How I Hate Valentine’s Day…Let Me Count the Ways

heart choc

“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” ~Author Unknown

I’ll probably get some heat from some people about this post but here it goes nevertheless. I hate Valentine’s Day. My problem is not with expressing how I feel to the people that I love.  I have no issues with that whatsoever.  My problem is I don’t think that I should be forced to do so on February 14.  And if you don’t think we’re forced, think again.

Valentine’s Day has been transformed into a commercialized spectacle of “I love you, I love you not.” It is a day of price-gouging as we get slammed by florists, jewelry stores, and greeting card companies.  (About 25 percent of all cards sent each year are valentines). They are certainly not complaining I’m sure they are enjoying every minute of it.  And let’s not forget the pre-fixed over-priced restaurant dinners.

Most of us already know how inflated this day is yet we still get right back in line to get ripped off. Why?  If you’re in a relationship, Valentine’s Day forces ridiculous standards as you run amok struggling to satisfy your loved one’s expectations.  If you’re a man, you’re hoping she’ll be satisfied with roses and a fancy dinner.  If you’re a woman and you have your period, the day is ruined.  You get the point.

And let’s not forget if you’re single it’s a horrible reminder that you don’t have someone. I’ve been there and it’s not a good feeling.  Valentine’s Day makes you want to call your ex and throw a pity party for yourself.

When I was in high school, students were able to buy carnations on Valentine’s Day. A red carnation meant love and pink or white meant friendship.  Those with no red flowers (including myself) felt loveless and those who didn’t receive a lot of pink or white felt unpopular. There was pressure on both sides of the equation and no happy medium.

There are many theories of how Valentine’s Day came into being so let’s focus on the most popular account. It is said that February 14 was declared a day to honor St. Valentine by Pope Gelasius in 469.  As the story goes, Valentine was a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies for soldiers during the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had forbidden his soldiers to marry feeling that it would make them emotionally attached and weak.

When Claudius eventually found out, Valentine was arrested and later executed. Although it’s hard to know for sure, he is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.

So how did a day dedicated to a Catholic Martyr become a blessing for the makers of stuffed animals and chocolate candy? I’m sure whoever sent out the first valentine had the best intentions.  Maybe it was an earnest attempt to bring people closer together and get them to profess their love for each other.  Good intentions, I’m sure but the fact is not all is good.

Here are just a few reasons why:

1. You feel the pressure whether you are in a relationship or not:

I was a bit surprised to read that the days leading up to Valentine’s Day are popular for proposals and long-term commitments while the days following Valentine’s Day are known for break ups.  This goes to show you that placing ultimatums are not good for any relationship.
If you’re in a relationship, we feel the pressure of having to “wow” our loved one and outdo everybody else.
If you’re not in a relationship, let’s face it, we hate hearing about Valentine’s Day.  Feelings of depression and loneliness are rampant on February 14. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

2. Love is NOT about the gifts. 

After the holidays, I walked into a Hallmark store at the local mall to see one worker boxing Christmas cards while another one stacked the shelves with Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.  I hate the feeling of going from one over-commercialized holiday to another.
I’m not saying I don’t like receiving gifts.  But as my mother always said, “You shouldn’t have to buy someone’s love.”  All the advertising and red-lace propaganda out there leads people to think that you have to buy that in order to receive this.  But it’s not about the gifts.  Genuine, heartfelt love goes beyond the gifts.  It’s expressed in ways that are in no way materialistic and in every way spiritual and nonphysical.

3. Romance that is forced is NOT Romance.

It’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year yet it is anything but romantic.  In my opinion, in order for romance to be real and meaningful, it must be spontaneous and natural.  You shouldn’t profess your love to someone because some Hallmark card tells you to.
I am a hopeless romantic.  I love surprising my husband and I love when he does the same for me.  It makes me feel special and wanted.  But it has to be because we both want to and not because we feel like we have to.  It has to be genuine and heartfelt.

I recently read a blog which touted “…a dozen roses or a box of chocolates may be appreciated for a while, but if you really want your sweetheart to swoon, here are some Valentine’s Day gifts for all the loved ones on your list …” UGH! Let’s get real.  We all need to forget the V-Day hype and realize that it’s actually very little about the spa vouchers,  romantic weekend getaways,  the charms or tennis bracelets or even the monogramed cushions and towels and instead all about the loving.  But then again, you can do that any old day of the year.

Follow Your Passion with Style

lona pic

Lona Alia Duncan, founder & CEO of Style Lend

Successful entrepreneurs are givers and not takers of positive energy.  Anonymous

On January 1, many of us wake up with our long lists of New Year’s resolutions only to find that we never even accomplished one thing come December 31st.  Why the failure?  The number one reason we fail is not because we lack the money or the resources.  We fail because we never even take the first step. What motivates us then to take that first step?

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing woman named Lona Alia Duncan.  Before our lunch meeting, I researched her background finding that she was a former model from Albania who had worked for well-known fashion empires like Guess, Versace and Levi’s.  She had lived a life of glamour as she walked down numerous runways and appeared in several popular magazines.

Knowing her background, I must admit I was still awestruck by her striking beauty when she walked in the door of Claudette, a restaurant in the West Village section of New York City.  One can’t help but be impressed with Lona’s beauty at first glance.  But as we chatted over lunch, I came to realize that there was so much more to this remarkable woman than what meets the eye. She may be a pretty face but her true beauty comes more from within.

Lona put her modeling career aside opting to study business and earn her BA from George Washington University.  She later went on to earn her MBA from Hult International Business School with the hopes of someday owning her own company.  While traveling light in Paris and several other countries with her husband, she thought it would be great if she could just borrow the clothes she needed for various events from other stylish women.  Hence, the idea for Style Lend was born.

lona and josieThe new company serves as a marketplace for both lending and renting high-end designer dresses.  Dresses are available for as low as $20 making it possible for women to look great without the hefty price tag.

As we chatted over lunch, I was immediately impressed with her contagious positive energy.  It was easy for me to see what led Lona to take the first step . . . her passion.  Her love for fashion is an obvious motivator as is her desire to help women of all ages feel self-confident and beautiful.

As we ring in the New Year, how then do we find what motivates us?  How then do we get past the fear and procrastination and take that initial step?

Here are four simple steps:

  1. DO WHAT YOU LOVE:

If your heart isn’t in it, you’ll think of every excuse not to do it.  You can’t do what you don’t care about.

  1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT:

We get back what we focus on in life.  Stay focused and positive throughout.  Once we let doubt and fear creep in, we’ll lose sight of our goal.

  1. WRITE IT DOWN:

I don’t know about you but if I don’t write it down, it very rarely gets done.  Writing it down makes it real and gives you a visual to focus on.  So write it down and pin it where you can see it.

  1. REDISCOVER YOUR MOTIVATION:

We get motivated when our goals resonate with our soul.  Our goals resonate with our soul when we truly believe in what we are doing.  So not only must you love what you’re doing, but you must also believe and trust wholeheartedly in your ability to do it.

Motivation is the energy that drives your perseverance.  It’s the trigger point inside you that says “YES” and provides the push you need to actually go into action mode.  Motivation lies within us ready and willing to come forward at any given moment.

… who you are is not defined by what you do or even what you’ve done, but rather by all that you are and all that you are capable of doing.

People are often defined by what they do.  But who you are is not defined by what you do or even what you’ve done,  but rather by all that you are and all that you are capable of doing.

And by the way, if you want to follow your passion, you need to be around “like mind and energy.”  In other words, stay away from negative people who drain you of your positive energy and don’t want to see you succeed.

Seek out the people who support you and motivate you to stay focused and keep going.  Seek out the people who perhaps see something greater in you than you may not even see yourself.  These are the people who will help to trigger the motivational energy within.

When you follow your passion, the possibilities are endless.  You need only believe.

Note:  If you would like more information about Lona Alia Duncan and Style Lend, please visit www.stylelend.com.  Thank you.

 

What does Christmas Mean to You?

varga xmas 2014

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

What does Christmas mean to you?

When I was a little girl, I remember looking forward to Christmas with such eager anticipation.  It was such a beautiful time of the year and still is.  Of course, as a kid, I loved the presents I would find under the tree on Christmas morning but it was far more than that.

My mother is a fantastic cook and since we had a large, finished basement and a big family, my aunts, uncles and cousins would often gather at our house.  Looking back, I don’t know how the adults managed a room filled with overexcited and anxious kids.

I remember how my dad used to dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for all the kids, including me.  One look into Santa’s eyes and I always knew it was my father but I never said a word.  Then one year my mom was feeling a bit left out and decided it was her turn to dress up as Santa!  We all laughed wholeheartedly, my mother’s “Ho. Ho. Ho,” gave her away.

My mother would make the traditional Italian fish dinner on Christmas Eve and a host of other Italian favorites on Christmas Day like homemade manicotti.  Those were such happy times.

Looking back what I miss most of all were all the beautiful memories I made with my family and friends.  When we are young and carefree we live more in the moment and don’t worry or think too much about the future.  But now that I’m in the future, I realize just how precious those times really were. You see my family has gotten much smaller since then.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have passed on.  Although I know they will always be with me in spirit, I miss them in the flesh.

I only wish that I could have one more opportunity to share the laughter and those cherished happy times.  Oh, what I wouldn’t do for one more time.   One more hug.  One more chance to say “I love you.”

If I could go back in time, I would do so many things differently.  I would take more time hanging the decorations and trinkets on the tree with my family.  I would sit on my father’s lap a little longer and hug a little more. I would make more time.  More time for family.  More time for friends.  More time to be still and simply enjoy the moment.

Since my Godmother Lucy had no children, I was her “adopted” daughter.  I called her my second mother.  We did everything together.  She would help me write my letters to Santa and hang my stocking on Christmas Eve.  Lucy passed of a heart attack in February 2010.  I hope she knows how much she meant to me.  I hope she knows how precious those times were and how much I love her.  I only wish I had realized it sooner.    Maybe I would have told her I love her a thousand more times.

When my Uncle Angelo passed away, my cousin Vito stood up in church and made such a moving tribute to his father.  He looked at all of us sitting in the pews and reminded us that we all had the love we shared and no one, absolutely no one could ever take that away from us.  Absolutely true.

Some of my family members and friends may have passed on but the love is still very much alive.  As I so often say, love never, ever dies.  It is the one thing we take with us from this life into the next.  The love is still very much there.  In fact, the memories are there for me to unwrap anytime I need one.    And if you are one of the many missing a loved one this holiday season, do just that.  Reach within your heart and unwrap a precious memory.

Truthfully, I still look forward to Christmas with utter excitement.  It brings out the child forever inborn in me.  But I don’t look forward to the presents under the tree as much as I once did.  As I’ve aged and learned, I’ve realized that Christmas is less about the presents and more about the kisses under the mistletoe.  It’s less about that often regretted fruitcake and more about spending quality time with family and friends.

The other day my daughter Lia told me that she loves the Christmas season and asked, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” My response was, “Lia, I already have everything I want.  I just want to spend time with my family and friends.”  She responded with one of her priceless, million dollar hugs.

Someday I hope my two daughters will be able to look back at all the happy times. I hope their hearts will be filled with fond memories to warm them and comfort them for a lifetime.

What does Christmas mean to you?  These days it has become so commercialized that people seem to forget that we are actually celebrating the birth of Christ.

As you go through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Take note of all the things you have to be grateful for.  Take a moment to appreciate the family and friends in your life and the love in your heart.  May you live in the moment and realize that every day is truly a gift.

