Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
What drives you? What do you want out of life? What do you want out of every day? Do you even know? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind, taking care of everybody but ourselves, that we forget to think about it.
Some years ago I was looking forward to a weekend of alone-time because hubby was going fishing. I delighted in the thought of attacking my to-do list, not hearing the TV, not smelling cigarette smoke - well, this is my ex-husband I'm talking about so I'll leave it at that.
Problem was, as soon as his truck disappeared around the bend, I sank down on the couch in such a funk. Completely lethargic. Blue, for no reason. Couldn't motivate myself to do anything. It worried me. Was this depression, and where had it come from? Eventually I got up, walked from room to room, snacked on junk food, watched TV, and basically killed time until he returned. What a waste of a perfectly good weekend!
Eventually, we split for other reasons. As I worked through the divorce and learned new life skills, I came to realize that, much like women everywhere (and not a few men), I had been trained to place the needs of others before my own. I was reactive, not proactive, and when my motivation (other humans to serve) went away even for a short time, I was left with the question: "What now?"
And I had no answer. Back then, I had no idea what books I wanted to read, vacations I might want to take, movies I might want to see, or hobbies that lit me up. Nothing.
I wasn't exactly wasting my life. I worked fulltime in a demanding job and commuted an hour each way, so I used up every bit of energy I had. When I had free time I tackled my to-do list. Given that reality, everything I "wanted" to do sounded like this: I want to clean out the linen closet. I want to organize my files. Yuck, right? But until this moment of clarity I hadn't seen it.
I was unhappy to think that I had been so unsupportive of myself, that I was sleepwalking through my life, not appreciating the gift that it is. Time passes. You can't get it back.
In the years since, I have changed. I now try to ask myself these questions regularly: What do I want? What would make me happy right now? The answer is usually simple: I would like to sit on my patio and read a magazine. I would like to phone my sister. Sometimes plans are longer term: I would like to play that golf course over in the next town. I would like to stay in Sedona a couple days. And maybe I plan it, or maybe not, but at least I'm more in touch with who I am as a person, as an individual.
Another tactic: Every night before I fall asleep I list five things that made me happy that day. Even if it's simple ("I enjoyed the camaraderie at my book club") it qualifies. I usually end up running way past five. By thinking about what made me happy I am able to value my days more powerfully, and again, be more in touch with what I enjoy.
I am not a selfish person, but it's good to get in the habit of finding reasons to live for yourself. Even if you share your life with others, you have to be able to answer the question: What do YOU want? What would make YOU happy? Otherwise you might be in the same spot I was, having to respond: I don't have the faintest idea.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
How can I make such a claim? Do I really expect to live to 112?
I've always felt that you can't count the first 20 years. All you're doing is maturing into adulthood. How can preschool count? 4th grade? The teen years? No, I only count the adult years, and by that measure I'm only 36.
Also, I think you're middle-aged when you reach that golden ground between having raised your kids and declining - so if you're 85 and going strong, like my mom, learning new things all the time, curious, hungry still for self-mastery and knowledge, then you might never leave middle-age, according to my definition.
If you like my idea, send me a comment at LMSpreen@yahoo.com.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Now at middle-age, I know so much more (and yes, I have more to learn, but that’s another post). One of the things I found to be true was that a negative person can drag down a positive person much more quickly than a positive person can pull up a negative one.
Along those same lines, my friend Tammy Coia shared this yesterday: “Think of your 5 closest friends. We become who we surround ourselves with. If we are surrounded by negative thinkers, guess what, we become more pessimistic. When we surround ourselves with positive thinkers our thinking becomes more positive…” And then Tammy ends with this most insightful of questions: “Examine who you surround yourself with and why you choose them (or did they choose you?)”
I emphasized the last few words because the question gives me chills. As a younger woman I sent out signals to manipulators and cons that I was non-judgmental, kind, and eager to help damaged people realize their potential. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, in balance, but I didn’t know when to quit. So the users lined up outside my heart, and I reeled them in on my tractor beam that said, “Pretend you love me and I will let you sleep on my couch while I go to work and earn money to feed you and pay the mortgage.” Now I know the answer to Tammy’s question: they chose me, and I was inadequately prepared to realize it or deal with them in a balanced and healthy way.
To end at the beginning: when I was young, I lacked a lot of information that would have made life safer and easier. Now that I’m older I’ve learned some important skills, and one of them is to surround myself with supportive and positive people. For the most part, I choose them, but if such people (like Tammy) happen to choose me, that’s the icing on top.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
What would it feel like to be Oprah? No, I’m not talking about living in a fifty-million-dollar house near Santa Barbara (for which she wrote a check), or having a private jet to haul you anywhere in the world, or your own TV show and magazine and cable network. No, I’m talking about something else: the attitude. What would it feel like, to feel like Oprah?
This question occurred to me as I unfurled the tenth anniversary issue of O Magazine. On the cover, Oprah stands next to a giant cake. She’s been on the cover of every one of her magazines for the past ten years – one hundred and twenty issues – the only face of O, blow-dried and airbrushed to within a pixel of perfection.
She’s even on the back cover. In a special nod to her anniversary, and forgoing what must be tons of advertising revenue, Oprah is portrayed in a lovely near-silhouette. She is wearing diamond earrings and a sparkling, sequined dress. The picture lacks any text, as if words simply fall short.
Now, you might think I’m going to say that Oprah’s ego is way over the top, but I’m not. I’m asking you to suspend judgment and think about how it would feel to be that person on the back cover. Imagine you had the power to decide to occupy that space, and then to direct the stylists and the artists and who-knows-who-else to focus on one thing: making you look fabulous. Imagine your one-point-five-million subscribers and countless other readers gape-mouthed in awe when they see you on that page. Can you feel it?
Me, neither. It’s too much of a stretch from my normal life, and the self-negating attitudes many of us struggle with. So let’s do a warm-up exercise, and then I’ll ask you again.
I was dining alfresco on El Paseo recently, El Paseo being the Rodeo Drive of the Palm Springs area. It was high season on this mid-winter day, and when I looked up from my croissant I saw that the Bentleys and Rolls Royces had cruised to a stop, and the shoppers had turned their backs on Tiffany and Cartier. Everyone was watching a tall, thin, forty-something greyhound of a woman, her long limbs clad from shoulders to toes in bronze leather, her coppery hair cascading down her back. Stunning, even for El Paseo, the woman strutted past high-end showrooms, absolutely riveted on her own reflection in the plate glass windows. She seemed oblivious to us, the commoners who had themselves dressed up for this pricey resort area. For her, the only two people who existed on the street that day were herself and her reflection. Everyone ogled her – some scowling, others with mocking grins, some just shaking their heads. Lady Godiva and her horse wouldn’t have gotten a better response. My own reaction was mirth: what a showboat! What an ego! How could a person act like that?
And then I felt a thrilling rush, almost a sense of vertigo as some unpredictable part of my mind took the question literally. Mentally, I left my fellow gawkers behind and hungered to feel like her, even for just one minute – to sit inside her mind and look outward at the world from her vantage point. Was she aware of us and feeding off our reaction? Society teaches us to be modest, and that braggarts and showoffs will be punished, but what if her parents taught her something different? What if she came from a culture where beauty was accepted as a gift from the heavens rather than a sign of conceit? Maybe she assumed that we adored her, and negativity never crossed her mind. How would it feel to stand so tall and strut so proudly, not only not minding the attention but inhaling it, your heart expanding with joy from your own reflection, and from all that human energy focused directly at you?
I ask you, could the sun shine any more brightly?
And then, as I stepped away from judging this woman – as I quieted the voice inside that whispered “narcissist” and instead simply admired the pure brilliance of her self-confidence, I felt freed from the bonds of jealousy, of envy, of competition. I felt like a spectator, admiring a fiery thing of beauty, and more than that, I felt lifted up, equal to that beauty, because I had the capacity to celebrate rather than denigrate.
Now back to Oprah.
We’re all familiar with Oprah’s history, how as a child she lived in a shack without running water, and that she was sexually violated before she was even out of elementary school. You might say she’s overcompensating for a childhood that would have ground most of us into the dirt, that she’s not really happy, and that nobody who is that driven could be, deep down. If she were happy she’d have married Stedman by now, right?
But I asked you not to judge.
Imagine that you built a media empire in which you launched the careers of Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Dr. Mahmet Oz, Gale King, trainer Bob Greene, and countless other celebrities, authors, philanthropists and do-gooders. She’s won awards - thirty Emmys for her TV show alone. She has created thousands of jobs, given away vast sums of money and helped so many causes, small and large. She is a trailblazer, having been feted for becoming the first of her gender or race in many areas. She has funded schools and built an academy for impoverished girls in South Africa. Nelson Mandela loves her. Maya Angelou writes poems for her. President Obama and his wife consider her a friend. What must that feel like?
Oh, and the money? Oprah earns $385 million a year. Her net worth is upward of a couple billion. Forbes identifies the source of her wealth with this most sterling of American descriptors: “self-made.”
If I were inside Oprah’s head – if I were her – and I looked in the mirror as I got ready for bed at the end of a long day, and thought about the weary necessity of tomorrow’s schedule – a dozen meetings, a hundred decisions, camera/hair/makeup – I might feel lonely. I might feel the burden of leadership at the top of my media empire, and the hard-won distance from my childhood and youth.
But after I washed off my makeup and saw my plain, wide-eyed face stripped clean, my hair unstyled, my earlobes unadorned, I might let my shoulders relax. I might break into a grin. I might even say to the mirror, “Damn, girl, you’re amazing!”
In our own humble (or astounding) lives, we are all accomplishing great things, even if it's only getting out of bed and showing up for work at a horrible job, because our family needs to eat. Even if it's only because we get up before dawn every day to work on our novel before heading for the office. Even if it's only because we manage to keep a smile on our faces when dealing with damaged and demoralized family members. Even if only because we've managed to hang onto our houses for one more day.
We are all Oprah.