moving forward

Earlier this week I alluded to the “rabbit’s hole” I speak of in this post.  In honor of a new era,  I’m reposting this piece, a favorite of mine:

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting alone in a crowd, anxiously searching for a familiar face.

I was expecting a friend–until her text  told me not to. Now I was faced with sitting by myself at a celebratory service that would no doubt be an emotional, spiritual, uplifting experience (it was). I started looking for anyone I might know, a bit nervous but not wanting to seem so.

Thankfully, someone did appear, a more than gregarious man, well-known for being a bit of a character.  I’d only met him once for all of thirty seconds, but I didn’t hesitate to call out his name and invite him to join me. He did, and it made that service a whole heck of a lot of fun.

It wasn’t until days later it hit me:

this was not only the first time I’d had the courage to do something that bold, but I hadn’t thought twice about it. For years I’d sat alone in services and what-have-you, often because I was too frightened to reach out to someone and ask them to join me.

This was another significant change in me I could count as the result of terrible betrayal.

All my life I struggled with being pushed around by co-workers, boyfriends, classmates, even family. I simply could not stand up for myself. Try as I might, I was unable to say what needed to be said, or even imagine what that should be. Instead I would stand there, dumbstruck, humiliated and frustrated.

I desperately wanted the ability to detect when others were pushing me around.

That is, if I were sharp enough to see what was going on. Sometimes I’d be pushed pretty far before I realized it.

When that happened, I was left with shrinking further or getting back at people, although more often than not they brought on their own trouble with their back-handed behavior. I didn’t like dealing with things either way, however, it never felt good.

Instead, I desperately wanted the ability to detect when others were pushing me around and belittling me long before it got out of hand. More than that, I wanted to project an attitude that precluded demeaning treatment. I just couldn’t come by it. I had no idea how it worked.

Eventually I was pushed down a rabbits’ hole into a hell that wouldn’t end,

and it was that experience (a story requiring too much detail to go into here) that finally gave me the insight and ability to stay ahead of those who would defeat me. It took a long time, well after the peak of the horror, to fully develop the skills to face others with confidence and enough of a take-it-or-leave-it attitude that I could claim victory. Have I fully stepped away from the problem? Likely not, but I’ve figured out what steps to take.

I also realize I need to use those circumstances to my advantage, to work toward bringing me to a point where I can say, “well, I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but I’m glad it happened.”

I’m not sure when, if ever, I’ll be there, but I look to the good that’s come of out this, and it has been substantial. I used to resent being told “everything happens for a reason.”  While I believe good can come from bad, that doesn’t justify the bad.

I like what Dumas had to say. It acknowledges the bad, but gives proper credit to an overwhelming and affirming end result:

“Women are never so strong as after their defeat.”
― Alexandre Dumas, Queen Margot, or Marguerite de Valois

blue sky balloons

I hate that it took such drastic circumstances to bring about this change for me, and I sometimes wonder, if those events hadn’t conspired, would I still be where I was then, or would I have found another way to grow to where I am today?

I don’t want those responsible for my plight to believe there’s any justification to their actions. Likely they would have preferred I was left in defeat and despair anyway. Is success the best revenge? I don’t know that I’m seeking revenge, but success is by far the best outcome.


Image Credits: Butterfly field (Field of Daisies) © adimas – Fotolia; (Butterfly) © ecco — Fotolia; Balloons Flying High (Sky Background) © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; (Balloons) © JRB – Fotolia.

The Truth Within

Three years ago I almost lost a good friend, largely over a misunderstanding.

Another friend stepped in and tried to straighten things out, and in doing so, made the already shaky relationship we had that much worse.

Female figures handmade oil painting on canvasShe chastised me for committing an offense I truly couldn’t see I was guilty of having done, citing a conversation I’d had with her husband as another example. By this time, I’d reconciled with the first woman, so I asked for her perspective about what our mutual friend had told me. I was concerned I might be blind to what would be a fairly significant problem.

She didn’t see the issue the same way, but I remained aware of this potential flaw in my character. Eventually I realized the problem was more likely something I’d already known about my second friend. She will not only defend her husband regardless of what he’s done (and for the most part, I can’t fault her for that), she will lash out at other people who dare to challenge him.

