It’s another hot day. A hot Florida day, I might add, which would be bearable, even pleasurable I suppose if I were on a beach somewhere. But . . . I’m not. I’m sitting on a park bench beneath a canopy of shady Weeping Willow trees writing these lines as quickly and as intently as possible while my granddaughter Meghan sleeps undisturbed in her carriage, a few inches away.
Every few seconds my eyes lift to check on her. Such a lovely creature, my thoughts and chest swell with pride as I take in those soft rolls of baby fat lacing about her naked arms and legs making me instantly forget how tired I really am.
My world is now this world. That of a baby, their every whimper is the only call to which I beckon, leaving me ragged come the end of every day with no time to devote to anything else. Let alone me.
Interestingly enough though it does afford me a great deal of time to think. To ruminate about the universe, about myself, who I am, and all those changes, those amazingly scary, difficult-to-digest events that have brought me here. To this particular place, to this particular moment.
“Life is a process of becoming,” said the percipient Anais Nin, “a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
I’ve always believed that nothing is without purpose. It takes many lifetimes meshed with many dramatic transformations we need to go through in order to get to where we need to be. And by sitting still . . . we’ll never get there.
Had I been a different person, had I not approached life in the “unusual” manner I did, taking a vacation from one life to start another, packing up, leaving all behind, re-inventing myself over and over in search of a new life, love, until something spectacular finally emerged, I wonder . . . would I be here at all?
I gaze into the carriage. Would she?
In the beginning, everything was an adventure. But then again, I was still naïve, barely twenty-one and fresh from suburbia where an exciting night to me consisted of locking lips with my boyfriend under the bleachers. What the hell did I know?
So with college behind me, I threw my dreams to the wind and made my way to New York City. That seventeen-square-mile piece of bustling real estate where the worlds of finance, fashion, and food collided. And to every single girl everywhere: Utopia. Yes, I had arrived. In no time at all I blended into the scenery, I’d assimilated into the part of that fast-talking, fast-walking working girl. From the top of my Chanel beret to the bottom of platform Corky’s, the pieces of my plan quickly began to fall into place like pennies from heaven. I partied at The Bottom Line, I shopped on Canal Street, I spent summers at the Hamptons and winters in Vermont and for a long time in my mind, things were good. I took pleasure in this life I’d created, even the quiet, consistent things that moved my daily world. The homeless man grounded to the sidewalk, the boots crunching in the snow, the typewriter at my desk, the coffee cup, the stack of yesterday’s newspapers.
But then like everything else that time touches sharpening those imbalances of what we refuse to see, the luster began to fade. My individual slice of the apple didn’t look so shiny to me anymore. And by then feeling slightly whittled away by years and a blur of romantic liaisons not worth mentioning, I found myself in an older and somewhat wiser position with my sneakers back on and running. Running and running as fast as I could, thousands of miles away to Guadalajara, Mexico where I next fell into the arms of Mr. Medical Student, who eventually broke my heart as it’s never been broken before.
By the time I landed in Miami, the place where tacos weren’t the only thing on the menu, I was twenty-six and my Nikes and emotional fiber were already showing signs of wear and tear. I tried to view this next stop as a fresh start, but it was difficult in the face of my surroundings which stated loud and clear just how badly things were turning out for me. The reality of constantly reinventing myself had sunk in . . . but good. And while I’d allowed my life to breeze by with the giddiness of discovering the world and growing up as only I believed I should, I could also see that by continuing down this road like rootless tumbleweed with nothing to show for all my troubles, what I wanted to achieve from life, might not be what I was going to get.
So I did the unthinkable: I hung up my running sneakers. Then let the next thirty years run its course.
Image courtesy of Giddeaon.
I married Mr. Bicycle Man, had two children, added a catalog of professional hats to my resume until the next blow. One so monstrously hard it knocked the sh*t out of me. Divorce. Oh yes . . . I saw that one coming a mile down the road but instead of acknowledging its imminent arrival I pretended it was happening to some other lucky couple. At least for a little while anyway, given the weight of running a household, a business and grieving the loss of a beloved sister all within that same fragile space of human wreckage.
I remember sobbing a lot in those days. I remember mourning the passage of my youth slipping through my fingers like a mist. And that sudden prospect of facing life alone with two small children to care for, never felt more devastating.
