SEEDS REPLANTED

Photo by Jude Beck

Never forget the world at this moment

Take nothing for granted ever again

Let your hearts be not silent

As the memories of these days remain

 

As we get through this

Remember only what truly counts

Family, friends, a handshake, a hug, a kiss

Precious gifts, may we recount

 

Life’s many pleasures

Dinner, shopping, dancing . . .

Appreciate all those simple treasures

Love and romancing

 

Once taken for granted

Now gone in an instant

The seeds seemingly unplanted

Now so precious, yet distant

 

A walk on the beach

On a warm summer day

Once within reach

Now all kept at bay

 

We shall rise

Stronger than ever before

Amidst the uncertainty and cries

Footprints left upon the shore

Seeds replanted

A testament to all that we adore

Love is the Bridge

“I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.”
Roy Croft

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Everyone knows the words to this now infamous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’m sure we’ll be hearing them a lot more.

liabrooklynbridge

My beautiful daughter Lia Varga on the Brooklyn Bridge/Photo by Larry Yu

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the expressions of love and gratitude.  My husband still makes my heart skip a beat when he walks in carrying a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and my ears will never tire of hearing the words, I love you.  While my arms will be forever grateful for his embrace, however, I expect and want these expressions of love every day of the year.

Valentine’s Day has long been recognized as a day when we can show our appreciation and express our love.  Many believe this is best shown through big gestures like expensive jewelry and romantic getaways.  However, several studies have continually shown that the small, repeated gestures are what matter most.  Not surprisingly, researchers also found that people prefer behavioral actions over verbal expressions.

As I often say, words are cheap if your actions don’t follow suit.  The small little things we do are what help us to feel loved and appreciated every day and this applies to both romantic and platonic relationships.  It’s important to feel loved, wanted, and needed by all the significant others in your life.  Those little gestures that say, Hey, I’m here for you, I care about you or I still love you, are important to any relationship because they keep the bond of love going.

Recently, I went out to dinner with one of my closest friends, Karen.  We have been friends since high school (Yes, a very long time!).  Over dinner, we were talking about our high school years and I recounted how she bought me a new pair of sneakers with her very first paycheck.  Karen looked over at me and laughed asking, “How do you remember these things?”

At the time, I only smiled at her in response.  The truth is, though, I remember because those little gestures and those beautiful moments have left footprints on my memory.  I remember because each gesture, each memory has left an imprint on my heart.  And when the day comes for me to leave this Earth, there they will forever remain.

Naomi Judd’s career came to an abrupt end in 1991 after she announced she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.  The announcement was made in the midst of their Love Can Build a Bridge Tour at a time when the Judds were at the high point of their career.  Thankfully, she is now doing well and has since resumed some concert tours with her daughter Wynonna.

“Love Can Build a Bridge,” written as a heartfelt farewell song to her fans, won Naomi an Emmy.  Speaking of her mother, Wynonna said, “This next song represents the 10 years I spent on the bus with my queen.  Those were some of the best years of my life; I just didn’t know it back then.  But looking back, I now realize more than ever that the history we made together was a true miracle.”

(Wynonna Judd singing “Love Can Build a Bridge”)

Beautifully said, Wynonna.  I, too, have a fond memory with my mother on the bus.  My mother took the day off from work to accompany me on a school trip to the Bronx Zoo when I was in first grade.  I can still remember how proud I was to be sitting next to her as she sat holding my hand.  Like you, I was too young to realize just how precious those moments truly are.

Love cannot only build a bridge.  Love is the bridge.

 

 

Three Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

― T.S. Eliot

new-years-day-4157632_1280 (2)Nothing will teach you more than the book of life.  As I reflect over the past year and look forward to 2020, I am reminded of some hard lessons I wish I had taken more seriously a year ago.

  1. Nothing will change you like pain will.

In April I was walking to my car and ended up tripping over a crack in the broken sidewalk. Putting out my right arm to brace my fall, I had gotten away with a cut on my knee and a scrap on my right hand.  As I drove home, my arm and shoulder grew increasingly painful.  I didn’t think much of it, though, and simply iced it.  After about two weeks, the pain seemingly went away.

The following month I was making a U-turn in a tight driveway and felt a snap in my right shoulder followed by piercing pain.  After about an hour, the pain subsided so I assumed I had just pulled a muscle.  Since that day, my shoulder would continue to hurt every time I moved in a certain way. Then in August, I woke up in such excruciating pain that I was rushed to urgent care.

