Monday, September 29, 2014

What Loss Left Behind

In my last post, I said that good things result from our bad experiences. If we pay attention, we will recognize that in every bad situation we are faced with, something good happens because of it. I have had a lot of bad experiences in my lifetime, but I also feel that I’ve gained a lot from all of them. For me, the best thing that has come from all of the difficulties in my life has been personal growth.

Two of my favorite qualities that resulted from the challenges I’ve endured are empathy and compassion.  I haven’t educated myself on these two qualities, but I’m assuming they are learned/can be taught. Maybe some of us are more inclined to be empathetic and compassionate, but I think we all possess the ability to become them. I think it is greatly due to empathy and compassion that I have connected on so many levels with so many different people in my life.

It is in my nature to try to put myself in other people’s shoes. I try to imagine what it must feel like to be them. Doing so, also helps me to minimize judgment because when you try to picture what it would feel like to be in someone else’s situation, it makes it harder to judge them for their choices because we actually, really don’t know what we would do until we go through the experience ourselves. So many times I have said “Oh, if that happened to me, I would do XYZ and I definitely wouldn’t do ABC! And so many times, it turns out that when I’m confronted with the exact scenario I imagined, I end up doing 123 and ABC and saying “$#@% I was so wrong!!”

My friend Sara recently sent me a video on empathy. It’s voiced by none other than my hero, BrenĂ© Brown. It’s only two+ minutes long but perfectly captures the definition of empathy. Please watch it. My hope is that next time a friend comes to you with an issue, you will remember this. RSA Shorts - The Power of Empathy

And in case you're wondering, here are the definitions of empathy and compassion from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If You Look For It, It Will Show Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad this week. Well, honestly, I think about him all the time, but this week more than others. On Sunday, I had a dream that he died. In my dream, I knew he was dying but I avoided going to see him at the hospital during his last couple of days because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of saying good-bye. Then after he died, his spirit came to me. I expected his spirit to be loving and understanding but he wasn’t. Instead, he made me feel guilty for the choice I made in avoiding the hospital. I woke up in a panic at 6:00AM and contemplated calling to check on him. (He lives in Buenos Aires and I only see him about twice a year.) I decided not to call and instead began to cry as I told my husband about the dream. Later on that day, I called my dad and told him about the dream. He laughed at me. It’s not the first time I’ve had a dream that he dies and I call him about it. He always gets a kick out of it and likes to ask questions about what he said or did in the dream.

Suddenly in the past few months, my three-year-old daughter has become hugely enamored with my husband. She went from being a mama’s girl to a daddy’s girl overnight. She not-so-gently broke my heart when she adamantly declared “Me love Papi” after I told her “I love you.” The next day when I asked her for a kiss she told me “No. Me kiss Papi” and ran to kiss him instead. As we sat together at the dinner table this week, I saw her lovingly gaze up at her daddy while she rested her head on his arm. She is officially in-love with him. I had expected it to happen one day, but I did not expect to feel the satisfaction that came with it. So I have been wondering why do I like seeing her develop a crush on her daddy?

This morning my daughter grabbed my hand and pulled me to the living room to dance with her. As we shimmied to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, she stood on my feet to dance. She had never done that before with me (or anyone else that I can remember). As we giggled and laughed (and I got a serious workout), I had a sudden flashback of doing the same thing with my dad A LOT. I know it’s a normal kid thing to dance on your parent’s feet, but I had completely forgotten. As I did my best to dance with my 33lb toddler on my toes, I reminisced about my dad and what a truly beautiful, fun childhood I had with him. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t always sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows, but the positive childhood memories with him stand out more than the negative. And that’s when it occurred to me why I am feeling such satisfaction in seeing my daughter with my husband…because I remember what a great feeling it was to be in love with my dad. I remember that I wanted to marry him. I thought he was so smart, funny, and handsome. I was in awe of him and so very proud to have him as MY daddy; proud to be his daughter. It thrills me to no end that my daughter is experiencing the same joyful feelings.

I recently spent some time reading online articles about how women get their positive self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, etc. from having had healthy relationships with their dads early on. Reading the articles (too many to list) reaffirmed to me that although my dad made a lot of mistakes after my mom died, he also did a not-too-shabby job with me during my first 16 years. I believe that one of the reasons we were able to make our way to the relationship we have now is because of the foundation he laid early on. The articles also reassured me that I chose a great husband with the ability to be a phenomenal father to his little girl.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, because I see them as all the good things that came out of the bad things I went through. After I lost my mom, I never thought life would be good again for me. When I was fighting left and right with my dad during those years, I never imagined we could be where we are today. When I was mending my broken heart, I didn't think I would ever recover and eventually find my soulmate. When I was suffering through infertility, it seemed impossible that one day I’d have a child. Life throws us curve balls but it’s up to us to see it as a good game despite the challenges; to find the benefits those curve balls gave us.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Smart Phone, Stupid Girl, and A Pug

During the last part of July, I was happily going about my day. I had been working on a blog post, continuing the saga of my harsh break-up with Robbie in 1988; texting back and forth with friends; planning what I would make for dinner; checking Facebook frequently throughout the day; just  a normal, lazy summer day for this stay-at-home mom. But then out of nowhere, things changed that day for me and I took an extended break from my blog and social media to do some soul-searching and reassessing of what I am doing and where I am going on my courageous journey. 

My hiatus from social media and from writing has given me the opportunity to think and evaluate how I spend my time. My biggest revelation was that I was spending a disgusting, shameful, and embarrassing amount of time looking down at my phone – mostly on Facebook, my blog, and most recently Twitter. When I wasn’t on those three, I was texting, reading articles on Yahoo, taking quizzes to find out which Frozen character I am, or squeezing in a game of Candy Crush here and there. 

It would actually be accurate to say that I was addicted to Facebook specifically. It was the first thing I would do in the mornings and the last thing I would do before bed. Every morning, as I stumbled into the kitchen to get my coffee, I would have my head down in my phone, checking the latest posts from friends or reading comments they left on my posts from the day before. I am certain that I spent more time on Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg himself. Worst of all, I didn’t make billions like he did. If anything, it ended up costing ME money because I was using up all of my data every month and paying overages. My husband was actually looking into getting me on a bigger data plan. Because of Facebook and just my smart phone use in general, I stopped reading magazines because I no longer had time for them. While waiting for my son after school or in the doctor’s waiting room or at red lights…no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had my stupid head down, looking at my smart phone.

That day of revelation, I made the “drastic” decision to delete Facebook from my phone (i.e. Log out of it and remove the shortcut and bookmark. For an addict, that is drastic.). Addiction problem solved! I did the same with Twitter – though I was only using Twitter for my blog, I was starting to enjoy it a bit too much and I sensed a similar addiction brewing. I admit that my Facebook hiatus was intermittent. I did log on a handful of times for some special exceptions throughout the past six weeks.

That same day of revelation, I also shut down my blog. I was feeling too naked; like I had shared too much; said too much; in other words…vulnerable. (There’s that damn word again.) And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was suffering from yet another vulnerability hangover. A close friend made a well-meaning comment about how much I share on social media and in my blog and it sent me over the edge that day and caused me to shut down – literally and figuratively. I almost deleted the blog all together, but thought better of it and only shut it down to the public. (It’s not like anyone would miss it or even notice, I thought.)

The more the days went by and I was no longer looking down at my phone, the more deep thought I gave to what it all means – Facebook and my blog particularly… As I messaged back and forth with one of my dear friends about my blogging hiatus, she said it best “in order to blog well, you’re neglecting someone, somewhere.” Her comment gave me that “a-ha” moment that Oprah talks about. I had to accept that no matter how badly I want it, I am not and never will be Carrie Bradshaw. For starters, I am married. Carrie was not. I have two young children. Carrie did not. I am a stay-at-home-mom with a household to run. Carrie was not. I do not get paid to write. Carrie did. I do not have the luxury of a leisurely breakfast on Sundays with my three closest friends. Carrie did. I do not own a pair of Manolos. Carrie did. And I won’t even get into Carrie’s sexcapades. Bottom line…I am a real person. Carrie is not.  So the question becomes how do I juggle my passion for writing with my responsibilities of wife and mother? The answer is “I don’t know yet but I will figure it out eventually.”

So moving on to Facebook…I kept thinking over the course of this past month “What’s it all about? What are we all doing coming together in this virtual crack-house called Facebook? What does it all really matter and mean anyway? What are our motives for sharing our stories and photos? Why do we have the need to be heard in this particular forum?” Here’s what I have concluded based on my own experience using Facebook. I may be right. I may be wrong. Who knows? (I’m sure there are some interesting, much better researched and written papers in the last 10 years on the psychology of Facebook than what I have to say about it. I’m sure it can also apply to all Social Media in general.)

  • I believe Facebook is a place we go to stroke each other’s egos.
  • Facebook can cause us to feel less than, not enough, and jealous by comparing our lives and ourselves to others.
  • We use Facebook to make ourselves feel better; to compete; to show off; to brag; to whine; to complain; to boast.
  • We use Facebook for attention, acceptance, belonging, approval, validation, and connection.
  • We escape our reality through numbing ourselves mindlessly on Facebook for hours on end.
  • Facebook allows us to be voyeurs and satisfies our curiosity about people who are irrelevant in our daily lives, whether they be people we know or absolute strangers.
  • We use Facebook to stay “in the know” and up to date on drama and gossip. It prevents us from feeling left out.
  • Facebook can cause us undue, unnecessary, and/or unfair drama. We get offended. We get defensive. We get caught. We get angry. We get sad. We get upset. We get jealous. We get hurt. We get unsolicited advice and unwanted opinions.
  • We use Facebook to raise awareness; to inspire; to promote; to discover; to learn; to educate and to be educated.
  • We use Facebook to laugh; to share; to reminisce; to commiserate; to be silly and goofy; to spread joy and wisdom. We use it to reunite with long-lost relatives and friends.
  • We use Facebook to cover up our reality. We post photos of our delicious dish of liver and onions or our cool new lawnmower because maybe we don’t want to publicly share that we found out our mother is dying or that our boyfriend is cheating or that we are failing miserably at work.
  • Facebook is all about appearances. It allows us to put on a show. It makes us inauthentic. “Look at me, look at my happy life, my great family, my fun friends, my cool vacation.” It gives us a chance to control what other think and perceive of our lives.

I have often heard friends say that Facebook is a lot like high school and I agree. Mostly, this has been said in reference to the drama, competitiveness, and cattiness we’ve all witnessed. But something else occurred to me. Facebook is a lot like high school in the way of stereotypes and cliques. Our newsfeed is our very own, modern-day  Breakfast Club. Most of us have FB friends from all walks of life. Some of us can probably fall under more than one category and many of us don’t fall under any:

  • “The jocks/athletes” – the people who mostly use FB to post about sports.
  • “The drama geeks” – the people who mostly use FB to post about the drama in their lives or to whine or complain or draw attention by posting just one word like “Sad”.
  • “The loners/wallflowers” – the people who mostly only lurk on FB incognito and never “like” or comment or post anything but they know every move you’ve made because when you run into them, they can recite back all your posts of the previous year.
  • “The rebels and the mean girls” – the people who mostly post in anger/annoyance/ frustration or with a bad-ass attitude
  • “The brainiacs and Alex P. Keatons” – the people who mostly post informative news articles or politically-driven posts.
  • “The hippies/deep thinkers/philosophers” – the people who mostly post inspirational, uplifting, metaphysical, new age stuff.
  • “The popular ones” – this is a multi-layered category in my opinion. This can be a group of people who are together all the time, for one reason or another, and post about it regularly. This can also be the ones who post multiple times a day (popular in the sense that they show up in your newsfeed a lot). This is also the people who have 500, 700, 1000+ FB friends and all their posts get on average 100 “likes”.
  • “The class clown” –the people who mostly post comical things.
  • “The Phony’s/Wanna-be’s” – the people who “like” or comment on stuff you post but really you know they are giving you the finger.  Or the people who comment on your photo with something like “Looks like a FUN party. I had a super-busy, crazy-fun weekend too!” but really they are secretly angry, wishing they had been invited to your party.

Facebook has changed the way we think/act in our everyday lives. We think in terms of post-worthiness. We have inner-dialogs and rehearse in our head what will make a good post. I would see my kids playing outside and my immediate thought would be "I'm gonna snap a pic and write 'Good ol' fashion fun on a hot summer day!" And obviously, the photos we take are not always pure in their intentions. They are often taken for the sole purpose of posting.

Facebook has robbed us of wondering what ever happened to <fill in the name of your childhood neighbor/teacher/gardener/school bus driver>. There is no mystery left as to where people are now. They are all there, waiting to be found.

Facebook has changed the way we catch up with old friends and acquaintances when we run into them after years of not seeing one another. “OMG, it’s so great to see you! How was your trip to Rome? I saw the vacation photos you posted. Did your mom ever get that surgery for her hernia? I saw your post about the pain she was in. I loved your post about your son’s karate lesson! Did you see my post about <name of old high school friend>?”

Facebook brings people together and tears them apart. While we are busy connecting with our virtual friends we don’t realize that we are disconnecting from the people sitting right next to us in the car, on the couch, and at the dinner table. (We have all been with people who spend more time posting pictures of their Mojito/toes at the pool/Tiramisu than talking to you.)

Facebook stirs up gossip and speculation. If you’re absent from FB, if you get deleted, if you deactivate your account, if your Friend request isn’t accepted…no matter what  you do, it will cause others to wonder and make up a story about what happened.  Our typical, usual posts set a precedence of what is expected of us. If there is a sudden change in pattern and behavior, then speculation and gossip will also likely occur.

I realized that just like I practice intention in other aspects of my life, I should also think about intention in terms of Facebook. We need to pause before posting and ask ourselves what is our intention with what we are posting. I started asking myself “What did I gain by sharing all this? How did these posts serve me? How did they make a difference in my life and/or others’ lives? Were these posts strictly for my ego?” I started wondering…does posting pictures of my kids or passionately publicly declaring my undying love for my husband make me a better mother or wife? Am I  a bad mom for not posting pictures of my daughter’s first day of ballet class? Does it mean I don’t care if I don’t post?”

I started imagining my eulogy. What would be said about me in relation to my Facebook usage? I think it would sound something like this:

“Jackie roughly had 154 Facebook friends.  She purposely kept that number low by Facebook standards because she tried to limit who she allowed into her Facebook world. She posted near-daily and sometimes multiple times in one day. She enjoyed “sharing” Iyanla Vanzant’s and James Van Praagh’s inspirational quotes as well as music videos and quotes by her children. Jackie “liked” many spiritual, new age leaders such as Maya Angelou, Oprah, Brene Brown, Marianne Williamson, Brian Weiss, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, and several others. Her most popular post was in 2011 when she announced the adoption of her baby girl. That single post garnered her 71 “likes”. Jackie had a passion for sharing photos and shared at least 90 albums of photos over the years. Hundreds of her photos were Mobile Uploads. She never posted a “selfie” where she was behind the wheel of her car. Her “selfies” always had another person with her because she felt weird about posting pictures of just herself. She was a self-proclaimed “Facebook Fairy” as she made it a point to sprinkle “Likes” on lonely posts that had none. (Always one to show empathy, Jackie knew it wasn’t a good feeling to post something and not have any “Likes” or comments on it.). Jackie never posted about her dog, Mimi’s death or about her infertility treatments while she was doing them. She was an open book and shared a lot about her personal life, but some things were just too painful to post. Although she had 154 Facebook friends, it is so nice to see that 20 of you showed up here today to commemorate her life.”

See what I mean? None of this will matter in the end. It is really just fine for this stupid girl to put down her smart phone.


I usually require some type of inspiration to start writing. Something has to trigger in me – something I see, read, hear will get my wheels turning with things I need to get onto paper ASAP. Today, I returned to Facebook and looked at my Courage In Me page. I hadn’t been on it in quite a while and I saw I had a new notification. It was for a new “like”. It was my first “like” from someone I don’t know. Just a random stranger “liked” my page! Wow! I clicked on the person’s page and saw a beautiful photo of a gorgeous pug.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered my beloved Mimi. The pug had Mimi’s face, her eyes, her stare.  And call me kooky-loca-crazy-weird, but I took it as a sign that Mimi is with me still, pushing me to find the courage to once again write.