Finding the Right Balance/When Loneliness Strikes/An Act of Kindness — Reblog

man walking on train rail
Photo by Chinmay Singh on Pexels.com

 

Hard to imagine doing anything these days without feeling some guilt. An overwhelming number of articles, television shows, religious authorities, relatives and so on, telling us what’s good for us; who knows what’s best anymore. Truth be known, most of us know what’s good for us. We don’t need a know-it-all “expert” to share their opinion on how to live. Lately, I find myself almost offended by every Tom, Dick or Harry who tries to influence my next thought.

And it’s not just experts weighing-in. Social media are awash with opinionated people who get angry when you challenge their opinion; I’m not making this about politics mind you; I’m talking about every day thoughts, opinions or advice. It’s terrific that people are willing to share their good fortune or experiences, but one needs to accept that not everyone cares or wants to know. As a blogger, I think about this every day. I’m fully aware that a reader can skip over a line, disagree with a thought, or challenge an opinion. In fact, I welcome it. Like anything else, there are appropriate boundaries and we’re all guilty of occasionally crossing them. The art of discourse is a lost art and I for one would like to champion its return.

You have to find a balance between what you listen to, who you listen to, and listening to the voice within.

 

Loneliness

As trite as it sounds, I enjoy my own company. I’ve always secretly been critical of people who claim to be lonely — I just didn’t relate. Truth is, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. this morning feeling very much alone. The difference is that the Atlantic Ocean lies between me and all the people I love. I didn’t imagine this move would be any different than any I have made in the past, but yes, it is far from the same. When you can’t just jump in your car and see someone in a few short hours, that’s a huge difference. The feeling didn’t last long mind you. I thought about a number of friends and family members who will be visiting soon and I felt better. I also thought about how I take those I care about for granted and of course, I now have a better understanding of what it’s like to be alone.

Lots of lessons here and many ways to cope. Revealing these thoughts to you is a first step. When friends and family told me that I was brave to make a move like this, I shrugged it off. I still don’t consider it brave, but now I know what they meant. So the next step is to search for meaning. I have been trying to protect myself from feeling love, empathy and sorrow. If I live in the moment and fully experience these feelings, what will they teach me and am I ready to learn?

Here’s what I know:

  1. Loneliness is temporary.
  2. There is truth and meaning in the exploration of our feelings.
  3. Strangers can help fill a void.
  4. Memories are powerful.
  5. Loss of any kind hurts.
  6. Accepting your truth is to be fully aware of who you are.
  7. You may not always like what you learn, but you have to forgive and embrace.
  8. You have to put yourself out there.
  9. Be prepared for change.
  10. Books can be delicious company.

Prologue:

I wrote this piece a few hours ago and decided that a cloudy, muggy day is a great day for the mercado (market). I walked in and the first face I saw was Myriam’s. I met Myriam my first week in Faro. She was born in Venuzuala, but she has lived in the States and still has family there. In fact, she just returned from visiting her daughter in Miami. Myriam lives about 30 miles away in Tavira and she has not been in Portugal very long. She manages a Brazilian owned coffee shop in the Mercado — great coffee by the way. Her warmth and smile were what I needed today, but what she shared with me, I needed even more:

Myriam asked me how I am adjusting to life here in Portugal and I told her what I was feeling this morning. She said, “I want you to read what I posted on Facebook this morning.” Reception is bad at the mercado and we both just about gave up on logging onto to Facebook and then this appeared on her home page:

La soledad espeligrosa y muy adictiva. Una vez que te das cuenta de cuánta paz hay en ella, no querrás lidiar con las personas.

– – Paulo Coelho (click for wikipedia biography)

 

Translation:

Lonliness is very addictive. Once you realize how much peace there is in it, you will not want to deal with people.

Me:  Enough said.

 

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Friday on the beach with a good book and the sound of the ocean.

 

When you’re looking for reasons to be grateful and there it is, staring you right in the face:

As is to be expected . . . I’ve been second guessing my move to Portugal. I don’t mean that I lie awake at night regretting my move or wondering, “What did I do?” What I mean is that this is still very new (10 weeks) and I sometimes ponder if this huge change was the right thing to do. I think it’s perfectly natural to wonder and then this happened:

I bought a piece of artwork that needs framing and I asked a friend here if he knew of a frame shop. Funny thing here in the Algarve, when you type “frame shop nearby” into Google, it only lists a select few options. I’m not sure I understand why, but perhaps that will be another blog. Of course Pedro knew of a place, Pedro always knows. He didn’t know the name of the shop, but he pulled out a map and pointed to where it was. The smart thing to do would have been to take a picture of the map; however, I am not a Millennial (not by a long stretch) and so I often forget that I have that option — there is a probably an app that will link the map location with the type of shop and tell you the name of the shop, but alas, I wouldn’t know how to find that app.

