Seeing myself through another’s eyes…

I feel chronically busy. And never done. My TO-DO list keeps growing despite my check marks of completion.

I have a low grade anxiety as I triage. Each task feels urgently important and well passed its intended finish date. When I do take action — sorting through 10 years of bank statements, retirement accounts, bills, etc., to de-clutter and reclaim the spare room/office I have longed for — I torture myself by mentally rehearsing my unfinished project inventory.

I try soothing my over-active mind, as my 2008 Capital One statements cut into my fingers leaving painful paper cuts, convincing myself that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. One thing at a time, I coo. Unfortunately I don’t believe myself.

The other day I found the CD of a workshop my friend Kathleen and I did in 2006 with Christine Page, MD. In this weekend workshop Christine led us through a kind-of psycho-drama using each participant’s astrological charts. It was fascinating, disturbingly accurate and very insightful. Christine recorded each persons session for later listening.

Eight years later I found the CD in my sorting. I slipped it into my car’s sound system as I headed out for the day for a bit of easy listening. I forgot how much I hate the sound of my recorded voice.

I began to remember where I was in my life in 2006 — separated for 2 years, pretty much single parenting and beginning to experiment with dating. The uncertainty and fear I felt back then filled my body as I sat at a stop light. It was a tough time.

In this tender moment my voice from “Christmas Past” came through the car speakers. I heard myself disclose that I believed when I got everyone and everything taken care of — my kids, my marriage/divorce, my eventual move to the city–then I could have the life I wanted. When everyone else was happy and taken care of, then I could be happy.

Hearing this, as I accelerated through the green light taking myself to the next place on the list, I had an aha moment. My kids are good and are taking care of themselves. My new husband is low maintenance. I have moved to the city and am settled. So what’s my problem? According to my 2006 criteria I should be at peace with myself.

Unfortunately, wherever-you-go-there-you-are. I realized in this come-to-jesus moment that I recreated my belief system with new criteria. Now I tell myself, when I get the house completed; the kitchen refurbished, hard wood floors installed, the deck enlarged, etc., then I can have the life I want.

Apparently in my world there will always be more TO DO.

Kathleen called while I was writing this post. I shared my aha moment with her. She listened and laughed as only an old, dear friend who knows you well, can. She told me about me through her eyes. I liked the woman she described. Talking with her helped me see that I have the life I want. I am writing, working a vibrant practice, traveling, enjoying Tom, my kids, my friends, taking advantage of the cities many blessings and slowly getting my home in order.

But even more importantly, she helped me feel better about me. Seeing myself through her eyes let me off my own hook of never enough, never done.

Perhaps if we see ourselves through our loved ones eyes we will hold ourselves with more compassion. Is this true for you?

XO

waxseal2

 

 

 

This is happy….

Our neighborhood is one of the favored locations to watch fireworks. So when we started walking 15 minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to begin, I wasn’t convinced we would find a decent viewing spot.

We reached the main drag and joined hundreds of others looking for the perfect overlook. The street looked like something from one of the many zombie movies popular today, only this group wasn’t the undead, they were very much alive, excited for the upcoming show and inebriated from an afternoon of celebrating Independence Day, weaving their way with their red solo cups, stopping to take group pictures, arms thrown around each-others necks, screaming endearments to one another.

I began to hunt for a break along the fence.

There is was. A spot. It was huge compared to the numbers deep on each side of it. I wondered if it was reserved, or forbidden, or the large leafy vegetation that bordered it was poison sumac. Regardless, my little entourage planted our flag.

As we stood, patiently waiting for the pyrotechnics to begin, I began to worry that everyone knew something we didn’t know — that this vantage point sucked. Not being Pittsburgh natives and not making the yearly patriotic trek to see the fireworks, I assumed we were missing something. I asked my compatriots, “Do you think we will be able to see them from here?”

They didn’t know either. But my question now lived in their minds too. Doubt, like fear, is often contagious.

Tom and Greg decided they would do some recognizance work and check out the bar-with-a-view just up the street. Several minutes later they returned. No luck. The bar was closed to a private party.

So this was it. We could leave and keep looking, but we may lose this spot. I have a rule in the grocery store check-out line or in the bank drive thru…never leave your line. Experience has proven that when I change lines/lanes, the original choice always moves faster.

