I know fear is normal. We all fear many things and fear keeps us alive. At this time of self-reflection, I think it’s important to address some of my fears and question why I do not possess some of the fears I see in others.
What I am hoping this process will accomplish:
Coming to terms with what is real and what is irrational
Celebrating fears I have conquered and learning more about how I did it
Addressing the fears I avoid and learning more about why I avoid them
Developing a process for overcoming fears
Learning more about the connection between fear and human nature
My fears seem to be deeply rooted in my childhood experiences. Without getting too analytical, many of my fears are connected to my mother and how I was raised. My mother had seven children before she was thirty. Her own complicated parenting made it difficult for her to show love and properly nurture her children; therefore, we were all shortchanged in one way or another. As a result, what I fear most is rejection. This is a common fear; however, it does unfortunately interfere with healthy relationship building. I find myself apologizing for just about everything; more often than not, for things that are either beyond my control or unworthy of an apology. What this self-flagellation does is create doubt in people’s minds. This behavior is misinterpreted as a lack of self-confidence and strength. Being aware of how this fear impacts my everyday life is helpful, but it is an uphill climb; fifty years of apologizing is a tough habit to break.
Another big fear is also a fairly common one, the fear of failure. You might say that no one wants to fail and that would be true. However, all fears are attached to levels of intensity; how deep and strong is this fear. For me, the fear of failure has prevented me from interviewing for positions I was interested in, playing sports I enjoyed, taking courses I wished to take, pursuing romantic relationships, and the list goes on. When I did put aside my fear, I gained much from the experience. For example, when I completed my master’s degree, I hoped to further my studies. I dreamed of becoming a Dean of Students as a result of exceptional mentors in college; deans I admired and revered. I was in a fairly secure and comfortable position at Hofstra University and heard about an opportunity at New York University. The desire to live and work in Manhattan was so strong, I decided to pursue the NYU position and the university’s Ph.D. in Higher Education program, throwing caution to the wind. At that time, failure to acquire this dream was stronger than the possibility of failure to obtain the NYU position. Looking back, I recall many sleepless nights of self-doubt and fear. The outcome was a job at NYU and completion of my Ph.D.
What helped me to conquer this fear, was an overwhelming desire to improve my station in life. Many of us are told that we will never be what we aspire to me. You know the verbiage, “You’re not smart enough; you don’t have the money to pay for that; they’ll never choose you.” People say these things to save you from pain and embarrassment. What is does is hold you back — it keeps you from pursuing your dreams and goals. At this point, your dreams have to be stronger than your fears. The only way to be successful is to concentrate on your dreams and push away your fears. There is a reason the old adage, one step at a time, holds up. Small successes lead to big ones. Land an interview and celebrate that success; it puts in the right frame of mind. Next, you get a second interview and finally you claim your prize. In may cases it’s a fight to overcome your fear of failure. I have played the worst case scenario game with myself throughout my life. I find that reminding myself that the worst thing that could happen, would not be the end of the world, made in easier to move forward. Sometimes, going forward rather than remaining stagnant is all that you can ask of yourself. We’re all dreamers; it’s more a question of how badly you want it and what you’re willing to do to get it. Remaining in your comfort zone is rarely the answer.
The last fear I will mention is the fear of being incapacitated. I never want anyone to have to take care of me on a long-term basis (more than a couple of days). This fear is linked to my inability to ask for help when I need it. Friends have forced me to be better about reaching out. Family and friends have shared that it makes them feel good to help and that I should be better about accepting their help. I’m doing everything — or almost everything, I can do to remain healthy, but life can throw you a curve ball and this fear is real. I am currently in the process of coming up with a game plan so that I can rely on a “facility” to care for me if this were to happen. Leaving it to chance is not in the cards. I cope with this fear by taking control of my options and the outcome.
I don’t fear death; I never have. I have always felt that when it happens, it will probably be fast and painless. Rational or not, it’s how I feel. I was in a bad bicycle accident a couple of years ago and I’m certain that when my body hit the pavement, there must have been intense pain. I couldn’t tell you what that pain felt like because my brain has completely erased it. Studies show that our brain protects us from severe trauma — shock shuts down certain body functions and we are not fully aware of the pain we are experiencing. I know there are many ways in which one can die; however, I’m banking on a painless death. The fear of dying keeps people from pursuing many dreams in life. I’ve been fortunate not to possess this fear. As a result I have jumped out of a plane, gone hang gliding, done some rock climbing, worked as a bicycle messenger in New York City, experimented with psychedelic and other mind opening drugs, and so on. To be clear, this is not to say I welcome death.
What have I learned from this exercise?
Plainly speaking, it is clear that I have a fair number of fears. Some have been conquered, some I’m working on, and still others are an ongoing challenge. I am okay with accepting that some fears will never go away. I told myself I wouldn’t say or think never prior to relocating overseas. I am willing to accept that some of my fears may remain with me until I die.
I realize that I am revealing a good deal about myself in my blogs. Several individuals have written to me to tell me that it is helping them to be more honest with themselves. Seems like a win-win to me.
Lagos with Friends from Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Jim and Gillian Britt visiting from Maine. A beautiful November day at Ponta da Piedade. The sky really was THAT blue.
Difficult to capture the true beauty of the place.
Whenever I think of purpose, I am reminded of Steve Martin who plays Navin in The Jerk, where he goes on and on about his “special purpose.” The purpose I’ll be discussing is not quite the same; my purpose is less sexual in nature. I’m certain that’s a better way to go.
A person’s sense of resolve or determination; that’s seems essential to me. So I ask myself, do I have purpose? Considering that I am a planner and that I need to have future goals or plans to look forward to, I would say that I have purpose. However, now that I am no longer a pet owner — I hate the word owner when referring to a pet, it seems to me that a pet is a member of your family and ownership isn’t really the right word, so I’m going to change that to having a pet — that is a huge obligation that I longer need to consider. I don’t plan to acquire another pet anytime soon; losing Giorgio has provided an opportunity to explore the world without being tied down. This was Giorgio’s final gift to me. I miss the little guy.
When you have a career, a sense of purpose comes easily. For over 30 years I focused on education; first on my Ph.D. and then educating others. I truly felt that I was making a difference. Then I focused on creating a consulting business and when I achieved a certain amount of success (over 20 clients in two years) I decided consulting was not fulfilling and that I needed to move on. There were parts of consulting that I enjoyed immensely; however, convincing potential clients that they needed my help or any help, was tough on the ego. And that brings me to now . . .
I did some professional writing in Portland, Maine and discovered how much I enjoy it. The question I need to ask myself is do I want to take it further than a blog? I thought perhaps putting together a memoir (a collection of all of the personal stories from my blog) might be worth pursuing. I’m frankly concerned about those that might not like what they see in print and I’m not sure the purging is worth the pain. The other option might be an Expat How To book. Either of these two considerations would be fulfilling and perhaps helpful to others.
There are many things I do on a daily basis which provide purpose. For example, I am motivated to rise in the morning for two big reasons: 1) I love the quiet. It’s usually dark and the city is still sleeping. I make coffee and either work on my blog or read. Sometimes I watch the news, but with all the negative things going on in Trump world, I’ve been attempting to avoid this trap, and 2) I have always had more energy at the start of the day. That is after a good night’s sleep and sleep has been elusive lately.
Going to the gym is a big part of my physical drive. I enjoy the community I have at the gym and I like how it makes me feel. I usually do my market shopping after the gym. I’m freshly showered, shaved and raring to go.
I have always looked forward to lunch and dinner. I don’t think about breakfast much, but I do mix it up in the morning. I eat whatever I feel like that day (ex., eggs, toast, cereal, avocado, fresh juice, granola). I don’t eat all of those items on the same day. I start thinking about lunch at around 10:00 a.m. and I usually have a salad, sandwich, or leftovers by 12:30/1:00 p.m. I’m inspired by the food at the market and that’s when and where my dinner decision is made. The Algarve is a great place for fresh fish, beautiful vegetables, fruit (amazing oranges and melon), organic chicken and charcuterie. I like to make enough so that I have leftovers for the next day. In the summer, I freeze homemade tomato sauce and pesto (basil and parsley from my terrace garden) , so that I can have summer dishes during the winter. I’m no Martha Stewart, but using my freezer to store food is something I learned from my father.
I have a terrace garden (see as much as I could get in the two frames below). My terrace is very long and narrow and has lots of room for potted plants. I’m growing flowers, succulents and herbs. Tending to my garden brings me a great deal of pleasure and purpose. I am proud of what I grow and enjoy sitting out on the terrace, either by myself or with friends. It got started in June so I have aways to go.
I’m a film buff, so I go to the cinema at least once a week. I prefer a matinée because I’m less likely to fall asleep. And for you snarky folks, it’s not because I’m getting old; movies are more likely to make me sleepy in the evening, probably because film allows me to take mind off of other things that may be troubling, thus I become more relaxed and sleepy. Theatre has the same effect on me, but alas, there is little or no theatre in English in Faro. We do have live ballet and opera at the cinema; a big plus.
Now that I’m living in Portugal, I believe it would be in my best interest to learn to speak Portuguese. I started with an on-line tutor about four months prior to relocating. Frederico who lives in London, but he is from Lisbon, was a great help; however, I knew that what I was learning would “stick” once I moved to Portugal and started hearing the language daily. In theory, this is true. The problem lies in the number of Portuguese people who speak English. Anyone aged 40 or younger (older people as well) has a pretty good grasp on the English language. They learned English in school, they watch non-dubbed American film and television, and I believe they enjoy speaking English. Many Portuguese people need to know how to speak English for work. This can make an English-speaking person in Portugal very lazy. I’m dedicating time to learning the language, but not enough time. I’d like to be able to converse in Portuguese sometime in the next two years. I plan to take classes and spend more time practicing. This is a necessary goal and a great way to keep my aging brain active.
