Finding Comfort Outside the Comfort Zone

I started this Lose 10 Pounds in 7 Days Diet along with several girlfriends. By the way, it’s nothing crazy. It’s all fruits and vegetables and I’m just looking at it for a health restart. Plus, I’ve gained weight since moving in with my sister.

It’s interesting to see how our resistance to change and our fears arise in the face of something hard. Day One: I gave into coffee, because yes, I’m addicted. My sister asked did she have to eat all four oranges and all four apples? Our friend Steph had hardly eaten, but had finished her ten glasses of water. Crap, at 8 p.m. I still had seven waters to go! Yep, it was actually hard to eat fruits and vegetables and drink water even though I love fruits and vegetables and water. Just because we love something or it’s a great idea doesn’t make it easy. Just because something’s hard doesn’t make it unworthy. Anything outside of our comfort zone is hard.

If we’re going to make a big change (like losing 10 pounds in one week) it’s going to take moving outside of our comfort zone. Because what’s inside the comfort zone? Chocolate. Law & Order. Beer. Scandal. Facebook. Moving outside of our comfort zone is sometimes as simple as just getting outside. Simple, obvious steps to a better life aren’t always easy.

A lot of things sound good in the moment of decision. Fruits and vegetables for a week, no problem! I’ll do it! This is going to be great! Let’s all do it together! Then, we realize since we’ve been living on pizza and French fries and nachos and drinking beer and coffee, the change feels uncomfortable.

It’s in the uncomfortable where we find out what’s truly important to us. My friend in the group who probably had the most weight to lose questioned the whole thing on day one. I care so much about her health and happiness and want her to remember feeling good in her body. I encouraged her and reminder her, of course we knew this was going to be hard, right? But, that’s the thing. Sometimes we don’t.

We focus on the end results and forget the difficult process. We do this in several areas of life, but each of us tends to embrace or resist the uncomfortable differently. For example, my sister is a phenomenal manager. She’s into having courageous conversations and managerial integrity. She easily confronts situations that her boss avoids.

For me, I’ve had the habit of exercising, at least sporadically, throughout my life. So, even if I go months without working out, I bust through the uncomfortable more easily than my sister who’s never felt the runner’s high. We’ve each got to prioritize which areas we’re willing to push through the uncomfortable. What’s the price of this change, really? How much discomfort? Am I willing? Do I believe? Am I ready? What would be the reward? Is it worth it to me?

For years, I wanted out of sales, but I was so comfortable in a world where I’d mastered the necessary skills. For years, I wanted to complete my bachelor’s degree. I went to five different colleges before finally, at age 37 I completed something I’d started at age 17 and had found too uncomfortable each time in between. I had to finally get to the spot where I was committed to going through the discomfort: of feeling stupid, long nights of studying, asking questions and working in groups that intimidated me. Earning that degree did something for my identity, as challenge and change can do.

Sometimes, it’s the fact that something is hard that makes it worthwhile, whether it’s weight loss or education or writing. We forget that something we love and want more than anything in the world can be the most uncomfortable thing in the world, while things we care so little about can lure us into years of comfort but leave us feeling unfulfilled.

At age 49, I’m now pursuing my writing passion. It’s been my dream since the third grade. Some days, I have to remind myself, of course it’s hard! If writing a book was easy, people would be saying, “Yeah, I wrote a book, too” instead of “I always wanted to write a book.” If getting published was easy, the question wouldn’t be so irritating. If getting an agent was easy, people would be saying, “I’d like you to meet my agent.”

This going for goals and dreams and the things that are really important is hard. It’s uncomfortable. But for those things that really matter, the uncomfortable is worthwhile. And I find comfort in that.

I Envy Her

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It’s not the secrets of beautiful women I long to know. For what women’s magazine doesn’t try to seduce and sell me those? There’s the beauty you’re born with and that which we enhance with products and procedures.

What I long to know is how the mediocre, or—God, shall I say it?—the ugly dance from their souls as if unfazed by the mirror and society’s sneers. How do those women get over the fence with a presence beyond any pretense?

You know her. You’ve seen her. She catches our eyes without being what we consider eye-catching. She’s deep and alive, making the surface irrelevant. Her beauty bubbles from her soul and we find her unavoidable, undeniable, even enchanting. She’s beyond what ordinary women give chase to. She’s not trying to erase the wrinkles earned in the sun determined to become a bronze beauty.

