When I was little, my Mom told me that if anyone asked me to keep a secret, it never excluded my Mom. I could always tell her. It was our clandestine little pact. I could promise my friend not to “tell a soul”, and I could say it confidently, because my promise to my Mom far exceeded any other promise: a secret promise superior to all other secret promises (cue dramatic music).
I like to look back and acknowledge clever parenting techniques from my Mom and Dad. My Mom was able to have an eye on me and my friends’ dramas and give me advice to avoid trouble. Now, whether I took that advice was another story, but it was her way of keeping tabs on me and the happenings in my little world. And it worked. I confided a lot to my mother, and in turn, she was able to guide me.
If any of you know me at all, you’d know that I really wasn’t much of a troublemaker, so I didn’t give my Mom a ton of grief to begin with. But I have to ask myself, was it because I kept myself out of trouble, or was it the secret pact with my Mom that helped me to stay out of trouble? I like to think a little of both.
Thanks, Mom, for initiating that secret pact.
A lot of my friends are mothers, and I want to just encourage them that so many of their parenting techniques, no matter how amazing, just may not be appreciated by their chicklets. At least not yet. But I believe they will be.
Much love to my mama friends…
I stumbled on this fantastic quote someone had pinned on Pinterest:
I won’t let pain turn my heart into something ugly. I will show you that surviving can be beautiful. Christy Ann Martine
Which started me thinking. When I was young, “beautiful” meant everything perfect (my definition of perfect), lovely (my definition of lovely), and no pain (again, my definition of pain). Beautiful meant bordering on a fairy tale, but not quite, because I mean, life isn't perfect, right? I couldn't be too greedy.
Oh, Gina, Gina.
With adulting and aging, thankfully, I've learned that beauty can be those things, but it has so much more richness and depth and POWER which can spring from the difficulties. The unpleasant. The gut wrenching hurt. NOT the fairy tales.
Beauty doesn't always feel good to me. Beauty doesn't always look "pretty" and in style and all hair strands tucked in. Beauty can be pain, humility, and that miserable trio of blood, sweat and tears. But boy, is it worth it.
When life shatters superficial beauty, something much grander can emerge. Before I lose you with flowery descriptions, let me plainly ask: Do you know what I’m talking about? I meet these people. They aren't the most put together, with the perfect home and family. They aren’t the most stylish. Yet there is a beauty about them that comes from something deep. It can even be a little intimidating, yet it pulls me toward them.
Then I learn their beauty came the hard way. Through ugliness: depression, pain, horrible circumstances. And this is good news for those of us that face the hardships of life. Every. Day.
Because suddenly the past and the future seem more bearable. There is a greater purpose to my own hurt. Like that mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, we too can emerge and show others that “surviving can be beautiful.” Despite the unspeakable ache and unstoppable tears and deep, deep wounds. It just may not be instant. It takes time.
But that is such hope for all of us.
I really enjoy sending old-fashioned snail mail. I mean, let me be honest with you: I even just love the phrase “snail mail”.
Recently, a friend of mine discovered a box of letters that her grandmother, Mimi, (who has now passed) had sent to her throughout the years. She showed me a picture of the beautifully typed pages: it was line after line of carefully typed Hungarian, her native language. It went straight to my heart in an incredible way. (And not just because I’m smitten with old typewriters, and clearly, Mimi had used one.)
So yes, what an impact those letters made! I wasn’t even the recipient, and I felt a little misty-eyed. No doubt my friend was even more affected. More than just paper – those letters became memories, feelings, and love, carefully composed. I think each one was like a mental hug tucked into an envelope.
I want to be like my Mimi. No, I can’t speak Hungarian, but isn’t it neat how she created a piece of the future for her granddaughter? I wonder, did she realize she was initiating a wave of comfort for her granddaughter that would reach out far beyond her own life span? And it was at a time when my friend really needed it.
And it’s something all of us can do.
I want to keep alive Mimi’s same spirit. Little did she also know she would encourage me to continue to send postal mail and even give out handwritten notes, especially when expressing affection and encouragement to others. Because I believe those messages will then stand out among the various digital fonts and emojis that come streaming in at us throughout the day (and no doubt start to blur together.)
No, I’m not going on a digital strike or anything in that direction. The only “strike” I want to make is a difference in a typical day of someone I care about. Just as Mimi did. Will you consider joining me?
One of my friends was experiencing back pain. I spent a chunk of the day with her, and I noticed she was obviously hurting, but she was doing something else. She kept talking about her “younger years.” Too many references to the good old days, and I had to interrupt her and say, “Why are you talking like this? Where is this coming from? Do you suddenly feel old because of your back pain?”
And we both laughed. Really loudly.
It seems we are just conditioned to assume certain situations mean “old.” For my friend, back pain was one of them. I’m guilty of it too. I was recently diagnosed with tendinitis in my left hand and had to strap on a big hand brace. I told my sister I felt like I was ninety. She had the right attitude with her no-nonsense response:
“Seriously, Gina? Tendinitis is so common.”
