Where Have Meaningful Conversations Gone?

file561270689520 1024x768 Where Have Meaningful Conversations Gone?When was the last time you had a conversation with anyone that was about more than just the weather (Family members are excluded from this question.)?

For that matter, how long has it been since you had a conversation that lasted longer than it takes to type 140 characters?

Do you remember when you last received a hand-written note or card in the mail?

I miss old-fashioned communication!

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and electronic chatting.  In fact, I participate in e-conversations more than most 50-somethings.  I have online friends I’ve never met face-to-face and yet we’ve shared intimate pieces of our lives.

However, even as a word person, typing messages can’t be my only form of social involvement.  There are subtle nuances of facial expressions and voice inflections that I miss.  Oh, and gestures!  Even the cutest emoticon can’t replace a person’s enthusiastic hand gestures.

Why are we in such a hurry to blow past a conversation?  When did I become so important that I can’t linger over lunch or coffee?

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a delightful brunch with four other women.  I didn’t especially want to go.  When I woke, it was rainy and kind of darkish outside, a perfect morning to sleep in.

I’m so glad I went.  I see these four women fairly frequently, but there usually isn’t time for more than a quick, Hi, how are ya?

When you pay attention, you become a part of someone’s life

I came away from the brunch thingee with new information about each of the four women.  Plus, I feel connected, like I’m a part of something bigger.

Sure, I could have stayed home and dug into my work for the day.  But these women and I share a bond that deserves attention.  More than that, it deserves respect.

We live in a finite world where no future conversation is guaranteed.  I don’t say this in a morbid kind of way, but I do believe that when we’re given an opportunity to interact with someone else, we should really take it.  If we don’t, we may not get another chance.

I would miss knowing about one woman’s month-long trip to Poland where hotel breakfasts are complete dinner-like meals and how all she wanted each morning was oatmeal.

I would miss being aware that another of the women–though only in her 20s–likes old country and western music (She told me it’s what she grew up with because her dad is 52–ouch!).

Everyone has a story and every story deserves an airing.  That just can’t happen on the flat surface of weather conversations.  Unless, of course, you’re a pilot like my friend Sam, who probably does have meaningful conversations about the weather.

So get on out there–dig a little deeper.  When you’re asked to go somewhere, GO!  Chat up the people.  Ask them about themselves; people love to talk about themselves!

I guarantee you’ll find companionship and meaningful conversations.

Photo courtesy of DuBoix

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Happy 60th Birthday, Anne Lamott!

file4151277665601 1024x682 Happy 60th Birthday, Anne Lamott!Today is the 60th beautiful birthday of one of the women I admire most, storyteller and author Anne Lamott.

She wrote a post on Facebook last weekend, beginning with, “This is the last Saturday of my 50s.”  I would write those words too, and probably will in roughly seven years and one week when I turn 60, God willing.

Why do you suppose people say “God willing?” It makes me want to ask them whether their  God who is sometimes not willing.  And exactly what is He/She/It not willing to do?

Anne and I share the same birthday month.  I’ll cross the great divide into my 54th year in six days.

Wow.  That’s far too much math.  It throws me.  I’ll only be 53 but technically starting my 54th year.

Remember the big to-do when the century changed?  Did it happen at the end of 1999 or 2000?  Did anyone else besides me picture a big abacus in the sky?

April is the best month for birthdays.  Spring flowers, thunderstorms and Easter.  Oh and Tax Day.  ”You’re birthday is the 16th?  Good thing you weren’t born a day earlier; you’d be a tax baby.”  Heard that all my life and I still don’t know what it means.

You know something else I heard all my life, or at least thought I heard?  Stories that I was born on Easter Sunday.  Honest to God, for the first 48 years of my life, that’s what I thought.

My niece was born on Easter Sunday at the end of March.  Mom and I had a conversation several years ago when I told her I thought it was rare and cool that two women in the same family were born on Easter.  Mom looked at me like I was the one getting chemo treatments.

You weren’t born on Easter, she said.

WTF?  Did she think I made up that story?  Somebody–and I’m not naming names, Mom, but somebody told me I was born on Easter.

Whatever.  So I wasn’t born on Easter.  At least I was born on a Sunday around Easter.

Anne and I also share recovery.  We spoke of it briefly during her book tour stop in Fort Worth last year.

This is us (and our best friend, the woman behind me listening to our conversation) sharing a writerly conversation.  Anne was really telling me a private little ditty about her son, Sam.  IMG 0981 Happy 60th Birthday, Anne Lamott!

I actually love sharing recovery with her more than I love sharing our April birthday month.  Why, you ask?  You must know how much I love birthday cake.

Without the fertile, loamy fields of recovery, Anne wouldn’t write, “Spiritually, I have the sophistication of a bright ten-year-old. My motley crew and my pets are my life. They are why I believe so ferociously in God.”

Without my recovery, I wouldn’t be any more spiritual than my coffee table.  I certainly wouldn’t have fallen in love with the gifted writing of one of the most real women of my generation.  A couple of recovery-related samples from last weekend’s Facebook post:

Forgiveness remains a challenge, as does letting go. When people say cheerfully, “Just let go and let God,” I still want to stab them in the head with a fork, like a baked potato.

Mentally, the same old character defects resurface again and again. I thought I’d be all well by now. Maybe I’m 40% better, calmer, less reactive than I used to be, but the victimized self-righteousness remains strong, and my default response to most problems is still to try and figure out who to blame; whose fault it is, and how to correct his or her behavior, so I can be more comfortable.

Finally, and gently, this snippet of Anne’s makes me want to scribble in Crayon on the walls in my writing office:

I will try to help one person stay clean and sober, just for today. I will loudly celebrate my own sobriety, and also the fact that my writing has not been a total nightmare lately.

Happy 60th, Ms. Annie!  May you continue to help one person, one writer, one day at a time, in loud celebration of sobriety and life.

Photo courtesy of Kokabella

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How You Can “Do Like Daniel”

1 IMG 5359 1024x682 How You Can Do Like DanielEvery now and then, a Sunday morning TV minister catches my attention.

Yesterday morning, following a mighty thunderstorm in north central Texas, Joel Osteen spoke mightily to his faithful in Houston and across the globe.

A quick aside:  Anything ever written in this blog related to religion is strictly my opinion and is never an endorsement.  I like to remain as open-minded as possible when it comes to matters of the Spirit.  And, in the spirit of good 12-step advice, I try to “take what I need and leave the rest.”  

Focus on the message, not the messenger

Lay aside any opinions you may have about Joel Osteen because three words–a total of 14 characters counting spaces–he spoke during his talk/sermon yesterday are much more grand than even his presence.

Osteen said, “Do like Daniel.”

He went on to tell the Old Testament story about Daniel getting unceremoniously tossed into the lion’s den by King Darius in Babylon.  The story goes that old Darius, who thought Daniel was pretty cool, was tricked by some of Daniel’s enemies into passing a law that decreed no one was to worship any god or man other than Darius the king for 30 days.

Daniel, who was 80 at the time (hmmm, didn’t know that fact), continued to worship the God of his faith in spite of the decree.  The king had little choice but to throw him to the lions.  By the way, Rev. Osteen referred to 100 lions but I didn’t fact-check him.

The next morning, after Darius spent a worrisome and sleepless night, he went to the lion pit and found Daniel sleeping.  Duly impressed by Daniel’s unfaltering faith, he made a new decree that everyone should worship Daniel’s God. (Remember:  Take what you need and leave the rest.)

How can you “do like Daniel?”

The story is, after all, describing one man’s ability to weather any storm or condition or event.  I mean, seriously, does it get much worse than a tribe of hungry lions?

The lions are a metaphor for the situations in our lives that threaten our deepest faith in ourselves, and more importantly, our faith in whatever power we believe is greater than ourselves.

I think there are some pretty simple ways we can “do like Daniel.”  Here are a random few; I’d love to hear more from you because I’ll bet you’ve had at least one or two den-like experiences.  Be sure to mention them in the comments section below.

Focus on positivity:  Figure out a way to begin every day this way

Think thoughts on purpose (another Joel-ism): Be deliberate and intentional with your thinking

Find a method or manner of quiet-time each day: Prayer, meditation, bubble baths

Let it all go: No matter what she said or he did to you, no matter the mistakes and missteps you’ve made, forgive it all.

Believe you are good and worthy:  God don’t make no junk, y’all.

Have a supercalifragilistic kind of week.  Don’t forget to DO LIKE DANIEL and tell us how you do it!

Photo courtesy of Sgarton

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What Are Your Successes, Great and Small?

Painted Background 021 1024x819 What Are Your Successes, Great and Small?My friend and courage coach Tess Marshall asked me a question earlier this week.

I had described for her one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It was the first day of my brand new job with The Partnership at Drugfree.org.  I was in New York City for the organization’s annual fundraising event at the Waldorf Astoria and that night, in the hotel’s main ballroom, I breathed the same air as Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer.

So Tess says to me, and I’m paraphrasing, “Do you have any idea what it took for you to get there?  Have you really thought about–I mean, really thought about all the successes you had in your life to arrive at that moment in time?”

Uh, I guess so?

The same question for people in recovery

Tess’ question really got me thinking.  Then yesterday, during my journaling time, I found myself writing about my recovery and all the successes that brought me to today, April 3, 2014.

I teared up as I wrote:

I love everything about life right now.  Money in the bank (thank you, God, for that decision!), work to do (work that I love!), dreams to share, love and laughter to give . . . It hit me just now that none of the things in my life–yes, material things, but also attitudes, beliefs, relationships, dreams, goals–none of those “things” would be available to me without recovery.

Like many of us in long-term recovery, the years tick by and regular, everyday experiences are often taken for granted, even shrugged off as no big deal.  Think about it though.  Isn’t it the seemingly insignificant daily details that pile up one on top of another that allow us to step off into a huge success?

Every single flippin’ daily success–letting the person with two items go ahead of you in the check out line, showing up at a 12-step meeting and greeting a newcomer, or volunteering on Saturdays at your local animal shelter–is a BIG deal.  Each success matters and is cause for celebration.

Think about your successes

I kept a gratitude journal last year.  Each night before I went to bed, I typed five things in a cute little iPhone app.  Since I didn’t roll the practice over into 2014, I think I’ll replace it with a daily success journal (anybody know a good App?).

Since 1991, April and May are the two months of the year when I really focus on the good in my life.  My “belly-button” birthday is in a couple of weeks and my recovery birthday is in mid-May.

Here’s what’s on my mind this year:  In the last 23 years, there have been a hell of a lot of events and people and circumstances that delivered me from one successful point to the next.  Sometimes I think my heart will explode with gratitude.

Recovery paints my life with breathtaking tints and hues.  Each brushstroke is necessary in this mosaic of life.  There is nothing more magnificent, and for me, nothing more successful.

What are your successes great and small?

Photo courtesy of Natureworks

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Be Your Own Best Friend With These 5 Traits

file00090469702 1024x768 Be Your Own Best Friend With These 5 Traits

Remember when you were a kid and your teacher asked the class to write down the things you loved about your best friend?

For two minutes, 25 kids shouted out answers like: smart, fun, likes Barbies (or Hot-Wheels) and loves animals.  Then, Miss What’s-Her-Name cleverly turned the tables and asked you to name the qualities your best friend liked best about you.

Duh.  They were the same qualities, right?  Because you and your best friend were best friends because you liked the same things.

How about adult best friends?

You’re all grown up now and maybe you’re still best friends with your childhood friend.  More likely you’ve moved on and grown to appreciate more mature qualities in your friends.  Now, you might look for traits like trustworthiness, honesty and an open mind.

You probably want your friends to be a little like you but you no longer believe they should be carbon copies of your likes and beliefs.  Opposites attract, right?

Now, Adult People, pretend that I’m your present-day Miss What’s-Her-Name.  I have one question:  What does your best friend appreciate about you?

It’s not that easy to answer, is it?  We adults try not to spend too much time thinking about our good qualities.  Wouldn’t want to appear like we’re stuck on ourselves (How’s that for a flash-back phrase?) or worse, self-absorbed.

There’s nothing wrong though, with admiring your own best qualities.  And we all have them.  So why not fall in love with the qualities you present to the world?  Why not become your own best friend?

Best friends for life

Andrea Miller, editor of the anthology Buddha’s Daughters:  Teachings From Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West, scheduled for release next month, writes, “Unconditional friendship with yourself has the same flavor as the deep friendships you have with others.”

Knowing that, let’s begin (or renew) our friendship with ourselves with these five character traits.  I picked the five that I most look for in my friends and am learning to love about myself.

Loving-kindness: To me, loving-kindness is unconditional.  No matter what I say or do, even if it’s wrong, practicing this trait helps me separate my self-worth from the action I’ve taken.  Whatever I’ve done does not detract from who I am.

Gentleness:  I cannot abide harshness.  There is no reason to ever say mean or ugly things to anyone else, so there’s also no reason to say mean or ugly things to myself.  Easy does it.

Self-respect:  Francine Ward says that self-esteem comes from doing esteemable acts.  Today I respect and nurture myself knowing that I value the person I’ve become.

Loyalty:  I do my best to never sacrifice my values and to be loyal to the things that make my heart sing and my toes dance.

Mischievousness:  I’m impish at heart and love spontaneous laughter.  I try to remember Rule #62: Don’t take yourself too damn seriously!

That’s it, my friends!  Let these five character traits be the first of many you appreciate in yourself as you become your own best friend.

A final thought:  As you work through this week, when you do something really cool, make sure your best friend knows.   Give a mighty fist-pump and say, “Oh yeah, who’s a rock star?  I’m a rock star!”

Then give your awesome best-friend self a hug.

Photo courtesy of robenmarie

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