She doesn’t wear lipstick, but could be a model for an artist. If only she’d stand still. No time for painting her face or dying her hair. It’s not rebellion against or denial of society’s beauty standards.

What I envy is her not trying so damn hard to enhance.

She’s no slacker. Groomed and dressed, often. Yet, she glows of authenticity that can’t be bought, paid for, or put on. Her focus is elsewhere and it becomes her.

I want to know her secret for walking tall, laughing loud, grinning goofy, and dancing anything but graceful.

We all know Victoria’s Secrets. And there’s no maybe about it. Ladies, it’s Maybelline. But, that doesn’t do it for me.

What I want to know, hell, what I yearn to own is not what to put on my eyes or one more cosmetic or cream to buy!

I want to know how to set aside my pride and caress my soul into not worrying about the way I look, but be bold in how I live. I want to live into my beauty. Like her, the one I envy.

 

 

The Widow Cries Alone

The widow cries alone

After company leaves

And doors close.

Even those who

Share her home

Cannot carry her grief

As she does like added pounds

Piled on by yesterdays

That can never be folded

Into tomorrows.

Dreams that died the day

The disease was born and

Buoyed itself into their lives

Like the blackest sheep

A family could bear.

Husband had to own it,

But wife pays the price

In tears.

In smiles that feel false,

A life that doesn’t ring true, and

A direction that always heads wrong.

Though she tries. Hard. Every day.

Without him.

Wants to shout to him.

About him.

Beg him.

Hold him.

But, he’s gone. So,

The widow cries alone.

Even on days when the sun shines

And music plays

And friends surround.

Even then.

Sometimes, especially then.

Strings on Gifts

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When your sister’s husband dies

You drop everything

As if you could do anything

About the thing that’s kicking her ass.

Damn, if it don’t make you ache to

Watch her brave it, and badly.

Because there’s no good way to do this;

Grief doesn’t look good on anyone.

Oh, it might make you wise.

Sure, someday, some way

The thing that takes you to the brink

Will bring you back with compassion.

Yeah, soon my sister’s life will

Feel like a call to action.

But, today, this moment,

It’s like a girl—if she had any—

Getting kicked in the balls.

A girl I grew up with.

A girl who stood up to life

When it told her to play it small.

She shouted, “Give me something big!”

It did. And took it away.

A high price to pay,

What she was asking.

Unprepared, as we all are

For gifts and their strings.

Dear Girl Back There

Dear Girl Back There,

Thank you for trying. And failing. And falling on your ass when you were so sure you had it right. Again. In business. Relationships. Friendships. Decision making. Thank you for anything that resembles wisdom. It was hard-earned. You, Girl Back There, took harsh punishments.

You didn’t speak the words you wanted. At times, you spoke words that hurt and shamed. All in an effort to get love. Or at least a little attention.

Hey you, Girl Back There, thanks for helping me develop style, through trial and error and dollars spent on desires and designs that were never meant to be mine.

You endured people who rubbed you the wrong way and those who wished you’d go away. You took on heartbreak like a sport. You always won, even when you lost.

Sure, Girl Back There, your expectations evaporated like water on a summer sidewalk, but you obtained an education and you always caught the next train. Girl Back There, thank you.

You delivered me here, but I’m no longer you. And you, Girl Back There, scared of all the bad that’s been before, you don’t have to carry my bags any more. Let’s just set them down and play.

See, Girl Back There, I saw it all. I know how hard it’s been. Your struggle was my birth. I’m a new woman now. I travel light with less baggage. And my ticket to ride is stamped GRATITUDE. Here, I’ll hand it to you. It can take you anywhere. Even HERE, NOW.

Unless You’re a Stalker

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Tell us the dress is beautiful—because we’re wearing it. Remind us of our brilliance and our brains. Help us embrace our femininity. Please, men who love us, don’t diminish us.

We’re emotionally attuned to taste your pride or bitterness the way a wine connoisseur detects tannins. The sweetness of your words melts us like ice cream on a tongue. Please, be sweet. Strong, but sweet.

If you will, try to remember that every day we’re told our hair shouldn’t be the color it is, our bodies (even the beautiful ones) could use a little work—at the gym or the plastic surgeon. Or just whitening the teeth, or hey, maybe a little tuck.

If we do it, we’re vain and must deny. If we don’t at least invest in minimal beauty tools, techniques and procedures, we become something less in your eyes. Yet, we can’t help but see you light up when we enter the room polished and pretty.

Admittedly, we women also love to ogle our well put together men. And yes, we mean your physique, too.

But, somehow it seems from this side of the line—which is now quite blurred, but anyhow—life’s invitation to men reads, “Come as you are.” Women’s invitations suggest, “If you could look just a bit better, that would help.”

Listen, after the party’s swinging, the cheap guy chases the plastic girl and the deep characters find one another. Yet, it often starts with someone saying, “You look beautiful tonight.” (Sometimes it’s me, saying it to myself in the mirror.)

The words are about more than looks. When a man says and means it, like that, she feels it. SHE SHINES.

It doesn’t matter if they just met or have been married thirty years. Women don’t tire of sincere compliments. Unless you’re a stalker. So, don’t be a stalker.

Just know, if we look beautiful, we earned it, even if by just being a woman. Still, it’s the owning our beauty that challenges us.

Blah, blah. This is coming off as women are victims, isn’t it? Yes, we’re victims of a beauty industry that we keep ultra-profitable. We’re victims of our own duplicity, wanting to go without mascara or let our hair go gray, but not daring, because what would they say? Not that we care, but then we do.

The truth is we strive to look good so we feel good. Ugly is a feeling we women swerve to avoid.

But, my man looking at me like I’m hot and respecting my ideas, too? Yeah, I can walk that runway. All night long.

Exercise from Danielle LaPorte

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I TRUST: my own truth and authenticity. I trust I was born to be a writer and live in love. I trust in sunshine, nature & being by the ocean. I trust in the stretch—physical & emotional. I trust God’s got my back and my sister loves me unconditionally. I trust my dog has a whole lot of God in her & was sent to be mine. I trust in stories, poems, songs & music. I trust in mornings and full moons. I trust my gut, instincts, and guides. I trust my ability to know & be ok when I don’t. I trust in prayer, the spiritual gulfstream & angels. I trust in the unseen as much as the seen. I trust in the magic & the mystery. I trust in deep listening & friendship—male friends and girlfriends, secrets, laughter, & understanding. I trust in my ability to let go & grow. I trust in saying goodbye & especially hello. I trust in my words flowing and my path unfolding.

Having a Friend in Witness Protection

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I have a friend who says our circle of friends is like family to her. Yet, she keeps parts of her life, like if she’s dating someone or whose car is parked in her driveway, private. Are you kidding me? We’re girlfriends! If we can’t tell each other about the men, mess and mistakes, who can we tell?

I try to tell myself, “That’s just Janet.” I’ll call her Janet because she’d be horrified if I exposed her actual first name (which is as common as Janet), the same way she freaks out if anyone tries to take her picture.

If you ever did and put it on Facebook (which she’s not on), that would be a serious breach of boundaries. So, I doubt she knows that once her picture—taken with another friend and a koala bear when we all went to Australia—was up on Facebook for 24 hours. It’s not like she was tagged or anything, but she would’ve considered that exposure beyond bad.

I try not to push Janet because she’s truly my friend in a step up, be there, invited to our family gatherings, damn, I know how much she cares about me, and more importantly, my sister way. They were friends first and Janet acted as a sister to Jayne (my sister’s real name) throughout her painful journey into widowhood.

Maybe Janet’s in the witness protection program. That’s ridiculous because she and my sister have worked together and been friends for at least a decade, sharing that same circle of friends Janet claims are like family. So, I have to let the idea that she’s in witness protection go.

It’s unfortunate because that idea makes it easier for me to forgive Janet for hiding behind her fortress of it’s none of our damn business if she’s seeing someone or gets a promotions or if her dog dies, which it did a few years back, but Janet considered that her private pain.

Janet will tell us everything about work and talk about sports and…well, that’s mostly what we’re privy to. No religion, although I know Janet’s Catholic and attends regularly.

No politics. I agree we probably disagree, but I consider politics to be societal issues and all of us to be mature, compassionate, intelligent women. We’re in our fifties, for God’s sakes!

Janet doesn’t go to movies that might make her cry. She holds her emotions in like tears are a form of terrorism.

But, a few weeks back when her other dog was lost and I came to help her look, she fell into my arms and cried big, sloppy tears. I love my dog with that intensity, so I get it. I wonder if Janet knows, although it hurt to see her in pain in that moment, I felt honored she exposed her humanity. The dog was found and Janet’s walls resurrected.

I used to be private like that. I kept my personal pain protected. I didn’t trust people not to judge me or still honor me if I wasn’t my happy-girl identity.

Fortunately for me, everything broke—my heart, soul, illusions of security, and wishes for financial stability. I lost it all and found myself. I didn’t find myself hiding my pain and tears behind closed doors as I’d done for decades.

Yet, I’m not saying my way should be Janet’s. I survived the darkest depths because friends and family pulled me out of life’s water when I was drowning. They helped me in unimagined ways that humbled me and allowed me to accept my vulnerability. In years past, I might’ve been tempted to say, “Me? No, I’m not drowning; I’m swimming!” Finally, I was so helpless I accepted help.

I do not wish that situation on Janet. I do wish she knew that we women, her friends, will never judge her for her mistakes, fears, insecurities, or failures. We’re old enough to know our best intentions can sometimes land us on our ass.

I wish Janet knew how much I wish I knew her better—the real her, all of her. I wish she knew how cleansing and healing tears can be and the connection that comes from shared vulnerability. I wish she knew if it was up to me, I’d bulldoze her damn walls and plant a garden with flowers just for her.

Janet doesn’t ask me. When I ask her anything beyond her safe zone, she makes it clear in her eyes and tone, or cold silence, there’s a line we don’t cross. If it was just me, I’d understand, but others in our circle of “friends like family” feel the same.

Still, Janet loves us all. She’s shown up consistently in her words and actions. Lately, I’ve seen her dancing, both literally and with light in her eyes. It makes me wonder if she’s met someone. It makes me sad to think even her joy is private.

Because I love Janet and consider her a true friend in spite of the walls, I give her space. I tell myself, “That’s just Janet.” Besides, she’s in the witness protection program.

 

When Your Father’s Friend Gets His Book Published

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Carl’s been my father’s best friend since elementary school. He’s now 77-years-old, sitting across from me in a booth at Olive Garden in Wichita, KS.

I’m an aspiring author frantically trying to find my path into the publishing industry. My memoir hangs on me like a child I want to protect, prepare and send into the world.

Over the post-Christmas holiday celebrated with my parents, they once again repeated how thrilled they are that a publisher picked up Carl’s book. Wow, isn’t it great?

I’m not sure they intended to say: What’s taking you so long? Carl didn’t need an agent. Why aren’t you really going for it and getting published, like Carl? If your book is so damn good, why isn’t it published? But, that’s what I heard.

My writing dream is being supported by my older, wiser, and more successful in the corporate world sister. Her grand gesture felt like the lucky tap of a magic wand. It has been, in that I have what every writer dreams of: time to write. Hell, I had enough time to write a book. I wrote a book—a damn fine memoir. I also wrote a book proposal and polished it with some high-priced and well-worth-it editing and coaching.

Still, I’ve yet to land an agent. Carl says he was told you don’t need an agent.

I wasn’t born yesterday. Just because I haven’t proven my publishing knowledge—by way of being published—doesn’t mean I haven’t been studying the industry like a menu at a fabulous restaurant.

Here I am at Olive Garden in Wichita with Carl. He’s my dad’s age. A couple years ago, Carl’s beloved wife, Clee passed away after battling Alzheimer’s for years.

After she died, Carl found the numerous stories Clee wrote in writing classes she took to ward off the memory thief.

Her stories reflected her life in Iran with her first husband. Well, more like life with their daughters and his Iranian family. She wrote about lighting up when Carl came around and negotiating her way out of her marriage while maintaining close connections to the family she’d come to love. The stories revealed Clee and Carl stories, starting in Iran, going on to various places in the US, and Germany.

Compelled by these stories and his discovery that his late wife had aspirations of being published, Carl was compelled to complete a mission. It was a mission of love when he desperately missed his mate, playmate, friend, lover, wife and wise counsel.

Carl put Clee’s stories (along with photos and his words to fill in some missing pieces) into a book. I read the book and wondered what I would say to Carl about it.

I asked him what some of his favorite parts were. I honored both the book and the writer (mostly Clee) by telling the truth.

