Sunday, September 30, 2012

Letting Go of Fear

Six months ago, I wrote about a man that I met online (Baggage) who was also widowed. His story is one that would pull on your heartstrings and it is hard to not admire someone who was able to pick themselves up and move on in a positive way as he did.  I never ended up meeting this man and that's okay.  Either the timing wasn't right or he wasn't right.

Last week I met another man online who also went through his own hell.  I felt a connection with him, not because we shared a similar experience but because I felt that he possessed an understanding that even I can't fully grasp.  After just a few e-mail exchanges, he like many others asked what happened to my husband.  However, with him, I felt that he wasn't asking to be nosey.  He assumed it was a profound experience at the very least and asked so as not to make any assumptions.  And what I gave him was the truth.  It was the first time that I shared it with anyone that I met and it was also the first time having to tell anyone in a real long time.  I felt comfortable sharing this with him, because I felt for some reason that he just "got it."
And he did.  He understood in a way that I was not expecting.

This man was a recovered alcoholic and had been for nearly ten years.  I don't know the details (just as I didn't share all of my details) of how or why.  He did share his epiphany moment, when he contemplated suicide.  He had come to realization that he had two choices... to stop drinking or to stop altogether.  He chose life.

I read his story and felt a connection and admiration for him, for the strength and courage it must have taken him to find his way out of his hole.  I also felt frightened.  Extremely frightened.  I knew very little about him and knew nothing of the circumstances for his addiction.  But the thought of subjecting myself to someone who seriously considered taking his own life...

At this same time last week, I was also chatting with a man who all of a sudden became very clingy.  I hadn't met him.  We shared no personal stories nor made any real connections, yet he spoke to me and of me in a way that seemed very possessive.  That was frightening.  Funny how things work out sometimes because comparing this clingy, possessive man to the first man I described above, the latter is even more frightening and I politely said good bye.

Even though I was afraid of the unknown with the first man, I decided to take what I learned from reading books such as The Alchemist and The Four Agreements and to not live in fear nor let it control me.  He saw in a me an understanding and an appreciation for life that I think he also shares but we probably both gained these through our experiences.  How could I judge him or fear him when I knew so little.  Ask questions, gain knowledge, then decide.  Besides, one of my own "commandments" from The Happiness Project is "If you always choose the rational, you may miss out on the extraordinary."  I want to actively practice and to live out all of these affirmations, agreements, whatever you want to call them.  I don't want to live the confining life of a victim.

So, I didn't run.  I actually continued to exchange words with this man and shared even more with him.  Lol... I think we had "a moment" and it came and went.  I haven't heard from him in a while.  Online dating, you just never know which way the wind is going to blow. But I think I gained something valuable from him regardless.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Always Do Your Best

It's finally here, the last agreement, "Always Do Your Best."  It sounds so simple, routine.  I even have it posted on my classroom wall as one of my class expectations.  As it is this last agreement that fuels the first three.

"Always do your best, no more and no less."  We are multidimensional human beings.  We are composed of layers and everything around us is alive and changing constantly.  Our ability to do our best changes, even from one moment to the next.  Our health, moods, and feelings can all change and when they do, they directly effect the level that our best may be at in any particular moment.  But, as long as we are doing the best we can in that moment, that is all we can ask of ourselves.

"Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely.  You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything.  But it is the actions that is going to make you feel intensely happy.  When you always do your best, you take action.  Doing your best is taking the actions because you love it, not because you expect a reward."
I found this section in this chapter thought provoking.  Way back when I wrote a few posts about finding what is right for you... as far as where you live, what you do, and who you share your life with.  If you are not living the life that is right for you, I find it hard for one to fully (wholeheartedly to the very core) commit to it.  If that is the case, how can you do your very best?  It would make it very easy to get caught up in the reward rather than doing it for the pure joy and love of it.

