The ABC’s of Making Friends.

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I have a pretty contented life. I am a fulfilled mom. I have a beautiful partner relationship with a woman that I get to marry in a few months. And, I have interests that keep me engaged in my life, from writing, to traveling, to music and reading. Yet, there is a part of my life that seems to be lacking for several years now, and I am finally summoning up the courage and self awareness to take steps to change it.

I don’t have a whole lot of friends. Sure, on Facebook, I have over 400 friends. And, even though Facebook gets dissed for not being “true” friendships, I have stories in my mind and heart about each one of those friends on my list. We went to college or high school together. I met them through my blogging over the years. We dated in the past. They are my family members.

But the ironic part is, I have very few friends in real life, ones that I spend time with, go out for coffee or wine with. That I share my deep secrets with. My fiancee is my closest and best friend, the best friend that I have ever had, actually. But, I find myself looking for more friend relationships in person, in my daily life to have fun with and get to know better. Yet, at the same time I am looking for that in my life, I am scared out of my mind.

Even though I find social situations fun, I am really scared about meeting and getting to know new people. The reasons are various, including the fear that I will be judged or not liked; that I will have to make known personal parts of myself; or that people won’t find me interesting or fun enough. Pretty funny, right?

So, I decided to face this fear head on, and made plans this week with a new person, a person that I have met a couple of times but would like to get to know better. I am scared at the same time that I am excited for the new adventure. So, as I was anticipating our get together later this evening, I thought of the beautiful simplicity of meeting a new person, and the basics of what it takes to make that happen.

A: Make an ACKNOWLEDGMENT of what it is that I want. Am I looking for companionship? Fun? Someone interesting to talk to? A new adventure? Once I have that in mind, it makes it a bit easier to seek what I am looking for.

B: Be BOLD. Ask. Call someone. Strike up a conversation with a person that seems interesting. Go against all of my fears and just DO IT.

C: CELEBRATE, both myself and another human being with whom I get to interact. I can make it dramatic, as in, this is so hard, or I can have complete fun with the experience, no matter how it turns out. Simple.

My desire is to enjoy this so much, that I just keep doing it and doing it, with new people or people already in my life. Taking the first step of knowing what I want and letting go of my fears is going to get me there.

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Traditions, and a Christmas Miracle.

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I LOVE Christmas. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am in full Christmas mode. I love finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones, getting and putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, and listening to Christmas songs. I also enjoy driving around town, taking in all of the pretty light displays. I love seeing the joy and excitement in the eyes of children, anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus. And, I always enjoy picking just the right homemade cookies to leave on the plate for him, along with carrots for the reindeer, of course.

I have also loved other parts of the holiday over the years. When I was still living at home, every Christmas was a magical, special time for me. Most years, all of my siblings would be home with us to celebrate; we would decorate our tree on Christmas Eve, blasting Johnny Mathis on the stereo, eating fondue and having a ton of fun. We would be up at the crack of dawn, or before, even when we were in our teens and early adult years, peeking for our name on packages under the tree, and anxiously awaiting our parents so we could open our bulging stockings and have a family breakfast together. They are really great memories.

Somewhere along the line, however, I started to judge Christmas, and the quality of it, on whether or not my current and future observances of Christmas measured up to what I had as a child. I became really focused on tradition, and for years, followed along with my then partners’ traditions in her family, and didn’t even visit my family at Christmas time for years. I missed having all of my siblings under the same roof. My older brother died. My older sister drifted away. And, my younger siblings got married and had families of their own. The hopes for tradition, and a yearly ritual for the holiday, seemed dim.

So this year, I had a complete breakdown of sorts. I yelled at my fiance, I cried a lot, and I reluctantly admitted that I was holding onto a belief that no longer holds true. You see, every year, I anticipate ways in which my family of origin can come together, like we did years ago, and have a genuine, family Christmas. I have expectations galore, that no one ever measures up to. And, then I get disappointed and angry and start planning for how I will make it different next year. Closer to the traditions that I so desperately crave.

By focusing on the past, or the future, I am denying myself the pure joy of living in this moment, right now. Being with the people that I love, when I can, whether that is December 25th or not. Staying present. Laughing. Crying. Finding the magic that exists in my life every breath that I take.

So, the irony is, today as I am letting go of the expectations, for myself and others, to have a Christmas that feels traditional, I am experiencing the truest meaning of Christmas there is: to choose inner peace; to love others deeply and as they are; and to be present and grateful to all that I have in my life.

And, in that irony, lies a true Christmas Miracle.

Let Go, Mama.

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I worked really hard to build a solid, open relationship with my teenaged daughter. Over the years, I have been more successful at it than others. One of the lessons that I learned early on, was to watch over and be close, at the same time as letting her go. Letting her use her wings.

Letting go lessons came in the form of the first day of Kindergarten, getting on a school bus all by herself. Her first day in middle school. First day in high school. Driving alone for the first time. Going on a date, without a chaperone. And, although I had a bit of anxiety about each of those milestones, and sadness about time gone by, I was ready to watch her fly.

However, more recently, she has been struggling a bit. There has been much weighing on her mind and her heart. And, I find myself not being so willing to let her figure things out, and be close when she needs me. I feel more like wanting to hover, to stay with her, to find ways that I am able to keep protecting her, even at seventeen.