The truth is, through Clee’s Odyssey, I came to know a woman who was a friend of my parents for decades, but who I “never really knew very well.”

Carl said, “You didn’t know her at all.” I’m familiar with grief’s reflexes.

He was right. Now, I feel honored to know of this woman, Clee Fox, in the same way I’ve known other heroines, like Jackie Cochran or Eleanor Roosevelt.

In this book, I learned of a woman owning mistakes and choices, and leaping into opportunities like failing was foreign. For her, it was.

Carl told me they led a charmed life. As I read the book, I kept waiting for a person to turn on Clee, or a plan to fall through. They did have some travel challenges. Mostly though, the writer Clee’s attitude and life on the page revealed flow, grace and nonjudgment.

No wonder Carl, some 30 years later, and less than a handful of years since her death, remains enchanted.

I’m enchanted with this woman I met in a book Carl paid to have published. I knew when I saw it. I knew when I heard the process. I knew when I looked at the publishers’ website.

I tried to explain to my folks the difference in what Carl had done to what I was doing. “I’m trying to build a career as a writer,” I said. “But, isn’t it just wonderful what happened to Carl?!” my parents said, again.

As I ate my chicken Marsala, which Carl suggested, and drank a wine he favored, I leaned into my memories of the book. Across the table, Carl and I played with Clee’s stories, and marveled at her magnificent character, and the luck of their love! And ski trips across Germany! Stepdaughters blended in like the Brady Bunch. It was all so fabulous I dripped on the inside with hope, jealousy, and sadness over Carl’s loss.

I had to shift gears. I had to know. Had he paid to have Clee’s book published? Yes. He told me the figure, in the ballpark I imagined. The truth I knew all along. If only my only goal was to be published…

Back at Carl’s house, he showed me his earnings on Amazon. So pitiful we laughed. Carl was silly.

Happy to have talked about his beloved, to be sharing her book and the joke of it all, along with the out loud wonder about how a guy who grew up in South Dakota got so lucky.

He told me how pleased he felt when the publisher agreed to take him on. I thought, “Yeah, because you paid him.” Then, Carl said he asked the guy why he agreed to publish Clee’s Odyssey and heard, “When I read about a guy who’d given up on love and then got this life, I was hooked.”

I was hooked, too, as I witnessed Carl glowing talking about Clee. My cynical self quieted. I applauded Carl and Clee and dreams coming true. I celebrated the power of stories and individual paths. I considered the price Carl paid to get this book published—well worth it. For Carl.

 

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Warrior for Love

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I’ve learned how to love a man by watching wise women. Mostly, they’ve learned the way we all do—life. Some of the best relationships I’ve seen are third-rounders by try-harders determined to get it right. Others are first-timers who acknowledge luck, serendipity, and stick-to-it-ness.

My best friend learned by leaving and slamming the door for a damn good reason on the only man she ever loved—then, opening it to find him and love again.

Women getting love right, I salute you. Women who found your ideal mate, no matter how many frogs you fell for along the way, well done. Those of you stacking up the decades and gluing them together with joy, hard work, and well-earned connection, impressive.

From you women warriors, my family and friends, I’ve learned we each choose what works for us, what we’re attracted to, and what we cannot or will not tolerate. For me, it’s nonchalance that I absolutely refuse to endure. It’s connection and intimacy that invite me stay beyond reason.

I’ve learned one can see an upsetting truth about one’s mate and set it aside for the sake of the relationship. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid (or smart), just your eyes are open.

I’ve learned you have to want to stay. You have to want to make it work. Yet, you cannot manufacture those desires any more than you can make magically appear the one with whom you’ll feel that way.

But, when you do, as long as he also wants to stay and make it work, anything can be a source of growth.

Wise women, you’ve shown me marriage is a balance between working on it and letting go, being true to yourself by speaking your mind—even when you may look like a bitch or a baby—and respecting with compassion that your mate comes from a different perspective.

Watching you gals, I’ve seen the variety of relationships and marriages and how each pair is an entity of its own personality, rules and character. Ideally, whatever the shape, it represents a synergy in which two individuals become better because of the presence of the other.

You’ve kept me believing in serendipity, and yes, even in my fifties, there’s someone wonderful for me. I shall do my best to apply lessons learned. I’m no longer a girl. I’m a woman, a warrior for love.