The Hyperbole of Romance, Love, and Commitment… it is the little things. Big things you have to deal with, little things erode, or build – depending…”

I read a posting about “how to stay married” that a friend sent me, to see what I thought about it. When I finished, I realized how much: “Love Hyperbole” , “Romance Hyperbole,”, and  “Commitment Hyperbole,” we are subject too.

I have been married to my Hero, my best friend, My Kathy , for more than 33 years. I learned a lot during those decades; about me, about her, about change, about life. Nothing stays the same, not love, not romance, not feelings, not people, and certainly, not a marriage. Time has an affect on all things. The way I courted Kathy 34 years ago, well THAT Kevin, and THAT Kathy aren’t here anymore. The strong supple bodies, with the hour glass figure on her, and the broad shoulders on me- have been replaced with, let’s be gentle and say: more huggable bodies. No hard edges anymore, no sharp curves, or firmness to most parts of our bodies. Hair has chosen where to grow, and decided to thin, or disappear, from our heads to sprout up in the most unlikely of places.  Sex is not a several times a day, or even a week, or, to be honest, even a month anymore. Sex has been replaced, with a deep penetrating affection that permeates every moment of our day. Our hands reach for each other like they have a life of their own, and once they are safely tangled in a familiar grip- the world, our world together, is okay.

Love, Romance, Commitment, are processes, not events. They unfold over time, sometimes in ways that can’t be predicted, or anticipated. Each day requires you to do maintenance on your relationship. You don’t need the hyperbole that is evident everywhere in our media fed society. Diamond rings? New cars? Fulfilling her every wish, and demand? Putting your life and dreams on hold for his, or hers? Giant expensive boxes of chocolate? None of that is necessary…okay, maybe the Chocolate. LOL  Whisking away to romantic getaways, or taking three days on a deserted island will not, repeat, will not, save, or build your long term relationship, although they might, under certain circumstance – build memories, or defuse some stress. To make a love grow, or romance to appear, or to stay committed to one another, over time, it is the little things you need to pay attention to.

Want to have sex with her on Saturday, start on Wednesday! Don’t initiate sex until you have done a few things for her, like: laundry, yard work, the bills, or taken the kids so she can have a quiet cup of coffee. When she is rested, refreshed, and restored THEN tell her about her beauty, her sexiness, her soft skin, pretty eyes, and warm, friendly, funny, personality. Tired loving, is work. A chore. If you are the female in the relationship, sex is not a weapon to be used to reward or punish. And, believe it or not, there is a huge difference between male and female sexual needs, desires, and feelings. In my opinion, most of the sex drive is hardwired from eons of evolution, therefore, male and female desires in that area, seldom match the societal framework we try to hang it on. On top of that, individual tastes, preferences, and basic biological difference between individuals, and timing, all affect the amount, quality, and experience of sexual trysts. Which is why real deep affection is in the cuddles, the hand holds, the kind words, and the hugs. Believe me, for many decades sex will be important for both of you, as it brings you close in a truly intimate way. Sex will never reach the deep level of intimacy provided by a quiet, private, sharing conversation. There is a reason that at the end of life, most couples just want the companionship, and sharing silences that come from years of doing the little things right. You can have sex with almost anyone who is willing, and attractive to you, the number of people you would trust with a secret, is much smaller. The number of people who can sit and share watching your new DVD with, is smaller than that. The person who you feel completely safe with, and trust your heart too, is a small number. Usually only one, at the most two (and that presents its own challenges!).

What are these little things you should do that are bereft of hyperbole?

1) Help. Yep. Help with dinner, with the kids, with chores, with making the bed, with errands. Help out when ever you can. Do the dishes. Paint the porch. Move the furniture without complaining, and leave his ugly recliner alone!

2) Be kind. Always. In all ways. Say: Please, Thank You, I am sorry. When you do say them, mean it. Open doors, open cans, treat her/him with kindness. Tell them they are smart, catch them being smart, and tell them- that way it sticks. When men and women are cranky, or tired, kindness can be as simple as giving them space, a place to rest, or bringing them their favorite book and a hot chocolate , without having been asked. Knowing what will let them chill out, is a kindness. So is making sure they know you love them.