To my family and friends, I love and cherish you and always will.  Wishing you all happy times, endearing memories and love.  Happy Holidays!

 

william fechter

This blog is dedicated in memory of a friend and contributor to my books, William Fechter.  Thank you for your unwavering support, William.  I am blessed to have called you my friend.  You will forever be remembered. 

Momma Bella and an Angel From Above

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

–Luciano de Crescenzo

mommabellapic

One of the questions that I am often asked is if there is a God why hasn’t He answered my prayers?  It’s hard not to ask this during times of suffering and it’s, of course, natural to want God to answer our prayers.  But if you really think about it, it’s not possible for Him to answer every single prayer.

Why? When you were little and you asked your parents for something dangerous, their answer was, “No.”  And sometimes God’s answer is “No.”  As hard as this is for all of us to accept, there are times that we just can’t have what we pray for.  Other times, His answer is not now.  Soon, but not now. And, sometimes the answer is, of course, “Yes.”

God, Supreme Being, Higher Power or however you choose to refer to Him, sees the bigger picture at all times and has greater plans.  We all serve a purpose here on Earth and when that purpose is met, we go home.

Pain and suffering have caused me to question my faith on many occasions.  But it is due to anger.  Having to go through a tough time or a rough patch in life doesn’t change God.  He is still there just like before.  But at times He is not there the way that we would like.  We are here for spiritual growth through life lessons and God will not grant us things that will interfere with our purpose.

I always tell people that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes we are put in someone’s path for a reason and other times we are the answer to their prayers and don’t even realize it.  Recently, I made reservations at a local Italian restaurant for my mom’s birthday.  The owner, Claire, had asked me to come to the restaurant several times and she was having Italian entertainment that evening and I knew my parents would enjoy it.

Less than two hours before our reservation time, my mom called me to cancel saying that my father wasn’t feeling well.  Although I was disappointed that my parents could not make it, I felt as though I could not cancel the reservation.  I told my husband, “I don’t know John.  I think we should still go.  We can take my parents out to dinner another night.”

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by Claire.  We hugged and chatted briefly and then she told me that she wanted me to meet her mother in law.  I walked over to the table as she introduced us.  “This is Josie.  Her parents are from Italy, too.  She writes books.”

Claire then looked back at me and said, “My mother in law wrote a book, too.”  I smiled at her mother in-law extending my hand which she took in hers.  “Really?” she said softly with her unmistakable Italian accent.  “Come here.  Sit down.”

Claire left us to attend to other customers.  I was immediately touched by this woman’s warm demeanor yet I could see the pain of loss in her aging eyes.  “So tell me,” I asked.  “What is your book called?”  At first I thought I had misunderstood her when she answered, “An Angel From Above.”  The book, she explained, took years to finish as she had handwritten the book in Italian and it was later transcribed into English by her family.  Now, she really had my attention and I pressed her to tell what the book was about.

She looked up at me, “Maybe you won’t understand.  But I lost my son, Carmelo.  I have received signs from him.”  I smiled saying, “Oh, I do understand.  I’m Josie Varga, the author of Visits from Heaven. Please tell me what happened.”

What followed was a heartbreaking story about how this woman, Marfisa, lost her 15-year old son after he was hit in the head during football practice.  Her eyes watered as she recalled what happened.  She explained how she was so distraught after her son’s death that she no longer wanted to live.  She would stay in her room with the blinds shut and said she was skin and bones as she ate little just to please her family.

Her son, she told me, always called her Momma Bella which means beautiful mother in Italian.  Early one morning while lying in bed she heard a comforting voice say, “Momma, Momma.”

The following is the rest of the story as written in her book (An Angel From Above/Star Investment Strategies/pages 296-297):

I tried opening my eyes to see who was calling and heard it again. 

But this time it said, “Momma Bella, Momma Bella.  It’s me.  Your angel, Carmelo.” Quickly, I tried contemplating whether or not that comforting voice was truly his.

