Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trouble Occurs When Fears Collide

I’ve been feeling frustrated, not understanding my own reactions to something that was happening this week. Then I woke up this morning with that thought going through my head—Trouble occurs when fears collide. Suddenly I no longer felt frustrated or upset. I realized the situation that was troubling me was indeed a case where two sets of fears were colliding. I was also able to remember that I don’t need to live a fear based life any longer and that I am consciously choosing not to do so.

But it got me thinking. This is where trouble occurs—when people are afraid. It can be one sided. One person may be afraid and lash out at others. It’s even worse when both people are afraid. Sometimes the other person’s fears are so deep seated that nothing will allay them. Anything you do that triggers that person’s fears will cause the other person to do something that is likely to hurt you. When that is the case, the only safe alternative may be to put distance between yourself and the other person. Understanding this may make it possible to walk away instead of hoping to “fix” the relationship and getting hurt over and over again.

Sometimes a real issue exists that cannot be resolved the way you would like it to be resolved. Sometimes the only thing you can change is your reaction to it and it may be up to you to find another way to let go of your fear.

If we could take away everyone’s fears, I believe this would be a far better world, a world in which no one would ever need to hurt anyone else. In the meantime, we can begin with ourselves and our own fears. Whether or not anyone else in our lives is able to let go of fear, we will improve our own lives and our own level of happiness immeasurably if we choose to replace our fears with faith and hope and love. This doesn’t mean we stop being careful and prudent! It only means that when we catch ourselves reacting to a situation based on fear, we remind ourselves that within us is the ability, the strength, the courage, and the wisdom to cope with anything that may come up. And we really do, each of us, have that ability! Sometimes the only way to discover this, however, is to take that leap of faith and let go of our fears. Not only will we discover we can do things we didn't know we could do, but odds are the quality of our relationships will improve as well.

So I ask you, the next time you find yourself in conflict with someone, to stop and look at what fears may be driving each of you. I say this not for that other person's sake but because I know that it will improve YOUR life if you do so. Whether or not the conflict gets resolved you will be happier and more at peace.

Trouble occurs when fears collide.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Furniture and Cages

I’d been getting frustrated trying to find a sofa and other things for my house. Then, last week, I realized I was pretty much confining myself to a space not much larger than my tiny apartment in California. It reminded me of the story of the zoo animal who got a larger living space and still kept his movements confined to an area the size of his previous cage. So I decided it was time to really push to find what I needed. And I did find a sofa. A very nice guy from San Marcos brought it to my house, along with a white bookcase, and set both inside. It’s not new, but it’s the right style for this house and for me and I’ve covered the seat with fabric from my fabric stash. Today I found a small mobile cart to put my small TV on and it’s also white so it matches the bookcase.

That one piece of furniture meant that now I was using much more of my house. I’ve got the folding chairs out in the room that will be my classroom and the sofa in the living room and I moved my folding tray table and folding chair out to where the formal dining room would be so that I could use that space to work on my computer (which fits on the tray table top). Then someone on Craigslist (wonderful website with specific pages for lots and lots of cities around the country) offered a desk—a richly colored wood desk with drawers. Even better, he was willing to deliver and I jumped at the chance.

So now I had a sofa and a desk and was frustrated by the folding chair and how uncomfortable it was becoming to use it. Then it struck me—I have four padded chairs on wheels for the kitchen table! They are surprisingly comfortable and when I wheeled one over to the desk, I discovered it would work perfectly.

Then I got a Christmas tree. It’s artificial because I couldn’t manage a real one on my own. But it’s six and a half feet tall and was on special at Sears. It turns out it doesn’t seem nearly as big as I expected when I saw it in the store, but that says more about the size of my living room than the size of the tree. In any event, I could afford it and I can have it up NOW.

So I’m pleased. Now I’m using much more of my house and I no longer feel like that zoo animal who stayed confined to a small space when there was much more available. It seems symbolic of the way my life continues to expand here in all kinds of ways. I am, for example, in the process of arranging to give a workshop and then a class at the local Unity center.

Wishing for all of you that you are always expanding the space in which you live—if not physically then emotionally or intellectually.


Monday, November 28, 2005

More Thoughts on Coaching

Thank you to everyone who emailed me privately and to Eric who posted here. I actually do life coaching now—primarily for writers. And getting paid isn’t a problem. It’s not uncommon, once someone realizes what I have to offer, to have the person pay ahead—sometimes several months ahead. The thing I’m talking about would be in addition to that. There are people who can’t afford or don’t want months of coaching. They just have a practical problem that needs to be addressed now with a simple but effective solution. One shot coaching, in essence, as opposed to on going coaching, which tends to be the norm with life coaching.

I’m thinking maybe calling the service Easy Solutions to Life. No one seems to be using Easy Solutions as a company title yet.

The thing is that I believe solutions are much more likely to be implemented and change is far more likely to occur when it’s easy, when it’s done in a way that makes us smile. It’s so rare—at least it seems that way to me—that we are encouraged to do have fun doing things we need to do and yet that is the approach with which we are most likely to be effective, most likely to succeed, and most likely to actually do what needs to be done. addition to my current life coaching for writers, I’d love to just be able to do short term or one shot coaching with easy solutions to whatever challenge—big or small—people may have in their lives.

Thank you again, everyone, who gave me suggestions—you’re all terrific!


Thursday, November 24, 2005


It’s such a cliché to write about Thanksgiving. Everyone does. We all talk about giving thanks for the good things in our lives and feeling a connection to others. These things do matter and I believe in them profoundly. I smile at the thought of everyone who spent today with family or friends and I’m so glad you had that kind of day!

I want to write, though, for and about all those of us who spent today alone. I thought about going to a restaurant and then decided to create instead a holiday for myself that would celebrate my new house. I realized I could slice and freeze turkey breast and stuffing and have it over the next few weeks.

In other words, this is about being alone but not lonely. I think of a friend I talked with this morning who was also alone, just a few weeks after the death of a dear one she had been taking care of. We laughed together and shared the bond of friendship over the phone line and our plans for today. We talked about how we both know we are on path for what we are meant to do with our lives.

The thing is that with this as with everything else, we have a choice. We can focus on what isn’t in our lives or we can celebrate what is. If we focus on what isn’t in our lives we can either rail against fate or we can focus on what we could do to change things. If we are alone, we can huddle in our loneliness or we can reach out and connect with people. We always have choices.

I’m not saying it’s always easy. Sometimes we start to get caught up in the “what ifs?” Or “Maybe I should haves.” That’s when it matters most that we trust in ourselves. That’s when it matters most that no matter what anyone else says or thinks we should do, we hold onto who we are and what WE know is right for us.

Anthony Robbins says that what we focus on becomes our reality and I believe that’s true. One friend I spoke with today had had a shock last night. Something that threw her into flashbacks to very difficult times in her life. But as we talked, she was able to focus on who she is and how very strong she has become. She could focus on the people in her life who believe in her and what she knows she is going to do. She could move beyond the hurts of the past to know that again, as Anthony Robbins says, the past does NOT equal the future! She could see the choices in her life and not feel trapped any longer.

We always have choices. It isn’t always easy to realize that. It isn’t always easy to see that being alone—especially on holidays like Thanksgiving—doesn’t have to mean being lonely. But life isn’t going to change to accommodate hurts we may have from our past—or even our present. Unfair as it can feel, if we want to be happy, we need to decide that we will be. We need to decide that we will focus on the things that move us toward that goal. Life will demand what it demands.

I say all this as someone who for much of my life didn’t know how to see the sunlight and look for the good instead of clinging to the hurt. I say this because I want others to know that we don’t have to stay that way. At any point in our lives, at any age, we can choose to change how we see life.

We cannot always control what happens to us or to those we love. I cannot make my son not have Down syndrome. My friend could not stop her dear one from dying. No one has the power to stop natural disasters. I would suggest that it is at times like this that we most need to find ways to smile each day, to bring joy into our lives—even if it’s just for a moment or two at a time. When we do so, we build our resilience and increase the odds that we will be able to see a solution to our situation or at least a way to cope. It is not a luxury to find a way to smile at times like this—it is a necessity.

I smile, truly smile, as I think of everyone I know who spent today with loved ones and friends. I write today’s post, however, for those who didn’t. I write it to encourage you, if you did not do so already, to find a way to smile about something that happened today, to look for something that was good, something that was right. And if you cannot think of anything, then RIGHT NOW do something nice or good for yourself. Right now be kind to yourself in a way that makes you smile.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Sensible Solutions

I have been enjoying my fireplace and my tea pot and the delicate china cups and saucers my mother never used. I have also been talking with friends and helping some with things that came up and I realized that I’d love to coach not just writing and the writing life but....I’d love to offer one shot coaching on everything from buying a house (or selling one) to getting one’s finances in order to dealing with difficult relatives to being happier every day.

I’m good at that. It’s what friends often call me for. I come up with simple, sensible, solutions no one else would have thought of for things. But I’m not sure how to market it. I googled things like “sensible solutions” and “simple solutions” and “practical solutions” and there are lots of people and companies already using that. “Elegant solutions” is less popular but I’m not sure if it would scare people off. Anyone want to take a shot at brainstorming possible titles for my service?

Hoping that all of you are finding elegant and simple solutions to the challenges that arise in YOUR lives every day!


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cool Autumn Days

We have gone from summer to autumn, here in the Austin area, and the suddenness of the change makes it feel that much colder. It’s not cold compared to the northeast, of course, but it feels cold to me. So I baked oatmeal raisin cookies today—and celebrated the fact that I can because here I have an actual stove with an oven! I also roasted a chicken breast and ate dinner using my mother’s Ginori china. I may make chicken soup with the leftovers tomorrow.

Best of all, I may light a fire in my fireplace tonight. I’m guessing native Austinites will laugh that anyone would think it cold enough to do so but we may get a mild frost and why not? All my life I have wanted a house with a fireplace and now I have one. I will, of course, check with a match to see if the chimney seems to draw properly before I set up the fire.

With regard to the classes I want to teach, I have the chairs set up now in my den/study/classroom to be. Only 6 chairs so far, but I’d like to keep classes small. They are padded with a blue grey fabric and are remarkably comfortable for folding chairs. I want that for my students—whoever they will turn out to be.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to this evening. A glass of wine, a brightly burning fire, warm cookies and a good book to read--I find myself smiling just thinking about it.

Hoping all of you are having lovely evenings of your own doing something that brings you comfort and makes you smile.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Broken Pieces and Other Surprises

My boxes are arriving from New Jersey and I am discovering surprises—lovely little things I didn’t remember I had. I am also discovering things I have outgrown and wish I hadn’t paid to ship here. But that’s okay. If nothing else, those things are reminders of how far I’ve come in the close to two years since I put them into storage.

I am delighted by some of the things I'm unpacking. I love my fairy water fountain, fabric that makes me smile just to look at it, pieces of jewelry I didn’t know if I’d given away, an angel music box someone gave me after my divorce. These are part of who I am and I love having them. At the same time, I’m also delighted that I could manage without them when I needed to. I never want to become a person who thinks her value is tied to what she owns. Possessions matter only in the ways they make us smile and bring back memories we want to hold onto.

There are other things that make me want to cry, like the broken pieces of things I thought I’d packed carefully enough to survive the trip. That includes the broken garden fairy statue, the broken music boxes, two broken plates and a soup bowl from my mother’s set of Ginori china.

The china maybe hits me the worst. I’ve never used it, you see. I kept it in sealed boxes in my attic while I was married when it came to me after my mother’s death. Far worse, in all the years I was growing up, I never saw my mother use that china. She got it from her mother and kept it boxed up. I didn’t even know what it looked like until I unboxed it. But I will use it. I will use it when my daughter and her friends come over Christmas. I will use it every day when I want to remind myself that possessions matter not because of the monetary value they might have, that they matter instead for how they can make us feel and the memories they hold.

When I use this china, it will connect me to my mother and my mother’s mother—women who didn’t believe that they deserved to use something this special. It will connect me to women who didn’t know how to be happy and it will remind me that yet again, in yet another way, I have broken the pattern that went on for generations. I will mend, if I can, the broken pieces of china and keep them to remind me that while some things that get broken can’t be fixed, others can—like the music boxes and my fairy garden statue, and the china.

If the only value these pieces had was what I could sell them for, the broken dishes would be worthless. But if the value of these pieces is bringing me joy when I use them, then if they can be glued back together, they are just as valuable as ever.

I have only begun to unpack the 40 plus packages I shipped to myself. I have no doubt I will find more wonderful surprises and more broken pieces. I will grieve the broken things and do what I can to save them. I will also celebrate the good surprises, the ones that make me smile.

And with each box unpacked, this house becomes more and more my home.

Celebrate the surprises in your life. Even the broken pieces can have meaning for us if we choose to let them.


Friday, November 11, 2005


I began an email, when I was on my Pink Refrigerator/Desperate Housewife Escapes journey that began: I’m drunk. It was the day I visited my parents’ graves. I begin today’s post the same way. I do not do this lightly. I do not ordinarily have enough alcohol to be considered drunk and rest assured that I am safely in my home and do not intend to go anywhere, much less drive!

But I am home. Just come home from New Jersey where I said good-bye to the person I once was and a place that was home for over 20 years. I said good-bye to hopes and dreams that were born and died there.

I am so blessed in the ways my life is turning out now. I know that even the mistakes I’ve made in my life have led to where I am now and I am grateful for that. People I’ve known have enriched my life immeasurably.

But part of my life is over. The next phase promises joy and success and even more self-confidence. Funny to think it should be coming at my age. But that’s how it looks. I don’t mean to sound as if I am unhappy!

I suppose I’m writing about this because I think it’s important to understand we don’t need to always avoid painful emotions. I will grieve what is lost or changed in my life that I wish hadn’t and then I will be able to move on. If I tried to suppress or pretend there wasn’t any grief—over mistakes I’ve made or things I’m leaving behind—it would take far too much of my energy to try not to feel what I feel.

There is power in knowing we can survive this kind of change. The death of one part of our life opens up the possibility of rebirth into something even better. If we know we can survive the painful feelings, if we are comfortable embracing those emotions and then letting go, then we are for more likely to embrace and welcome the new possibilities that occur knowing it’s okay even if it means letting go of something else.

So...tonight I drank champagne to celebrate the good coming into my life and to acknowledge the pain of what I am letting go. I am toasting the courage it has taken to make these changes in my life. I am toasting all the other women who find the courage to let go of what is a familiar but painful situation to embrace the unknown and the possibility of happiness. I know it is not just women who face this kind of choice but I think that women often have a harder time believing they matter enough to reach for that possibility of happiness.

And so tonight I drink champagne and toast—to life!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Little Things

It’s the little things that get to me: driving past my kids’ old school, the craft store where I used to buy presents for them and supplies for the yearly birthday parties, the bookstore where I did so many book signings, the library where I did research for my books, the mall I walked for hours when I was so unhappy.

Friends have stayed in touch. We still see each other sometimes and we communicate all the time via email. These places...are no longer part of my life and it will hit me suddenly, the tears, as I go by or walk through them.

This is a bittersweet trip. I love my new home and look forward to going back there. I’m saying good-bye to what was part of my life for a very long time. I’m seeing the friends I can see and grieving other relationships that either ended or have changed in profound ways.

Last night I went back to my old Toastmasters club. It was so good to see old friends from the club and I even ended up giving a speech. I hadn’t planned on that but it says something about how my confidence has grown over the past couple of years that I didn’t hesitate when they asked if I wanted to do so.

It is the little things that fill our lives and hearts with emotion. The big things we somehow brace for but the little things get under our guard. I’m not complaining though. Tears are part of life and connect me to the past. They remind me that no matter how much hurt I have had in my life, I have always been able to still love, still hope, still dream, still go on. They remind me that I am creating new memories in my new life, too.

I am saying good-bye. Not just to a place, but to who I once was, as well. I am no longer the person who needs so much to be loved and is so terrified of being abandoned that she will tolerate things other people would not. I know now that I want and will have kindness and respect from people with whom I am close. I know now that I do not have to settle for less. I tell my daughter, too, that these are the bottom line defining characteristics of truly loving relationships—kindness and respect. Without those, it is only an illusion of love and one not worth having.

It’s the little things that get to me here as I close one chapter of my life, once and for all, so that I am ready to begin the next.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Going Home 3

There’s something I forgot to talk about in my last post. I said that sometimes people don’t see the change in us when we go home or they don’t welcome it. I forgot to talk about the other side of the coin.

How often do we go home and not see that the ones who stayed have changed and grown as well? How often do we assume they will react and act the way they always did before? There is power in going to see old friends or family and being open to the possibility that they have changed and will act/react differently with us now.

I’ll grant you that sometimes they have not changed. And if the person hurt us in the past, it’s wise to be prepared to walk away if it should happen again. Even forgiveness does NOT mean we must let the person hurt us all over again!

But if we live our lives afraid or if we live our lives not seeing changes that take place in others, we can cheat ourselves of friendships or family connections that could enrich our lives. Even if they have not changed, it is possible that the person we thought we used to see is not really the person they are or were.

So I ask you to look at the people around you, not just when you go home but every day, and be open to the possibility that they are growing and changing. Be open to the possibility that there is a side to that person which—good or bad—you have not noticed before. One of the greatest gifts we can give those we care about is permission and even encouragement to grow and explore the possibilities of who they are meant to be.


Going Home 2

Not home from childhood, but still, more than 20 years of my life. And it feels both familiar and as if I am on the outside looking in. That says more about who I am now than it does about this place.

Some things I have learned:

1) If there is a transit strike in a town, make sure you have a rental car already reserved.

2) If you have a rental car reserved and they ask if you want to upgrade, say “no.” You may still end up with a luxury car at a discount price.

3) Keep a space for yourself where you can retreat to recoup when necessary.

4) Keep a sense of humor. Phone lines and internet access may disappear when you need them the most.

5) Keep a sense of humor dealing with people. Odds are they will see you as you once were rather than who you are now. It isn’t necessarily malicious; they just have recognized the changes yet.

6) Understand that perhaps you haven’t changed so much as just let the real you come to the surface.

7) Celebrate the happy moments, allow yourself permission to grieve whatever is lost, and look for what is good about what you see.

8) If you hang in there, some people can change how they see you. Some people can learn and grow and accept that you have done so, too.

9) It isn’t all or nothing. People who don’t recognize the change won’t necessarily always be blind to that change.

10) It’s up to us to help others see us as we are now.

11) Sometimes when we go home we can’t see the people we most want to see. It’s best to be prepared for that.

12) We are who we are. The more at peace we are with that, the more at ease we will be with others—whether they can see and celebrate who we have become or not.

13) The moments that feel the worst will not last forever.

14) Breathe. Remind yourself of the successes in your life. Find a way to smile, and then look at the situation again. Odds are that if your stress level comes down, you will find a solution to the situation.

15) No one has the power to take you back to who and where you were. You are not hostage to what others say and do if you choose not to be. You do not have to stay locked into old patterns. It IS possible to find new paths even when situations are as they once were.

16) Keep a sense of humor, no matter what. (Are you starting to notice a theme?) A trip home is only that—a trip home. It is generally finite and even if the trip were a complete disaster, you will go back to the life that is yours NOW. You will go back to the life where people know you for who you have become, not who you once were—or who they perceived you to be.

If you get the sense that my own trip home has been a mixed blessing, you would be right. But even that is not entirely a bad thing. I am discovering how resilient I am and how resourceful I can be. Within every challenge are the seeds of opportunity and blessings if we look for them. Mind you, over the past few days I have found myself thinking this is one of those blessings it’s really hard to be grateful for is nonetheless a blessing and knowing that makes the...challenges...easier to deal with. I am still, as I have sometimes signed myself, April the Optimist. I hope that I will always have the courage--and wisdom!--to see life this way.

So...wishing you luck with your own trips home this holiday season and with the blessings that may be difficult to give thanks for at the time they first appear.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Someone had a great suggestion for my upcoming trip back to my old home. She suggested calling people by different versions of their name than I have in the past as a way to alter how I interact with them. I thought that was brilliant! After all, as a writer, I know the power of names. In my books, names are something I agonize over and may change a half dozen times before I feel sure I have them right. So I know the power of names.

In my new life, I know how to set boundaries. In my new life, I feel confident and strong and trust my instincts and my intelligence. The challenge when I go back will be to hold onto that knowledge and trust in myself. The challenge will be to remember that even though some people there don’t believe in me, far more, everywhere else, do. The challenge will be to remember all that I have accomplished since I left and also to recognize what I was accomplishing even back there, despite some real barriers.

And isn’t that what we all need to do as we move forward in our lives? Every time we grow and change, there will be people in our lives who have trouble seeing that. Every time we become stronger, wiser, more who we are meant to be, there will be some people who don’t want us to change and who will try to stop us or try to make us doubt the importance of what we are doing.

So if you are making changes in your lives and have someone trying to stand in your way, I pass on the suggestion of choosing a new way to say their name. If you use the full name, try a shortened version. If you use a shortened version, try the full name. Above all else, hold onto the knowledge of who you are and the very real strengths within you.