In this case, in my conversation with this man, we’d disagreed about an issue I strongly believe in. Typically with him I let go, even when I know he’s spouting baloney, because it isn’t worth it to disagree. This time, however, I stepped in it, rather than around it. I don’t apologize for that. I should have done it more often.

You can’t trust the “constructive criticism” that comes from a woman who is defending her husband, no matter how sincere she might be, or might think she is being, in trying to help a challenging situation.

Which brings it all back around to my response to her comments about this perceived flaw. I was inspired to write about this after reading K E Garland’s post, Monday Notes: Agreement #2, in which she discusses the second of the Four Agreements (from the book of the same name): “never take anything personally.”

The crux of this agreement is we take neither criticism nor praise personally, because it reflects the other individual’s state of mind, which can change with the wind.

I believe we should weigh what others say, both the good and the bad, but ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves what the truth is in any given situation.

lovely woman handmade oil painting on canvasHigh school was a challenging time for me, and there were plenty of days my appearance showed the depression, anger and hurt I was feeling so deeply. I could always count on my friends Leigh and Sue to compliment my hair or tell me I’d lost weight on those days. Trust me, the compliments reflected their kindness, not the truth about my hairstyle or figure.

Most of the time, our friends aren’t as transparent as Leigh and Sue were (and I’m thankful to this day for their friendship). But, on the flip side of my bad hair days in adolescence, if I know my new haircut is flattering, the faint praise of someone whose opinion I value shouldn’t throw me. She may be sinking underneath some pain she isn’t willing to share.

Trusting yourself is a scary thing. If you’re going to be truly honest, you know you have blinders. Still, that same honesty can save you when others are less faithful to the situation.

Be true to yourself.


Image Credits: (All) © RomanBen — Bigstock

Fashion’s Foolish Rules — and Why I Follow This One

I used to wear dresses all the time. Not just when I was in grade school and it was required (yes, even in public school), but in my late 20s and early 30s when I just plain preferred it. I had some beautiful clothes, and worked a second job so I could keep up with the self-imposed demands of my wardrobe.

I had it all, the shoes, jewelry, scarves, whatever was required to dress for success, whatever I may have perceived that success to be. Today, sadly, my wardrobe holds few dresses, and I rarely wear them. Why? Pantyhose. They aren’t allowed anymore, and my legs fail the test without them.

They are pasty-pale, distracting and unpleasant to look at without proper cover, however sheer it may be. Yes, there are tanning products, but they are either too expensive or so incredibly time-consuming. To wear a dress on Sunday, I need to start preparing on Friday, or even Thursday, to ensure my legs are presentable. That takes too much effort.

grey-dress-mom
This dress absolutely requires a black pair of nylons, right?

The only way I can get away with pantyhose is if I’m wearing a black pair. Then it looks like a style statement (and darn it, it is) and not the outdated fashion decision it apparently really has become.

To those of you who say, “who cares what you think your legs look like? Go ahead! Be a real woman and defy common sensibilities!” or “who cares if you wear pantyhose? Wear them anyhow!” I respond with this: my legs deserve better. So do I. Whoever made the decision to turn pantyhose into an outdated fashion accessory, go jump in the lake. That was a mean thing to do to those of who don’t fare well bare-legged.

me-easter-1988
This linen suit — circa 1987 — had everything — including some lace tights and light grey shoes.

I’m just thankful this turn in the fashion world didn’t take place 20 or 30 years ago. Then, it was considered unprofessional at work and a tad too casual for nice dresses anywhere else. And seriously, I’ve seen plenty of women who maybe should defy today’s fashion rules and slip on a pair of nylons.

So today I wear pants more often than not, and sigh when I look at the dresses. Of course these four-inch heels aren’t too appealing either. Whatever happened to fashionable low heels?


Photo Credit: © Klemen Petrič – Fotolia

Perfectly Me

While my hand is healing, I’m bringing out some favorite posts from the past many of you may not have seen. This was first posted in December, 2015.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”
― W.C. Field

rollerskating girl
Not me. Not now, not ever.