I swiftly responded, “Carmelo, beautiful angel, is that you? Is it really you?  Carmelo, my heart and life? It is you angel.  I can hear you.  Is this a dream? No, it’s not a dream. I’m awake. Wide awake.”

And in saying this, I heard his sweet voice again, “Yes, Momma Bella. It’s not a dream. It’s me. Your Carmelo, your angel.”

I sat up in bed and gazed upon him, seeing my loving son. His eyes shined like two stars. He hugged me tightly and I felt his arms around me. I firmly embraced him and didn’t want to let go.  I wanted to hold him close forever.  I heard his heart beating next to mine and could smell the scent of his skin. That familiar pleasant odor gave me the strength to live and filled me with joy.

I excitingly proclaimed, “Carmelo, my angel.  I can hear you.  I hear you inside my heart.  Is it really you, Carmelo?”

“Yes, Momma Bella. It’s me.  I hear you, too.  I’m alive.  I’m not dead.”

I felt his beautiful hands caressing me with sweetness. It was Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and God sent me my son. He continued caressing me like a mother caresses her young.  I didn’t want that joy and tenderness to ever end.  I wish I could’ve always been held by my son like that.

He stated, “I came to you, Momma Bella, because God sent me to tell you that I am alive with Jesus. I’m not dead.  You, Momma Bella, must be strong in the Lord. Get up from this bed and leave this room now.  Go to church with the others, because I’m alive with Jesus and glorify God.  I am not dead, I am alive.”

Marfisa was overcome with emotion as I reached for her hand to comfort her telling her that she was not alone.  I explained that her story reminded me of a similar story in my book, Visits from Heaven, in which a mother got to hug her deceased daughter.  Marfisa looked at me excitedly.  “Really?”  You have heard of similar stories?  Honestly, it is hard for me to accurately express the moment of joy that I then witnessed in her eyes as she realized that she was no alone in her experience.

She leaned forward to give me a warm embrace as she took my hands in hers, “Josie!” she enthusiastically exclaimed, “You are here for me tonight.  You are here for me, Josie!  I am so happy to have met you.”

I was so deeply touched by her words.  She went on to explain how she wasn’t even going to go to the restaurant that evening but something was telling her to go.  I then explained how my parents had canceled on me and how I felt compelled to come as well.

All the while my husband John and two daughters were sitting at another table wondering what the holdup was.  They actually sent our waitress over to me to take my order because I was so engrossed in my conversation with Marfisa.

Eventually, I made my way over to my family to eat my dinner.  A short time later, Marfisa came over to say goodbye to me as we exchanged phone numbers.  “Please keep in touch, Josie.  I am so happy to have met you.  I love you!  I love you!”

Returning her hug, I told her to remember that love never dies and promised to stay in touch.

Normally, to be honest, it would scare me to have a perfect stranger react to me in this way.  But this was different.  I realized that I had been put there that night for a reason.  I had given this beautiful, kind woman named Marfisa some comfort in knowing that she was not alone.  And I had given her confirmation that her experience was all too real.

I shall never forget that night.  While Marfisa may believe that I was there for her that night, I believe that she was there for me.  I’m grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting her. She touched my heart and reminded me to keep the faith and always remember that one way or another God does answer our prayers.

One week later I attended my nephew’s confirmation and was introduced to the pastor at my sister in-law’s Lutheran Church.  When the pastor heard that I had written a book called Divine Visits, she wanted to know all about it.

“What made you decide to write the book?” She questioned.

“Do you have like five hours?” I asked as we both shared a laugh. I went on to tell her how my husband’s deceased friend came to me with a message for his wife which was later validated.  I wasn’t sure how she felt about the idea of afterlife communication but she seemed to be very interested in my every word.

We chatted for a quite a while and I eventually told her about my recent experience with Marfisa.  Sometimes, I told the pastor, we are the answer to someone else’s prayers and don’t even know it as she nodded in agreement.

