It seems there are a lot of people in my life lately (both personally and professionally) who are processing through a divorce. None of them, unfortunately, are currently in that friendly divorce stage we all fantasize about. You know that fantasy stage, right? The one you talk about when you are still happily married and joke how , if you ever get divorced, you would keep it super friendly and civil and would ALWAYS put the kids first before any hurt feelings. I love that fantasy stage, but I can say I have rarely, if ever, actually seen it. The closest I have ever come has been several years post-divorce, when all the garbage has already been resolved.
OK, as I was saying, I have experienced a lot of divorces in my life lately. People who are getting divorced are inundated with advice from anyone and everyone at all times. Everyone feels entitled to give insight based on their own experiences. They are told not to be the “nice guy”; to fight for themselves; to lead by example and take the high road; to love the kids more than they hate each other. So much conflicting information!
I am here to advocate for the high road. You are not doing this for them, but for yourself. You can get consumed by anger and hurt and rage and not be able to recognize yourself in the mirror. Your Ex may not deserve the high road you are taking. They may deserve all of your revenge fantasies (and worse). But, and here’s the big but, you don’t deserve what that negativity will do to you and your life. You are not letting them off the hook by taking the high road, you are letting yourself off.
You are free to think they suck, to be disappointed they were not who you thought they were, and to generally not like them as a human being. But, I want you to focus on you. Focus on finding happiness in your own life. Choose positivity instead of negativity. If you have to see your Ex because you share children, be civil – you don’t have to ever be friends, but make it easier on yourself (and your children) and be civil.
I am a firm believer that people ultimately get what is coming to them in life. You don’t have to be the harbinger of their doom. Live your life. Focus on positive things for you and yours. The high road is all about you.
When I was much younger, a teenager really, I would seek out relationships with men who were unavailable. I don’t mean they were taken already (I was not a total bitch), but these were guys who didn’t want relationships or were just really bad risks. Now that I am much, much (quiet, you) older, I realize I was seeking out these relationships for two reasons:
- I was not emotionally ready to be in a “real” relationship and dating crappy people reduced the likelihood of anything serious ever happening. The guy known as a player, the one who is drunk all of the time and the guy who is a borderline criminal are unlikely to settle down anytime soon.
- I was excited about the challenge. If I could “break” them and make them change then they must really be into me. The sad thing is I broke a couple, but then I didn’t want them anymore. This is the danger of being after the challenge – once the challenge is gone, so is the spark.
Fortunately, I reached a point when these reasons were not the way I chose my relationships. When I was ready, I chose for much better characteristics – fun and friendship, attraction and chemistry, loyalty and passion. What I am realizing, though, is the tendency to focus on things only because they are a challenge – not just relationships. We do things just to prove we can. In and of itself, not tragic, but it is important to know why you are doing things. I ran the LA marathon in 2004 just to prove to myself that I could. There was no other reason. It was a challenge, I faced it and I never need to do it again (it was hard). If I had approached that marathon expecting some other outcome, I would have been terribly disappointed.
Know why you are acting. If it is a challenge, for challenge sake, know it and accept it. If you want there to be a higher purpose behind it – identify that goal and determine if it is a realistic one or not. If it is – great, if not – it is time to reassess and change your game plan.
I’ve talked about my daughter before – her name is Charlie and she is almost 10 years old. She is awesome and I love her, but she has recently taken a turn for the dramatic (could it be teen hormones already?). Anyway… I was tucking her into bed the other day and she looked at me and asked, “Why doesn’t anything ever go my way?” (Like I said, a flare for the dramatic). We had a long talk about what it was that was bothering her and resolved her current crisis as best we could at 9 PM. I even added a little reality check about using words like “never” and “always”.
Everything seemed good, but it got me to thinking – we (all of us) have a tendency to assume not getting our way is always a bad thing. We assume if something else had happened, everything would have been better. Let me give you an easy example- a client was recently in a car accident. It wasn’t anything too traumatic, but there was car damage which is always a hassle. My client was in my office complaining how she keeps getting screwed by life and if she had only left 5 minutes later (or earlier) the accident could have been avoided. I think it is perfectly natural to feel this way, but it is important to remember things could have been actually worse. Maybe a different, more serious car accident would have occurred. It is impossible to know. We can waste so much time focused on what “might” have happened.
