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

The Pitfalls of Entitlement

The World Owes Me Nothing

I have to preface this blog with some very strong feelings: I write from a place of disgust. The number of wealthy Americans is greater now than it has ever been. I believe in capitalism and I think money is a legitimate incentive for working hard and being productive. My issue is with greed and what it does to people.

About 7,647,278 US households earn $2 million or more, covering about 6.07% of American households. 4,665,039 US households earn over $3 million or more, covering about 3.70% of all US households (Spendmenot).

We all view the world from a different lens. The haves and the haves not dilemma has been debated since the beginning of civilization. I have some very strong feelings about extreme wealth and what that means; however, the purpose of my rant this week is more about entitlement and how it plays out in society.

What is Entitlement

entitlement: the fact of having a right to something.

  1. the amount to which a person has a right.

2. the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

It is #2 that I am addressing today.

What I Observe

As I navigate through life, I have observed entitlement at its ugliest. Unlike others who believe it is worse now than it ever was, I believe it has been a big part of American life for a long time. Because I’m traveling more now, I do witness it quite a bit. Fortunately, I live in a place where I see more equality than anything else (Faro, Portugal). The premise of social democracy is that all human beings have the right to fulfillment of their basic needs: food, shelter, and medical treatment to name a few. To me this translates to compassion, empathy, and the sharing of resources. The “every person for themselves” mentality is dangerous and divisive.

How Some People Live With Themselves Keeps Me Up at Night

Extreme greed and the thinking that one person somehow deserves special treatment over another, rattles my core. I understand the concept that money buys certain luxuries and I believe that hard work should enable a person to enjoy the good things life has to offer. However, that does not mean, for example, that the rich should have the first access to a COVID-19 vaccine or that they should go to the top of a list for an organ transplant.

What Can Be Done About It

This is obviously a very complicated problem because it involves human beings. People are not going to suddenly stop believing they are entitled to certain privileges and the businesses and corporations providing these privileges will continue to do so. Unfortunately, I don’t think this issue is going to go away, but we as individuals can do something about it. The every “man” for himself mentality does not sit well with me and I can’t help feeling badly for those who struggle to put food on the table while others worry about what’s in their goody bags.

What I’m Doing About It

Assessing who we are and how we interface with the world should be a constant consideration. You’d have to forgive yourself for being subjective, after all it is your life you’re judging. It is for this reason I occasionally check-in with people I trust. For example, after a night out with friends I might ask what they thought about my interaction with wait staff at the restaurant or what I was like with a new person who just joined the group. I preface the question by telling them that I am working on my communication skills. I think in this situation, most friends or close family members will be honest; sometimes brutally honest. I was once told that I was way too chatty with people I didn’t know. “They don’t have time for your banter Chris.” I wouldn’t call that entitlement and I don’t believe it’s something I can change (or want to change).

Another thing I’m doing that is somewhat more delicate: calling out people around me that are behaving as if they are entitled. I am going to generalize here: people who behave as if they have a God given right to special treatment or privilege are usually the very same people who blame everyone but themselves for all of the issues in their lives or often, people who cannot understand why they are not well liked or respected.

For My Part:

I can afford to do some things that would put me first in line, but because of what I stand for, it’s best for me to keep the money in my pocket:

  1. I do not pay to use the first class lounge at the airport (if it is given to me, I’d use it — does it make me a hypocrite?).
  2. I do not pay for Fast Track security or boarding at the airport.
  3. I do not try to jump the line no matter where I am.
  4. I make reservations whenever possible.
  5. When in line to exit a highway, I do my best not to allow others to exit before me. There are people who never wait in line, they attempt to muscle their way right to the front — drives me mad.
  6. If I see someone trying to jump the line, If I can, I speak up.
  7. I do not participate in entitlement programs.

There are some incentive or enticement programs that are harmless and legitimate; programs that do not impact other people.

This Happened Recently

I was staying at a hotel in Madeira this past week and this happened: At the hotel bar ordering a cocktail and the menu was open in front of me. I was asking the bar person if she made non-frozen Margaritas, because the menu only listed frozen Margarita. The bartender was about to answer my question and a gorilla stepped up:

“I know what I want, can I have a Shirley Temple?”

It’s five days later and I still cannot believe this happened. Even if I was taking time to make up my mind, which I wasn’t, I still cannot imagine someone having that much nerve. To the bartender’s credit, she told the guy to, “please wait.” Can you imagine what he is like everywhere else? I’m sure I was red in the face, but since the bartender set him straight, I kept my mouth shut. I decided then and there, that there was no helping this man.

Having scruples and doing “the right thing” is absolutely a good thing, but I find myself way too caught up in it — thinking about it way too much. It seems that being empowered to do what I can as a individual is my only recourse, but being righteous has its pitfalls too.

Life Advancer on Twitter: "Just Pinned: Self Entitlement Quotes. QuotesGram  #lifeadvancer #quotes | Please ReTweet This | via @lifeadvancer… "

My thoughts are with the family of Ruth Bader Ginsburg; a woman whom I and many admired and respected. May all that she fought for not be in vain. I’m hoping her passing inspires many of us to be our best selves. A toast to you Ruth: a truly magnificent human being.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Friendship

VACATION REBLOG (worth revisiting)

Who are your true friends and why are these friendships so important?

