Monday, 19 December 2011

10 Truths I Wish I'd Known Sooner

I love this time of year because there seems to be so much inspiration—building up to New Years—about living your best life.  TV shows highlight it, articles expounded on it, the people in my life wax poetic about how next year will the best one yet.  Here is a great piece in Real Simple that is sure to get the juices flowing....


by Amy Bloom

Her friends and family tried to guide her. But it was only through years of rich experience that she grasped the realities of life.

Occasionally, being better informed leads to better decisions. Mostly, though, I think we make choices based on who we are, not what we know. The lessons here are things that people who knew and loved me tried to tell me. So thank you to my relatives who scolded me in four languages, and to my high school English teacher who watched over me like Cupid with a Ph.D., and to my best friend, who taught me patience. These people did their best to make me smarter in the ways that count. If I had been willing and able to understand them, their words might have tilted me more (and sooner) in the right direction. If I could have, they might have. Or, as my father often said, if your grandmother had balls, she would be your grandfather.

1. Events reveal people’s characters; they don’t determine them. 
Not everyone with divorced parents has terrible relationships. If two people are hit by a bus and crippled for life, one will become a bitter shut-in; the other, the kind of warm, outgoing person (cheerful despite everything) whom everyone loves to be with. It’s not about the bus, and a dreadful childhood is no excuse. You have the chance to be the person you wish to be, until you die.

2. Lying, by omission or commission, is a bad idea. 
I cannot shake my dependency on the white lie, because I was brought up to be nice. And I’ve never figured out the nice way to say, “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than come to your house for dinner.” But the meaningful lie, the kind that involves being untruthful or deceitful about important stuff to those you love, is like poison. Telling the truth hurts, but it doesn’t kill. Lying kills love.

3. Sex always give you an answer, although not necessarily the one you want. 
It’s possible to have very good sex, a few times, with a person who shouldn’t be in your life at all. Have fun, and hide your wallet and your BlackBerry. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that a grown man, however nice, will become much, much better in bed than he was the first five times you slept with him. And if you sleep with a man who is unkind to you, there will be more of that; long after the sex is humdrum, the cruelty will be vivid.

4. Most talents are transferable. 
If you can raise toddlers and teenagers with relative calm, you can be a CEO. If you’re a good driver, you can probably steer a cab, fly a plane, captain a boat. My years as a waitress―serving food to demanding people in a high-stress environment without losing my temper―served me equally well as a mother, a wife, and a short-order cook for my family. And if you have the teaching gene, you can teach anything. (I mean it. All you have to do is be one lesson ahead of your students. Sole meunière, Latin and Greek, algebra―you can teach it!)

5. Fashion fades; style is eternal. 
Not only do you not have to wear torn jeans, a barely-there tank top, and a fedora, but you probably shouldn’t. The point of fashion is to indulge briefly in something fun. The point of style is to have one―whether that’s a sheath and spike heels or slouchy jeans and your husband’s T-shirt―and it should last you a lifetime. All you have to do is think you deserve to look and feel your best and spend some time figuring out how to do it. Don’t know? Find a woman whose style you admire and ask for a little advice.

6. You can’t fake love. 
Staying in a love relationship when love is not what you feel isn’t likely to end well. If you know that what you crave is security/disposable income/child care and not the person next to you in bed, do the right thing. It’s true that one can learn to love someone over time and often through difficult circumstances. But unless the two of you agree to wait until you’re old and all the storms have passed, in the hope that love will kick in, it’s better to bail sooner rather than later.

7. Mean doesn’t go away. 
Some people get better looking with age; some don’t. Some people soften; some toughen up. Mean streaks tend not to disappear. A person who demeans and belittles you and speaks of you with contempt to others is probably going to be that way for years. The first time it happens, take note. The second time, take your coat and go.

8. No one’s perfect. 
I knew that I wasn’t perfect; I just didn’t realize that this also applied to the people I fell in love with. The object of your affection will always turn out to have huge and varied faults. The smart thing is not to look for someone flawless (which is why Elizabeth Taylor married eight times), but to look for someone whose mix of strengths and liabilities appeals to you (which is why she married Richard Burton twice).

9. Ask for help. 
It’s possible you’ll get turned down. It’s even more likely that you’ll feel vulnerable and exposed. Do it anyway, especially if you are the helpful sort yourself. Those of us who like to offer assistance and hate to take any are depriving other people of the opportunity to be generous and kind; we are also blinding ourselves to the reality of mutual dependence. You wouldn’t wear pink hot pants and pretend they were flattering. Don’t pretend you don’t need help.

10. Keep your eye on the prize and your hand on the plow. 
It’s easy to lose sight of what you want, especially if you haven’t gotten it. I know it’s less work to put the wish away, to pretend that the wish itself has disappeared. But it’s important to know what your prize is, because that is part of who you are. Whether it’s financial stability, two children, a collection of poetry, or a happy marriage, take Winston Churchill’s advice and never give in. Never give in. Never give in.

Thank you Amy Bloom!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Dream Boards + their Power

Every year, around this time, I do a Dream Board for the New Year.  I meditate, dwell on and finally make a list of things I want to attract into my life.  It's specific, too, and nothing goes onto the Dream Board that I don't truly want, because I am no fool.  I completely understand—or rather, appreciate—the law of attraction and its infinite, unstoppable power.

Once I've got my list, I go in search of images that express that desire.  I used to cut up old magazines, but thanks to the internet and Photoshop, it's a millions times easier now and allows me to be way more visually specific.

So I've just finished my Dream Board for 2012 and I'm stoked.  I'm not going to post it in its entirety here, because some things are better kept close to the breast, but I will share a few of the images I pinned to my Dream Board:

me, googie, my brother billy + her obese wiener dog Hans
A photo of me and my great grandma, Googie
I've always been drawn to the elderly.  Throughout my formative years, I volunteered at nursing homes with my bestie Mel.  We did it on some weekends instead of going to the mall and always made it a priority to spend time with the old folks.  At the nursing home, we'd read to the residents, write for them, walk them to the garden, to lunch, to exercise class, or just hang out and chat.  The time spent working with the seniors was always rich. We made friends, we lost friends, we were taught invaluable life lessons.  And, of course, there were some funny times, too.  It's hard for 13-year-old not to laugh when the old man you're walking to dinner farts all the way to the cafeteria.  (sidenote: he thought it was funny, too.)

All that said, one of my desires for 2012 is to find the time to volunteer again at a local nursing home.  I've already found the home actually—it's one that is inclusive and welcoming to all seniors (most notably LGBTs)—and now it's just a matter of getting in touch and starting the process.

Public Speaking
I really enjoy inspiring and empowering people. Even though the column I co-write is rooted in humor (I also really like to make ya'll laugh), the undercurrent is always an attempt to be helpful.  Sure, I like to slap an ass here and there as Lipstick, but I'm always genuinely trying to offer sincere advice.

We respond to every single person who writes us, too.  And this, to me, is always the most satisfying aspect of what I do.  What you see in Curve Magazine is the tiniest tip of the iceberg. We receive 2 - 3 questions a week and some of them are funny (they know who their audience is), but some are absolutely heartbreaking.  We make those a sincere souls a priority off the page and do what we can to help, often keeping in touch for the duration of the difficult time for the reader.  For those, I respond as Gina, not Lipstick.

Dipstick and I have spoken to crowds (college campuses mostly) and I'd really like to do more of that, as Lipstick (with Dip) or maybe just as Gina.  I haven't figured out my calling here yet, but I know I'd also like to write a self help book or two.  It's all marinating now, but attached here is my desire visually—manifesting in this instance on a stage.  I imagine all these people are in search of something and I'm getting ready to come out and give it to them.

Jukebox Adaptation Co-Writer
I've adapted my novel into a screenplay, but my spirit has told me loud and clear that I'm in need of an experienced screenwriter to collaborate with—someone who will come in with fresh eyes and tear the work I've done apart.  I've got some ideas on who I might approach, but right now those ideas are steeping, too.  It's got to be the right person and I'll make no misstep here, so I'll wait until the universe makes it clear to me.

(Even though these are two male hands, I'm quite certain the collaborator will be a woman. I'll need her female sensibilities, as well as her writing prowess, to bring Harper and Grace alive.)

One Love + More of it
We can never have enough love, right?  More importantly, we can't ever give enough.  Jimi Hendrix once said "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."

I want to do my part and always come from a place of love (and gratitude), even in the face of negativity, ridicule, or attack. Living in and coming from a constant place of love is possible, but we must work at it every day.  We get what we give and it's all connected.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

This brilliant nugget was written by blogger Marc on "Marc and Angel Hack Life."  Too good not to share...

When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1.             Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

2.            Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.

3.            Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.  Read The Road Less Traveled.

4.            Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

5.            Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.

6.            Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.

7.            Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.  Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.

8.            Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us.  We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

9.            Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive.  But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.

10.        Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either.  You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.  Read Stumbling on Happiness.

11.         Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.  Evaluate situations and take decisive action.  You cannot change what you refuse to confront.  Making progress involves risk.  Period!  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.

12.         Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.

13.         Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.

14.        Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet.  Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you.  But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.

15.         Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others doing better than you.  Concentrate on beating your own records every day.  Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.

16.         Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  Ask yourself this:  “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”

17.         Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you.  You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough.  But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past.  You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.  So smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.

18.         Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart.  You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate.  Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.”  It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.”  Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!  And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too.  If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.

19.         Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.

20.        Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.

21.         Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.

22.        Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.

23.        Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.  Read Getting Things Done.

24.        Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t take the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary.

25.        Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well.  You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.

26.        Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.

27.        Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out.  But making one person smile CAN change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So narrow your focus.

28.        Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy.  One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time?  Three years?  Five years?”  If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.

29.        Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

30.        Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life.  Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.  Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

I love Mike Dooley, the man behind Notes from the Universe and a number of other books that have rocked my world.  He shared something on Facebook today that was truly hit me in the gut and forced me to pause. It's an inspirational piece written by Bronnie Ware about the regrets of people on their death beds and it's been circulating around various blogs.  Take a moment to read these powerful realizations from those close to the transition...

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

By Bronnie Ware
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. 
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Christening

At last, the new home of my blog.  Over the last two years, I've been blogging as Lipstick on Lipstick & Dipstick's blog, and also I blogged on my Jukebox Novel website, too, but this will be the catchall for me, where I can blast off about anything my little heart desires.

For this first post, I'll share some info about a book I've recently listened to that has been a huge inspiration to me.  No surprise, it's by Wayne Dyer.  It's called 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.  Brilliant piece of work, per usual.  It's a relatively short read/listen.  It only took about 90 minutes and it was best savoured in small bites.  A secret of two first thing in the morning and then one or two right around lunch.  Repeat each day until you've devoured all his wisdom.

Another one of his books changed my life many years ago and was quite enlightening.  I highly recommend that one, too: The Power of Intention.  

Here is a little sample of his brilliance: