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Love Does Not Conquer All

Yeah, I know there are millions of love songs and romantic films and stories about the greatest love that ever existed. And I know that when you're in love, you think it will last forever.

I know, too, how it feels to believe that your love is so strong, it can survive anything, will withstand anything, and that no matter how much you or your partner might change you will overcome any obstacle that is thrown at you.

I know - all too well - about making a promise to love each other "for better or worse" and most of the time, people really mean it when they say it.

But I also know - all too well - that sometimes love is simply not enough.

There are a couple of very important factors that contribute to this harsh reality. One is the emotional baggage that we carry with us. Another is change.

First, the emotional baggage. My goodness, the damage it can do...bad enough when we know what it is, but when we don't - when we haven't spent any real time discovering what makes us tick, and overcoming past wounds - we will unwittingly contaminate relationships, despite our best intentions.

This gets us in trouble with the "for better or worse" part of marriage. People seem to take this to mean, "I'll love you even if you abuse me. I'll love you if you betray me. I'll love you if you disrespect me, cheat on me, lie to me, violate me, do things behind my back that you know you shouldn't do."

Frankly, none of that kind of behaviour has anything to do with love. I think "for worse" means when we lose jobs, or there are financial troubles or someone wants to change careers and it means a lot of upheaval for the family. Or perhaps there's the offer of a transfer to another city - or country - and one person doesn't want to go. Nobody's right or wrong; there are just obstacles to be overcome.

To my mind, "For worse" refers to the curveballs in life. It should not mean intolerable, unacceptable, unloving behaviour that undermines the whole point and purpose of marriage. Even without the legal tie, or that specific promise, those behaviours are still unacceptable. They are not about love. They have nothing to do with how we should be treating the person we say we love above all others on the planet.

We like to think that loving someone and trying to make a relationship work in such circumstances will bring about positive change. But, when the other person repeatedly refuses to seek help or make an honest attempt to change his or her ways, you're wasting your time.

I've been in too many relationships that were like that, each of us with our own issues that contributed to an unhealthy situation, one of mine often being that I did not respect or value myself enough to stop accepting unacceptable behaviour.

Change is another potential serial killer of relationships. It slaughters couples, silently, over a long period of time, divergence gradually poisoning their happiness until it exists only in their memories. When there is nothing much to talk about, virtually no common ground, a shared dream, a meeting of the minds - and more importantly, no desire to find a way to make it work in spite of the differences - it is time to move on.

And what about a couple that starts out in the same, but then one person changes and grows away from it and into something different, perhaps even something contradictory and then the whole foundation for the relationship is threatened? Should that person be forced to pretend and carry on living a lie, feeling suffocated and unhappy? Or should the other person be forced to change, too, even if it doesn't fit or feel good? I'm sure many people have found a way to make this work. But what about the ones who haven't?

No matter how much people love one another, we are not put on this planet to compromise and suffocate ourselves, or to tolerate disrespect. We are meant to thrive and to be happy, not to stay tied to toxic situations because of love.

What about loving yourself enough to leave a relationship that is destructive? To my mind, that's about the only kind of love that can "conquer all." Self-love automatically means self-respect. Combined, these help us to find our power and inner strength. This is what allows us to become truly happy and fulfilled. It is in this fulfillment that we will find deep and rewarding happiness and accomplishment. And it's from this place that we can offer the most love.

It would be wonderful if love could be as easy as the songs and poems say it is, and if that's all it took to glue two people together and make them happy. But it's not and I've seen it up close and personal more times than I care to remember. I know how it feels to walk away from someone I loved very much because to do anything else would be self-destructive.

I had always believed that as long as I loved someone, I figured I was obliged to keep trying to make it work. Even through abusive and dysfunctional behaviour, I kept hoping, trusting and believing that somehow, love would be enough to make it better.

And then I had a profound realisation that changed everything. Loving someone is one thing. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with that person and keep trying to make things right. You do not have to continue to beat your head against a wall, attempting to resuscitate something that cannot (and should not) survive.

