Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

Each morning, on my “power walk” route, I pass an older gentleman, standing in the same spot, looking out over the city. Perhaps this is his morning ritual. Each morning he tells me I look beautiful as I trudge by him. Recently he added that my nails looked pretty too.

I dismiss these compliments somewhat automatically. Is he kidding? I’m sweaty. I haven’t washed my face. Or showered. I do not resemble the young women that pass me on the left in their color coordinated Lycra. I wear an old sweat shirt from the kids high school sports teams  — a politically incorrect Native American’s profile plastered on the front. I did recently buy some pretty snazzy sneakers though…although I don’t think they are called sneakers anymore.

I easily decide he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Today on my way back past him he added, “You look like a movie star.” I smiled. “Lily Tomlin, that’s it, you look like Lily Tomlin.”


Now…I think Lily Tomlin is funny as hell, but I don’t think she is pretty. I actually think she is a bit homely, in an Edith Ann kind-of way.

For as much as I thought I had disregarded his compliment, I noticed the impact his comparison had on me. My feet felt heavier.

Almost home, my front steps in the distance, I realized I had “done it again.” I had dismissed a compliment but readily believed a slight — even though I knew he hadn’t meant it as such. Why was being compared to someone I didn’t think was particularly attractive a perfect fit, while being told I looked pretty rolled off my back?

Do you do this?

I remember many years ago speaking at a conference for therapists. I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference. Not a great placement.

I did my talk. I saw heads nodding which I took as a good sign. People were a bit ansi to get on their way, but I thought I held their attention.

At the end of the presentation I read through the participants evaluations. They were filled with good to excellence scores and comments. Except for one person, who clearly HATED me and everything I said. She, I assume it was a ‘she’ from her floral penmanship, wrote that my presentation was not based in the real world of addictions, that my ideas were pompous and that I should park my Mercedes at the door.

Ouch. The air left my lungs.

“But I don’t own a Mercedes,” I countered to myself as I read her responses. “I once had a Oldsmobile Bravada but got rid of it because I felt pretentious driving it.” I wanted her to know this.

I drove home hunched over the wheel, replaying her assessment of me. Not one of other kind, positive, complimentary comments, from the other 100 evaluations, made it into my long term memory.

I was told as a kid, more often than I needed to hear, “Don’t get too big for Scanyour britches.” Or worse yet, “You’re getting to big for your britches.” I had been caught thinking well of myself. I had the audacity to consider myself, even for a moment, special, smart, funny, or cute. If my mom got the faintest whiff of my ego’s presence she would escort it quickly out of the room.

I didn’t learn to believe well of myself.

My mentor in grad school told me that 50% of the people were always going to like me and 50% would not. He suggested, for me to have a happy life, I might want to stand with the 50% that liked me.

Huh. Novel idea in my world. What if I did?

So I will take the compliment. I chose to believe I look pretty — just like Lily Tomlin. My nails look pretty too. Not bad for a Thursday morning. I will take all the positive comments that come my way until I begin to believe them.

It takes 7 compliments to undo 1 criticism.

But whose counting?






Get a Spine

I have always thought of myself as very adaptable. I grew up in a family that needed me to adopt certain behaviors. Be good, get along, do well, make ours lives easier. So for the most part I did as I was trained.


While studying Developmental Somatic Psychotherapy I identified my go along to get along tendency as my preferred Movement Style. Horizontal. This means I swing horizontally between options. I tend to be interested in and open to most things. I like this about myself. I consider options over and over and over again because they all seem like good possibilities. I have often said I would make a very bad juror because I can see each side so easily. Maybe this because I have a Gemini moon.


Or…perhaps, because in my family verticality, another Movement Style, was highly discouraged. Verticality creates more of a sensation of having a spine. (A very good thing to have by the way.) It is a kind of assuredness that comes with simply knowing your yes’s or no’s. I would like to have more of this.


In last weeks blog post, A Love Letter, I told you that Tom and Heidi were teasing me. I didn’t go into detail then, but I will now. Apparently they, and this week Jena was added to the list, experience me as particular. Persnickety. It all began when Tom compared me to my cat. Clea. She is finicky. She likes what she likes and lets you know when she doesn’t. I have always admired that about her. She is vertical. Not much horizontality to her.