The pastor then went on to tell me how she had heard many similar experiences and even heard about another woman who got to hug her deceased loved one.  She then promised to buy Divine Visits saying that she was looking forward to reading it.

To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how the Lutheran Church viewed the idea of visits from heaven, so the pastor’s response brought a smile to my face.  I was happy to have had the pleasure of meeting her as I was yet again left with the feeling that our meeting was meant to be.

The Good Will Prevail

earth-hands

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

  Mahatma Gandhi

 

I must admit the terrorist attacks of the past week have me both heartbroken and afraid.  I have to wonder if this madness will ever end.  But perhaps the question we should be asking is why?  How can we stop these extremists from killing innocent people if they not only believe it’s okay, but that God is telling them to do so?

Last week a gunman opened fire killing a soldier who was guarding Canada’s National War Memorial and then proceeded to enter the parliament building.  The man was a 32-year old Muslim convert.

The next day another Muslim convert attacked four NYPD officers with an ax before being killed by police.  Many believe that these attacks by so called “lone wolves” were spawned by ISIS propaganda on the Internet.  Hackers are even taking over websites and starting groups on Facebook.

Innocent people are being killed in Iraq and Syria simply for refusing to convert to Islam.  Woman are being kidnapped and raped.  Even innocent children are reportedly being beheaded.  It’s hard to imagine such cruelty in this world.  I certainly never thought I’d see atrocities the likes of Hitler in my lifetime.

Adolf Hitler succeeded in convincing a great number of Germans that the Jews were a threat and should be killed by spreading Nazi propaganda and gaining financial support from wealthy businessmen.  I have to wonder how much worse things would have been had the Internet been available then.

It’s truly amazing to me how anyone can justify killing someone in the name of religion.  I don’t care what religion you practice or what God you worship, tell me how an all-loving God would say it’s OK to kill someone?  Countless wars have been fought due to religious intolerance.

These so called “holy wars” have been around for centuries. During the Middle Ages, Jerusalem was governed by Muslims but Christian pilgrimages were allowed. Then in the 1070’s, Turks conquered the Holy Lands and mistreated Christians.   In 1095, Pope Urban II asked for help restoring Christian access to holy places in Jerusalem.  So began the First Crusade and the struggle for control of the Holy Land.

Many died during the Crusades and this religious genocide continues today as innocent people are killed in the name of religion.

During the attacks of September 11th, more than 3,000 innocent people lost their lives—including my husband’s friend and former boss, Rich Lee.  Some of the attackers reportedly yelled, “Allah is the greatest” before the plane hit the Twin Towers.  While there is clearly no one reason for terrorism, we do know that terrorists are driven by a misguided sense of altruism.   Many believe their acts are not only justified but even divinely guided.

Hence they carry out these attacks to instill fear and uncertainty.  They work to instill doubt in our minds and cripple our way of life.  Somehow by making us lose our way and our faith, they hope to bring power to theirs.

Tragically, these extremists don’t seem to understand that there is only one God.  There is no God of Christianity, God of Israel and God of Islam…there is only one God.  So regardless of what we believe and how we choose to worship, we are worshiping the same God.

As an author and researcher, I have written about the afterlife for some time now.  I have never had anyone who had a near-death experience (NDE) tell me that there are separate entrances to Heaven.  There is not one line for Christians and another for Muslims.  We are not singled out and divided.  And we should not be divided here on earth.

Sometimes the greatest lessons come during times of tragedy and pain.  As one we are weak but together we are strong.  We have lost the battle the minute we succumb to fear and lose sight of our faith.

Despite the fact that the news is full of beheadings and images of unspeakable cruelty, we must try to remember that this is not the majority.  Most Muslims do not condone what ISIS is doing. For all those thousands who are trying to instill fear and destroy the freedom that we have grown so accustomed to in America, there are millions upon millions more who want peace in this world and who will do everything possible to make sure it is not taken away.