3) This next one is a biggie, and it might be the single most powerful tip you will ever hear for truly good communication. Millions of books, TV shows, and scientific studies show tell us how important good communication is- so why can’t men and women, or partners communicate well with each other? Ready? The reason is simple- most of us talk, and few of us listen. Or, if we listen, we only hear the words. So here is the single most important, deceptively simple, but agonizingly difficult to to do, tip:

When the other person is talking, listen without forming a reply. That’s it.

“What?” I can hear you saying. “What the heck?”

Most of us aren’t listening to the other person, we are just waiting to put in our two cents worth. The whole time they are talking we are formulating a reply, rebuttal, or defense in our minds, which means, we are not listening to them, but ourselves.

Want to have deeper, more meaningful, and interesting conversations…learn to listen. Not to just the words. Tone of voice, what is said , and when, and where, facial expressions, all convey a lot more than words. If all you do is listen to the words, you often miss out on what is really being said.

Which leads to the last things; words should match actions. If you tell her you will do something, then do it. Make your eyes smile too. When you hug someone, relax. Snuggle into it. I need a hug, means they need to be held. NOTE to Guys: Hugs are not foreplay. They are pure comfort, trust , and safety. If it leads to sex, from her initiative, by all means, have a great romp. However, 99% of the time, a hug, is just that. Nothing more, nothing less. It is being held for the sake of being held. Hugs vary in intensity, necessity, and length of time. Do not hurry hugs. Try this, when you hug her- or him, don’t say a word, and hug them gently, and see how long it takes for them to relax in your arms. If they do relax, just hold them until the moment ends…do not rush hugs!

The last thing I want to bring up is something most folks don’t notice: change. Change is a constant. Our bodies age, our tastes change, and our desires wax and wane. Music that used to make us jump up and rush to the dance floor, now seems loud and distracting. Foods we used to love, have been replaced by new tastes, or a preference for old tastes might emerge again. Change means you have to adapt. Being a young couple with no children is much different than being a young couple with two kids. When kids leave the house, the dreaded “empty nest” syndrome, is a real change for a lot of folks. Many good marriages become all about parenting, and the couple hood is taken for granted. The kids leave, and the parents found out, that is what they had become- parents. They forgot, for years, maybe…how to be a couple, how to date, how to talk like they did before kids.

So, be kind, learn to love and be loved as you are now.

And that, isn’t hyperbole.

Simple Things…

When I came home from my most recent trip at sea; my wife had taken a brightly colored throw rug out of our bathroom, and placed it just inside our front door. It makes the entrance way much more bright and welcoming.  Just by moving a rug from its usual resting place. The whole house has a better “feel”. Simple things can make a huge difference; especially , if they are unexpected. What about in your personal life?

Oh yes. Here is a simple thing you can do -if you live with someone- pay attention when they speak. Yep. Just listen. It is difficult to do, but , oh so simple.  All you have to do, is listen. That means you cannot be thinking of a reply, before they are even done speaking. It means you have to think about what they are saying, why they are saying it, and when. If you learn to listen, you will discover how much they have to say. They will discover that they can say anything they need to say. You will then have communicated. Simple. LOL

For you working people; find something that everyone in your office, corporation, or business: bitches about. Then fix it. Yep. Instead of going: “Man, they don’t even ….” Or , “They don’t care about us…”  Find something to do that makes it easier for your workplace, or fellow workers. It can be something as simple as getting the group together with the “bosses” ; to figure out what is best for the customers. Happier customers , better business, longer job! Simple.

Want to get along better with other cultures, or people of a different background? Stop judging differences. That’s all. Take away : “Wrong”, and “Right”, replace it with something like: tolerance. Try to find out why they do what they do- and why it bothers you. Then, let it go. Different is just different- it isn’t wrong or right. Simple.

Trying to figure out what to do with your life? Look around at it. What don’t you like about the way you are , or where you are; right now. Right this moment in life. Looking at where you are, gives you a starting point. Even though that starting point may be : “I can’t live like this anymore.” Sometimes, finding out what you don’t like, is a great starting place for finding what you do like.  Simple things.

I have a friend, who had to take a job at a Fast Food Place – and he was forty years old! He hated it. After a few months, he realized he hated the JOB, but , he loved managing people. Turns out, he makes great schedules, he adapts to the folks who works with him. He likes finding out who is a good cook, and who is a good cashier. He has the lowest turnover of any Fast Food store in our old town. What he discovered is, he likes management. He now is the General Manager. Funnily enough, he makes a good salary, much more than the minimum wage he started at- yet, he works at the exact same store. Simple.