"When you do your best, you don't give the Judge (you are the judge) the opportunity to find you guilty or to blame you.  If you have done your best and the Judge tries to judge you according to your Book of Laws, you've got the answer, "I did my best."  There are no regrets... this agreement is really going to set you free."  This section is what really struck a chord with me.  Looking back on my life with my husband it is easy now to notice warning signs or red flags of issues that needed to be addressed.  It is so easy to get caught up in the "what ifs" and just the wonder of what could have been if only...  I made mistakes.  I can see how had I acted differently, perhaps a different result would have occurred, but perhaps maybe not.  However, that line of thinking is only beneficial to the me of the present and the future so that I don't repeat them.  That line of thinking does not change the past or help me to heal from it.  When I think of my actions, at any given moment, I am confident that they were tainted with love.  Pure love, because that is what I felt for my husband.  That knowledge leads me to believe that I did my very best for him, for me, for us, for our family.  I can honestly sit here and say that I have no regrets.  Yes, my mind does wander from time to time to those what ifs... but in those moments, knowing what I knew only then and feeling what I felt back then, I did do the best I could.  I also do not regret the love, the marriage, the life I had with my husband despite how traumatic it ended.  In those moments, I felt happy and I felt loved.  I can also accept and believe that my husband did his best too.  He was a good man.  His best was tainted with love, but it was also tainted with his sickness.  It was eventually that sickness that took over and instead of my husband being able to do his best, his best was to basically fight for mental survival.  I regret his final action for him.  But it was his decision, his action, not mine and I had to learn to accept that.

These 4 Agreements have had a profound effect on me.  When I read this book I was able to make so many connections to not only events that occurred in my life, but random thoughts that I have had throughout my life as well.  In some ways, this book helped to connect some of the dots and to help make sense of some loose ends.  When I have been successful at being impeccable with my word, with not taking things personally, in not making assumptions, and in doing my best... I do believe it if freeing.  I've felt a personal freedom that is extremely peaceful and joyous.  No, no... you will not see me on an infomercial, lol... For me and for me alone this has helped and if that sparks anyone's desire or interest, go for it!  If not... I won't take it personally, lol.

Monday, September 24, 2012


There are only four agreements, but the time it is taking me to get through all of them  makes it seem as if there are 40, lol.  Although I am back into the routine of being back to work, there are new phases and things going on in the everyday that I am not settling into as quickly as I'd like.  So, my time for blogging has suffered a bit.  But anyhoo...

The third of the four agreements is, "Don't Make Assumptions."  When we make an assumption, we believe that what we are assuming is real.  When we do that, we take things personally (see Agreement #2) and we end up creating a whole lotta drama.  This drama can be painful and it can be poisonous and it is created because of misunderstandings... Misunderstandings that can be prevented if we have the courage just ask questions, no matter how hard they may be to ask.  Without the reality of the truth, we can only see what we want to see and only hear what we want to hear.

In a relationship, it is easy for one to assume that the partner should know what he or she wants and needs.  Even after many years in a relationship, needs and wants change and it is up to us as individuals to make sure that the door of communication is open and that we are sharing what it is that we need and want in that moment.  It is our responsibility to do just that, not our partner's.  Their responsibility is to make sure they are communicating just the same to us.  Everyone has the right to say yes or no, but everyone also has the right to ask as well.

It is in this chapter that the author writes of acceptance.  Acceptance of ourselves, our partners, and our situations... to be open to their realities, not closed off in denial.  We cannot change other people.  No amount of love can make a person change.  Change is something that must come from within.  At the same time, if we are with someone that we want to change or if we are with someone who wants to change us, that is not pure love.

In my marriage, I think that my husband and I were both guilty of making too many assumptions.  I am not sure which came first the breakdown of communication or the assumptions made.  But either way they fed one another.  After he passed, I was also left with so many questions, questions that I was always afraid to ask.  I didn't assume their answers, but what I assumed was that just asking would cause my husband pain and I tried to avoid that at all costs.  I wish that I had asked more questions.

It is said that the truth will set you free.  Shake off the fear of asking questions.  Shake off the fear of what the truth may be and choose to live in the world of reality. And if you do so without making assumptions, without taking anything personally, and by doing your best (the last agreement) you will live a life much more peaceful and hopefully your happiness will be that much more authentic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't Take Things Personally

My posts have been pouring out like molasses lately, so I think that this recap is more for me than any readers, but I did recently post about a spiritual journey that I have decided to take.  Part of this journey was inspired by some books that I read over the summer including The Four Agreements.  In my last post, I wrote about the first agreement, "Be Impeccable with Your Word" and its this agreement that the other three stem from.  However, it is the second agreement that hooked me.