I did, however, set out to find the frame shop. I got the general vicinity right (I could feel it) but after 15 minutes of going back and forth on the same three streets I finally gave up and went into a hair salon to ask for directions. The owner knew instantly that I was not a customer (stop laughing, it’s not that funny). I asked her if she spoke English and like most Portuguese people, she responded, “A little.” I joke about this because most people hear will respond that way and then speak beautiful English. I’m not yet at a place in my studies where I can even attempt to have a conversation in Portuguese. I asked her if she knew where the frame shop was and she seemed disappointed. Then she shouted to someone in the back room of the shop. A young woman stepped out and asked me what I was looking for. I told her and she said, “Come with me.” At this point I thought we’d step outside and she would point toward the shop. That is not what happened, instead, she crossed the street (I followed close behind sort of amazed) and then she crossed a second street (I was baffled), then she turned left and then right and there we stood in front of the frame shop.

As I said, earlier, I have been daydreaming about life back in the States; however, today I realized that I am home. I’m not sure I could be living in a friendlier, more welcoming place. A small act of kindness was all I needed for a lot of reassurance.

As my friend John always tells me, “Palms up to the universe.”

The Power of Your Smile

“Always wear a smile because you never know who is watching.” Gracie Gold

 

 

I want to smile more. I do. One would think that this would be an easy goal, but trust me, if you’re not inclined to smile, deciding to do so, just like that, is a difficult objective. I was born cynical, but coming up in my world, how could I not be. I also believe this is one of those nature/nurture arguments. Was I cynical because of my genetic makeup or did growing up in a tortured household make me cynical. For the purpose of this piece, let’s call it a draw and say that both factors are the cause. The point is, I have to work at smiling and how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

“Love yourself for who you are, and trust me, if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person, and your smile is your best asset.” Ileana D’Cruz

Some Ways/Places to Practice Smiling

  • Tell yourself to smile every morning. You can do it when you’re brushing your teeth. It won’t take any more time out of your busy day. Soon it will be as routine as brushing; you won’t even think about it.
  • Add a little caveat to practicing your smile:  make it so that you cannot smile unless you add something you’re grateful for. For example:  this morning, before I brushed my teeth, I thought about how grateful I was that I slept well and then I smiled.
  • Practice while you’re doing something mundane — like when you’re on the treadmill at the gym or while you’re riding in a bus or on the subway.
  •  Look straight into a mirror and keep smiling.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Let them tell you what they think of your smile and accept the feedback. Is it genuine? Too broad? Too big?

 

Be Your Own Motivator

I have a friend whom I met at a gym in Portland, Maine. He was struggling on an abdominal machine near where I was working out. He saw me watching him and asked me if I knew how to use the machine. I hopped on and did a few reps (gym lingo for repetitions just to show you how cool I can be). Chomba is from Zambia, he studied in Europe, he’s in his 20s and he’s quite a specimen; naturally I was pleased to show him how to use the machine correctly. Like any normal man, I preened and walked away triumphant. A few days later I saw him using the same machine and he was smiling ear-to-ear. Honestly, Chomba has the most genuine and beautiful smile I have ever seen. I noticed him using the very same machine on a regular basis. I finally approached him and asked him if he used any other equipment at the gym. He shared a big laugh and thanked me for showing him how to use the machine. I said, “Chomba, because I always see you on this ab machine, I am naming it the Chomba Machine.” From then on I when I would see him I would ask if he had done his ab reps on the Chomba machine that day.

Weeks went by of just saying hello in the gym and I thought it was time to become friends outside of Planet Fitness. I approached him and invited him over to my place for dinner. I was having a dinner party and I thought he’d be a great addition to my guest list. Chomba was delighted and came to my place with a nice bottle of wine. Everyone at party fell in love with him. He’s the kind of person who lights up the room and makes everyone feel special. That night I learned that he was a motivator working out of Boston. His firm was hired by companies to motivate their staff (Chomba if I’m getting this all wrong I apologize). What I loved more than anything is that he did not boast about his work or his life. We had to poke and pry before he came clean. Chomba is a modest fella. By the way, Chomba models now and always stays in touch. I’m grateful for his candor, his loyalty and his beautiful smile.