Let it go Patricia,” I said to myself, “if you can’t see you can’t see. It’s not that bad.” I called on my spiritual training to let be was is.

And now, as if we were early pioneers, others had taken up camp with us. We were surrounded. This once empty stretch was currently 3 people deep.

The first flare went up. The crowd went silent.

It exploded.

RIGHT. SMACK. DAB. IN FRONT OF US! BOaiu1SCAAA3p-9.jpg-medium

It was like a private show. Just for us. I smiled to myself, “Will I ever learn?” All my worry and distrust for naught. We had the best view on the street. I relaxed and allowed myself to be enchanted by color, the drama, and the force of these rockets exploding before me.

As the finale crescendoed with thundering bursts of white cascades, I felt a childlike awe…like I was seeing something for the first time. My opened mouth smile was full bodied. Every cell was alive and captivated. I was enthralled. Totally.

Fireworks are a generous gift. A free treat. I don’t know how much they cost to display but I assume they are not cheap. I so appreciate the lavish offering that is still able to transfix me.

I loved feeling that happy.

I want to allow myself to be taken by the view more often.
waxseal2

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here

I know I left you hanging…desperate for pictures of Toronto from our airport hotel window. I even took some for you to see, but for some technological reason that is waaayyyy beyond me, I was unable to post them. Until now.

But now I have a new, better, wonderful view to show you. The one that comes with the house we are renting in Gabian France.

Pretty amazing huh?

When Tom and I travel we like to bring some tradition back with us to keep that trip alive. When we went to Paris we loved the hand held shower heads. It felt so luxurious to have the shower head directly washing our toes we decided to install one in our shower at home. When we went to Mexico we brought home our love of Mexican food. Now we cook, a couple times a month, as traditionally Mexican as we can-in Pittsburgh. So what tradition do we want to bring back from the south of France?

Morning and evening swims.

Yeah, yeah, I know, minor detail, we don’t have a pool. But we didn’t have a hand held shower head 3 years ago either….

 

Here are a few more pictures I’d like to share with you.

 

We finally got our welcome to Barcelona sangria…They were huge and very good!!!

The guy rubbing his head? That is a couple from Essex England. They were visiting for the week and taking the bus tour of Barcelona the next day. They have been to the US, to California, they liked it a lot. I could tell you more but I won’t…

 

This picture is in the medieval village of Pezenas. There is a great street market there every Saturday. They have  food, wine, baskets, clothes, soaps and jewelry from vendors that speak very little to no English-in fact we have found that to be mainly true here- so our patched together French/Spanish is useless. Pezenas also has shops along narrow castle-like ancient passageways. We bought lots of stuff. I love stuff.

Not quite sure how I will get it home though.

 

Since I have been doing more traveling I have noticed I am drawn to windows and doors in other cities/countries. I made Tom stop the car for this one. I may frame this for our living room.

I wonder who lives there? What are their hopes and dreams? What is their favorite food? Are they happy?

I really hope so.

 

SO I will end here. It is late and we are headed to Provence tomorrow.

Hope you all are well.

xo Patricia

 

 

 

 

Comparing Yourself to Others Never Ends Well

Spending the week in Shangri-La was rejuvenating. The view from every deck and window, including the window next to the toilet

looking to the right off of the deck

in my bathroom, overlooked marsh lined channels leading out to the ocean where fishing boats dotted the water early each morning. The house was comfortably elegant with dark wood wainscoting, hard wood floors, comfy furniture and an eclectic smattering of master pieces hung with distinction next to Debbie’s quirky sense of decorating humor. This included schools of fish, made of different metals, clay, and wood, swimming mostly in the same direction, except for a few free thinking swimmers going the opposite way, arranged on two adjoining walls in a bathroom, jars of wonderful old marbles, interesting woven baskets holding porcupine quills, clay sculptures with imaginative faces…you get the idea. When I wasn’t admiring the view, or lost in conversation with my dear friends, I was amused by the subtle humor tucked into little nooks just waiting to be noticed.

 

And to the left toward the ocean

Spending the week in Shangri-La also had a dark side, and mine showed up big time. I began comparing my life circumstances to that of my friends. I tormented myself with, “Where did I go wrong? What if I had gone to a better college?  Maybe followed a different career path.”