Losing a loved one is difficult enough.  Losing a loved one to suicide adds an additional layer of difficulties and complexities.  Immediately following my husband's death, my main support system immediately took action to make sure that I didn't fall into a pit of guilt.  Although sympathetic, these people were actually able to put what had happened to the side so that I could become the main focus.  At the time, it was difficult to endure and it almost seemed as if they weren't being sympathetic enough.  But looking back at it now, it was pretty amazing of them as my husband had been a part of (some of) their lives as well.  I was constantly being reminded that it was his decision and his alone... that my actions and decisions were made out of love and with the best of intentions and simply put, it was not my fault.

I did look down into that dark pit of guilt.  I had moments of "what ifs" but I never got too close for fear of falling into that hole.  That is not to say that resisting the temptation was easy.  It was difficult to face realities and to admit truths, but in the end, it was by doing so that I saved myself from falling into that hole, a hole that would have been extremely difficult to climb out of.

The second agreement is "Don't Take Things Personally."  We have to let go of the idea that its "all about me" and that people make decisions because of us.  This is true no matter what your relationship is with that person and despite the actions you may have taken towards them.  We are all responsible for our own actions and decisions.  And we base our actions and decisions based on how we see the world, our own waking dream.  My husband was living in his own hell.  It didn't matter how much I loved him, how beautiful our son was, or the what could have been a happy life that we created.  His sickness made it impossible for him to see all of that.  His decision wasn't about me in that it wasn't my fault and that he didn't do it to hurt me.  It is not always easy to focus on this agreement and at times my mind does want to wander to the what ifs.  It is a conscious effort to think this way but it was a necessity for me to survive.  It's also one that is getting easier as time goes on.

It is said that it is during the hardest of times that one's true colors are shown.  I have spoken often about those wonderful people who stepped up for me and were there for me in ways that I cannot thank enough for.  However, that's not the case with everyone.  There are some people who fell into a pit of their own hell.  There are some people that you can cut out of your life and there are some people that you cannot.  I have to admit that I felt the pull of the darkness by being around those who linger there.  As time passed, the pull became so strong that I became so stressed and anxious that I physically became ill when felt that darkness.  After all that I had been through I realized that that was my baggage and I had to deal with it.  That was my main reason for exploring this book and taking this journey.  This chapter, this agreement, helped.  Tremendously.  Actions and words made towards me by others has more to do with their own mentalities and perspectives than me.  I have to admit that in the last couple of weeks, those actions and words didn't touch me.  I didn't have to put my guard up, because my mindset wasn't going to allow the darkness to lead to an unwanted place, so I could just be me.  And the situation seemed... as good as it could be.  Which is all I could ask for and want.

It's amazing what the mind can do...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Your Word

Not too long ago, I posted about a journey that I feel I want to take in hopes of finding deeper understanding, appreciation, and happiness in life.  This summer, I actually did a lot of reading.  I read a variety of books and genres, but after I read The Alchemist, I was inspired to read more of that kind.  I remembered that not too long ago, I came across a blog (sorry, I don't remember who's) that mentioned The 4 Agreements.  I read the brief description of the four and thought that it was an interesting and common sense sort of way to live your life.  Well, as part of my summer reading, I decided to read the actual book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and I have to admit that it is what inspired the path in which I want to journey along.

The first agreement, "Be Impeccable with Your Word" is much deeper than what I assumed was to basically choose your words wisely and stand by them.  Ruiz states that your word is "a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life."  Your word is so strong that if it is misused, it can create a living hell.  But if it is used impeccably, it will create "beauty, love, and heaven on earth."  The author compares each of us to a magician, where we can either cast a spell on someone with our words or we can release them from the confines of harsh opinions and judgements depending on the words in which we choose to use.

Ruiz also defines impeccable and I found this explanation to be quite profound.  Impeccable means "without sin" and a sin is "anything that you do that goes against yourself."  If you are impeccable, you do not go against yourself.  You take responsibility for your actions and at the same time, you do not judge or blame yourself.  The profound part for me was when Ruiz went on to say that this line of thinking takes sin away from morality or religious issues and makes them more "common sense."  To me, I take that as we own it rather than feeling that it comes from an outside source.  When you take ownership of it, it becomes more personal and more meaningful.  You choose to do it because you want to, not because you feel that you have to.  So being impeccable is "not going against yourself."  (But I do think you need to truly know and own yourself in order to be impeccable with your word.)

Our words can be misused in the worst of ways against one another.  We "curse, blame, find guilt, destroy... spread anger, jealousy,envy, hate... gossip."  We "pull each other down and keep each other in a state of fear and doubt."  When we believe something based on these negative words, we make an agreement with them and they become part of our truths.  Once that happens, it is very difficult to break these agreements that we have with ourselves.

These agreements come from anywhere and everywhere (and they are not all bad).  They begin to surround us as soon as we are born when our parents beliefs are imposed onto us, then it becomes other family members and friends turn to influence us... babysitters, teachers,.... and finally society as  a whole.  All of these contributions help to create our own views, our own dream.  This book states that we are constantly living within our own dreams and each one of us has a different dream.  Because we each live in our own dream worlds, it is very easy to judge and criticize others based on our own opinions in order to validate those opinions.  However, our opinions stem from our vision, our dream that differs from everyone else.  So is it fair to judge someone else?  (However, at the same time, we are often our own worst judge and is it fair to do that to ourselves as well?)

Be impeccable with your word.  Use "white magic" to spread love and beauty and begin with yourself.  Feel good about yourself, love and accept yourself.  And if you can do that than those who use their word to spread "black magic" cannot touch you.  This will lead to you feeling "good... happy... and at peace."  A personal freedom.

*This is hard to accomplish every minute of every day.  I curse.  People upset me.  I judge others.  But I do use my "white magic" more so than I use my "black."  I think that it is easier to do this now that I feel like I know myself better and I am more accepting of myself.  You truly do have to love yourself first before you can spread the love on to others.  I do think more consciously now about being impeccable with my word.  I believe in what is said about finding personal freedom, love, and happiness in doing so.  In instances where I have truly been impeccable with my word, I have felt all of those.  I also believe that people can create their own hell through their thinking and words as I have seen it first hand with people that I know.  I choose life, a good life.  A heaven on earth.  I am trying to consistently be impeccable with my word.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good Life

I got stood up today.  It wasn't the dramatic version of waiting anxiously in a restaurant for your date to arrive.  Instead, it was the kind that was a slow process in the making.  I should have known when I felt like it was pulling teeth last night when we were coordinating a time.  And when we didn't settle on a place last night or even earlier today, I should have known.  I decided to make decisions myself and told him that I would be in Little Italy at 7:00 and when I received no response, I should have known.  But, my babysitter was still coming and I still got all dressed up as if the date was set in stone.

So at 7:00 I was in Little Italy and instead of meeting someone whom I have been conversing with for three weeks, I was instead deciding what I should do for the next few hours, alone.

I decided to skip dinner and go straight to dessert... Italian coffee with Sambuca and a a fruit tart, yum!  The funny part was that I was sitting outside of this Italian cafe and who do I get surrounded by?  The Italian Mob.  For real.  This big group of men came and I think I may have been in their way (I asked if I should move, lol) but they didn't care, they surrounded me and my table and got to business.  I try to play cool by busying myself with my phone... super cool of me.

It was an absolutely gorgeous night out and some event must be coming up in Little Italy because the street was closed and instead of cars, it was lined with tables from all of the restaurants... a perfect setting for a date.  I was dreading walking back through that section because I have to admit that I was bummed that my dinner date was not going to happen.

Then I put on "Good Life" by One Republic.  I listened to this song quite a bit last year as I just found that it lifted my spirits and it did just that tonight.  I told myself that I have been through too much and have come too far to let this get me down.  Truth is, whatever the reason may be for this... cancelation, it really has nothing to do with me.  It's his reasons and/or issues and I can't take it personally.  So, as I sipped the last of my coffee, I opened up my bag, slipped on my fuschia suede heels, made my way through the mob, and strutted down Mulberry Street with style and grace.  I did it all for myself and I didn't care if no one or everyone was looking.

Since I was so close to Soho, I just had to go shopping.  And I did.  A sweater, a shirt, and a scarf (all for $30!!) did the trick.  And there was one last thing that I wanted to do on this night...