You're wasting your time. Because sadly, love does not conquer all.

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Your Words Don't Tell the Whole Story...

Think about the people in your life...just take a moment and contemplate anyone who comes to mind, whether they're positive thoughts or negative ones...

Go ahead; think of a few more. The ones who make you want to tear your hair out, the ones you want to see all the time, the ones you avoid like the plague... just briefly think of each one and move on to the next...

Did you get a good sampling? I hope so.

Now, what happened while you were doing that? I'll bet you were thinking about how each one made you feel. You'd remember one and feel all oatmealy (warm and mushy), you'd think of another and feel your blood begin to boil, and there were probably some in between, or even a bit of both.

You were not likely thinking about this or that specific thing that they did with you or for you. As your memory took you from one person to the next, you wouldn't have been thinking about them at all. Chances are, you were just feeling about them. Because that's what's important to us.

When you leave the lives of people with whom you've interacted, whether for three days, two weeks, or by moving, drifting apart, or departing this Earthly existence, first and foremost, you will be remembered for how they felt because of the way you treated them. The specific memories will come next.

The way you treat people will leave an impression, and it is the most important element in any sort of relationship, no matter what that relationship is. It might only be your occasional dealings with a little old lady you see in the village as she's walking her dog. It could be your sister or your neighbour or the grouchy man who runs the post office.

Have you ever been itching to share your favourite places or events with people who didn't really want to go? But you said "Pretty please" or maybe you didn't - but at any rate, they finally agreed to go, and you could tell they hated every minute of it?

Or have you ever been with people who said and did all the right things, perhaps they fed and housed you, or had to drive you to appointments or whatever, but you felt that it was out of obligation and you just knew they didn't really want to do it?

I'm sure that like most people, you can relate to these and other similar situations. And no doubt when you remember those situations, the first thing you do is remember how you felt. It doesn't matter whether those people showed up, attended the event with you, said please and thank you, said it's no trouble at all, or insisted they were happy to help.

The only thing that you're really left with are feelings that aren't very nice. 

Words don't always say very much. Imagine this: A man gazes lovingly at his wife while she reads the paper. He reaches over and lays his hand gently on her arm. Softly, he says, "I love you, honey.

She looks up from her paper, turns to him and you can see her face soften into a warm smile as she says, "I love you, too." You might guess how he feels in that moment. What a lucky guy!

Now same scenario again. Husband gazes at wife, loving rests his hand on her arm and says he loves her. She doesn't look up from her paper. She continues reading. There's a noticeable pause and he's not sure she heard him but before he can repeat it, and without looking up from her paper, she says in a tone as flat as a pancake, "Hmm...love you, too."

He's probably not as happy as the other guy.

It's not what you do for people; it's how you do it. It's not what you say; it's how you say it. Is it with a sour attitude? Is it with "I'll get you for this" in your mind? Or is it with a loving heart, and a willingness to bring joy to someone's life?

The size of the gesture is irrelevant. Whether or not it's something huge and expensive and time-consuming, or something very teeny like remembering a favourite little treat.

It is not what you do for someone, or what you say that is important. It is how you do whatever you do, or how you say whatever you say that matters, because that is what will trigger an emotional response in the person on the receiving end of it.

Think about how you would like to be remembered and let this be reflected in all you say and do.

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Should Those Skeletons Stay in the Closet?

Do you have any secrets? Of course you do. Do you ever wonder if you should tell someone? Perhaps you wonder about telling just some of those secrets. But you probably decide to keep them to yourself. And that's likely for the best.

Everyone has them. There's a part of ourselves that only we know about and no one else does. It's one of the four 'windows' of personality. There's also the part we know about ourselves and others know, too. There's the part that others know about us and we don't. And the part that we don't know about, and neither does anyone else.

Sometimes when we do something that isn't very nice, or is shocking, or could hurt others if they knew about it, we feel compelled to tell someone. Easing a guilty conscience may do some good for the person who blabbed, but getting it off your chest and dumping it on someone else is not necessarily helpful and, in fact, it can be quite destructive.