Apparently, according to those that know me best, I can be vertical too. It seems others have always felt my spine. In fact my mom often lamented, “Patti,” with the emphasis on the eeee, “you have such a mind of your own.” It wasn’t meant as a compliment.


I am intrigued when others see me differently than I see myself. Especially when I respect and trust their intentions, unlike my mom. It is an opportunity to widen my lens of myself. It is also a bit threatening. What if I don’t like what is the view finder?


So this week, with bravery on my side (I know I am courageous) I have been leaning into my cat self. As I do I am noticing, owning, and reveling in my pickiness. I realize it has been me who hasn’t felt my spine. I haven’t owned it. I literally felt my spine this week and the subtle difference that made in my certainty.


Here are some of my findings. Nothing earth shattering but fun to own outright.


* I dislike, will pick out, spit out, sardines. No exceptions.


*There is such a thing as the perfect purse and I will look for it for months and months if necessary(which I have been doing including across Spain and France-I found it in France). I can recognize it quickly and will pay, almost always, whatever it costs. It has to look a bit funky, feel like butter, smell like good leather and not be too big or too small. Call me Goldilocks.


*I only eat my granola, ice cream, yogurt, chili, any thing in a bowl with a soup spoon. Tea spoon are a waste of my time. They frustrate the hell out of me.


*I take big bites of food, which the above preference supports. I want the sensation of a full mouth of food, many favors and textures in one bite. I have tried eating more daintily, like a cat. I get bored. I guess I am more of a dog in this case.


*I cannot litter. I will chase a receipt across a parking lot, risking personal harm, to retrieve the fly away culprit.


*When someone I love wants to do something, the something is secondary to being with them. I pick the relationship first, what we do is secondary.


I look forward to knowing more. I imagine moving into my choices with a clarity, verticality, that will allow me to trust it is a right for me. I know the risk. Others may not agree or like my choice. Then I face my other age old dilemma…my fear of getting in trouble.


But let’s not go there today.


(As always I invite you to join me in my journey.  Find your spine. Your horizontality. Your Verticality. Play and have fun with it. I would love to hear what you discover!)

A Love Letter

Yesterday Tom and I drove to Ohiopyle to bike the trails with my dear friend. She is more like a sister. I turn to her for advice and support, she turns to me for the same. We love each other a lot.


Tom loves her too. She also loves Tom. I used her as my relationship whisperer when I began dating. Since I didn’t trust myself to pick well, I relied on her judgement. If she didn’t like him, neither did I. I remember her laughing after meeting Tom, “Ohhhh friend…you have met your match.” We both knew that was the highest compliment possible. So spending time with the three of us feels like family to me.


We haven’t seen each other for far too long. The standard reasons, busy, tired, busy, tired.


We talked about everything as we ate lunch, rode bikes, and treated ourselves to ice cream. We commiserated about our kids. Our frustration with how technology has made a simple phone call to them a thing of the past. We laughed at how we have to call 3-4 times, leave a message that they never listen to but text us asking what we want or how we are, like we never called them in the first place. We laughed that it made us feel very old.


We shared details about our own parents and how crazy they make us. We talked about our work, our writing (she is a poet…yes you are), our relationships, and politics. Our long, intimate history deepens our understanding of each others choices, dilemmas, and successes. This makes for very rich conversation. When she joined Tom in teasing me about some of my quirky ways, coming up with a few of her own since she has known me longest, I felt loved and known rather than hurt or judged. Only people that really love you can pull that off successfully!


We met up with Jena and her new beau for a light dinner. It touched me to tears when Jena ran into Heidi’s embrace. They held each other like niece and favorite aunt. Heidi asked all the auntie questions to which a mom wants to hear the answers. Then, back in the car, she could reassure me Jena is okay in her transitory life stage because she has known Jena long enough to speak with an authority I trust.


This is what sister friends do for each other. We have each other’s backs. We have each other’s kids. We have each other’s hearts.


This morning I am richer, fuller, satiated, because of my time with my friend. I feel seen.


I am better for having you Heidi.


I love you dearly.

(Woman friends make the world an easier place to navigate. Sister friends make your heart feel safe to open. Who do you love? And when is the last time you told her? Do it today. Tell her she is a part of your heart. You will live happier).