There is even a song about it. Do you know Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers”? Here is a peek, if you aren’t sure (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-13-greatest-country-songs-for-thanksgiving-20141125/garth-brooks-unanswered-prayers-1990-20141125). It’s all about a man who goes back to his home town and sees his high school girlfriend with whom he had so desperately wanted a future. The relationship had not worked out and both had moved on. When the singer looks around, he realizes how not getting what he wanted actually helped him to get what he really needed after all (wife, kids, happiness). The ways that not getting what we want actually serves us is not always so transparent or direct, but it is important to try not to spend too much time on what might have been at the detriment of what actually is.
My stepdad died about 12 years ago after a painful bout with pancreatic cancer. I was living on the West Coast while he and my mom were in Michigan. I got a call one day I should come home because the doctors determined he did not have much time left. I booked a flight for the next day, but he passed before I got there. For a fairly long while I was torn up about not having had an opportunity to say goodbye. I had this dramatic vision of a Hollywood deathbed goodbye where we shared our feelings (all good) and he peacefully went to “sleep”. I felt cheated of this. Over time, I became aware that his deathbed was likely nothing like this. He was not conscious and communicating. I was spared seeing him so ill. My last memory of him is not him sickly and weak, but up and about and teasing me. I was not cheated, but was spared. I did not get what I wanted, but it was for the best.
So, here is my takeaway – if you get frustrated about something that happened (or didn’t happen), remember it may have been in your best interest. Even if you can’t see how it is good for you, try not to dwell too much on what could have been (or should have been) and, instead, focus on what is. Try to make your “is” as good as you can.
I have gotten a number of emails, phone calls, tweets and general comments over the past couple of days about the tragic suicide of a transgendered young woman, Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Alcorn). Much of the focus of discussion has been on this young woman’s suicide note (you can link to it here if you haven’t read it or want a refresher http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note), her transgender status and/or her Christian parents’ refusal to accept/acknowledge that transgender status. I’ve been listening to criticism of her parents and debates over whether or not transgender is real. I don’t really care if you think transgender is legitimate or not (though I can tell you as a mental health professional it is), but what I can tell you is this young woman was in immense pain.
We need to do a better job of taking care of each other – especially our children who may not have adequate coping skills to manage life’s challenges. I am not going to jump on the bandwagon and rip her parents apart. If what has been has said about them is true, I do not agree with their parenting choices and wish things had been managed differently, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the need to keep an eye on one another.
What can you do if someone in your life is dealing with transgender identity (even if the person isn’t talking about suicide)?
- Talk to someone. I am not saying “out” them, but if you need to process through your own thoughts and feelings – talk it out. You can maintain their confidentiality while working things through. You may not know what to do to help. Ask for help! Talk to a teacher, a parent, a school counselor, a priest, I don’t really care who, but talk to someone until you get guidance. All too often, we avoid things that make us uncomfortable – you can’t do that here. This is too important.
- Be there. Talk with your friend or family member about what all of this means for them. Even, as in Leelah Alcorn’s situation, you are not “supportive” of transgendered identity, there are still “safe” topics of feeling lonely, sad, and isolated. This is still the same person they were before you learned they are transgendered. If he is a good friend, she will be, too.
- Refer to support groups (not just for your loved one, but for you, too). Knowledge is power!
These are but a few of the online, national organizations available to provide information and support, both to the individual and to their loved ones. There are also countless programs available within your own community. When I worked at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), I became acquainted with their amazing program (http://www.chla.org/site/c.ipINKTOAJsG/b.7501767/k.5FBA/Transgender_Services__Adolescent_Medicine__Case_Management__Health_Education.htm#.VKSWvCvF_EY). Check out what might be available in your town.
- No matter what you might think or feel about transgendered individuals, do not make fun of, attack verbally or physically, or shame them. Doing any of these behind their backs still sucks – it’s just more cowardly. Remember life is hard enough for each of us without some jerk making worse. Don’t be that jerk.
Did I miss something important? What else might you recommend? As always, I am open to suggestions.
We’ve talked about toxic people in the past, you and I, and the toll they can take on you and your relationships. But when I asked my daughter for suggestions about this blog, she asked that I write about drama and the people who seem to enjoy creating it. It is kind of sad, really, that my 9-year-old is already picking up on this in others, but maybe that’s because she seems to enjoy creating it herself at times and that helps her to recognize it in others.
There are a number of different types of drama queens. (I use this term non-gender specifically, as there are just as many male drama queens as female – maybe more):
- The attention whore – This drama queen needs to be in the center of attention at all times. She always has an exciting story to share at the top of her lungs, so you couldn’t ignore her even if you tried. She is often extremely entertaining, so most of the time you don’t mind at all. She can be tiring over long periods of time, though.
