Fighting Your Own Impulses

Or Imposing Self-harm

Max Vakhtbovych

This is a difficult topic for me. I am strong and for the most part able to resist many of my impulses, but I have been fighting urges to act on the negative ones all of my life. Some impulses are positive and should not be ignored. For example when you see hunger and pain outside of your own community and you have an impulse to help, you should act on it. Warning: I may be a bit preachy in this blog.

Impulse defined: a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act (Google)

The Impact of Impulse Decisions on our Lives

The world is made up of a vast array of different personality types; some strong with good intentions and others, out-of-control and divisive. We have various tools at our disposal that help us to control aspects of our personalities that might cause harm or pain. For the purpose of this blog, I’d like to discuss impulses that have an impact on our own future, not necessarily the future of others. Obviously, our decisions affect and impact those around us as well; however, it is the more personal variety I am exploring today.

Decisions About Where to Live

Acting on impulses regarding where you live can have long lasting effects. How many times have you heard a friend say, “I could live here,” better still, how many times have you thought it or said it yourself?

Where you end up residing is by far one of the most important decisions of your life. Granted, wherever you decide to live, it is possible to leave; however, the amount of details that one has to attend to in order to relocate, are cumbersome to say the least. So much of your happiness depends on your external environment. This is one impulse that should definitely be checked and kept in control. Do your homework, visit and spend some time there, ask people who live there, write a pros and cons list, work-up a budget, and have a plan.

Don’t overthink it.

Health Decisions

Our impulses often take us to dark places that are difficult or impossible to resist. For example, no one likes pain: psychological pain, physical pain, and or emotional pain. Our instinct tells us that we should do everything we can to make it go away. Unfortunately, many of today’s remedies are harmful to us and may have long lasting effects. So when you turn to the bottle for relief and escape, your mind tells you that it’s a temporary escape; you only need one cocktail and you won’t need it again tomorrow. I know too many alcoholics who went down that slippery slope with little or no awareness that it was happening, while it was happening. So many people die due to alcohol abuse and the casualties of abuse, every day, yet it’s hardly ever a part of the public conversation. You know why that is and it’s time to face the horrible truth. We mandate the wearing of masks, ban smoking indoors, and we keep transgender people out of certain bathrooms, but we allow excess drinking almost everywhere. No one has the right to put others in danger.

Relationships

Regrets are usually a waste of time, but I have one regret which will haunt me my entire life: my marriage. My ex-wife was perfect in every way: beautiful, smart, trustworthy, loving, and devoted. We were never compatible because she was straight and I was closeted. How could she have known when I hid it so well? But my impulse was to snatch her up because she could provide the life I “thought” I wanted and should have. I could be a husband, a father, and we could live happily ever after. In what universe? When will people stop judging one another and start opening up to the many faces of love.

If you’re one of those people saying, “But isn’t it much better than it used to be?” shame on you.

I take full responsibility for the farce of my marriage, but I also blame the world around me that taught me to discard any other possibility. I have apologized to the woman I married many times; still, the pain I caused her will never be fully forgotten. I appreciate her love and forgiveness, because that and my integrity, are all I have.

Giving Birth to Children

I know that human beings, like all animals, are naturally meant to procreate and I’m certainly not advocating that we stop bringing children into the world.

However . . . I firmly believe that some make the decision to have children without thinking it through. Most of what I feel comes from my own experience of having a mother who had seven children in a very short period of time. She had little or no concern about how she would care for and feed her babies. My father probably had even less concern, sadly, I never got to ask.

I have a couple of female friends who consciously decided not to mother children. They gave it a great deal of thought and came to this very sound conclusion. Both have told me that they have been getting grief for their decision for years; some people think there is something wrong with them for not wanting children. I think our grief is misplaced, we should be focusing on those who decide to give birth and then either abuse their children and/or put the burden on others to care for them. Obviously there are exceptions, I don’t feel the need to explain what those are.

The Impulses I Fight Daily and How I Control them

I’m happy to share the impulses I have that I believe could be problematic in my own life. I view these urges as a weakness; controlling my destructive behavior has always been challenging. I know that I am harder on myself than I need to be, but the alternative is not an option. My intention is to let you know you’re not alone; fighting one’s demons is an uphill battle. Yes, the things I share are extremely personal; however, I hid my true self for over 20 years and that didn’t do anyone any good. Counseling has helped me over the years; however, I suspect my story includes a fight to the end. Giving you a glimpse of my journey helps me to try harder and heal from past mistakes.

Alcohol Abuse: I often mention alcohol in my blogs, therefore, I thought I should address it. I have been fortunate when it comes to alcohol. As I have said before, I occasionally enjoy a late afternoon cocktail and a glass or two of wine with my evening meal. If it’s a special occasion, I might have a second cocktail, but this is very rare. I have never had a problem with alcohol abuse, however, there are several reasons I limit my alcohol intake:

  • I like being in total control — my somewhat compulsive personality dictates my behavior
  • I prefer not to pay the high price of alcohol in a bar or restaurant.
  • There are times when I am out and driving (certainly not of late); alcohol and driving cannot happen
  • I drink slowly and enjoy my cocktail or wine.
  • I do not drink to become inebriated and can honestly say I never have (except at that one Bar Mitzvah when I was 12 years old).

I mention alcoholism now and again because I have several individuals in my life who are alcoholics. I do would not and do not judge those who have a difficult time controlling their alcohol intake; I am aware that addiction is a disease . It is painful to watch someone you care about spin out of control due to substance abuse. I have seen a tremendous amount of success with Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics/Marijuana Anonymous. To be honest, quick rehabilitation programs seem to be less effective. It is my understanding that alcoholism is linked to genetics. I’m not a professional abuse counselor and my opinion is just that. Please challenge me if you believe I have a problem with alcohol abuse.

Gambling: this vice is an entirely different story. There is no doubt in my mind that if I did not control my impulse to gamble, it would become a problem. Both of my parents loved and abused gambling. My mother incurred a massive amount of debt due to her habit; I believe my father was able to keep his impulse under control, but I have no doubt that he lost a great deal of money in his life; horse racing was his vice.

The most I have ever lost at one time, was about $1800 on a cruise ship. It was my birthday and stupid me was thinking: you have to win, it’s your birthday. Any smart person will tell you that you cannot gamble expecting to win. In this case I visited the ATM machine on the ship three times in one night. I told myself that I could go to the machine once and that would be my limit. Ha, that never works. Because I was so angry for losing that much money, I convinced myself that it could not and would not happen again. This is how I control my gambling:

  • I limit myself to three casino visits per year (I usually come closer to five or six visits).
  • My bank has a daily withdrawal limit on my ATM card.
  • I put a certain amount of cash in my pocket and I leave my credit cards and ATM card at home (harder to do on a ship, but even leaving the cards in my cabin, is a deterrent.
  • I do not live near a casino and that was always a conscious choice.
  • If the impulse is strong, I will often treat myself to a nice dinner instead.

Gamblers are judged harshly in our society, therefore, it is seldom discussed with friends or family. Instead, it is divisive and draped in shame. Even writing about my own battle with it is shame filled and upsetting.

Overeating or Impulse Eating: this too has been a lifelong battle for me. I love food; not just sweets, I enjoy savory food with as much fervor. I’ve written several blogs about my struggles with eating; to be frank, I have for the most part conquered this addiction. Portion control, meditation, and vanity, have prevented obesity. At this point in my life comfort is essential. If I eat too much, I am uncomfortable and in the end, it’s not worth the limited pleasure I might have gotten from two more ribs or that second piece of cake.

