Tierra Encantada

Monday, February 11, 2008

Under Pressure

The Valentine holiday is upon us and if you have a sweetheart, you may be under incredible pressure to do and/or buy something special for the holiday. If you are single, like me, you probably have no plans and hate the inevitable question of "What are you doing for Valentine's Day?"

More than any other holiday, I really feel for the pressure that many men are under. Expectations are bigger than those for Christmas, as if somehow what a man does for his Valentine's Day sweetheart is an indication of just how much he loves her. At least a dozen roses, outrageously overpriced for the occasion, are standard, as are cards, candy and a romantic dinner. And of course, there is jewelry, a diamond is forever though any precious metal and gemstone are happily accepted. Some women expect so much and fall into a fit of seething rage and/or depression when men fall short of their expectations. God bless the man whose florist can't make the delivery of roses to her office before close of business. Just a tip, if your florist can't guarantee delivery, deliver them yourself, take no chances. Of course you might look cheap for not putting up the extra dough for delivery, but it is better than denying her the oppotrtunity to gloat, while other women ohh and ahh over the fragrant bouquet.

It is often noted that women do things for other women, they dress for them, they put on makeup for them, they act a certain way for them. The inevitable competition between women is most apparent during Valentine's Day. Women ask other women what there plans are for two primary reasons: one, to point out the fact you are single because it somehow makes them feel superior in the fact that they are, if even for one day, coupled; and two, to compare plans so that they can gloat over the fact that their plans are better, more expensive, more elaborate, more original, more special or to get ideas of just how big the inequities are so that additional arrangements can be made in an effort to stack up to the competition. This is why so many single women detest Valentine's Day - you are made to feel somehow inferior by your singleness, even when every other time of the year you may be quite happily unattached.

There are normal people out there who are happy with a simple gesture and just getting time to spend with their sweetie, even if it means staying in, cooking a special dinner together just to avoid the crowds. On one hand, true romance really can't be scripted, but on the other, it is nice to have that little nudge to do something special for someone you really love because all too often people are too busy and preoccupied with things going on in their lives to make love and romance the event of the day.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those that detest the holiday altogether and avoid gifts and cards or mention of it. It is fine if there is mutual dislike, but you have to feel for those that would love something as simple as a home made card or a few tender words and get zilch. Honestly, you have to wonder about those people that never give gifts. Some people just never do, not for Christmas, not for birthdays, never. The other person often bears it quietly, but in their hearts are hurt. Being generous with the people we claim to love should include gifts of some sort. Now, I am not saying it has to be expensive or store bought or wrapped in pretty paper. But the littlest thing given because you want to and not because you have to means a lot. Giving the gift of ourselves is often the best thing we can give, be it through some heart felt words, a hug, time, laughter, a song. Even the smallest thing done or given with consideration for the person receiving it is really what matters, yes, it is the thought that counts.

What I think is most important in any relationship, is what we give to the relationship everyday. What we say, what we do, how generous we are with our affection and time and attention on a daily basis. That is really what nourishes a relationship, what really embodies love, both platonic and romantic love. Love is not something you just feel or a state you are in, love is an action, an effort we make. A hug, a kiss, an "i love you", changing her oil, making his favorite dessert, being kind to each other, saying please and thank you, giving comfort on a rough day, inserting some silliness and fun at a stressful time, a walk together, sharing hopes and dreams and fears, trusting each other with vulnerabilities, and acceptance despite flaws. I think if we were all more conscious about the love we give everyday, the commercialism of Valentine's Day or other holidays would dwindle. The "Just Because" gifts are the ones that really get to us all because they are unexpected and unscripted. If you reall want to surprise someone, show up one random day with a gift of flowers, get him the new game for his Wii that he's been wanting, slip a love note into his lunch, send an "I love you" text, whatever it is, do it just because, just because you love someone and want them to know you are thinking of them, appreciate them, and care for them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I've been wanting to write about an experience I had on this most recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but being such a highly controversial subject, I wanted to give it time and care.

I happened to have an appointment with my primary care physician on 1/22/2008, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My PCP also happens to be the only doctor (at least that I know of) in the city who performs abortions. I am used to seeing a protestor or two out on the highway with signs depicting mangled, bloody babies, far too well formed to represent aborted fetuses, and as gross and unrealistic as it is, I believe in the freedom of speech. On this day, there were far more protestors that usual. What initally drew my attention was the number of cars parked on the side of the road. I thought perhaps there had been a traffic accident. It was only when I stopped in the turning lane to pull into the complex that I realized they were protestors.