 

Then I moved into what I call Cinderella questions. These have to do with a man rescuing me. “Should I have married a rich man, someone who could have provided paradise?” And if so, “How come I didn’t?” My answers were not pretty. My inferiority was in full bloom. She straight-out informed me that I could never have landed a rich man. I am not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. (I’ll end here if you don’t mind; this is depressing.)

 

I thought about my middle class family of origin and how I learned limits. How not to expect more than there was. How to be happy with what you had. These are lessons I respect but as I wandered the rooms of this magnificent home, I began to challenge them. What if I expected more? Wanted more? What if being dissatisfied led me to more? Would this be my house?

 

The onslaught of questions left me uncertain of me. I was knocked off my center. However I knew, from past encounters with my darkness, that these shadow sightings are often a good thing…in the end. I trusted if I could stay present to myself long enough, listened to my self judgements until they were hoarse and was honest about this predatory side of me, I would land back on my feet with a greater love and trust for myself. (At least that is what I told myself.)

 

This was risky business-listening to me compare myself to others. I noticed how comparing myself never ends well. When I compare myself to people who have more I feel less than and when I compare myself to people who have less I feel guilty. It is a lose/lose proposition.

 

Returning home to my no longer newlywed husband I find myself feeling satisfied as I look around my surroundings. I feel at home in our space. I love our 7’ x 9’ deck overlooking enough trees that one might think it is woods, but it’s not. I like the simplicity. I welcome the familiarity. And I adore the man I picked, and would pick all over again.

 

So perhaps in the end it is all good. Both Shangri-La and middle class are wonderful gifts to be fully enjoyed.

 

It is comparing yourself to others that limits what you can love, mainly in yourself.

Did You Know?

…That an adult elephant does not know it can easily pull the stake it is chained to out of the ground because as a baby elephant it tried and couldn’t?

 

…That fish put in a bathtub, while their small bowl is being cleaned, will swim in the same size area as their bowl?

 

…That a baseball player for the Oakland A’s, well known for not being able to make it to second base, overran, then scrambled back to first base on his knees not realizing he had hit a home run?

 

My point you ask? Continue reading

BUTT

I have been mad at my body lately. Maybe most of my life. I was too tall as a girl in the 60’s-so I slouched. My mom would instruct me to, “Stand up straight” then she’d exclaim, “You’re soooo tall.” Relatives would ask her what she fed me.

 

My mom was 5’2. I was 5’10” in middle school. After 20 years of marriage at age 42 I put on a pair of high heels. My husband said, “Oh, now I know why you don’t wear heels, you are really tall.” I didn’t put another pair on until we separated several years later.

 

I was also called “fatty Patti” by my brother and neighborhood kids. My mom countered with, “NO YOU ARE NOT!”, then refused my request for a piece of her freshly baked chocolate cake she. (My friends now call me Patricia, it doesn’t rhythm with fatty.) Continue reading

Body Image and Beliefs

Last night Jena was in a production at Slippery Rock University.

Am I Pretty Now

A potent, graphic monologue written by  Jennifer M. Reeher, an SRU student.

Jennifers message?

How unhappy women are with their bodies.

She moves from the benign to the extreme measures women inflict on themselves to be considered beautiful by society. The production is infused with the quiet knowledge that internal pain can not be healed through external alterations.

The wisdom, tenderness and poignancy of this young woman’s offering to rethink beauty is moving.

Stay tuned for my series on Body Image and Beliefs

 

 

 

Where have I been?

Getting married.

 

I thought since it was a second marriage it wouldn’t be much work. I was wrong.

 

Some of the difficulty was me. I changed my mind about “THE DRESS” 3 weeks before the wedding- which led to changing Jena’s maid of honor dress, which led to changing our previous shoe choices, which, of course, led to the changing the flowers we planned to carry. (More about all that in another post.) The truth is, planning a wedding, regardless of the number, is a ton of work! Ask a bride.