All of these impulses, although personal, affect the wellbeing of others in your life. Acknowledging you might have a problem, monitoring your behavior and seeking help, are all essential for success in overcoming these difficulties. As I write about my own struggles, there are a few realities that come to mind: the impulses I speak of effect many of us; more than society cares to admit, we cope with most of these difficulties on our own because of the stigma attached to them, and lastly, to be flawed and challenged is to be human. Never give up the fight; giving in or giving up, is the worst thing you can do. If you need help, ask for it.

I realize that I did not cover every impulse we struggle with in our lives. Admittedly, the stress most of us are under during this pandemic, only make resisting negative impulses more challenging.

I'm really not good with impulse control Picture Quote #1

Resources:

When Loss of Self-Control is Really an Impulse Control Disorder, Family First Intervention, March, 6, 2019

Is Impulsive Behavior a Disorder? Healthline, May 12, 2020

Alcohol Abuse, Harvard Health Publishing, December 2014

If you don’t mind sorting through some bullshit and aggrandizing, there is some great stuff on Goop (sample below):

Question of the Week:

Have you acted on an impulse that ended up being a disaster? How did you fix it or are you still trying?

The End. Period.

Photo by Markus Spiske

Is there someone else? When did it start? I should have known you’d cheat, you bastard; who is he? How did I not see it. I didn’t want to see it, I was blindsided . . . or so I thought. The truth is, there were weeks and weeks of deafening exchanges, changes in patterns, and forced smiles. Back then I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, the guy who could pick and choose. Why would anyone walk away from a guy who can cook?

In total, we broke-up nine torturous times. Each time I swore to the gods that I would never go back. How many times can you smash your head against the wall before you realize it may cause permanent damage?

When you force a conversation, please talk to me, tell me what you’re feeling, tell me what’s wrong, and this is what he tells you:

“I don’t know.”

You don’t know? I ask.

“I don’t know.”

Time to walk away, except for some reason you will never fully understand, you stay. You stay and allow yourself a daily dose of torture; sometimes two or three doses. That’s called low self-esteem and it’s time to build it back up, but not there, not with him. It took a good deal of heartache and losing a couple of friends, before I had finally had enough. I was fortunate that the tipping point arrived before I’d hit rock bottom. I know too many people who stay and regret it years later. Sound familiar?

Side note: When someone says, “I don’t know why I treat you so badly,” it’s because they are afraid of saying the one thing that might make you say, “Fuck you, get out and don’t come back.” As hard as we might try, we cannot change people.

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What’s Your Story

Many of us have ended relationships. For some, it’s as easy as snapping your fingers; for others, it feels more like passing a kidney stone. For me, I’d have to say it depends on who it is and the circumstances.

We never really know what another person is thinking or feeling. They can tell us or we can guess; however, the truth can be elusive or distorted. Here’s what I mean:

You’re dating an individual who may have very few faults or imperfections. If you’re like me, the tiniest issues reveal themselves very early on. You find yourself tormented by the idea of ending the relationship because you might not see it going anywhere. Sabotage is alive and well in my world. Communication is essential, without it, you have a wobbly foundation. With a solid foundation, you can address nearly any issue. Still, some problems are insurmountable and if your eyes are wide open, you’ll see it.

The Kinds of Endings You Might Contemplate:

Love Relationships — I am the last person to comment on ending love relationships. There are only two things that I know for certain: 1) Sex after a break-up will not make you feel better or help you get over him, and 2) Until you decide it’s over, it will not truly be over. If your gut tells you it’s not working, listen to your gut.

Friendships — Ending a friendship, long or short, is not easy. However, not unlike a love relationship, once a friendship becomes toxic or unpleasant, it’s time to consider cutting your losses. In the end, it’s about what you think of yourself. If you value your self-worth and quality of life, walking away from a friendship — as difficult as it might be — may be the best thing you can do. I think this rule applies to any friendship, long or short.

Many of us view the end of a friendship as failure; for some of us, failure is not an option. So we remain and allow it to slowly rot bits and pieces of our core. I had a 25 year friendship that ended about 10 years ago. I contacted this former friend on her birthday a few years back and she was very angry; she hadn’t let go of the bitterness that tore us apart. I realized that nothing and changed. In some ways that revelation can be a good thing, it helps gives you closure and affirmation. We reach out to one another on our birthdays now, that’s about all the contact either of us can tolerate. Not going to lie, every once in a while I find myself missing this person, but then I recall why it went south and I am relieved that I called it quits when I did. At the end of the day, your integrity is all that matters; and your sanity, that matters as well.

There are those who believe that when you end something it’s best not to revisit it. I’ve had situations when I can’t recall why it ended in the first place and some people do evolve, don’t they?

Business Partnerships — I have a friend that hated his business partner. It got so bad he’d drink himself to sleep at night. If have to ask yourself if it’s worth the pain and suffering, your answer is right there in front of you. Talk to anyone who ended a business relationship that was poisonous; nine out of ten times they’ll tell you they bounced back and came back stronger. When you take care of yourself, you not only fix the problem at hand, but you also end up mending a lot of other broken parts happening simultaneously. Your courage and strength carries over to all other aspects of your life.

Family — This is kind of break-up has hit close to home recently and it is still somewhat raw. If I write about it, I’ll get a bit of backlash and it’s not worth it. I will say that as difficult as it might be to walk away, there are situations that are so distressing, remaining in touch can do physical and emotional harm. In the end, your choice should be to protect yourself. Exhaust every avenue to fix what is broken before you say goodbye. The harder you know you have tried, the less you will regret your decision.

If you don’t end up sad and hurt by the loss, you are either uncaring or way too guarded. Having an open and loving heart has its pitfalls, but I’d rather be sad and hurt than live through life feeling nothing. Or even worse, being angry all the time.

Employment — This break-up variety is every bit as onerous as any other. You add money and fear of failure to this equation and you have quite a lot to consider. One of the things I did that I found helpful, was to make a list of the pros and cons. I also played the worst case scenario game, which I always find helpful. When you’re going through the hardship, you’re thinking I will never survive if this ended. In truth, we always survive. On the other side of abuse and unappreciative supervisors/owners is something better. Remember there is only one direction you can go when things get that bad. If you’re dreading going to the office or meeting with your boss, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to move on. When my doctor prescribed Xanax so that I could sit in the same room with my ex-boss, I knew it was time to go. Don’t let it get to that point.

Image result for a quote for when it's time to quit a job

One of my favorite ending a relationship quotes:

“I thought I was strong, holding on to you, but I was stronger when I was letting you go.”

Cuba postponed to April 22. I will hopefully get to finally go. Back to the States to see friends and family in May (we’ll see). I’m accustomed to the uncertainty.

I’m still in lockdown here in Portugal. The police are out checking for face masks, ID, and for those who might be illegally leaving their municipality. I’m not sure how much more surreal this whole experience could be. It seems like there may be a light at the end of this tunnel — stay strong and healthy.

Question of the Week:

Do you have a successful break-up story to share or advice you might like to convey?

It Helps to Know How Tiny We Are

Don’t forget there is a “question of the week” at the end. Thank you.

The Meaning of it All

There are individuals who refuse to consider the size of the universe because it terrifies them. In fact, my thoughts tend to navigate toward the extreme opposite. I am fascinated by the enormity of the universe and where I fit in. Let me start by sharing my belief:

The universe is a completely balanced entity and we are a small, but necessary part of what keeps it that way.

I am not a scientist. I don’t even have a scientific mind. However, I do believe in science. I see constant significant corrections and the impact on my life. How much of my theory about the universe is true? I am uncertain and I am okay with that. I believe that the universe is infinite, vast, and mysterious. I especially love the mysterious part.

The life and death cycle occurs throughout the universe: the stars, planets, galaxies, comets, etc., have a life cycle and it all seems to have a singular purpose and that is renewal. Our sun may not have a heartbeat, however, there is no denying that it had a beginning, a middle and it will have an end. The life of our sun serves a higher purpose for the entire universe, and I for one, am forever grateful. If you examine nearly every aspect of our universe, you will come to a similar conclusion: there is a reason for everything and everything has a purpose. So why would any of us not appreciate that we exist for a reason. Furthermore, why is it so important for us to figure out what that reason is? We are the universe and the universe is us; I can live with that. In fact, I am empowered by this truth.

I choose to go with the “renewal” explanation for my own life. Consider this my spiritual awakening. I am alive for a purpose I may never fully understand; however, I understand life has meaning. My life had a beginning, it has a middle, and it will eventually have an end. What is left of me when I am no longer breathing will also have a purpose; whether it be a memory, a lesson taught, a thought that lingered, dust particles, or to make someone smile, it doesn’t matter — what matters is how I choose to take advantage of life now. From where I’m sitting, life was a gift I was fortunate to receive; random or otherwise.

Where My Thoughts Go and How That Has Changed Over Time

At a certain point in your life you realize that you have lived more of your life than you have left to live. This realization can be quite sobering. If you sit with it for awhile, your thoughts will visit various places; some dark and some encouraging. You might ask what could be encouraging about knowing you have a limited amount of time left to live? Well, I’ll share my point of view:

First, it forces you to take stock of your life. If there are things that you long ago decided you wanted to do, well then, you ought to get to it. You must consider variables such as physical limitations, priorities, whether you want to do something alone or with others, and so on. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it forces you to consider what you need to do in order to make certain things happen. For example, if you want to climb a mountain, you’d better make sure you’re in the right shape to do it or that you can travel to said mountain. If one of your life dreams is to have a home on the beach, you may need to save a bit more or choose a different beach.

I recently had a revelation that helps me in sorting all this out. It occurred to me that if my life ended, I probably wouldn’t be regretting what I didn’t get done. Oh come on, it’s not morose, it’s realistic.

How Knowing What I Know Helps Me to Cope

I don’t want to sound preachy or too philosophical. I prefer when others share their personal story or history, rather than telling you on how to live your own life. After years of psychological therapy and a good deal of reflective thinking, I cope by being true to myself. Living for others or believing what others tell you to believe, robs you of your own life. No one knows you better than you know yourself. Take advantage of that knowledge and go your own way — oops, a bit preachy. If this isn’t how you roll, toss my words aside and live whichever way you choose; just know that personal fulfillment is just that, personal.

What If I’m Wrong?

I don’t think much about alternative explanations for my own existence. ‘What if’ games are for worry warts and I tend to worry more about the people I love than myself. I figure that if I’m wrong and there is life after death, well then, I’ll be pleasantly surprised (shush). I strongly believe that all living beings possess a soul and it is our soul that makes us all unique. Most people tend to have their own truth; hopefully, that truth brings you comfort and guidance. And if you truly believe that I don’t spend a great deal of time worrying, I have some property in the Florida swampland to sell you.

Medically Assisted Death

When I resided in New York, I belonged to a “Dying With Dignity” group. Our purpose was to advocate for laws that would allow individuals to decide when it was time to end life. Physician-assisted suicide at the end of one’s life should be a human right. I am referring to an individual with a terminal illness, where there is little to no hope for future quality of life. I am not in favor of being hand or machine fed until my heart stops beating. I accept death as an imminent aspect of life. I truly believe that death can be as beautiful and as meaningful as birth. I don’t see New York changing the law anytime and I believe that is unfortunate.

In the News: The Portuguese parliament has approved a law authorising “medically assisted death” which would make the Catholic country the fourth in Europe to legalise euthanasia should the new law come into force.

Lawmakers approved the final wording for legislation allowing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill and gravely injured people.

It is expected to become law in the very near future.

Resources:

The Complete Life Cycle of the Universe. This piece has some excellent references; although scientific, it is easy enough to comprehend.

1: Artists conception of a star life cycle. It shows the life cycle of the star birth from Stellar Nebula to its death at White Dwaft/Neutron Star/Black Hole (courtesy: NASA).

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THE MEANING OF LIFE — An excerpt

From Great Issues in Philosophy, by James Fieser

Home: http://www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/120

Copyright 2008, updated 1/1/2021

• Does life have a purpose?

• What kind of life is worth living?

• How can I overcome despair?

• How can I achieve happiness?

• Why do I exist?

• Why should I exist?

• Do my life activities have any lasting value?

Each of these questions focuses on a unique point. The first, for example, asks whether there is an over-arching design or goal to human existence that might clarify our place in the grand scheme of things. The second asks whether some approaches to life are better than others. All of the above questions, though, presume that something’s not right with life as we currently experience it, and we’d like a solution to the problem.

           Not everyone is plagued by questions of life’s meaning, and a good test for determining the grip that this has on you personally was suggested by German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche (1844-1900). In ancient times, philosophers from many cultures around the globe entertained a concept called the eternal return. On this view, the universe that we live in now is just one in an endless series of universes that occurs one right after another, each being identical with the others, right down to the tiniest detail. With our present universe, there are fixed laws of nature that determine how it unfolds, including everything about my own personal existence, such as how tall I am, who I married, the job that I have, and every word I ever uttered. Someday this universe will be destroyed by cosmic forces, and from its ashes a new universe will be formed. It too will be shaped by exactly the same laws of nature, and thus all events will unfold in exactly the same way, including my own life. This cycle of universes will continue again and again, forever. Whether you believe the theory of the eternal return is not important. What Nietzsche asks, though, is how you would feel if it was true, and for eternity you would be reliving the exact same events in your life, over and over, in each successive universe. If you would be OK with that, then likely you are not especially bothered by problems of life’s meaning. You are happy with this life, and you would be content living the identical life over and over. However, if the notion of the eternal return sounds like a nightmare to you, then maybe you have serious issues with the meaning of life as you experience it right now.

           Philosophers are not the only ones interested in questions about life’s meaning. Psychological studies tell us that happiness declines in our 20s and returns around age 50. That’s a long period of personal struggle for each of us, and today’s self-help industry has jumped in to address our problems. While many of these involve specific concerns, such as relationship issues or alcohol dependence, others are more general in nature. A mid-life crisis or a “spiritual” crisis, for example, will often involve larger questions of purpose and fulfillment. Philosophical discussions of the meaning of life are not meant to compete with self-help therapies. The main appeal of philosophy’s contributions to this issue rests in the puzzle itself: here is a timeless problem that touches the core of human existence. What exactly is behind the problem and which, if any, of the standard solutions are plausible?

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Question of the Week:

What is your view of the life cycle?

May be an image of text that says 'FOR ALL, WHO MAY BE HAVING A BAD DAY.. It Can Always Be Worse.'

Surviving Another Lockdown

Can it be too quiet?

[If you’re too busy to read, scroll to the end; I need your help with answers to weekly questions.]

The Current State of Affairs

A friend of mine who happens to be alone a lot because of his work, had this to say about quarantine:

“I’ve been practicing how to isolate my entire life.”

I can relate to that. I’ve been living alone for eight years now and it’s been pretty quiet and more peaceful than I ever imagined. So much so that I cannot imagine it any other way. Still, it’s different when you choose to be alone versus having the government enforce it. And for you partnered folks: if living with someone works for you, I wouldn’t want you to change it; just presenting alternatives.

I guess there was always the possibility that the government in Portugal would decide a second lockdown was necessary. I saw it happening in other European countries and it was only a matter of time. So here we are again: big infection rates and more deaths than we can handle. And as you’ve heard, a slowdown in vaccine production and delivery.

Intellectually, I get it. I’m constantly imagining what it must be like for people losing family members and close friends. And believe me the last thing I want is to be in hospital in a foreign country hooked up to a respirator. I’m living in Portugal where I have new friends who care about me, but who wouldn’t be able to see me in hospital anyway. And then of course there is my dog Paco; it’s been just the two of us for a year now. I’m convinced that without Paco, I would be a slug with a big bag of chips, on a too cushy sofa, rewatching Netflix originals and endlessly surfing Youtube videos.

The Right Head Space

Attitude is a huge part of a successful lockdown. If you spend a lot of time thinking about what you cannot do and where you cannot go, you will become bitter and filled with anxiety. On the other hand, if you remind yourself that lives are being saved by staying put and it’s temporary, coping becomes easier (at least for me).

I also purchased a tiny little fireplace for 30 Euros on Amazon. It runs on ethanol and it’s very safe. So when I’m wrapped up in a quilt with Paco curled up next to me, I now have a fire to add to the peaceful ambiance. Make your space comfy and cozy so that you never want to leave.

Routine

I’m finding that routine helps me feel better about the situation I find myself in. I go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, spend time journaling and blogging in the morning, take Paco to the dog park (where I can also socialize from a distance), do some stretching and walking, learning Portuguese on Memrise, cleaning up a bit, cooking new dishes, going to the market (allowed), reading, watching a bit of news (not too much, I find it depressing and the media sensationalizes everything), Facetime or whatsapp family and friends, etc. If I do all of these things, just about everyday, time breezes by and I feel fulfilled. I have also discovered the art of napping. Closing your eyes for 10 to 20 minutes in the middle of the day, can be quite rejuvenating and there’s no guilt attached.

Newish Hobbies

I’ve always been at a loss for dreaming up new and interesting hobbies. Like most people, I’ll try something a couple of times and put it down. Pre-COVID-19 I discovered that I enjoyed croquet; bought an expensive new mallet and everything. Now I hang my jacket on it. The point is, I found a passtime I enjoyed and now I know that I can do it again . . . hopefully in the near future.

Lockdown has forced me to cook more and that’s a good thing. I’m enjoying watching Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson on Portugal’s mixed Portuguese and English food channel, 24Kitchen. Not just for enjoyment (most of the Food Network these days), these are shows where you can watch, listen and learn. I’m having fun duplicating recipes with my own twist. I don’t write them down, I wait a day or two, let it churn in my head a bit, and then give it a try. I’ve come up with quite a few very satisfying meals. I’m not photographing most of them — something I’ve discovered about social media: most people couldn’t care less what I cook.

I’m occasionally enjoying a virtual meal with my friend Gina. It’s not the same as sitting across from her, but it’s fun for the two of us to plan a menu, pull up a laptop, and chow down together.

The Quiet

There is a high school with hundreds of students very close to my apartment. Students hangout at a café at the base of my building, pretty much all day. A few weeks ago the government decided that all of Portugal should stay at home except teachers and school kids. So for the first few days, when the second lockdown began, I continued to hear the chatter of high schoolers from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admittedly, I resented it. Even the owner of the café was concerned about the pile-up of young people on the sidewalk. They were maskless and all over one another (well that’s what you do when you think you’ll live forever). I guess their infection rates went up and the kids are back home. I miss the chatter. It was a reminder that there is life out there in the world. Quiet is grossly overrated.

My Perspective

It helps to have a place to breathe. The view of the Ria Formosa and Atlantic Ocean from my terrace never gets old. Some days the temperature goes up to 70 degrees (21C) or higher. If you’re going to have to stay home, the Algarve isn’t a bad place to be.

I’m legally permitted to exercise close to home. Long walks with earbuds and music was no longer satisfying, so I have started listening to podcasts. Wow, if you want to pass time and be stimulated while you’re doing it, this is the way to go. You have to sort through the bed stuff to get to the good ones, but once you find a few you like . . . it’s like my outdoor Netflix and they’re free on Spotify (with occasional ads). Modern Love, The Counter Chronicles, The Daily, The Daily Zeitgeist — all very interesting. Short spurts of listening are not a problem. Audio books next?

Eat. Sleep. Isolate. Repeat.: Funny Self Isolation Notebook Journal.  Quarantine Humor for Coworkers and Friends. Social Distancing Sarcastic  Quotes.: Press, Twisted Journaling: 9798639563256: Amazon.com: Books

Question of the Week:

How has lockdown changed the way you think about life?

Quieting The Mind

I don’t know about you but I have a brain that just doesn’t shut down. I have discovered a few ways to help quiet it down:

  • meditation — there are several methods. What works for me is to allow my mind to go wherever it wants to go for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • journaling — moving it from my brain to paper is very effective
  • talk ideas/concerns/frustrations through with someone else
  • walk or exercise
  • read a novel
  • play time or quiet time with your pet
  • a good film
  • listen to music
  • focus on positive thoughts
  • volunteer work

So long as you do not judge me, I’ll tell you where my crazy thoughts go when unmonitored or bridled:

  • Trump and the damage he has done (continues to do) to the world
  • In some ways I am more concerned with those who believe Trump’s rhetoric and support him.
  • people who disappoint
  • family that claim that they want nothing to do with me because of my politics. I know it has more to do with the fact that I stand by my truth. Oh how I wish I could name names.
  • money
  • COVID-19
  • climate change and what we are doing to our planet
  • people who do not recycle or pick up their dog shit
  • people who live in my building and refuse to pay their condo fees . . . and get away with it
  • arthritis in my shoulders
  • prostate (especially at 3:00 a.m.)
  • what happend at the Capital this week kept me up all night

You can see why I would rather stay focused on positive thoughts. I imagine you might have similar demons.

Resources:

Tasting Page piece (click for article) — 17 Ways . . .

https://www.tastingpage.com/blog/how-to-quiet-your-mind

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Future Posts

I’ve been thinking about where I intend to go with my blog in 2021. I tend to mix it up: lessons I’ve learned, past experiences, and fictional stories. If you can let me know if you have a preference, I would appreciate it.

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I was interviewed by Agatha Khishchenko, a podcaster out of Brooklyn (on Spotify); check it out here:

A couple of corrections: my first professional position at Hofstra University was Coordinator of Student Activities in Residence Life (not Director as I stated in the interview). Also, I taught classes at Hofstra and Marymount Manhattan College (not NYU where I did my Ph.D.). I want to make sure my answers are correct.

Letting GO

Or Here We Go Again

A topic I revisit from time-to-time; mostly as a reminder to myself; also to evaluate my progress. Letting go is something most of us struggle with. There is nothing like a Pandemic to help put things in perspective.

Letting Go of What?

  • someone you care about
  • someone you lost
  • a pet who has passed
  • a job you lost or need to leave
  • a competition you didn’t win
  • your ego
  • resentment
  • fear
  • the familiar
  • addiction
  • bad habits
  • a grudge
  • a notion
  • concerns about money

Hence, the list should illuminate the many reasons we struggle with letting go. I would argue that if you work hard enough to let go of just one thing that has caused you pain and/or anxiety, the next thing you tackle will hopefully be a little easier to address. Of course there are exceptions to just about everything.

When It Hurts So Much

Why we hold onto to something even when it causes you pain and suffering is a great mystery. Whether it’s a job, a relationship, or a place. We are sometimes unaware of the aforementioned pain and at other times we just ignore it; ignoring it is easier than confronting it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some fairly good therapists over the years. Just as effective is a friend who listens well. Those long walks where you tell a confidant what’s on your mind, can help you to choose a healthier path. When I was deciding whether or not to leave my position in New York, I spoke to total strangers. In the end, their objective thoughts helped me to make the right decision. In truth, I knew what I had to to, but hearing it from others is affirming.

Hanging On

  • It might be easier to stick with the familiar, rather than move on to the unknown.
  • Fear of loss, fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, and fear in general.
  • Low self-esteem is often the culprit; love thy self. Remember you may take two steps back and need to reboot.
  • We sometimes doubt our own judgment: Am I being too harsh? Maybe I should be more forgiving? Perhaps if I ignore it, it will go away. I think you know by now, that it never just disappears.

How it Feels to Let Go

Replacing whatever it was that you no fret over with something positive and fun, can be extremely healthy. I have a friend who recently gave up smoking. She decided that if she didn’t do something physical, she’d gain a lot of weight. She started running to prevent that from happening and she discovered a pastime that she now loves; replacing an unhealthy addiction with a healthy one.

I have noticed that I am laughing and smiling more of late. I think that is a byproduct of letting go. The lighter you are, the less burdened by toxic people in your life or behaviours that cause you unease, the more your body will express relief — it too will breathe, you will breathe.

Time is one of those tricky aspects of letting go. We all want the pain to go away instantly — like magic — poof, wish it away. But it takes some time for that to happen and we must be patient. I have a friend who has been in AA for over 25 years. He has remained clean and sober and he is happy and healthy. We speak often; his pearls of wisdom are always appreciated. The principles of AA can be applied to any addiction, so I listen and often apply them to my own healing. My friend reminds me to allow myself to feel whatever it is I am feeling. If I am sad, it’s okay to feel the sadness, if I am angry, I need to allow myself to be angry, and if I am relieved, I need to feel that relief. Pushing thoughts and emotions away is not helpful. Instead of processing your feelings, your denial of the existence of these emotions, only delays the moving on process. These emotions don’t just disappear, they find a place inside your body to fester and then they manifest themselves in ways that are harmful and dangerous. Perhaps in the middle of the night when you need to be resting or on the road when you should be concentrating on your driving. You could be damaging your organs and therefore, putting your life at risk.

While your going through whatever it is you need to go through, be good to yourself. Go for long walks in your favorite places, buy yourself a new shirt, eat at a familiar restaurant, and if you meditate, meditate often. There is no magic formula for how much time it takes or how badly you will feel while your heart and mind repair, but if you allow the process to run its course, in time, you will be in better place. We all know this because it’s part of the human condition; however, we battle with ourselves because we want relief now and we want it without pain. We have become a society of dangerous remedies and quick fixes. It is these remedies that will kill us, not whatever it is we are are struggling with.

Celebrate Progress and Success

I have been dangling carrots in front of me for a long time. A piece of cake for finishing a term paper, a cocktail when the sun goes down, a steak dinner if I get my taxes done on time; you get the point. Giving yourself a reward for letting go or walking away from something is extremely effective.

Music and Dance Can Help You Find Relief

Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, is my favorite Sondheim ballad. I think I may have heard a hundred versions of it in my lifetime, but Judi Dench sings it with such amazing depth and passion, I’d have to say it’s my favorite. There have been many different interpretations of the lyrics and Sondheim never really gives away what he was thinking when he wrote it. As with many of Sondheim’s songs, he is telling a story. It’s about so many different things, but what it says to me is accept whatever comes your way. Come to terms with who you have become, relative to who you may have been. Yes, life is hard and there is so much to deal with, but in the end we have hope to hang onto, hence the final verse, “. . . maybe next year.” I know that now more than ever.

145+ EXCLUSIVE Letting Go Quotes That Will Guide You - BayArt

I usually start my blogs on Monday morning. This week I sat down and wrote a few lines on Sunday afternoon because I knew what I wanted to write about this week. I noted as the week went on that nearly everything I read or heard or talked about was somehow related to letting go. It’s either the times we live in or a funny coincidence, probably both. Whatever is it, it is one of our greatest challenges; a challenge that lasts a lifetime.

Resources:

On Excess Poundage

This post will seem odd and ridiculous to some and perfectly normal to others. If you struggle with your weight read on:

Why Have One Without the Other?

To say that I live to eat is not a gross exaggeration, it is truth. If you know me at all, you know that what I eat, where I eat, and when I eat, consume my thoughts the better part of the day. I’m okay with that.

I’ll start where I would usually end:

It is time to come to terms with being overweight.

A History to Dieting

Some people can eat anything and never gain an ounce; I hate these people. No seriously, my greatest challenge since I was a pudgy tennager, has been keeping weight off. I have had a few very successful periods of my life when I was satisfied with my weight, not all were healthy:

  1. I started running when I was 17 years old and discovered I could eat carbs and keep the weight off. I trained for and ran several marathons in my 30s, keeping me at my ideal weight. Numerous injuries and arthritis prevent me from running today. Accepting this reality has been one of the greatest challenges of my life; I loved running.
  2. I had a jaw realignment when I was 20 years old. Having your jaw wired shut for six weeks will do the trick. I was thinner than I have ever been. I needed the surgery so that I could chew better; it’s true.
  3. When I was struggling with a career matter in my late 40s, I lost over 20 pounds. This was by far the worst way to lose weight. I usually eat more when I am stressed; however, this situation was so bad even food didn’t help.
  4. I had stomach surgery for a hernia three years ago and I couldn’t eat solids for weeks. I lost a good amount of weight before and after the surgery. This kind of weight loss is temporary and very unpleasant.
  5. I have had some success with fasting, but after a good deal of research, I’m not an advocate of this weight loss method.

I dieted in my early teens. I had no idea what I was doing and I starved myself. No doubt I did some serious damage to my body. I had an eating disorder in that I was fasting without any knowledge of the nutrients and important life sustaining foods; I starved myself. I cut everything out, not just the bad stuff.

I played the if this diet doesn’t work I’ll try another one game. I lived in a house of fat shaming and name calling; my mother was the bandleader and my slender siblings unfortunately joined the party. Being overweight is a lonely state of being; very few people understand your pain. I should also acknowledge that my mother was much harder on my sisters and she lost her personal battle with weight gain in her 50s and 60s.

It is my understanding that gaining and losing weight frequently is very bad for your vital organs. In my case it was a fluctuation of only a few pounds, but I know people who go up and down 20 or more pounds on a regular basis — not good.

My college years proved healthier for me because I learned about nutrition and proper eating. For the most part, I was able to retain the knowledge and stick with a healthier lifestyle diet. Admittedly, I never truly conquered sugar and snacking. Guilty eating had been a lifelong challenge until about a year ago. I seldom feel guilt about food anymore. Part of this has to do with the unpleasant feeling I have when I’m bloated — overeating is no longer an option.

What I Finally Learned

Vanity is alive and well and ever present in my life. On one hand I’m glad that I care and on the other I wish I didn’t care so much.

What I learned is very simple: there are certain foods that are nutritious and delicious and you can basically eat them at anytime and in any quantity. Fruits and vegetables are excellent foods; nutritious and delicious if prepared properly. Two important factors when eating these foods: first, whenever possible eat them fresh, and secondly, what you pile on top of them is important. For example, carrots are very healthy, but if you boil them to death and then pour processed sugar all over them, you are take away all of benefits of eating something healthy. I love steamed carrots with fresh ginger and a drop of honey. I also love cold carrots with some extra virgin olive oil and some fresh thyme. The same is true for most fresh vegetables, they can be very satisfying. Have you ever had a tomato salad when tomatoes are in season? Heaven. Growing herbs on my terrace is a good way to enhance the taste of my foods. I grow seven different herbs and use them almost every day. Watching them grow is and saving money on buying them is an added bonus.

I have not been on any sort of diet to lose weight for almost thirty years. I monitor my eating and keep away from sugar as much as possible. The truth is that I love ice cream, cake, and cookies. I refuse to cut them out completely, so I allow myself small amounts of them on a daily basis. Cutting them out doesn’t work, it just leaves me wanting them even more. Again, all things in moderation.

It helps to live in a warmer climate where fresh produce is available all year-round. The Atlantic Ocean offers many varieties of fish that are good for you and delicious. Also, eating your larger meal at lunch and just having a few bites for dinner, makes for better digestion. I’ve noticed it’s easier to keep the weight off and I do not go to bed with a full tummy. Europeans have been eating this was for many years. Again, whatever works best for you and your digestive system.

Where I Am Today

For the most part, I am eating what I want to eat, when I want to eat. The difference is having a better understanding of what my limits are and knowing what makes my body work better. When I was 17 years years old and craved ice cream, I would buy a pint or a quart and eat the entire contents in one sitting. Today, I can have a pint of ice cream in my freezer for two weeks. I can eat a small portion slowly and be completely satisfied. Instead of shoveling it in, I savour each bite.

I have also learned that not having any sweets in the house doesn’t work for me. It’s a psychological thing; if I deny myself completely I want sugar even more. My mind becomes focused on having a piece of cake or cookies and I will inevitably have to go out and buy something right then and there. If I have a few healthy snacks in my pantry, that works better for me. I’ll have two Fig Newtons or some Greek yogurt and local honey. I have found that fresh fruit in the summer is a delicious dessert. A nutritious smoothie on a warm day is also delightful.

Reminding myself that I am not obese is important for my mental health. Being just a few pounds overweight is not going to make me a diabetic or prevent me from getting around. I go to the gym for a solid one hour workout five or six times a week and I truly enjoy it. I like that I’m doing something good for myself and I enjoy the social interaction. It helps keep the weight off as well; although clearly, it has to be combined with healthy eating.

Where I’m Going

Accepting my body type and current weight is essential for my happiness and well-being. I don’t want to feel guilty about having a snack or a good steak. I want to enjoy healthy amounts of any food and not think about weight gain. I’m nearly there. Like anything we attempt to conquer, old habits are hard to break. I’m listening to my body and it’s saying: enjoy food, eat fresh and eat local. Have a little something sweet now and then and savor it. Embrace the body you have and stop longing for the body you cannot have. All things in moderation.

Acceptance Quotes - One Mind Dharma

Respect Others (excerpt from article)

Respect all people, regardless of size. Think positively about yourself, and remember to think positively about others. Accept each other at any size; compliment behavior, ideas and character instead of appearance and develop more self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-respect. PychCentral, “Accepting Your Body,” Jan. 2020.

Because, believe it or not, when you DO accept where you are, that’s when you CAN begin to change. (excerpt)

You can’t hate, criticize, and berate your body enough to create lasting change. It just doesn’t work.

You can, however, be mindful, loving, and gentle with yourself and your body; with where you are now in your journey. And be courageous enough not to hide or be ashamed of how you look.

So, as warmer weather comes and sweatpants/sweatshirts/sweaters are put away, I encourage you to throw out your beliefs of having to look a certain way or be a certain size to accept yourself. HuffPost, “The Real Reason You Can’t Accept Your Body,” Dec.6, 2017.

And remember, you’ll look thinner if you hold the camera above your head

How happy will you be when this election cycle is over? Between COVID-19, the economy, travel restrictions, and the election, it seems as if everyone is on edge and deeply concerned. Eating foods that are nutritious and satisfying will help you feel better. For me cookies are a great comfort as well. I saw an interview this week with David Letterman and Kanye West (terrific Netflix series); Kanye told Letterman he was about 20 pounds heavier than he’d like to be. Letterman asked Kanye about dieting and he said something about being a part of a culture that doesn’t use the word diet because it has the word “die” in it. For once, Kanye made sense.

Note: From time to time I revisit a topic for a number of reasons; hopefully I am ever evolving and I either learn or discover new things or I change my way of thinking. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Your contributions and feedback are invaluable.

Routine Versus Spontaneity

Jazzing Up Your Day

Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art.

— Oscar Wilde

Ho hum versus devil may care

Spontaneity is a goal I have been striving to achieve since I could spell the word. Seriously, I could teach the armed forces a thing or two about order and precision. I want to be unpredictable, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Why Routine and Checking Boxes Works

We are creatures of habit and we find great comfort in routine. For me, it’s waking up, playing torture Paco in bed, and quiet time with my morning coffee on the terrace. It delights me so; it gets me out of bed in the morning excited to start the day. I add the gym and a trip to the market to the mix and I am thrilled to be alive, but that’s not good enough.

My “To Do” list also offers great comfort. Chores and projects I am eager to check off as completed. It provides a sense of accomplishment and a satisfying feeling. I don’t like how good it makes me feel because like any addiction, it’s hard to stay away.

Don’t try this at home: I actually fill my hourly calendar with small chores (i.e., feed Paco, tighten eyeglasses) so that it makes me feel like I have a lot going on. Throughout the day I delete these items and each time I remove something from my date book, I get a little adrenalin rush — sick right? And I’m only sharing part of it.

The Benefits of Spontaneity

I have been telling myself that being more spontaneous and less scheduled, is good for me. When I have been able to break out of my daily routine and do something just because I felt like it or because someone called and said let’s do xy or z, it was more often than not, very satisfying.

There have been several unforgettable moments in my life that I can happily recall; the irony is, many of these moments were unplanned. If this is the case, why do people like me spend so much time mapping out every minute of their lives. The satisfaction I get from checking boxes on my to do list doesn’t come close to the positive feelings I have taken away from an unplanned outing. The only explanation I have is that the routine is daily and the unplanned is rare. The mind is so powerful, it forces your “go to” behavior right back to the safe, the familiar, the known. Like any other thing in life you are committed to, you have to work hard to change it.

What I force myself to focus on:

  • The feeling I have when a surprise is exciting and new.
  • What occurs in my life when something unexpected changes my day. The snowball effect of positivity.
  • How changing things up takes your mind away from the small/minor things that bog you down.
  • How short life truly is and how the mondaine can eat up your time.
  • My desire for adventure and change.
  • How much I believe other people enjoy my spontaneity.

Coloring outside of the lines can be risky because you never know what the outcome might be. This makes whatever it is you are doing that much more exciting. The unknown can be titillating and growth fostering.

A short story: A few years ago I was riding the subway; the same train I squeezed myself into daily. After another horrendous day at work, I got home and thought something has got to give. I called a friend who had joined me on a couple of adventures and asked her if she might like to meet me in Belize. Without hesitation, she said yes. There was a Madonna song that I heard in my head a thousand times; the lyrics went like, “. . . last night I dreamt of San Pedro,” and that’s where I had to go. San Pedro is a small island. You can get to it by ferry from Belize City — it’s a very pleasant two hours heading to paradise.

This trip was without a doubt one of the most memorable getaways of my life. I only had a short time to plan and hardly any of the details were mapped out (eg., excursions, meals). I decided to allow my days in Belize to be organic; to wake up naturally, to eat when I was hungry, and to do basically nothing unless I was moved to do otherwise. For the most part Kathy, who is much more relaxed than I am, and I, stuck to our plan. The resort was fairly quiet and clearly, this is an island you go to to chillout. This was a time in my life when chilling was medicinal and restorative. Keeping my mind and days uncluttered allowed me to think freely. I was able to take long walks with Kathy and spend quite a bit of alone time on an unspoiled, virtually empty beach. I returned home enlightened and resolute. It was during this time that I made the decision to resign from my position at The International Culinary Center and leave New York City. Possibly two of the best decisions of my life.

This is one of the many reasons I am convinced that spontaneity provides a space for out-of-the-box thinking. I believe we schedule ourselves to the max in order to avoid organic thinking; our fear of the possibilities life might present bog us down and keep us from truly being free.

Ways to Get Yourself to Loosen Up

Here are some of the the things you can do to be more spontaneous:

  • I know this will seem crazy, but you can pencil it in. Don’t write what you will do, but when you might do it. Say you open your date book or laptop calendar on on Thursday morning you’ve written “do something you’ve never done before.” It will force you to think of something on the spot and then follow through and do it.
  • Tell your friends you are trying to be more spontaneous and have them call you when they are about to do something fun or different.
  • Allow yourself days where absolutely nothing is planned.
  • Talk to yourself about the pleasures of discovering the unknown.
  • Wake up, pack a bag, and take a trip to a place you’ve never be.
  • Throw away the leftovers and go to a new restaurant (call someone and ask them to join you and then treat them).
  • If you have a guest room, do something as simple as sleeping in a different room in your own house.

Imagine a Life Where You Do What You Want, When You Want

Use your imagination to consider a world where you are free of the bondage you have inflicted upon yourself. We lie to ourselves to keep from doing something crazy. We tell ourselves we’ll get into trouble, that we have no money or that we’ll lose all of our money, that freedom will make us seem undisciplined, hard work is the only way to achieve happiness, that minor indulgence leads to frivolity and a loss of control, and on and on and on.

I will, no doubt, continue to plan most of my life going forward. It’s not even about teaching an old dog new tricks, it’s about comfort — the older you get, the more you seek comfort and stability. Still, I figure if I keep reminding myself about Belize, I may occasionally surprise myself by choosing the road less travelled.

Resources:

How Not to be Boring

True Happiness . . .

Why Most Unplanned Adventures Are Often the Best Ones

An Aside

I don’t know about you, but I watched the first presidential debate and found myself angry, disgusted, and fed-up. I sat down with myself and wondered how these emotions were taking control of my life and why it had to stop. I believe that allowing myself the freedom to just be, is a useful tool going forward. There are things happening all around that I can change or control; however, what I can control is my own life, my own behavior, my own path.

The President’s COVID-19 status is a topic I am choosing to stay clear of.

An Alternative Universe

Drapetomania (n.) — An overwhelming urge to run away.

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

There is so much coming at us from every which way, it’s easy to imagine an alternative universe. I’m personally conjuring up a place where people respect one another, where one feels safe at all times, and where good health is more of a given than a wish.

I live in a city that is extremely safe, tranquil, and where COVID-19 is much less of a threat. One would think that I could just sit on my sofa and relish in gratitude; easier said than done I’m afraid. We are all a part of something bigger and greater than ourselves. If you care about your friends and family, your neighbors, your fellow citizens, people starving all over the world, social inequality, fiscal inequality, the planet . . . to name a few, it’s difficult to not be swimming in despair.

A Quiet Place

I learned how to use visual mediation many years ago when I was in college in North Carolina. It was a great tool for coping with peer pressure, term papers, exams, and the lack of funds. As I got older, those life problems were replaced by others such as mounting debt and relationship turmoil. The truth is, there will always be one hardship or another to cope with. Meditation is a life saver at times like this. People don’t realize you can meditate just about anywhere at anytime. Even Alexa can help now.

Allowing your mind to take you to a safe and quiet place is extremely effective. I usually invision water and an absence of people. The beauty of this method is that you have complete control — anytime, anyplace, and any visual you choose. It’s free and easy to call upon; at times it can save you from the worst anxiety producing situations. My alternative universe has become easier to access each time I employ visual meditation. Go on-line and read about various techniques and tools; meditation can become a positive addiction.

A World Only You Inhabit

Our imagination is vast. Children use their imagination quite often and most times to create a world totally unlike the one they inhabit. As we get older and become more serious and sadly, more jaded, our imagination becomes more inhibited and less colorful. Give yourself permission to visit a place in your mind not yet explored or unlocked.

Travel is a great way to escape; leave your environment, leave your head, leave your life. I do it quite often these days and I swear by it. It’s more effective as a way to clear your head when you are committed to it. Unfortunately, I have transported myself to another city or country and found myself even more concerned and vulnerable; you have to be able to turn it off and call upon your inner strength.

I love dreaming at night. Every so often I can recall a dream as I am walking up and less often, I can close my eyes and slip back into it. If you work at it, you can allow your mind to return to that dream while you’re awake during the day (daydreaming). It’s quite a gift, if you will allow yourself the pleasure.

An Altered State of Being

There are natural and synthetic substances that assist you in expanding your imagination. Some of these substances are widely used and accepted and others are more dangerous and often illegal. It is not my intention to promote or speak out against such substances. As with anything in life, the problem is often moderation. Drugs can be additive and destructive; one must be aware of the risk and dangers involved and make an informed decision. Everyone is different in terms of tolerance, genetics, and moral values. I can say that early use of several less harmful drugs did help me to cope with some fairly serious “life” issues (e.g., physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual identity). Again, a very personal matter one must carefully consider.

All of the Above

There is rarely one solution to a problem and so it is true for escape and mind relaxation. Whatever it takes to ease the burden of anxiety is probably better for you in the long run. The key is moderation; doing whatever it is you need to do often enough to make a difference, without allowing it to consume you and/or interfere with your “normal” obligations (i.e., work, childcare, partner).

Death

I honestly do not mean to be a downer or morbidly dark; however, the reality that at some point or another, you or I might say that we have had enough, is a possibility and understandable. I am not referring to suicide, another topic altogether.

A few days before my father passed he looked at me and said, “I’ve had enough Chris, I’m ready,” and a feeling of peace washed over us.

And then there is this:

“One of the best ways to get out of your own head is to help others.”

— Zack Efron, Down to Earth

What I’m Really Thinking

You Don’t Want to Know

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

I vaguely recall a Jim Carey film where he actually says what he is thinking everytime he opens his mouth. I can’t tell you the title of the film or the outcome, however, what I do know is that it was a disaster. We live in a society where many people choose to stay in the dark because the truth is just too painful and that’s fair.

This isn’t the first time I am writing about truth and it won’t be the last. It’s front and center in my life and I grapple with it on a daily basis. I feel terribly self-righteous and I don’t like it. I’m finding middle ground through discussion and writing. The political untruths hurled at us on a daily basis are disgusting and getting worse. As an individual I feel powerless to change the direction humanity seems to be going in. The best I can do and will do, is allow truth to lead the way in my own life and to be truthful with others.

When People Say, “Tell Me The Truth,” Beware

I’m often asked what I think about this or that. Having had all kinds of different reactions to my candor, I find myself choosing my words very carefully. I’ve noticed that people say they want to hear the truth, what they really mean is: “Tell me the truth-light, water it down a bit, sugar coat it, couch it in praise, make it so it doesn’t hurt, tell me a white lie, don’t damage my ego, and what I don’t know won’t hurt me.” That’s a lot to sift through.

For example, I recently had a friend speak to me about a girl he’s seeing from overseas. He wanted my approval. Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and put up a sign that says, “Leave me the fuck alone. What I think doesn’t matter and even if it did, you don’t really want to know.” The truth is, in this case I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep seeing this girl. I see a my friend as a ticket out of her country, a golden ticket. Trust me, he doesn’t want to hear what I think and I don’t want to lose a friend.

Here’s what I said, “How do you feel about the relationship? If you’re enjoying seeing this woman and she makes you happy, how can anyone tell you to stop seeing her.”

Fortunately, that satisfied him and I came away unharmed; eardrums and peaceful day still intact.

I once introduced a friend to a boyfriend of mine who was 20 years my junior. I asked her what she thought of him. She politely suggested that he might be a little young for me. This happened over 20 years ago and I’m still angry with her. The truth is, that is what she believed and she thought it might cause a problem in my relationship with him. She was right, it did cause a problem. At the time I knew she was right, but I never expected her to share her truth. I wanted her to tell me he was handsome and exotic and smart and that we were perfect for one another and that she was happy for me. In reality, she might have believed some of those things to be true, but she cared about me and thought that somebody had to tell me the obvious truth. The problem is that the truth seldom initiates a change. Instead, it causes resentment and sometimes pain. So why do we keep asking for it? Are human beings truth seekers?

I love the Housewives of (fill in the blank) franchise for so many reasons. I believe the producers tell the reality stars to share their truth as much as possible. That’s all we need for good, honest entertainment. Watch people get hurt and angry because they are being told things they don’t want to hear. And it’s their supposed friends telling them these things.

“I can’t believe you shared that with Betthany.”

“Who are you to go around telling people things I’ve shared with you in confidence.”

“What makes you think you know what really happened?”

“You’re doing this to destroy me because your jealous of my life.”

The beauty of it is that it’s all real. They are shedding real tears. These women are truly angry, feeling betrayed, and honestly scorned. I’m always surprised when any of them kiss and make up. How do you ever forgive some of what’s been put out there for all the world to hear?

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Ask Yourself Whether or Not You Want the Truth

Just because I believe it to be true, does not actually make it true. That is my barometer; it’s a mantra I repeat over and over again.

I only ask for a person’s opinion or thoughts when I know I can handle what they have to say. There are a handful of people in my life that I can count on to be real and honest: really honest. I know that when I ask these people to share their thoughts, their response will come from love and kindness. It may be difficult to process, but it will be honest and said in the most compassionate way; empathy and sympathy are so important when a person is in this position. We’ve all been there; don’t beat me up when I’m already broken. Don’t say it in a way that will sting worse than the actual truth. Always be kind and save the painful stuff for when the person is in a good place and they can handle it.

If you’re one of these people that says, “You can’t be angry with me because you asked for the truth,” you are not a nice person. Consider the reason you choose to suddenly be 100% honest; whom did it benefit.

Who Can You Really Trust?

This is so important. Take an inventory of the people you know and decide who among your friends and family you can go to for the absolute truth. These are people who care about you, your feelings, your well-being, your best interest. They will be thoughtful about what they say without hurting you. These cherished few will find a way to get the message across without sending you to therapy or to a medical doctor for Xanax.

No doubt most people in your life would like to think that they are “that” person — the one you can confide in. In truth, it’s not an easy position to be in. It’s like walking a tightrope without holding a pole for balance. If and when it’s done correctly and with compassion, it can change a life forever. I can count on one hand, the number of times this kind of honesty has come my way. I remember the time, the place, and every word said to me. I love and respect the person who delivered those words and I repeat those words whenever possible. The impact cannot be measured. Consider the weight of this role.

A Difficult Challenge, but worth the effort

Half-Truth

Leaving out some of the details, can be just as effective when you are providing feedback. It doesn’t make you a liar, it makes you a compassionate person.

If someone you care about asks you if you love them, why not just say, “yes I do.” Saying, “Yes, but you make me angry when you . . ., or I have been questioning my love lately,” is unnecessary. There is a time and place for absolute candor, never when a person is vulnerable or in pain.

Growing Up & Growing Wiser

Just because we get older, doesn’t necessarily mean we become wiser; like anything in life you have to work at it. We also have to accept that because we are human, we might occasionally mess up. For me it’s all about intention. If someone intentionally lies to me, I have little or no tolerance. Tell me a white lie to protect me from the truth, and I am a whole lot more forgiving.

Knowing when to share the truth, how much truth to share, and with whom you can be truthful, is all part of maturing and knowing yourself and others better. “The truth will set you free,” because truth liberates your heart and mind. You learn to trust what’s in your heart when your thoughts have been validated. It feels great when the heart and mind are in sync. The strength and confidence that comes from truth cannot be underestimated. So why do people lie?

There is so much lying these days, sometimes it’s difficult to sort through it all. Consider the source, consider the intention, and consider the weight of the truth. No lie is a good lie and most liars are not worth your time or energy. It’s okay to rely on your gut because your instincts are so often correct, when when there is a lot at stake, it’s better to check the facts and side with truth.

I have spend the last few years sorting considering how and with whom I spend my time. I made the conscious decision to rid my life of toxic liars and people who bring me pain. The result has validated the process; the friends and family I currently hold dear enrich my life. I have a whole lot less drama to deal with and life is fulfilling. Trusting yourself, treating yourself with love and respect, are all keys to honest exchanges with others. Two steps forward, one step back, the dance of life.

92 Quotes About Justice (To Make You Question What Is Fair)
Keep this in mind when you vote

Headed to Madeira next Saturday (5th). Will be reposting a blog before I leave and then the following Blog, September 12 will be about Madeira. With all that is going on with the virus and travel changes, I won’t believe it until I’m on the plane. Adults-only hotel with a seaview room; very excited.

Madeira Island News - maps of Madeira islands and Funchal
I’ll be in Funchal. Madeira is an island off of the Northwest coast of Africa