And just like that I realized I had fallen into the same trap many others do: associating negative physical problems with getting “old.” I had to counter myself with this: Do people in their late teens and early 20s experience back pain and tendinitis?
And in my dramatic moment to my sister, I was so negative and talking in a way I never want to. I’m thankful my nieces and nephews hadn’t heard me. Because I don’t want to perpetuate that cycle of thinking. While sporting that brace on my wrist, I realized two healing and challenging truths:
And so, I changed how I talked about the tendinitis, and I felt more positive overall. Did it heal my wrist? Maybe not, but it helped heal and challenge my attitude. Jim Morrison said it best, I think: “There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” Changing myself might not seem like I’m doing much, but it’s a powerful first step toward changing the world for myself and others, like my nieces and nephews.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely finding myself in the kitchen more and more during the quarantine. I find comfort in creating and eating yummy, home-made food. The problem for me is finding too much solace in food, if you know what I mean. But there are so many delicious comfort foods! Pancakes, cookies, spaghetti, tacos, pie, ice-cream etc… (I could do the backstroke through the list!)
I have a chef friend in London who is also a health coach. She wrote an excellent article about stress eating, “Overeating & Emotional Eating During Difficult times.” I highly recommend giving it a read. It really helped me understand some reasons as to why I’m so quick to bite into that delicious, homemade blueberry muffin (I LOVE blueberry muffins). The article also shares some techniques to help keep us from mindless eating.
For example, by asking simple questions such as “Why am I craving this?” and “What am I really craving?” We might be able to stop some of our needless eating and focus on what we REALLY need. And it may be that blueberry muffin, but it may not be.
And there it is again…another nudge toward living intentionally: to pause, and really think through our potential actions and the potential consequences. In this quarantine time, many of us feel like life is one giant pause. And it can be incredibly frustrating. But my friend’s article was a reminder to me that pauses can be a good thing. A healthy thing.
When used carefully, a pause can keep us from choices we regret. And while it might be (relatively) unhealthy food, it could be something even more. Something bigger. Something that can change the direction of our life in an profound way.
In essence, I’ve realized that this current quarantine should be used carefully. I want to step into the future with purpose and intention and wisdom. I don’t want this pause to go to waste. I don’t think any of us do. So may we use this time wisely, carefully, and maybe ...with that blueberry muffin as our treat.
Why do we keep torturing ourselves with the lie that other people have it all together, have it easier, or have it much better than we do? (Whatever “it” is….)
I’m so tired of this lie.
Yet, I continue to believe. I get a snapshot into someone else’s life. It might be an actual one via Instagram or Facebook. Or I create my own mental snapshot through a conversation or even just an observation. Then, with just that TINY snapshot, I am able to convince myself that everyone (oh yes, I go straight to absolutes) has life figured out and under control, and I’m the one scrounging around trying to make heads and tails out of…well…a lot.
As a fellow human being, please let me assure you, my friend and reader, that I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I still tango with pain, doubt, and fear. During this quarantine time, it’s easy to get lost in our thoughts. It’s easy to convince ourselves otherwise: that we are alone in our dancing.
But please, if you remember nothing else from today, know that you are not alone. I’m right there with you. And I want to assure you, that even if you don’t see it, feel it, or even dare to believe it, we are ALL struggling together.
A good friend of mine once told me, we are all battling dragons, some of them are just invisible. The point is, we are not fighting solo; I loved it when she told me this. She was my friend who reminded me of this truth. Let me be that friend to you today.
“I know you can’t solve my problem Gina, but just listening to me really helps.” My friend was facing a difficult situation, and she said those words to me.
And she was right. As much as I wanted to, I had no solution for her. Unfortunately, we live in a world with problems that aren’t always easily solved. Oh, how I wish it were different. I feel so helpless at times.
However, I think I had forgotten the power of commiseration. By telling me that my listening was valuable, my friend pointed out that I still had something to offer. Shutting my mouth and hearing her and only saying, “Yeah. That’s awful. I hate this too,” is more helpful than I realized.
I have my go-to phrases where I tell friends not to worry. I say (big smile): “We survive and come through hard times stronger!” It may be nice and true, but it also sounds like a cliché, unhelpful greeting card.
I think about past conversations when I’ve vented to close friends, and how much I benefited when they would enthusiastically agree, “WOW! THAT’S TERRIBLE.” One friend especially! To this day, I know her eyes will get big and she will really emphasize her words of concern for me. I am so comforted by it, because I feel she is jumping with me right into the mess. And it is soothing for three reasons:
Isn’t it nice when we can help solve other people’s problems? But if we can’t, or we aren’t asked to, empathy is still such a powerful gift.
During this hard time, when pain is all around us, and we can’t magically make everything better, I needed to be reminded of this fact. And I thought I’d share, in case you needed it too.
Stay safe and take care of yourself and others…
Creator of Love, Auntie.