Michaelangelo’s David, vam.ac.uk

Before I turn the spotlight on men, I want to offer two bits of context. First, my Post for today is from a ‘binary’ perspective. Limited, I know, but there it is. And second, I need to give a fact-based “nod” (you’ll see how it relates, promise) to women. Author Gita Patel (2013) compiled extensive research-based data about how uniquely qualified women are considered in global business and overall professional settings. Women are valued in the corporate world as being more “people-based”, “democratic and participative”,  and more “inclusive”.

womankind.org.uk

The stunner (for me, anyway):  Patel’s research reveals that women were “rated more competent in taking initiative, practicing self-development, integrity and honesty, as well as for being results-driven.” These are generally considered more masculine attributes in many societies.

Which leads me (and other Readers, I imagine) to wander – mentally – into the territory of Power, and what it means to men and women. But since this Post is In Praise of Men, that’s where I’m headed.

Social psychologists (pop, or legit) have always regarded Power as a key driver in the male psyche. Personal power. Professional power. Feeling a degree of control and influence over internal and external happenings. As I think about the men (surrounded by them while growing up) in my life — the energy, aspirations and drive…the tension, aggression and occasional acting-out – this makes so much sense. Maybe it was because I was the only girl in a crowd of brothers, but my father liked to ‘school’ me about males. Paraphrasing here, my own father (a stern, strong, stoic) said that, despite how single-minded they can appear (trying to address the need to find, and hold on to Power), most men need and deserve compassion and, most importantly, praise. No matter how gruff, ego-centric or stoic they appear (of course, Dad was also referring to himself), they are “no match for women and they know it” (a direct quote).

The Red Planet, Mars, independent.co.uk

Men, as author Robert Ardrey implied, have always been – since the days of early man – programmed in certain ways that have become increasingly difficult to act out in today’s world. Since the early days of Feminism, many men have struggled to re-align themselves with the changing needs and perspectives of women.

As a young (single) man in his 30’s recently confided, “You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”. Too emotionally attuned to your girlfriend’s needs? She ghosts you for a Bad Boy. Too focused on your career and establishing yourself (trying to find your own balance of power in the corporation)? She accuses you of not valuing the relationship and your future together – she suddenly wants to marry and start a family.

psychologytoday.com

Yesterday I was out and about and had to stop in for a shot of espresso to fortify myself for another few hours. A man was coming out of the bistro as I was entering. I reached for the door handle, which he already had a hold of on his side. Our eyes met. Not for the first time, I saw the tentativeness in the man’s expression as he prepared to hold the door open for me. As I tell my millennial son, “Your mom raised you right.” It’s not that I needed the door opened for me, being perfectly able-bodied to do so myself. It’s that the man chose to open the door, in gallant fashion. (Personal experience note:  Southern men will always open doors for women.) This was his choice, and I allowed it.

It’s not just ‘gallantry’ that I appreciate in men – far from it. It’s more the way they’ve continued to evolve and find their correct and comfortable place in confusing situations. As a woman, I encourage and embrace men: “Welcome to our world.” That’s just a small part of my role on Planet Earth.

La Tour Eiffel:
independent.co.uk

I notice and appreciate any kind of advertising that credits consumers with being able to react and respond to cleverness and wit. Especially when use of language (not just catchy music or jingles) involves more creativity than just repetitive slogans. There’s a popular clothing company, brick and mortar and (of course) online that has adopted a phrase that the French would call a “double entendre” —  double-meaning in English. The phrase is in fact in French, “Bien Fait”, and can translate as ‘well-made’ or ‘well-done’ (as in an accomplishment, not a piece of meat). Bien Fait is clever because it implies that the clothing and accessories made by the company are of quality. But it also slyly compliments the purchaser on her taste in selecting whatever item(s) from the company.