It is also important for me to practice my driving here. I’ve rented a car a couple of times and I feel a certain level of confidence; however, I want to improve. The roundabouts that are everywhere in Europe, are very efficient, but tricky and they’re so much better than traffic lights. European drivers tend to be faster, take more risk, and they are not very tolerant of beginners. I know this is a huge generalization, but even Europeans would agree with this assessment. I’ll have a car for a few days in November, so I plan to practice.
A few weeks ago I was complaining (to myself) that many of my new friends here in Portugal live 45 to 90 minutes away. Then it occurred to me that when I lived in Brooklyn, many of my friends were either outside of Brooklyn or over an hour away by subway. So what am I complaining about? The only issue has been coordinating the train or bus schedule with visits outside of Faro. It’s a minor inconvenience, therefore, I’m going to heretofore just be grateful to have wonderful people in my life no matter where I live. I have more time in my schedule for socializing and that’s a good thing. I’m trying not to fill my dance card so that I can be more spontaneous. I know several of you who know me are reading this and laughing out loud. People can change you know.
I need to work with animals, it’s non-negotiable. I have discovered that there is a pet shelter in both Olhão and Loulé. Neither city is far away, so I will be looking into spending some time at one of these shelters. I have been volunteering since I was in my early twenties; few things in my life have been as satisfying. I cannot adopt or foster right now; therefore, this will be the next best thing.
I struggle with travel. I love routine, I love my own bed, and I love cooking my own food. When I travel, I sacrifice a great deal; poor me right?. Having stated this, I truly do want to see the world and I don’t mean by watching the travel channel. I now have the time to be more methodical and smarter about travel. I can take longer trips and combine multiple locations, thus making travel more economical and less of a hassle. The last thing I want is more time in airports and the shuffling of my luggage from one hotel to another. I want to spend more time in one place, I want to see people I care about who live in other countries; and I want to be able to boast about the deals I garner.
Possible Citizenship in Portugal
Keeping up with the red tape of full-time residency in a foreign country is a full-time job. I am obviously exaggerating, but seriously, there is a lot of paperwork. It seems at times that policy and law surrounding living in Portugal is intentionally ambiguous or confusing. I had some recent issues with attaining a Portuguese driver’s license. Several expats have warned me about the process. It was clear, that if I did not complete the process for acquiring a Portuguese driver’s license within the allotted 90 days from becoming a legal resident, I would have to go through the process as if I were attaining my very first driver’s license and I would have to take the written and physical driving test in Portuguese. Clearly, that was enough to motivate me to get this done ASAP. Except that there was a huge obstacle. Apparently I should have known that the Portuguese Consulate in Boston needed to verify my Maine driver’s license prior to relocating to Portugal. How could I have not known this? I won’t go into details about how I managed to get a temporary Portuguese driver’s license, however, what I will say is that I believe in my heart, it would have been easier to compete in Hawaii’s Iron Man competition and place.
After a few years of renewing my temporary residence, I will be eligible for dual citizenship (I will never give up my U.S. citizenship). This will not be an easy process, but if it mean shorter lines at passport control in airports all over the world, I am willing to at least try.
I highly recommend the exercise of laying it all out. If like me, you are sitting around wondering what you are going to do with your life, it will certainly help you to see and realize, that you have a lot going on.
I won’t lie, I miss the feeling I got when considering that the school I worked for would shut down if I missed a day at the office. I miss the routine of Giorgio jumping into my bed in the morning for a one hour cuddle (that was always the best hour of my day), I miss my weekly poker game, I miss southern barbecue, I miss hopping into my car to see friends and family, I miss English being spoken all around me, I miss the thrill of anticipating my annual raise and bonus, and I miss using work as an excuse to decline social engagements. I can go on, but I ‘m afraid if I do, I will begin to regret early retirement. So where does this leave me when considering purpose?
What I have in my life today, is that opportunity to relax without guilt, take care of my spiritual, physical and mental health, and the ability to see the world. None of these are minor commitments. If I accomplish half of what I have planned for the next ten years, I will be successful, happy and satisfied or at the very least, I can tell myself that I am all of these things. I can also look forward to change. Change is a constant we can count on. Okay, I am motivated.
I’ve been on an honesty kick for a long time and it doesn’t always work for me.
You hear a lot about gay people “coming out” these days. There are many incredible stories; each unique and compelling. Mine is no different — act straight, marry, keep it from the boss, tell your sister first; she of course tells you she already knew and so it goes. What you don’t hear is that when you’re gay, you don’t come out once, you come out again and again . . . and again.
Allow me to explain. I’m at a fundraiser sitting at a table with eight strangers. They have no idea who I am, where I am from, and what I do for a living — let alone know about my sexual orientation. To be polite, we all make small talk. If I bring a female friend, she is automatically my wife. I am not being critical mind you, it’s a reasonable assumption. So one of the first comments is, “So how long have you two been together?” or “Do you have any children?” I’m wondering to myself whether or not to tell the truth. If I stay silent or play along with the charade, am I doing a disservice to all gays and lesbians? We fought long and hard to be out and proud; if I stay silent, I am complicit?
