Love in Action

I’m one lucky woman.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, love is both a noun and a verb. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize that. They might be good at professing their love 100 times a day, but when it comes to the down and dirty, the taking action, the making sacrifices, the actively planning for a loving future, they fall short.

Do you love someone? Then prove it. Even if you’re sure they know. It’s important. Create experiences that actively show that you’re taking the other person into consideration and that you want them to feel special.

Here is love in action.

  • Recently, Dear Husband needed to take a trip to Marenakos Rock Center to check out some decorative rock for an upcoming project. He waited for a day when I could come along, because he knows I am a rock geek. We had fun riding the golf cart around the large facility to enjoy the rock pillars, benches, slate, statues, fountains, etc. It was quite fascinating.
  • On that same day, we passed a u-pick-em blueberry farm and decided to stop. I really wasn’t very interested, because it was hot, and for some reason I assumed that blueberry bushes would have thorns like blackberry brambles do. (They don’t.) I’m not even that crazy about blueberries. But I was willing to do it because I know that DH does enjoy them. He was willing to limit the visit to a half hour because he knows I don’t deal with heat well. And it turns out that we both had fun.
  • Love is also picking up the slack for your partner when that person is clearly exhausted or overwhelmed.
  • Love is listening to your partner when that person is exhausted or overwhelmed, and validating their feelings without giving unsolicited advice.
  • Love is removing splinters.
  • Love is planting flowers as well as buying them.
  • Love is going ziplining against your better judgment because your partner wants to.
  • Love is being open to trying new things.
  • Love is sleeping with the light on so your partner can read.
  • Love is making plans for the future based on both people’s needs and desires.
  • Love is taking your partner to the romantic La Rustica restaurant, and then to a delightful candlelight rooftop concert without it necessarily being a special occasion.

I’m one lucky woman. I hope you are lucky, too, dear reader. We all deserve the verb of love.

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The Life of Birds

Learn more about these descendants of dinosaurs.

I find birds endlessly fascinating. There’s a murder of crows that likes to hang out in our back yard. They often sit on our birdbath and leave us dubious presents. Half a pancake. Soggy bread. Shrimp. One sometimes hops along the fence, following me as I water plants. I enjoy hearing them screaming indignantly at each other, and yet purring as they mate.

We also have juncos that love to eat the insects in our yard. They remind me that we are just one of many lives that inhabit our “property”, and that we should therefore walk as gently upon the earth as possible. It’s a habitat for us all.

I could watch hummingbirds for hours. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be them. I’m glad they are part of my world.

The time has come again for the annual Audubon Photography Awards. They are always exciting to see. I like that the photographers include a back story about what exactly was going on, and how the picture was taken. It adds to it, somehow, knowing the drama.

These amazing photos never fail to demonstrate the lives of birds. Whether it’s nesting, hunting, caring for chicks, flying, playing, grooming, or mating, these intimate photographs bring you right there. Now there’s even an award for video footage, which is really exciting.

Whether you’re interested in seeing the award-winning photography or not, I strongly urge you to check out the Audubon website and learn more about these descendants of dinosaurs. It will broaden your horizons. And it might even convince you to keep your cats indoors.

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Unpacking Insincerity

Why waste time with pretty words that have no meaning?

On the day of this writing, during my 45 minute morning commute, I was thinking about two people on the periphery of my life who are extremely insincere. Some relationships are not of your choosing. Rather, they are thrust upon you, and you just have to cope with them as best you can.

If anything, I am too sincere. That’s a problem, too. If I feel something, I put it out there, for better or worse. Sometimes that gets me into trouble. Sometimes I shock or frustrate people. But they usually know that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. To behave otherwise would be entirely too confusing.

Because of this, I’m utterly befuddled by insincere people. If you say one thing and then do another, I’m left wondering why you simply didn’t state your intentions in the first place. Why waste time with pretty words that have no meaning?

What constantly astounds me about insincere people is that they must genuinely believe that they have everyone fooled or they wouldn’t continue down that twisted road. In fact, insincerity is easy to spot by most people. Either your body language isn’t matching your actual language, or you’ve demonstrated that you actually feel the opposite about things by your past behavior. You seem to have failed to realize that most people learned to pretend and can therefore spot it in others by the time they’ve attended preschool.

I believe that most insincere people have very little knowledge of themselves or others. If they’re not making a conscious effort to be disingenuous, if it comes naturally to them, then they must have started believing their own pretense long ago, and therefore they feel sincere to themselves. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse. But if you’re often told that you can’t be counted upon and/or trusted, here’s a clue: That’s most likely due to your insincerity.

Nobody is perfect. We’ve all said, “Nice to meet you,” for example, when in fact we couldn’t care less. But when that kind of behavior becomes a lifestyle, people will start to actively loathe you.

It must be strange to go through life saying over the top nice things to people and then turning around and treating them horribly, all while thinking that you are not the problem. It must be awfully hard to find your happy place under those circumstances. I’d feel sorry for these people if they weren’t so consciously or unconsciously manipulative.

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On Losing Friends

You have a right to put your foot down.

There are very few things on earth that make you feel more lonely than having to say goodbye to a beloved friend. I’ve had to do that twice in the midst of this already isolating pandemic, and not a day goes by when I don’t have tears in my eyes at some point because of it.

What? Oh, no, they didn’t die. That would be infinitely more tragic. But they both broke my heart, making me feel like I was dying. Either way, it’s a mourning process, and one I barely have the strength for.

There just comes a point when you have to stop tolerating bad behavior from the people you love. You have a right to set boundaries. You have a right to put your foot down. You have a right to say, “No, you don’t get to do this.”

You should always be your own best friend. You need to put a stop to things that hurt your heart, even when they come from people with whom you have had decades of happy memories as well as a mountain of emotional investment. If you’ve tried to communicate and/or work things out and gotten no results, you have to say, “This far and no further.”

So for future reference, here are a few boundaries that I have set:

  • You don’t get to insult people you don’t even know on my Facebook page. Respect me, respect my friends. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t get to attack them.
  • If you espouse hate speech or try to encourage violent behavior, I don’t want you in my universe.
  • If you’re going to stand me up, blow me off, or take advantage of me, you better have a stellar excuse. And if you never return my calls and then accuse me of not being a good enough friend, you’ve made my choice for me.
  • If you make promises and then don’t keep them, I will lose trust in you. It’s hard to maintain a friendship under those circumstances.
  • You don’t get to exaggerate other dear friend’s behavior to the point of damaging their reputation, simply so you can win an argument. If you tell me that a friend I have known for decades, who has a reputation of never saying an unkind word to anyone, has suddenly verbally attacked you without any discernible motivation and with no proof whatsoever provided by you, I have to call foul. Not only are you insulting my friend, but you’re insulting my judgment.
  • You don’t have to like all the things I like, but if something is extremely important to me, the least you can do is be supportive of that thing. My blog, for example, is me on a page. When you continually reject my invites to my Facebook group, that’s painful enough. But when I offer to send you a link to one of my blog posts and you say, essentially, “Please don’t,” that’s like a rejection of me. How hard would it be to just say thanks and fake it?
  • If you know you’ve been hurtful, set aside your pride and apologize. If you choose your pride over our friendship, then the friendship must never have had much value to you in the first place.

For what it’s worth, I tried to salvage the wreckage of one of these friendships. I tried really hard. He just bent the truth more and more to prop up his stance, until finally I was the one who felt broken.

And in the other situation, it suddenly occurred to me that this person has made me feel bad more than once, and never has apologized, not once, in all the decades I’ve known him. I’m tired of begging to be treated decently. I shouldn’t have to ask for an apology. It should be a natural process once you know you’ve hurt someone. I realized that if I just swallowed my pain yet again and accepted my second class status in his world one more time, it would rot away my soul. This person could still apologize, and we could move on, but I’m pretty sure he never will. I suspect he is sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ever meant enough to him to merit an apology. And that crushes me.

That all of this is happening during a pandemic is bad enough, but then add on top of it the fact that I moved to the Pacific Northwest 6 years ago, and, with one or two wonderful exceptions, I’m struggling to make friends out here like I made the other 5 decades of my life.

It’s hard to make new friends after a certain age. Older adults have well established lives and obligations, so the opportunity to bond is just not there as much. That, and people are a lot more standoffish out here than I’m used to. I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite fit in. I can’t remember the last time someone took the initiative to do anything with me. Out here, I do all the asking, with very mixed sucess.

Oh, and I just remembered that one woman out here accused me of killing my cat and making a joke out of it, and called me a sick, sick person. When I pointed out that I haven’t owned a cat in nearly 40 years, and that I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, she stopped talking to me. Who could even think that I could do something like that? So yeah, another boundary I’ve set is that I can only take so much crazy.

What I’m finding is that as my self-confidence and self-awareness grows, I’m less willing to put up with bad behavior. But the humiliating truth is that, my whole adult life, no one has ever called me their best friend. What does that say? I don’t know. But it hurts like hell, and it makes it hard for me to remember that quality is more important than quantity.