I can’t roller skate.  Nor can I bowl,  or do a pull-up. I don’t expect to ever be able to do any of those things, and they’re no longer important to me. At one time they were, and that stayed with me for way too long. But I’ve gotten over it and accepted my limitations.

I didn’t stop trying to learn how to bowl until I was in my 30s, when finally someone told me it was acceptable not to have that particular skill.

He didn’t word it quite like that, however. We were at a bowling alley with a group from church, and he was splitting his time between reading a book and talking to others.  When I mentioned what a terrible bowler I was, he shrugged his shoulders and said, with a laugh, “Who cares? It’s not something I want to be known for anyway.”

Okay, a bit snobby. It did lead me to think, however, is this really me? Is it a goal of mine to be a better bowler, or is everyone else in my circle telling me it should be?

There’s a point where you ceaselessly persevere, and there’s a point where you say, is that even a skill I truly want to master? I had no real interest in bowling, I’d just been told over and over not to give up, I could do it if I tried.

But I couldn’t. I tried and tried, and my body would not cooperate. What’s more, I likely never would have gotten to a point where, even if I could hold my own in a game, I would have looked forward to it. I did not want to bowl.

Once I figured out that hanging onto a group of friends whose main activities I didn’t enjoy was fruitless, I was a lot happier. It took some time, but gradually I developed friendships with people whose faces lit up when they talked about doing the same things I wanted to do.

happy dance girl
Yes, I know, this isn’t a waltz!

That’s not to say I’ll always avoid everything I’m not particularly good at doing. I would love to be able to dance, an old-fashioned waltz, perhaps, but it’s fair to say even at my best I won’t be entering any contests. That’s not my goal, at least not at this point. Right now I’d be happy to keep the beat.

(I have learned something about dancing over the years…call it sexist, or call it practical, but as we all know, men lead. With a strong lead, even a woman who isn’t a good dancer looks good. So half my battle will be finding the right partner.)

I’m not limiting myself only to friends who share my interests, either. Some of my best friends (a-hem) are bowlers, and good ones at that.

I don’t have to be the best, or even particularly good, at any given skill to enjoy doing it. I have my expert talents, and I have those I fumble with.  It’s that mix of abilities and experience that makes me who I am, perfectly me.

The Winding Path That Has No End

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Seeking your goal has a predictable life cycle. You may or may not encounter all the stages described below, and you may face some more than once. It’s all a journey.

A stone walkway winding through a tranquil garden.You start out and the path looks kind of like the start of the Yellow Brick Road. So pretty, so tranquil. It’s exciting, you have butterflies, and yet you’re strangely relaxed. A little relieved. You anticipate success.

For awhile you experience some. Things are leveling off a little, though. It’s maybe not quite as thrilling as it was at first, but you’re still happy and determined to pursue your dream, because you believe it will open doors for you that are otherwise closed tightly shut.

Then, perhaps, you get discouraged. It’s not what you expected, your skills and talents aren’t as great as you thought or had been led to believe. You’re a diamond in the rough, not as polished as you need to be.

So you take stock, add a few intermediary goals, and move forward.

Young girl on the winding mountain trekking path at Pico do AreeBut what happens when it looks overwhelming? For years I literally had nightmares about a mountain path such as this one. Narrow, with a plummeting drop to the side. In this case, heavens, on either side. You pray, you cry, you say no way. Then you find a way to make it safe, and you walk the path.

In my nightmares, I’d wake up, afraid to go back to sleep. Instead I’d lie awake and imagine a grassy field extending to the side of that precarious path, a safe place to land. You may need to find that metaphorical field in your own pursuit. Don’t let your dreams become nightmares.

Sometimes there’s a divide in the path, with no clear indication which way will keep you on track to achieving your goal. Decisions are difficult. Get a good night’s sleep. Take the counsel of others.

crossroadsIt is good to set goals, but it is also necessary to re-evaluate those goals from time to time.

If you expect to write six novels in six years, with each one becoming a best seller and at least one winning the Pulitzer Prize, ask yourself what you’re doing to achieve that goal. Are you getting your master’s in fine arts/writing? That kind of high-level writing takes particular skill, and it helps considerably to have direction in refining it.