Golden Gate Bridge: jigsawpuzzlesdirect.co.uk

Which got me thinking recently, how important, yet how rare positive recognition can be in our society. I’m speaking specifically of Life in California, which I’ll acknowledge may not be similar to Life anywhere else on planet Earth – in terms of our social interactions. In fairness to my home state, however, this phenomenon may actually be more of a Big City affliction. I think of it as an affliction because, very often, there’s a deliberate effort in our personal interactions as well as professions to refrain from too much positive affirmation. Compliments. Praise. Recognition. Aside from promotions and pay bumps, how often do people in positions of power extend meaningful ‘kudos’:  eye contact, a smile, a handshake or pat on the shoulder; a Thank You ?

independent.co.uk

I have colleagues who, for one reason or another, have been unable to find employment in the field of organizational consulting or human resources in California. But other states in the U.S. are more than happy to hire them. These other states have lured my friends with higher salaries and better benefits. But more importantly, my erstwhile colleagues report feeling enthusiastically welcomed and treated like rare professional “gems” by companies outside of California.

Closer to home, I’ve observed that in both personal and professional settings, many people are almost hyper- judicious in their praise and gratitude for hard work. Why is this? We’ll “gush” over a new baby or a new puppy, but perhaps not so enthusiastically recognize a fellow human who creates or receives a standout moment in his or her life. Are we jealous? Are we in the belief that offering recognition or praise somehow compromises our own ‘standing’, in relationship to the person who’s experienced a triumph? Do we let our egos get in the way, when someone deserves and would really flourish with a “Well-done!”  from us?

canstockphoto.co.uk

I’m often in a hurry and distracted by my various projects. I’ll admit that I have to make a conscious effort to slow down, make eye-contact, and offer authentic gratitude and praise to those who make my life easier; and to those who’ve accomplished meaningful growth or tasks, large or small, in or outside of my immediate purview. I can see what a difference a simple “nod” can make, in the way even strangers’ faces light up; their shoulders relax, and they smile. They feel, for a second, connected and included through their value. Bien Fait.

tuigarden.co.nz

As I travel about my city running errands, I notice what many people also see – so many businesses laying out change-of-season reminders, enticing us to buy the decorations that help everyone enjoy the seasons and holidays more fully. That’s the idea, anyway. Not that we need reminding that, here in the Northern Hemisphere, kids have gone back to school, the weather is (or soon will be) changing, days growing darker much earlier. It’s definitely a change I believe we all intuit. For some, the feeling heralds a slow slog to Holiday times they’d really rather leap-frog over entirely. For others, the frenzied Holiday season can’t come soon enough.

As I go into a craft store for a few sewing items, I hurry past the Styrofoam pumpkins, pre-made wreaths and  heavily-scented piles of pine cones. Not that I’m a grumpy “Bah, to the holidays !” type of person. I just don’t want to be rushed into changes before I’m ready.

freeimages.com

It varies from year to year, but I always notice that as our summer season winds down, the light coming through the trees in my yard changes. It becomes softer. Maybe not as cool as I would like it to be (this is California), but definitely a different color and intensity. Buttery and diffuse. The shadows in my yard have a different slant to them somehow. They’ve grown longer and their edges are blurred.

I enjoy living in a place where I can see these subtle differences slowly coming. From the leaves on my Pistache tree blending from green to gold, to the giant Live Oak leaning over my bedroom shedding its acorns that sound like small, hard bombs as they hit the roof.  (A crack on the head from one of those really hurts.)

The new season ushers in changes in me, which is why I like the process to be leisurely and peaceful. I just had my birthday. I’m taking stock of ‘where I am’ in terms of Living My Best Life. Whether or not I’ve written down the goals I’ve had for myself throughout the year (which I measure by birthday-to-birthday, not December 31 to January 1), I know in my heart where I stand. I look at the half-finished redo of my rose garden (it suddenly got too hot and I lost interest). I look at the recipes I’ve torn out of magazines but never tried (as I opted for one-skillet meals while finishing my dissertation).

gettyimages.co.uk

The lists of projects that seemed exciting in late winter and early spring were over-taken by complicated personal relationships and family members needing so much more from me this year —  for some reason. As the days grow shorter, I feel quieter in my soul. I feel “ok” with what I did, and didn’t accomplish in My Year. I look forward to the cooler, darker fall and winter months as a time of rest, integration, and renewal. I ease into this time, sensing that it’s meant to be slowly savored, just as the tasty morsels of lovingly-prepared food delights, as well as nourishes. All of the Distractions that hover nearby will need to wait just a bit, while I watch the bright yellow finches scuffling at the feeder, to fatten themselves up for winter, charming me with their odd little voices

sohotravel.me

Heads-up: This Blog Post is all about body issues related to women going through Transitions. But just in case my younger Readers think they should probably “pass” on this one, I’m here to tell you that I underwent ‘menopause’ (after an extremely stressful life event) at age 40. So, changes can happen anytime.

