Friday, July 24, 2009

Blessings in disguise

"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

~~ J.K. Rowling

This is a post I've been anticipating for a while.

You see---- as I type these words on July 18, 2009--- I still have a job. But I am almost positive that very soon (in the next few weeks or so), I won't. So if you are seeing this post after July 18th, it's because the premonition has come true. The economy is hitting everyone hard, and that includes the PR firm I work for. I've been laid off.

Here's the deal, though. I'm not that upset about it.

No, I haven't lost my mind. Yet. ;) Rather, I've decided that this is happening for a reason. This is the Universe's way of telling me, "okay, so you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?" It's time for me to put my own observations in this very blog to the test.

I've LOVED writing this. I find myself thinking of topics constantly. Right now, I have at least 30 half-written or barely-written posts on various topics that I haven't had time to finish. As much as I loved the teaching aspects of my PR media training job, I found myself too exhausted at the end of the day to do what I consider to be my first love: writing.

So. I'm going to take the theories and entries and ideas that prompted this blog... and finally put something solid together (most likely a book). I keep getting signs that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, and I feel pretty damn good about it.

Of course--- I'm looking for work as well. Gotta pay the bills, after all. As a matter of fact, if anyone reading this knows of anything.... ;)

We'll see what happens. I figure I have to at least TRY though. I shouldn't be afraid of failure, right? Look what it did for J.K. Rowling.

NOTE: no, I don't expect anything I write to reach Harry Potter status... just referring to her words above. ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fear, "frauds," and friends

A young friend recently told me he felt like a fraud because he was being strong for the people around him when he felt like he was dying inside. I assured him that he was not a fraud. In fact, what he's experiencing is LIFE. There's a reason that one of the bestselling self-help books out there is called, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway." A big part of life is experiencing intense emotions, acknowledging those emotions, and choosing to move forward... in spite of what you're feeling.

In my opinion, you need to take a balanced approach, though. That can make the difference between simply going through the motions of life day after day after day, or using your current horrible situation as a springboard to another level. An emotional breakthrough, of sorts. :)

I'll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to talk about something that dawned on me as I was trying to reassure my friend.

I realized that those of us who've come to this conclusion are not doing younger people any favors by keeping this type of knowledge to ourselves. I remember when I was around his age, I thought I was truly crazy for feeling sad, angry, and depressed about certain things. Everyone else seemed to have his/her act together--- what in the world was wrong with me? I was able to keep the panic at bay for the most part--- but there were a couple of times when I headed into work and had to stay in my car for a half-hour before walking in the door. I later realized I was having panic attacks (to the point where I would be hyperventilating). I managed to compose myself enough to get through the door and start working… but the whole time, I felt like a fraud. What in the world was I doing trying to "fake" my way through the day? Why was I even there?

(Meanwhile, it didn't ever occur to me to think that everyone else around me thought that *I* was the one who had my act together. )

It wasn't until later I realized I was not in the minority when it came to putting on that smile even though I felt more like fleeing. And that was a liberating experience for me. So I was glad that I could share this with my young friend.

At some point in all of our lives, we have intense emotions that threaten to overwhelm us. Going back to one of my other tenets of life: what happens next is up to us.

Some people let the emotions eat them up and do nothing.

Others acknowledge those emotions and do whatever they can to work through it. Part of that involves taking the action of moving forward even when we don't feel like moving forward. And IMO, taking that step is quite courageous. I believe that by taking that step--- even if it feels "fake"--- you are starting the process of conquering whatever that emotion is. Moving forward is a sign you are refusing to let it get the best of you.

But--- IMO--- you can't leave it at that.

If you continue to move forward pretending that nothing is wrong, and keep putting on a brave face without taking any actual steps to work through those emotions, they will eventually eat you up. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away... and in many cases it even makes things worse, because it continues to simmer below the surface until it reaches a boil.

This is where the balance part comes in.

It only makes sense that if you feel off-kilter, you should look for support to help you regain your balance. Thinking of it in a literal sense, people who break a leg find a cane or some other outside source of support to help them stay steady while their leg heals. Turning to outside support to help you stay steady while trying to heal an emotional hurt is no different.

No one is an island. In my experience it is ESSENTIAL that you confide in someone as you go through a really tough time. Whether it be a very close friend or relative, a mentor, a therapist… etc. You should never try to face intense emotions alone. At the very least, you will most likely find someone who has experienced the same thing before and will let you know that you are not alone.