What we need to try to remember is that there is more good than bad in this world by a vast margin.  Despite this fact, it is hard not to focus on all the negative with so much bad news coming in from different corners of the world…the human genocide in the Middle East, the school shootings here in America, etc.

Over the past several weeks, I have continued to ask myself, what is this world coming to?  But then I realized only we can answer that question with our actions.  Only we can answer that question with our response.  Every action must have a reaction.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” (A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches)  We cannot respond to hatred with hatred. We cannot succumb to fear.  Rather by focusing on the good in this world, the good will prevail.  By focusing on the love we wish to see in this world, only love will prevail.  Love is stronger than hatred and good will forever be stronger than evil.

What’s Wrong with The Golden Rule?

goldrule1

“Study the assumptions behind your actions. Then study the assumptions behind your assumptions.” Idries Shah

Recently, I read a comment on Facebook which made me chuckle, “Before you bitch about my reaction, think about what you did to cause it.”  If you know someone who fits this scenario, raise your hand.  Mine is way up in the air.goldrule2

It amazes me how many people treat others poorly and then get all bent out of shape when the behavior is returned.  Matthew 7:12 (ESV) states, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Why then do so many ignore the so-called Golden Rule?  Well for one, some people are just not as committed to a relationship as we would like to think.  Some want but quite frankly are not willing to give.

The fact is we teach others how to treat us. This also means that we are partly responsible for the mistreatment or abuse we get from others.  OUCH!  That is tough to hear, right? We teach people just how much we are willing to put up with.  Unfortunately, some people will take advantage of those boundaries.

Think of it this way, you are showing people how you want to be treated by how you treat you.  Do you respect yourself? Are you with people who value what you value?  Do you show people that you honor yourself and will not tolerate abuse from anyone who doesn’t?

If you expect someone to be a good friend to you and be there for you, you have to be a good friend in return and be there for them.  Simple, right?  The key word here is “expect.” Although I believe in the golden rule, it does not come without flaws.

When we expect things of others, we are making assumptions about them.  For one, we are assuming that they feel the same way we do.  We are assuming that they want what we want. I love Isaac Asimov’s advice, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

When I graduated from college, I grew increasingly frustrated by my inability to find a job in journalism.  I remember writing a letter to the March of Dimes talking about the changes I felt needed to be made within the disabled community.   This is a nonprofit organization which acts globally sharing the best practices in perinatal health and helping when things go wrong.  In my letter, I wrote, “Empathy not sympathy yields understanding.”  My feeling, simply stated, was that I was not looking for people to feel sorry for me or have sympathy for me.  Instead, I wanted people to empathize with me or put themselves if only for one moment in my shoes.

Thankfully, I did finally land a job in business journalism.  But to be perfectly honest, it would never have happened had it not been for a woman named Denise who gave me that chance. Let me explain.

Denise was leaving her job to take another job as Director of Communications with another association.  We met when I applied for the job she was leaving.  I didn’t get the job but a few months later, I received a call from Denise asking me to interview for a job as her assistant editor.  I did and got the job.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Denise’s former boss did not give me the job because of my so-called “speech impediment.”  She ASSUMED I could not do the job.  Thankfully, Denise saw beyond this and took my resume with her to her new job.  I will eternally be grateful to her for seeing beyond my disability.  I will eternally be grateful to her for putting herself in my shoes and treating me the way she would want to be treated.

The fact is, however, there were many prospective employers before her that did not react the way she did.  Why?  Because some people get it and some don’t.  Everyone is different.  Some people will react the way that you want them too and others won’t.  You can’t make people into what they are not so stop trying to.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know.  I’ve been hurt many times because I expected something from a friend that never happened or assumed something about someone else that simply was not true.  So what’s the lesson here?  Never ASSUME. As they say, “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that’s how it’s spelled (ass-u-me).”