Friendships come in all shapes and sizes and it would be difficult to share my thoughts on all of them; therefore I will focus on just a few for this blog. I will cover these five:

  • Friendship with a life partner
  • A close friend
  • A sibling who is also a friend
  • Your parent as friend (I do not feel equipped to write about this matter from the parent’s point of view)
  • A co-worker who is a friend

My friends are extremely important to me. I hold my true friends near and dear and would do just about anything for them. The friendships I cherish the most were established many years ago, but having said that, I do have several friends that I only met recently. Six months ago I left a city I resided in for less than five years; yet several of my close friends live in Maine. You can gauge some friendships by communication (although some friends are better than others at this). When I moved overseas, there were individuals I expected to never hear from again and some that I thought would communicate regularly. As with many things in life, what I expected, has not panned out. Several people I thought would reach out, never have and others I that I thought were acquaintances have been great about staying in touch. Some people work hard at developing friendships and their persistence can pay off. These days you have to factor in social media, because it doesn’t take much effort to drop a line or two. I truly miss the days of letter writing; writing a letter took time and thought.

To be clear I am not writing about acquaintances (see 2.2 below): acquaintance əˈkweɪnt(ə)ns/ noun

  1. 1. knowledge or experience of something. “the pupils had little acquaintance with the language” synonyms: familiarity, conversance, conversancy, contact, acquaintanceship; More            
  2. 2. a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend. “a wide circle of friends and acquaintances” synonyms: contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague;   confrère “Mr Barnet was no more than a business acquaintance”

I am certain you all have many acquaintances; if you had an expectation that they would all be friends, you’d be in big trouble and extremely disappointed.

Friends With a Life Partner

This type of friend is quite unique due to the intimacy factor. Once you have been intimate with someone (and I don’t mean sex), it’s a game changer. I’m talking about a deeper emotional commitment where there is love and affection. Hopefully, because it matters if it’s true or not, you and your partner have shared moments, where at the time, you cannot imagine a deeper connection. Whether it’s a secret or a thought or a revelation, this kind of sharing creates a bond that can and often does, last a lifetime.

Even when there is a breakup, this close bond will ensure a lasting friendship — if you allow it to happen. Unfortunately, new partners are often intimidated by this kind of friendship and will not allow it. If you’re able to see past the jealousy, permitting your partner to be friends with ex-partners can enhance a current relationship. Your partner will see you as open and caring and trusting — all wonderful beliefs about your partner.

Keep in mind that none of us can be all things to all people. Your partner has limitations and expecting this individual to meet all of your needs is unfair and impossible. This is why it is dangerous not to have close friends outside of your relationship. Lean on others occasionally, it will make your relationship lighter, freer, and healthier.

Keep in mind that if you are outside of a relationship looking in, what you see from the outside is not always a complete picture. Couples have their own way of loving one another. Aside from physical and emotional abuse, which is never good, disagreeing and gentle prodding can be the sign of a healthy partnership.

A Close Friend

Your best friends (yes I believe you can have more than one) deserve a category all their own. Because we all know that if you have a life partner, that individual cannot and should not be able to fulfill all of your needs, emotional or otherwise. A close friend can provide an outlet for sharing and a different kind of important intimacy. It can be someone to talk to about your life partner or boyfriend/girlfriend (finding the right pronouns isn’t easy). With a close friend, no topic is out-of-bounds.

We all go through difficult periods in our lives (having just lost a dear pet, I’m feeling deep loss right now). A close friend will sometimes know you are in distress even before you know it. This person will be there to help you get through whatever difficulty you are experiencing. Refusing the help of a friend or pushing a friend away is never a good thing. A true friend is a beautiful gift and you can be sure that this person sincerely wants to help. Let this individual know that you appreciate that they are there for you and that you need them and want their love.

I like my privacy and I tend to grieve when I am by myself. A good friend will always allow you “alone” time. If you gently let your friend know that you just need a little time, they will give you what you need.

Caution:  Be careful to make sure that  sharing is reciprocated. There is nothing more annoying than a friend who only wants to discuss his or her own woes. Ask questions; show genuine interest and it will elevate the friendship.

Also, do not abuse the generosity of a close friend. Leaning on someone in a time of need is fine, but pick and choose when to lean. Being a constant burden will make a friend second guess the sincerity and value of the relationship. We are only human and all of us has a threshold. Keep your relationships strong by being considerate, nurturing and compassionate. Communicate your needs; assuming your friend knows, is an unfair assumption.

A Sibling

Who knows and understands you better than a brother or sister? Unless you were raised in a different household or there are many years between you and your sibling, this person can be a very close friend. I should not rule out a half-brother or sister who is a great deal older or younger. I had a half-brother who was 20 years older and before he passed away, we became very close. He was actually as much a mentor as a friend. I could share anything with him and he “got” me. The relationship was different from that of a parent because he didn’t feel the need to discipline or direct my behavior; it was all about the freedom to be who we were.

A sibling who doesn’t judge you, who accepts you for who you are and who provides a level of trust that is achieved in no other relationship, is a treasure to hold dear. I’m a lucky guy because I have a number of siblings I consider close friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost several siblings; these individuals have provided strength and love well beyond their passing.

Your Parent as Friend

It’s not easy being friends with a parent. Very few people I know are friends with their mother or father. When you are young, your parents are disciplinarians and when you get older they want what’s best for you and that often causes conflict. Being friends with your parents can be fulfilling. Practicing patience and forgiveness is key. If you keep in mind that your parents want what is best for you because their love for you is strong, you can be very close friends. You can confide in your parents, you can lean on your parents and you can usually trust your parents. Having a sit down after a disagreement can help both parties achieve a higher level of trust and understanding.

Of course there are always exceptions. My mother always told me that everything was her fault. She’d say this with a half-smile,

“Chris, save yourself money on therapy. I am to blame for all of your issues. Yell at me, lash out, be mad; then think about how much I love you and move on.”

She was a smart lady, my mom.

Friendship with a parent can go through stages of strength and at times this strength may waiver and that’s okay. Keep in mind that your parents won’t always be around. Bringing you into this world and keeping you safe are not easy tasks to manage. They want your friendship and they deserve it.

“My childhood was very colorful, and I am close friends with both my parents. We have no secrets.”

Rebecca Hall

A Co-Worker Who is Also a Friend

This can be an incredibly satisfying relationship because you often share so much in common with a co-worker. When you’re together socially it can be fun to gripe about your hours or your boss or your salary or your work environment or your benefits or your co-workers or all of the above.

Careful what you say and to whom at work; a true friend will be discreet and he or she will keep what you tell them to themselves. Such a friend is not easy to find; when you do, try your best to hold on to them.

There are those who believe you should not become friendly or be friends with someone who is higher up or subordinate. I have never felt that way. I think as with most things in life, it depends on the person. If your friend is mature and trustworthy, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If others at work have an issue with who your friends are, let them know (in a kind way of course), that it is not really their business. Still, perception and appearance are both important considerations. Managing all of this at work can be challenging. I believe it all boils down to personal integrity. You know who you are. If you are honest, thoughtful and appropriate, you should have nothing to worry about. Always remember that at the end of the day, the only person you truly have to answer to is yourself.

Separation from a Friend

As it goes with relationships, sometimes they go south. Of course it’s always better if you can repair the damage; however, that is not always possible. Some friendships grow toxic and if that becomes the case, I think it’s better to walk away. If you make that decision for yourself, it’s best to come clean with the individual. This business of just disappearing isn’t very fair to the other person and often, closure is necessary. Otherwise, you have this unpleasant, unfinished business hanging over you.

Call me a coward, but I often put my thoughts into writing and send an email or letter. This way I can be clear and provide the other person an opportunity to think about what I shared and respond. You can tell a great deal about a person by the way they reply. If they become very defensive, angry, and lash out at you, it validates your decision. If the person sincerely apologizes or asks to see you, it shows that they value your relationship and that they would like to patch things up. I find that the other person often feels the way you do and the friendship will come to an end. If you can work through it as mature adults, you’ll be happy you did the work.

For some, my desire to shed toxic individuals will come across as cold and dismissive. I have decided that I only have time for friends who are loving, forgiving, true, and real. I value my time on our planet and I’d prefer that my relationships be authentic and fulfilling. Divorce, partner or friend, is never easy, but sometimes it’s the only healthy solution. Don’t judge others or yourself, judging makes life burdensome.

Reconnecting

Sometimes years go by and you do not hear anything at all from an old friend and then suddenly, there they are sending you an email or calling you on the phone (a call is less likely these days; texting is safer). You wonder of course:  1) why you are hearing from them now? 2) should you respond? and 3) if you don’t respond will you wonder what it was he or she wanted?

People lose touch with one another for all sorts of reasons. Often, time goes by and one feels reaching out would be awkward and often it is. Be open-minded; reconnecting may be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have had former friends I was upset with contact me and frankly, I couldn’t recall why I was angry with them in the first place. That tells me something: it might have been something very small and petty and perhaps it’s time to get past it. Forgiveness has enhanced my life in so many ways.

I am not claiming to be a “friendship expert.” What I do know is that I have had a lifetime of meaningful friendships and without my friends, I would be a lesser person.

“No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.”      

Ben Franklin 

“The best mirror is an old friend.”     

George Herbert 

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”     

Thomas Aquinas

Next week: Medeira, Portugal. I am excited to share this travel experience.

Do you have a story to tell or would you like to share some advice? Please add your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you.

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?

Image may contain: text that says 'YOU KNOW THAT THING INSIDE YOUR HEAD THAT KEEPS YOU FROM SAYING STUFF YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T? YEAH, MINE'S BROKEN. fb/ Gotta Love It'

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

Consumer Frustration

You Can Either Win or Give-in: Choosing Win

Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.

Anonymous

At first I thought: are you really going to start pissing and moaning about anything other than our collective health and well-being? The answer is: yes I am. Keep reading if you are a frustrated consumer:

I consider myself a demanding consumer. I worked hard for what I was able to put away and when I’m spending money, I deserve nothing less than what I am paying for — whatever that may be. I’m going to address the way companies are handling customer service during the COVID-19 crisis. What was it like pre-virus and what is it like now? How are small businesses handling customer service? What has changed for consumers? What will this lead to? Who will be the winners and who will be the losers? How you can come out on top.

I write this piece as an older (not old), middle income consumer. I do not have the luxury of spending without giving thought to value and price. I’m not sure all that really matters; when you’re purchasing, you deserve a fair and reasonable response from the merchant or business you are dealing with, when something goes wrong.

Corporate Customer Service

Corporate culture in the U.S. centers around entitlement and political favoritism. If you follow the money, you’ll easily determine why they’ve been getting a pass and who gave it to them. Tax breaks, deregulation, Super Pac money, and corporate donations, all point to greed and screwing the consumer. How do you fight the big guys (yes, they’re mostly men)? All we have today is social media. Mainstream media is in the pockets of big business, making it difficult to rely on calling them or holding them accountable in the news. In truth, big business knows that they can lose millions in a 24 hour period if an embarrassing misstep were to occur. Consider posted videos in Walmart, Target or KFC, for example. Use social media to your advantage. I’ve gone so far as to send corporations a draft of what I might post or blog. It doesn’t always work, but it can be very effective.

Two short stories:

  • First: EasyJet cancels my flight and offers either a refund that you have to formally request or you can take a full credit voucher and an in-flight Bistro voucher (value $5) as a “thank you” for choosing the voucher. You get the credit voucher and you cannot book on-line, you must speak to a representative. You get the in-flight voucher; however, in order to redeem it for actually in-flight Bistro credit, you have to print out a form, complete it and then wait 30 days for the in-flight Bistro credit. I’m sorry but this is bullshit. When the airline cancels a flight, you should get an automatic refund and . . . if you get a thank you for taking a credit voucher, you shouldn’t have to fill out a form. Taking a voucher keeps the cash in the companies coffers. You should get the bleepin’ in-flight Bistro credit as soon as you use your credit voucher. I assume EasyJet expects most people to look at the form and delete it. Why would anyone want to fly with EasyJet again. After all this ranting, I have to say they’re still better than RyanAir. I may or may not complete the form for the inflight credit, I go back and forth; after all, it is my money.
  • Second: I contact Hotels.com because an IBIS Hotel in France cancels my reservation due to COVID and then IBIS informs me that I can only get a credit for future nights or wait for a refund (see below). Hotels.com tells me they cannot help me. I try to re-book my nights through IBIS and they are now up 40%. I don’t know why, but I thought they’d honor the original price I’d paid. They refuse to do just that, so I tell them I want a refund. They send me a regulation from the French government which dictates that they can refund me my money within 18 months of the booking; yes you read it correctly 18 months. Who the #@&*%! cares what the French government dictates, I want my money now. Companies demand to be paid at the booking to hold a reservation, however, you’ll take 18 months to return my money to me? I guess they’re hoping I die before the 18 months are up and the credit card I used to book is no longer valid. Why would I ever book IBIS again? As a side note: Hotels.com chat line is a quick and easy way to resolve issues and their reps are very understanding . . . for the most part.
From IBIS:

With reference to the French government order 2020-315, known as the “heritage order”. We must offer a voucher for all reservations canceled between March 1 and September 15, 2020. This voucher can be used for 18 months. At the end of these 18 months, we will refund you if it has not been used. We cannot refund you now.

I have many, many examples of ridiculous corporate shenanigans; I’m certain you do as well.

Small Business Customer Service

There is a special place in my heart for small businesses. Many are struggling these days and most have struggled in the past. Getting a business going is a huge risk and the hours one must put in are anywhere from 60 to 100 hours per week (firsthand information). I do whatever I can to support small businesses if and when I can. There are small businesses working hard to cash out and sell to large businesses; these businesses are less appealing to me. It’s usually the founders hoping to get rich and leave their employees fending for themselves.

Pricing is currently out of control in the States due to less competition in the marketplace. Consumers have fewer choices and they are forced to either pay more for less or get less for more.

I find customer service friendly and more accomodating with small business. There is more at stake and you’re usually not too many degrees away from the owner of the company. Often, if you can get to the owner, you’re more likely to resolve your issue. I don’t want more than I paid for, I want exactly what I paid for.

The risk of the company going out of business, is greater for small companies. Before you make a purchase, review their track record and read what other buyers have to say. The same is true for the hiring of small business professionals (e.g., accountants, lawyers, doctors). The more you take control and the more research you do, the more likely you are to come out a winner. I hired an attorney here in Portugal a few years ago who charged me five times the going rate for his services. It’s my fault because I paid it, but I will never refer him to anyone.

Frustration and Reaction

As you know I travel quite a bit. Years ago when I was in my twenties traveling to Europe (pre-Hotels.com) I noticed that a majority of the hotels I stayed in had twin beds. Sometimes they’d push them together for you and sometimes they would tell you they could not; sometimes they’d even make them up as a king (here they call this a double bed, in the U.S. a double bed is smaller than a queen, 54×75 to be exact). The truth is I hate twin beds. I’m 6′ tall and I weigh 200 lbs., a twin bed is much too small. When I sleep in one I feel like I’m 10 years old again. The first thing I do when I book is look to see if they have queen beds; fortunately more and more hotels are offering a queen. When I book a double bed, I often write the hotel to confirm. The following are the replies I usually receive:

  1. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to honor your request. When you check-in we will check availability.
  2. All special requests are subject to availability.
  3. You are confirmed for a double bed.

#1 & #2 are ridiculous. How do you put a man my size in a twin bed, especially when I am paying the same price for the room that a couple is paying. I noticed that boutique hotels are much better about either offering a queen bed or confirming a double. The point I’m making is that in 2020 with Airbnbs and other types of accomodations doing so well, hotels need to be stepping it up and offering excellent mattresses in the right size. And what’s with the crappy pillows?

I was with friends at a hotel is Vila Viçosa last week. They upgraded to a suite and their bed was so squeaky they had to move it onto the floor the second night — that’s just not right.

Choosing Win

It’s not rocket science; we all want to come out on top. In today’s world, if you do not speak up for yourself and demand excellence, you will be forced to settle for less. You have to go into every consumer situation with the knowledge that you may have to fight for what you’re paying for. This seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? We should always assume that will be be getting a quality product, excellent service, and the desire to keep a customer (loyalty). I’m afraid, for the most part, those days are over. There is so much competition for your dollar, you have to be at the top of your game. I always find it empowering to take on the big guns and win. Good luck and stay strong.

Simplicity vs. Excess

No Judgment, But Why All The Bling?

I’d like to discuss this photograph: Is it minimalism? Is it staged? Is it attractive? Does it matter? But first . . .

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

This is one of those blogs where what I have to say is purely a matter of taste and opinion. In fact, aren’t they all? The word excess in the title certainly has a negative connotation. You have your taste, I have my taste, and my taste is the right taste — I kid.

I Will Get to That Photo in a Moment

Let me be clear that this is coming from an average Joe. I do not have a design degree, I do not get paid to do design work, and I do not know very much about design. Now some would say that gays have a design gene; I’d like to think that was true, however, we know it’s false. There is one small thing that leads me to believe that I have a good sense of color, light, and “tasteful” design. I worked for Dorothy Hamilton who owned The French Culinary Institute in New York City. My job description did not include interior design, but . . . I was in fact the lead person on several expansion projects. In that role I got to choose furnishings, wall color, and finishes. I would have to run my ideas by Dorothy, but I would say 90% of the time she liked what I showed her. After a number of years of successful project management, Dorothy told her staff that I was to be the “go to” person for the look and feel of the facilities (70,000 sq. ft.) and a campus in California (don’t recall, but at least 30,000 sq. ft.). I do not like to toot my own horn, ergo, I have to say, this particular distinction made me very proud. Obviously, I do not need to justify having an opinion, but there you go. Also, see link to profile article on me at the end of this piece.

The Photograph: In my humble opinion the only reason what you see in the above photograph could be considered minimalism, is all of the blank space around the window. It draws your eyes to the center of the photograph — the focal point. It makes you feel good. It’s pretty and takes you to Europe. Not a lot of clutter or color. It transports you back to simpler times. The building might be old and possibly historical or it might be a fairly new building made to look older. I like the shutters and I love the flower boxes. My criticism is that it looks a bit staged and a bit too feminine. But all that empty space around the windows, the muted colors, and the rust streaks in a couple of places, make it a very attractive photograph; a place I’d like to be.

Minimalism

Definition of minimalism: a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses. … For many minimalists, the philosophy is about getting rid of excess stuff and living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions.

I hate clutter, I hate dust, I hate waste, I hate having “things” in drawers and closets that I will never use, I hate thinking about all this stuff; too much stuff jams up your brain. This hatred does not drive my stylistic preferences. If you normally have a maximum of three people sitting in and using a living room, why do you need two big sofas? If once a month or twice a year you have eight people sitting in the living room, add chairs when you need them. Excess furniture makes a space feel smaller and more cramped. This has an impact on how you feel in the space; meaning that you consciously or unconsciously feel that the world is closing in on you — you feel anxious.I’m not fond of feeling anxious.

The same is true for knick-knacks, small objects that have no real functional use. These items tend to collect dust and take up space. When I look at the photograph below, this is what comes to mind: open, clean, fresh, stunning, inviting, and peaceful.

Photo by Patryk Kamenczak on Pexels.com

Some of you may look at the same photograph and think: bare, empty, sparse, over-designed and cold. Admittedly, I would add a couple of nightstands, some books, and a simple side chair. I especially love the wood floor and the floor to ceiling windows. It feels like there is no barrier between the inside and outside, making the room seem even larger than it actually is. You are made to feel as if you are living in nature; magnificent and powerful.

Advantages to minimal design:

  • fewer objects to clean
  • you can budget less for furniture
  • option to add chairs for seating if you need to
  • easier to make changes
  • a splash of color can brighten things up (pop)

Whatever Makes You Comfortable

One thing that that I find troubling about design is how snooty the industry can be. Interior design professionals are for the most part well paid, and they should be. To be a good designer you have to know your stuff and it’s obviously hard work. I had clients in my consulting business who were: indecisive, picky, entitled, angry, know-it-alls — and this is when they were being cooperative. Having stated this, when it comes to designers, I still believe there is an air of they know better than you. I would argue that no one knows better than you. You know what you like, you know what makes you comfortable, and you know what you want. You are the boss in this scenario.

If you’re like me, you prefer certain colors to others. You might like big and bold furniture or you might want to go in the opposite direction. You might prefer your walls to be bright and filled with artwork from top to bottom. I love white walls in an open space; it provides a blank canvas. Sometimes people go overboard with accent colors and they end up dominating a space. Again, it should be whatever you like.

I find that keeping my bedroom simple and uncluttered, helps me sleep better. White, crisp cotton sheets, a subtle color on the walls, clean lines, and a minimal amount of furniture (I like built-ins); these things make me happy. I don’t spend much time in my bedroom, but the time I spend there should be restful. I no longer sleep like I slept when I was a teenager.

Excess

Fifteen years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase a little country house in Pennsylvania (PA). I was thinking about how I might furnish the house and equip the kitchen. I pondered: before I go out and buy more “stuff,” let me see what I have in my apartment that I could take to PA. Three car loads later, my kitchen was completely outfitted; no lie I had two of everything in Brooklyn, and all I had to purchase was a couple of beds and a few other pieces of furniture to make the house in PA comfortable and functional. You might ask what I was doing with all of that excess stuff in Brooklyn? Darned if I know. I learned a great lesson about accumulating things and why it would be prudent to try and avoid that in the future . . . and for the most part, I have.

I find that friends are great for helping you edit. I have a number of friends who have no problem telling me what they think.

I will not be writing about hoarding, that’s a whole other issue. All I can say is I feel sorry for people who cannot part with things. I find tossing out or giving away stuff I don’t need, to be cleansing and gratifying.

Minimalism when dressing and wearing jewelry is usually also more attractive. Sometimes people wear six bracelets, three wrist watches, five necklaces, and nine lapel pins; what am I supposed to look at? Several belts, t-shirts over t-shirts, and so on, make up your mind. Edit yourself people. Simplicity and restraint will win the day. Again, just my opinion.

The House Special: Christopher Papagni Elevates Portland’s Restaurant Scene

Click on title above and it will take you to a profile piece about me done in Old Port Magazine, Portland, Maine.

Minimalist Typography Poster - FREE DOWNLOAD | Frases minimalistas ...

To Thy Known [sic] Self Be True and/or Big Fat Lies

Be the real you | Quotes & Writings by porijai pakhi | YourQuote

Disclaimer: I want to start by stating that my blog is not meant to be the answer to all of your problems or the world’s problems for that matter. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned some things and accumulated a few stories. Sharing with my readers is my way of letting you in and hopefully, allowing for some thoughtful contemplation. Needless to say, if you do not agree with my point of view, it might be better just to click delete or move on.

This Week

I’m on retreat in Estoi, Portugal for a few days. Estoi is a beautiful, historically rich town in the hills not far from my home. My stomach has been a bit jittery because of COVID-19, uncertain times, economic upheaval, to name a few things, and I thought it would do Paco and I some good to spend time in the country where there is little distraction. I’m surrounded by orchards, beautiful hills, and the Algarve sun. It’s a time for reflection and calming the nerves.

I can’t get my arms around this virus. Hearing about death and the destruction of lives on a daily basis is a lot to take in. I don’t want to turn it off and become detached — I don’t want to plunge into a deep depression either. Again, it’s about balance. Balance seems to be the most important lesson I have learned as I get older. Empathy is an essential part of being human; however, too much empathy for me, means anxiety. Like everyone else, I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus. They say this is the new normal. Well I say, I don’t care for it.

What You See

A recent photograph of Paco & me

Posting this photograph of myself is a bold move. When my friend Patricia took it a few weeks ago, I recoiled with disgust. She liked it, so she sent it to me even though I didn’t. I don’t like what I see at all. I know that I am 61 years old and no longer in shape, but honestly, I’d rather not look at it. I see someone who ate too much during quarantine and whose face is revealing far too much of just about everything I’m not too fond of. In my delusional mind, I’m young and still fetching. So here’s the dilemma: do I embrace the man you see in the photograph or do I continue to go along with what’s inside my head?

The answer for me is a little bit of both. I need to be grounded and aware of aging and be confident enough in my physical appearance to be comfortable presenting myself to the world. I certainly don’t want to look at a photograph of myself and give up. The good news is that after seeing this picture I decided to get rid of most of the sugar (the true killer) around my house and spend more time on the elliptical machine; fortunately, the pounds are starting to slowly disappear. There are so many things you can do to make yourself more attractive:

  • smile
  • dress well (even if you’re just going to the market)
  • go to the gym, walk, swim, run, hike, bike . . .
  • get a facial, haircut, massage — for yourself
  • have work done if it makes you feel better, but don’t over do it. Have you been to the upper east side in Manhattan lately? It’s a shit show of plastic surgery gone wild.
  • get a tan. Believe it or not, you can get a great tan with SPF 30
  • eat healthy foods
  • be with people who appreciate you for who you are
  • be around people who let you know when you are at your best
  • pay attention to your posture
  • remind yourself that earned every line on your face
  • take stock of the simple things
  • meditate
  • sleep and take an afternoon nap if you can
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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Okay enough of this bullshit about me and my body. The bottom line is honesty with yourself and acceptance. Funny how those two things can change sometimes after a good night’s sleep or even better, after someone flirts with you a bit.

Please do not send me comments about how I look good in the above photograph. I hate the picture and no matter what you say, I will believe you are just trying to make me feel better. Either that or you love me so much when you look at me you only see a handsome guy. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe to be true at the moment. Don’t worry, this too shall pass. Everyone gets a free pass on self-pity right now.

Being Less Than Honest With Myself and Others

Some would say that it’s healthy or natural to tell yourself little white lies — self-preservation. Like when you look in the mirror and you think, “You look good in these jeans.” That’s not a bad thing is it? I think it’s only bad if your lie hurts someone else. For example, a friend asks you what you think of her make-up after she does her face. You know in your heart she has put on too much and she looks like a clown and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you say, “You look perfect.” She walks around the entire day with people staring at her and even sometimes laughing under their breath. She might even do it the same way the next day thinking it looks good. In this case I believe gentle truth is the way to go.

“A little less eyeliner and not-so-much foundation might highlight your beautiful features.” Or

“Take a look in the mirror and tell me what you really think of your make-up?”

Let them see where they might have gone wrong. They might not always thank you at the moment, but that’s not what friendship is about.

On the other hand, if a friend says, “Do I look fat?”

No matter what you think, the answer is, “No, you look great.”

Two very different situations; one can be fixed, the other is much more complicated. There are nice/delicate ways to let someone know that they have put on a few pounds.

“Hey Sue, I have these COVID-19 pounds I need to shed and I was thinking of doing a long in the morning, want to join me? It would do us both some good.”

“Roger, if I recall your heart has been giving you some trouble lately; remember the slimmer you are, the better it is for your heart.”

“Hey sis, mom struggled with her weight once she hit 50; we have to be careful in our family.”

It’s all about a healthy balance, good mental and emotional health, and living with yourself.

The Problem with Denial

I know a lot of people who lie to themselves by denying the truth. The shaking your head constantly does make non-truth true, it only gives you a headache. I have found that facing the truth is often difficult for a short while, however, in the long run, you save a lot of worry and angst. For example, a few years ago I had a spot of my face that looked like a pimple, but it wouldn’t heal. I looked for pictures of it on the internet and what I saw and read frightened me. Pictures showed something similar to what I had on my face and the prognosis might be skin cancer. I put the thought out of my head immediately. Not possible with the type of skin I have, Mediterranean complexion after all.

When I was willing to look closely at the growth, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The spot was getting larger and darker and it was way too close to my right eye. After more than a year, I had it checked. Sure enough it was skin cancer. Fortunately it was basal cell carcinoma, easier to treat and less dangerous than melanoma. I had surgery to cut it; scarring was minimal and it hasn’t returned. Not taking care of it for so long made me anxious. I was worrying far too much about what it could be instead of just taking care of it. A situation where being honest with myself and having it checked right away would have saved me a whole lot of worry. I learned a big life lesson from this.

Human beings are very good about lying to themselves. We do it with big things and little things. Sometimes admitting the truth, although better in the long run, can happen too late. I don’t need to outline here what I mean. Let’s just say, be honest with yourself right from the start and you’ll be a great deal better off in the short and long run.

Quotes about Denying oneself (16 quotes)

What We Often Lie to Ourselves About

  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
  • Health
  • Extra weight
  • A relationship(s) that is unhealthy
  • Hating our jobs
  • Hating where we live
  • Our disposition
  • The company we keep
  • Finances

Is There a Solution?

I think there is: it’s called a tool box. We all need one at the ready; to tweak, fix, and overhaul. You need to yank it out whenever you start to doubt yourself or feel weak. Being human means being imperfect (sorry) and making mistakes. Knowing you have the ability to make an adjustment and move on, helps you to know things can and will improve. So if you begin to notice that you are having one or two more cocktails than you probably should, there are a few

tools you can use to get you to a better place (you can apply this tactic to many issues in your life):

  1. Admission is essential. You need to say out loud, “My drinking is a problem.”
  2. Come up with a plan to deal with the problem.
  3. Get some sort of help to insure that you stay on track.
  4. Monitor your progress daily.
  5. Enlist the help of a friend or expert.
  6. Take inventory of how addressing the problem has had a positive impact on your life.

The great thing about telling yourself the truth, is that you will begin to trust yourself. As in all relationships, trust is essential and necessary for success. If you want to love yourself, be true to yourself, and believe in yourself, you have to trust yourself; telling yourself lies will only lead to self-loathing and a downward spiral. Unfortunately, the further down that rabbit hole you fall, the more difficult it will be climb out and recover.

Living Life Without A User Manual : Be Honest With Yourself

Karma is a Bitch and Other Pleasant Thoughts

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Most people would agree that anger and rage are not the best emotions to hang onto. Laughter, joy, pleasure, empathy, peace, and appreciation are much healthier and will make you happier in the short and long run. How do we get there? What do you do when those dark, negative feelings begin to surface?

Your Belief System

I’m fairly cynical about just about everything. I was taught that it is important to be a critical thinker at all times. However, there is one thing that I truly believe in and there is no proof that it really exists and that thing is:

kar‧ma noun   1 the belief that all the good and bad things that you do in this life affect how good or bad your future lives will be, according to the Hindu and Buddhist religions

2 informal the feeling that you get from a person, place, or action good/bad karma

Yes, I am a true believer. I have this gut feeling that the universe offers us complete balance: the yin and the yang, the peaks and the valleys, positive and negative energy; you get the picture. Realistically, I am aware that some people get away with all sorts of things without ever being held accountable. Perhaps I am wrong about that; perhaps they are somehow at some time, held accountable and we’re just not aware of it.

Belief in karma helps me sleep at night. When I think of politicians committing horrible atrocities, or people physically abusing or killing other people, or stealing, being emotionally harmful, rapists, I usually turn to karma for comfort.

42 Best Karma quotes - Quotes and Hacks

Trusting Your Truth

Whatever you believe is your truth; your truth is your integrity and where your strength comes from. If you waiver from that belief system or cave to someone else’s truth, you lose faith in yourself and your world becomes unsteady.

Distancing Yourself

I have found that confrontation can be unfruitful and/or personally damaging. Unfortunately, there are some people you cannot talk to. They are either so righteous they cannot be objective or they do not have the capacity to listen. The art of listening is lost on so many these days. The ability to clear your brain of all static and just hear another person’s words is extremely rewarding. Try just staying quiet and listening to another person, it truly is amazing.

[Disclaimer: Not true for everyone. Some people just go on and on and say nothing; others only speak to hear themselves speak, and still others speak only to offend others. These individuals should be avoided and shut down.]

Manifesting Positivity

Some ways to remain positive:

  1. When your thoughts begin to turn negative or move in a dark direction, stop whatever you’re doing and focus on a new thought. Not so easy to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Come up with some sort of code/buzzword that triggers a new thought. It can also be an action (e.g., going into a different room, cook, make the bed). This is a way to distract your mind from negative thought(s).
  2. Exercise. Releasing endorphins and doing something good for yourself usually helps initiate positive thoughts.
  3. If you can, travel. Getting away from your everyday environment helps put you in a different headspace.
  4. Do good deeds and make big deposits in your karma bank. I don’t mean just monetary donations (these are good too), I mean get out there and do something good.
  5. Meditation is a true gift anytime, but especially times like this. If you have Alexa (Echo) in your home or a similar device, you can just ask her to play meditation music. You can meditate for hours or minutes — your choice. The benefits are difficult to quantify, but trust me, it will help.
  6. Self-help books or articles may often seem trite and a waste of time; however, there are many good ones out there that will offer some good tips. I also find Ted Talks (Youtube) to be informative.
  7. Talk to a good friend or family member. People who care about you want to help, but be careful not to abuse their good naturedness.
  8. Cooking keeps me positive and upbeat; as does a good meal out. I turn on music, pour a glass of wine, set out some fresh ingredients, and create something delicious and healthy. This does wonders for my piece of mind. And . . . I do it for me. You don’t need an excuse to be good to yourself.
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Your “Go to” Responses

We are creatures of habit and some of our habits are not-so-good for our health and well-being. For example, when I see people do something really stupid, my go-to response is to tell them what I think. A recent thought: Put on your face mask you fucking idiot. The outcome if I follow through: I have found one of two things might happen:

  1. People who do stupid things, usually have a stupid/unreasonable reaction to criticism or feedback.
  2. You often end-up more frustrated and full of rage.

Look the other way or keep your mouth shut. Trust me, you’ll forget all about it in a few minutes and you won’t be taking years off of your life. Ignorant, despicable, horrible people, will not suddenly become educated or wiser because of your words or action. Allow karma to take care of the situation. Another alternative is to do the right thing for yourself and stay away from people or situations that might create problems for you. For example: I’m not sure going to a political rally will yield a positive outcome right now. There will be lots of time for that sort of thing sometime in the future. Staying away from crowds is a better bet.

Recruiting Others to Help

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I have been know to recruit friends and family to help me react in a more positive way or to assist me in letting go. People who love you and want to see you happy will gladly put a hand over your mouth to muzzle you or handcuff you to a coffee table to keep you from overreacting. A good friend will keep you out of jail or the doghouse.

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Resources:

Karma: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

7 Tips for Staying Positive: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wise-mind-living/201501/7-tips-staying-positive

Stay Positive: https://www.mhanational.org/stay-positive

Thank you karma.