The parking lot happened to be packed and had to park a good distance away. I had to carefully trek my way up to the row of offices to avoid slipping on the ice. As I walked up the steps to get to the sidewalk lining the front of the various offices I was approached by a man and woman. They said hello and I reciprocated trying to be friendly. The woman then followed behind, even before I was at my PCPs office to tell me that they would be there to talk to me when I came back out about options and that they only wanted what was best for me and my family. Needless to say I was filled with shock, horror and anger all at the same time and walked away and only turned around once I was at the door and feebly managed to say, "She's my PCP, why do you people bug?" Here I am to get my blood pressure checked and I was sure it had just gone through the roof.

I think the first swell of emotion came from the fact that those two people made a judgement and an assumption about me that was not true. First, I'm not pregnant or even sexually active for that matter. Second, I am not sure that I personally could ever have an abortion - I don't think any woman really knows what she would or wouldn't do until she is faced with that decision.

The second swell of emotion came from their ignorance. This doctor is a PCP who happens to offer a service that no one else is willing to provide, at least openly, in an area that is already short of medical professionals of all sorts. She runs a good practice, I get excellent medical care and never have to wait long as they do not overscheduled patients like most doctors do. I have recommended her practice to several people with the warning that she does provide abortion services in the event they have a problem with that. The people I have referred have been nothing but happy with the level of care her office has provided them. Most people walking into that office are regular patients, they are not there to have an abortion.

The third swell of emotion came from the fact this woman said she wanted what was best for me and my family. You already know I am suspicious of people and I can't help but feel like people who spend their time trying to intimidate others are lying when they say they want what is best for someone. Often the biggest opponents of abortion are also the same people that support the death penalty and the war in Iraq, then oppose universal health care, welfare and social services. On so many obvious levels there is contradiction and hypocrisy there.

If I give these people the benefit of the doubt and they really do care and want what is best for someone, how can they really help? They aren't going to help anyone support a child for 18 years or change the person's life situations that cause them to consider abortion in the first place are they? They can't play God and make a deformed or unviable fetus healthy, can they? If they are so full of compassion, can they just be content to comfort you in situations where abortion is the best option for you and your family?

As hard as I try, I cannot see abortion in terms of being only a moral issue; it is also a medical issue, an emotional issue, a financial issue, a safety issue, a health and well being issue, a major life determining issue. Personally, I cannot have so little compassion for the human condition to think that it is a clear cut matter. People that protest in front of doctor's offices and abortion clinics have no clue what each person facing that decision is dealing with.

When I did see the LNP, she commented that my blood pressure was quite low, I told her I was surprised considering the experience I had right before walking in the office. We talked some about why people makes the decision to have an abortion and the fact that the protestors don't know what people are facing. Some people are carrying babies that have severe defects or deformities, sometimes the mother's health is in danger, some are victims of rape or incest, some are in abusive relationships, some cannot financially or emotionally support a child or another child, some miscarry and require a D&C or D&E. There are so many reasons. I can only imagine that it must be one of the most difficut decisions a woman has to make and ultimately they are guided by their conscience and desire to make the best decision they can in their circumstances.

It is inconceivable to me that some people could be so cruel, so inhumane, as to want to force a woman to attempt to carry to term a baby that would be born with severe defects or deformities or to carry the fetus until it inevitably died inside of her, to expect that a victim of rape or incest to carry a product of that crime to term only to be a constant reminder of the hell they are already suffering through and will always be affected by. If a woman doesn't want to bring a child into a negative environment or cannot physically, financially and/or emotionally raise a child to the best of their abilities and cannot bare the thought of giving up a child to strangers, she does so with the deepest amount of care and consideration both for the child and for herself. It is not a completely selfish act.

For those that see abortion as solely a moral issue, I wonder: what they are personally doing for the living - for the babies that are born into enviroments of violence, poverty, substance abuse, situations where a parent or parents do not have the time, money and/or emotional capacity to care for them, those that are abused or neglected, those that are in the foster care system or sitting in orphanges, those born with developmental disabilites, those who are sick and have parents that are having a hard time emotionally, physically and financially caring for them? What are they doing to bring soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan, what are they doing to support universal health care intiatives and social services, to feed the hungry and house the homeless, employ the jobless? That is not to say the unborn don't need a voice, but there are plenty of living that need someone to help save them, too.

Oddly, being approached in such a manner, evoked a reaction that surprised me. Now more than ever, I am convinced that abortion needs to remain a safe, legal medical procedure that can be freely accessed by any female. That control over reproduct decisions needs to lie firmly with the woman who is directly affected by the decision. It's not an issue that can be legislated based on religious morality when it is clearly an issue with far more considerations that are not black and white and clearly the true burden, both in body and conscience, is solely that of the woman electing to have the procedure performed. Ultimately, we cannot live the decisions that someone else makes for themselves. For any woman facing such a decision, my only advice could ever be, make the decision you are willing to live with every day, for truly, none of the rest of us has to live with it in our hearts and minds. We cannot really know what is right for someone else because we do not walk in their shoes.