If and when you feel compelled to tell all, to spill your guts about that really stupid thing you did when you had a few too many, or you were feeling really vulnerable, or just being plain foolish, remember this: Clearing your conscience is not a reason to tell such things.

When you release yourself of the burden of what you did by telling someone else about it, you are handing the burden to that person, whether or not he/she wants it. It might leave that person with a moral or ethical dilemma. Or it might present awkward problems because of the judgement of others who will never understand. It may cause permanent damage to your relationships.

Ask yourself why you want to spill your guts. Are you doing it to ease your conscience? Will there be anything achieved by 'fessing up? Will it improve anything? Alter the course of someone's path? And if so, will it be altered in a positive way or a negative way?

If nothing is to be gained by telling your secret to someone, you might want to rethink doing it. If someone will be hurt by it and no good can come from sharing it, what's the point? You still did whatever it was in the first place, you can't change that, and in all likelihood, letting that sleeping dog lie is probably for the best.

When we do things that later become our 'skeletons in the closet' and cannot be fixed or changed, they can at least do some good by serving as quiet reminders of difficult lessons learned. Everyone has a dark side; each of us is capable of greatness and of awfulness. When we've crossed the line into awfulness, best to learn from it and refocus on our potential greatness.

Some things are really better left unsaid.

"Family": An Emotionally-Charged Word

Sometimes family can be furry, too...

Sometimes family can be furry, too...

The free "prize" that goes with purchases usually looks okay on the surface. And it will usually serve its purpose in a pretty basic way. You might find yourself wishing it was the model with this option or that one, a few bells and whistles, and boy, if you could have chosen which one you wanted in that line, it would have been one of the upgraded versions.

You eye that nicer model somewhat wistfully, thinking "Mmmmm, I wish..." and going over the list of options that are so appealing. It does this and it does that, and then it does this, too! Wow... yours only does this and that.

"Ah, well. It works," you tell yourself in an attempt to feel satisfied with what you were given.

We slide out of the universe, landing straight into a pile of people who are pretty much your standard issue family. Maybe a bell and a whistle, perhaps a few extra options, and most of them have some cracks, dents or broken bits. They still work but for the most part, they are not the upgraded versions that you'd really love to have.

Many of them will be in your face, jamming their noses into your business with every other heartbeat. Some of them might not give a rat's @$$ what you do - or don't do.

Your mother may drive you absolutely mental. She calls it love and nurturing. You call it suffocating and neurotic.

Your sister steals your make-up, your clothes, your boyfriend. You want to chuck her off a bridge but you don't realise that she admires you, looks up to you, wants to be just like you.

You might have landed in a blended family, or one that is missing various members, probably for a variety of very painful reasons. Perhaps it's an extremely toxic family and it makes you sick right through to your soul.

But whatever it is, warts, poisons, neuroses and all, it's your family. And you might well be wishing you had one of the upgraded versions you've seen in other people's homes.

In a way, you can have one of those models. You can do a sort of Mr Potato-head thing, taking several parts and putting them together to create your Potato-family. This can help to heal the parts of your own that are missing, broken, dented or damaged.

I was given a bunch of mothers in this life (in an assortment of birth, foster and adopted). Yet I never knew what it was to feel "mothered". This caused me a lot of pain for a very long time and my agonising attempts to win that motherly love I craved were utterly futile and self-destructive.

But I've had the extremely good fortune to be given mother-substitutes throughout my life, women who were very maternal, nurturing, soothing and comforting. They gave me a taste of what it's like to be mothered and it's really delicious. Many times, I've been moved to tears by the ease with which these women offered their beautiful mothering gift to me - one in particular, a lovely woman with the biggest, most nurturing and maternal heart I'd ever been blessed to know.

As for my adopted family, my parents and only sibling are dead. I have no relationship with anyone else, apart from a beautiful aunt who lives thousands of miles away (thank God for internet).

Beautiful Aunt Debbie on the left

Beautiful Aunt Debbie on the left

Luckily, I have some very loving birth family members in my life, although at a distance. I hope to develop closer relationships with them someday.

Then there are a bunch of informally adopted family members, my 'Mum', sisters, a brother or two. There were even a couple of grandparents thrown into the mix, too, a long time ago but they died some years back.

There have been so many wonderful people with whom I've shared loving connections and bonds that have felt more like family than most of the people to whom I've been related by blood or by law. The beauty of these family members is they don't offer the same kinds of dysfunctional, enmeshed, crazy-making interference and emotional upsets that "traditional" families do. Bonus!

"Family" most certainly does not have to mean the prize that comes with the purchase, although some of those basic models are quite good and if you're one of the lucky ones who is happy with yours, I'm thrilled that you were so blessed - and no doubt you are thrilled, too.

And if you weren't one of those people, if the word "family" conjures up pain and heartache, or loneliness and emptiness, I hope you've been able to create your own upgraded model, adding the bells and whistles, choosing specific options that allow you to feel loved and supported, welcomed and valued, the way a real family is intended to be.

It doesn't matter what shape or size it is, or where it comes from, or how you stumbled into it, as long as you have a group of people in your life who feel like your family in all the best ways.

If you liked that, perhaps you will like this:

Positively Positive


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If You Knew This Was Your Last Day...

…what would you do?

Yeah, okay, I’m sure most of us would want to spend every last moment with our loved ones – or at least, have them with us while we hurry up and cram everything we can manage into one last day.

It’s all very romantic and lovely to imagine quietly sitting with our loved ones while we peacefully fade away. But what about the Other Stuff? Wouldn’t there be a list of Other Stuff that we wish we could do, too?

I don’t know about you, but after those first powerful thoughts of wanting to be with my family and closest friends, my next thought would be to get rid of everything I don’t want anyone to find.

My mother who is now in spirit always told me to get rid of her underwear as soon as she died. I thought that was weird when I was a kid. But now I understand!

If you've got some that could do with chucking, why not do it now? And while you're at it, what else do you not want people to find? Have you written things you don't want anyone to see? What about photographs, texts, or private journals?

You might want to designate someone to dispose of anything you aren't prepared to destroy just yet...

If it were my last day, I'd have to get a Burger King Whopper with bacon and cheese, and their crispy onion rings too please. And later I would order a fabulous thin-crust pizza loaded with all sorts of goodies and extra cheese. In fact, if you're super focused on healthful eating, why not enjoy a few more treats while you're still able?

I would get into my most comfortable “jams” (is there any other attire that’s appropriate for lounging around in the Afterlife?). And I'd pack up my clothes to give to people who can use them. Hmm, perhaps now is a good time to cull the wardrobe again... it's been a while. How about for you?

I would definitely be playing my favourite music throughout the background of all of this jammy-wearing, burger-eating, last-dayness, with Enigma being at the top of the list. And I’d just have to tickle the ivories for a while, one last time. A bit of Chopin would be in order (he’s my fave) and of course the Moonlight Sonata by the painfully serious Beethoven.

Have you enjoyed your favourite music lately? Or played a long-forgotten instrument? Today is just as good a day as any.

And I’d just have to crawl into my deliciously soft bed and watch ‘Chicken Run’ one last time, preferably with my kids and grandchildren, too (with five of each, I’d better get a bigger bed). A good time to eat that pizza!

Oooo, colouring I’d have to haul out the crayons and colouring books, which my family and I could enjoy with our pizza and Chicken Run.

(Does wine go with colouring books? Yessssssssssss!!!!! if you’re old enough, of course. My driving license says I am but the rest of me thinks I’m four.)

Perhaps I'd write a few final thoughts - or more likely, a few final stand-up jokes, wisecracking about my impending departure. Or I might do one last painting that was colourful and vibrant, summing up the joy I feel about my life (miserable bits included, because they’ve added to the joy in their own bizarre way).