To make a very long story short, I was misdiagnosed by two doctors and spent two months in physical therapy before going to another shoulder specialist who found a huge calcium growth in my rotator cuff tendon.  I had surgery on November 21, I’m still recovering and now have what is known as frozen shoulder. I have not felt so much pain in a long time and the experience has certainly put me behind on my work.

2019 definitely dealt me some rough cards but I was also reminded time and time again not to ever take things for granted.  To put things in perspective, I could not even brush my hair for several weeks and I needed help just pouring myself a cup of coffee.  Nothing will teach you to appreciate the simple things in life then not being able to do the simple things anymore.

Lesson learned:  Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate!

  1. Make moments; cherish the memories.

Let’s face it.  Life can be hard.  Sometimes we spend so much time working and getting through the daily grind that we forget to make time for the things that matter most.  In July, I lost a beautiful friend to cancer.  Rosemary was a renowned author and afterlife researcher and we became fast friends.  We talked about all the things we wanted to do together that never happened.

Looking back, I wish I didn’t put things on hold.  We all think that we’ll have tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Part of the problem is that we often associate who we are with what we do.  Our work becomes our identity and it becomes increasingly difficult to separate a rewarding career from a fulfilling life.

You are not your work.  Yes, what we do for a living is part of our identity but it is not our identity entirely.

Lesson learned: Make more time. Make more moments.

  1. Put yourself first. Be honest.

This one is a difficult one for me to admit but nonetheless very true.  I spend so much time trying to be there for everyone else that I often neglect myself.  Time and again I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.  Recently, I read a quote by Penny Reid which said, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”  Well said, Penny.

Putting yourself first and foremost also means being honest with yourself.  It’s not easy to admit that you actually are setting yourself on fire at the expense of others.  Take a good look at your life and the people in it.  What do you see?  Part of being honest and putting yourself first also means taking responsibility. Don’t play the blame game. You are where you are now because of every decision—right or wrong—you made in the past.  Own up to your mistakes and move on.

Lesson learned:  Make yourself a priority.

Last year’s mistakes are this year’s lessons.  May we learn, discover and treasure the moments.

CHANGE IS NOT EASY, BUT NECESSARY

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama

A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus wisely said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Just look around you—nothing stays the same; even the human body is in a constant state of flux as it replaces dying cells in the body.

ross-findon-303091-unsplash (1)We all know change is inevitable but that doesn’t make it easy.  In fact some of us down right hate change and do everything possible to resist it and keep the status quo.  It’s much easier to do things out of habit anyway.  It’s much easier to do what’s familiar. Change means uncertainty and treading in unfamiliar territory.  Doing things the same or out of habit means control.  Daily routines make things easier. We do these routines without even having to think about them.  Changing the way we do anything requires effort, time and the willingness to overcome the fear of the unknown.

That is huge hurdle for some to get past but it’s also the only way to continued growth and learning.  The late Dr. Leo Buscaglia, a well-known author, teacher and lecturer, said that change was the end result of true learning.  He believed only through change could we learn and experience real growth. “As experienced human beings we must certainly believe in one more thing than anything else—we believe in change,” he wrote.  He went on to explain that if we don’t like where we are, we can always create a new scene.

Stepping into this new scene may no doubt be scary but it’s sometimes the only pathway to realizing new relationships, taking advantage of wonderful opportunities and truly feeling self-fulfilled and happy.

Looking back over my own life, I’ve made countless changes.  I’ve realized over the years that although some were not the right decisions to be made, all were purposeful.  In other words, I’ve learned from my decisions; I’ve learned from those changes.  Whether or not it was the right decision for me did not matter.  None were without lessons to be learned.

I was once working for a nonprofit association as Director of Communication and Editor.  My job afforded me the opportunity to travel and meet wonderful people.  I also loved the people that I worked with.  It was my safety net away from home.  Although I felt safe and secure, I felt like I needed to make a very difficult change.

This change allowed me to work independently as a communications consultant and eventually gave me the chance to realize a dream and publish my first book.  I went on to have two beautiful daughters and today I’m working on my seventh title.

I’ve sometimes wondered what my life would be like today had I not taken the leap of faith and stepped out of my comfort zone.  Sure, it would have been easy to stay in a job I loved and was comfortable doing.  But I also know that I would have missed out on so many priceless opportunities; I would have missed out on so many beautiful memories. None would have been possible without my embracing change.

You can’t get where you want to go, however, unless you have a clear view of where you are going.

Our habits and everything we do on a daily basis literally change the very makeup of our brains.  The brain is very habit driven and truthfully doesn’t care whether something is good or bad for you.  It only wants to make the neural networks we use all the time stronger so that the brain can function more efficiently.  But you do know what’s good for you.  You do know what’s bad for you.  Only you can know what changes are necessary in your life and only you can put those changes in motion.

WHAT DOES “HAPPY” MEAN TO YOU?

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” Denis Waitley

Over the past few weeks, I’ve wished many of my family and friends a Happy New Year!  Who wouldn’t want happiness in 2019, right?  The question is, however, what does “happy” mean to you?happywoman

My daughter Erica is a student at the University of Maryland.  Last semester she took a course in Positive Psychology which involved weekly exercises.  She would text me questions like, “Mom, what would make you happy today or what are you most grateful for?  She would ask me to meditate on a positive thought and report back on how I felt afterwards.

My husband and younger daughter also took part in these happiness exercises.  While I did find them helpful, I was also reminded that the definition of happiness is not exactly universal.  Sure, if you look the word happiness up in the dictionary, you’ll find things like a state of well-being and good fortune or a pleasurable experience.  However, my definition of a state of well-being may not align with your own.

So, I ask again, what does being happy mean to you?  Asking yourself this question forces you to take the time to focus on what’s important to you.  And your answers will change depending on what’s going on in your life.  As an example, my oldest hasn’t been feeling well over the past few months.  She recently had several tests done and will now be visiting with a specialist.

If you ask me what happiness means to me right now as I sit here typing this blog, it’s knowing that my daughter is going to be OK.  Of course, I’ve always wanted my children to be healthy and well but it is of even more importance to me now.  Knowing that my children are happy and well provided for gives me immeasurable  inner peace.  So, again, the definition of happiness is not exactly universal.  What makes me happy may not have any effect on your happiness level whatsoever and that’s perfectly alright.  The key is to know what you want and what’s most important to you.  What is it that will bring out positive feelings and emotions?

But as you do some soul searching in 2019, keep in mind that being happy does not mean the absence of negative emotions.  We all go through periods of fear, stress or sadness, for example.  And if we allow it, those negatives will eventually take over.  Using myself as an example, of course, I’ve been concerned about my daughter.  However, at the same time, I know I have so much to be grateful for in my life.  The love that I feel for my family and friends fosters feelings of joy and gratitude. No matter what the circumstances in our lives, there is always something to be grateful for.  You need only to take the time to look for it.  And when you look, you’ll find it within.

Why?  Here are a few tips to remember:

  1. Happiness is A CHOICE. Be mindful of your choices.
  2. Happiness is about GRATITUDE. Focus on what you do have and not what you don’t have.
  3. Happiness CAN’T BE BOUGHT. Material things bring us pleasure, not happiness.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.”  The key to her wise response is that she describes happiness as a feeling, not a thing.  A feeling that can only come from taking a deep look within.

Wishing you a very Happy 2019!

Stop and Notice

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

Gratitude is the state of thankfulness.  It means counting your blessings and appreciating the simple things.  Appreciating the good in life, however, can’t happen without first allowing yourself the time to stop and notice them.

thank-you-362164_1280 (2)On Thanksgiving Day, I gathered with my family at my brother’s house.  At the start of the meal, my sister in-law suggested that we try a gratitude exercise.  Each person at the table was asked to reflect and mention something they were thankful for.  The various responses around the table generated both laughs and happy tears.

My oldest daughter Erica is a first-year student at the University of Maryland.  Missing her over the past three months made me truly appreciate her presence at the table.  When it was her turn, Erica, too, mentioned how much she missed us and how happy she was to be back home with her family.   When it was my daughter Lia’s turn to speak, she made many of us cry with her wise, touching words.  Lia will be graduating from high school in June and will join her sister as a college student next year.

“I just want to say thank you,” she said.  “So many of my friends keep saying they want to go far away to college.  Many of them want to go as far as California.  But I don’t want to go too far away.  I want to be able to come home and it’s because of all the people in this room.  Thank you for making me not want to go far away.”