We can hope that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies by supporting preventative programs that provide complete information and access to birth control including the morning after pill, pray that every fetus is healthy and that more women can find it in themselves to see adoption as an alternative because there are so many childless couples that would be thrilled to have a baby, pray that fewer men would sexually assault women and encourage a society where sexual assault was not acceptable. We can push for a society and government that are more child friendly in terms of social services, maternity/parterninty leave laws, health care benefits and accepting of single parents. We can pray for ourselves, that we may have more compassion and understanding for those that must face that decision, and are more generous and compassionate with all of the living.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Money Can't buy Love, Can It? January 29, 2008

Time flies and I hope to get back to writing. So here's my latest pondering...

I'll change the names to protect the innocent, let's call them Kate and John. Kate, then 18 met John then 34, married with two small children 1 and 3. The power of attraction, whatever it was, resulted in John divorcing his wife in order to pursue Kate. Right off the bat one would say a 30 something man leaving his wife to pursue a cute 18 year old is quite easy to figure out. He certainly is more mature and has money a plenty to make the alimony and child support payments with plenty left over to woo an 18 year old with designer handbags and trips and anything else her heart desires. Three years later and Kate and John are now engaged and traveling the world.

I admit at first I was a little jealous of Kate. In theory being a kept woman sounds great and getting to travel the world without having to worry about having the means to do it or the responsibility to hold you back is a dream come true for most anyone. She's had a rough life in many ways and I certainly wish the best for her, she deserves to be treated well and to be happy. In traveling the world she has had and will have the opportunity to do and see things she may never have otherwise. She doesn't have to work or have to worry about bills or where the money is coming from get the Louis Vuitton bag she wants. Yet, after finally getting to meet John and seeing the dynamic of the relationship, any ounce of jealousy went out the window and made me think, can money really buy love or happiness? No doubt it can certainly buy experiences, adventure, and lots of stuff. Can my personal misgivings be red flags for Kate or can some women really be happy living that life?

Personally, I've always been a little suspicious of the attention of older men. Considerable age differences generally indicate that there are considerable differences in life experiences. If he's been married, has kids, went to college, runs his own business, has traveled extensively and she's just barely made it out of high school, what do you have to talk about really? Being close to John's age myself, although never having been married or given birth, I can't imagine pursuing a boy who is barely a college freshman. My uncle, ever perplexed by my singledom, did suggest his 18 year old son's friends as potential dates, but I can't imagine dating a guy who could technically be the age of my own child if I had one. Never say never, but honestly, the thought creeps me out.

I often get the feeling that many May-December romances arise out of the need to control someone, the younger person being perhaps more naive, eager to please, less worldly and less secure, the older perhaps looking to recapture youth, beauty, and calm any insecurities that may come from fear of aging. Maybe it's a relationship that plays off of both parties insecurities? That doesn't mean there aren't cases where it works and people have plenty in common to keep the relationship strong and healthy. I am just suspicious of motivations.

As far as being a kept woman goes, it sounds nice on the surface. Personally though, I have always been happy to be independent, to have my own house, my own car, my own money to spend however I see fit, my own savings and investments, my own retirement plan. I fear financial insecurity and would feel particularly vulnerable in such a relationship. Relationships are not guaranteed and although you could be sure you sign a pre-nup in the event of divorce, what about the other unforeseen circumstances such as death or serious illness or injury or prolonged unemployment? What then? Obviously, you should try to make things work in most situations, that is what commitment is about. But if you are not prepared or haven't built something up on your own, it won't be easy.

This also makes me think about how at one time women were expected to get married and men were expected to take care of their wives. When that relationship was/is gone though, many women did/do not have the skills or confidence to move on easily. How many women were and still are trapped in a relationship for financial reasons and fear of no better prospects? If the equal rights movement should have taught us anything it should be that we have the opportunity to determine our own fate regardless of gender. Women can go out and work for a living and men can chose to be stay at home dads; the point is we, women and men, can all make choices that make our lives richer and fuller. Women are perfectly free to choose to be stay at home wives and mothers their whole lives, if that is what they choose and that is what fulfills them, but certainly not if that is an expectation of them imposed by someone else. It's disappointing to think though that men could still be intimidated by women with an education and a career and her own money. Don't they bring more to the relationship financially and intellectually if they possess those things?

John gives the impression that he would prefer that Kate not pursue a college education, once the world travel is done. Knowing Kate as the high school kid with big dreams and ambitions, it sort of surprises me that she is willing to give those things up, at least for the time being, because he has the money to support him and her, the kids and the ex-wife. Although he has not forbid her from working, she had taken a part time job at a clothing boutique to get her out of the house, his preference is that she stay home and do nothing but keep him company. She's not a domestic goddess or anything close and he seems to never let her forget that she doesn't contribute much to the household in the sly backhanded complimentary way that only southerners can deliver.

My parents always instilled in me the importance of education and certainly there are more ways to learn about the world and life than college. College was the path I chose, though I love to travel and read as well. I definitely would not want anyone to limit my desires to keep learning and growing, whatever form that experience took. My own dislike of anything that smacks of an attempt to control me would be a huge red flag. Further, I could not imagine limiting someone else's desire to learn and grow out of my own selfishness or inconvenience. Does anyone really think it's healthy to be in a relationship where two people can't mutually support and encourage each others hopes, dreams, and goals? I understand sometimes there are delays in pursuing or achieving those things due to various circumstances, but when you really love someone don't you want to help keep the other person's hopes alive just as much as your own?

I'll add that I don't think I could be happy feeling like I wasn't contributing equally to the relationship and the household. Maybe it's just foolish pride. There may be times when one person may have to bare the brunt of the financial burden due to circumstances, but if those times arise, I think most people try not to hold it over the other person's head because roles could easily be reversed. Certainly if one person requests the situation, they should not ever turn it around on the person. I have to say that one friend of mine did quit her job at her husband's request because it was his dream to start a hunting and lodging business on his ranch, unfortunately, he later decided that he did not want to help her pay the mortgage and other bills she had incurred before the marriage. Needless to say, the marriage did not last. In this case, she did not have a hard time finding a new job, but had to take one making less money than the one she left. She gave up her career to help him pursue his dream and he completely turned on her. Makes you realize that you think you know someone and they will always surprise you and make you feel like you never knew them at all.

Do some people really think money can buy love? John certainly acts like money can buy anything, good, services, experiences, certainly freedom from his ex-wife. That's not to say that he does not have plenty of redeeming qualities, though I don't know him well enough to say exactly what those are. I'm assuming if Kate wants to marry him, he must have some, but maybe she is just blinded by gifts and the care and the adventure he offers. If he was willing to give up a marriage to pursue someone else without a second thought, what's to keep him from doing it again? And will Kate be prepared for it if it does happen? Is she setting herself up for some hardships? The shock of divorce seems to have left John's ex-wife reeling and she is having a hard time surviving on several thousand dollars a month and is pushing for more. Can you blame her, she was a kept woman who expected her husband to take care of her until death and now what?

On one hand I think, 'hey, Kate is young, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to travel while she has no real responsibilities.' Regardless of whether they make it to the altar, she has that wealth of experiences. When the knot is tied, then what? Is there enough to keep things going once they settle in to the day to day stuff of life? One could argue they'll have this whole set of shared experiences, but you can't live in the past. Will he keep looking for new adventures to keep her interested, new gifts to satisfy her every whim? Will he change? Will he find a new 18 year old to pursue? Will she change? Will sacrificing any personal goals be worth it for her? Will she be fulfilled? Will he? For Kate and John the story is still being written and I wish them the best.

From where I sit though, I'm skeptical that they will have one of those enduring marriages, but you never know. Sometimes the marriages that appear solid are the ones that fail and the couples you think should be splitting up stay together. Maybe I am too jaded and overly suspicious of motivations in relationships, explains why I am single, doesn't it? Maybe I'm kidding myself if I think that I couldn't be lured into a similar situation. For now though, I will just be happy to have my independence and freedom.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Work Never Ends June 21, 2007

I didn't realize it's been over a year since I posted anything. I don't even know where the time went to be honest. It seems the older I get, the faster time seems to pass by.

I have spent the last year mostly working. At my job, we've converted to a new accounting system, with little training and little communication from those that implemented the system. This is a major government wide conversion, so you can imagine how huge this is at a price tag of over $30M. Preparing for conversion and everything else involved with this has felt overwhelming at times. Implementation came with training that consisted of watching someone click through a presentation and following along in a manual, which we found out had incomplete or incorrect or missing processes when we actually had to go into a live system to use it. There have been plenty of bugs that system administrators have had to work on and it's still not operating optimally. The reporting features are horrible and the promised training on query writing was never actually offered. Needless to say, being someone who grasps most computer related stuff fairly quickly and has no fear of trying things out, I have spent most of the last year troubleshooting, helping everyone else to fix things and keep the work flow going, teaching them what I learned and as a result we are doing better than most agencies. It's been almost a year since going live and its mostly better, but still not great. The fact that users were blamed for any delays in processing in the press has left me disillusioned with politics, as if I wasn't already. lol Our executive, aka the Governor, line item vetoed funding approved by the legislature to do an internal control IT audit in the system. So, we have no executive support and no clue whether the system works the way it should or whether the numbers we generate are accurate. I am not an accountant by education, but I know this is not a good thing. Our auditor just backed out on doing our audit and who could blame them? They can't verify accuracy anymore than we can. I won't rant on because, well, there's nothing I can do about it. But Governor, if you read this, some real support would be nice. :o)

At home, I've been working as well. My dad has been helping me to remodel the house that was my grandparents. I actually never expected to move back to the Land of Enchantment after college, but life brought me back. After both grandparents passed away, I couldn't imagine strangers inhabiting their property. My parents felt the same and bought the property and handed it over to me. How can I ever repay my parents for giving me a house? I am the luckiest girl in the world, although I'd trade the house to have my grandparents back in a heartbeat.

I was the only one willing to live there and put the money into remodeling. The whole project has taken about 4 years, off and on, and consisted of basically gutting the house and guest house and redoing everything. I've learned a lot from my dad about all things involved in construction and I can never repay him enough for all the time and effort and great love he put into every single thing he did. Both my parents are amazing and probably way too generous with me. Hopefully, over time, I can give back to them some of what they have given to me.

We're finally at the end of the remodeling and I'm starting to move my stuff in and hopefully I will have more time to get back to writing here. There's still work to be done on the outside, especially landscaping, but I finally get to live there. :o) My dog has already made himself at home. Maybe I can post pictures once there aren't boxes stacked all over the place. I think people who know what it looked like before will be amazed. I wish I had more before pictures to compare.

I probably sound spoiled and I would not blame you for thinking that. How many people have parents like mine? I promise I am always grateful, never expecting them to do the things they do, and never taking advantage of them. I try to be as generous with them because they mean the world to me, although it seems like it could never really be enough. Anyway, this has a point, so stay tuned for my next post. :o)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hey, Jealousy!

A guy I know got into some legal trouble over a day of fighting with his girlfriend. They're young, 20 and 21 now, been together since they were 14 and 15 years old. Despite the dysfunction, I think the sentimental attachment to the "first" has kept them in a bad relationship far too long. From my understanding she grew up in a house with domestic violence and I suspect on some level she feels like fighting all the time is a normal relationship. Her jealousies run deep, stealing his work cell and calling every number on it, approaching girls he comes into contact with for work, discouraging him from going to college because he'd only be going to meet other girls. She is more afraid of him meeting someone new that she cannot see how bettering himself through education would be a benefit. Certainly she likes the expensive gifts he has managed to buy her on a $9/hour salary.

I don't get it. Aren't relationships supposed to be based on trust and honesty? How does jealousy show any trust? People are riddled with insecurities, I suppose. Perhaps I suffer from an unhealthy sense of confidence. I know who I am, what I'm worth and what I have to offer. Maybe I'm just incredibly arrogant?! The way I see it, if a guy isn't smart enough to see what he has in me, then he really doesn't deserve me anyway. If he doesn't trust me to be loyal to him, then he doesn't know me at all and will never know me. Once someone has earned my loyalty it's forever regardless of the nature of the relationship (romantic, platonic, professional), unless that person does something to make me lose respect for him or her. Add to that the fact that I am very independent and do not like anyone trying to control me. I can compromise and make concessions, but it has to be my choice. Am I so abnormal in these respects? Perhaps, I am, but I just can't see myself living in that kind of situation.

Maybe part of the problem is that some people equate jealousy with caring. I know some people feel this. If their romantic interest isn't jealous or possessive, it means they don't care. When did suspicion and lack of trust become signs of a healthy relationship? They still aren't as far as I'm concerned. This seemingly not caring bit only breeds distrust - he doesn't care 'cause he's got something else going on the side. Most times giving someone space is just trusting and respecting them. Sure they care, but they aren't paralyzed by their own insecurities. It's not healthy for anyone to be paralyzed by their insecurities and fears; life is too short for that.

My parents are my relationship role models and I've never seen either one act out toward the other out of jealousy. They are both intelligent, friendly, outgoing people, they both go places and pursuit interests on their own sometimes. I've never heard one deny the other the opportunity to go somewhere or do something or have friends of the opposite sex. To me that's normal. Earn each other's trust and respect from the beginning and there should be nothing to worry about. Show your love for each other everyday, even if it's as simple as saying please and thank you, saying I appreciate you or I love you, holding doors open, serving them their morning coffee in bed, asking how their day went. Try to understand each other's feelings and respect them. Be willing to compromise. It's really not that hard.

I know an occasional twinge of jealousy or some amount of insecurity is normal, but I think we always have to ask ourselves if it's rational in any given relationship. Is jealousy the result of our own issues or is our intuition trying to tell us something? If you've got issues, work on them, or they will be relationship killers. Otherwise follow your gut and see where that leads, play it cool though, or your jealousies will come back to bite you, if your gut is wrong. If it's valid, confront the person head on and then decide if you can live with it or not. If you can't live with it, get out of the relationship because really who wants to be in a relationship with someone that cannot be trusted?.

Friday, March 31, 2006

March 31, 2006

Living in the present

The fortune cookie I got the other day at my favorite Chinese restaurant advised me to "Develop an appreciation for the present moment."

This came the day after I decided to buy one year towards my retirement. My employer offers a program where you can buy one year of "air time" towards retirement, that means you can retire one year earlier. They perform some actuarial calculation based on you current salary, age, and years put into the retirement plan thus far to come up with your purchase price. I'd retire today if I could, but I'm only in year 11 of a 25 year plan. I suppose what prompted me to even consider paying that much money was the desire to retire young and hopefully still be healthy enough to go out and have fun without financial worries. Life is not predictable by any means, so it may all be for nothing.

Right now I am in a career for the purpose of both short and long-term financial security. A regular paycheck and insurance benefits now and for the rest of my natural life are extremely attractive for someone like me who has a rational fear of financial insecurity. I like being comfortable, not worrying about how to pay the bills and I want it to stay that way. I want a pension and retiree health care benefits so that I'm not still working at age 75 just to eat or pay for my prescription medications. Without social security reform, the babyboomers are going to deplete what's left of the system and leave us younger cohorts with next to nothing. So, if you're not saving for your retirement since you're young, you're going to be working through the golden years. I think this essentially explains my preoccupation with the future, future financial security. That is my focus and sadly, I do not have as keen an appreciation for the present moment as I would like.

It's not that I don't realize how short life is or that every moment is precious. I do. But I would say I am by no means a risk taker. I wouldn't just leave my job or move somewhere new without a reasonable guarantee of something better waiting for me. I wouldn't jump into a relationship, romantic or platonic, that I do not foresee lasting for a very long time. I do, however, "stop and smell the roses" on a daily basis. I enjoy the sunrise, watch the birds chase each other as they engage in their spring mating ritual, smell the blossoms on the trees and marvel in the beauty of each blossom. At night I stare up at the stars and the moon and contemplate the immensity of the universe and my place in it.

So, the real issue is, how do I take more personal risk for the purpose of growth and put aside my fears? How do I live more for the moment yet maintain a healthy concern for the future? How do I find the balance? I have no huge revelations to share about this yet. But it's something I'm going to work on. It's something we all need to work on, living life to it's fullest and preparing responsibly for the future in the face of the unknown.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Expectations Part 2

February 28, 2006

Birthdays are always a good time to take stock of one's life, review the past year's successes and failures, count one's blessings and set one's goals for the upcoming year. I guess that's where I am right now. I always had plans for an Expectations Part 2, but just hadn't gotten around to it.

When I was younger I always had pressure not to get involved in a relationship. I had to pursue my education and the world was before me just waiting for me to go out and conquer it. Being an overachiever with incredible focus, this wasn't a big deal. I knew what I wanted and was determined to get it.

I remember my first day of university and walking into the bookstore only to see Brides magazine at the doorway as I walked in. It came up during orientation activites on more than one occasion just how many married couples met in college. (My own parents met at college). I found it quite disconcerting. Why would people spend $25,000+ per year to go to college solely with the intent of finding a spouse? I was there to get the first class education that was going to make me financially and professionally successful, not to find a husband. Couple that with the fact that my grandmother told me before I left for school that I was going to end up like my mother, getting married without finishing college. She forgot the fact that they refused her any financial assistance after the first semester on the off chance that she might want to one day get married and her husband would take care of her. It was the 60s so you get the idea. She just didn't have the means to finish or the knowledge of how to go about getting financial aid. It wasn't her choice not finish. I was offended more about what she said about my mom than her expectations of me and became that much more deeply determined to stay focused. I made it through college in 4 years and without getting married or even having a real boyfriend for that matter. Sometimes I think about how different things might have been if I had been a different person at that time, if certain situations in my life had been different. I wonder if I missed out on an amazing guy, but really, there's no way to know.

Once out of college, the pressure to get married started to come from my culture, from co-workers and friends, from my family, except for my mom. She's always maintained that it should be a choice I make on my own terms, in my own time. :o) The change in attitude of people around me was confusing. First you say no, now you say yes?! Ugggghhhh. I spent so much time focusing on my studies, I never learned about functioning in a relationship. Well, that's not totally true - I did end up in a psychology class for my freshman seminar which dealt heavily with interpersonal relationships. It was too touchy-feely for my own comfort, but I did learn a lot about myself and how to resolve my interpersonal relationship issues. But still, reading books and controlled classroom exercises are a big leap away from the real world. I'm not very trusting by nature and like most people have had some experiences that I've never forgotten, things that completely changed me into the person I have become.

I've taken a lot of time to evaluate the root of my own dysfunction and fear of relationships and am happy to say I've worked through all the issues. My years of relationship avoidance have not been in vain! :o) I am truly more at peace and happier with every year that passes. I think being truly happy and at peace are elusive to most people. I know I've worked hard at it.