When I am honest with people I sometimes get these reactions:
“You don’t look gay.”
“I had no idea.”
“But you act so straight!” (Having worked so hard at acting straight in my teens and 20’s, this is my personal favorite.)
“If you were married to a woman, you must be bisexual.”
“Are you the man or the woman in a relationship?”
I have learned over the years that people can say some fairly stupid and insensitive things without intentionally meaning to offend. I either nervously chuckle or ignore the comment. Either reaction is not very honest, is it? What I would like to say is, “Now that you’ve made your bias clear, tell me what you really think about gay people?”
Let’s put it out there, have some dialogue. But, I don’t say what I’m thinking, I keep my mouth shut, remain silent and hope that the moment passes quickly. I do this because it’s what I was taught to do since I was old enough to comprehend life lessons. Adults teach children to keep the truth inside:
to spare the hurt feelings of others
to keep them out of trouble
to keep them safe
to keep children from sharing the truth about their parent’s lives (i.e., what happens in this family, stays with this family)
it’s the “norm;” that’s how we’ve always done it
I hid the truth until I was 28 years old; up until that point I worked hard to hide who I was from myself and everyone else.
Being honest, telling the truth, telling the whole truth, speaking your mind, sharing secrets, whistle blowing, and so on. They’re not the same things are they? Everyone seems to define “truth” differently these days. So when someone tells you that they are telling the truth, what exactly does that mean?
The Truth Can be Painful and Consequences Can be Real
Having made a conscious effort to be honest has been fairly difficult at times. People say that they want to hear the truth when in fact, they cannot handle the truth. I acknowledge that my truth may not be someone else’s truth — for example, politics: I may believe that our current administration is corrupt and dangerous and others might believe that it’s the best leadership we’ve had in a long time. This is a difficult debate because one will argue the facts which are fairly skewed these days, depending on the reporting. This kind of truth aside, deciding to share the truth with someone can put both parties in a difficult position. The truth can do irreparable damage and that is something you may have to live with. I don’t believe examples are necessary since most people have experienced what I am referring to.
Many of us make a conscious decision to keep the truth to ourselves in order to keep the peace. The problem with this decision is that individuals who need to be told they have an alcohol problem, or that they are being psychologically abused or that their severe weight problem is killing them, will continue to talk themselves into a lie. I have a friend who told me that her doctor told her that it is better for her to smoke cigarettes because if she quits she might have a nervous breakdown. She’s told herself this lie so many times, she actually believes that it’s true.
Coming to Terms with the Truth you Tell Yourself
A few years ago I found myself in a toxic work environment. Telling ourselves we are no longer happy at work; I believe it is one of the most common truths we may have to tell ourselves. It’s very easy to become comfortable and feel safe in a toxic environment; after all, it’s all you know and the alternative might be too frightening to face.
Once you are able and willing to be honest with yourself about your career or work environment, change needs to happen and the old adage that “change is good” will prove true once again.
There are many truths we keep from ourselves: failing health, toxic relationships, financial ruin, alcohol or drug abuse, missed opportunities, why having an affair is hurting many people, etc. Facing any and all of these life issues can be challenging; however, failure to do so will only mean future problems that may end up being insurmountable.
My Future and How I Intend to Deal with Truth
One of the reasons for moving overseas was to find truth. Life for me was becoming mundane and way too simple; I was choosing the path of least resistance nearly every time. I’m not referring to seeking the truth about our existence, what I’m trying to find is my on truth: who am I, what am I looking for, and how do I find it?
I am aware that these are big questions and finding the answers is a lifelong journey. I believe the answers lie in self-reflection, self-assessment and shaking things up. Looking in the mirror can be difficult. If you look hard enough, you might see the truth. So many are reluctant to look because they’re afraid of what they might find. I’m not so much afraid as I am concerned. I’m concerned that I will not be able to change what I don’t like. For example, I learned awhile back that I can be unfairly critical. I can hold people to a standard that is unrealistic and unfair. I don’t like this one bit. The question is, can I change it? I’m not sure that I can, but I have made a commitment to try.
Other lies I tell myself:
One more cocktail won’t hurt you
You can leave your bicycle helmet home this one time
It’s better not to put yourself out there because men are all slime buckets
Trump will definitely be impeached
You don’t have to cover your head from the sun
You can eat whatever you want and work it off
Being open about these lies is a good first step; it’s time to face them. My friends and family tell me I’m too hard on myself. I believe it’s an easy out — I don’t want to face my shit so I’d prefer you didn’t face yours. I’ll have none of that: “the truth shall set me free” (to paraphrase the bible and that may be a first for me).
Disclaimer: You may find that I repeat myself in a blog by sharing something I have previously shared. I must admit that I do not reread previously published blogs. If I re-introduce a story or topic, it is because I believe it is worth mentioning again. The way I see it, there will only be a problem if my story changes.
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):
knowledge or experience of something.
“the pupils had little acquaintance with the language”
familiarity, conversance, conversancy, contact, acquaintanceship; More
a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend.