Yes, I was fairly certain that if a rock bottom existed, I was there.
The truth was I’d suffered through ten years of a loveless marriage. I’d sacrificed my sense of self-worth all for the sake of a plan, a dream. A silly dream that anticipated the life I wanted: a house to have a family in, a husband to grow old with. That was the vision I’d created for myself as a girl. And as the years passed, when those things didn’t materialize, I began to feel the dream also starting to leave me like the sun setting in the distance and did the only thing I could: I brought those things to me. I forced a life that in reality wasn’t mine, taking without feeling the love that should have been there, before all else.
At the end of the day, I paid dearly for that dream. Of this I had little doubt. And once the karma gods saw fit to forgive my transgressions, I began to grow in unexpected ways, bolder ways, vowing never to short-change myself ever again. Those days of turning myself inside/out like some ridiculous human pretzel in order to please someone else, were over. And from that point forward the mantra became: to thine own self be true. No matter how lonely, how harsh the world around me became.
For all this confidence, the credit was not mine alone. Looking back, had it not been for the wonderful support system of friends and family I had in place, I know things could have easily gone in a whole different direction for me at that precipice in time. Those compassionate faces helped me stand back up, find that footing I’d so foolishly misplaced along the way and made me realize that I still had a whole life in front of me to live.
Yes, I was lucky in that respect. I had people in my corner who cared.
I also just turned fifty-five. An age when most people viewed their empty nest as the perfect time to take actions like fixing up the house or selling it, finding a new hobby, or investing smarter with thoughts of retirement versus traipsing off somewhere they didn’t know another soul and starting all over again.
Over the years I didn’t really talk much about why I picked myself up like that and just left, other than to say I was looking for something more than what I had. In those early years of taking vacations from life to life, I wasn’t sure I could articulate that type of searching to anyone, even if I wanted to.
But the truth was I think I was simply running away from the person I was, in the hope of becoming someone better.
Yes, that was me six years ago. Runaway mother and bad daughter with a one-way ticket in hand at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport bound for LA, sneakers on, an apartment already lined up in Santa Monica and ready for anything. And why shouldn’t I be? I was heading to the entertainment capital of the world, the place where glitz, glam and bling oozed from every nook and cranny, where unbelievably it never rained, no one ever grew old and darned if I could figure . . . you could always find a bar open when you needed it.
Suddenly as if shedding a layer of skin, I felt alive again. Exhilarated by what I saw, what I did, every sense was on overdrive. My days were spent exploring while my nights were spent eating, drinking and forgetting that I was no longer twenty-five. Shops and restaurants weren’t simply shops and restaurants to me. They were Spago, Gucci and Louis Vuitton all rolled up in this magnificent experience as though an affirmation that the decision I made to trade in a life of balmy weather and bad hair days that left me looking like Sideshow Bob’s sister for one of sleek do’s and the certainty that my next date would be with someone that didn’t remind me of my grandfather, was by far the easiest — if not the best — I’d ever made!
I knew there was life after menopause. I also knew dating, once over a particular mile-marker, was a whole different animal. No more braving the bar scene or any scenario similar to that where I’d be surrounded by a sea of perky-busted twenty/thirty somethings with not a hint of cellulite or wrinkle anywhere. That was not my idea of fun or anyone else’s for that matter endowed with more brains than chutzpa!
No, if romance was in the cards for me, well, then, it would just have to come find me. In my new environment I suddenly found myself playing catch-up with all those things I used to feel passionately about: painting, writing, visiting all of LA’s museums, art galleries as well as attending the theatre as much as my pocketbook would allow. It seemed as if all at once my world felt full. So full in fact I didn’t even notice that the dinner dates and coffee dates that were once an almost weekly affair had slowly dwindled down to a big fat zero.
The strange thing was in all those years of searching not once did I give up on the idea of love. But I couldn’t help but think somehow it had given up on me. I’d already invested more years than I cared to discuss in pursuit of it and despite its elusiveness, I somehow still found myself plodding along, perhaps though a bit more sluggishly in search of this mythical Holy Grail that might or might not even exist, believing should I find it, all those missing pieces of my life would finally, miraculously fall into place.
What I didn’t realize was that they already had. But not in any way I ever imagined.
My daughter became pregnant. She was alone and three thousand miles away. Without a doubt, I felt blind-sided by the news. Gobsmacked actually! The idea of grandparenthood suddenly thrust into my lap like hot coal was about as alien a thought to me as living on the moon. I hadn’t even joined AARP yet for Christ’s sake and here I was about to be someone’s Granny.
No, no, no! I definitely did not want to be this person, this grandmother person, I kept telling myself repeatedly, frantically until I heard nothing else except the gentle, creaking sound of one door closing and another opening.
Six years ago I hopped on a plane. Continuing this extraordinary process of becoming in search of that perfect life, that perfect man and that perfect home. A quest that had taken me from one end of the map to another, one lifetime to another.
But somewhere in all my searching, all my wearing out of leather soles and door mats I failed to grasp what I should have known right from the start: that home is only a word, that four walls are just that — four walls. And…
Yes, that’s the good stuff!
Some people always seem to know exactly where they’re going, while others take forever to figure it all out. Perhaps I’m one of those that fall somewhere in the middle. And even though my long vacation stints are now officially over and my running shoes tossed away, as I stare at this remarkable sleeping bundle licking her lips getting ready to wake, I’m here with open arms for whatever falls into them next. Because I know life is always going to be a surprise. Oh yes, a wonderful, wonderful surprise.
Even for those wayward dreamers like me.
Are These Half-Truths Crippling Your Happiness?
A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies. ~ Mark Twain
Someone owes you an apology.
Right now. And it had better be a good one.
Because your happiness has been crippled by some seriously twisted half-truths.
Heck, you’ve been told the exact opposite of how happiness works. I hesitate to say you’ve been lied to… but then again you have!
You deserve better. You deserve the whole truth. Not some half-baked truth that’s little better than the lie it disguises.
You’ve worked really hard to try and find happiness. And having found it, to keep it. Because it’s all to easily knocked to the floor by a partner or parent’s harsh words, the boss’ bad mood or overdue utility bills hitting your inbox or doormat.
But there’s the other kind of happiness. One that can withstand disappointment, disillusion and disagreement.
One that lets you keep smiling when everyone else is reaching for a bottle.
That happiness is totally real. But if you continue believing these half-truths, it’ll never happen.
So yeah, that apology is long overdue.
It’s time to expose those happiness-stealing half-truths for the crippling lies they are…
Put others first
You’ve been told you need to put others first since you were out of diapers. After all, that’s what all decent people do, isn’t it? We all want to do the right thing. And putting ourselves before others, well, that just sounds wrong. Selfish even.
- Do sick people look after sick people in hospital?
- Do homeless people house homeless people?
- Do unhappy people spread happiness?
In truth, we all do what we can. But your basic needs need to be met first…because your happiness isn’t going to thrive if the needs of others come before yours.
And your happiness needs to be in a good shape to really help others. If possible you need to be full of joy and energy.
Get that right and you can help so many more people. Genuinely help. Effectively help. Not the half-baked version of help that comes with trying to put on a happy face when you’re really feeling down, exhausted or lost in life yourself.
That’s why they insist you put your oxygen mask on first before your kid’s when there’s a mid-air emergency. What good are you to your kid if you’re half-conscious?
The whole truth is you need to put your happiness first if you are going to effectively help other people to be happy.
Make Your Parent’s Proud
Oh, there’s another common half-truth that’s a total happiness assassin. The job of making your parents proud. This is closely related to putting other’s first.
‘Make me proud, daughter! I gave you life and love. Now it’s payback time, right?’
Of course they don’t think of it this way. Most parents aren’t trying to lay a guilt trip on you. But somehow the odds don’t seem in any way even. The cards are stacked.
They may have cared for you and give you opportunities. Even heaped genuine love on you. But why and where the heck did making them proud come from?
‘Make me proud, son!’ I put you through school and college.’
Because you know what? Your dreams and desires aren’t theirs. Just because you share a little DNA, you can’t make them proud. Only they can do that.
You can bust your back trying to get a first class honors, or a six figure pay check or a fancy title. And will it make them proud? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a lottery.
So concentrate on your job – making yourself proud.
And let them concentrate on their job – deciding that they are going to be proud of you because, and only because, you decided to have the courage to live life your way.
Now that’s something any parent should be truly proud of.
The whole truth is it’s your job to make your parents proud of nothing. Live your life, let them live theirs. Love each other and both be proud that neither of you feel the need to dictate the other’s life.
Honesty Is The best Policy
Another rotten half-truth that’s wormed its way insidiously inside us is that honesty is always the best policy.
Who could argue with that?
Well, anyone with a good heart to start with.
Sure we want to live in a nice world where we can trust each other. Where we don’t worry that we’ll be lied to by friends or scammed out of our hard-won cash by strangers. We all want to know who we can trust. And that means we need to always be honest, right?
Yes. To a point.
Up to the point that someone’s honesty would ruin someone else’s day, pick of their self-esteem from a hundred paces or stab their ego through the heart.
Or even destroy their life.
We’re all human and no matter how buff and resilient we pretend to be, underneath it all we’re delicate, fragile beings. And if you’ve got a good heart, in some situations the brutal, harsh truth needs to be left unsaid. A little white lie needs to go in its place. Even to yourself.
Because life gets tricky. In fact, It can get brutal and messy no matter how hard you try. Blurring the truth can seriously rocket your happiness and someone else’s if you swap feeling guilty for feeling good that you deliberately put their feelings first.
The whole truth is honesty is only the best policy if it builds rather than destroys happiness. If it does more harm than good, to hell with the truth! In the real world, kindness is always the best policy for everyone’s happiness.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Like most of these half-truths, this next one is very well-intentioned. But oh boy, is it going to mess you up. You’ve been told that comparing yourself to others is wrong. And again, that’s a lie.
‘Don’t do it’ is the general cry. ‘Just stop!’.
It’s a lie because there is nothing wrong with comparing yourself to others. And this lie just makes you feel bad about doing it.
Comparing yourself to others is a basic human trait. It’s the mechanism that lets you process the world around you and where you fit into it. Everyone does it – me, you, Oprah, the President. Everyone to some extent or another.
Taking that away is like pulling the plug on your oxygen. You’ll be left reeling, gasping, no idea which way to turn.
The truth is, you need to compare yourself to the right people. The right ones for you. Which doesn’t include…
- Beating yourself up over an apparently ‘more successful’ friend’s amazing – and carefully selected – Facebook photos.
- Feeling desperately unattractive after leafing through glossy, glamorized – and carefully edited – images of models.
- Feeling like a failure while reading articles on the rich and famous.
Comparing yourself to other people’s half-truths is like drinking Drano to cure a stomach ache. It’s pure poison to your happiness.
Remember most people are liars, even if they do it subconsciously. And I don’t mean that to be an insult, or an accusation. It’s the truth. And if they aren’t lying, they’re telling half-truths. Exaggerating, or ‘touching up’ or ‘dressing up’ or a hundred other euphemisms.
Most of what you see out there is a distorted version of the truth at best. So where the heck does that leave you?
Well, there is only one surefire way to know if someone is a good model to compare yourself to…
- If looking at how they live makes you happy rather than depressed.
- If researching what they’ve achieved inspires you rather than de-motivates you.
- If looking at how they look makes you feel good about how you look right now.
The whole truth is that comparing yourself to someone else can and should make you feel good. It should leave you excited, energized, eager. If you come away with negative emotions, drop that person as someone to ever compare yourself to.
Discard those half-truths and grow your happiness.
You’ve been lied to, however well intentioned.
But you may never get an apology.
Because most people spend their whole lives believing in these half-truths.
But now you know the whole truth, you can throw off those shackles to your happiness.
- Go make yourself happy first – and then spread that happiness around all the better.
- Go make yourself proud – and then let your parents make themselves proud of you.
- Go out goodhearted and make someone feel good in their heart – and then worry about the truth.
- Go compare yourself to someone who makes you feel good right now – and then keep doing it.
Go embrace the whole truth.
Because the purpose of life is to be happy.
And that includes you.
By Karen Salmansohn
I confess there was a time, a few years back, that I lost myself in the role of mommyhood. I didn’t put in the time for “me,” because I was so caught up in making sure I was lovingly taking care of my son – in every way possible.
For example, when my son (Ari) began Kindergarten, I’d spend the morning putting far more attention into deciding what Ari would be wearing, than what I’d be wearing. Ari and I would discuss what clothes were “cool” (sweatpants and Pokemon tee shirts) and “not cool” (jeans and button down shirts). Meanwhile I just threw on a “whatever” outfit (usually involving yoga pants).
One morning my son and I were riding down in our building’s elevator with a neighbor. My son was talking with me in an animated way about his favorite Pokemon cards.
My neighbor warmly interrupted, “Excuse me,” she said smiling.
Ari and I looked at her. It was common for our neighbors to interrupt us – so as to say something sweet to Ari. In fact, I was pretty certain whatever she would say next would be about Ari.
“I love that necklace,” my neighbor said.
I immediately looked at Ari. But he was not wearing a necklace.
I thought I must not have heard my neighbor correctly.
“What did you say?” I asked her. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I love that necklace,” she repeated.
Again I looked at Ari. Again, I reconfirmed that there was no necklace around my son’s neck.
My neighbor pointed to my neck. “Your necklace,” she said
I laughed. “Oh, I’d forgotten all about this necklace,” I explained. “I bought it many years ago. I sleep in it. I even shower in it.”
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
Although this compliment might seem at first like a simple exchange – it had a big impact on me. It was a bit of a wake-up call even.
Because I realized in that moment that I hadn’t simply forgotten about my silly necklace. I’d forgotten about me too.
I’d forgotten that I could be notice-able.
Plus I also realized that I didn’t feel comfortable in the role of The Noticed.
I much preferred my role as background fodder to my son.
I know a lot of moms wind up losing themselves in the process of parenting their kids. In my case, Ari made it easy to do so – because Ari’s naturally outgoing and spot-light oriented. For example, Ari loves to dance down the street in the mornings – simply because he wakes up happy. Plus, Ari has a passion for asking strangers permission to pet their cute dogs. And when it’s Ari’s birthday, he’s not shy to tell random people on the street. As a result, overtime I’d become the quiet one in the family.
Even after Ari entered preschool, and I had more time to myself, I still found myself preferring a more quiet life. My days were focused on writing, writing, writing – trying to do the “working mommy balancing act” – which often meant juggling in far more work than play. Over time, since Ari was born, I’d lost contact with some of my favorite friends – my local gym – and my neighborhood mani-pedi place.
My top priorities had become: be the best mommy to Ari when with him – and make money to support Ari when not with him.
Mommy-time and work-time eventually superceded self-care time and Karen time.
My needs had become invisible to me.
I’d become invisible to me.
My next wake up call to my Invisible Woman role came about one month later.
Ari and I were watching a Disney movie on Netflix. We got to talking about the concept of “lead characters” versus “sidekicks.”
The next day Ari came home from school and asked me if he was the lead character in his Kindergarten classroom.
I explained to Ari that everybody in his classroom was the lead character of their own life – and how there were multiple storylines going on at the same time.
I also told Ari that although he was the lead character in his own life – sometimes Ari played a sidekick in someone else’s life story.
Ari looked surprised – then he looked accepting.
“So, my friend Michael is the lead character of Michael’s life?” Ari asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “And Harry is the lead character of Harry’s life. And you are a part of their stories. They each have their storylines to lead – the way you have your storyline to lead!”
Ari smiled. “Ok, I get it,” he said. “I’m just the lead character of my life only.”
“Yes,” I said. “Correct.”
“BUT,” Ari said, “I’m also the lead character in your life too….Right, mommy?”
I smiled – but said nothing.
“Right mommy?” Ari asked again. “I’m the lead character in your life too?”
I paused and wondered.
Ari had become the lead character in my life.
And I wanted Ari to be the lead character in my life.
I even felt bad thinking that Ari was not the lead character in my life.
I felt it would make me a bad mommy – to put myself before my son- and to be the lead character of my own life.
Then I thought again.
I was reminded of my neighbor in the elevator – who complimented me on my necklace – and how surprised I was that this woman was even noticing me.
I had stepped into that elevator as “Ari’s sidekick.” Then after this woman’s comment to me, I was jolted back into my body – and hence back into awareness that I was not simply Ari’s background fodder.
I thought about this more – and became aware of some new thoughts.
Firstly, it didn’t make me a “bad mommy” to be the “lead character” of my own life. This was not an egotistical choice. It was a “soul-itstical choice.”
I also realized how there’s a big difference between being “egotistical” and “soul-itistical.”
Plus I found it interesting how we don’t have this word “soul-itistical” in our vocabulary – and it’s a very important word to think about.
Here are my thoughts on what it means to be “soul-itistical.”
I believe we are here on this planet to become our best possible selves.
We are here to stretch and grow our souls – or our “core selves” – if you’re more psychologically oriented.
It’s important we be the lead character of our own lives – because that’s why we’re here on this planet – for our soul (core self) to learn, grow, thrive.
With this in mind, it’s essential that we not simply exist in the background of someone else’s life – because then we’d forget about our soul’s unique and true purpose!
We need to make sure we are nurturing our soul’s unique and true purpose – living authentically to who we are – in order to be truly happy.
If we’re not living awake to the needs and cravings of our soul (core self), then we are missing out on the whole purpose of why we’re here on this planet!
In fact, many problems occur in life when we stop paying attention to our soul’s yearnings – and put our soul’s needs on hold in order to make others happy!
In fact, when we stop making ourselves the lead character of our own life, we can become pretty darn sad, angry, resentful, regretful.
It’s not egotistical to be the lead character of our own lives. It’s soul-itistical.
We need to pay attention to our soul’s needs and cravings in order to find true happiness and deep fulfillment.
“Sooooo,” Ari said, “Am I the lead character of your life, mommy?”
I sighed loudly. I hoped I could say what I wanted to say in the right way.
“Ari,” I said, “Right now you are the most important person in my storyline – but I am the lead character in my own storyline. My storyline has been a long, interesting and zig zagging one – and many of my most favorite parts in my storyline all happened when you arrived. You are one of the biggest contributors to what makes my storyline fun and happy. But…well… I am the lead character of my story. ”
Ari took a moment to take all of this in – then smiled hugely! “Ok! So, I’m your fun sidekick,” Ari announced. He sounded super-excited to play this role.
Shortly after this conversation, I stepped back into being the lead character of my own life. I started to go to the gym more – makes plans to see friends more – do more of my favorite hobbies (like reading novels and seeing indie films) – get mani-pedis and blow-out my hair. I also started to get dressed up in the morning – in non-yoga pants. Although these were small outer changes, they were symbolic of a bigger inner change. I became passionately determined to make sure I was indeed the lead character of my own life – without feeling guilty about it. I accepted that it was absolutely okay – and even necessary – to pay more attention to nourishing my soul.
My hope for you:
I hope you embrace the role of lead character in your life. Be soul-itistical! Don’t forget who you are at your core. Do not allow yourself to become The Invisible Woman or The Invisible Man. Appreciate that you are here to grow and stretch your soul. And appreciate all the many sidekicks who help to make your lead character role here on this planet a fun and happy storyline.
“I’m looking forward to getting my life back.” That was my quick response when a friend asked me how I felt about my book deadline. “…getting my life back.” What kind of reflection was that on the previous nine months of my life? Was all that time I’d spent (intensely) focused on creating something meaningful, was that not my life , the life that I’ve worked my whole life to choose?
Making things for other people expands you. After nine+ months of pulling ideas from the ethers and stitching them into this dimension, there’s no way I would be the same person as when I started. The life I had before wouldn’t fit anymore. I didn’t really want it back.
“Actually, you know,” I decided to correct myself, “This is my life right now. And it’s weird, and I love it. And I looked forward to this. So, ya, I’m right here.” After a long time of tight-roping from project to project, I felt like I climbed off the wire and started walking on the ground–where the rest of my life was.
Life is what happens on the way to the finish line.
Your finish lines are the exclamation point on how you’ve been living.
The training, the making, the building, the learning, it’s not “preparation for tomorrow”, it’s your life today. The life you’re choosing. And if you’re not loving what it feels like between destinations, then get off the ride. Burn the itinerary. F-ck “motivation” and be still long enough to find your inspiration.
Because finish lines are always moving. And you’re a different person by the time you cross them.