I have another friend, a family member (and that is a great combination!) who has a talent for budgeting. She likes being frugal. She also likes the good things in life, eating with friends, dancing, and doing things. She knows how to balance that within a budget. She started with just one friend who asked her to help her get a sound financial footing. Now? She has a part time business, and has even done a wedding budget. Word is getting out. She just loves what she does. She feels it helps people, and she loves to see them smile as they meet their goals ; or, in most cases (so far) exceed them. No fancy office. She uses her kitchen table. No fancy spreadsheets, she uses paper and crayons, and pencils. She hand makes little pie charts and graphs to make it simple and fun to see the changes.  Simple things.

The last of the simple things: Tell people you love, that you love them. If you feel like saying: “Thank you,” to someone- please do. Learn to say : “Thank you.”  “I am sorry.” “Please.” “You are so kind.”  Simple things. Just like life.

 

 

Righteous, self -righteous, and wrong.

Hey Gang, This happened to me this afternoon. Sheesh.  ( After I wrote this, I wasn’t to proud of myself. So much to learn, if you want to be Super at Sixty.)

We  were at Wal-Mart picking up a new  mop; so that I could come home and finish washing and waxing floors. Earlier in the day I had been out walking and got caught in a thunderstorm–well, actually a rainstorm. Kathy  saw how hard it was raining, climbed in the truck and came and got her poor drenched husband. I just wiped off when I got home, I didn’t bother taking a shower.

So back at the Wal-Mart, I get the mop, and it starts raining again. Kathy, gracious- as always, goes out to get the truck–since she never gets sick from being wet or cold. So little wimpy me was waiting by the exit door. A car pulls up, and a lady gets out–who is in obvious pain. She has a walker cane–that she places in front of her as she takes tiny little baby steps to struggle the 6 or so feet to the door.

I hold my mop up in front of the sensor–to keep the doors open. Another lady blocks the doors with her cart. Yet another guy,  stands on the other side to make sure the doors don’t close on this woman. She takes about 4 1/2 min. to cross the little 6 or 8 feet to the inside of the store. We all wait patiently for her, as she constantly apologizes. We all say: “That’s quite  all right miss. Take your time.”

She is headed towards one of those little electric carts they have in the store. She is about 3 feet away–when a 300 pound lady, also with a walking cane, literally runs in front of her and jumps in the cart. She came from the hallway on the other side. She picked up her cane and ran, to beat this lady to the electric car. The woman who was in actual need of the cart–stopped her little tiny steps, and said:
“Ms., I cannot push myself in a wheelchair, I need one of those electric carts.”

The Fat woman says: “You can have this one when I’m done.”

Then she folds her arms across her chest and sits in the cart without moving. Her husband then comes up, sees the look on the other woman’s face, and says: “Honey, why don’t we take the wheelchair like normal?” The woman gets very angry says: “I got the electric cart 1st. It’s mine. Now unplug me.” He bends over and pulls the cart plug away from the wall, she still doesn’t move the cart.

Instead, she tells her husband to go in the store, and she will find him. Then she sits and glares at all of us looking at her. No one else had said a word. The  poor little lady who could not walk at all, was actually in tears.
“What am I going to do? I can’t walk any farther. My daughter can’t push me, because she had surgery on her wrists.”

Just then the daughter comes in, with both her wrists in Casts. Now everybody glares at the woman in the electric cart. She turns beet red, and does not move.

I tell the lady who really couldn’t walk;
“I will go get a manager, and an electric cart. You just wait here. We will sort this out.”

I then left and got the manager, a lady named: “Jane.” I explained the situation as quickly as I could–and without all the emotion I was feeling. She looked at me, and said:

“I have another cart, and I have a police officer. I will go get them both, and we will have a little talk with that other lady. Thank you for coming over.”

I went back and told the lady and her daughter, that the manager would be over with an electric cart, and a police officer to speak with the other woman. Well, the woman who had run (Run!) to grab the electric cart, still hadn’t moved. Just sitting with her big butt in the cart. Glared at me: “What did you get a policeman for?”

I totally ignored her. The woman who couldn’t really walk, gave me a quick pat on the hand – she couldn’t even let go of her walker to hug me. Her daughter did hug me, with her double casts on. The Other woman, the fat one said:
“Why’s everyone so concerned about her?”