And in some instances, turning to someone with a different perspective might lead to something you didn't really think of before… or introduce a way to heal that you hadn't considered.

Going back to my work situation all those years ago, a couple of my mentors knew what was going on. And they are the ones who kept me sane during the process. One of them really caused me to see the root of my issue, which helped me eventually determine that I needed to move away from a certain workplace. It was a tough (and risky) decision at the time, but--- it was definitely the RIGHT decision (I can't stress just how much it was the right decision--- perhaps I'll write about it in a later post).

Another thing that happened --- I had an incredible boost in self-confidence. A result of realizing that I had the power to continue on with my life while facing my fears. I didn't let it paralyze me. But I didn't let it fester either. And I'm convinced I never would have been able to do so without support.

An important final note: if it's something that's really overwhelming you, consider seeking professional guidance. Some people have placed a stigma on seeking professional counseling… but I know so many people who have benefited from it. The right counselor will not only help you get through a tough time--- he/she can help you eventually thrive.

Another important note: In the interest of making sure I don't set myself up as an authority on this issue, please recognize that I have NO professional training whatsoever when it comes guiding other people. This (and every other blog entry for that matter) is solely my opinion. This is what I've determined works for me--- after YEARS of trial and error. ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Need to Vent

Sally: What are you saying? I should get married to someone right away in case he's about to die?
At least you could say you were married.
~~ When Harry Met Sally

OK. I know that I'm usually about joy and good news and happiness and harmony--- but please allow me to vent for just a moment--- because this is driving me CRAZY.

I have not one, but two girlfriends who are planning to get married in the next year.

Normally I would be blissfully happy for them. I would be jumping up and down with joy. I think love between two people is a very beautiful thing, and I hope everyone on the planet has a chance to experience it in their lifetime. :)

The problem is, neither of these women are sure if they are experiencing it. When you ask them about getting married, instead of talking about how happy they are and how much they love their partners... they focus their conversations around, "I'm getting to the age where...."

You can fill in the blank after that phrase. So far the ones I've heard the most (among other things) are: "....I'm sick of dating," or "...I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone."

I'm not trying to be judgmental. It just pains me, because the more I hear about their relationships, the more I feel they are selling themselves short. So--- you've found someone to spend the rest of your life with. Now you have a date for weddings and parties. You have someone to go to concerts with. You have someone to go out to dinner with every Friday night. But are you happy? I mean, truly happy?

If you were to eliminate the other situations above (going to weddings, concerts, etc.)... and say, found yourself alone on a desert island with this person for the rest of your life---with no way of communicating with anyone else ever--- how would you feel?

OK, that situation is a little extreme. But I am certain in at least one of these cases, my friend would cringe at the thought of spending the rest of her life alone with her fiance. And IMHO, that doesn't seem like a good sign.

Everyone deserves happiness. If you are planning to spend the rest of your life with someone, don't you also want to be happy?

Based on some of the stories I know about happy couples who met later in life, they seem to have something in common. They all eventually reached a point where they decided they were most likely going to end up alone for the rest of their lives. And soon after they came to that conclusion, they found their soulmate.

I'm not saying that once you resolve to be alone the Heavens will part and you will automatically find your soulmate. But I do think that once you become comfortable with the fact that you could be alone, you stop trying to force relationships to work. In other words, you don't spend as much time with people you "think" you could be with... and that frees you up to find the person you KNOW you want to be with.

Not sure if I'm making sense here. I must admit that I'm writing this in a bit of a fog right now because of a conversation I just had tonight with one of my gf's. It was very frustrating... because she just kept telling me that she didn't have any other options in life ("it's not like guys are lining up around the block to marry me"). :(

If I could have reached through the phone I would have shaken her, and then given her a big hug before saying: love doesn't have a deadline. Once you reach a "certain age," there isn't a big alarm clock just waiting to go off--- telling you, 'hey, forget about finding anyone, because your time is past.' My father-in-law found love after the age of 60 (he also got into the best shape of his life at that point too, because he took up cycling--- but that's another blog post). My own father found love in his late 50's.

Actually, now that I think about it... MANY of my relatives have found the love of their lives in their 40's, 50's or 60's. So I know for sure that it happens. :)

Not to mention the fact that there are lots of people out there who are unmarried and not only doing just fine, but also are very happy (although that argument would never fly with my gf's at this point).