onhold.on.ca

Another heads-up:  This Post is going to provide some straight talk about what our bodies do and why, as we age. So, anyone thinking that they might be unhappily ‘triggered’ by brutal honesty (with suggestions, I promise!), please proceed with caution. I am not a medical doctor, nor am I related to one. I do have a few friends who are doctors, but I didn’t consult them on this topic. This Post is based on my own experiences, observations, research and discussions with friends. It’s also going to offer how I Ditched the Rectangle.

What’s the ‘Rectangle’ I’m referring to? It’s the body shape that many women develop over time. We lose our waists by gathering a little padding in our upper backs, hips and tummies. So, from the back view, we look like rectangles from the hips up. Now, this might not be a big deal to some women, but not having a waist anymore…? Well, I wasn’t having it, so to speak.

cachestoreoffood.com.au

How did my ‘rectangle’ develop? It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t ever related to being overweight (so my doctor tells me, I’ve always been in the correct ‘range’ for my five feet and ten inches). But happen it did. It crept into my life while I was paying attention to more important things and believing I was behaving myself:   eating healthy food, exercising, and trying to address ever-present stress levels that fluctuated between medium and high. Long-term stress (my life), as I found out  (“What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause”), messes with our hormonal levels. Specifically, with a stress-related hormone called cortisol. Think of cortisol as your favorite, most decadent mac ‘n cheese recipe. Comforting, soothing, stress-relieving. But too much cortisol can create extra fluffiness – around our middles, primarily.

amazon.com

Hormonal balance is, in general – as I learned – the absolute most important factor in staying healthy and looking the way I want to. As our bodies move away (thankfully!) from baby-making, Mother Nature creates shifts in our hormone levels. Most recent medical science advocates not messing with the perfection of this system (in other words, avoiding hormone replacement therapy). For at least ten years, I didn’t listen and grew steadily more out of whack. On my own, I went online to ZRT labs for a test kit. But your doctor can also give you an Rx. I asked my doctor to review the results I got back from ZRT.

So, how did I lose my ‘rectangle’? It. Was. Not. Easy. I began by deciding that I wanted my waist back. Next, I got my hormones straight, with the help of an outstanding Ob/Gyn (like ‘gold’, when you find the right one; took me a minute). I kept exercising (alternating days of walking four miles, with at-home stretching and weights). Hardest of all? I gave up all processed foods, any kind of sugar and…cocktails. The weird thing is, as my body re-gained its equilibrium – hormonally – cravings for low or no-nutrition ‘junk’ went away. I also used my now-favorite Cleanse.

Patience. It doesn’t happen quickly and it takes persistence. But my shape returned (never had, never will be ‘hourglass’, but my waist and hips are no longer one long expanse). I’m also no longer partial to ‘midriff concealing’ blouses and sweaters, or still scandalizing my jeans with a muffin-top. One final word:  when you do get there, maintenance has to become your new religion. No lipo, no freezing, no spanx, no body-tubes. Just you and your beautiful inner strength brought this about.

rand.org

Today, while doing some profession – related reflection on Groups and Group behaviors, I caught myself wrestling with (yet) another erroneous belief. It’s a kind of stereotype-thinking, I suppose, and yet it isn’t. Here’s my problem:  I want to believe; I need to believe that collectives of well-trained and well-educated people share certain important attributes. For example, “All teachers like children”; or, “All financial advisors are honest”; or, All doctors are appropriately knowledgeable.”  My rational mind knows that these statements are sometimes, but not always, true. But there’s an ideal in there somewhere, isn’t there? There’s an expectation that (looking at my own first career) someone who dislikes kids would never choose to become a teacher of children. I mean, why would they? Right? Not so much.