No one answered her. Just then Kathy beeped and I got in the truck and we left. I told her about the Drama, and she laughed – “Kevin, you can find someone to help anywhere.”

I thought about that for a while. You know, I really wanted to say something ugly to the fat lady who ran (Ran!) to get the cart first, and then just sat in it without moving. I didn’t. I wonder if I did the right thing? I know it would have just escalated the situation; and maybe she has her own problems (obviously), but I didn’t want to let my mouth open, or I would have said things I couldn’t have taken back.

Like the only reason she couldn’t walk (but she could RUN) is because she was so fat. Real fat. But then again, so am I. Then I was going to say she was so full of herself and selfish, but then, so am I. I was going to say : Think about others for a change.” Then I realized I don’t do that all the time either.
I was left in a quandary. I didn’t say anything to her at all. Yet, I had all kinds of emotions in my mind. Ugly ones. I don’t think I could be that unkind if I wanted to, but then I thought: “Well, you were kind to the one lady, but certainly not to the other one.” So even my own brain recognized I wasn’t being kind, except selectively.

What the whole thing proved to me, is this: I have a lot of work to do on myself.

Thanks for listening, Kevin at home.

The Happniness factor…

Happy?

Is happiness even a factor? Lots of folks think we spend to much time thinking about it. Well, I am happy most of the time, and here’s why: I like being happy.  So, how do you get Happy? I have thought about this, and there is even a new field of psychology called: Positive Psychology – that studies it. (On a side note, isn’t it interesting that the field of Abnormal Psychology fills libraries, and there are few , if any, books on normal psychology. It fits with what we know about the Brain- threats get more attention. Real or imagined.) So, here is a happiness routine – partly what I have learned from Sixty years on the planet- and partly what I have learned from the folks who study this stuff. So, sit back, relax, and let’s get Happy!

First, you have to clear your mind, and input of negative stuff. How?

1) Never watch Television News. Never. Not ever. The damage it does is very well documented. It also has no “balance”. There is no “Good News Channel” – showing how much great stuff is going on around us. If you get real ambitious, just get rid of your TV period. You know all about death and tragedy and murder; but did you know they are working on a cell phone, that if you cough into it; it reads the DNA in your breath and can tell you if you have an infection? No? Did you know we live 2 and 1/2 times the prewar lifespan? No?  Do you know we live in the most “peaceful times” in recorded History? Do you know that more than half the world has become literate? Did you know that more babies live to see their first birthday, than ever? Oh, yeah, there is a lot of Good News out there.

2) Get involved. Yep. Want to improve the environment? Go clean out tree pits in your city. Help out at the local Farmer’s Market. Start small, but start. Make connections with people. Square Dance. Join a language club. Help build an airplane. Restore an old car. Serve food to shut-ins. Clean your church. Join a flash mob event. It is your life- learn to live it.  Heck, start a Blog! LOL

3) Keep a journal , everyday. Write down a couple of things a day, that are nice, neat, interesting, or funny. Or kind. Or complimentary. This makes you rethink the cool things you saw or did, and helps store them in your memory.

4) Do one nice thing a day, for someone else. A compliment. An upbeat email. A small token of friendship. A flower. A smile.

5) Get really, really good at something. Find a passion, and pursue it. If you don’t have any, go out and keep looking. One guy I know, became the world’s authority on Bats. Another became a National Champion Rose Grower (and she wrote a book about them too). I know a 21 year old girl, who has become an expert on “Vintage Shoes.”  Another became a popular Square Dance Caller. Another lady has an animal rescue farm, which she started with just one squirrel. Another friend built his own airplane, and along the way developed 8 real friends to help him. Now, he helps other folks with information and tips on building an airplane. Another couple I know, learned how to paint water colors. They weren’t very good, but they became friends with lots of Artists who were. Now, they bought a van, and they travel two weekends a month, setting up their friends great Artworks, at fairs, and art exhibitions. I even know a guy who became a World Champion Tiddly Wink player.

6) Meditate. Or walk in a garden. Or seek silence in your mind. Everyday. Just take 30 minutes to focus on relaxing your mind. Empty it of thoughts. Meditation, self hypnosis, relaxation techniques.