 

Part of the problem was Tom. (He knows I am telling on him.) His “party planning” style is “last minute and trust the outcome”. The first party we threw as a couple was his idea, he wanted to have an engagement party. “Okay,” I said to myself, “I know how this worked in my first marriage. Let’s have a party translates to, you make a party happen and I’ll come.”  So I said to myself, “Patricia, you know how to plan a party, work yourself to death, make sure everyone has a great time and then feel resentful that you did it all. So, this time don’t take the reigns, wait and trust the outcome.”  (I was consciously monitoring an old, habitually destructive, relationship pattern and challenging myself to rework it.)

 

So, a week before the engagement party, no menu had been discussed, no beverages purchased, no paper products considered. 3 days before- nothing. 2 days. 1 day.

 

I began to reassure myself that my side of the guest list would still love me when we served them freezer burned hot dogs and filtered water. They may not come to another party of ours, but they would still love me. I worked with myself to not to feel resentful by picking up the party ball but to remain interested in this absolutely foreign style of  party planning instead.

 

The day of the party we woke and had our coffee together in bed as we do each morning.  As we finished Tom said, “So…. I guess we should get shopping for the party.” “Yes”, I responded a little too casually, “I guess we should.” We headed out the door at 1 in the afternoon with Jena in the back seat of the Honda. She had come in for the party that morning. As we drove down the road she overheard Tom and I creating the shopping list. At some point it became clear to her we were not running to the store for a few final items, we were on our way to get EVERYTHING. “Mom,” she said, a bit quietly, “This is really unlike you.”

 

Out of the mouth of babes! “Yes” I smiled, feeling a bit proud for being noticed in this new way and equally uncertain I could maintain it, “It is.”

 

By 4 o’clock we were home with all the food, drink and paper products of a good party. We went to Costco and bought prepared hors d ‘oeuvres, cheeses, dessert and paper products. Then to  the state store and finally the beer distributor.

 

In my past life, any party I hostessed everything was homemade.  That was my expectation of myself. It is what a good hostess did. As a result of this I admit I felt a bit of shame popping the prepared puffed filled pastries into the oven, defrosting the bite size cream puffs, and pulling a party together in a few hours versus a few days, maybe weeks. But I was learning, right?

 

Our friends arrived. The party got rolling. The food came out. I held my breath, adverted my eyes, and waited. Lisa, my corseted renaissance  friend,  wanted my recipe for the spinach and cheese filled puff pastry. The cream puffs were a huge hit.  Everyone ate heartily, drank merrily and stayed until late! I had never had such fun at a party I had thrown. This was a revelation to me. If I am not exhausted I have a good time at my own party. WOW, I had indeed learned something new! And Tom was spared my rendition of “poor me I worked so hard.” I had been spared too. We stayed up most of the night talking about what fun we had, how much we enjoy our friends and wondering when we would have our next party!

 

So Tom’s “last minute, trust the process” style has worked well for our parties.  But… not so much with the wedding. I told him, “I don’t want to do the wedding like our parties, there is too much to do, I want to plan ahead.” You know where the story is going….don’t you?

 

Much more of the wedding was last minute than I liked. I wasn’t as gracious about it as I had been with the party… Tom would agree. I wrestled with discerning, “what are my belief systems, perhaps control issues, and what it the reality of securing wedding venues. Where, when and how do I push and where, when and how do I yield.”

 

These questions kept me honest and my therapist busy (every therapist should have a therapist.) I learned how to push without anger and yield without resentment. Some of the time.

 

Yielding was the hardest for me. I had to not only trust the process, but Tom too. I learned he cared about things differently than me, but that did not mean he didn’t care.  By waiting and trusting, we found the PERFECT place to be married.  If we had followed my style, which in some ways is fear based, we would have missed this opportunity.

 

In the end, a week before the wedding, I got sick. My body insisted on rest, and I wasn’t listening, so she knocked me off my feet and put me in bed. Again, I had to yield and again I had to trust Tom to be there for me and for the last minute wedding details. He was.

 

Long story short we had the wedding of my dreams! I didn’t want the night to end. Our friends are still saying it was the best wedding they have ever been to. We married over looking the city of Pittsburgh in an amazing home. The weather was perfect. The food amazing . (Catered by Chrissie not Costco.) The people we love most were with us. And Tom and I are now happily married.

 

you may now kiss the groom

I trust the outcome.