What Chomba has taught me is invaluable. Essentially, you can be your own motivator. You can do what he does, but in your own head. You can get yourself charged-up and energized whenever you feel yourself needing a little boost.

 

Experiment

Having been a sociology student in college, I often love to go back to my roots and do human interaction (behavior) experiments. I like to occasionally spend the day smiling all day just to see how people respond to it. I also enjoy seeing if it affects my mood.

I have to say that I get pretty amazing results:

  • People almost always smile back.
  • It sometimes feels like you’re waking someone up and suddenly they seem to come alive.
  • It makes me feel lighter.
  • The results make me want to do it more often.
  • Sometimes it makes strangers laugh; especially when I smile really big. I’m thinking, they must think I’m crazy, but who cares.
  • There is a reason for the saying “A smile goes a long way.”
  • I am in the middle of a very frustrating experience with an upgrade to my apartment. The person responsible for getting the work done has been slacking off and it’s sort of driving me crazy. The project began 14 months ago. I decided to give him an ultimatum knowing that he might walk away from the job. Instead, when I saw him I smiled. It appears that is not what he expected and I believe he may be close to finishing the job. Yesterday, I received a call from a man who will hopefully complete the job this week.

 

Current Mood

One of the interesting things about blogging is how your mood and thoughts change as you work through a particular thread of thoughts. I woke today in a non-smiling mood. You may relate to what I’m feeling, except that I don’t quite know what I am feeling. What I do know, is that I don’t feel like smiling. I had an interaction yesterday that was troubling and it’s still on my mind. I’m pissed to put it bluntly.

I am going to work through these feelings and thoughts by forcing a smile and see where it takes me . . .

The next day:  the left home for a bed & breakfast about 90 minutes away. Sometimes it helps to be away from your familiar environment. I found myself smiling just as soon as I boarded the train.

 

Smiling is one of those things you can do to brighten your day and/or someone else’s day, and it cost nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero cents! In fact, studies have shown that it’s good for you too.

The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. … The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.Jun 25, 2012

 

 There’s Magic in Your Smile

 

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Definitely more of a kiss than a smile, but we’re both happy 🙂

Dying With Dignity

monochrome photo of statue
Photo by Alain Frechette on Pexels.com

There has been a great deal written about euthanasia; the dying process, survivors, and the law. Society has made tremendous progress with more states and countries passing laws that give individuals the right to decide when to die. When I was a teenager I saw a film titled Soylent Green (1973), and although the premise was disgusting (humans turned into food), it had a profound affect on me. In the film, when it was time for people to die, they were placed horizontally on a comfortable bed where filmed images of nature played all around them and soothing music could be heard in the background. I believe they were given a pill and soon after, they would gently fall asleep and die peacefully.

I wondered why this was not an option for all of us at that time and I continue to feel strongly that we all have a right to choose when and how we wish to die. Strictly my opinion and you certainly do not have to agree. Again, it’s about the freedom to choose.

Euthanasia is the termination of a very sick person’s life in order to relieve them of their suffering. A person who undergoes euthanasia usually has an incurable condition. But there are other instances where some people want their life to be ended.
I have twice in my life been asked to assist individuals in dying. On both occasions I found a way to help without actually doing the deed. Hospice is a true gift and certainly an option when an individual is nearing the end of life. If you’ve never been on morphine, trust me, the feeling of euphoria is ever present. It provides a way to see death through peacefully. However, the ability to walk, drive, or travel by boat or plane to a place of your choosing, where you can be assisted in choosing precisely when your life should end, is hopefully becoming a reality in more places. There are now eight states in the United States where assisted suicide is legal; Oregon was as early adopter and most recently the state of Maine made it legal. It’s sort of like the legalization of marijuana, slow and steady.
There are also many countries that have legalized assisted suicide:  Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, to name a few. I have started to think about where I would want to go if I knew that I had only a short time left and that I might be a burden to those who love; a game changer for me. I do not want anyone to ever have to change my diaper. I know there are a few people in my life who would tell me that they would gladly do it; however, whether they would do it or not is irrelevant — if I can help it, it’s not happening. Because I have not travelled everywhere in the world (so much of the world to see while I am healthy), at this point I would probably travel to Switzerland for assistance. The natural beauty of the country and the gentleness of the people, would make it a more beautiful experience for me. And yes, I do see the end of one’s life as a beautiful thing. Not a tragic or untimely death;  I mean the point at which one becomes at peace with the knowledge that death is inevitable and part of the life cycle.
So why does this topic make so many people uncomfortable? If someone you love is dying and they want to discuss assisted suicide with you, you could show them how much you truly care for them by listening and being open to this option. Here I go “shoulding” on you. Obviously, if you can’t handle the topic, you should not engage. On the other hand, attempting to talk someone out of it seems selfish to me.
I’ve already planted a couple of seeds with people I am close with, just in case it ever comes to this. I will seek support from those I know will be there for me. I would probably not share it with those I believe would judge me or try to talk me out of it.
Reading and Resources:
I will be sure to consider a more upbeat topic for next week, although, I am close to taking a few weeks off.

