Best Friends

I hang up on from a phone call with a very good friend and I feel full of gratitude that she is  well and happy, that I am well and happy, and that we are in each other’s lives. Over the past twenty years we have been though many changes but our friendship has always been there. We have supported each other through good and not so good times. There have been laughs and tears and lots of shared history. My life is richer because of my friend.

 

Good friends are really important and they must be nurtured in order to thrive. When I was a girl, switching “best friends” whenever we got a new hobby was common. So was  dropping our girlfriends when we got a new boyfriend and I can remember how that could hurt.

Growing up means treating friends as though they are appreciated. Our good, long lasting friendships are precious. If we are not careful, we forget to tell them how much they mean to us. We should also understand that there are times when we need to be there for a good friend when they are in need, even if it is inconvenient. Friendship is definitely reciprocal if it is to work over a long time.

Treasuring a good friend is a lot different from building a network for our business or social ambitions. It is also different from loving our family because they were born to be our connections. Making friends involves choices and choosing good friends is a consequence of knowing who we are. There are plenty of people on Facebook and they may be listed as friends but it takes time and common experiences to develop a real friendship.

Not all friends from the past need to be carried into your world of today. It is wonderful to keep your friends from high school or college but if you want a healthy balance you will have to develop some new ones along the way. Especially as we age, people’s lives and situations as well as interests change. Some move away, some change, some die, some simply take a different path in life. So if you only stick with your old friends, you can end up with a very narrow world as time marches on.

It seems to me that we should try to cultivate new friends and, at the same time, treasure the old ones. As always, balance is the key to intelligent living. No one can have an unlimited number of close friends but beware the person who insists that he or she must be your only friend. “Best friends” works better in 7th grade than in adulthood.

One of the best ways to meet friends is to find a people you enjoy who have similar interests. These days, most of my friends are people I’ve met in my spiritual activities; once they nearly all came from my 12 Step program. Before that, most of them came from my writing activities. I still have a couple of friends from every one of those previous interests because they are a part of me and my history. Most of all, these treasured old friends have qualities that resonate in wonderful ways.

What kind of people make the best friends? I love the ones who are always there for you. They can be there in times of need and they are wonderful. On the other hand, the ones who make me laugh are fabulous. I also love the ones who are interested and excited about new ideas and activities. And then there are my deep thinker friends and my deep believer friends. It varies from day to day so I guess they are all my best friends.

 

Ask Yourself            

What old friend can I contact today?

What new person can I get to know better and maybe make a friend?

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Winds of Change

I am watching a movie and the heroine, who wears a red traveling cape, packs up and leaves every time the North Wind begins to blow. I think to myself that I used to be like that and I’m filled with gratitude for where I am today. I am so glad I gave that particular cape away.

        

         There was a time when I would have said that the most important thing about having a good life is learning to bend with the wind but not break in the storms. Those were the days when I routinely changed addresses about every six months. Funny thing, my address changed but I stayed the same.

Bending but not breaking seemed to be a good goal – about as good as it was going to get for me – during several earlier periods in my life. I actually started and abandoned a novel with the title, Bend With The Wind   back in the days when I was an ex-patriot, drunken, failed writer in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Thirty-seven years later, I still thank God every morning that I’ve stopped drinking. Let me tell you, I was a mess and I knew it. If Dr. Phil had been there and asked me how that particular role was working for me, my answer would have had to be, “Horrible!”

In those days, I desperately needed to make a big change but I was truly stuck. I was very unhappy about nearly everything. Including the fact that I was forty and worried about losing my looks. That made me unhappy because I thought my physical attractiveness was the only power I had. I was miserable about my dramatic, drastic relationship with a married man. I felt so sorry for myself I wanted to scream because I’d been widowed twice and had lots of boyfriends who couldn’t fill the emptiness of my heart. I was defeated and discouraged because I thought there probably wasn’t a God and if there was one I would surely go to hell. The list goes on.

So how is it that the wind shifted and I changed? I did something better than leave town. I actually changed inside because I got some help from some American snowbirds who were worried about me. They arranged an intervention and called it a lunch but to me, it felt like it was an inquisition. There were no rehabs in Mexico, just jails and insane asylums, so I got sober in Spanish speaking 12 Step meetings. My friends went home to the States and I continued to go to meetings in Oaxaca.

Usually I was the only Gringo and the only woman. I could understand and speak rudimentary Spanish but it was very basic. Since I was an “intellectual” who could make anything complicated, having to speak what we called Kitchen Spanish was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.

I had to keep it simple and that was wonderful. And I had to rely on my feelings about people rather than my usual judgments. There were men in those meetings who couldn’t read and yet I knew we were very alike. I was in the right place.

For once in my life, the wind was shifting in my favor and many things changed over night. I opened up to life and became less defensive, and more loving immediately because I felt better about myself. I began to study religion again and experimented with Zen meditation. I continued reading New Thought books and books on mystical Judaism.

The wind continued to change and I continued to bend but I never feared breaking again. Thank God for all those wonderful people who helped me. I was completely was lifted up by their caring and love while drinking lukewarm Nescafe made in big clay pots as I sat in a plastic chair in rooms with dirt floors.

 

Ask Yourself

What big dream of change would you like to undertake to accomplish?


Friends

I am sitting in my favorite chair, drinking my first cup coffee, from my favorite coffee cup. The cup is just the right size and it has a sepia photo of a young John Wayne. Whenever I use it, I smile and think about the friend who gave it to me. I have many wonderful friends and thinking about any one of them is a great way to start my day.

Each time I see John Wayne’s mug, I am reminded that the great American poet Walt Whitman said, “I contain multitudes”. We humans are complicated and wisdom comes from acceptance of our complicated selves. As we gain wisdom we no longer have to try to be just one way all the time. We no longer feel we need to wear masks in order to fit in.

I am through with masks but I do have many roles including grandmother, mother, lover, student and teacher. I also have a consciousness that is full of ideas, desires and opinions that may not fit all of those roles. I am who I am and like you, I want to be accepted for myself. And, like you and Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes

I love old movies, and especially horse operas with celluloid alpha males. They are not my only form of entertainment, but they are a continuous delight. I enjoy them the same way I enjoy opera – the story may be preposterous but who cares? In fact, one of my favorite operas is Puccini’s Girl of The Golden West.

The real reason I love drinking coffee from my John Wayne cup is that it was a gift from a  former student who is now a good friend. The cup may be an unconventional one to give to a wisdom teacher but it pleased me that it wasn’t decorated with the usual rainbows or butterflies. My friend is happy to know me for myself and she never insists I play the specialized role of teacher. While I am comfortable in the role of teacher, it seems to me that we can only be true friends when we are  accepted as our complete selves.

My personal wisdom journey has included getting comfortable in my own skin and learning to live with the fact that I am quite different from most people. Now I am comfortable letting the world know who I am, but it took a lot of years. My friend is dear to me because she never seemed to have a problem with the fact that I was who I was.

I believe we all love to be seen as our complete selves, don’t we? When I was painfully young, I put all my energy into learning to play my roles and speak my lines. Many of those roles were uncomfortable in those days and I sort of ricocheted between Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and Ida Lupino.

In my long life, I have had many excellent roles but they were not always comfortable. There was a time in my life when I was living on the East Coast and making a successful writing career when I was very uneasy about letting anyone see the real Jane. I never talked about where I came from or who I was. I wanted to fit into the role of successful writer. All my friends seemed to have gone to prep schools and then on to Smith College. There was no way I was going to tell them I grew up in a housing project in Wilmington, CA and barely scrambled through California State, Long Beach.

Honesty has always been an important value for me and I felt like an imposter because I kept quiet and let my friends assume I had their same background. Because I was out of sync with my own values, I was unhappy. I’d earned all my success but I was uncomfortable. How could they really be my friends if they didn’t know me? It was only when I took the risk to tell the truth, that I established true friendships.

I have learned that it is fine to be complicated and to play many roles but it is not fine to pretend to be someone other than who you are. I treasure my friends who know me as myself and I try to be a good friend. I also try to be a good friend to myself by accepting myself as I truly am.