What would you like to say before you go? Or what might you like to create? How about doing it now?

For me, my "last day" would be a day just like any other. I value each one as if it’s my last because the truth is, I never know which one that will be. Apart from chucking my knickers and burning my journals (those will be your jobs, Willow!), I’m pretty much ready to go. I mean, I’m at peace about the whole idea, but I hope it’s not for a very long time because I’m quite happy to be here; I’m having way too much fun.

Have you spoken to your family about burial or cremation? Our culture is so afraid of death we do not discuss these things. But that doesn't make them any less necessary.

I want to be torched so as not to take up perfectly good space on the planet when I wouldn’t really be using it. I heard some time ago that now you can have your ashes made into diamonds (people can even choose the colour they want) and that’s what I’d like to have done to mine.

As I said on my blog a long time ago, pick the word that describes how you want to be remembered and live it. Be it. Do it. I said my word was ‘sparkle’. So if I'm converted into at least a few diamonds, it’s very cool that I’ll be able to sparkle long after I’m gone…

In the meantime, I want to have fun and be silly. I want to find as many ways as possible to leave a positive impact on the world. I want to make delicious memories with people who will keep them safe for me after I’m gone. 

What else is there, really, but the memories we leave behind?

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to click on the posts below:

When Forgiving Seems Impossible

Actions Truly Do Speak Louder Than Words

The Golden Rule: Completely Misinterpreted

How to Love Waiting

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You Can Learn A Lot From Children

I love children. They’re just too cool. They know what we “Grown Up People" have forgotten. They know what’s important and we can learn a lot from them – if we so choose.

There’s nothing quite like watching the wheels turning in an intelligent young mind that is curious and soaking up a load of new information. I love seeing those bright eyes so focused – just like lasers as they watch and learn.

I love the way children bubble over with enthusiasm. Some are like a pot of homemade soup that’s a little too full, boiling and rolling with big, bloopy, bubbles of chunky vegetables and fresh herbs that spill over and sizzle on the hob. Others are bright, quick and sparkling, fizzing over the top like the finest champagne.

Quite naturally, children love to play and we spend a good deal of time teaching them not to do it. Sit down. Be quiet. Do your chores. Do your homework. Make your bed. Mow the lawn. Don’t be silly. Mind your manners. Settle down. Shhhhhhh!

We teach them to work hard. To be ambitious. To get ahead. To “make something of themselves”, as if they are nothing in the first place. In fact, they are pure and perfect at the start, but we knock it out of them (with some help from Life) and turn them into joyless, responsible adults who’ve forgotten how to dream, how to share, how to remember that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

I remember watching “Junior Masterchef Australia” and being astonished by children, aged 8-12, cooking things I can’t pronounce, using ingredients that were completely foreign to me, and plating up dishes that looked like they were served in a 5-star restaurant. As if all of that was not enough of a treat, it was extra wonderful to see some very important differences between the children and the adults who I’d seen on previous seasons of the adult version of the same show.

On the grown-up version, a contestant wins a challenge and becomes a team captain. He (or she) gets to choose the opposing team captain, and the choice is always based on who will be a poor captain in hopes of that team losing the challenge - because one of its members will be eliminated.

And they choose their own teams based on who they believe are the best contestants because they want to stay in the competition, win the title, the $100,000 and the cookbook deal.

But on Junior Masterchef, it’s another story. They choose their friends.  

When the adults are doing team challenges, members from one team look nervously over at everyone on the other one, to see who’s in the lead. They’re panicking, stressing, freaking out, worried, constantly blathering on about how they cannot lose this challenge because they really wanna win! They sure as heck don’t look like they’re having any fun at all.

But the kids' team challenges have usually involved the teams rooting for each other, and at times even assisting one another if one team was falling behind because they didn't want their 'customers' to be disappointed.

And the kids were having an awful lot of fun.