7) Don’t worry. Be happy. Worry is the dark side of imagination. Not very productive. So, if you are worried- don’t be. Most of that stuff doesn’t happen. Most worry can be avoided by simple planning. Worried about your health? Take care of it. Worried about your bills? Reduce your spending. Raise your income. If you can’t live with what you make, you are living above your means. If you take actions that reduce your spending, or your bills, you can regain control of your circumstance. Most of us don’t worry about things we can control. Sometimes – you can’t control something, even after you did your best- so why worry?

8) Don’t talk about people you don’t know. This rules out reality TV. LOL  If you know more about someone’s life you have never met, than you do of yours- your aren’t living your life. Gossip is interesting, and fun; unless it is about you. My Mom used to say: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything.”  I say: ” Find nicer people, and hang around them.”

Funnily enough, most people are happiest when they are on the journey, than when they reach the destination. It is the doing, the building, the actions that make it worth while. Then- rest.

Last, learn how to love. Yourself (by far the most difficult) – don’t talk in your own head, in any manner other than the way you would talk to your very best friend. Be honest, loving , forgiving and supportive- to yourself.  Then love others. Remember they are people to, and just doing their best. My Mom used to say: “Kevin, if you knew one more thing about someone, you could forgive them. If you knew one more thing than that about them, you could understand them. If you knew one more thing than that- you could love them.”

Want to be happy? Focus on happy things. Be near people with a purpose. Smile. Walk with a skip in your step. Look up. Don’t worry. Be Happy!

I wasn’t born yesterday, but I was today!

I wasn’t born yesterday, but I was today.

In a very real sense you are born-again every 24 hours. A new day. A day with nothing in it–yet. The old pioneers, used to leave everything behind and go to a new place to start over. Like an old coat, and a pair of boots–they would just step out of them, leaving it all behind. For some reason, we don’t understand we have that choice every single morning. You don’t even have to leave where you live–or who you’re with; you just have to take off your coat and drop it. The cloak of old memories, past mistakes, failures and shortcomings–can be left behind as you go for a walk into your future.

You didn’t have this day yesterday. You have it today. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to ignore it, and look at the ones it already went by–that you can’t do anything about? Drawing on the days where you could not have an effect? Instead of the one in front of you? The one where you can change anything, everything, or nothing?

I think I know why some people can’t enjoy the day–because they worry. Worry is a very strange and funny animal–because it is the dark side of imagination. That’s right. Imagination. Those things didn’t happen–but they could. So you imagine them in great detail. That is what worry is. Worried about the bills, worried about your health, worried about your kids, worried about your partner, worried about your love life, worried about your future–worry worry worry. Using your imagination to create a world– a world by the way, that has not happened. In all probability it won’t happen. you will end the day having worried about nothing. Because like a lot of imagination–you created nothing out of nothing. It was all imaginary. You didn’t have the heart attack, your kids didn’t fail the big test, you didn’t lose your job, your house didn’t catch fire, you didn’t lose your life savings, you didn’t suddenly become stupider, or incapacitated, your friends didn’t suddenly up and leave you. You worried about those things–using your precious imagination to create worry. There are different ways to use your imagination–especially for a new day.

What if you use your imagination to create scenes for the day that you would like to have happen–and then followed your imagination. Always stay in the office during lunch hour? Why not get a book on local architecture, find the most famous–or infamous building in your town. Read up about it. Find out its history, who built, why, how did they end up? Then, take your lunch hour–and go over to the building–and really look at it. Like an artist would. Get a feel for it. You have a little bit of the history, so walk the halls, use your imagination. What do you think they worried about? What things went on inside that building? If the walls could talk, imagine what they would say to you. Use your imagination, not about worry, about something real, something of substance, a place you are standing in front of, or inside of– imagine what it must’ve been like.

You got a new day-to-day. In the above example; you used just one hour in a different way–to leave your cloak behind. For one little hour, you did something different. You left who you were, who you are, what you do, and what you did, behind you. Just for an hour. You became someone else- an Explorer. Then you went back to your office, picked up your cloak, you’re clothes, your boots–put them all back on and went back to your day. You have to leave work – sometime. When you leave work, do you leave your work worries behind. You can. In fact, you can go home and be a completely different person, let your hair down, get rid of the makeup, the nylons, the stuffy suit–you can change in an instant; and you don’t even need your imagination. You do it without thinking.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born today. Today I chose to watch something I had never seen before–a documentary called “Go North.” It is an award-winning film–and with good reason. It is is a collection of days without worry. People who just came and did what they had to do to survive that day; and thankful that they did. It was made by a kid. I call him a kid, because he is only in his 20s. He wanted to make films of the great outdoors–he used his imagination. I’m sure he worried about where he was going get the money, the camera, and wondered who would buy his film when he made it? He didn’t worry about it much. Why not? Because every day was a challenge, what things do you shoot for the film? Who do you interview? What angle do you use? What about the light? Then, because he’s in love with what he does–at the end of the day, he just turned all the cameras off and enjoyed the immense Vista that is Alaska. A true wilderness–still.