This photo was taken from the Brooklyn Bridge.  Like I said, the night was absolutely gorgeous and I walked out onto the bridge for this view.  I am not even sure how to describe this... You are immediately reminded of the horror and tragedy of the events that took place on this day 11 years ago.  But when you are standing on the Brooklyn Bridge looking out onto this view and the entire New York City skyline it is so easy to get caught up in the present moment.  For me, I thought about how much I do love this city.  It is like no other.  I thought about how proud I am to be an American.  I thought about how despite all the awful that life can throw at us, life can be even more so wonderful.  Life is good... good life.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Extraordinary Gift

It is a wonderful gift to have someone who reminds you of the best and the most precious of times from the past.  It is a remarkable gift to have someone who helps take away the fear of an unknown future and instead leaves you with so much to look forward to.  And it is an extraordinary gift to have someone who can slow down the time and can show you how to live in the moment and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.  

Three years ago today I was given the most extraordinary of blessings... Happy 3rd Birthday to my amazing son.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Journey

I'm a thinker.  I think and analyze way too much.  However, one of the positives of thinking as I do is that I feel that I am quite self aware.  So I can comfortably say that in the past, my mind was in overdrive because I was trying to make sense of things... my situation, my life.  I never really found any answers, so my mind kept searching more and more.

I have learned that in order to find those answers and to thus put my mind at ease, I need to ask questions.  I need to surrender pride, nut up and ask questions no matter how hard they may be.  Not only that, but I cannot fear the answer either.  I also learned that I just need to talk to people.  Not necessarily in the form of asking questions, but just talking... discussing, communicating, and learning.  If I had done more of this in the past, I would have made less assumptions and gained more truths.  With that, I could have used what I knew to be true to put my mind at ease one way or the other.

When my husband first passed away, my mind was occupied with so many questions.  I needed to understand what had happened and I needed closure.  However, he took that knowledge with him.  It took me about 9 months to fully accept all that had happened.  It was extremely difficult as I had to make sense of everything based on memories, stories shared by others, and my own gut instincts.  However, when I reached that point, I found peace.  I truly did and it was wonderful.  That's not to say that I don't ever think what could have been or find myself wondering.  I just can pull myself back in and assure myself with what I have accepted to be my truth.  This process has helped me to heal tremendously.  This process has also put my mind at ease and I have found how freeing that is.  I didn't worry about things.  I felt in the moment and I was happy.

My mind has been wandering again.  There are things that are bothering me and I know that again my mind is in overdrive trying to make sense of everything.  This time around, I am asking questions.  I am talking to the people that I trust most to get their perspectives and insights.  I am also reading and what I have surprisingly found myself to be reading are very spiritual books.  Not religious, although there are some references to all of the major religions, but those that touch the human spirit, what makes us alive.

Last year was about healing... accepting what happened, adjusting to the changes in my life, finding myself and taking each day one at a time with my son at my side.  I think that I am in a good place right now.  However, the wheels are turning and its time to move on from good to great.  I feel that I was an already humble person who was humbled even more so by the events that took place in my life.  What do you do with that?  I think the next step is to move beyond the comforts of what is and to find out what more is out there.  My new journey...

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I have been hit with a bout of exhaustion.  I knew that my vacation to California plus the addition of several extra days spent at my parents' house equated to over two weeks away from home.  Two weeks away from the routine, which frankly, my son and I thrive on.  Well, I knew it was going to take its toll.  But I have been home for well over a week now and I am still beat.

Mental exhaustion.

It hit me the first day we arrived in San Francisco.  My brother left and went to a Giants' baseball game and it was just my son and I alone.  Again.  I knew going into this trip that I wasn't going to spend a lot of time with my brother and that was fine.  I know how to navigate and be resourceful even in unknown places.  However, I have to admit that taking care of a toddler who is in (a mild form of, I think?) the terrible threes, in a foreign place, with a disrupted sleep, eat, and play schedule was difficult.  I had no outlet except for the 45 minutes one day that my brother took my son into the hotel pool.  Other than that, I was literally with him for 24/7 x 10.  We even slept together, lol!  Now don't get me wrong.  I love that little booger more than anything.  We had a wonderful time and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  But, I had to be on nonstop and it was draining.  

So, I think that along with this time of year being hard to begin with (see Round Two) has just left me in a sort of funk.  I have to admit that I have had a few other things on my mind as well and that just adds to it.  Well, I am tired of being tired and I am ready to be back to me.  I need to start going back to the gym, eating healthier, writing more, and making sure that I am keeping in touch with my friends and family every day.  It can get isolating and lonely.  I am happy that I know what I need and it really isn't much.  Excuses aren't really an option.  :)