My heart feels a little heavy just now. I'm thinking of a friend–call him Andy (not his real name)–and the heartbreak he's enduring because his wife wants a divorce. This I learned about only a few days after learning that another friend, Bonnie (not her real name), has left her husband Stu (not his real name), taken out a restraining order against him, and filed for divorce. Stu also is heartbroken.
Marriage is hard, isn't it? For two people to meld their lives, to learn the back-and-forth, the give-and-take, of a shared life. It's hard in the best of circumstances. But in a culture that devalues marriage, it's infinitely harder.
In this 21st century, it seems marriage literally means something different than it once did. Even setting aside the legal redefinition to include same-sex unions. It once was a covenant, a binding contract, a lifetime promise–in sickness and health, for richer for poorer, until death parts us.
But no more. Now it's a temporary arrangement based on feelings. Movies and TV, even books, have created this vision of romance that people think their relationships should live up to, and Hollywood has taught us that if we “fall out of love” or “grow apart,” we can, should, must move on.
But romance novels (and Hollywood rom-coms) typically stop at the “I do.” They seldom, if ever, show the routine day-to-day or how we can continue to love when the heat of passion cools. Movies teach us that attraction is irresistible and sex is the first way we show love. And if the passion wanes, something is wrong.
Marriages end on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. But what that term really means is neither person is willing to change. Two people, each expecting the other to bend to his or her will. And when neither will give, they reach a stalemate. And in anger or frustration or resignation, they quit, they give up, they pack it in and walk away.1
So sad. And sadder still when one person wants to keep trying and the other refuses. As is the case with my friend Andy and his wife, and with our dear friends Bonnie and Stu.
Marriage is hard. No doubt about that. I'm just so sad for them all.
- I'm by no means intending to disregard or minimize the situations where a marriage ends due to physical abuse, infidelity, addiction, or other serious issues. My thoughts in this post only pertain to the many, many marriages that end for far less serious reasons.
I've been thinking about vulnerability
Recently I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown from a few years ago. She talked about connection, and mostly she talked about vulnerability. You can watch the short talk here:
As I was pondering the things Brené said in her talk, I checked Facebook, and this image was in my news feed:
I thought a lot about what, to me, seems like a conflict between the truths in the TED Talk and the truths in this quote.
Where I landed was this: There are people whose motives in “befriending” you may not be transparent. So what? Will you let that define the type of person you will be?
I think of this in the context of the teaching I've heard on Brooke Castillo‘s excellent and thought-provoking Life Coach School Podcast. (Well worth listening to.) At the risk of doing her profound teachings an injustice, I'll paraphrase the key lesson I've taken from her:
Whatever is happening in your life, or whatever happens to you, your problem is never (never) your circumstances. It's what you think about your circumstances. So if you're feeling badly about a situation in your life, don't look at the situation, but examine what thoughts you're having about the situation, because those thoughts (not the situation) are what are causing the bad feelings you're experiencing.
This is good news. Really. Because while you can't always change your situation–and you almost never can change another person–you always, always, always have the ability to change your thoughts (and therefore your feelings).
This is very relevant to the issue of a friendships and whether a person is “using” you–and what to do about it.
To truly experience life means to be vulnerable to pain. To experience love (in all its forms, not just romantic love) means you have to open your heart to the possibility of hurt. Not a pleasant prospect.
But . . . no matter what another person's attitude or intentions might be, you can't be used or betrayed by another person if you give freely, out of an open heart, with no expectation of anything in return. The other person's motives are irrelevant to this issue, I believe.
I'm not saying we should have no boundaries, or that we should never say no to anyone. We still get to choose who has a place in our lives and in our hearts.
What I'm saying is that if we made that choice to have someone in our lives, and if we choose to give of ourselves to that person, the only thing that matters to us is our own motives. Not theirs.
If you feel you've been used or betrayed by someone in your life, pause for a moment and consider: Does it matter (really) what they've done, or what they intended? Those things are a problem for you only to the extent you expected something from that person that you did not receive. Dwelling on unfulfilled expectations can cause feelings of pain, sorrow, anger, and more. An unhappy way to live.