What is at the root of that is fear. Fear that maybe she won’t open up when things have gone terribly wrong. Fear that she will be in a situation that she doesn’t know how to get out of. Fear that she won’t need me to be here for her, or that she will feel alone or abandoned without me around.

This morning, I realize that although we are close, and she knows that I am here for her always, I need to also let go yet again, and to stay near while letting her sort things out. I can do both. Even when I am afraid, I can observe the power of her getting to choose, and me offering extra support if she needs it. I get to trust that she will know, and ask, as she goes forward.

Parenthood feels so scary, and freeing at the same time. I know that what I have done so far to be her mother, and friend, will guide her in the precise direction that she needs to go. That she knows best what to choose. And that I can trust in that.

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Body Love.

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My relationship with my body has been love/hate for most of my life. I lose weight. I gain weight. I feel good about myself. I loathe myself. Whether my view of myself was positive or negative almost always seemed to center around what I would see in the mirror.

When I was in coaching, this seemed logical to me, that what was reflected back to me from the mirror was the way that I actually saw myself, and the template with which to compare what was a beautiful body to me, according to the coaches I came in contact with, was whether or not I loved how I looked in a bathing suit. When I enjoyed what I looked like in a bathing suit, then I would know I was living in my dream body.

As a result, my previous thoughts about loving my body were confirmed: that the slimmer and more shapely and small my body appeared to me, the more attractive it was. The more that I knew that I had my dream body. So, when I was plumper, had more rounded curves, and weighed more, I was not in my dream body.

I decided to let go of that equation a few months ago, when I really started to embrace my body as it is, curves and all. That has been a difficult journey for me, because I have always valued myself not just by the number on the scale, and the number of pounds that I had lost in any given time, but by what I saw in the mirror. My size as I saw it. I have been ready to challenge that belief in me for awhile now, and keep looking for opportunities to tune into the real love for myself.

So, a couple of weeks ago, my fiance suggested to me that I stop looking in the mirror at myself, and instead, just feel my way to wearing what I was comfortable in, making it an internal process of trust. My daily ritual was for me to get ready for work, or to go out, and to go in front of the full length mirror in my daughter’s room to assess the result. The process was always the same: do I look skinny or fat today? Do my legs look too short and chunky in these leggings? Am I too old to wear this type of style or color? No self love in that, mind you. I would stand in front of that mirror, believing that the truth was reflected back at me. Which of course, it wasn’t.

So, I stopped doing that. The first couple of days of not going to that mirror were a challenge, I have to say. It felt like a step was missing. However, from the first day that I stopped going to the mirror, I noticed a change. I noticed that I spent time really deciding what I wanted to wear, that would feel beautiful and comfortable to me. Not based on what I thought I saw in my reflection, but really felt good to be in. What really felt good on my body. It was an amazing step.

I believe that one of my lifelong lessons will be to keep loving myself, as I am, more and more each day. I believe that I can keep loving myself in a deeper way, with conscious thought and action. And, I know now that what I see is not the true reflection of my self; that the true self lies within, and I need only listen to that inner voice to hear who I really am.

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Finding my way to Forgiveness.

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Over the last several years, I have been diligent and consistent in letting go of the past. In learning to look at myself with more loving eyes. I have created a life that I feel happy with and proud of, learned to be honest with myself and those around me, and also learned deeply how to love myself in a profound way. It has not always been easy, however, the journey has been worthwhile and eye opening.

Every now and then, however, a piece of my past that I thought was resolved will come up for me again, and the pain and shame of it will feel so intense, it feels like I am still living it. That is what happened this week. A loved one shared with me something deeply personal that happened to her, and how it has impacted her life. I was angry. I was sad that she had to experience something that was so painful and confusing for her. I wanted to hurt, physically, the person that hurt her.

I thought that the key to resolving the anger for me was to come to terms with forgiving the person who had hurt her, finding space in my heart to see that person as innocent, as we are all innocent beings in this world. I really believed that forgiving that other person was what I would aspire to to feel better about the whole thing.

Funny thing, this life. Funny how we see our lessons as being in one direction, when in actuality, they are always about what it is that we need to learn, what it is that we need to teach, or reteach ourselves day after day. So, there was no one that I realized that I had to forgive, except myself. Forgive myself for being human, and making mistakes, and still being perfectly okay as I was. Although I thought that I had done that long ago, there was part of me that was still holding onto that old wound.

I realize today, that I have nothing to defend or be angry about. In digging a little deeper, I found that the anger that I feel is related to myself, angry at me for not being a better person in the past. For hurting someone close to me in order to meet my own needs. I felt, and still feel, guilt and shame about something that occurred so long ago. And, someone else’s experience this week reminded me that I still had some residue that was ready to be released, hopefully once and for all.

I truly believe, with all of my heart, that seeking forgiveness from others for our transgressions, for our simply being human, brings some temporary relief. However, the true healing, the magic of this world, is in the forgiveness that we lovingly bestow on ourselves. The true miracle is when we can look upon ourselves with deep, warm eyes of love. Because I only need to remember that the way to true forgiveness is all within my reach, all within me.

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