Ask Yourself

Are being honest about who you are with our friends?

For more information: you can post a comment or see some of my books for sale at www.NewThoughtWorks.net.



100 LB. Weight Loss

I just hit my big mark! During the past 9 years, I have released over 100 pounds and I’m proud of that achievement. It obviously hasn’t been easy to lose the weight or I would have done it faster Slowly but surely, I plan to lose more.

 

        Sometimes it takes a long time to change habits, especially when you are prone to addiction, but you should never give up. When I quit drinking 37 years ago, it looked like an overnight change to my friends but I’d been secretly praying and meditating for at least six months before that. The same was true when I built my “overnight sensation” writing career. I wrote unsuccessfully for ten years before I made it to the big time.

Change is not always easy and is often slow, especially when it means myriad small choices. The problem with compulsive over eating is that there is no way to hide it. You can eat like a bird in public but you soon outgrow your closet.

If you are an emotional eater (and who isn’t?) the food creates a vicious cycle. You eat when you’re sad and the more you eat, the more of a joke you are. Believe me, there is nothing funny about being fat. When was the last time you saw the fat boy get the girl in the movies? Fat boys and girls are best friends, not stars.

I knew I had to learn to accept and love myself before I could begin to lose weight.  I used the lines of that wonderful Jerry Florence song for an affirmation, “I love myself the way I am and I am willing to change.”

When I realized I was looking at other people with a weight problem and mentally condemning them, I knew that it had more to do with my feelings about myself than with them. I silently started blessing every fat person I saw, whether in church, in the supermarket or at the movies. It helped me change my consciousness and take the steps I needed to take.

Loving myself the way I was an important step in my weight loss journey. When I wrote Wise Women don’t worry, Wise women don’t sing the blues, I included a chapter on accepting your size as it was. Of course, I prayed almost daily to lose weight healthfully. I also some times prayed to be willing to diet sensibly. I had been on enough crash diets to want to avoid most of the fads and I knew that there were no easier, softer ways.

On a physical level, it was no surprise that diet and exercise were the answer. I wasn’t surprised but oh, how I resisted! I was too busy to eat right. I couldn’t give up sweets. Exercise hurt!

Despite my stubborn resistance to changing my behavior, I did find my individual path; I chose smaller portions of healthy food that I liked. I chose fresh, real foods and avoided all the “cardboard foods” in the diet aisle.

I took a nutrition class at the local hospital and kept a journal of my food choices. I learned I would lose slowly on 1200 calories a day and give up if I tried to go below that number. When I started eating 5 fruits and vegetables most days it became a bit easier. Eventually, I found that exercising in the water worked fairly well for me.

I slipped often. And I plateaued often but I always returned to my goal.  I was able to keep from packing it back on the way so many good people do.

In my heart, I know that the most important thing I did was that I kept on doing my prayer treatments and journaling and so, with God’s help, my dream stayed alive.

Today, I’m proud of my achievement even if I’m not an overnight success. I still want to lose more weight and I know I can do it. Now you must find your own path. Remember, You deserve the best!

 Ask Yourself

Is there a delayed dream I need to pick up and dust off today?


Happy Endings

I am skimming through the available movies on TV. There are not many when I exclude the ones that include rape, torture, murder, crashing cars or blowing up everything. So I pick up another historical romance knowing that while it may be predictable, it won’t be gory and it will have a happy ending.

 

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, I wanted to give myself the best chance I could for recovery. I knew if I died, life would go on and that my own life was complete in many ways but I wanted to live.

I asked myself what I could do to help my recovery and I remembered that book by Norman Cousins. Anatomy of an Illness. It was published in 1979 and Cousins, a well-known journalist and intellectual, claimed that he’d used a cheerful attitude and laughter to help heal his life-threatening illness. He loved Marx Brothers films and used them, along with other choice movies to make himself laugh. He said that ten minutes of belly laughing would give him at least two pain free hours.

Because I was a New Thought teacher, I believed that maintaining a cheerful attitude would be a key contribution that I could make toward my recovery. I decided to only use only books, TV stories and movies that made me laugh or at least had happy endings. I wanted my health challenge to have a happy ending so it made sense to put only happy endings into my mind.

My doctor’s orders including staying cheerful as much as I could and so I decided that was the part of my treatment I could participate in. I entertained myself with cheerful stories along with saying my daily prayer treatments. I tried to talk to people who weren’t frightened and who expected the best. I tried to stay  away completely from worrying about the outcome of my illness. If I started worrying, I would remind myself that I had done my spiritual mind treatment that morning and so had some of my friends. Therefore, God was in charge of my case  and I had nothing to worry about.

During the time I was receiving chemotherapy, I lived in my daughter and son in law’s home because it was easier for everyone. I went for chemo treatment five days a week for six months. The type of treatment I got took three to five hours and I turned to my first true love – historical romances. As a girl, I was enamored by Jane Austen and the Bronte girls.

Now I know that the sales of modern historical romance paperbacks is huge. I have my favorite writers and I also reread the older ones by Victorian writers. It is a cheerful, harmless habit and I have the time.

Now that I am cancer free long enough to be labeled a “survivor”, I suppose I could start reading Russian literature again if I wanted to. I used to love Dostoevsky and 20th Century Existentialist writers but somehow, I have lost my taste for anything except cheerful stories.

As a by-product of my current choices, I know more about English history than I ever expected-especially the Regency period. Of course I don’t believe all that stuff the English thought about the French and I don’t believe that escape  literature is any substitute for historical truth but the heroines are more or less grounded in their times. They are fantasy heroines in fantasy times. OK. So is the modern thriller.

Why not fill your mind with joy and happiness? We know that our minds are like computers and what we put in is what we get. Instead of garbage in, garbage out, for a slogan around my house, it “Love and kisses, love and kisses everywhere.

 

Ask Yourself

What kind of light entertainment do you enjoy?

 


Lights Out

My computer went off in mid-sentence and then I noticed that the air conditioner and every other electric machine were also off. A phone call confirmed that the power outage was all over the neighborhood. That was at 4:30 PM. By 8:30 that night we all knew that the San Diego area from Yuma to Tijuana was going to be without power for at least eight and possibly 24 hours.

When it became clear that the power outage was raining on the just as well as the unjust, it also became clear that the only thing I could only control was my personal behavior. The rest was up to SDG&E and I would have to wait it out.

My first thought was gratitude for all the flashlights at my fingertips; my daughter and son-in-law live only ½ mile away and they are the kind of people who believe in taking good care of mama. I always have water, canned goods, flashlights and spare batteries on hand.

They even came down to visit and we shared a dinner of scrambled eggs and veggies cooked on the gas stove by flashlight. Then we ate the ice cream in the freezer telling ourselves it would otherwise melt and we didn’t want to waste it. Despite the darkness and our lapsed diets, there is always a payoff in any difficulty.

I went to bed earlier than usual and slept fairly well despite being unable to raise my beautiful electric bed up and down. The lights went on again at 5:30 in the morning.  That’s the end of my story.

The point of writing about this at all is that sometimes things happen that we can’t control. I was not responsible for the lights going off or on but I did have choices. I could have panicked or had hysterics. I could have stamped my feet and demanded, “Why me, God? Why me?” I could have blamed the Republicans or the Democrats. I could have said it was God’s punishment because we are all lazy sinners down here in the Land of the Locusts. The list of “could haves” is infinite and we get to pick and choose.

I chose to think about those pioneers who went to bed at sunset every night just to save candles and how they crossed the country, built a nation and lived their lives without electricity. My mother used to talk about what a big deal it was when electric lights came to her hometown of Walnut Grove, MO when she was a girl in the 1920’s. At one time electricity was a miraculous phenomenon but now it is an invention we take for granted. We forget that there are still parts of the world where it doesn’t exist or is only in use a few hours a day.

We also forget that infrastructure – things like roads, bridges, telephones, and electricity are only possible because we can live together in a cooperative, peaceful way. Maybe the best thing about a blackout like ours is that we are reminded how much cooperation and trust goes into creating civilized life.

Right now, we are adjusting to the fact that our lives are so completely connected to other parts of the world, not just the United States and Canada. China impacts our economy, Mexico impacts our food supply and Afghanistan has difficulty training soldiers because most adults can’t read.

This changing world and its extensive interconnection is almost too much to comprehend. Some of us react in fear and want to fight and right now we are in two wars. But war will only destroy and we will need to rebuild even if we win.          We must find a way to build cooperation and trust or we will never get what we want on an international level. We must open our minds and hearts to our global village without fear. What is happening is happening. The world is shrinking and whether the issue is outsourcing or international financial exchange, we must build healthy, cooperative connections. .

It seems to me that followers of New Thought are in a perfect place to lead the adjustment to our changing world. Our teaching so clearly supports change and connection and it is totally based on love. We know there is only one Mind, One Heart and One God. Why not add One World?  We have many, many choices each day in which to choose love over fear.

 

Ask Yourself

Am I resisting change in my life?

Am I blaming others?

Am I choosing to envision world peace and cooperation?


Speaking Up

I am watching teachers protest on TV. They are dressed in tee shirts and levis, carrying signs and they are madder than hell!  Things are different since my days in the classroom but the issues are still the same – salaries, class size and respect. Suddenly, I remember my own protest days and how innocent I was about speaking up effectively then. It is almost as though I flashback to the 1960’s and I am watching myself in a movie. 

When I graduated from college, my career choices were teaching, teaching and teaching.

I taught in four different districts and in each, the kids were fine but the system was dreadful. Some things don’t seem to change, although  appearances are very different. When I began teaching 45 years ago. The women teachers had to wear dresses or jackets and skirts and the men were required to wear neckties and jackets. We were very polite but most of us were madder than hell.

I was a true believer in collective bargaining and I went around to the schools and made speeches to other teachers persuading them to join my organization. I was usually asked to leave by the principals because the last thing they wanted was “uppity” teachers. I may have been a polite rabble-rouser but I was brave.

In fact, I was so brave that I was elected to be head of the teacher’s negotiating council. It was my job to meet with the school superintendents and principals and work out the contract for the next year. We wanted things like a raise in pay, lower class sizes and more preparation time. Some things really never do change.

I have always been proud of the fact that, in a paid advisory position, I pulled off the first teacher’s strike in California (Lawndale Elementary District). I think I’d seen myself as a minor John Steinbeck heroine… until recently, when I watched the news and my memory opened up revealing how anxious I was to please.

As I watched the TV scene in 2011, I saw my1960’s  life in my mind’s movie. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

When my teacher’s group of six met with the administrators’ group of six. I was both the spokesperson and the only woman in the group. There were no female school administrators then, though the majority of teachers were women.

On my way into the negotiating meeting, I made it a point to stop and chat with the secretaries about how their kids were doing and girl stuff like new brands of panty hose. When we were all gathered, instead of sitting down and getting to work, the superintendent gave me money for the coke machine; I was told to go after 12 cokes and I did.

See how my innocence sabotaged that meeting right at the beginning? I might have been the most articulate choice for the teacher’s group but I had a long way to go before I broke out of gender roles and could meet those big boys on a level playing field.

Along with many women of my generation, I’ve had to learn to speak up and be heard. If you are interested, you can read about other aspects of my journey in my book, Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues.

That was then and this is now so I am free to see this memory scrap as either a comedy or a tragedy. However, I must ask myself if I’m still trying to please people?

If I’m honest, the answer is yes and no. I’m much better about protecting myself from difficult people and bullies but I can still let my need to please others distract me. Sometimes I talk on the telephone too long and don’t get my work done. Sometimes I accept an invitation I’d like to ignore. Sometimes I choose a platitude over the blunt truth of my belief.

Yes, I’m still a people pleaser sometimes but I know it is not too late to change. It’s true I’m no longer an innocent ingénue, nevertheless, I’m still the star of my own movie and I can speak my own lines. Isn’t life wonderful?

Ask Yourself

Can you speak up?

Are you a people pleaser?

Who is in charge of your time and energy?