 

 

 

 

Permission to Forgive Granted

If you’re anything like me — and God help you if you are, you’re fairly hard on yourself. You can spend a lot of money trying to figure out why you’re like this, or you can just accept it as fact and use it to your advantage.

black and white business career close up

 

Self-Evaluation

People who are hard on themselves usually spend a lot of time thinking about the way they did something or said something, presented themselves, worked on a project, planned a presentation; pretty much scrutinize every aspect of their lives. You go over it in your head a dozen times. This process, although it can keep you awake at night, is not necessarily a bad thing. My suggestion is to force yourself to come up with an alternative that would be more productive the next time you do whatever it is that you’ve done.

For example:  You decide to confront a friend who has been consistently late for a dinner date. Your friend gets to the restaurant 30 minutes after your scheduled meeting time and you’re angry. As they approach the table at the restaurant, you stand with your hands on your hips and you make certain to tense up your facial muscles and you stare her down. She apologizes and you say, “I’m tired of your excuses; if you cared anything about me and my time, you wouldn’t do this to me.” Your friend gets defensive, tells you that you have no idea what it’s like to be her and that she almost cancelled because she has so much going on. You both sit down angry, with no appetite, and no resolution. You both leave the restaurant wondering if your friendship can survive this confrontation.

You can stew on this forever or you can decide that there was a better way to approach the problem. This, of course, is only if you value your friendship; some friendships are more work than they should be. Writing down various solutions are “next steps” can help purge the problem and free your thinking up for other thoughts.

You can try calling your friend and letting her know that she means a great deal to you and that you have come to realize that she deserved better. She now knows that you do not appreciate her tardiness and that you had gone past your level of tolerance. Remember, forgiveness and taking the high road are very freeing. You can try saying this:

Jane, I realize that you have a lot going on in your life these days and I really appreciate that you still make time for me. Perhaps in the future we can decide on a time to meet that is more practical for you. For example, if trying to have dinner at 7:00 p.m. is stressing you out, perhaps we can meet for a drink at 8:30 or 9:00 instead. Or maybe a weekend brunch would work better for us . . . or a morning walk.

Your letting Jane know that:  1) you understand her, 2) you’re willing to work with her, and 3) you obviously want to see her. She’ll feel a whole lot less defensive and more understood. I’m pretty sure she’ll be on time in the future. And if that doesn’t last, you need to re-evaluate how important being on-time is for you.

 

Give Yourself a Break

I’m so much easier on others than I am on myself. Lately, I stop for a second after I disappoint myself and I say, how would you have treated your friend David if he had done the same thing? Nine times out of ten the answer would be that I would let it go. Often, it was an innocent mistake or there is a simple explanation and therefore, I let it go. If I can treat a friend that way, I can do the same for myself. You’ll find that when you treat yourself fairly, you will performing an act of kindness and it feels just as good when you do it for yourself. In fact, it really needs to start with you; empathy comes easier when you know how it feels.

 

Worst Case Scenario

By now you know that this is my modus operandi. Consider the worst thing that could happen. You will normally discover two things:  1) the worst thing is not likely to happen, and 2) if it did, you would survive it.

For example:  When I decided to move overseas I naturally experienced some anxiety. What if I hate Portugal? What if the people there don’t speak English? What if my money runs out in two years? And on and on. A good friend realized that I was anxious over the “what ifs” and said, “Chris, why are you so worried? If it doesn’t workout come back to the States. You’ll always be an American citizen and you’ll always have a home here.” Duh, permission granted to stop worrying.

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Yourself the Way you Like to be Treated

Why is it so hard to treat ourselves with love and respect? I know it’s a loaded question and very difficult to answer; however, why not start today. Like any habit, it’s learned behavior — you have to do it and then repeat it over and over again; after awhile it will become a habit. You will see, you’ll do it without thinking about it. Try it one day soon:  look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are not perfect and that’s okay. In fact, it’s even better than okay, it’s the preferred way to be. Perfection is hard to be around; it makes one feel inadequate and less than. You are enough . . . I am Enough.

