Monday, November 29, 2010
Yes...I really just compared a relationship, not just any relationship but a good relationship, with a pair of socks. No, I've not hit writers block as Carrie did SATC when she began comparing men to socks. I'm comparing a relationship to socks...let me explain. Warm woolen socks equal comfort and safety to me, and just like those fantastically warm and cozy socks, a good relationship should also be comfortable, warm, cozy and safe.
Realistically, anything that you find cozy and safe can be compared to a good relationship. If warm flannel sheets fit the bill, fantastic. Or if a jar of natural peanut butter and a spoon is your idea of warm and cozy so be it. Get the drift here? The point is that the fundamentals of any healthy, fulfilling and happy relationship rest on the principles of comfort, safety and kindness. Comfort in the sense that being with your partner makes the world seem like a better place. He or she is the yin to your yang and your dearest friend. There's also a sense of safety, meaning that is the person which you put utmost trust in and vice versa. Finally kindness...I'm sorry to say but I have not found a single successful relationship that is not built on kindness. Kindness fosters admiration and above all respect.
Mark Twain wrote, "kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." Relationship article after relationship article stresses the importance of kindness and the solid marriage. Chinese culture emphasizes not only the love in a relationship but the need to care for one another. It is a joyful dance of two souls, finding comfort in each others presence, joy in each others words and actions, and safety simply by being with each other. So, go out and find your warm woolen socks. Take them out for a spin and try them on for size. And if you feel all warm and cozy inside it may just be that you've found yourself the beginnings of a healthy, fulfilling relationship.
"There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to the one you love."
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No.
It is immortal as immaculate Truth,
'Tis not a blossom shed as soon as youth,
Drops from the stem of life--for it will grow,
In barren regions, where no waters flow,
Nor rays of promise cheats the pensive gloom.
A darkling fire, faint hovering o'er a tomb,
That but itself and darkness nought doth show,
It is my love's being yet it cannot die,
Nor will it change, though all be changed beside;
Though fairest beauty be no longer fair,
Though vows be false, and faith itself deny,
Though sharp enjoyment be a suicide,
And hope a spectre in a ruin bare.
What exactly is love? Scholars, poets, writers have been pondering this one small question since the beginning of time. Yet, the answer to this seemingly simple question perplexes the greatest of minds, and turns geniuses into fools.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection; a person or thing that one loves; a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone; like very much, find pleasure in. Voltaire wrote that "Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination." My personal favorite, however, comes from the brilliant yet convoluted mind of Woody Allen, "To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."
Not sure any of this has answered my question. It makes me wonder what love is for each one of us? How many of us have been in love, or at least thought we were in love? Sure, we met someone who caused heart palpitations, goose bumps, and sleepless euphoric nights, but I have to wonder...is that really love or like on steroids? Scientists have identified three chemicals released when someone is in love: phenethylamine, dopamine, and oxytocin. Phenethylamine is a psychoative chemical that causes stimulant effects. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter . Dopamine commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement. Oxytocin is a hormone involved in social recognition and bonding, and may be involved in the formation of trust between people. Is is the firing of chemicals that accounts for all of the looniness and craziness associated with falling in love? If so, God help us all.
I suppose I have been in love. I have certainly felt all of the above symptoms, and then found myself fantastically crashing to the bottom of the pit when that "love" faded away. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey has proposed that we fall in love in three stages:
Three Stages of Falling in Love
Stage 1: Lust
Stage 2: Attraction
Stage 3: AttachmentAccording to Arthur Aron, professor of psychology at State University of New York at Stony Brook, "the areas of the brain activated by intense love are the same areas that drugs use to reduce pain." Falling in love also elicits the same euphoric feelings as being high on cocaine. No wonder so many of us are addicted to being in love...we simply cannot alter brain chemistry!
So what is a successful, independent woman to do? It appears that years of education and independence are no match for the chemistry of love. To this I say...boo!! OK, not exactly. Despite my scientific background and years as a lab rat, I must say that in my less than expert opinion, love cannot be reduced to that of chemicals and biology. What about emotion, feelings, fears, etc... All of this encompasses the intensity of love. You see, to me, love just is and love just happens. We don't choose who we love or why we love them. It cannot be avoided or stalled or blocked...it simply happens when we are not looking.
As Charles du Bos wrote, "Love does not care to define and is never in a hurry to do so." Love is both a fancy and a feeling. A feeling that is remarkable and, frankly, indescribable. Love builds bridges and destroys bigotry. Every human being is capable of great love. Just as Tennyson wrote, "I hold it true, whatever befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."
Monday, November 22, 2010
I love, love, love this time of the year!!! I'm the crazy person listening to Christmas carols while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, spending insane amounts of money on holiday decor, and enjoy the cold nights and shorter days. I love the holidays! Nothing lifts me up more than a twinkling Christmas, a toasty pair of wool socks and wrapping Christmas presents while watching A Christmas Story for the umpteenth hundred time.
Calvin Coolidge wrote Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." The holidays are my own personal form of Prozac. I seem to have a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye. I am in no better mood than this time of the year. If it was possible to buy a time-share or rent a bungalow at the north pole I would so be there.
I think it has something to do with the spirit of the season. It is generally this time of the year that I feel most in tune with my spiritual side and more enamored by ritual and tradition. Despite one who generally balks and tradition and ritual...I'm convinced I may possible spontaneously combust if I saunter into mass one Sunday morning...the ritual of the holidays provides me tremendous comfort. I feel like I get to visit with the one's I love the most, that bygones will be bygones and all can be forgotten, and that the capacity for love and kindness is infinite.
I treasure baking kruschiki with my mother, father, brother, and sister and have incredibly fond memories of being covered from head to toe with powdered sugar and watching my brother devour half of the batch before we're even finished. I love the smell of fresh pine and pink-cold noses. I will never forget by brother waking us at 4 in the morning to see if Santa had come or my sister informing my father that Santa stole the milk glass one year, only to return the wrong glass the following year. I now understand why my parents made a bee-line for the coffee machine on those early Christmas mornings. It was just about being together, pajamas clad, sleepy eyed, but so full of wonder and hope for the coming year to come.
And, unlike most people, I find this time of the year to be the most romantic of ever. When I do manage to get married, believe me, it will be a snow-filled, ice-cycle sparkling bonanza! It could even snow for all I care...snow is white anyway!
It was once written "Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man." So live it up this year! Enjoy this beautiful winter season whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Regardless, it is a spectacular time of the year. As Terri Guillements wrote,
"The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination."
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Why does it have to be one or the other? Why must a successful woman choose between the wildly successful career or the wildly successful relationship/marriage/family? Is it wrong to want all of these simultaneously? I keep wondering about this. The old expression that if you pile the plate too high than there's no way everything is going to get the attention it needs and deserves. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett argued in 2002, "the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or a bear a child."
Ouch...that's certainly a blow to the self-esteem. We can achieve PhDs, MDs, CRNPs, MSNs, but we can't land the elusive MRS. The 20th century show women gaining greater access to higher education and professional careers, all the while missing out on marriage and children. Despicable if you ask me. Just because I choose to receive an education, does that mean I am inept or unwilling to counterbalance that success with the success of family. It's time for a revolution.
A 2006 article from the Washington Post post reported that highly educated women are now as likely to have children as their less-educated counterparts, and much more likely to have children born in wedlock. Economically successful woman are alsothe fastest-growing segment of the minority of women who have children even if they do not marry. Apparently, "the secret to having it all is knowing you already do."
So I am now a believer. I am converted optimist that believes as a successful woman I can have all that I want. I can have the career, the relationship, the marriage, and the family. It is not out of my reach. Maya Angelou wrote, "Courage allows the successful woman to fail-and learn powerful lessons-from the failure-so that in the end, she didn't fail at all." Perhaps, my detriments in personal undertaking have taught me very powerful lessons. Ones that I know will allow me to finally complete the cycle, and yes, have it all.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Have you created him in your mind? The perfect man. Your prince charming. Is he 6'2, brown eyes, dark hair, olive skin? Or perhaps, maybe he's blonde, blue-eyed and as lean as a gazelle. Does he speak several languages and emit confidence and poise every time he enters a room? Is he well traveled, well educated, and a bountiful stock portfolio and has ambitions of one day retiring in the Virgin Islands with his 50-foot yacht and 10,000 square foot beach house? Or maybe he's a gentle artist incredibly in touch with his feelings, wooing unsuspecting females with his sensitivity and keen eye for color. What exactly is ideal?
I'm starting to wonder about all of this insanity and the illusion of perfection. It's as if we create a perfect image only to create a perfect set up for disappointment. Disappointment in the sense that we never meet that perfect ideal which, of course, only creates disappointment and bitterness and worst of all, cynicism. How many of us go out into this world in search of our perfect match, checklist and scented magic marker in hand. And if even one of those little boxes is not checked off he's disqualified without a second thought or given a chance to argue his case. No, the jury has spoken, case dismissed. Ah, but is there folly in this whole convoluted process.
It was written that "the best way to find your perfect match is to meet love halfway." Maybe it's time to let the checklist burn. I'm starting to think that the checklist has been more of a hindrance than a help. Simply put, no man or woman is perfect. Sure, it's nice to have basic fundamentals that you hope to find in a partner....loyalty, kindness, the desire for a family...but does he really need to speak 5 languages, own a cottage in Nice, and drive the newest BMW? I think not.
Perhaps, he just needs to be sweet, dote on you a little bit, make the bed just because he knows you likes it, show up with a single red rose to brighten your day, tell you how beautiful you are and enjoy every moment you are both together. Most importantly, he's certainly worth considering if he makes you smile just because and laugh harder than anyone else on the planet. Agnes Repplier wrote, "We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh." It appears that it really is best to keep an open mind and an open heart. And if you are laughing to hard together that tears are streaming down both of your faces, well, then you may have just found yourself a keeper.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Zen. Just saying the word instantly calms me. It's better than any sedative, depressant, downer, or tranquilizer chemically constructed by man. It's just as it sounds....it's all zen baby. This has been my most recent enlightening experience. Sitting in the car one morning, panicking about an article and deadlines, I came to this swift realization that all of that anxiety just expends way too much energy. It was as if a switch had been instantly flipped, and the zen just flowed through my body and instantly I was calm.
Zen Buddhism is commonly practiced in Korea, China, and Japan. Zen comes from the a school of Mahayana Buddhism which asserts enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation and intuition. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Dhyana, meaning "meditation" and is synonymous with peace and tranquility. According to an article from religiousfacts.com, to overcome this Zen rejects the study of scriptures, religious rites, devotional practices, and good works in favor of meditation leading to a sudden breakthrough of insight and awareness of ultimate reality. Buddhists believe that zen can be achieved either rapidly, like flipping the switch, or achieved gradually. Either way, zen is achieved purely by one's own effort. The inability to attain zen is felt to be due to a clouded Buddha-nature resulting in ignorance.
I have found my happy place. I have found my zen. And for me it was as instantaneous as a blink of an eye. My own thoughts continue to wonder and speculate why it has taken me so long to find such inner bliss. Perhaps, just as Buddha teaches, my nature was clouded. Clouded by the daily grind of everyday life. The constant push-pull of achievement, success, delivery. I was the quintessential definition of "high-strung." And for what? Of all that I have discovered perhaps what resonates most is the enormous amount of energy needed and used to fight the zen and live a "high-strung" fast-paced, constant state of worry existence. Shunrya Suzuki wrote, "Zen is not some of kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine."
So how to achieve zen? Well, as Buddha taught, it is either happens in a flash or takes time to develop. But how to get there? From an article I found on finding zen, the most important and crucial step is to always make time to clear your mind. We easily delete our iconic trashcan strategically placed on our laptops screen, or we shred or recycle unopened junk mail, yet how many of us take the time to delete all of the crap allowed to accumulate in the mind. The other important point is to allow yourself to have a "mental" health day. Yes, that's exactly what I said. It is perfectly acceptable to take a day and do exactly what you want to do at that exact moment, whether it means sleeping the day away or watching movies in pajamas. It doesn't matter.
Remember to remain peaceful. Through peace we gain strength. Love and accept yourself. No one knows you better, and no one should love you as much as you love yourself. Enjoy nature and surround yourself with people oozing with positive energy. They will make you feel good. Finally, just let it go. Let go of the anger and rage and pent up negative energy. Negativity is like a whistling kettle....if you don't turn off the flame and release the steam is going to keep whistling and whistling and bother the hell out of you.
Tilopa wrote, "No thought, no reflection, no analysis, no cultivation, no intention; let it settle itself." Search for the zen. Hold tight to it when it's finally found. Find enlightenment, peace, and contentment. Then sit back and savor all of the lovely calm that envelopes you. Breathe easier, speak with intent, and smile just because it's fantastic to smile. Buddha once said, "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."
Sunday, November 7, 2010
"A Sorta Fairytale"
By: Tori Amos
on my way up north
up on the ventura
I pulled back the hood
and I was talking to you
and I knew then it would be
a life long thing
but I didn't know that we
we could break a silver lining
and I'm so sad
like a good book
i can't put this day back
a sorta fairytale
a sorta fairytale
things you said that day
up on the 101
the girl had come undone
I tried to downplay it
with a bet about us
you said that-
you'd take it
as long as I could
I could not erase it
and I'm so sad
like a good book
I can't put this day back
a sorta fairytale
a sorta fairytale
and I ride along side
and I rode along side
and I rode along side
till you lost me there
in the open road
and I rode along side
till the honey spread
itself so thin
for me to break your bread
for me to take your word
I had to steal it
and I'm so sad
like a good book
I can't put this day back
a sorta fairytale
a sorta fairytale
I could pick back up
whenever I feel
down New Mexico way
the open road
I knew that he was
looking for some indian blood and
find a little in you find a little
in me we may be
on this road but
in this country you know
so we go along and we said
we'd fake it
feel better with
almost smacked him -
seemed right that night and
I don't know what
out there in the
these guys think they must
try and just get over on us
and I'm so sad
like a good book
I can't put this
a sorta fairytale
a sorta fairytale
and I was ridin' by
ridin' along side
for a while till you lost me
and I was ridin' by
ridin' along till you lost me
till you lost
you lost me
way up north I took my day
all in all was a pretty nice
day and I put the hood
right back where
you could taste heaven
feel out the summer breeze
didn't know when we'd be back
and I, I don't
we'd end up like
I was listening to Tori Amos' song today, "A Sorta Fairy Tale" (one of my absolute favorites) and it got me thinking about the idea of fairy tales. I remember as a little girl watching Cinderella and dreaming of becoming the princess with the beautiful ballgown, matching glass slippers, and a handsome prince to round out the package. But do fairy tales really exist? And if they exist, what exactly is a fairy tale?
A fairy tale is the English equivalent of a type of short narrative corresponding to the French phrase conte de fée, the German term Märchen, the Italian fiaba, the Polish baśń and the Swedish saga. From a recent class I found online from the University of Georgia, fairy tales are fictional stories that are not believed to be true, hence fictional, occur in generic timeless setting, with one dimensional characters who are even really good or really bad. My favorite definition, however, comes from the Oxford dictionary:
*a children's story about magical and imaginary beings and lands
*[as modifier] denoting something regarded as resembling a fairy story in being magical, idealized, or extremely happy:a fairy-tale romance
* a fabricated story, especially one intended to deceive
Well, I don't know about you, but I kind of feel deceived. You mean to tell me that my fanciful days of reading the Brothers Grimm, longingly searching for my prince and my dreadfully drafty castle do not exist? Hmmm...interesting, very interesting. OK, so maybe a fairy tale is not to be taken literally. Maybe they function to inspire us, enlighten us, and provide a little bit of a hope in an oft bleak world. I like what Albert Einstein said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
So life isn't all rainbows and butterflies, and beautiful princesses and princes and fairy godmothers. It's so much more complex and so much more three dimensional than that. Life is as complex as the molecular make up of a cell's wall. Intricately linked together, allowing the good, the bad, and the sometimes really ugly to pass in and out. So then what do we do with all of these "fictitious" stories that have flowered our childhoods and created unrealistic expectations for a perfect adult world? Hans Christian Anderson once wrote, "Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all."
So maybe we need to rethink the definition. Perhaps we create our own fairy tale, and like the ever fixed artist, the definition of fairy tale remains one of our own making. A white picked fence with 2.2 kids and a dog may be someones fairy tale, while the designer pent house in New York City with the driver and "purse" dog is another person's ideal. Whatever it may be, the "inspirational" stories of our youth are stories that remain a guide. Then we grow up and realize that all of the complexities and matrices of life really make it all worth living and create our very own fairy tale. Bruno Bettelheim wrote in "The Uses of Enchantment," "For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul - its depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles."
Friday, November 5, 2010
The other day I participated in a very interesting exercise. I was given a container full of sand and a box full of random objects...toys, game pieces, etc... The subject matter: healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships. I was asked to interpret my idea of a health relationship on one side of the box and my interpretation of an unhealthy relationship on the other side of the box. The results shocked me. My interpretation of a unhealthy relationship included sharp, blunt objects placed on top of red sand, and very asymmetrical in appearance. The image was very jarring. The healthy relationship completely contrasted the unhealthy relationship. The objects were soft and round, and most surprisingly, completely symmetrical in nature. Very pleasing to the eye.
This got me thinking about what exactly makes up a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. Is a healthy relationship about comfort, softness, and symmetry, while the unhealthy relationship is made up of jagged blunt edges that are ready to cause harm at any moment? You would think that we would instantly want to avoid those nasty hagged edges, unless of course you're some kind of masochist.
I've started to realize something about comfort versus pain, and the representation of relationships. You see, that jagged edge really represents that bad boy that many of us seem drawn to. It's stimulates are sympathetic nervous system, and keeps us on edge. For many of us, we like being in a constant state of fight or flight. We love the fact that our heart beats faster, we breathe more rapidly, and all of our large muscles are engaged. Of course, there's a function to the sympathetic nervous system. It's just as it seems...it's all about fight or flight. If we are threatened or in harms way, we are going to respond, and we need all of those wonderful hormones to excite some things and quiet other things so that we can fight our attacker or flee. The problem, however, with these unhealthy relationships is that it is not good to always be in a constant state of fight or flight.
Constant stress, or constant stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, leads to numerous health problems. It can cause problems with the cardiovascular system, the immune system, digestive system, and the neurological system. Those in a constant state of stress have higher incidences of heart disease, asthma, ulcers, migraines, and depression. Yet so many of us run back to these anxiety provoking relationships because there's an immediate gratification. It's what many call fireworks. Unfortunately, this state cannot be sustained for long periods of time, and these so called fiery relationships end up completely and utterly self-destructing.
I was that girl. I loved a fiery relationship. I wanted to be kept on edge, to work hard for his attention to prove my worth. It was the thrill of catching him and keep him. The problem, I never really ended up keeping anyone. You see, a man who really cares for you and adores you will not keep you constantly on edge. A good relationship is comfortable, safe, and yes....relatively easy. I know what many of you are thinking..."but this is boring!" Well, really it's not. It's just that we've programmed to believe that unless a relationship induces tachycardia it's not worth being in.
This makes me feel bad for the good guy. I wonder how many good guys that have crossed my path that I have turned away because I didn't think there was a "spark." Well, you know what, the spark really is bullshit. In fact, the majority of people who have this "intense chemical connection" generally end up breaking up! Hello, I am raising my hand because I have been there more times than I can count. In a relationship article I recently read, it appears that the majority of couples who develop a sustaining and long-lasting relationship "skipped" the spark. These relationships develop gradually. Two people meet, get to know each other, and before you know it he or she has grown on you, and you realize the feelings you have for this person are much deeper and more sincere than the guy who almost caused you to stroke out.
I finally get it. I finally understand that in order to get my healthy relationship, I need to slow down, get to know someone, and not run the other direction if that instant connection isn't there the nanosecond I meet him. Just as Aesop said, "slow but steady wins the race." A real relationship is not a sprint, rather a marathon.
Sonnet 116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Career, family, friends, love life...it seems like one has to literally clone his or herself to give each adequate attention. Whatever happened to balance? Euripides wrote "the best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man." Perhaps my equilibrium has been off for many years. However, like Euripides, I am learning about the wonders of balance and the power it has over keeping and restoring sanity to an otherwise chaotic existence.
I must admit, I have been a terrible juggler. I've typically been great at keeping one aspect of my life flowing seamlessly, usually my career, while another area of my life spirals into a downward abyss, generally my love life. I'm starting to wonder if Bridget Jones had it write when she declared, "it is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces." Ugh...why?!! Really, really?! Well, Bridget, I am here to once and for all dispel this myth and from this day forth will begin to believe that each and every aspect of my life can happen splendidly in perfect unison.
Why can't we have it all? Why can't a woman have the great career, the enviable relationship, and a thrilling social life? Why are we taught that it has to be one or the other, but never everything at one time? I'm starting to wonder if this is some misogynistic plot to overthrow any shred of happiness and balance a woman dares to achieve. OK, perhaps this is a bit extreme, but fundamentally, it really as if we have been conditioned to believe that the shift in the see-saw has to be one way or the other, never teetering in perfect equilibrium on its axis.
Hindus aspire to live a life of balance. Hinduism believes in 2 principles of a balanced life, the balance of the stages of life (ashramas) and the balance of the three goals of life (vargas)-artha (success, profit), dharma (consciousness development/ religious duty) and kama (love). Islam teaches to avoid extremism. Neither do too little nor do too much, but follow the Golden Balance. Christianity believes in the balance of faith, love, and work, and that all can be achieved through Christ. Or, my personal favorite, as Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
Extremes are just bad. Too much work or too much play is never a good idea. So, I am learning to juggle, and am getting much better at it. I want balance. I will have my successful career, my successful relationship, and my fabulous social life to boot. It is not an impossibility. As Pope John Paul II said, "Man always travels along precipices. His truest obligation is to keep his balance."