children and the elderly do.  Heck, we all do some very funny things.
Perhaps many would find my family odd.  Or, perhaps, many would think we are insensitive.  The first might be true, however not the second.  We are very involved with our mother’s care.  We would fly across the country to take care of her.  The entire family is concerned and there for her.
And yet, we find the humor and share the irony of getting old.  Our mother’s as well as our own.
I think we could all use a dose of laughter.  I think sometimes we take ourselves and our lives way too seriously.  Find the funny.  It is all around us.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  It is very cathartic.
Something to think about it.

 

Where Did The Year Go?

Every year at this time you can hear the collective sighs of, “Where did the year go?”  It seems as if we are celebrating the New Year and then before you know it, it is summer time, then the smell of turkey.
It is a common cry of parents of teenagers (although for most the time goes way too slowly), and grandparents to reflect on years gone by way too fast.  My grandmother used to say, “It goes by all too quickly.”
Well, it is no surprise that when we count the days until Friday as a new workday begins, and we see the stores carrying products for one holiday before another one ends, that we are in fact rushing through our lives.
Children can’t wait to grow up.  Teenagers can’t wait to move out, get married, and have kids.  And middle-aged people fantasize about retirement.
WHAT IS THE RUSH???
I have a sister-in-law that makes a choice every day to find something fun to do.  She tells me, “I have to work, but I choose to play.”  It doesn’t matter if she is tired at the end of the day.  Whether meeting friends for a coffee treat, or a glass of wine, or heading to water aerobics, she plans her week with enjoyment as well as responsibility.
She also plans for naps and downtime.  I think we can all take a lesson from her.  It is true there are things we have to do that are chores and work.  It is also true we can find things to do that give us fun and pleasure.
Agree?