- The chronically ill – I don’t mean people who are legitimately sick. This drama queen always has a headache or an upset stomach or a hurt foot or a sore back. You get the idea. There is always a complaint and she loves sharing it with you. It gets to the point where, instead of saying, “Hi”, you want to say, “So, what hurts today?”
- The pot stirrer – Ooooh, this queen is a sneaky one. She creates the drama behind the scenes. She tells Person A something about Person B and then tells that reaction to Person C. She then sits back to watch and see what happens. She doesn’t want to be involved in the fireworks, but sure enjoys the show.
- The exaggerator – I don’t think this drama queen even realizes she is doing it, but everything that happens to her is HUGE, at least when she tells the tale. Every date is epically good or bad, all disagreements are explosive, and all successes deserving of a parade. Her life is one of extremes which is exhausting to all involved.
If you see a queen, you don’t necessarily have to run screaming in the other direction – remember, sometimes they are fun. What you do need to know is with whom you are dealing. Know if someone in your life is a drama queen. It will help you to decide how best to interpret what she shares with you. Do you take it at face value or do you need to translate it through some anti-drama program to get the real deal? You may save yourself unnecessary time spent in an emotional wringer.
What do you think? Did I miss anyone? I’d love your suggestions about any underrepresented drama queens.
I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season – whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanza or Festivus or nothing at all. I hope whatever this season means to you and yours is wonderful. What I encourage you to do is to find something positive to focus on and put your energies there. Look, we all have things we could complain about – crowds in the stores, the materialistic nature of the holiday, greedy children, bickering family members, and financial strain – to mention just a few. You, my dears, have a choice – you can choose to focus on all of the crap or you can give your attention to the things that make you feel good (i.e., time with family, fun with the kids, awesome food, and festive atmosphere).
How you manage a situation determines how you will feel about it. You choose. Choose to smile at the other shoppers at the mall. Choose to remain calm despite parking lot gridlock. Choose to find pleasure in selecting gifts for friends and loved ones. You get to choose how you feel. Imagine the power you have – you get to determine how you will feel. Focus on crap and you will feel like crap. Focus on the happy and you will feel happy. Easy decision, right?
I went to Yoga class on Wednesday – not an unusual occurrence for me, I tend to go fairly often, but this was at a different time than normal. I walked in, took a deep breath and lay down on my mat to relax because I had 10 minutes to chill before class started. I lay there with my eyes shut, thinking about nothing in particular, just feeling kind of psyched I had been able to make it to an earlier class. I was, overall, happy to be there. I heard the instructor walk into the room, noticed her adjust the lights through my closed eyelids and began to rouse myself to join the class. That’s when I looked around and…ugh… the moaner/grunter was there.
Crap. Maybe I’ve mentioned this particular gentleman before – if you’ve taken a yoga class in the past, you may have had someone like him there. He is the guy who, rather than “breathing as a community”, waits a beat and then moans/groans – loudly. Really loudly. Every time. The studio where I take yoga is a relatively quiet place – an instructor softly speaking, people softly breathing and one loud moaner/groaner. (Can you tell I react strongly to this guy?) Here is the thing – I saw this guy and my immediate reaction was F this, I am outta here. I wanted to leave. I had gone from peaceful excitement about taking class to annoyance/avoidance in one glance. Then I had a bit of an epiphany. This guy doesn’t get to take this away from me. He wasn’t going to ruin this for me. I started to (internally) make fun of his noises and found myself being entertained by his ridiculousness. (I didn’t make fun of him overtly – I was annoyed, not rude.) I just smiled to myself and moved on.
Too often we allow people to have too much power over our lives. Have you ever gone to work and discovered you were assigned to work with a less than desirable co-worker and allowed it to ruin your day? Have you arrived at a party and noted someone you really didn’t like had been invited as well? Did it interfere with your ability to have a good time? These people don’t get to interfere with your life like this. Find a way to turn it around in your head. If they are annoying, make it funny for yourself. Focus on the people who you do enjoy.
I am not saying I will deliberately be seeking this guy out so we can take classes together in the future. I still really find him annoying and he messes with my concentration, but if I happen to walk in and he is there, he won’t chase me out.
We’ve all heard those break-up stories – the couple sit there while one looks into the other’s eyes and explains they want to end the relationship. They try to let the other down easily and say those five little words, “It’s not you, it’s me.” What is this supposed to mean? It means the person ending the relationship is saying they aren’t able to be in the relationship despite the fact the person being dumped is fabulous and wonderful and a perfect person/partner. Do they actually mean this? Well, maybe/maybe not.