He opens the film with some stunning shots, and words written across the scene: “The purpose of the man is to live, not merely exist.” The firstt person he interviews, asks why that sentence even has to be explained. I know why. Because people don’t know they were born today. They don’t even think they were born yesterday. They use worry to stay in days gone by. So instead of living, they cease to exist–by just existing.

No, I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born again today. Today isn’t even over yet, and my imagination is in overdrive. Maybe I will get to laugh later in the day, meet a new friend, or make someone feel better about themselves. Or I will have a kind and loving thought about my wife or my children–in fact, I just did. I can go out and watch the waves, they fascinate me. I have my health. I have already. I’ve used my brain to think about things–like this blog. What a great day this is turning out to be. Sure, it is wet, windy, and bumpy–but that came with the day. I just get to enjoy it.

How about you? Can you step off of your porch, and leave all your clothes, your boots, and your worries behind? Try it. Just for an hour, do something just for you, something different, something you imagine would be fun, exciting, new. Then do it. Maybe tomorrow, if you’re lucky enough to have one–you can try for 2 hours. Perhaps someday, you will have imagined so many wonderful days, that you no longer know how to worry, because when you look at your past it will be wonderful, when you look at your present–you will use your imagination about tomorrow–while living today.

I hope you weren’t born yesterday, I certainly hope you will be born again today

Belive in me…believe in you….believe me, you…

Belief is such a strong and misunderstood word. Belief  is stronger than fact. Belief is stronger than evidence. Belief is stronger than reality. That is why you should both examine your beliefs and challenge your beliefs. Why?

First of all, they may not be yours. They may just be habits and not beliefs at all. Second, they may not match reality, or the reality that you want to build. How many beliefs do you have, that were taught to you? Most, I would venture. You never challenged them to see where they came from.  One of my friends told me this story- and it shows how beliefs can grow into certainty, if you don’t challenge them. Here goes:

” Kevin, back in the 1950′s, it was hard for us Black Jazz trios to get work. We got hired by a guy in West Virginia, because he heard us in New York, and he thought we were great. So we drive to the Hotel he owns in West Virgina to see about the gig. First, he meets us at the main door of the lobby. We usually had to go through the kitchen. He shakes our hands. Takes us right into the restaurant ; and sits us down to eat lunch with us. This is 1957, Kevin. We are bewildered, and wondering what is going to go down.

The fellow offers us a 3 month contract. We stay in a regular Guest room (one per person!), we eat in the Restaurant, or order room service. Drinks are free when we are working. We stare at the guy. He is white. We are three black guys. He sees we don’t trust him, and can’t believe the terms. He notices, breaks out laughing and says:

“Let me tell you a story. I didn’t start out rich. I went to the University of West Virginia and played football, and majored in business. I started out with a couple of car washes, and a golf course. I built my business into a pretty good one. I became a booster for my old college. I also owned the Cadillac Dealership in town. When we recruited football players, I loaned my cars to show new recruits around. I would also drive. But not Black Athletes. I hated them.  Well, one time, I had to take three Black kids in my Cadillac. Show them around town, and give them the pitch. Well, I had never been alone with three Black kids before, so, I didn’t say much. I listened.

They were true student Athletes. One wanted to be a Doctor, one wanted to be a Physicist, and the other wanted to Teach Math. They were talking about the beginning of the Universe, chemistry and mathematical formulas- and I was lost. That night, I went to my Mom and Dad’s house for dinner. I asked my Dad: ” Do you know what a nuclear particle is? Can you name them? ”

“No, son. I can’t. Why?”

“Can you tell me the difference between and alcohol, and an Oxyl group?”

“No. Why?”

” Do you know who Heisenberg is, or Godell, or Gallois?”

“No, son. What is this all about?”

” Well, Dad, I didn’t know any of those things either, until today. Three black kids taught me in the car.”

“What?”