A few years ago I was told that my laugh is a little loud. I became self-conscious about it and I stopped laughing. I stopped until a work friend told me how much he loved my laugh. He said, “Chris when you laugh everyone hears you and we all laugh with you; your laugh is contagious.” That person who told me my laugh was loud, for whatever reason, could not handle joy. I can be sad about that, but it shouldn’t stop me from laughing.

 

Nova Cozinha

One of the things I discovered when I moved to Faro was an absence of contemporary restaurants. There were a couple of trendy burger places and a fancy Italian restaurant, but no Michelin quality eateries . . . until now.

https://www.facebook.com/Alamedarestaurante.rooftop/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

Alameda Restaurante is a very special place walking distance from my apartment and I’m thrilled. The above link is just a quick endorsement for Facebook. I want them to succeed.

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Reinventing Yourself

I have always admired people who decide to make themselves over. I don’t necessarily mean changing the way you look (i.e., dress, hair, plastic surgery). This piece is more about changing the course of your life; your trajectory.

Trajectory
A trajectory or flight path is the path that an object with mass in motion follows through space as a …

 

We are all traveling through time and space; no doubt for most of us, it’s happening too quickly. We often feel stuck, lost and out of control. Stop the world I wanna get off . . .

 

 

I love change and I believe change is what we often need to jump-start our lives. It’s way too easy to go about your day just checking the boxes and watching life go by. By thinking  and navigating in a new direction, you can change the course of your life forever. For example, you come home every day thinking about how much you hate your job. You think that if you leave that job you’ll never get another one or you won’t make as much money, so you stay; that’s a rut many of us are in. It’s easy to get there and difficult to get out or is it? Without discussing the details of your situation, talk to people about what they did when they decided that they were unhappily employed. Many people will tell you that they feared the worst possible outcome, but instead, made a move out of desperation and low and behold, it ended up being the best thing they’d ever done. You hear this story over and over again, yet fear holds us back. Risk taking is hard for us, however, it is often the impetus for a very pleasant and much needed change.

Okay, here I go again with the list. Sit yourself down with a pen and pencil or turn on your phone and record. Allow yourself to dream and dream big. You’d be surprised how many people never allow themselves to imagine alternatives. We place limitations on ourselves that prevent us from reaching our full potential. How will you ever know what is possible unless you allow yourself to venture outside of your comfort zone? I remember the very first time I went for a run. I was with my friend Nancy and she said, “Let’s go for a run?” I was 17 years old, grossly overweight and extremely unhappy. I argued that I was too fat and that I couldn’t possibly run more than one block — in Brooklyn distance is measured in blocks. Nancy said, “Well, let’s just run a block today and maybe a block and a bit more tomorrow?” I thought, I could probably run a block and what a wimp I’d be if I didn’t at least give it a try.

I recall struggling to reach the end of our street. I was out-of-breath and certain I was going to have a heart attack, but it felt strangely exhilarating and in truth, I did meet my goal. I agreed to hit the pavement again the next day, except that this time I wore sneakers and running shorts. Nancy and I became running partners. We ran several days a week and when I didn’t run I felt sluggish. Turns out, I was born to run. I ended up dropping quite a bit of extra weight, gaining loads of self-esteem and running for my life. The day I crossed the finish line of the New York City marathon is still one of the best days of my life. I can’t run anymore because of knee issues, however, I have never regretted giving-in to Nancy. I credit running with changing my life in a bigger way than I could have ever imagined.

What I’m proposing is something fairly easy to start or do, that can change the trajectory of your life. The following are just a few possibilities:

  • Take a trip with no return ticket or end date
  • Move to a foreign country
  • Further your education. Even one course could do it
  • Do volunteer work without telling people about it
  • Move to a different city
  • Go on a dating site or hire a matchmaker
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Throw away all of your clothing and start fresh (ALL)
  • Do a gut renovation of your home
  • Sell your place a buy something new
  • Divorce that so-called friend who has been causing you grief
  • Come out of the closet

Please share your ideas; I’ve been a bit stuck lately.

