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

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What do you want people not to miss about you?

Tom is always finding obscure online stories and sending them to me to read. When he asks, “What did you think of the piece I sent you,” sometimes I lie. I tell him it was good, interesting, something my life is better for knowing…I do imagesthis because I feel bad saying, “Didn’t read it.” My mom would call this a white lie. She was good at white lies. I think a lie is a lie. To be honest, sometimes I lie.

Sometimes Tom reads his latest, interesting story to me while I am making my lunch for work or getting dressed. I think he suspects my duplicity and wants to be sure I hear this one. Sometimes it’s a great story and I say, “Wow, that’s a great story, send it to me, it would make a fun blog piece.”

So this post is brought to you by way of Tom and his Wednesday morning internet article reading.

The story was about 75 year-old songwriter, Allen Toussaint, who wrote, “Working in the Coalmine” and “Southern Nights.” The article spoke of his reluctance to let people know he had finished an album because he was afraid of the critique it would face. Van Dyke Parks, a well known composer, instrumentalist and songwriter, came to visit him to support him in releasing the album. He told Allen to “Imagine you’re going to die in two weeks. What do you want people not to miss about you?”

In response to that question he wrote, “Southern Nights,” so that anyone who heard the song would know something essential about the people and the land that shaped him.

On my way to work I asked myself, out loud, I talk to myself…as shared in last weeks post, “What do I want people not to miss about me?”

My immediate answer was, “That I care.”

Sometimes too much. I have written about that.

Sometimes in odd ways. I have written about that too.

By the time I got to work I realized this blog is my album.

This is what I want you to not miss about me. I write about my humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can feel and accept yours. I am honest…even about my dishonesty, so that you can love and accept your contradictions. I let you know who I am, by telling on myself, so you don’t feel alone being more of who you are. This is how I show you I care.

Now you know!

What do you want people to not miss about you?
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Let me call me sweetheart…

The other day I was on the floor stretching. I had a pain in my ass. Technically my hip, that tiny bugger of a muscle that is dead center on the hip bone. It can cause a boat load of trouble for being such a small thing.

Anyway, I was being very deliberate and patient with my stretch. The relief I felt was directly related to the angle at which I pulled my bent left leg my over my right hip. Straight to the right was not effective. Over and up toward my chest was the ticket.

Ahhhhhh. I held there for a moment. Breathing. In this pause I heard myself say, “That a girl. That’s it sweetheart. You’re doing great.”

I was speaking sweet nothings to myself. Wow, I was touched by me. How lovely and considerate. Friendly. Someone I would want to go get a cup of coffee with…

This self kindness has not always been my M.O.. There was a time, not so long ago, that I was rather hard on myself. I yanked myself around telling myself to keep-up; get-a-grip; that it’s (whatever “it” happened to be) my fault because I didn’t do it right, say it right, or plan well enough. I could be down right mean. Sometimes I even called myself names. (Sticks a stones can break your bones, but names can break your heart.)

I knew when I had been talking smack on myself because after a day or so I would feel like shit. My breathing was shallow, my shoulders were tense and I didn’t like anybody, especially myself. Hanging out with me was not fun.

But on this particular day I caught myself unawares; being kind, gentle, and encouraging. I was moonstruck.

Now I call me sweetheart. I ask myself if I want to keep up. I remind myself instead of getting-a-grip, I need to let-go. And, if it is my fault I apologize, then move on.

Perhaps I was my pain in my ass.

Go figure.
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Do I Matter to You?

The woman I referenced in last weeks post, the one that asked where my blog was, told me this week that it would be okay with her if I wanted to write about her. My first reaction was, “Be careful what you ask for.” My second was curiosity. Why did she want me to write about her?

Turns out she wanted to know if she mattered to me. If she was important to me. Interesting. Was she worthy to be written about?

In fact she is a very interesting woman and I care a lot about her. She decorates for Halloween, makes a stand to not decorate for Christmas then caves and does it, struggles with family obligations, loves to travel and works professionally with women.  She asks important life questions like, “Is this all there is?” She actually reminds me of myself at her age. (God did I just say that? Am I that old?) She agreed. She sees herself in me 20 years from now. (I am that old.)

As she and I talked about her invitation, and where it came from in her, I knew I had to take her up on her offer. It so perfectly unveiled our ever present want/need to know we matter to an other. That we are special. Valued. Important.

It was easy to give her what she wanted. I told her how much I liked her and how I look forward to our time together. But even more than that, I told her it takes a brave woman to ask those questions and risk the answers. For that I admired her.images

So let’s think about this for a moment. How do we know if we matter to others? Sometimes we ask. Often we don’t. We prefer to wait for clues, signals and then make up a story based on the others words or behaviors. Sometimes that story is in our favor and sometimes it is not.

To ask, “Do I matter to you?”, is vulnerable-making and as a species we avoid our vulnerability at all costs. The number one reason we don’t want to feel our feelings is because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. I get it. I don’t like to either. And, like my young friend, I try to do it anyway. It is worth the risk. The pain can be great but so can the connection that comes from a spoken, “You matter to me.” I think it is worth it.

Would you be willing to ask your important others what they feel toward you this week? To tell your important others what they mean to you? (Yea it goes both ways.) Report back. I would love to hear your stories.
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I DO. I HAVE. I BE.

At our July women’s group Jude summed up life with these three choices. They made sense to me. I knew these in myself. I wrote them down and have been noticing them ever since.

I DO.

And boy, do I. I think this way. All. Of. The. Time.

“What do I need to do?” I feel tired.

“What should I do?” I feel exhausted.

“I finally I got that done, but look at all I didn’t get done.” I feel beaten.

It’s hard to get out of bed some mornings.

I believed that when the kids were launched I would have all kinds of time on my hands. That I would get it all done, whatever it was that needed doing. Maybe I would even be bored. That I would entertain myself by organizing my junk drawer.

I am not keeping up with my list of to do’s. I cannot even close my junk drawer.

 

I HAVE. 

I have down sized twice in the last 5 years so I have much less than I ever did. I kinda like this. I live in a small home that will not tolerate a lot of stuff. This reality supports minimal accumulation. It makes window shopping bittersweet…I see something I love and want, knowing it will truly make my life complete, but, remind myself there is no place to put it, hang it, or prop it. I walk away…sad for not having, relieved that that purchase will not be on my next months Visa bill.

However, I have cleverly rectified this dilemma by disguising my consumerism as necessary home improvement projects. Depending on the day and my mood this list can be quite long. My have and my do are a formidable couple.

I was visiting with a friend yesterday and while we talked I was gathering home improvement ideas from her place. I mused that maybe I would rip out our wrought iron banister, explaining I never was a fan of wrought iron and by replacing it with wood, like her’s, it would warm up our place. Laura said she kind of liked wrought iron, she said she thought it looked clean. I remembered she has an iron coffee table and end table. Then she said, “I don’t know, you could do that, maybe you are made of money and that is not a consideration.”

Thank you Jesus. Or Laura. Those words cut right through my need to have. My budget  and my sensibility rose to the surface. I felt relieved. Less to pay for and less to do.

I went home and appreciated my wrought iron bannister in a whole new way.

 

To BE. 

There is sooo much written on this state of mind. It is unarguably the way to be (no pun intended). But, man, is it hard to do (hah, another pun).

I have been mulling around the idea of how to turn my to do list into a want list so I can be more in the moment while doing it. Still with me?

If I do what I do, fully doing it, then I will be. Got that?

So when I am finished writing this post I plan to weed my garden. Weeding is not one of my favorite activities. I wish I were one of those people that feel contentment yanking and sweating and clipping, but I am not. However, I do walk through my garden every time I leave the house, often stopping to admire it, amazed with myself for creating such a spot of beauty, so I want it to look good.

I found my want. I want to pull weeds, tend to my garden, restore it to beauty. It is no longer a to do, but a want.

I consider calling my friend Heidi while I garden since we have been playing phone tag…you know, kill two birds with one stone (bad garden metaphor). I quickly remind myself that multitasking is not conducive to being.

I decide to just garden, to be fully in the moment, pulling weeds, clipping plants, sweating like a women in menopause; not thinking about the next chore to be done.

Wish me luck…
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Post Script

My garden looks beautiful. I still didn’t love the job, but I love the result both in the garden and in myself.

I was fully in my moment, BEING while I was DOING.

 

 

 

Home Improvement Therapy

Lately I have been wanting all the home improvements projects done…yesterday. My mind wanders to my to-do list when I should be listening to how Tom’s day was or paying attention in traffic. I have become obsessed, or organized, I am not sure which. I  document my list in my phone’s reminder app. That way I have it handy at all times.

I have been taking pictures of outdoor lighting at Lowe’s, ceiling fans at Home Depot, ordering new exterior shutters — did you know that the size stated on the shutter is not the actual size of the shutter? The Lowe’s man calmly explained it is similar to a 2×4…they are not really 2″ by 4″ either. Who knew? And how is one to get the right size?

I have also been picking paint colors for different projects. I have even purchased my all-time favorite, a can of black spray paint. It is amazing what a little black spray paint can to to refresh worn stuff. I was tempted to give Tom a little squirt today, but thought better of it.

I am familiar with this pattern in myself. I become a DIY maniac when I don’t want to feel something going on in my life.

Landon’s wedding is 2 weeks away and instead of slowing down to feel the full impact of what that means to me, I am spray painting anything that is spray paintable.

The good news is stuff is getting done. The bad news is my back hurts and I don’t have shoes I can wear for longer than 10 minutes for the wedding. I need to be shoe shopping,  instead I am home improving.

I am fully aware I am sublimating, but I don’t really care. As the serenity prayer says, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can’t change that I am old enough to have a son marrying. I also can not change that my son is old enough to be marrying. And I certainly can’t change that my mommying days are done. But I can sure as hell can change the color of the fireplace and update our mailbox!!

Here are my before and after pictures. If you like them I do work for hire…

the fireplace before

the fireplace before

 

and after I got through with it...

and after I got through with it…

 

Before a little black spray paint.

Before a little black spray paint.

and after!!

and after!!

I nested before Landon was born. Everything had to be in order and perfect for his arrival. Perhaps this is similar, but this time I am preparing my new nest for me.

Happy home improving to you,

 

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This is it

When the parking lot at the Nuin Center was packed full, and street parking was at a minimum, I accurately deduced there was an event in the conference room.  As I made my way to the front door of the building I saw a sign directing people to The Living Peace Retreat, taught by Darma Teacher Chan Huy.

After saying my Good Mornings to co-workers standing around the front desk, I walked to the kitchen to deposit my egg salad into the frig. As I passed the conference room I noticed the participants shoes lined neatly against the walls of the hallway. They were all sizes and degrees of wear, but they were, mostly, comfy looking shoes. I saw no stilettos. I also noticed an alter was set up in the middle of the room. Brown robed monks sat quietly on the floor. Participants were also sitting quietly; some on chairs, others in lotus positions on the floor.

I know all this because the two sets of double doors were wide open. Typically, workshop leaders holding events in the conference room shut the doors. They post “Be Quiet” signs outside of the room letting non participants know they don’t want to be disturbed. The open doors piqued my curiousity. Hmmm, I wondered, “Why?”

I decided to answer my own question.  I made up the story that leaving the doors open was purposeful. I concluded it was to teach that we can’t close the world out, but that we must not allow the distractions of the world to interrupt our mindfulness. So as I rubber necked my way past the room, headed to the bathroom, I assumed I was helping  teach their point. My distracting presence gave them the opportunity to practice this lesson. Some looked up. Others did not.

Life is full of distraction. It is what you do with them that matters, I assumed…

On yet another trip past the sacred space, to retrieve my lunch, I noticed the group was eating their lunch in silence. I imagined myself sitting with them, eating in silence, chewing slowly, mindfully, tasting my food. I was thoroughly enjoying my fantasy until, in it, I forgetfully asked someone to please pass the salt. I immediately felt mortified with myself, even in my imagined scenario. I auto-corrected by concluding that my imagined table mates smiled warmly and silently handed me the salt.

Mistakes are a part of life. It is what you do with them that matters, I supposed…

IMG_0974I began to notice, midday, that I felt peaceful, that my movements were slower, that I had more grace in my body. Just being in the presence of such peaceful monks and the space they created had calmed me. I noticed a frame that had been hung above the registration table, It said, This is it. 

I exhaled, feeling instantly relieved. What if this is it? And, what if that is okay? I felt my hold on the future relax. My low grade tension of planning how-to-get-it-all-done eased.

On my last trip to the conference area for the day, to make my afternoon tea, I noticed one of the brown robed monks wearing wooden beads around his neck, sitting outside of the conference room. He was very engaged in texting or surfing the web on his cell phone. He didn’t look up, he wasn’t distracted by me. I wanted to laugh out loud as I watched his small, tedious movements, getting his man sized fingers to manipulate the small screen.

We are all so human. It is what you do with that reality that matters, I guessed…
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I confess…

…after being called out on it…

…that  last weeks re-post of my first 2010 post was a lame attempt to seem engaged when Iimageswasn’t. It was also kindly brought to my attention that I was still celebrating my 100th post at post # 102.