When the judges praised the adults’ dishes, quite often the other contestants looked jealous or worried. They’d plaster fake smiles on their faces, gritting their teeth while clapping with all the enthusiasm of a bunch of writhing fish hanging from hooks in their faces.

Yet when the judges praised the children’s dishes, the other kids lit up. They were beaming. They were so excited, hugging each other and saying, “You did a great job!” and obviously meaning every little bit of their excitement and pure affection.

When the adults got eliminated, most of them were very upset. Some were even quite obviously angry.

This was especially evident in those who were eliminated very near the end of the competition. They tried to choke down what they were feeling, but it was clearly written on their pained faces. And when they were back just days later to watch the two finalists compete, you could still see the disappointment, the anger, the jealousy. All they had to give the finalists were fake smiles and false encouragement.

When the children were eliminated, sure, some of them cried, but some of them said, “Out of 5,500 kids who applied, I can’t believe I got this far! I’m really proud/happy/excited about that!” They were still beaming, radiant, thrilled when they got their trophies and they didn’t care that they just lost out on several thousand dollars in a trust fund and the title of Junior Masterchef Australia. They were just genuinely happy for getting as far as they did. And they were genuinely happy for the contestants who were still ‘in’.

The adults were all about the fame, the title, the money, the winning, going on about this being ‘their only chance’ to open their own restaurant etc. 

Well, how did all the other restaurants in the world happen?? Did everyone have to win a competition that would give them some start-up money? Ummm, I don’t think so.

The kids were happy to see the others succeed and it was not about whether you win or lose, it was about how you play the game. They knew it was supposed to be about fun, about having a really cool experience, about learning, about supporting each other. It was about enjoying the ride and not worrying about the destination.

Yup.  You can learn a lot from children.

Actions Truly Do Speak Louder Than Words...

I’d like you to grab a piece of paper and write down your answers to a few questions I’m about to ask. It’ll be important in a minute, you’ll see. So I’ll wait……..

Okay.  Ready?

What is important to you? Don’t read any further, please, until you’ve written your answer. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or involved, just a quick point form list will do. 

This little exercise can be quite a profound experience if you do it, so please do yourself a favour and take a few moments with this.

Okay. Next question. Who is important to you? Another quick point form list, please.

Now, a separate list. Please jot down what has eaten up your week. Make a few notes about how you spent your time over the past seven days. What were you doing each day?

One more thing: What were you thinking about during the week? What was on your mind?

I really hope you wrote those answers down because there’s something about seeing them in writing that works better than just leaving it all in your head.

Now, please take a look at your list of what you did and what you thought about for the past week. Most people have a whole lot of stuff on their lists that is about work – whether it’s about their jobs or the housework, the errands, the obligations, the responsibilities, the meetings, the children’s homework and music lessons and the groceries and the meals blah blah blah.

Okay, let’s take a look at your list of what is important to you. Chances are, some of that stuff is on that list, as it should be. But are there things on that list that aren’t getting your attention? Why not?

Look at the list of who is important to you. Did those people make it onto your list of how you spent your time and what you were thinking about? Did you even make it onto your own list?

If there is something incongruent about all of this, perhaps you could stand a shift in your priorities. If you say it’s important to play and enjoy your life more, then do it. If you say your health and well-being are important, then make choices that reflect that. If you say your children, your parents, your sister, your friends are important to you, then make sure they know it. Write. Phone. Email. Send a card. Organise spending time together.

And don’t forget: Really, you must be on that list of who is important to you. If you’re not, then put yourself right at the top and make sure you spend time doing something for yourself every day, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes.

We give our attention to what is important to us. Sometimes we know what - or who - should be important, and we can say all the right stuff on that subject, but really, in our heart of hearts, our priorities are a mess.

It's truly a case of actions speaking louder than words. If you say something or someone is important to you, then show it. Prove it. Live it. No more excuses.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to click on the posts below:

When Forgiving Seems Impossible

You Only Fail if You Stop Trying to Succeed

The Golden Rule: Completely Misinterpreted

How to Love Waiting