“That’s right, Dad. You told me Black folks were stupid, and not very bright. That they couldn’t be educated. I am bright, and a college graduate. I didn’t understand a word these kids were talking about. And they are FRESHMAN. What other lies did you teach me?”

His belief system was taught, and never challenged until he met those young men.

 

Here is another story about a girl I knew in college. We will call her- Sandy.  We used Sandy as our dictionary, and our grammar expert, and our literary guru; kind of like a human google machine back then. One day, she laments about what a bad speller she is. We are all shocked. We used her to edit all of our papers, and correct our spelling and grammar. She had a 4.0 in English, her Major. This was back in the days, when only two people in an entire University might graduate with a 4.0- Magna Cum Laude.  So we were all kind of shocked that she thought she was a bad speller. We ask her how in the world she could be a bad speller, if she had a 4.0 , in English, and we all counted on her to save our papers from mistakes and misspellings.  She tells us this story:

“When I was a kid. I won the Spelling bee for our state, twice. And Nationals once. ( Remember this, she won the National Spelling Bee!) So, the next year, I was thought to be an easy shoe in. Well, I got into dancing- I was 15. My first recital was coming up. It was the day after the first round of the spelling Bee. I didn’t study for the Spelling Bee, I was all excited about my first dance recital.

When I hit the podium, they gave me a word. I couldn’t spell it. I was out. First one disqualified. I was in tears. As I came off stage, my teacher (who had been there for all my wins) looked right at me and said: “You can’t spell. You should be ashamed of yourself.” I haven’t been able to spell since.”

All of us, with the clarity of young people who haven’t been there, were aghast. “You believed her?” We yelled. One girl said softly: “What a narcissistic bitch. She only cared about her, not you.” Sandy was stunned. “What do you mean? She said.

The girl went on: “What I mean Sandy, is you were a 15 year old girl, who was going to dance, in public, for the first time in your life, on stage. In front of many friends and relatives. You were excited and focused. You missed that word, because your heart was in the Dance Recital, not in the Spelling contest. Anyone with any sense would know it was a simple case of priorities. You knew how to spell, so you didn’t study, you weren’t sure if you could dance, so you were nervous. That woman should have known it was just a case of two things going on at the same time. For crying out loud, you won the NATIONAL spelling bee. Of course, you can spell. That teacher was the one who was embarrassed , and not for you, but for her. She bragged about you, and then felt let down. If she really knew you, and that you had a big recital the next day, she should have told you to skip the spelling bee, this year. She just wanted to brag.”

Sandy sat for a moment. Her eyes brimming with tears. ” I can spell,” she whispered; “I can!”  She believed someone she trusted and admired, at the exact moment she was hurt, embarrassed and vulnerable – and it stuck. Even though all of the evidence around her, winning the National Championship, being State Champ twice, a scholarship to college, a straight A, GPA, and dozens of us relying on her to help us spell correctly, and she STILL THOUGHT SHE WAS A BAD SPELLER. Because she bought into someone else’s belief system.

When you are emotional, and you admire or respect someone else; and then they say something negative, it sticks.  Yet, when you exam the belief, you can see that it might not even be theirs, let alone yours. I am sure that teacher knew that Sandy was a great speller. She nourished that gift. But, in a moment of disappointment; she unloaded -unfairly- on poor Sandy. Sandy, all ready emotional, took it to heart. I bet that teacher would like to have that moment over again, to support Sandy, not bring her down.

Beliefs about people, about yourself, can come from many places. Challenge them. Find out why you have a belief, and if it fits you. If it does. Keep it. If it doesn’t , let it go. If you believe you are stupid, fat, slow, dull, to old, to young, to new; you will be.  If you believe the world is ugly, unsafe and terrible, it will be. It isn’t. It just is. You can change your world, by changing your beliefs. It takes work. Sometimes you actually have to confront someone you love, to realize that it was their belief system that was holding you back, not yours. If you believe in security, than taking a risk, is risky business. If you believe in risk, then security is a risky business. If you believe you are worthy of being more than you are, you will do more to become worthy. I believe in you. I believe in me. And that took some real work. Become a believer in yourself. Challenge your limits, because limits are just beliefs.  Believe me, I know. LOL

Clutter…..

Clutter. Get rid of it. It has got to go.