My main point here: as long as you love yourself, and believe that you deserve happiness.... the rest will fall into place.

You don't have to marry someone just because you think they are your last chance. Don't sell yourself short. You never know what's just around the bend. Or, in the words of a great movie starring Tom Hanks, "Who knows what the tide could bring?" Hang on.

Thanks for letting me vent. I just had to get that out there. And if you think I'm being harsh... please know that I haven't told these particular girlfriends about my blog yet (and now, most likely never will....*sigh*).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Achieving the "impossible"

"One can't believe impossible things," said Alice.

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," the White Queen replied. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." ~~ Lewis Carroll

I decided to look up this quote a few days ago after reading my horoscope. The horoscope told me (regarding impossible things): "the funny thing is once you let yourself believe them, they don't seem all that impossible to begin with. The first step is to let yourself believe that such benevolence is in store for you. So go ahead -- what are three wonderful, lovely and no-way-that-could-happen-to-me things that you want in your life?"

That caused me to pause-- because from an early age we are taught, like Alice, to not even consider impossible things. It's just a waste of time, right? Why even go there?

Then it dawned on me... that's the main problem, isn't it? Very few people dream anymore. I know I'm guilty.

About ten years ago--- when I was really struggling for happiness in the news business--- a mentor of mine asked me what I wanted out of life. I told him that I really wanted to start my own business: a public relations firm for charities and non-profit organizations. But I had no money to start one. And even if I could get past that hurdle, I would most likely not make enough money to survive --- since I wouldn't want to charge my clients a lot for my services.

"Why don't you try to get a small business loan from the bank?" he asked innocently... as if getting a loan is the easiest thing in the world.

"Um," I was slightly annoyed. "because I would never get one."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because they aren't going to give a loan to a person who might not be able to pay it back. There isn't a lot of money in providing PR services to charities at a discount."

He gave me a little smile. "So you're going to admit defeat before you even try."

(NOTE: By this time, I was highly annoyed and my head hurt --- which was always a sign that he was making a valid point.)

"I just don't see the point since I'm just going to be rejected anyway."

This is where he pulled out the maddening wisdom that always made sense: "So what? You could be rejected 300 times before you find someone who says 'yes'. At that point, it's only the 'yes' that matters."

And yet another dear friend of mine pulled out this quote from Thomas Edison just last year during a similar conversation. Edison says regarding the time that it took him to invent the light bulb:

"I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."

And as my friend went on to say very succinctly and wisely: "Sometimes you have to figure out the wrong ways before you can find the right way."

Very often we get stuck in a rut, thinking there is no way out... so why even try? We give up on our dreams thinking that there is no way.

But just because you haven't found the right way yet, doesn't mean that there isn't a way at all. Like Edison, allow yourself to eliminate the ways that
won't work. Then, instead of feeling discouraged (which doesn't help anyone--- least of all, yourself) climb out of the rut and try another way.

My challenge for myself is this. I'm going to believe in three "impossible" things--- I'm also going to put the word "impossible" in quotes from now on ;)--- and reaffirm my belief for these things every day. At the same time, I'm going to take small steps toward achieving these things.

The worst that could happen is that I don't achieve the "impossible." But at least I can go forward knowing that I tried.

The best that could happen--- well, the sky's the limit. :) The beauty of achieving the "impossible" is that afterward....
nothing is "impossible."

IMO, the benefits far outweigh the risks. ;)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." ~~ Lou Holtz
Of all of my blog posts so far, this one probably sums up best my attitude towards life. I've had this conversation with many people in the past.

There is no denying that bad things happen to good people. And it happens on a daily basis. How many stories do we hear about people suffering or hurting in some way--- and think to ourselves, "how awful! Life can be so unfair!" Personally, I can tell you when I was a journalist I felt an ache in my chest every time I told a story about someone who had lost a child. I know everyone who heard the story felt the same way.

And yet, when a horrific story happens, how many times do we see people focus their grief and anger in such a way that it brings about something extraordinary?

It happens more often than we might think. But it's hard to recognize because it's very difficult to see past the pain of the original incident. There are some truly evil people in the world.

On a January day in 1996, a man in Texas jumped out of a pickup truck and dragged a 9-year-old girl off of her bike... throwing her in the truck. A witness called police and gave them a description of the man and the vehicle. Volunteers, the FBI, and police searched the area for four days before someone discovered her body in a creek bed. An autopsy determined she had lived for two days before being killed.

Soon after, the girl's mother went before Congress to call for tougher laws for sex offenders. Her father talked with other parents who'd gone through the same heartache... trying to find out what they believed police really needed to know immediately after an abduction.

Two things came out of this incident: the national sex offender registry and what we now know as the AMBER alert -- named after that young girl, Amber Hagerman.

Before I continue, I want to make something perfectly clear.
I am NOT saying that Amber Hagerman's death was a good thing... in ANY way. As a matter of fact--- even though I am generally a positive and non-violent person--- if her killer were standing before me right now, he'd most likely be begging for mercy by the time I was done with him.

I have ZERO tolerance for anyone who would ever harm another human being--- especially a child. IMHO, there's a special (and not in a good way) place in the afterlife for those people.

Rather, my main point here is--- the aftermath of this horrific incident could have gone very differently.

Amber's parents could have chosen to back away and privately try to put their lives back together the best they could after losing their daughter. And no one would have blamed them for doing so. After something like that, I can't imagine even trying to get out of bed day after day.

Instead, they took that anger and that grief and pushed it back in the faces of potential child abductors everywhere. To date, the AMBER alert has resulted in the successful rescue of nearly 500 children in the United States alone... including some who were released as soon as the abductor heard there was an AMBER alert issued.

And the program is now international. Who knows how many children around the world will be saved because of it?

Lou was onto something when he said the quote at the beginning of this post.

Most of us will never have to go through what Amber's parents went through. Again, I can't even imagine. But the fact that her parents were able to get back up and not let evil "win" in this case is inspiring to me.

Bad things happen. In most cases, we can't prevent them from happening.
What we do after those things happen, though, is up to us. We have that power.

When something bad happens to you, it's up to YOU to decide whether you will allow those circumstances to paralyze you. When someone does something bad to you, it's up to YOU to decide whether you want to continue to feel like a victim and let that person steal your future happiness.

It's your choice. I hope you choose to make the best of that other ninety percent.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


One night about seven years ago, I was driving home after anchoring the 10pm newscast... when I got stuck behind a VERY SLOW car. I was highly annoyed. I was exhausted and just wanted to get home and climb into bed. The driver in front of me wasn't paying attention to the 30 mph speed limit... the car was only going about 20mph--- max. I was forced to stay behind the car for only three blocks before it turned onto a side street--- but it seemed like an eternity.

I quickly sped back up to 30. About a block after I reached the speed limit, I looked ahead to the next intersection and saw a huge SUV (without its lights on) ignore a stop sign and go screaming across the road. It was going so fast, I couldn't even tell what color it was. It was just a blur.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I realized... if I hadn't gotten "stuck" behind that slow car for three blocks, I would have reached that intersection right around the time that SUV went plowing through it. I would never have seen it coming because the lights weren't on. And I would have been broadsided by 3-ton hunk of metal going at least 60 mph. Even if
I'd managed to survive, I was about three months pregnant at that time.

All of a sudden, I had much greater appreciation for the driver of that slow car.

That incident also caused me to think. Sometimes what we want isn't necessarily what we really need. I really wanted to be able to drive faster so I could get home quickly that night. But if I'd gotten what I wanted, I might not be around to write this blog right now.

How many times have I really wanted something... and been frustrated when it didn't happen? And how many of those times did I not realize that what I wanted wasn't necessarily what I needed? At least not at that moment.

Applying that theory to life, personal experience has taught me that when I encounter many, many barriers on one path... there's usually some reason for those barriers. Reasons I don't see at the time. It took me a while to really trust my intuition when it comes to those types of situations. Sometimes my gut tells me to stick it out. A handful of times my gut has told me to just give up.

In most cases though, my gut tells me that there's something else I need to do before I pursue that path... and what I need to do is take a detour. It's frustrating--- patience is NOT one of my virtues. But I've discovered that by the time I get to my destination I have a greater appreciation for the barrier that sent me on the detour in the first place. Just like I had a greater appreciation for that slow driver. ;)

The wait can be maddening, but it also might be for our own good.

Sometimes we just aren't as ready as we think we are.

Sometimes we need to grow or learn certain lessons before we get it.

Sometimes it's just a matter of gaining a greater appreciation for what we want. Perhaps when we first want it, it's not something we necessarily deserve at that time. Once we appreciate it more, we are more likely to cherish it forever.

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