But if your hope is simply to finish your current novel and get it published, that is more reasonable for most people. From there you research what it takes to get it done, evaluate your own skill, the market for the genre you’ve chosen, if an agent is a good idea, that sort of thing.

And if you find you’re not getting it done, take some time out to figure out why. I believe in having short-term and long-term goals, plans you can easily see achieving and dreams that can only come true with faith and a miracle. Give yourself a break if you keep failing in reaching your goals, and perhaps change them. There may be a legitimate reason you’re not able to do what you set out to do, something you can’t see but is real all the same.

Path through a mysterious dark old forest in fogThe path is foggy sometimes. One step at time. The fog will clear.

Of course many goals require persistence. If you want it badly enough, it may be worth the falls and bruises, the perpetual failure until you break through to success. Many writers face that experience. Look for the wisdom of others, stepping outside the familiar circle of family and friends if necessary to find someone who can objectively look at what you want to achieve, advise you on its possibilities and what it takes to make it.

Dawn on the road in the forestFiguring out how to get it done, taking the path to get there, may be more valuable than reaching your goal. The lessons learned along the way will serve you in other areas of your life, in ways you can’t imagine because you don’t know what lies before you.

Life is a journey, a series of paths that lead to a destination that’s likely very different than what you anticipated when you started. Enjoy it, and share it with others.


Photo Credits: (garden path) © onepony — Bigstock; (mountain path) © rechitansoren — Bigstock; (divided path) © rasica — Fotolia; (foggy path) © denbelitsky — Bigstock; (sunrise path) © Givaga — Fotolia

Carefree and Campy

During our “break-up” talk, my now ex-boyfriend did everything he could to hurt me. One comment, however, had entirely the opposite effect.

“You’re kind of…offbeat,” he said, in a tone clearly not meant to be complimentary.

“Yes, I am,” I replied with a smile. Truer words were never said.

A junior high crush worded it differently, and at the time, it did hurt. “She’s different,” he told my friend when she asked the crucial question, “do you like her?” I felt like an outsider then.

As part of my offbeat side, I’ve always been drawn to the campy. While my wardrobe is actually fairly conservative, in fact, at this point, one might say, boring, I easily could have become known for a flamboyant style. Back in high school my life-long love of classic films began, particularly the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films of the 30s. Their second to last movie with RKO Pictures, Carefree (1938), featured Ginger in a couple of outfits I desperately wanted to emulate.

carefree2
Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Carefree is not the best Astaire/Rogers film, either in plot or dance numbers, but this sweater caught my attention. It’s actually a bit, well, tacky, compared to what Ginger normally wore, but is true to the character, who has the hearts & minds of a variety of men and can’t make up her mind whom she cares for most.

If you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a picture of a heart with numerous arrows aimed straight for it. It also has what is, on me, a flattering neckline, and slightly puffed sleeves, a look I favored for a time in my teens (hey, it was stylish then, I swear.)

I probably wouldn’t wear it today, but the sweater still makes me smile. It reminds me of a time in my life that, like the title of the movie, was carefree. Yes, I had my concerns and burdens. It was not an easy time in my life. But when it comes to adult responsibilities, I had few.

Life was ahead of me. Choices were exciting, opportunities were boundless. There are still choices and opportunities for me, but my life no longer stretches in front of me. My health limits me at times.

Still, I look for that desire in my life to create something new and exciting, modified for the times yet not compromised. Perhaps it’s time to watch Carefree again.


Carefree

Back Where I Started

Every few months I plan a trip to drive the 657 miles from my home to my mom’s. I don’t mind long drives, even though I’m worn out at the end (at least the drive home). I’ve gotten to know the radio stations in each city, what areas have no phone reception, and where to stop for both gas and a meal.

I’ve also learned to spend that time reflecting, pondering, thinking about things I don’t have the energy to commit to working through on a day to day basis. I pray and sometimes plead with God, and discover answers I didn’t expect.

Life is a journey, and sometimes, for me, it takes a road trip to put it all in perspective. I can live a lifetime in those ten-hour excursions, only to end up right where I left…literally. But the time on the road has changed me.

And it’s the subtle changes that bring me joy.


Photo Credit: © olly – Fotolia


Journey