I am not talking about stuff, by Sixty, most of that clutter is gone. Or at least straightened up a bit. Or you have grown comfortable with it. I am talking about mind clutter. The little bits and pieces of junk that lay around your mind, stopping you from having a neat, organized, simple direction to take your mind, and thoughts in.

The clutter that stays scattered about because you listened to “They”, and what “They Say.” The clutter that arises from thinking about old things – things from your past that limited you, or made you feel unsuccessful. The scientists say that memory is fluid ephemeral, transient. That by recalling them and thinking about them – again and again, we give memories strength and solidity, and allow them to clutter up the present. I am not talking about your Cherished memories. Keep them, savor them, put them on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room of your mind- and take them out and dust them often.

I am talking about the little spites, spats, and spurious memories. Not being as good as your older sister, or your brother. Of being too small, to fat, to stupid, to skinny, to smart (yes, being to smart is ridiculed too). All of that is mind clutter. Mind clutter keeps you looking in your past, and keeps you out of your present. It makes your future unclear, because your view of yourself is not unobstructed- it is all cluttered up! Mind clutter, keeps your self talk, your mind chatter, focused on trivial things, things you can’t do a doggone thing about. Clutter is filled with: “What if’s,” “Someday,” “If only I hadn’t,” “Shouldn’t have,” “Why’s.” Clutter is past tense, but makes you feel tense- presently. Clutter makes the future nervous, and predicated on the junk around you in your past. You trip over a rejection here, or stumble over a failed business there. You stub your toe on an old picture of you in your mind. You bark your shin on an old feeling of not being good enough. You feel fat; because the clutter in your mind has fat pictures strewn around at random. Sometimes, there is so much clutter; you can’t even find the door to get out. Stuck in a mess that clutter built up so deep, it is actually your present; or the clutter makes you think so.

How do you get rid of clutter. Start small, get rid of the old junk that is not cherished. The Memory guys say that clutter fades, if you just don’t think about it. Remove the emotion. That clears up a lot of clutter. Remember the High School Teacher who intimidated you and you were afraid of? Then, a couple years later- you come back to visit your old High School, and you realize he is no longer, Mr. Bowers; the toughest teacher in school. He is Bob, he drives an old car, and he is no where near as big as you remember him. When you think of him now- you laugh. Mostly at yourself. Not Bob. That clutter is gone.

Anything with “should” in it – is probably clutter. If you should have done this, or eaten that, or should have stayed in the Army, or gone to college- all clutter. You did what you did. Mistakes? So what? Learn from them. Grow. Make brand new ones. Mistakes mean you are living your life, ignoring the clutter. It is the mistakes you keep, that stack up in piles of ruined self esteem- that stop you from finding a place to sit while you sort through the memories you want to keep.

“Supposed to,” is another clutter marker; along with its close cousin- “Not supposed to.” Supposed to eat right, exercise and, like everybody. Supposed to, is not perfect. In a perfect world, stuff that is “Not suppose to Happen”- wouldn’t. But you did eat the cookie, and you enjoyed it. Then do so, just don’t eat the whole box. If you do what you are supposed to do – you won’t be able to find out what you really want to do. I suppose so – is a weak and watery comment for a reason. There is no passion. No zest. No lust for life. No oomph. That is because ” Suppose so” is dictated by someone else- usually the ever present “They.”

Don’t clutter up your mind with future predictions of perfect. Do you want a perfect body? Or do you really want to perfect you body? You can do one- the other; well, if you didn’t have those genes- it may be out of your reach. You can, with effort, and a plan, perfect you own body. Over time. Not right now. If it took you years to get out of shape, well, you wont be in shape next Wednesday. But you can start – just get rid of the clutter. The clutter that says you can’t , or won’t , or your not able, or capable.

The last tip for removing clutter- stay in your now. Eat a little bit better today. Walk a little faster (or farther) today. Be kinder to the folks you love today. Stop going around to activities or people because you are “supposed to” – and stop visiting them – today. Go to church because you’re supposed to? Then don’t go. Walk in nature for a while, and connect with your God in the stuff he built. Don’t like your neighbors? Then “smile and nod boys” – get along, but don’t go along- to use a well worn platitude. I use it, because it is a clutter stopper. It is your life, and at the end of it; none of the people who told you what you were supposed to do, or should do, or who you should be – will be there with you. It will be the end of your life. If you lived it well, your last moments will be cluttered with cherished memories, cherished people, and cherished moments, all glittering in their places; not strewn about. Good clutter.