It was certainly a proud moment for me.  Many beautiful things were said as we made our way around the table that day.  Doing this exercise forced us to stop and be mindful of the present moment while expressing our thanks for something in our life.  This is not to say that we didn’t have bad things going on.  We all do.

On average, people experience more positive than negative.  Yet, unfortunately, it’s the negative that gets more attention.  Why?  Simply put our brains are developed to react more strongly to negative stimuli rather than positive ones.  Scientists report that this is the brain’s automatic response in order to keep us out of harm’s way. The brain’s heightened sensitivity to focus on the bad is automatic and therefore concentrating on the positive requires more conscious effort.

Fortunately, it’s an effort well worth making. There are, of course, countless benefits to positive thinking.  Just to name a few, positivity strengthens the body’s immune system, reduces stress, improves relationships, and increases our overall well-being and happiness.

As we made our way around the table on Thanksgiving, we were all dealing with ups and downs, good and bad.  But for that single moment we took the time to stop and savor the positive.  In that instant, we made a conscious choice to appreciate life’s many blessings.

Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of the holiday season.  For some “Tis the season to be jolly” but for others it’s the start of stressful times and financial worries. While some things are beyond are control, we are always in total control of our thoughts. It’s a choice that we make in any given moment.

As Roy T. Bennett once said, “Life becomes easier and more beautiful when we can see the good in other people.”

Thank you.

To Be Or Not To Be . . . Divorced

heartinthesandEvery couple needs to argue now and then. Just to prove that the relationship is strong enough to survive. Long-term relationships, the ones that matter, are all about weathering the peaks and the valleys.”Nicholas Sparks

Statistics have shown that between 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The rate is even higher for those who remarry with 67 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages ending in divorce. There are a host of reasons why marriages end. Money issues, infidelity, and stress are just a few.

When I was young, I spent a long time wondering when I was going to meet Mr. Right. Now that I’ve just celebrated my 22-year anniversary with my husband John, I can tell you that I don’t believe there is any such thing. The reason for my shift in perspective is simple. I’m not the same person I was 22 years ago and neither is he.

When we chose our wedding song, Beautiful in My Eyes by Joshua Kadison, I never realized then how true the words would become:

“The world will turn
And the seasons will change
And all the lessons we will learn
Will be beautiful and strange
We’ll have our fill of tears
Our share of sighs
My only prayer is that you realize…
You’ll always be beautiful in my eyes”

Through marriage or any relationship, the world will definitely turn and the seasons will change. And through all those changing seasons (raising children, dealing with job losses, health issues, etc.) it is common to fall in and out of love. The trick is to remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.

According to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), most divorce cases in the US are due to a lack of communication. This breakdown in communication then leads to infidelity and a multitude of other issues. Logically, then, if you want to keep your marriage going or that spark lit so to speak, you need to keep the lines of communication open.

Sometimes couples become so engrossed in being a parent to their children as responsibilities grow that they forget they are also a wife or a husband to their spouse. So, again, the trick is to remind yourself why you got together in the first place. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make an Effort: Marriage or any relationship is a two-way street. If you want to keep the relationship going, you have to show your partner that you still care by making an effort. Go on a date, surprise your wife with flowers, cook your husband his favorite meal, or just call to say I love you.
  2. Listen: You might read this one and say, “I do listen.” Do you?   Listen to what your spouse or partner has to say first and then voice your opinion or concern. Try to understand where they are coming from.
  3. Revisit Memorable Moments: A good way to recreate that spark or rekindle that loving feeling is to revisit memorable, happy moments. Go back to the place where you first met or your favorite restaurant while dating. Play your wedding song. Go on a second honeymoon. The list is endless.
  4. Do Something for YOU: You can’t love someone else if you don’t feel good about yourself. Don’t lose sight of what is important to you or what makes you happy.
  5. Be Honest: This might seem simple but it’s actually not. I’m not just talking about being honest with your partner. I’m also talking about being honest with yourself. Some marriages and relationships lasts, others don’t. When is enough, enough? Only you can answer that question.

 

Notice I didn’t mention intimacy or sex in the five tips above. Yes, maintaining intimacy is extremely important. Sex is important. But obviously if the feelings aren’t there, there is no intimacy; there is no desire for sex. So, again, try to remember why you fell in love in the first place.

People often say that they need someone to make them feel complete. The truth is, however, you are the only one who can make yourself feel complete. It is normal and necessary for a couple to grow and change after so many years of marriage. The challenge is to continue to find things to love about each person you become.