Still, I do get twinges, with the weddings and baby showers that pop up from time to time. My cousin's wife recently had their second child at the age of 35, by all standards on the cusp of high risk pregnancy age. I'm getting closer to that age and dare I say I hear the faint tick of my biological time clock?! My mother has resorted to calling my cocker spaniel, Dante, her grandson. lol I am comforted by the 62 year old woman that just gave birth, as controversial as that may be. lol

I am not one of those people that just inherently knows that marriage and motherhood are what I want. I certainly question my own selfishness, as in I love my life as it is, but I don't rule out the option. But more than the deep desire for marriage and/or motherhood, I have a deep curiosity of them. There is something wonderous about them. Sort of like before I visited Italy - it was mysterious and fascinating and I wanted to experience it for myself. After the trip, I was glad I visited and had the experience, good and bad, of visiting, but I was glad I didn't live there. And although I'd probably go back, I'd pick a different country to visit instead if given the option. I think there is also some fear of the unknown that tempers my enthusiasm and well as the fear that my expectations, my hopes will never measure up to the reality. I fear the disappointments of the experience will far outweigh the joys. However, the fear of regret works both ways.

I once had a horoscope that warned me not to get involved with anyone because no real man could compete with the one I had created in my head. If nothing else it has given me food for thought. lol I know that it is certainly true, but I like to think of this facelss man of my dreams as an ideal, a standard, made up of all the good qualities of men I've known in my lifetime. I don't expect perfection, but I certainly want the positives to outweigh the negatives and want the potential for more positives to develop. I think I have more empathy for men than 99% of women, so I don't feel like I'm being unreasonable in my expectations. I don't expect him to put the toilet seat down all the time or to be fearless in every situation or to have all the answers all the time or to make everything alright because somethings are beyond anyone's control. I feel like I understand men, most of the time their motivations are fairly clear cut, they're not a big mystery, unlike women whose motivations are much more complex and often conflicting. I'm a woman so I can say that right?! lol

I just want a rational means of evaluating any potential mate. People who just jump blindly into the fire drive me crazy. Their judgement is often clouded and they bring more grief and drama into their lives than necessary. If they had only taken some time to take a good look at the person and situation before they became entangled with them...I suppose on some level I would want fireworks, weak knees, and curled toes, but at the same time, that which is lasting and true needs to be grounded, rational. It needs to make sense on different levels.

Children are not so easy. Parenthood is certainly filled with joys and heartaches and the unexpected - you can try to be the best parent you can be, but your child will not always live up to the hopes you have for them and somehow you have to be okay with that and love them unconditionally, nonetheless. Sometimes they will excell beyond your wildest dreams and surprise you in the best ways you never imagined.

Perhaps my expectations, my ideals preclude me from marriage and motherhood or perhaps they are solid grounding. Maybe I really am my own worst enemy. For now though, I am content to yield my fate to faith and let what is meant to come to me, come in it's own time, but with my eyes open and my heart and mind more willing to see things that in that past I would have done my best to ignore. :o)
Xmas Joy

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Guess what I got for Christmas?

A medical book! As Charlie brown would say "Good grief!"

Well at least now I know how to deliver a baby and identify various skin diseases should the need arise. :o)
Expectations Part I

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lately, I’ve been thinking about expectations. What others expect of me, what I expect of myself, both professional and personal expectations. I guess what brought this up was a discussion with my parents and brother. My dad always wanted me to be a doctor. My mom isn’t that specific, but wants me to be out there changing the world and my brother just thinks I should be in a higher paying job. This discussion pops up every now and then and it always seems to start out with my dad asking, “why aren’t you a doctor?” I have the habit of dispensing medical or health related advice or giving a probable diagnosis of someone’s health problems based on information I’ve absorbed over the years and gut instinct. I’m pretty much always right despite my lack of formal medical training. I always respond to him with, “it doesn’t matter, you don’t take my advice anyway”, my brother will interject “well you don’t have an MD after your name!” I have to defend myself and say “well at least I didn’t waste the $100,000 on medical school when you’re going to ignore what I tell you anyway.” lol

My mom on more than one occasion has told me I am wasting my life in the career I’m in, given my potential. My dad is much gentler and says I have the potential to do anything. I’m the gifted child, with a genius IQ, who absorbs everything around me like a sponge. I have rarely had to work at anything to be successful at it. I’ve surely had an easier life than most people in this world. I realized how blessed I am; I don’t take anything for granted. I know that it could all change in a split second.

What happens to us when we fall short of the expectations of others or worse, our own expectations of ourselves? Frankly, my life has not turned out the way I imagined it would. Not that it’s a bad life, as I said I am incredibly blessed, it’s just different that what I imagined it would be. The things I thought I wanted turned out to be different than what I expected them to be. Life has a way of handing you disappointment and disillusionment sometimes or rearranging your priorities, for better or worse.

As a result of or in spite of all life’s surprises and lessons, I am quite happy at least 95% of the time. I suspect I am happier and more at peace than most people in this world. I think I’ve also put a lot more work into achieving those things than most people in this world. Oddly, I think that is the only thing I’ve ever really wanted that I’ve had to work hard for. I have achieved great success in terms of being truly happy and at peace. Surprisingly, I never expected happiness to matter. I grew up in the 80s; money was the measure of success and still is for most people.

It is hard, nevertheless, to feel like I am a disappointment to my family. If I didn’t have high self-esteem and confidence in my own abilities, I could have crumbled at hearing their opinions about my life, successes or lack thereof. We all want to make our parents proud. At the same time, however, we will not ever really be happy living our lives to meet someone else’s expectations.

If I fall short of my own expectations, it is in that I really don’t know what I want to do with my life. I have a career, but other than the financial security it provides, I could take or leave the work I actually do. I have learned a lot of different skills and have a broad range of useful knowledge, but I don’t love what I do. I envy those people that have a deep passion for something and follow that passion. I think those are the luckiest people. The decision is easy for them, they’ve found something they love to do and they pursue it, regardless of how much work or risk or struggle it may take to be successful. I have many interests, but no true passions, and I am certainly too indecisive to be able to focus my energies on even a handful of interests. Although I feel quite content being the jack-of-all-trades, I feel as if surely I must be missing something, having no real passion in my life.

For my family, the answer is easy, “just pick something.” Anything will do for the purpose of achieving more. But, I’m looking for passion. Unless I achieve that, it seems like a relative waste of time, money and energy; and it doesn’t get me closer to the goal of doing something I love for a living. So, the real question for me is, how do I find my passion?

I started blogging on myspace, but I feel way too old to be there, so I'm transferring my first few posts. :o)

Monday, October 17, 2005

The other night I was at an organizational dinner, the guest speaker was a trainer whose main focus is CHANGE. I had been through the training, so it wasn’t new to me, but was a good reminder of everything I had learned. The foundation of the training is based on cognitive psychology and the fact that we believe what we tell ourselves is true, what we let ourselves believe. Through a combination of creating a vision, goal setting, self-talk and daily positive affirmations, we can change anything in our lives that we don’t like. Well, it won’t make me taller, so I shouldn’t say anything. This doesn’t mean we have power to bend everyone around us to our will, but it does mean we have the power to change ourselves. And sometimes, if we change ourselves for the better, the way people react to us may change for the better.

The technique is so simple, yet can be applied to any aspect of our lives. It can be major changes like career advancement, quitting smoking or improving our relationships with people or something small like eating better, exercising more or not letting the little things annoy.

Make a list of everything you don’t like about your life and a list everything you’d like your life to be. This forms the basis for your change, your goals. Take some time to daydream, create your vision of what you would like things to be like ideally. The more detail the better. Write down your goals, your vision. By writing it down, you are making a commitment to your dreams. It doesn’t matter how impossible they may seem, they are your dreams. Don’t worry about how you’re going to achieve the goal, just set the goal.

Next, start the self-talk and daily affirmations. Tell yourself you already are what your want to be. You may feel a little like Stuart Smalley at first, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darn it, people like me.” Let me give you some examples of positive affirmations: “I am a non-smoker”, “I’m a healthy person who exercises and eats right”, “I’m affectionate with my loved ones”. Bad examples would be “I won’t smoke”, “I’ll try to exercise more and eat better”, “I won’t act like such a b*tch”. See the difference? Write down your affirmations and review them at least a couple of times a day. Let all self-talk be positive, refuse to express negative attitudes and display negative behaviors.

Here’s where your brain starts to really work for you. The more you affirm your new reality, the more you think about your new vision, your new goals, the more your brain starts to focus on what it’s hearing and seeing, the faster your brain starts to believe this new reality. The farther real life is away from the new reality of your brain, the more tension there is and the more determined your brain is to eliminate the dissonance between the two. This tension prompts your brain to start behaving in ways to make the two realities the same. You start making decisions to change your behavior and your thinking. Your brain starts filtering information in ways to help you overcome obstacles and find solutions that will help you to achieve your goals. It’s that easy.

There are things that hold us back from succeeding in our personal and professional lives. We all have habits, mindsets, and emotional baggage. We can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy. The hard part is looking within and acknowledging our weaknesses, our fears, our imperfections and our shortcomings. It’s painful to admit we are less than we would hope to be. It’s easier to place blame elsewhere or say to ourselves there is nothing we can do about it and give up or walk away or settle for things as they are. It’s true there are some things in life that we just can’t control, but we can control our own actions, what we do, what we feel, how we react to other people and situations. Success comes down to our own strength of will and willingness to change.
So, ask yourself: what about yourself or your life are you unhappy with? What would you like to be better? What do you secretly wish for, but are afraid to really want for or go after? Are you willing to do a little self-analysis and a little work to transform your life? Every minute of every day represents an opportunity to change. Are you willing to take advantage of the opportunities