Look, harsh reality here – sometimes it really is you. Hearing this can spare you from having to hear these words again and again. I want you to pay attention to patterns even when they aren’t totally obvious. Do your relationships with boyfriends seem to end when you try to get too close too fast? This could be important information! Do you keep getting laid off from jobs as soon as they have an opportunity to downsize? Take notice! Are you struggling to connect in friendships and end up excluded with little to no explanation? Consider the role you may be playing in these relationships!
If you don’t notice these patterns, you are doomed to repeat them. Ooooh! Another saying is especially meaningful here – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). If someone tells you “It’s not you, it’s me” take a moment and think it through. Maybe, just maybe, it is a little bit you. This doesn’t have to be a painful reality – it is information you can build on to make your life even more amazing. Use it. Learn from it. Make changes as necessary and leave your ex in your dust.
I know many people say chivalry is dead. I disagree. It isn’t dead, it’s just… different. When Jason and I first started dating, he never let me open a door. Like, ever. It became such a joke between us, that I “don’t touch doors”. We’ve been married more than 15 years and I still don’t. (Unless he’s not there because that would just be weird – me standing there, staring at the door). There is one other thing my husband does I don’t want to give up – whenever we walk outdoors, he always positions himself on the side of traffic. This is to protect me from a runaway car or crazed kidnapper, I suppose. I am completely comfortable with Jason holding the door open for me and shielding me from abduction, but am completely skeezed out when he tries to run around and open my car door for me. I’m not sure what it is about standing there waiting for him to open my car door that makes me feel like a complete tool, but I hate it. I know it makes no sense, but it works for us.
Chivalry is not just for those with male genitalia though – the definition of chivalry: the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. Nowhere in that definition does it say anything about the person exhibiting chivalry having a penis. I know this assumption is based on the past, knights always being dudes way back when, but come on ladies, buck up! Chivalry is something we could all manage a bit more.
- If you are walking through a door and notice someone a few steps behind you, stop and hold the door for them. Those few seconds will not destroy your entire day and maybe you will get a smile and a “Thank you” in return. (Side note – if you are approaching a door and someone stops to hold it for you, please, please, please, say “Thank you”. Seriously, drives me crazy when people sail through with an air of entitlement, “Of course you hold the door for me, you peon!”).
- If someone nearby sneezes even if (or especially if) you do not know them, say “Bless You” (or if you aren’t religious say. “Gesundheit” which means good health). It is nice to acknowledge someone else’s sneeze (I’m not sure why), but just do it.
- If you see someone struggling with packages and your hands are free, offer a hand. (Unless it is a creepy guy by a van – serial killer alert). Being helpful to other people makes you both feel good.
- If you are able bodied and are sitting in a seat and you notice someone less able bodied and there are no more seats, offer them yours. What does “less able bodied” mean? This could mean a lot of things, someone elderly or sick or pregnant or traveling with little kids or who knows. If they seem less able to stand than you for any reason – get up!
Are there others I have forgotten? Suggestions?
I was sitting at work the other day, nearly done for the afternoon, and all I could think about was going home, putting on comfortable clothes and vegging out in front of the TV. Totally reasonable, right? Here is the challenge – I had a bag packed so I could go to yoga on the way home from work. My daughter was at dance class for several hours and my husband was at work. I was free as a bird and knew, knew, knew I should be going to yoga rather than to the couch. The couch would make me feel terrible and would likely lead to me munching on a bunch of really unhealthy things that would make me feel even worse.
I had an epiphany. Showing up at yoga would be an automatic win. It didn’t matter if I completed a single pose correctly or if I burned a single calorie – just walking in the door made it a victory. Why? Well, it kept me off the couch and out of the fridge (for at least a few hours), it increased the chances I would engage in actual exercise (I was already there) and made me feel more productive overall (yoga vs TV). There are so many areas in our lives where just showing up is the most important part. What you do after you show up matters, but not nearly as much as getting through the door.
Have you had this experience? Let me think of some examples (in case you are too lazy to think of them yourself). Say you feel kinda cruddy and don’t really want to go to work, but aren’t really sick. Walking through the door is your victory. Ever felt like bailing on friends and hiding out at home rather than going out? Show up – you win. You get the idea, right?
Here is the amazing thing about showing up – you usually are really happy you did it. Once you get through the door, you are able to power through – you are able to get a decent workout, put in a full work day and have fun with your friends. Even if it is not fabulous, at least you went and you tried. I often will tell my husband to remind me (when I don’t want to get out of bed to go for a run) that a crappy run is better than no run any day of the week. Remember this – show up. The hardest part is getting off your ass and pushing through the door. After that, it all gets easier.