“a wide circle of friends and acquaintances”
contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague;
“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.
Friendship 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.
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.”
A Co-Worker who is 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.
I could do an entire blog on friendship and today’s political climate, but if I were to dwell on the topic for more than a few minutes, I’d have to make myself a double.
When Trump was elected president, I was angry, upset, terrified, and disappointed, and I still am. I let family members know how I felt and some of them said a version of this:
“Family always comes first and you should never let politics come between you and family.”
And that’s where we disagree. If I know for a fact that you hated Obama as president because he is African-American, and that you consequently voted for a conservative man because he was going to undo everything the last administration did or that you don’t believe a woman can hold our highest office, then I do not want to be your friend and it is has undoubtedly come between us. Does that mean that I love immigrants and medicare recipients more than I love my family and friends? It does not; however, what it does mean is that I love my fellow human being and when I think about the one percent wealthiest Americans, the biased, the racist and the greed of some politicians, I am always going to be sympathetic to the poor, the minority, the immigrant, the unemployed, the drug addict, and the LGBT community (not an exhaustive list).
Acknowledging the doors that were opened for you or the opportunities you have had that others have not had, will help you to be a more empathetic and giving person.
If family know how I feel and still want me in their lives, well then they’re stuck with me.
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.”
“The best mirror is an old friend.”
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
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.
Much has been written and battles have been fought around Airbnb and because so many are hosting or booking these days, I must say up front, that I am fearful I will offend one of my “host” readers. Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, I feel compelled to share some of my experiences and thoughts about Airbnb with you. It is my hope that the Airbnb experience will soon be elevated and booking will be less of a shot in the dark.
There are several different ways to view the host experience. Unfortunately, I believe that too many see it as a way to make quick and easy money. This pattern of thinking is too easily conveyed to your guests. Those who are trying to create a unique and memorable experience for their guests are more likely to reap financial rewards. Good reviews will come if you treat your guests as you might treat a friend or relative who will be staying with you in your home or using your home on a temporary basis. There are some inexpensive and simple things you can do to make your space welcoming and comfortable.
As with most matters in life, good communication is essential. The following are numbered according to their importance to me as a guest:
When you describe the space on your home page, be clear about what you’re offering. If it’s bedroom and a sleeping alcove, don’t call it a two bedroom.
If there are several flights of stairs to navigate, be upfront about that in your description and don’t bury it at the bottom or as an addendum.
If it’s a small kitchen or a kitchenette, make that clear.
If your place is hard to find, provide explicit instructions on how to get there. There is nothing worse than being lost in a foreign cities while you’re dragging two suitcases.
Create a list of grocery stores, restaurants, and attractions in your area. It doesn’t have to be a book; two or three pages should suffice. Videos work nicely these days as well.
What a good host MUST provide:
It is all about comfort and value. Too often a host will try to cut corners in order to save money. This practice will come back to bite you in the rear quickly and end up costing you a whole lot more than what you might have saved.
A good mattress is non-negotiable. It is your responsibility to provide a comfortable and well made mattress. It does not have to be plush or super expensive. Be clear about the size of the mattress in your description. If it’s a high-end mattress, say so.
If you’re renting your entire apartment, be sure to have decent, clean, and comfortable furniture.
Be sure your kitchen is stocked with pots, pans, dishes, glassware (wine glasses), small equipment (coffee maker, etc.) and a corkscrew.
Towels that you cannot see through would be nice and good linen is important.
Outlets for electronic devices are necessary these days.
If you do not have air conditioning, it would be good to provide a fan or fans. I once stayed with a host couple at an Airbnb in the Cayman Islands. It was 100 degrees and the wife wouldn’t allow me to turn on the AC because she said the electricity cost too much. My thinking was, “Why don’t you just charge more?”
Either show your guests how to use appliances at check-in or provide instructions.
Provide a contact telephone number. If you are not going to be available, find someone who can respond to an emergency. I once had a guest stuck in my building’s elevator at 1:00 a.m. and she had idea who to contact.
If you have rugs they should be clean and not sliding all over your floor. Make sure your space is super safe.
You should have soap and shampoo in your bathroom. Little extras such as razors, cotton swabs, and air fresheners are a big plus.
Provide extra toilet paper and trash bags. Some guests like to tidy up before they leave and there is nothing bad about that.
Remember the difference between booking a hotel room and your place is convenience, the ability for the guest to prepare meals, tips from a local, non-cookie cutter interior (your personal touch), location and cost. Your guests should feel good about having made the right choice. The more you share in the description and communication, the happier they will be with their choice.
People are looking for experiences they cannot find at a hotel or resort. Airbnb in most big cities provides a variety of experiences such as concerts in people’s homes, cooking classes, food tours, sailing trips, and so much more. You can share your recommendations on these experiences with your guests and therefore, help shape the ultimate vacation.
Being a Super Host on Airbnb is a tremendous plus. It will give you better placement in a very crowded market — that’s not changing any time soon; if anything it will get worse. You can become a Super Host by being responsive and securing outstanding reviews. Airbnb has some good tips on their site.
Tips for being an exceptional host:
a small gift upon arrival, such as a bottle of wine or a package of sea salts or bath salts, will make your guests very happy.
share your knowledge without pushing your thoughts on your guests
let your guest know that you are not too far away if they need anything. I had a bad experience in Lisbon recently; my host lived in Australia. I had to make a toll call halfway around the world — not good. No apologies were given and it was reflected in my review.
offer to show your guest around the neighborhood if you have the time.
Being an exceptional host is a lot of work and personally, I have no desire to do it again. I have to say when I did do it, I enjoyed it. I was meeting wonderful people from all over the world and the extra cash came in handy. Keep in mind that there will be wear and tear on your home and by the time you pay taxes on your earned income, you may not be making as much money as you hoped or expected.
As a guest you have several considerations that will help ensure you choose the right accommodation and pay the right price. So may just look at the photos and book. There are a few problems with that. As you know, if you point your camera at the right angle, you can make a trash site look good. The other consideration is that a photo will tell you little or nothing about the location. Here are a few things you should consider before booking:
What are your priorities? Location, price, space, authenticity, good reviews, air conditioning, big kitchen/small kitchen, water view, mountain view, near restaurants; you get the picture.
Read the reviews! People will usually convey a problem even if there is a lot of praise and fluff.
Is the host a Super Host?
Do they respond quickly to your inquiry.
Do you have to climb a lot of stairs?
Is it in a noisy, touristy area. Some travellers like that (I don not).
Look at the fee breakdown. Some shrewd hosts make the base price reasonable and then charge crazy amounts for additional guests or cleaning. If you are asked to pay more than $50 to clean a one bedroom, your being charged too much. If your being charged a cleaning fee for a bedroom in someone’s home, well, I’d rethink that one.
There will sometimes be added taxes and that’s fair. Anything else besides taxes, cleaning or additional guests seems unreasonable to me.
If a host offers to pick you up at the airport for a set amount, do some comparison shopping. I once paid a host 50 Euros and later learned I could have taken a taxi for 20. A small mark-up is acceptable, but 30 Euros?
There are other sites out there (VRBO, Homestay.com, House Sitters, etc.). Comparison shop.
The truth is sometimes hotels are a better option. You might find more flexible check-ins, you might like to have a concierge, it may mean more privacy, sometimes there is an excellent restaurant in the hotel, and frankly, the whole guest review process on Airbnb can be unnerving. And because hotels now have loads of competition, you might get a great rate at a beautiful resort with lots of amenities. This why I believe there is plenty of room for both in the accommodation space.
Be a gracious guest. If you had a wonderful experience, repay your host with an excellent review. A small thank you gift is also a nice way to show your appreciation. In many cases you’ve saved a lot of money and got to live like the locals.
A friend contacted me about Airbnb travel for women traveling alone. In short she doesn’t feel safe traveling this way and I completely understand her concern — another consideration. She likes being able to call to the front desk and getting an immediate response/help. If you think of anything I have not included, please let me know.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF GIORGIO, WHO GAVE ME NOTHING BUT LOVE & JOY
Giorgio’s nicknames: G, Mr. G., Duka Do, Dukkas and Georgie.
I’m writing while in Lisbon with a friend, but to be honest, I’m having a very difficult time because Giorgio is at home and his little heart is failing him. A couple of months ago he developed a hacking cough and I learned his heart valve on the left side is almost completely blocked. Giorgio’s been with me for 11 wonderful years; he was flown in from Texas to LaGuardia Airport when he was eight weeks old. He has given me so much joy, it’s difficult to put into words, but I’m going to because I must. Anyone who has a pet or has lost a pet will know what I am feeling right now. I have a constant lump in my throat. I didn’t want to wait until he passes to express what he means to me.
His Current State
He’s on three different types of medication and for now he’s comfortable . . . I hope. The blood that is backing up into his lungs is prompting an occasional cough. Sometimes I can hear the fluid in his breathing. It scares me, it hurts me, and it only makes me love him more. Although the medication is helping for the moment, I’m not sure and the vet is not sure, how long it will help. It feels like it won’t be long. I know I talked about being present last week and for me this is what is happening presently; I can’t escape from it and I don’t want to. I have made the decision to put him down at the first sign of distress. I cannot watch my dog suffer and I am certain that he will let me know when it’s time.
A few weeks ago, he had a very difficult night and I held him and wept. I was certain that it was the end; I should have known better. Giorgio has survived several near death experiences and he rallied once again. I think you’ll enjoy this story about Giorgio tying one on:
My Drunken Dog
Some of you have heard this story so I apologize in advance. Several of you were even in my life when it happened. It was almost 11 years ago, I had a rough day at work and after getting off of the disgusting New York City subway, I was ready for a cocktail. White Russians are a rare choice for me, but on that particular occasion, that’s what I craved and needed; I made a tall one. I placed it on my living room coffee table and went into the bedroom to shed my work clothes. When I returned to the living room, the glass was empty. I thought,
“I don’t recall drinking this drink, but I guess I did.”