If you don’t assume anything, you will be less likely to expect.  And if we don’t expect, we will be less likely to be hurt by another person’s reactions.  We can’t always control how a person treats us but we have total control over how we react.  Remember, you teach others how to treat you.  If you want to be treated a certain way, command it by treating others the way you want to be treated and settling for nothing less.

I once read a blog which I have to say I had to respectfully agree to disagree.  The author was speaking about simple steps to attract the right people into your life.  While she agreed that we teach others how to treat us, she said relationships that thrive are those which involve people who are alike and speak the same code.  While it’s true that it’s best to be with people who share your core values and beliefs, it’s also OK to be with people who are different.  Opposites attract for a reason.  The key is to honor the positives while also respecting the differences.  Turns out that old rule can be quite golden indeed.

Why, Robin? Why?

robinw

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”   Robin Williams

Robin Williams. Abraham Lincoln. Judy Garland. Demi Lovato. Rosie O’Donnell. Sir Winston Churchill. J.K. Rowling. Billy Joel. Princess Diana. Ah, the rich, the famous….and the depressed.

As news spread about Williams’ suicide on Monday, countless fans around the world couldn’t help but wonder why? Why would a comedic genius, who seemingly has it all, commit suicide? Depression does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life, ethnicities and party lines.

More than 350 million people suffer from depression globally and one in 10 Americans deal with the disease. So if you are surprised by that list of names above, don’t be. That list above could have actually been much, much longer. The fact is depression has nothing to do with what’s going on outside (fame, fortune, etc.) and everything to do with what is going on inside.

It is commonly said that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are thousands of neurotransmitters in the brain that transmit signals from one neuron to another. It is said that too much or too little of these endogenous chemicals can lead to depression. While this is true, let’s be honest. It is much deeper than that. Many other scenarios can trigger mood swings including loss of a loved one, stress, loneliness and certain medications.

Although more research has been done than ever before, there is still a lingering stigma associated with depression. Many are embarrassed to admit they suffer from the disease and it continues to be significantly misdiagnosed and untreated.

Why are people afraid to talk about it? My husband and I had a hard time conceiving. After several doctor visits and the use of fertility drugs, I finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in February 2000. Only, I wasn’t happy and suffered from post-partum depression.

Finally, I was holding the baby that I begged God for and I was depressed? How dare I feel this way? Why? It took me a long time to admit that I had a problem and thankfully it went away after a few months with the help of family and friends.

I can only imagine what was going through Robin Williams’ mind. It’s certainly not easy being in the public eye. The public has certain expectations and you feel an obligation to uphold that image, even if it’s not the real one. Take Williams, for example, here he is one of the most beloved comedians of all time. He made a living making people laugh. Can you imagine how hard it was for him to admit that he was suffering from severe depression? Perhaps, he felt it would hurt his career and his public image. Perhaps, he felt ashamed.

In a 1995 interview with the BBC, Princess Diana spoke openly about her bouts with depression. “When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen,” she said. “You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for … I didn’t like myself; I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.”

According to WHO (World Health Organization), depression is the leading cause of disability globally.  It is also a major killer, through suicide.  The question then becomes not why someone as famous as Robin Williams would commit suicide but rather how we can learn from his death and what we can do about it.   True, in life Williams made America laugh.  But, in death, hopefully he will make us better understand the disease and know that it is not something to be ashamed of or feared.  Hopefully, more and more people will know that they are not alone.  Hopefully, more and more will seek help.

Williams sat down for an interview with James Lipton for an episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” in 2001.  Lipton asked, “If heaven exists, what would you like God to say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

To this, Williams responded, “There’s seating near the front. The concert begins at 5.  It’ll be Mozart, Elvis, and one of your choosing.  Or if heaven exists to know that there is laughter.  Just to hear God go ‘two Jews walk into a bar.’”

His wife, Susan Schneider, had one request as she sked for privacy in dealing with her grief, “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

My heart goes out to his family and friends.  Thank you for the laughs, Robin.  You will long be remembered.  And by the way, heaven does exist.  Only now, there is much more laughter.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers