Who says you can’t have it all?

I suppose it comes down to your own definition of what ‘having it all’ really means. We all set different targets for ourselves so what one man defines as ‘having it all’ may well fall short of how another interprets it. We all want a stress free, debt free, problem free life, but do we need all three to be truly happy, or a little of each, or just a lot of one?

Material things, ‘money’, is probably the biggest cause of stress in society and most feel they never have enough. Would having untold wealth be your definition of ‘having it all’? Kate Spade was probably seen as ‘having it all’. Beauty, brains, family who loved her, a hugely successful business, and fabulous wealth, yet she struggled with her own demons; demons that eventually over powered her ability to cope. She clearly didn’t think she ‘had it all’.

We strive for that high paying job, the bigger home, the newer car…… when is it enough? When will we sit back satisfied that we finally have it all? Or will we, ever? Competition and greed keep us forever raising the bar, increasing our anxiety and overriding our common sense.

Like anyone else, I’ve always aspired for more. I want a nice home, a car, nice clothes, and all with financial security, because all of these give me status in society,or so I thought.  If I’m doing better than another, even only slightly, I feel like I must’ve done something better. In my own warped perception I see it as my having succeeded somehow where they failed. At least that’s how I used to see it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the 5+ decades of my life it’s that all the stuff really doesn’t matter. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing, so why accumulate a lot of crap you’re only going to have to unload later?

To put it into perspective, think of the two most valuable assets in your life; a spouse, parent/sibling, a home, your career, even money, then try to imagine what it would feel like if you lost it overnight. How could you  bear it? And yet you will, because your survival instincts will kick in. Your rational mind will remind you of what you do have, and your common sense will  immediately start guiding you to ways to fill the void and focus on what is good in your life. I guess this is the way our inner spirit protects us. Could it be that you already have it all and just don’t see it? Gratitude for what we do have eventually overshadows our regret for what we don’t, and that is as it should be.

Now I’m not saying I no longer want those things, I do and always will, but if I don’t get them I won’t feel like I’m missing something. Life events that shake us to the core have a way of sobering us up, and like the saying goes, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I’ve come to terms with the reality that I won’t have great wealth. I will not be famous. In fact 99.9% of the worlds’ population will never know who I am, and I’m ok with that. I have a lovely family, wonderful friends, a warm bed to sleep in and food to sustain me. I celebrate every day as I never have before because I now realize how lucky I really am to see every new day, with or without the stuff I once thought so essential to my happiness. Less really is more!

I live in a country free of war and political turmoil. I have my health, as do my family and friends, and while I’m not rolling in money I have what I need, and for the first time in my life I can honestly say, I have it all and I bet if you really look at all that is good in your life instead of what you’re lacking you too will count yourself among those who “have it all”. How lucky are we!


Let it go

Ever get the feeling that you just can’t get out of your own way? I think we all do at some point. We’re spinning our wheels and getting nowhere, and we’ve the distinct feeling we’re missing something but have no idea what, and the weight of this unknown baggage is holding us back.

Instead of falling into the proverbial rut we need to take stock of the situation.  What is the priority in our lives at this moment and what do we see as the roadblocks? A happy fulfilling life is everyone’s right but every now and then we derail ourselves and getting our psyche back on track is easier than you would think – it just takes discipline.

First you need to release any ‘baggage’ you’re carrying; resentment, frustration, anger toward others, or even yourself. Deal with those emotional situations that calln be dealt with, in a positive way, and cast aside those that can’t be resolved because if you can’t fix it, don’t sweat it. It just drains you unnecessarily and feeds your negative ego. Forgiveness really is the release of negative energy.

Don’t fear change or something new. Letting go that which is familiar or comfortable is a leap of faith many are reluctant to explore but without change there is little progress, and no growth. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy but it’s the only way to achieve your dreams. That’s not to say you won’t fail occasionally….because we also learn through trial and error, and sometimes we have to accept that the answer is no because we may have taken the wrong path to our desired goal, so you dust yourself off, re-evaluate, and go to plan ‘B’ (there’s always a plan B) because you never want to look back over the years with regret… “I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve… Fear is that which will hold you back, so don’t let fear get the better of you. Let it go.

Stop trying so hard to make things happen. You have all the tools to succeed in life so don’t feel the need to push yourself to accomplish it all on your agenda.  Life doesn’t work that way and dreams have more than one way of manifesting themselves.  Trust that all will work out as it should and once you take off the pressure of ‘getting it done now’, you’ll be amazed at how things start to fall into place. Life is to be lived, not prescribed, and a relaxed, happy mind feeds positive energy to the body and soul.

Give yourself a reality check. Take a good look at the goals you’ve set for yourself to see if they are realistic. If you’ve set your sights on becoming the next Queen of England but you were born into an immigrant family that runs a sausage factory in Jersey, you’re probably setting yourself up to fail. I’m not saying give up your dreams; aim high, always, just set targets for yourself that make sense and are in line with your abilities, lifestyle and goals. (Maybe you could settle for being Queen of the Knockwurst at the next Octoberfest?)

My 3 year old granddaughter loves the Disney movie ‘Frozen’, where a lovely princess with the power to ‘freeze’ all that she touches flees society for fear of further inflicting danger upon them. As she runs away, she sings a song called “Let it go”, the message of which is to release all that holds you back. My granddaughter sings this song all the time and when I recently asked her what it meant she said, “it means I don’t want stuff anymore”. OK, unlikely she intended for it to sound profound, but unwittingly or not, she did pick up on the general message, which is more than I can say for most adults because to them it’s just a song in a kids movie.

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in yourself and what will be, because you are capable of anything.

Let it go.jpg

Mama, where are you?

Last August we had to put my 88 year old mother into long term care, a secure facility (she was a flight risk) with 24 hour care. Oddly enough, from the day she was admitted, she has never sought to get out. It was like she knew she was meant to be there.

She hasn’t seen the outside world in 10 months nor does she want to, it seems. She spends her days wandering the short hallways with a dazed look in her eyes, searching but never finding that which she seeks. My father visits regularly and insists she knows who he is (denial) but it’s so obvious he’s just ‘the nice man who comes to visit’. She delights in his visit; shows him her dolls, babbles incoherently (dementia has now stolen her ability to speak) and eventually falls asleep in her chair. Hers is a very small world and it’s getting smaller every day.

Mother’s Day came and went this year, as did her birthday, and it seemed so strange not to be able to celebrate with her, the lucid her. She doesn’t have a phone, for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t really matter anyway because she has no idea what a birthday or Mother’s Day is.

I think of her every day and often find myself saying “Mama, where are you?” She’s not dead, but she’s not living. She’s somewhere in between in a world that is suspended in time; a world for those in transition, those who are slowly, painfully slowly, making their way home. It’s not the kind of exit we envision for our loved ones but the choice is not ours.

Would it be easier to lose our loved one suddenly, in an accident, or by massive stroke or heart attack? I wonder. These circumstances would force us to deal with the death and move on, but in cases like this, where dementia or Alzheimer’s gradually destroy the brain cells we can just stand by helplessly and watch them slowly leave us. Even though death is inevitable would it be less of a loss, or less of a shock, when it finally comes because we’ve had years of watching them slowly slip away, i.e. we’ve been grieving the loss over time. Still, I wonder.

I think what I struggle with in dealing with my mother is that there’s no sense of release. She is very much alive, in a physical state, but as soon as you look into her eyes you see a vacancy, as though no one is inside looking back, and again I find myself asking, ‘Mama, where are you?’, but I know better than to expect an answer.

As much as I hate to see her in this state, I am grateful that she is in a safe facility, well cared for, and in no pain, and while we still remember her, she has no memory of us – maybe that’s a merciful thing. Our aging population and extended lives means mine is not a unique situation and for all who are experiencing this type of ‘loss’, I feel your pain. For the great number of our elderly who are wandering aimlessly and lost in a world of their own, I hope that in some way they know they are never forgotten.

Mama where are you

Tapped out!

Fundraising is not an easy job, I get that. Asking strangers for money requires a lot of nerve and very thick skin. Telemarketers probably get hung up on and verbally abused more often than not, so I suspect there is a high burnout rate in these roles. The toughest telemarketer to deal with is the one calling on behalf of a charity because unlike other ‘for profit’ businesses, they are calling to solicit for those in actual need. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. The lines of ‘business profit’ and true ‘charity’ have blurred, and all are now competing to win over the same donors so their tactics have become more aggressive.

For all of my adult life I have made it a point to give to charity when I can. Some are closer to my heart than others, some just make sense because they aid in the research of serious illness and some are to help those less fortunate. In hind sight I probably have been more charitable at certain times of the year; Christmas, or when I might’ve received a bonus at work. I am not wealthy by any means, but I do consider myself more fortunate than many. I have bills and a budget, but I’ve always manage to squeeze out a few dollars to help another and felt really good about it, until recently.

Earlier in the year I sent money to a couple of charities. I got my tax receipt with their thank-you note – end of story, you’d think,,,,but no. I then started getting phone calls asking for another donation; a new project or different arm of the organization now needed funding. I listened politely, explained that I had already made a donation and wasn’t in a position to give more at this time and trusted that it would end here. But it didn’t.

I started getting mail from several charities (clearly my name had been shared on some list) and in fairness I did donate to one or two that I hadn’t before. That was my mistake because I was now on the call list of several more charities. (I never gave out my telephone number but it was found)  Calls were coming in at all hours, with particular volume over the supper hour because you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch people at dinner. It got so we stopped answering the phone over the dinner hours and resorted to serious call-screening the rest of the day, but the calls keep coming.

They all have a ‘script’ to read, and launch into it the minute you answer. You try to interrupt but they just keep going without taking a breath and the only way to extricate yourself from what will be a good ten minutes of insincere pleading is to hang up, because they won’t give up. I try to be the ‘nice guy’ in dealing with these telemarketers because I know they take a lot of abuse and I do not envy them their job but when they started to employ sleazy tactics I knew I’d reached my limit. These agents called on the pretense of ‘thanking me’ for my donation and wanted to let me know ‘how my generous donation would be put to use’. And then they’d launch into their spiel about how sadly this wasn’t enough to meet their goals and more funds were needed to ensure success. Surely I could give more generously???? (yeah, guilt, that’ll win me over)

One agent even went so far as to accuse me of ‘not caring’ about the cause because I wasn’t willing to give more than I already had. Are these people trained to use guilt as a leverage or was this particular agent taking license on behalf of the organization? If the latter, how unfortunate for the charity, because after that call I made a vow to never donate to them again. I found the tactics employed distasteful and sadly in contradiction to the very meaning of  the word ‘charity’.

People give what the can, when they can. Some are in a position to give more than others but at the end of the day we all do what feels right for our conscience and our budget, and if we consistently fall for every sob story and/or bully who calls, we may find ourselves on the receiving end of charity because we’re just tapped out.

I for one will be much more selective about to whom I give my charitable dollars and when I do I make it clear that I do not want any follow up calls of any kind. Don’t thank me. I don’t want to hear how you’re using my donation. Just be grateful you got it and stop harassing me because if you don’t you’ll never get another one again.

empty pockets

Self awareness

I think we all know someone who is outspoken or opinionated. They ‘tell it like it is’, whether you want to hear it or not, and while it may be tiresome at times, it generally isn’t offensive. It’s who they are and everyone they speak to knows exactly how they feel, without asking. I’ve always been told I am direct, that’s me. But I’d like to think I stop short of being offensive because much as I have strong opinions, I have no desire to convert anyone or strong arm them into my way of thinking. If you want an honest opinion, I’ll give it to you, good or bad, but I will temper my response because I don’t want to hurt any feelings, any more than I’d want mine hurt.

What is tiresome however is the one who speaks their mind with no regard as to how what they say is being perceived because they appear to have no filter. They offer their honest opinion (usually unsolicited) with little concern as to whether or not it hurts or offends because ‘they have a right to speak their mind…..and if you can’t take it….(the truth, that is)…. it’s not their fault, i.e. it’s your problem.”

This outspoken individual will criticize another’s appearance, (“Have you thought of waxing that mustache, or do you not notice it?”) or question their preferences, (“So you actually like your hair that colour?” ) or they  flippantly put you in your place when you utter something they deem to be stupid, (“don’t be ridiculous” ,or they might say nothing because what you’ve said isn’t worthy of a response,  so they blow it off with a wave of their hand)  In short, they dismiss you; more importantly, they dismiss your feelings.

I know someone who has no such filter. In fact, I know a few. (I bet we all do) They speak their mind seeming to delight in the reactions of their audience, which makes me wonder,,,is that why they do it? Is it a matter of shocking people so they purposely choose opposing views? Or is it simply an attention seeking device coming from an insecure soul who thinks they elevate their own image by publicly lowering that of others? The older (and wiser?) I get, the more I lean to the latter. And with that mindset (the older and wiser part) I also have no desire to be around such people so I distance myself because contrary to their need for ‘freedom of speech’, I have no need to listen to it. (That’s the beauty of getting older!)

The real kicker here is that I honestly believe these individuals aren’t consciously aware that they are perceived as an obnoxious loudmouth, and if challenged will take one of two stands. The mature, confident, and secure loudmouth will be mortified that they have been somehow offending another and discipline themselves through self-reflection to ‘pay attention’ to their own conversations. The insecure and immature loudmouth will get their back up and look to rally support from bystanders to agree with their opinion, “don’t tell me you like that hair colour on her, c’mon”.

At the end of the day, we all have opinions but what many of us lack is self-awareness. Perhaps we all need at some time, to be filmed while in a dialogue – the replay might be the jolt we need to see ourselves as we really are. Or maybe what we need to see is the reaction of our audience to what we are saying. Either way, I think we could all do to pay attention to our delivery and consider the feelings of those around us. While I do not condone lying, ever, I do not see the point of telling the cold hard truth when it means wounding another.

If an individual asks for your honest opinion, give it…just pay attention to how you deliver it. And if they don’t ask for your opinion, don’t feel compelled to give it. Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what it’d be like to be on the receiving end of your ‘honest opinion’. They may not like what they hear but if they solicit your advice, it’s because they really want it, good or bad (just don’t broadcast it in a crowded room)  They deserve to hear the truth and obviously trust your judgement enough to risk hearing it, but there are ways however, to deliver ‘the truth’ without shocking or offending, and if you can’t manage that, follow the old adage “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all”, or be prepared to spend a lot of time alone in the future.

 Loud mouth