 

One other quick makeover story:

I was attending a small liberal arts college in 1979 and I hated it. The school was in a tiny, depressing southern city; it was expensive and I felt like an alien. I marched into the Dean’s office and pretty much accused the college of bait and switch tactics (being born in Brooklyn has its advantages). I think I was halfway through my first quarter when this confrontation took place. They happily refunded me most of my tuition and I drove myself to Charlotte, North Carolina and was apply to talk my way into UNCC that very day. A State school was exactly what I needed. The students were from all over the world and the campus was fairly modern and nicely situated. I made friends for life and graduated three years later. I learned a very valuable life lesson:  when you’re in a rut and there doesn’t seem to be a way out, there probably is. It may mean that you have to be assertive and venture out of your comfort zone, but it could end up being the best decision you ever made.

 

Admiration

When I think about reinventing yourself, Cher is the person that comes to my mind.

The Academy Awards : Fotografia de notícias

 

Who do you know that has remained relevant to the public decade after decade after decade. She has spunk, chutzpah, and she gives you the impression that she’s fearless. Obviously, most of us cannot say whether or not she is fearless, but in the world of show business, perception is everything. Her public support of her transgender son is also admirable, because we know she must have lost fans. I feel like Cher and I have grown up together (I can happily say that she is older) and I was fortunate to have her as a role model.

I’m sure all of us can come up with a person or two who has reinvented him or herself. Usually, when you put thought and effort into something, the outcome is positive. In the end it doesn’t matter what people think about what you’ve done; what matters is how it makes you feel.

Not sure where I heard this recently, but I do know that I like it a lot:

“What others think of you is none of your business.”

 

I like this reference:

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reinventing Yourself by James Altucher

From Troubled Boy to Troubled Man

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Me when I was two years old (I know, I was adorable). That’s my baby sister Debbie on the right.

I am not writing this blog so that you will feel sorry for me. In fact, I am only able to write about this chapter of my life as a result of having learned lessons and having done the hard work of self-reflection; by all accounts an on-going process. One big lesson:  do not dwell on who is to blame for your misfortunes. It’s all about looking toward the future. I am happy, looking forward to new adventures, and a hot mess — yes, it’s possible to be all these things at the same time. My hope is that I might help those who feel psychotic, lonely and lost. There is of course the added bonus of empathy from those who know me well or are just getting to know me.

 

Looking Back

Do people tell you not to worry? “Oh you’re fine; you’ll be alright” I think I may hate that more than people telling me I’m too sensitive. We all know people say stupid things all the time and I’ve learned that, for the most part, they mean well. Self-reflection may be more productive then listening to the advice of people who do not know you. Reflecting on what I was like as a child has always helped me to appreciate where I am today.

As I boy witnessing chaos all around me, I was always certain that it was all happening because of something I had done. I’d like to say that I grew out of that way of thinking. I would like to tell you that my mother sat me down and told me that none of it was my fault or that an elementary school teacher gained some insight into my family life and whispered that I was not to blame. I’m afraid that didn’t happen. Deep down I knew that I was a horrible little boy whose sins were the cause of all the terrible things happening around me. Some kids believe this and they cut themselves; some kids start taking drugs when they are nine years old or drink booze till they’re inebriated at eleven. Some kids take their own lives. I retreated to dark places and hid my shame. I bargained with God so that it would stop.

God, if you make my mom love me, I’ll be good for the rest of my life.  If you’ll just make the noise stop, I’ll clean the whole house tomorrow. God, if you make me stop thinking about men, I’ll go to church. Growing up Catholic was confusing; I found myself wanting to repent.

The chaos continued and I continued to find reasons to blame myself and hate myself even more than I already did. This self-loathing went on throughout my childhood. I’ve shared an incident in a previous blog that I frequently recall just to remind myself how much better life is today. On my 10th birthday, before blowing out my candles, my wish was to die before my next birthday. I was too afraid to kill myself, but if I wished hard enough, I was certain I would die. I thought about death a lot when I was a child. In my mind, it was the only way out. I firmly believe that children should not be dwelling on death.

For the longest time I thought it had something to do with my sexuality; or at least that’s what I told my therapist. In retrospect, I think it had more to do with a need that was not being met. As a child, I needed to belong, to be accepted, and to be loved. I’m certain most children feel this way. What was different for me, and I’m sure others, was that since not all of my basic needs were being met, I carried that longing into adulthood and continued to search for belonging, acceptance and love. Often, I looked in the wrong places. There were times when I was so desperate for it, I put myself in a compromising position to have it. What followed was self-loathing and a lot of pain.