But the good news is that there's another way to look at it. You get to choose what you think about the person and the situation. You get to choose to open your hands and your heart and just give whatever you give–friendship, time, support, whatever–with no expectation of ever getting anything back from them.
Hard to do. Impossible? No. But really hard.
But the benefits are immeasurable. Peace of mind instead of turmoil and hurt feelings.
Every time I find myself aching over the loss of a friend, or angry or hurt by the “betrayal” of a person who I thought cared about me, I'm trying to stop, realize that those hurt feelings come from disappointed expectations–my own thoughts. I gave to this person, yes. But did I give freely, or did I give expecting something back?
If I can choose to let go of any expectations, I can choose to think differently about this person and about the situation. And in so choosing, my hurt feelings go away. I can simply be grateful for the opportunity to be the kind of generous, open-hearted, loving person I very much want to be.
What do you think?
Thanks for stopping by.
Podcast: The Productive Woman
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
This morning I was listening to a podcast whose host was talking to a woman about what was holding her back from pursuing her dreams. The woman's dream? To write. She said she has wanted to write since she was a kid and she was afraid it might never happen. (Or something like that.)
And what I thought, as I listened, was, “What's stopping you?”
Anybody can write. If your dream is to write, then write. All you need is a piece of paper and something to write with, and you can write, write, write, write, write. Nobody can stop you.
Nobody should ever have an unfulfilled dream to write, because you can write any time you want to. So if you are (I am) saying that you/I have an unfulfilled dream of writing, then what you are (I am) really saying is, “I want to be published.” Which is a different thing entirely.
If your dream is to write, then get at it, my dear. Pick up your pen, boot up your MacBook, and get to writing.
You know I have a podcast, right?
Somebody reminded me recently that not everybody knows what a podcast is or how to listen to it. So I thought I should explain.
A podcast is basically audio on demand. (There are video podcasts, but that's not what mine is.) It's kind of like a radio show, but it's “broadcast” on the internet, via a blog (like this one), and sometimes–often–made available through podcast directories like iTunes or Stitcher. Unlike radio, though, you can listen to a podcast whenever you want to, rather than at the times set by the station or network.
Podcasts are a great way to learn new things or find information, entertainment, or inspiration. You can take them with you on your smart phone and listen while you work out, commute, or work. I subscribe to a couple dozen of them. Most of them are probably too geeky for most of my friends, but a couple that I really like for getting ideas about how to be more efficient and productive are Beyond the To-Do List and Simple Life Together. For general inspiration, I like my friend Mary DeMuth's Uncaged Podcast.
My podcast, The Productive Woman, is a 30-minute (give or take a few) weekly show about productivity for busy women. Its purpose is to help us all find tools and encouragement to get stuff done that matters to us. I have guests from time to time who share from their lives and experiences about how they get their stuff done.
If you want to listen, there are three basic ways you can do that:
How to Listen to the The Productive Woman Podcast:
1. Listen on the blog. Go to The Productive Woman on your computer and click the play button at the beginning of each post. Make sure your speakers are on or your headphones are plugged in and the sound is turned to a comfortable volume.
2. Listen on your smartphone or tablet. There are a lot of great podcasting apps. Apple has a free one in the app store; it comes on every new iPhone. There is also one called Downcast; that's the one I use most of the time. It allows you to search for shows, subscribe to them, and even speed up the audio. If you use an Android device, try subscribing via Stitcher.
3. Subscribe to the Podcast. Access the podcast in iTunes (click here). You can also search for it on your smartphone app (like the ones listed above) and subscribe. If you prefer to listen on your computer and want to receive the podcast posts via email each week, there's a button there on the The Productive Woman website where you can subscribe by entering your email address.
If you listen, and if you find it helpful, I'd appreciate it if you'd consider sharing it with the other busy women you know. And I'd love to hear from you–feedback is the only way for me to know whether I'm on track.
Hope your week is going well!
Do you make new year's resolutions? Or set ambitious goals at the beginning of the year?
I'm one who finds myself drawn to milestone days–the first of the year, the first of a month, a birthday, an anniversary. I use those milestone days as reminders to look back, and look forward, to take stock, re-evaluate the path I'm on, and make adjustments. In past years I've used the last week or so of the year to make lists of resolutions, some of which I've kept and others of which have faded before the calendar turned to February. The past couple of years I've found meaning in the “One Word” trend, with my words being grace one year, gratitude another.
This year I've modified that approach a bit. Inspired by some articles written by writer/thinker/business coach Chris Brogan, I've instead settled on three words that will serve as guides and touchstones for 2015. I encourage you to click on Chris's name (or here) for his post explaining the concept behind this approach. The gist of it is that the three words create focus for the goals I set, the choices I make, and the projects I undertake for this year.
I spent much of December 2014 thinking and praying about this new year, and seeking guidance for what my three words should be.
The three words that I chose are: Connect. Build. Simplify.
Each of these words has many meanings and applications for me. Some are deeply personal and won't be shared with anybody. But as examples of how they are shaping my thinking, here are some of the ways I see these words being applied in my life in 2015:
- Connect with Mike – communicate better, travel together, be more intentional about making time for each other
- Connect with God – more time reading the Bible, praying, listening
- Connect with clients – better and more focused service, more thoughtfully targeted business development activities
- Connect with the TPW (The Productive Woman) community (listeners, prospective guests, other podcasters)
- Connect with friends – travel to visit? more intentional and consistent communications
- Connect with myself – my passions (what do I really want?), my fears (what am I really afraid of and trying to avoid facing?)
- Connect with the present – be in the moment more, celebrating and enjoying my life and experiences as I'm in the middle of them, instead of always looking for something different or looking to the future)
- Connect with family
- Build my faith
- Build my character – do the right things more consistently, exercise self-control
- Build my relationships
- Build my health
- Build a sustainable life (by being more realistic and disciplined in spending time and money)
- Build a business
- Build a writing career
- Start weeding out stuff
- Focus on the people and things that really matter
- Identify what matters, and pursue that, letting everything else drop away
- By connecting with my true passions and fears (see above), I can quit filling up my life and mind and time with things that (inadequately) compensate for not pursuing my passions and that (ineffectively) distract from the things I'm afraid of
The lists above are not my goals. They are my thoughts on how each of the words can be applied in my life. These are the source–as I said above, the touchstones–to which I will return regularly as I formulate and evaluate my goals for this year.
I've written these words on sticky notes and put them in various places to remind me of my focus. I've written them at the top of the big year-at-a-glance calendar posted on the wall near my computer. I will be thinking about them often, journaling about them as I draw out exactly what each means for me, this year.
What about you?
Do you make new year's resolutions? Choose a word? Some other approach to starting the new year off right? If you want to, share in the comments so we can encourage each other. Or send me an email.
I look forward to hearing from you, and to sharing the adventure of life with you in 2015.
Happy new year!
- This week I had a guest post on the American Christian Fiction Writers blog, sharing my thoughts on thankfulness.
- Last weekend I was honored to be a guest on the brand new Voice of Texas podcast, hosted by Matthew Hinman.
- I've recently published episode 20 of The Productive Woman podcast, sharing my top 10 favorite productivity apps for smart phones. The Productive Woman is now part of the Noodle.mx network of podcasts. I've been so thrilled by the response to the podcast and am planning something special for the 25th episode. See below for more details on how you can participate, and maybe win a $25 Amazon gift card. More info at the TPW website.
- Do No Harm is coming along. I've been working on the final edits, aiming to send it to the requesting agent before Christmas. It's a scary proposition, so I'd appreciate prayers.
If you're interested in contributing to the upcoming 25th episode of The Productive Woman podcast, and perhaps winning a $25 Amazon gift card, here are the details:
Help Me Celebrate a Milestone!
What are your best tips for getting things done, making the most of your time and energy, and making a life that matters? I want to feature them in episode 25 of The Productive Woman podcast. Email your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or click on the button at the right side of The Productive Woman website to leave a voice message. (If you have more than one tip to share, leave each one as a separate message, and start by telling me who you are–first name only is fine if you're more comfortable with that–and where you're from.) If you're sharing a great productivity tool, be sure to tell us how to find it. From those who contribute a tip, either via email or voice message, by December 31, 2014, I'll draw a name randomly for a $25 Amazon gift card! More information at The Productive Woman.
I hope to hear from you soon. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving.