Saturday, December 27, 2014

Just Remember...

On the morning of Christmas Eve, the phone rang as I was putting away dishes. It was my cousin Charlie calling from Buenos Aires. Charlie is about 20 years older than me. I met him when I was about five-years –old when he came to visit the USA for the first time. I remember I developed a huge crush on my then-25-year-old cousin. He was charming, funny, sweet, loving, and playful with me. He made me feel like I mattered and I knew he loved me.

Each time we visited Argentina, we stayed at my aunt and uncle’s place, where Charlie lived. When I met his girlfriend, Cindy, who later became his wife, I fell in love with her too. She was kind, beautiful, and always treated me like a princess. Over the years, I became very close to Charlie and Cindy. They were there for me when I lost my mom. They supported me when I was dating Robbie. They were just amazing people that I felt so blessed to have in my life, even if only long-distance. Going back home to California was always difficult for me, even before I had Robbie, because I was always sad to leave Charlie and Cindy behind. They’d cry, I’d cry, and our hearts would break with every good-bye at the airport. While we were away, Cindy and I would write often. They were really like another set of siblings for me.

Then life happened…My mom died. I broke up with Robbie, and I stopped traveling to Buenos Aires. I went from visiting Argentina practically every year for eight years when I was a kid to spending seven years without going. In those seven years, I didn’t forget about my cousins, but I didn’t do a good job of keeping in touch either. When I returned in 1995 for the first time in seven years, I discovered that the closeness I felt with Charlie and Cindy remained intact. It was pretty amazing and pleasantly surprising at the same time. We were able to pick up where we left off and spend quality time together catching up on life.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wisdom For the Holidays from Wayne Dyer

I'm reposting this from Wayne Dyer's Facebook page. It spoke to me deeply. I think it's a great reminder we can all use now and always.

"Many years ago, when the holiday season arrived and certain relatives were due to make their annual appearance, I felt a sense of increasing dread. Far too many of us suffer from the pain of family get-togethers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Somehow we allow the expectations and demands of our family members to be the source of so much unhappiness and stress, when what we really want is to be authentically ourselves and at peace with our relatives. The conflict seems too often to be a choice between being authentic, which means no peace with certain relatives, or having peace at the price of being inauthentic. Being peaceful and authentic can define your relationship with your relatives. First, though, you may have to assess your relationship with the closest relative of all—you.

In order to change the nature of family relationships, you’ll have to change your mind about them and consider that you are the source of the anguish in your relationships, rather than the individual whom you’ve pegged as the most outrageous, the most despicable, or the most infuriating. Over the years, all of these individuals have been treating you exactly as you’ve allowed them to with your reactions and behaviors. This can miraculously change when you choose to be at peace with everyone in your life—most particularly, your relatives.

If the focus of your inner dialogue about your family members is on what they’re doing that’s wrong, then that’s precisely how your relationship with them will be experienced. If your inner speech centers on what’s annoying about them, that’s what you’ll notice. But if you’re thinking, I am authentic and peaceful with this relative, then that’s what you’ll experience—even if that relative continues to be exactly the way he or she has always been.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drama-Free Zone

When I was in my late 20’s, an ex co-worker and I became good friends. She was maybe six or seven years older than me and therefore was at a different stage in her life. Because I considered her a good friend, I thought it was my duty to tell her whenever I heard negative comments made about her. I thought I was being a great friend, showing how much I care by cluing her in to the nasty accusations her boss would make about her. I would see my friend (I will call her Amelia) get upset and I would feel so bad for her.

One day, as Amelia was walking into the office, I stopped her in the hallway to give her the latest gossip I had heard. But before I could even get the words out, Amelia asked me not to tell her anything anymore. She didn’t want to know anything else ever again. WHAT?! I was flabbergasted, embarrassed, and a bit insulted. Didn’t she appreciate what a good friend I was being? Didn’t she realize that I was telling her for her own good? But I respected her wishes and kept that story and all future stories to myself.

Amelia doesn’t know that she taught me a great lesson that day. What she did has always stayed with me and it has only been in the recent years that I have had the courage to do the same thing. When someone comes to report gossip about me, I ask them not to tell me anything anymore.

Think about it…How do you feel after you hear about negative things that have been said about you? How do you react? Does your face get hot? Does your heart race? Do you clench your jaw or grit your teeth? Do your neck muscles tighten? Do you get a headache? That’s what happens to me anytime I hear gossip about myself. It’s really awful...and that’s just the physical reaction. Of course there are also the emotions that trigger, which are not just a passing thing for me. The “symptoms” of having been exposed to negativity linger in me for a long time. The comments about me play like a broken record in my head. Unfortunately, I don’t just dismiss them easily.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Love Is Enough

What type of holiday person are you? Are you a Scrooge or are you Buddy the Elf? 

For years, I have been a Scrooge. Well, maybe more of a closet-Scrooge. For the sake of my children, I decorate the house; go all out with gifts and we do the prerequisite holiday activities like decorating the tree as a family, visiting Santa, and baking cookies or making a Gingerbread House. I’m actually very traditional in that sense because I want my kids to have the full Christmas experience, but at the same time I dread the holidays. Christmas music especially depresses me. If I had to work in a department store listening to Christmas music for eight hours a day, I would have to be institutionalized after a week. But seeing our Christmas tree finished and lit makes me happy and excited. But then again, don't even get me started on those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies...GAG! However, I absolutely LOVE dancing in the living room with my kids when "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey comes on the radio. It’s like I can’t make up my mind. Do I hate it or love it? I hate it for me. I love it for my kids. Bottom line…For years and years I have been eager to get the holidays over and done with because of how chaotic and sad they make me feel.

I have known for a long time that there is really a very good reason for being depressed during the holidays. It all goes back to comparison and expectation. We see movies and commercials of perfect families having a perfect Christmas morning in their matching pajamas, sipping hot cocoa by a warm fire, with their department store Christmas tree perfectly decorated and their gifts perfectly wrapped. These fictional characters later have a perfect Christmas dinner with family and friends where a perfect turkey is served and everyone is dressed perfectly to the nines. But that is not reality. At least not mine. But I want it to be. Every. Single. Year.

My Christmas reality usually involves chaos, mismatched pajamas, gifts that look like I wrapped them with my feet, me yelling at my screaming kids, a lopsided Christmas tree, watching the KTLA fireplace burn on TV because we don’t have a fireplace; and usually someone is sick; someone is disappointed (me); someone is offended (me); someone’s feelings are hurt (me); and someone is upset (me). Every Christmas I ask Santa for perfection but all I get is imperfection. Basically, I have a hard time letting go of what I think is supposed to be and accepting what is. (Just like BrenĂ©Brown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection" talks about.)

I have had many grumpy Christmas mornings – I’ve been angry that my son didn’t sleep literally ALL NIGHT and kept me awake with him ALL NIGHT, while my husband snored like a train (This actually happens every year because my kid is an insomniac the night before Christmas and really, truly does not sleep ALL NIGHT. I kid you not. I've even resorted to giving him Benadryl to help him sleep, to no avail and I reiterate...ALL NIGHT!) I’ve been upset that my son’s reaction to his gifts from Santa wasn’t what I anticipated. I’ve yelled at him when immediately after opening 10 gifts from Santa, he asked to watch TV. I’ve been pissed that my husband didn’t help me take photos and video of the kids while they opened gifts and instead he actually had the “audacity” to just watch them enjoy the moment. I’ve been disappointed that our Christmas breakfast wasn’t an extravagant buffet brunch, but rather scrambled eggs and frozen waffles on paper plates. And in my warped mind, I am convinced that I am the only woman on the planet having an imperfect holiday, which only further aggravates and upsets me.