So, if you see me enforcing boundaries, or speaking my truth (not yours) don’t assume I’m being insecure. Instead, congratulate me for my own agency. Cheer me on for standing my ground. Think of me as strong, not defensive or paranoid. View me as healing, not broken. Is that too much to ask?

It’s just… I’m just really sad and lonely today. I’m struggling. (For what it’s worth, I wrote this more than a week ago, so I’m probably doing much better now.)

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Thank GOD I have a wonderful husband and awesome dogs. It’s amazing how couch snuggles can make you feel that everything is right with the world.

Bleh. Thanks for listening. I need a hug.

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Lowering My Expectations

Where did this notion of perfection come from?

The vast majority of the time when I’m really annoyed, the situation fits into one category. People are not behaving as I feel they should.

I have really high expectations. I think everyone should act with integrity. Everyone should tell the truth. Everyone’s motivations should be pure. Everyone should have everyone else’s best interests at heart. Everyone should be kind and respectful. Everyone should be reliable. Everyone should say what they mean and mean what they say.

“Should” is the most insidious word in the English language. Here’s the question. Where did my notion of perfection come from? Heaven knows I have not seen many examples of this behavior. This rulebook of mine is something I seem to have conjured up in my own mind. In fact, it’s been my experience that a lot of people behave quite abominably (see also: Washington D.C.).

If most of the crows I’ve seen in my life take flight, why would I expect them to suddenly do the breaststroke? If I know it to be true that dogs bark, why would I expect them to start singing showtunes? If your habit is to be a jerk, why would I imagine that you’d behave otherwise?

And yet I follow this pattern consistently. People don’t fit into my arrogant little box of perfection, and it drives me up a wall. It’s just so freaking frustrating!

Do I derive any benefit from my irritation? Does it serve me well? Does it change anything? No, no, and no.

I have no magical power to change people. I’m not the behavior police. The only thing I can do is work on myself.

Logic dictates that I lower my expectations of people. I need to stop measuring them by a yardstick that is clearly not of their choosing. I have got to loosen my grip on the steering wheel of life.

It would be so liberating to be pleasantly surprised when someone does something good rather than be irritated when he or she basically acts like he or she always does. It would be a relief to direct my energies toward those things over which I actually have control. It would be wonderful to just do me. I’d love to be less disappointed by others, not because they’ve straightened up, but because I realize it’s not my place to sit in judgment, and because I’ve come to accept the fact that people, as a general rule, don’t change.

Now, the trick will be to figure out how to lower my expectations without crossing that fine line into the land of no faith in humanity whatsoever.

Pardon my dust. I’m still under construction.

Expectations

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The Dark Shadow Cast by the Golden Rule

Most societies seem to have some version of the Golden Rule. That only makes sense. It would be hard to live amongst one’s fellow humans without one. I really do try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I can’t imagine functioning any other way.

The thing I struggle with is my huge disappointment/bitterness/frustration when others do not do likewise. “Oy! I’m playin’ by the rules here! Why aren’t you?”

Just the other day I got royally screwed over by 5 people. Without going into detail, we’ve all had long conversations and they agreed with my interpretation of events. But when this brought on an investigation, rather than tell the truth and have my back, these people chose to pull their pinheads into their tiny, soft, little shells and leave me out there all alone to be crushed by the bus.  I feel so betrayed. I could never do that to someone. Not in a million years.

Be that as it may, the situation isn’t going to right itself, so now the only thing I can do is cope with my feelings of disappointment/bitterness/frustration. On close examination, I realize that I wouldn’t even have those feelings if I didn’t think that these people were not holding themselves to a standard that I swear by.

So maybe I should blame the Golden Rule for all of this. Maybe I should stop expecting others to follow it. Heck, maybe I should stop following it myself, since it does not seem to have done me any favors.

But the day I can’t even count on my own integrity is the day I give up entirely.

crushed turtle

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What’s Your Water Mark?

I came across some disturbing statistics on the National Geographic website just now. It takes 37 gallons of water to produce the average cup of coffee. Think of that next time, and every time, you drink one. If we each drank a cup of coffee each morning, it would use up 32 trillion gallons of water a year.

Even scarier, 1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water. One cup of wine takes up 63.4 gallons of water. And lest you think that eating healthier gives you a free pass, 1 pound of soybeans takes 216 gallons of water. And (God forgive me) 1 pound of chocolate requires 3,170 gallons of water.

I’m feeling slightly sick to my stomach, thinking of all that water usage as I walk down the aisles of my grocery store. And there are so many stores, and so many of us. Water is not the infinite resource that we first-worlders would like to think that it is.

I feel really helpless when I look at the world’s environmental problems. The only thing I can really do is my part, plus spread the word to encourage others to do theirs.

One really eye-opening web page is the homewaterworks calculator. Go there, answer some basic questions about your water usage, and it comes up with a nifty spreadsheet for you that gives you an estimate of how much water you use per day and per year and in what parts of the house, how much energy you use to heat your water, and how you compare to other households in your geographic area.

I was actually kind of thrilled to discover that I use a little less than the typical water-wise house. But then I realized that that probably has less to do with my overall efficiency than it does with the fact that I live alone.

It also gives you recommendations on how to decrease your water usage. For example, replace old toilets and use more efficient appliances. Sadly I’m a renter, and am kind of stuck with using what they give me, but if and when I ever own a home again, all my appliances will be much more eco-friendly.

It is really important that we all educate ourselves about water usage. It’s even more important that we alter our behaviors. Our window of opportunity to get this right is rapidly closing.

water

Everything’s an Observation

I was looking at my blog categories, and I just realized that I categorize every blog entry, over 1300 now, as an observation. That makes me wonder if I should do away with that category entirely.

When you get down to it, everything in the world is an observation, isn’t it? To form an opinion about something, we have to have first seen it, either firsthand or through the media. To know how to behave ethically in this world, we first have to see what is considered ethical. Facts are facts because they have been observed to be true.

It is so important to set a good example for our children because they watch what we do and pattern their behavior after us. When we are trained to do a job, we are shown what that job entails. Learning is based almost entirely on observation. The fact that we tend to believe what we see in print puts extra pressure on the writers of this world.

What complicates things is that we all look at things differently. We each have a slightly different focus, which means our priorities tend to vary. If ten people view a scene and then are asked to describe it, their descriptions will be different.

So, if everything is an observation, and every observer sees things differently, what does that say about reality?

Something to think about during your morning commute.

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After Close Observation by Arnett Gill

One Slap at a Time

I am convinced that the reason so many violent and/or abusive people in this world get away with their bad behavior is that we have a tendency to break things down into separate incidents. If you look at a wife beater’s conduct one slap at a time, for example, it should still be considered unacceptable, yes, but it’s a lot easier for society to discount. (That is, unless you are on the receiving end of such treatment.)

When forming an opinion about someone, it’s really important to look at the totality of their actions. If an individual has a bad day and is moderately nasty only once, and shows some form of contrition, that’s one thing. But if that person is moderately nasty the majority of the time, that tends to add up. Working or living with someone like that can be exhausting.

It’s an insidious form of abuse, because to the outside observer, who is seeing only one incident, it may appear that the victim of this abuse is overreacting. But context is important. That’s why it’s so vital to speak up. If you don’t share that history with the wider world, then you enable your abuser.

Think about it. Before police agencies were able to share information about criminals, they were able to get away with a lot more. They could just continue their shenanigans in a different city, county, state or country. Now it’s not quite as easy to turn crime into a career.

We are still lagging behind, though, when it comes to disclosing the behavior of domestic abusers and the small percentage of the mentally ill who pose a danger. Knowledge is power. Until dangerous behavior is shared among various social agencies, there is no way we’ll be able to reduce the number of tragedies that occur every single day.

The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. That needs to be a priority. How many more people need to die before it becomes one?

abuse

Bullies

There’s nothing I hate more on this earth than a bully. And I happen to interact with one regularly. Her aggression really intimidated me at first. But over time when she realized I wasn’t going to budge about certain things, she then had to get increasingly nit-picky until now the things that she blows up about seem ever more pathetic.

Now when I see her starting to puff up like a bullfrog, instead of becoming tense, I’m hard-pressed not to laugh. I can see how weak and ineffectual she truly is, and it’s quite obvious that that’s the one thing she fears—that her weakness will be revealed. That’s the thing about bullies. They may seem to loom large, but they’re really hollow inside.

I’m a fairly laid back, peace-loving individual, but if someone bullies a person that I happen to love, watch out. I will cut a beyotch. Don’t even try it. Funny that it has only been recently that I’ve learned to stand up for myself as ferociously as I stand up for those I love. And even now, it’s doesn’t come naturally to me to do so. But the older I get, the more tired I become, and the less I’m willing to tolerate abuse.

It’s rather sad that we live in a world where we have to learn to counteract such hostile behavior in order to effectively function. But it’s nice to be one of the good guys. I look at my bully and I don’t envy her that miserable existence. She may think she’s punishing others, but the main person she punishes is herself, because she’s tense, unhappy and friendless.

[Image credit: aqualandpetsplus.com]
[Image credit: aqualandpetsplus.com]