So it was, when I was engaged in group work recently that I had to explore this need I have to trust in a certain ‘standard’ of behavior. Silly, I know. Years of education and training don’t mean that we’re no longer hampered by the Ego’s evil twins:  vanity and insecurity. In fact, sometimes the more elevated we become (with our own accomplishments and academic pedigrees), the more vulnerable we are to The Twins.

insidehighered.com

Collaborating in groups or teams…more expansively, coming together in any kind of relationship where personal and mutual goals are exposed and in plain view…creates a natural push-pull of ideas, needs, desires, and hopes for satisfaction. We all know that, in such instances, effective communication is key. But what if you’re involved with someone who can’t, or won’t talk, let alone express authentic feelings? What if that ‘someone’ sends emails and texts, but avoids actual conversation? And, finally, what if that person is someone you know has ‘both oars in the water’, and so is fully capable of hashing things out without undue ‘drama’?

marieclaire.co.uk

Nowhere is it written that we all have to adhere to The Golden Rule in relationships. The Truth is (in my experience), that someone within the relationship has to take the lead in keeping interactions in a higher-energy place. It’s not fair; it’s not fun  — especially if you’re The One always reaching for harmony and a productive outcome. But taking the high-road is expedient, and satisfying even if the other person (or people) doesn’t / don’t ‘rise’ according to our expectations and our desires. “At the end of the day…”, when your head relaxes into your pillow and you review how you handled yourself in a situation like this, you’ll rest easier. And, if you’re the one who looked for the nearest Exit when someone asked you to ‘engage’ fully and truthfully, tomorrow’s another chance to get it right.

Western astrologers claim that, in addition to the traditional calendar’s New Year (on or about the first day of January), each of us has a personal New Year. Just because it’s mine and uniquely tailored to me, I automatically want to believe in the power of something called my Solar Return. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I believe that a Personal New Year’s celebration makes much more sense than a random date marked by bleary-eyed hangovers and half-hearted resolutions made on 31 December. My Personal New Year is less than one week from today. When it arrives, all the major planets will have scooted back into the same alignment they were in, when Time announces the exact hour and minute of my birth.

Solar Returns, according to astrology, are supposed to be a time when we look back and marvel (shrug, cry, cheer, exhale with relief) at all that’s transpired by virtue of our Personal Work. We take stock of the high and low points we’ve had; we try to integrate the lessons-learned (so as to avoid making the same mistakes), and consider how well we kept to our goals for ourselves, our relationships, our work, our families and our life’s purpose. But the very best part of a personal New Year is the fresh opportunity it presents:  to set new intentions for the coming year; to dream, hope and anticipate with renewed energy.

There’ve been many ‘intangibles’ in my life experience that I fully believe have had meaning and purpose, providing clues of some larger plan.  Experiences that have felt magical and inexplicable, contradicting my tendency toward skepticism, analysis and the need for empirical proof in just about every aspect of daily living. Readers might be able to relate:   when intuition provides happy hunches, or grave warnings; when the urge to call a family member yields the information that s/he was in dire need of comfort; missing a horrific car crash by mere seconds, hearing a voice that says, “Move to the other lane – NOW!” I certainly hope I’m just one of many who’ve trusted completely what really can’t be explained.

There are definitely times when Life seems frustratingly, even excruciatingly random. It’s those moments when disillusionment and cynicism feel like the only normal or rational response to unbearable challenges. Which is why, I think, that when I’m given a ‘gift’ from an unseen hand – a chance to believe in something much bigger than my little circle of human existence – I reach for it, without hesitation. With gusto.

I don’t fully understand the science behind a solar return  and personal new year, but I’m loving the idea of a cosmic party in my honor. I’ll always embrace a chance to begin with a clean slate, with the learning and tools gained through stellar moments, missteps, and total flubs, from the past year. Anything that inspires hope, offers inspiration and gives reason for celebration. I’m so ready:  one year older’s a small price to pay for such a gift.