You know how your mind works when you’re overworked and stressed. I made another White Russian and plopped myself down on my sofa. Two minutes later, Giorgio stumbled into the room and keeled over. He was six months old and weighed about four pounds. Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that he might have helped himself to my cocktail. There were no signs of anyone else having touched the glass. He had lapped it up skillfully and quietly, as is his way.
I rushed to get my phone and called Animal Poison Control. A kind person answered on the first ring and asked if he could help. This is a group of veterinarians volunteering their time for a public service — I am grateful for what they do. I stammered and shared what Giorgio had imbibed as tears of panic washed over my face. He advised me to get Giorgio to an emergency animal hospital right away and made it clear that if I did not take his advice, Giorgio would probably die. My little guy drank about 8 ounces of alcohol; a larger dog would have been fine.
I had a car and I knew that his vet in Park Slope had a 24 hour animal hospital. I put Giorgio on the seat beside me and started driving. On the way to the hospital, I looked over and found him passed out. I stopped the car to shake him and I begged him not to die on me. I’m still not sure how I made it to the hospital without wrecking the car.
I double parked, ran him into the vet and the assistant who greeted me at the door asked me what happened.
The assistant took Giorgio from my arms and asked me to wait in the waiting room. I called two different friends who both had pets, knew Giorgio and whom I knew, could calm me down. I was feeling guilty, scared, fear and about 46 other emotions.
One hour and a stomach pump later, he was admitted. He had to be on an IV and observed for 24 hours; 24 of the longest hours of my life. He pulled through and hasn’t had a drink since.
Giorgio Has Nine Lives
There have been several close calls throughout Giorgio’s life, but none took the wind out of me more than the time he fell off of a deck 18 feet off the ground. It was the day after he had received all of his annual shots and I was told he might be a bit “out of it” that evening, but there was no mention of how it would affect him the next day. By the time we arrived at the home of friends on Shelter Island, I had completely forgotten about the vaccinations. Giorgio had been up on this deck a dozen times and never went anywhere near the edge. On this day he wasn’t himself and ended up falling off the deck. I watched him approach the edge and I called out his name. He never turned around; he just went straight over. I was in a state of shock and I could not get up off of the chair I was sitting in. Because I did not hear a sound when he hit the ground, I assumed the worst.
My friend Angelina looked over the edge of the deck and told me that Giorgio was not there. I ran down to look for him. When dogs are hurt, they hide and nurse their wounds. He was hiding under my car and would not come out. I sat and waited and he eventually crawled out from under my car. I don’t know how he survived that fall without breaking anything. He’s my little miracle.
One Happy Dog
I don’t believe there is a happier dog alive. He unmakes my bed every day just for shits and giggles. He grabs my shoes and shakes them with his teeth, before he goes out for a walk. He pees with his hind paws in the air so as not to get urine anywhere on his fur. He lets those he loves know how he feels by letting out tiny yelps. He performs tricks for biscuits I never taught him. Giorgio, when walking unleashed, will always walk several feet ahead of me. He looks back constantly to make sure that I am still there. He listens and stays clear of traffic. Sometimes when he is outside my building or in the woods or on the beach, he appears to be smiling — unbridled joy.
Giorgio has more friends than I could ever hope to have. His love is unconditional and pure.
As you can see I’m preparing myself. He’s lost several pounds and now all I can feel are his bones. He urinates in the house, something he never did. He sleeps most of the time and he’s not eating. He knows he’s not well and I believe he knows he’ll be leaving us soon. I like to think animals understand the life cycle and accept it. He’s showing me his love and gratitude with his eyes and for that I am grateful. He’s trying to make this easier for me. He’s always been there for me and I know that he will be my true companion until the end.
I thought this might be a good time to step back and consider my decision to relocate overseas. I’m going to ask myself some tough questions:
Is Faro everything I hoped it would be?
Did the move cost me more than expected?
Have I made friends?
Do I miss the States?
Are there things I did not consider?
Have I learned anything about myself?
Would I do it again and would I choose the same place?
Where do I go from here?
When I left New York City and moved to Maine a little over five years ago, I was fairly certain it would be the last time I was to move in my life. I’m still not sure why I felt that way, perhaps I was just tired. One of the biggest lessons this recent move has taught me is this:
Most decisions are not etched in stone and you’re allowed to change your mind.
When I make a decision now, it’s for today, tomorrow, and maybe next month. I no longer think about years from now. I’ve learned that living in the moment is much more satisfying and that whatever lies ahead, will somehow sort itself out. All the great philosophers talk about being present; experiencing the moment you are in. Until now, it seemed rather trite and esoteric. These words were meant for others, not for me. I knew what I was doing, where I was going and how I was going to get there, no? The truth is I spent much too much time in the future — planning, always planning. And it’s not that I don’t plan now; I plan, but I plan a lot less. When you’re enjoying the moment, thoughts pass through your mind with less urgency. What you find interesting and worthwhile will stick and the rest will fade.
