You’ve Got The…

I suspect I might – on a very, very, good day – be capable of conjuring an anthem-worthy sentence, similar to Alice Walker’s (below).  Other days?  I think, ‘Fool – you can’t convey what she did in sixteen succinct words!’  I’ve got the quote tacked up on my wall along with a piece of writing from my own archives, circa, I dunno, the first millennia? 😉 The combo makes me think…and from time to time, I pause to read and let both Alice’s thought and my own sink in:

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

-Alice Walker

Life can be hard, when we seek softness.  Like can be maze-like when we seek straight, navigable paths.  Life can be joy-filled, yet stingy, especially when we long to linger in the light.  Life can be a snare, enticing us to drop down rather than rise.

-Me

Holiday time is here for some of us…several weeks from here to January that, despite festivities of all sorts, can be laden with emotional potholes.  Staying strong, facing forward while finding ways to be resilient and resourceful?  Tricky business and there’s no ‘one size fits all’. What helps? Remembering to marvel in our talents, our gifts.  Gloat a little…it’s okay.  We’re not going to please everyone around us and hitching our happiness wagons to others is a sure-fire way to slide…and feel less-than.

Alice Walker provided one of many antidote-inducing boosts. We have power, if we claim it, and reveling in our ability to be poised under pressure…while surrounding ourselves with people, practices and ideology that guide us toward strength? Life goals for me, right there.  That’s how we ride out the cloudbursts, the messy, the maddening and the melancholy.

So go ahead…be a force…be fully YOU. Getting there might involve being a little choosy about who and what we allow into our heads and hearts.  Me? The older I get, the more I believe in Alice’s sixteen words and the reminder that not everyone and everything in front of me is worthy of my time and attention.  I’ve got the power…so do you.

Vicki 😊

Let the Sunshine Swivel Your Way

It can be hard to ascertain…how our light and humanity impact others.  Maybe it’s a smile, maybe it’s an unexpected kindness. Simple stuff. Do those little things add up? I think so and I think it’s okay to hope that we’re contributing to a more positive universe when we extend ourselves.  Is it too much to ask – to be ever hopeful that our bits of love and light might turn the tide or balance the challenges in life for someone else?  It’s aspirational, for sure. But we don’t get to follow every trail because doing so would reduce the energy we have to stay in the moment, ready to encourage and support those in front of us…or those we’ve yet to encounter. 

I’m pondering this today because kindnesses which occur in happenstance encounters can be fluid and fast…unlike those we experience in relationships where discernible ripples are more evident, providing opportunities to see the unfolding.  What happens next?  You’re right there, front row and all and it’s a balancing act.  How much do you give without losing yourself in the process?

Someone I care about thought she was being kind-hearted and giving and made a massive sacrifice for someone she loves.  It involved a life-altering cross country move – not just for her partner but for her as well.  Was it a stellar opportunity for the woman she loves?  Yes.  The kind of offer you dare not turn down.  And so, the choices for my friend were few and obvious: Move – go with her partner… OR…stay put and attempt a long-distance relationship…OR…the scariest proposition of all?  End the relationship. She chose to move…but not without substantial heartache and anticipatory stress about sacrificing HER career for her partner’s. 

The move occurred several months ago and despite an ‘eyes wide open’ decision (or so she thought) my dear friend is miserable.  She misses her friends and family and while her partner’s career is soaring, she’s struggling to find work in her field…so much so that she’s picked up some self-soothing habits that are contributing to the demise of their relationship…fueling her passive-aggressive barbs.  She doesn’t want to be angry, but she is, and she knows her target isn’t, truly, her partner.  Nope, she’s the one wearing the bullseye – as a result of her decision to move. 

Maybe this is you…when you’re at your worst (I know it’s a behavior I fall prey to).  Do you keep score? My friend figured her substantial sacrifice earned her a lifetime of grace…you know, those ‘bonus points’ we tally in a relationship as we anoint ourselves with the title ‘consummate giver’.  I’ve earned the right to be a hell-raiser if I want to…except it doesn’t work that way.  She’s not owed anything…she made the choice to move and regrets it now. 

Wanting to be the git-along girl got her into the pickle barrel she’s in and there’s only one way out.  Sooner, not later, she needs to name her frustration and be honest with her partner.  I suspect the smart woman she loves already put the pieces together…people in a pickle can be easy to read…sour, sassy and all.

Me?  I’m the listener, the neutral party trying to help my friend find her way. I think she’s almost there, but the message she needs to receive more than anything is that she’s not a bad person.  Her decision to move came from a caring place and even once all is resolved (one way or another) she can reclaim her sunny side…it’s still there…and it’ll guide her forward.

Course correction is my preferred term for what comes next…as I try to help her move away from her maddening fixation on the word MISTAKE.  It carries a heaviness tinged with failure, like weighted chains.  I have faith in her and believe her hallmark traits of kindness and love will swivel her way – so she’s the intended beneficiary for a change.  No mistakes.  Just a course correction.

Thanks for reading…I’m sending sunshine and smiles your way…soak it up or spread it around. You know best.

Vicki 😊

Forty Years…Plus

Yup.  The hubster and I are officially into our fourth decade…plus a smidge.  Where does the time go?  We met on a snowier-than-normal November evening, as I was stuck in a parking lot with my car battery dying a slow death (due to an interior light being left on for two hours, unbeknownst to me).  Future hubster?  Fresh from a construction job helping his sister build her first home in Alaska, he looked like Paul Bunyan, come to life, saving me and my car that snowy night.  I don’t know if it was the full beard or the plaid flannel and Frankenstein-like hiking boots, but he loomed large – all 6’5” of him, but casting an even more imposing shadow as he stood, backlit with swirling snow and buzzing, blinking overhead parking lot lights. 

The pic of us? It was two years later, celebrating our six-month wedding anniversary. I don’t know if the men in my life will ever understand, but throughout my twenties, thirties…and beyond, every couple of years brought new hair styles. Ladies, are you with me? In the mid-eighties, this particular hairstyle rocked…the punkier and spikier the better. Sometimes my natural color (yep, brown, but I’ve taken to ‘heavy highlights’ for years because being a blondie makes it easier to cover copious grays).  But back then?  I morphed colors every year or so (deep burgundy was a favorite).  Now? Middle age drove me to love a little length and peroxide…and God bless a dear friend who’s done my hair for thirty years…I just let her do her thing.  But enough about Vicki’s hair – that’s not the point. 😉

What IS the point?  Hubs and I have had our ups and downs and challenges.  No doubt…and while plenty of people in our lives have wondered about secrets to relationship longevity, I have no secret sauce. But – I’m forever reminded that little things matter and if left untended, without a bit of nurture, they morph into big thingsStinky things that swell and take over, eclipsing the good stuff. 

Have you heard of the Gottman Institute?  Every now and again their work is highlighted anew, despite the fact that their ‘love lab’ has been featured everywhere – including in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”.  I’m a fan of their quick take podcasts which offer relationship advice and wisdom in nifty, digestible nuggets.  No big commitment – just five minutes or so.  Like a booster shot.

The article I found yesterday pulled a few threads of “Gottman goodness” together into one feature and brought forward one of my favorite practices:  The daily check-in, the lean-in, the connecting – no matter how busy.  Like most things in life that are healthy and wholesome, they’re simple, too. Literally leaning in and being available to your partner – maybe at distinct times during the day and/or remaining open and ready to attend to him/her, as life rolls along? Impactful.  Yes – quick text exchanges “count” and yes, the hollering from another part of the house?  Yeah.  We all do it.  Communication, of a sort, is better than nothing. 

What I love about the article is the research-based reveal that leaning in and having an engaged posture – both physically and emotionally – conveys connection, attachment, LOVE.  Eyes down, multi-tasking and doing the ‘uh-huh’ routine, while our attention drifts ever-elsewhere?  Unavoidable, at times, but the Gottman’s research highlights the importance of fully focusing on our partner, our loved one.  Maybe it’s impossible to do all the time…but doing it, as much as we can?  It matters. 

Long ago the hubs and I established a practice of morning check-ins and hilariously, in our current home we have a wacky little ‘bump out’ off the kitchen. Maybe (and I’m being generous) it’s 7 x 6 foot. Tiny – but ample enough for two of our favorite chairs, positioned so they’re tilted inward, but also face our deck and yard. 

Who loves the space the most?  Given the windows on three sides, our puppy mama Sadie thinks of the space as entirely hers, but she does give way, most mornings, as the hubs and I exchange quick thoughts about the day, what needs to be done, what’s left over from the day before and highlights – what we’re looking forward to and how are we dividing up the never-ending ‘to do’ lists.  Oh – and meal planning.  We love the ’what’s for dinner’ conversation first thing in the morning. 😊

If we miss a day for one reason or another, we’re “off”.  Me? I pick up an edge in my voice, oh-so-easily and become impatient, expecting that the hubs finally – and magically – acquired mind reading skills.  What does he do?  He disengages.  Prone to extreme introversion, he’ll be happy as a clam doing his own thing which is okay for a while…but inevitably, the part of me that’s driven and task-oriented rises, looking for dialogue, which I need more than he does, to navigate the day.

And laughing whenever possible?  Oh, that’s good, too. And…leave it to Lisa, my adorable, savant sister who, despite her disabilities, can be counted on to cut through — to the heart of what matters most.  You see…Lisa loves the little room, too.  She knows the hubs and I adore the nook, but sweet Sadie loves it even more.  When we bought this house Lisa hilariously told her girlfriends that our main reason for buying it was because it had a “tiny sunroom for Sadie and for chit chat”.

Yup.  I guess that says it all.  So, here’s to chit chat and tending to our loved ones, as much as we can, without distraction.  Lean in…just lean in.  If we can wrangle a sunny spot, so much the better.

Vicki 😊

Passing Through

people looking at sunshine through clouds
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Who shows up for you?  Some people aren’t meant to linger in our lives.  They pass through, leaving a trail or an echo.  Sometimes without warning, they’re gone.  Chance encounter?  Short term, mutual benefits?  It happens. But…

I worry about the increasingly popular ‘work family’ conflation. This article is appealing on that topic. Truth? Work friends may never be more than that and investing ‘as if’ may be destructive in the long term – stage-setting for grief and loss when work relationships end. They do. It’s work.

Worse? The overuse of ‘family’ lingo can be a manipulation; playing on emotions to push productivity: Author Eleanor Tweddel: “The layering of ‘family’ creates an expectation of maybe going the extra mile, tolerating each other no matter what, in this together.”

Whether work-related or personal, opening yourself up to others is an unfolding, at best, and it takes time.  Especially for those of us who identify as introverts and relish the opportunities for depth as we explore relationships.  It’s okay to be pragmatic and enjoy the sharing, learning, laughing without worrying about labels, definitions or duration.

I love thinking about those who’ve moseyed through my work and personal life.  Not regretfully but with gratitude.  Life is wonderful in the randomness of it all.  And yet…I imagine every person on my path is/was there for a reason, even if it’s beyond my comprehension. 

Spending a few minutes considering who we let in…and who we can let go of…is time well-spent. Especially if you feel out of balance. Lots of giving…little in return? Hmm….time to ponder. I’ll be right there with you, doing the same. 

Take care!

-Vicki ❤

Words Matter

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

I continue to be fascinated by language.  Especially brief bursts – words and phrases, strung together that can be interpreted in endless ways.  Knowing the source, considering the context IS essential because often, the words themselves are bare and lacking.  What’s the tone and intent?  The distinction between supportive and dismissive can be subtle.

In conversations, we can typically tease out the nuances.  Friendly or fierce?  Helpful or harried?  Short messages – whether they’re missiles that come via text or an email (or a blog post!) can be hastily written.  Tone, intent, context. They matter. 

“Do what you’ve got to do” is such a phrase.  This week, those six words in a text exchange started a relationship tussle for a couple I know and it took them several days to unpack the hurt. 

Why? Do what you’ve got to do” is tricky. Is it an endorsement?  Go forth – with my blessing?  Hard to say.  Offered with a nod and a smile, it might convey just that.  I’m supportive.  You’ve got this

Offered with a shrug and a prickly ‘I don’t care’ overtone, it’s dismissive.  A conversation closer for sure and that’s how the receiver took the message.  “I don’t matter” she thought.  Channeling past hurt because she was tired, she spiced up the intent and added tone to the text message that wasn’t intended.

How are they now?  All is well.  Just a blip for them – all smoothed over.  Me?  It gave me something else to ponder.  Words matter.  Communication clarity.  We’re all a work-in-progress, eh?

-Vicki

My Kind of Swirl

A Decent Cup of Tea by Malachi McCormick, black and white photo

I love this book – A Decent Cup of Tea by Malachi McCormick.  Nothing’s better than a tiny volume which dispenses good advice (and a few tea-time recipes) tucked within engaging cover art.  It’s enchanting as it sits in the ‘top of the stack’ location – displayed prominently in my office because it feels like art.  A beloved book for many years and yet…I only recently deciphered why it appeals to me so. 

The swirls on the cover and the tendrils of steam from the teapot speak to me.  The natural movement.  Organic and calming.  As the author intended, I’m sure.  That must be why this book has held a showcase position on top of other volumes. 

Inspired to drink more tea, especially green tea for the health benefits, this book serves as a gentle nudge and a reminder to brew a pot. Every day.  Enjoy it later, over ice, or with a sweet treat, but make time for tea.

I also understand the broader, symbolic appeal of the natural swirls and steamy tendrils on the cover.  A friend recently confided that she’s struggling a bit.  Too many interlopers demanding her time and attention.  Inviting her into their swirls of stress and (sometimes) manufactured messes. 

The antidote?  Slow down to consider who and what is worthy of our time and attention. Many of us are wired to respond to calamities and crises but jumping into every swirl presented may be unwise. 

Cheers to self-care!

-Vicki

Honesty

Billy Joel

I’m a little ashamed of myself. I ignored and maligned Billy Joel’s music when it was new and popular. Why? I’m not sure. I think my musical preferences were grittier, way back then. I pooh-poohed his tracks and plopped what I thought were syrupy-sweet songs into a category of easy-to-ignore background music. 

One of the things I love about getting older is my delight in calling myself out – realizing when I’ve screwed up. If I owe a friend or family member an apology – I try to be quick to offer it – even if there’s a lag between my ‘oops’ and owning up to it. 

On more than one occasion, my “sorry” was laughed at, dismissedYou are so silly – you didn’t offend. I get it. But still…acknowledging errors of omission or ignorance is important to me. Never do I want to offend without intending. (Offend with intent? Sure – there are times I’ve relished that. I’m not saying I’m perfect or a doormat.)

During my morning walk today, Billy Joel’s 1978 track, “Honesty” popped up on my Sirius XM app and I believe I listened to the lyrics – really listened – for the first time ever. Especially this verse: 

“I can always find someone…to say they sympathize…If I wear my heart out on my sleeve. But I don’t want some pretty face to tell me pretty lies. All I want is someone to believe.” 

Yes. When we’re vulnerable, we want authenticity, honesty. Not a quick pat on the head but sincerity. Do you have a die-hard human you can depend on? Someone who supports you, gives you truth without a sugar coating. 

I hope you have someone like that in your life. As for Billy Joel? I’m grateful today that his impactful lyrics and artistry finally registered in my head and heart. Better late than never. I’ll offer up a cosmic apology in the form of this wee little blog post. Sorry, Mr. Joel.   

All the best,

-Vicki