Escape came easy during the day; it was at night that the demons were harder to run away from. Looking back, I guess I had pretty good coping skills. I would always tell myself that if I did well in school, my life would improve and it did, by leaps and bounds. I also took myself out of that very negative environment as early on as I could. Being on my own at 16 years old wasn’t easy, but I was free and able to make my own decisions; good, bad or otherwise.

 

The Journey

Getting from point disaster to a better place isn’t easy and there is no formula for making it happen. It’s a combination of exercise (physical and mental), goals (long term and short term), meditation, therapy, gratitude, keeping your eyes on the prize, moderation in all things, forgiveness, listening, letting go, being true to yourself, loving yourself, and looking forward — not an exhaustive list. I’d throw a bit of luck in there too.

You put all that down on a list and it’s daunting to say the least. I also try to congratulate myself when I complete a goal and I start projects by taking baby step. If you try to do anything too quickly, you will either do a half-assed job or you will fail. Take it slowly, do the best you can and pay no attention to those who tell you it’s not possible.

 

Looking Forward

You can’t hear me, but I am sighing. I am constantly sighing. The various meanings are below, however, for me, it has been about relief. I am relieved that I no longer (for the most part) feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I intend to be easier on myself, to accept who I am, to be more forgiving of others, to be more grateful, to spend more time resting, to see more of the world and do it with intention, to care less about the things that do not concern me, and to smile/laugh more.

 

sigh

/sʌɪ/

verb
gerund or present participle: sighing
  1. emit a long, deep audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or similar.
    “Harry sank into a chair and sighed with relief”
    synonyms: breathe out, exhaleMore

 

Troubled Boy to Troubled Man to Loving Myself

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Stepping out on a Friday night. I have to remind myself to look in the mirror and smile; keeping in mind that if you are the best version of yourself you can possibly be, well then, you’re okay. Not quite as adorable as the first photo when I was two years old, but none the worse for the wear.

Publishing when I finish a thought rather than waiting until Sunday. I hope that’s okay with my readers. Happy Gay Pride everyone; we’ve come a long way and have an even longer way to go.

Wide Awake in the Early Morning

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One of my recent early mornings — coffee time on the terrace

 

Early morning defined:  the hours between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.

I have been a morning person my entire life. My mom always reminded me that I would wake the entire household when I got out of bed. I don’t get out of bed at 5:15 a.m. because I have to; I wake-up early because I choose to. I haven’t used an alarm clock for 40 years (unless I have a 6:00 a.m. flight). Here are just ten reasons I love the early morning:

  1. It may just be the quietest time of the day. Night owls have finally gone to bed.
  2. You can watch the sun come up. For me this represents hope, change and a boat load of energy.
  3. That first cup of coffee. I drank decaf for years; it’s never been about the caffeine.
  4. It’s when my energy level is at its highest and I’ve tested this.
  5. I feel like I own the world (sort of grandiose I know).
  6. I feel like I can do just about anything.
  7. I’m usually the first to get to where ever I’m going.
  8. By the time I get to the gym — usually empty in the morning, I am fully awake.
  9. No one calls me before Noon because of the time difference between Europe and the U.S.
  10. “The early bird catches the worm!”

 

Knowing When You Are Most Productive

For the most part (there are exceptions), I wake up fully energized in the morning. I have a mental ‘to do’ list and I’m eager to start checking off the boxes. I know that by a certain point during the day, my energy level will begin to wane. I discovered my peak period during my freshman year in college. I was forced to register for a couple of 8:00 a.m. classes because they were the only classes with spots left by the time the juniors and seniors registered. Not sure how it’s done these days; back then Freshman got whatever scraps were left. Did not matter much to me, the courses I liked were not the popular choices (e.g., wellness, sociology, black studies).

I often found myself sitting in a nearly empty classroom. Most of the students who had enrolled, could not get their asses out of bed. I would arrive early, eager to learn — haters, stop hating. My instructors were often impressed with my attentive behavior and I was usually rewarded for it. My Pavlovian inclinations and ‘aim to please’ character traits were a recipe for success. You have to become aware of your assets; mine were always charm and being upbeat. I’m not ashamed to admit any of this. It was never about superior intelligence; lucky for me common sense and ambition were appreciated.

Throughout my college career, I continued to take morning classes, followed by library time and mental exercise (leisure reading, etc.). Whenever I started to get sluggish, usually after lunch, I would go to the gym to re-energize my battery. Fortunately, I had a part-time job that required me to work early evenings. I was reliable and dependable and I sucked up to authority. Say what you will, but my debt was minimal and for the most part, I was allowed to study at work.