[All images courtesy gettyimages.com]

I grew up in a household full of males – no sisters, just my mother. But she was six feet tall, and had been pretty much been raised as the “boy” her father (a serious outdoorsman) so desperately wanted. My mother learned to hunt, fish, climb trees, drive a tractor, smoke, drink and cuss right along with my grandfather’s Spanish and Portuguese farm hands. Much to the dismay of my rather proper grandmother who wore corsets, powder, perfume and rouge, and who never in her life wore a pair of trousers. My mother occasionally used makeup and liked to have her hair “done”, but she never let anyone forget her full persona. After leaving her father’s farm, she became a college professor and also wrote dense, sad poetry. The happiest I ever saw her, when I was a child, was when she was fly-fishing:  bouncing in her rubber boots over slick oval rocks, flicking her line, with a Black Gnat attached, like a matador teasing a bull. She always caught her limit of gigantic Rainbow trout.

I came into womanhood about the time that the Women’s Liberation Movement was gathering momentum. The term “male chauvinism” was on almost every girl’s lips. For me, as early as the eighth grade in school (as I wrote in a previous Post), chauvinism was the ‘thing’ that prevented me from wearing pants to school. (Try riding a bicycle, climbing a tree or Jungle Gym in a skirt and petticoat. No boy would do that, exposing his bloomers, am I right?). Social conventions created exclusively for females were being targeted and obliterated by the Feminists of my day. But, and I can recall this very clearly – the goal of our ‘liberation’ at that time was equity. If I chose to wear pants, I could. If I wanted to become a welder or enlist in military service, I could. And, if I did the very same work that a man did, I wanted and expected equal pay. Anything that a man was allowed to do in our society, women of my time wanted the option (which was always the only point of the Movement) to do the same. Of course, that created a Big Scare among men.

Outcries about crazed women trying to emasculate men on a global scale proliferated; coming from both men and more conservative (as in Biblical- framework) women. As with any Movement, things can go out of control. You begin your crusade with ideas that seem reasonable; but as others get involved and exert their own visions and influence, you lose control of the original mission. As a Liberated Woman (which I always felt was my birthright, by the way – despite rampant sexism in my workplace), I’m utterly dismayed by the left-turn in feminist attitudes (I’m inclined to call it a “one-eighty”) that has given traction to the phrase “Toxic Masculinity”.

Kudos to Christina Hoff Sommers – almost exactly four years my senior – who opened a dialogue out about the feminist “detour” (my word) we started to take in the early 1990’s, in her book “Who Stole Feminism?”. Simply stated, Sommers speaks to what the Women’s Liberation Movement was originally about:  Equity. She makes a really important distinction between “gender feminists” versus “equity feminists”. On the most recent HBO series “Real Time With Bill Maher”, Sommers was the lead-off guest on the show.

Sommers

Sommers declares that Toxic Masculinity is suspiciously similar to the divisive extremism we’re seeing in our entire current political and social atmosphere. I wholeheartedly agree with her:  unity through equity was always the primary mission of the original Women’s Movement. I know, because I was there. I listened to Steinem, Friedan, Wolf and others. I read their books and even had discussions with men who generally agreed with our goals.

Women have come a long way in fighting for equal rights, but there’s still a long way to go – especially for women of color and for those wanting to experience Female and Femininity in their own ways. Wherever the struggle takes us next, I’m not willing to draw-lines-in-the-sand, adding to the bellicose atmosphere with negatively-charged epithets. I may not know who “Stole” Feminism; but the “Why” of the theft seems the more important question, and one that’s part of a much bigger disaster-in-progress.

[All images courtesy of gettyimages.com]

Western culture Readers of a certain age might not have grown up with the expression, to “Fly by the seat of your pants”. On its face, it makes no sense. But when my grandmother used it – especially with reference to something I was doing or even thinking about doing – there was no mistaking her disapproval. “Flying by the seat of your pants” is a phrase from aviation history; back in the day when airplane pilots had few navigational instruments and had to rely on their instincts. (Aviation also gave us the phrase, to “wing it”.) Both expressions roughly translate as, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m doing it !”

When I was much younger, I for sure did a lot of “winging it”:  trusting my instincts about what felt true and correct at the time. As I’ve grown older, however, Life has taken on more of a jigsaw-puzzle experience:  a lot of pieces showing up on the table; its just a matter of fitting them all together for the beautiful picture I know is hiding in that jumble of shapes.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy looking at those shapes:  education; career, marriage, family, more education, a left-turn in my career, friendships and deep connections, and travel. Always, lots and lots of travel. Are there any other pieces I haven’t mentioned? Yes:  a home by the sea, good health, grandchildren, abundant love and creativity (whatever those puzzle pieces look like – snippets of a rainbow, I think).

gettyimages

What happens to my mood when the pieces don’t fit together when, and how I think they should? Sometimes I feel as though my Life might be on someone else’s timeline; so, a little frustrated. Why aren’t things coming-together when I want them to? Alana Fairchild, channeler (my word) of all things Rumi, offers a thought that – thankfully – soothes my troubled thoughts most of the time:  “…it’s best to  participate in this Life with much less certainty than the mind would have us believe is needed for Inner Peace. Inner Peace doesn’t come with understanding; it comes with trusting.

Deep in my soul I know that Trust is key to feeling peace in my mind and heart. Trust can translate as, whatever words we choose to use to describe our individual beliefs and hope for this world:  Source energy, God, Buddha, Gaia, Allah – just to name a few. Whatever’s going on, it will all be “ok”. Will it? I’d love to get that in writing.

Klimpt’s “Mother & Child”, bingimages

I think about how difficult Trust can feel, especially when Life is filled with successive hard-knocks. How do we keep getting up and standing, let alone trying our best to move forward, albeit one step at a time? The answer to that question is uniquely personal; but in the midst of my own struggles, and after working with so many damaged children and adults over my many years in public service, I can offer what I’ve seen, heard, and felt. The most at-risk people in the world can and do not only survive, but can eventually thrive. Even without a faith in a deity or higher power, there’s very often an instinctive desire to survive:  to climb up, and out of despair.

The human spirit is amazing in its strength and grace. Peace in mind begins, then, in honoring the living, breathing essence of one’s existence. Life feels fragile, but it’s not accidental. Our primary ‘certainty’, even without full understanding, must be the value of our own lives. We learn to Trust our own beating hearts, regardless of how many times we feel betrayed by others. Peace in mind that can never, despite how complicated or jumbled Life may seem at times, be misguided or misplaced. I’m going to relax in that Peace today, however long it lasts.

Why do people lie? (Rhetorical question, bear with me.)

“I never got your project in my email.”  Yeah, I think you did; I requested a Read Receipt.

“My wife has no clue because I’m such a good actor, but I am so checked out of our marriage.” Trust me:  on some level, she knows.

“Í didn’t eat the last (fill in the blank).” Ok, so it’s you, me and the cat. Has he learned how to open the ‘fridge?

When my son was still a toddler, he thought that by covering his own eyes, he’d be invisible to everyone else in the family. So if he wanted to “hide”, he’d just put his little hands up in front of his face, like the game of peek-a-boo we play with babies. A cloak of immunity (he loved to pull all of the clean linen out of the closet and spread it around the hallway) from discovery and accountability.

Today I was reflecting – as I’m sneaking up on another birth day this month – on the many wonderful ways that age brings not only wisdom of self-knowledge, but common sense. This week, however, I was confronted by both the first and second statements above, made by people who are actually older than I am. So, denial and obfuscation – let’s just call it what it is, dishonesty – is obviously not the sole territory of the young and foolish. Anyone looking for a back door, an escape clause or hatch, a way to be invisible can deploy lying. Lies can be big or small, but they’re all about avoiding exposure. But ‘exposure’ to what? I thought back, to that feeling…

The first professional job I had in my first career (Education) was a high school teacher. I was thrilled to have the job, but apprehensive about being so close in age to my students (I was only 23, and they were between 16 – 18 years old). Despite having graduated from college and having several credentials “under my belt”, I feared being called-out as a fraud. What did that mean? To me, it meant being appraised, and found lacking. Knowledge; poise; maturity; skill:  missing from my repertoire.

I survived my first year of teaching, but learned some hard lessons about being truthful and humble (I told my students I had more experience than I actually did at the time). They learned otherwise.

Why do we lie, or, my favorite, not tell the whole truth in certain situations? As I noted above, this is really a question that most of us know the answer to:  to avoid the nasty consequences we know are coming if we tell the truth about ‘whatever’. The problem with lying, however (unless there’s some kind of pathology in operation), is twofold:  first, the lie seeps into our beliefs about ourselves and almost always causes even more fear and self-doubt; and second, lies tend to proliferate because they become easier to tell.

The man who told me about his clueless wife is totally depressed and wakes exhausted, most mornings at 3 a.m. The woman who told me she didn’t receive my project (despite my receipt that she’d at least opened my email) is developing a growing reputation as a “flake”.

I’m not holding myself above anyone who has lied, or attempted to avoid being exposed by saying nothing or providing only a partial truth. I’m just thinking about what this feels like in our hearts:  when we engage in deception, or when we become aware that we’re on the receiving end of a lie. It doesn’t feel good. It always comes out, in one way or another. The dis-ease of lying is corrosive. How much better to come from a place of Truth, shout or whisper your Mea Culpa, and ask for forgiveness?

gettyimages

We’ve heard it, read it, or spoken versions of it:  “The only Constant is Change”. Scholars disagree on the exact wording of the original, but know that a man named Heraclitus was probably the first to make this observation in his writings around 500 BCE. Let that sink in and nurture your spirit for a minute:  we’ve been trying to figure out how to cope with Change for a really long time. It’s a natural and unavoidable part of the human experience, whether or not the changes feel good or bad. Some people thrive on and look forward to changes in their lives; but change brings uncertainty, apprehension and dis-ease to many others.

A certain kind of Change is particularly tricky for a lot of people; I’ll definitely include myself among those for whom Endings & New Beginnings are disruptive and distressing. In the past few years – maybe longer – the Endings in my life have felt like the freeway pileups we hear about, or are sometimes forced to bear witness to. Instead of twisted steel it’s more ‘emotional carnage’. One ending after another. A “domino effect’” of endings.

When Endings come fast and hard – regardless of whether or not they’re unexpected or anticipated on some subliminal level — they wreak havoc. An Ending may be the loss of a life, a job or lifestyle, a friendship, marriage or significant relationship. It can be a voluntary choice, or something imposed on us. Even in the most positive kinds of scenarios, Endings bring, among other things, the need to adapt to new feelings and circumstances. The crucial lesson we all learn about Endings is that there’s a process we must go through, at our own pace, in our own way, according to what feels right for us.

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I often think about how, as I grow older, most aspects of Life get so much easier as a result of clarity and wiser perspective. Nevertheless, Change is always lurking. When I’m faced with something really big – an Ending that’s rocking my world and shaking me down to the soles of my feet – I gravitate to people who’ve survived such changes and “lived to tell The Tale”. I want to understand. I want to feel that All Will Be Well; that the Ending will always be followed by a New Beginning. I want proof, in the version of someone else’s story.

Author William Bridges and his book “Transitions” (2nd ed.) is my go-to. Not only does Bridges reassure with Here’s Why You Feel What You Feel, but he outlines the process of self-renewal without sugar-coating what has to happen. Most importantly for me, lately, is the knowledge that following a Big Life Change, the body, mind, heart and spirit need a period of quiet time known as the Neutral Zone. As an example:  a  friend and I were sharing stories recently about our love of dogs. She’d lost a beloved Huskie she’d had for 15 years and went into a months-long funk. Her adult kids immediately began urging her to get a new pup.

But Mary pushed-back; she needed time to process her loss. The Neutral Zone (Bridges) is a period of rest, and also preparation for a New Beginning. Even if an Ending feels more ‘positive’ than ‘negative’, it’s still disorienting: it involves detaching from Something That Was, preparing to embrace What Comes Next. And whatever comes next may not be clear at all, when we want and need it to be.

I’ve gotten used to Change in my life; I’ve accepted that all manner of Endings will continue. My heart is lifted by the New Beginnings I know will come when I’m ready. In this period of rest and renewal, I reflect on Bridges’ words about  re-booting Hope:  “To make a successful new beginning, it’s important to do more than simply persevere. It’s important to understand what it is within us that undermines our resolve and casts doubt on our plans.”