Now is as good a time as any to look back and learn from the past so that the present will be that much more fulfilling.
Is Faro what I hoped it would be? In a word, no; Faro is far more than I ever imagined. My mind did not have the capacity to extend that far; the unknown was frightening. I had never lived outside of the States, so in truth, I could not imagine what it would be like. I had an idea, I had hopes, and I had people telling me, but none of it was a true picture of reality and that’s a good thing. Why is it so important for us to know the future? Why can’t we just let the future unfold before us? Some of what I could not have anticipated:
The light: I loved the light in Maine, the sky was often so blue, I didn’t know a blue so deep existed. The light in Portugal is different; it’s very bright and your skin reacts to it differently. I realize this probably has more to do with my own growth and awareness. Still, I am dazzled by and grateful for the light.
The environment: taking care of Earth is paramount. It seems to be a consideration for nearly every decision.
The youth of Faro: I’m seeing a lot of cigarette smoking and rudeness. Older people get on the bus and the young people on the bus rarely, if ever, get up to allow them to be seated. I see young people sitting at cafés drinking coffee and smoking — they’re mimicking their role models and that’s not good. This concerns me.
Food: I’m just beginning to see a change in the food scene here. Most of the restaurants are either small bistro style restaurants that are very plain and unappealing (but cheap) or a lot of very traditional Portuguese food. Don’t get me wrong, the Portuguese food is delicious and except for at festivals and fairs, you unfortunately, don’t see street food or food trucks. I admittedly loved the food scene in the States and I miss the variety. The upside is that my diet is more stable and healthier — not a bad thing.
The absence of crime: you do not see drug addicts passed out on the street, police cars everywhere and there is no talk of crime. This is a very pleasant surprise. I’ve written about the decriminalization of drugs here and very low crime rates. Makes you wonder why this is not the case elsewhere.
Money: your money goes a lot further. Whether it’s the grocery store, restaurants, public transportation, etc. your Euro goes a lot further than your dollar did in the States. I’m sure it has a lot to do with annual salaries and government regulations. I saw a bit of this in Maine as well: when an item is overpriced, people will not buy it.
The weather: it is absolutely perfect nearly every day. I had to get used to the dry heat, but it’s a small price to pay for paradise. Keeping in mind I have only been here for five months. I did visit in October and February and it was beautiful then as well.
2. Did the move cost me more than expected? Not at all. I did a good deal of research on what my expenses would be and I would say that I ended up spending exactly what I anticipated I’d spend. I couldn’t bring a whole lot of my things with me and I’ve been careful not to buy things I don’t need. When I was selling and giving away stuff in Portland, I realized I often had two or three sets of certain household things. We buy more than we need these days and I’m trying my best to avoid doing that. I like being a minimalist; it feels less burdensome and it will make life simpler if I move again.
3. Have I made friends? Friendship is something that happens over a period of time. You can know someone for a very long time and never consider them a friend and you can know someone a very short period of time and call them a good friend. I have met a handful of people who will be lifelong friends. Portuguese people are very private and not easy to get to know; however, the woman who runs my gym is social, funny, and very warm. She has welcomed me to Faro and introduced me to several wonderful potential friends. I’ve also met a few people through friends in the States. In addition, I have had a few people reach out to me through my blog. I have to say I didn’t expect that to happen. I have been very fortunate about having rich friendships my entire life; it’s been pretty much the same here.
I’ve been dating more than I did in Portland or New York. I think there is a simple explanation for that: I am open to meeting someone.
4. Do I miss the States? I miss my family, my friends and the food. I do not miss the politics, the cost of living, and/or the climate.
5. Are there things I didn’t consider? I did not consider how the change in environment would affect Giorgio’s health. The new bacteria and the climate change, did a number on Giorgio. We’ve had to visit the vet several times. I have also had allergies resurface. I have learned that all of this is normal and I guess I just didn’t think about it or anticipate it.
6. Have I learned anything about myself? If you stop to think about it and you are willing to access your life, you come to realize that there is always something to learn about yourself. Maine revealed things related to ego and the leaving of New York City, my career and birthplace. In Portugal, I rarely if ever talk about the past. I’m writing about it in my blog, but what I discuss more than anything these days is the present; the now.
7. Would I do it again and would I choose the same place? Yes and definitely. The same country, the same city and the same condominium.
8. Where do I go from here? Well . . . I’m going to just wait and see (that’s the new me). Two moves ago I said, “This is my last move.” I don’t say this or think this anymore. Property value is going up, up, up in Faro. Maybe in a few years I’ll buy an Italian villa on the Amalfi coast or a place right on the ocean in the Algarve. Or maybe I’ll just use Faro as my home-base and go to all the places I’ve dreamed about visiting.
A side note: It’s not necessarily better here, it’s just a welcome change. Change is good, right?
Blogging has been an excellent way to let family and friends know how I’m doing. I’ve been keeping a journal for 35 years and blogging has sort of taken the place of journaling. It’s very intimate and freeing. I highly recommend either or both.