Can’t blame a gal for trying…

So here’s the truth.

I confess…I had nothin’ to say. NOTHIN’.  I had paid attention all week to events that occurred and nothing captured my attention or  my heart. Nothing stirred me. So I wrote about going to dinner with another couple and how I didn’t enjoy myself. The spin I took in the 600 word masterpiece was how it was me I didn’t enjoy. Not them. I was astutely noticing that when I say, I didn’t enjoy myself, I often make it about the other, when it is really me that was being a poop. I spent 2 ½ hours Sunday morning, using my evolved hunt and peck typing skills to write this brilliant piece. At 2 hours and 45minutes I reread it and said, “Who gives a crap?”

I was tired of myself. I felt self absorbed and whiny. I was impersonating someone who had something of importance to say. Like I said earlier, I had nothing.

So I reposted.

Secondly, I confess…about a month ago I had a stalker. He contacted me through Facebook, snail mail, phone, Psychology Today and finally here, my precious blog, where I bare myself to you. Where I use names and places of my dear ones. Did you notice in the post, I just went for a salad and got a life lesson, I didn’t say what grocery store I was in? That was purposeful. I was scared. I didn’t want him knowing where I shop.

Since then he has been caught, reprimanded and has stopped contacting me. But, my hesitancy — about what this means to my blog and how should I proceed — has not been resolved inside of me. Perhaps I was naive to think I could put myself into the cyber world and not have something creepy happen. My sense of good will and safety has been shaken. Now, instead of thinking about each of you as I write, I have to push him out of my head.

My therapist reminded me how much I love to write. He also helped me to remember what this blog means to me. He encouraged me to persevere, to not to give up what I love out of fear. I love him.

Finally, I confess…I wonder if anyone out there is reading this? Some of you tell me how much you enjoy being Boswell — which very honestly keeps me writing, but as you can see there are no comments. I started bB to have conversation. Some of you may remember Conversation Cafe where Jodi and I, for 2 years, made space for women to gather and talk about heart felt issues. That was a very special event for us and for the woman that attended. I hoped bB would invite conversation too.

So the truth is, I want/need something from you. Talk to me. Talk to each other. Make this your place too. I’m feeling lonely out here all by myself…

Also, tell a your friends about bB. Send them links to your favorite posts. I have been working to build readership by figuring out SEO’s (search engine optimization), increasing FB page likes and daily tweeting. This exhausts me and my head feels like it is going to explode. Recently, when I was close to detonation, a left brained man suggested I stop all that and use word of mouth. My energy returned and my head remained on my shoulders. I never wanted to do all the shenanigans and contortions the blog world requires. I just wanted to write for you, and for me.

So would you help me build my readership? Please?

That is my confession. I never quite understood the value of my Catholic friends going to confession, but I think I understand now. I feel better after having leveled with you.

Thanks for listening. Would love to hear from you : )

 

 
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I deserve it … NO… I want it……

In celebration of my 100th post…and because I don’t have anything new ready to share with you this week…I am rerunning my first post from November 5, 2010. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by or that I have stuck with this for so long. I am impressed with myself : )

I recently bought some new furniture. Okay, I recently bought a lot of new furniture, at a rather expensive local store. Something I don’t do, I shop for bargains, get it cheap, purchase incrementally. But this day I decided I had slid off my fiancé’s leather couch for the last time. I hopped in the car, his car- a cute red convertible- something else I don’t do because I am afraid to scratch, bump or bruise it. I went by myself, another novelty, we usually we shop for major purchases together, but today he wanted to watch the masters and I wanted to shop in the spirit of endless possibilities. It worked for both of us. I stopped for a latte along the way, feeling much younger than I am as my hair flew in a million directions in the open topped car. I didn’t allow myself to think about the knots I would attempt to brush through tonight. I arrived at the store, was greeted by Sherri, a very friendly sales woman who quickly became my new best friend.

I found a great couch; over sized, on sale and I even though I picked the most expensive house couchfabric to cover it in, the price didn’t go up. This was my day! So, it only made sense to now find a matching chair, which I did, with an ottoman. Unfortunately the fabric I picked did increase the price, but I had saved so much on the couch, right? Feeling very satisfied with my purchases, the thought occurred to me-this may be a good time to consider looking for a new dining room table.

When I moved into my fiancés home in November we combined our collection of “lifetime, kid functional, great flea market finds” furniture. I guess you could call the look….ugly. It didn’t take me long to find the perfect pedestal table. And it was being discontinued, so the price was great! How blessed am I?

I returned home and tentatively shared my expedition with Tom. He didn’t quite follow my excitement, but he is smart enough and old enough to know better than to say…”You did what?” Plus we agreed I was buying, so….what could he say? Other than, “you really want to get rid of my leather couch and chair?”

As time set in I panicked, I asked myself “What have I done?” I felt guilty. It was too much. Who do I think I am? I spoke with some friends who assured me I got great deals and it is all really good furniture…as only good women friend will do…and they said, “After all, you deserve it!”

Really? I deserve it? What does that mean? I had been noticing for awhile that women say to themselves or to a friend, “You deserve it”! When I heard this spoken to me I wondered what I had done to deserve it? Had I been really, really good, worked really, really hard, done “it” right? Is that why I deserve it? What if I hadn’t overachieved, does that mean I don’t deserve it?

As I thought about this, I concluded that we tell ourselves and others “They deserve it” because it is a very clever detour around feeling our guilt of wanting and getting! I watch my women friends and clients work harder and never feel good enough or deserving. I see us care more about others and care less about ourselves. I began to get curious. What if I felt my wants, regardless of what I have done, accomplished, or achieved? Could I let myself befriend my desire, know it intimately, inside and out, like a treasured lover? Can I tolerate feeling my desire, as well as, the possibility of being disappointed?. What if I want it and can’t afford it or my partner isn’t in agreement with my wants. Do I chose to ignore my desire so I never feel my disappointment? Like the saying, “Blessed are those that expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” I think this is convenient… for awhile… but exhausting and soul robbing in the end.

I bought this furniture because I wanted it. Plain and simple. I want my new home to welcome me at the door with furnishing I adore and can fall into at the end of the day. I want to feel proud of the home we have created and welcome friends in to share our loved creation. I wanted it, I could make it happen, this time, and for that I feel extremely grateful. I may also deserve it, but that is not why I bought it. I trusted myself, my desire, felt it and loved it into action.

With love
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Celebrating my 100th post!!!! Life is a buffet…

I am remembering a phone call with my dear friend Kathleen. Instead of asking what was my New Year’s resolution she asked what do I want in the new year? Hmmm.

This simple word substitution opened a totally different door in my psyche.

What do I want?

Honestly? After thinking about it, I want it all.

Life is a veritable, all-you-can-eat, smorgasbord. It all looks so appetizing my mouth imageswaters. I want to taste most everything. I want to read the Better After 50 booklist. I want to learn how to knit a hat–I can knit a scarf. I want to join a cooking club where we take turns trying new recipes on each other. I want to take a writing class, a meditation class, a succulent wreath making class, a Spanish class, a typing class. I want to learn to use Facebook and Twitter like a 20-something-year-old.

I confessed my desire to my monthly women’s group telling them I want it all. I heard myself repeating it several times because it felt soooo good to admit. I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. Iwantitall. Jude suggested this was greed. Everyone in the circle gasped. Did Jude just call me greedy?

I didn’t feel offended, I felt interested. Am I greedy? Is this greed? Gimme-gimme-have-you-got, my mom’s voice chided.

I looked up the definition of greed; an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. Hmmm. I thought about this. Lord knows I don’t want to be selfish…I have heard of what happens to selfish women…

I realized I felt more hungry than greedy, more interested and excited than insatiable. I just don’t want to miss anything.

I wonder if this is what happens after 50, after the kids are grown, the nest is empty, and the diaper money that morphed into soccer camps, that morphed into prom gowns, that morphed into gas money, has finally found it’s way back into my wallet? Do I want it all because I have more time and resources? Because it’s my turn again?

Sorting through my many wants, in any given moment, takes discernment. It also requires the ability to tolerate disappointment. I don’t always get what I want. Sometimes because it is too much money. Or too much time. Or my work schedule gets in the way. Or I have conflicting wants–I want to go to that event but I also want to spend time by myself.

Letting myself want is a tricky business. Not so easy after-all.

Yet, I am enjoying going after what I want. I am even having fun telling you what I want…I want to sit home all day watching movie marathons in my p.j.’s, eating popcorn and homemade soup. I want to clean and organize the garage, paint the spare room, have lunch with my son, volunteer, go shopping with my daughter, write more, nap often…

Hmmm…Maybe the myth of selfish women is untrue. Maybe when we look out for our selves, trust what we want, we are happier. More fulfilled. Content.

What do you want?
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