 

The Advantages of Getting There Before Anyone Else

Markets:  Food markets usually get started early; often by 8:00 a.m. When you arrive early you get first pick of all the fresh food. Depending on how you get there, the earlier you arrive, the more parking there will be.

Government Offices:  Being one of the first to arrive at a government office has several advantages. I usually take a good book and try to get there an hour before they open. Government staff are dealing with some crazy stuff and the later you get there, the more agitated they are — not always the case, however, in my experience . . .

Doctor’s Offices:  Doctors get backed up. Sometimes appointments are scheduled every 15 minutes. If the first person takes 30 minutes, everything gets thrown-off and it only gets worse as the day goes by. I always ask for the first appointment if I can get it. Even if it means I have to delay seeing the doctor for a few days, it’s usually worth it.

Early Flights and Tourist Destinations:  Earlier flights have a better on-time record. As the day goes on delays can pile up and cause travel nightmares. If you’re going to a tourist destination, people with small children usually arrive a lot later because kids take some time to get ready in the morning. Get there early and you’ll surely have a more peaceful experience. I love kids. Did I tell you that I love kids?

The Road: Getting on the road early will save you lots of time and aggravation. I think traffic is on my top three list of things I hate most. I have always done everything I could possibly do to avoid traffic.

Bakery:  Baked goods right out of the oven are worth getting up early for . . . enough said.

Early Morning Sex:  You have more energy and you can see your partner in natural light. Don’t laugh; it’s true.

Write me if you think of others.

A good piece on early morning productivity (click).

 

You May Have to Put Your Phone On ‘Do Not Disturb’

Most of my friends and family know that I’m in bed by 10:00 p.m. — at times, much to their dismay. But because they’re human, they forget, and I occasionally get a text or telephone call that gets me out of bed. On nights when I need a solid seven hours, I put my phone on ‘do not disturb.’ There is a small part of me that feels guilty about this, however, there isn’t enough guilt to stop me from doing it.

 

Disadvantages

When there is an upside, you can be certain that there will be a downside. The following are several issues related to being an early riser:

  1. Most of the people in my life (nearly all in fact) are not morning people. You know who you are. You like to stay up late watching television/Netflix or reading or being out on the town or passing the hours waiting to be sleepy enough to hit the sack. There was a time in my life when saying goodnight to these folks was embarrassing for me. I would sheepishly walk toward the bedroom and feel guilty for calling it a night. That’s a thing of the past; however, I do sometimes go to bed and miss a really good conversation and/or a bit of juicy gossip. The wine flows and the guard comes down and I’m already two hours into la la land.
  2. There are genuinely times when I would like to go out dancing. Most dance clubs don’t get going until way past midnight. Staying up that late is very difficult for me. I force myself to do it occasionally because I believe being a social animal is important for my relationships and potential dating life. It’s way too easy to crawl under a comfy blanket. Especially after discovering Portuguese cotton; life changing, trust me. A disco nap (you may not know the term if you’re less than 40.
  3. People do get annoyed with you when you say you’d like to have dinner by 7:00 p.m. The problem with retiring early, is that if you eat too late, the food just sits in your stomach and can be disruptive to sleep. Again, most of my friends put up with me. I like giving dinner parties; this way I get to decide when dinner is served.
  4. Speaking of dinner parties . . . I am so glad that I do not live in Japan. In Japan, if you host dinner guests, you cannot call it a night while said guests are enjoying your hospitality. When your guests decide to go home, then and only then, can you say goodnight. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked my guests to leave my apartment. In fact, when I host guests overnight, I almost always go to bed long before they do.
  5. When I am an overnight guest in someone’s home, I do not hesitate to ask them to grind their coffee beans and set up their coffee maker before they go to bed. Conversely, when I have guests, I grind my beans the night before so that I do not wake them at 5:00 a.m. — it’s the little things that differentiate one from other hosts; good hospitality means letting your guests sleep-in.
  6. No matter what time I go to bed, I usually wake up at the same time every morning. It’s not a good thing, but I’ve learned that there isn’t much I can do about it.
  7. It’s not good for dating.
  8. If you like award shows, you’re screwed.

 

You’re not a morning person but you’d like to be? I know people who have successfully made the change. For the rest of you, stay who are and keep the morning quiet for me.

 

Next Week’s Blog:  I’ll be traveling to Vienna today (Thursday) and I look forward to telling you all about it.

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Blue moon Sunday night