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Monthly Archives: September 2011

10 Years Later Putting It In Perspective

WTC View from Brooklyn

Never Forget

Every year at this time I wrestle with a very strong mix of emotions.  I lived in North Jersey across the Hudson River from New York City from age 18 to age 24; very formative years.  Those buildings were such a strong presence in my world, I cannot begin to describe it.  I loved them; I was in awe of them.  I realize that probably sounds ridiculous, but I have come to understand that I truly felt some sort of real affection for those buildings.  I was a young kid from Indiana.  We had nothing even remotely like them.  I loved that I could see them from really far away.  They were comforting–tall, strong, unwavering twins.  They gave me a sense of direction in a strange land.  They were symbolic.  They mattered. Subconsciously I believed them to be eternal.

On July 4, 1986 New York celebrated the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty with a 4 day Liberty Weekend–a 4 day street festival.  Millions of people celebrated freedom in the pre 9/11 streets of the city that never sleeps.  And I was there. It ended with the greatest fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life.  Grand balls of colorful light in the sky around Lady Liberty, reflected like a mirror off the Hudson River.  I remember it so vividly.  I watched it from the west concourse of the north tower, standing in the protective shadow of those amazing structures.  I remember feeling so safe.  I remember deciding that I wanted to work there.  I would be one of those women I saw at the train station in Hillsdale, NJ every day, wearing a suit with sneakers and carrying my pumps in a bag, headed for my really great job in those really cool buildings.  On September 9, 1991 as I walked into Penn Station with all my worldly possessions packed into duffle bags, the last thing I did was turn and look downtown at the towers and wave good-bye, clueless that this would be the last time I’d ever see them.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said?  It’s not as though I lost friends or family on that day.  I am but one of millions who stood frozen in time, watching the unimaginable unfold on television.  I have no story to tell.  And I feel very fortunate.  I think that’s why the strong mix of emotions.  So many others lost so much more on that day.  When we feel a sense of loss but we see how much more was lost by others, we see our loss as less significant.  The reality is that we all lost something really big on that day.  Something I’m not sure anyone can describe with words.  Even though it may not have been a friend or family member, our sense of loss is very real.  And so we take this time once a year to remember, to mourn, to strengthen our resolve as Americans.  A renewed strength that propels us forward, still reeling in this new “post 9/11” world that I don’t think any of us truly understands or embraces.

LW

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Our Struggle With “No”

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Today my friend, Jill Shea, posted this to her Facebook page:

“Everybody is going to want you to do what is convenient for them. Learn how to say the most anointed word ever created: “NO”.

This is an area that has been an enormous challenge to me throughout my entire life.  “No” is not a simple two-letter word.  In fact, it is a huge source of stress and confusion in the lives of almost everyone.  We don’t like to hear it; we don’t like to say it, even though it holds an enormous amount of power.  We don’t say it when we probably should; we do say it when we probably shouldn’t.  Wars are fought.  Relationships are destroyed.  Jobs are lost.  Money is squandered. Health is compromised.  Lives are lost.  All at the hands of that one little word.  REALLY?  Really…

Can’t say no to food?  It’s likely that you wrestle with obesity and serious health issues.  Can’t say no sex?  It’s likely your personal life is a mess.  Can’t say no to cigarettes, booze, or drugs? Can’t say no to a salesperson?  Is it starting to sink in?

I have a theory.  Our struggle with “no” begins when our life begins.  It is innocent and very well-intentioned.  When we were kids we were taught to eat everything that was served to us. Regardless of whether we were hungry or liked it, we were forced to leave our plates clean.  If not, there were consequences and they could be severe.  That’s how our parents were raised, and their parents, and their parents…all the way back to when we killed what we ate and ate what we killed.  There were no leftovers. You ate it or you threw it away.  But as the world changed, this life practice did not.  And look us now.  We are the most gluttonous, obese, and unhealthy society on earth.  No blame here; I’m just stating facts.

When my oldest son turned one, I took him off formula and handed him a sippy cup filled with milk.  He took one drink, scrunched up his face, cried out, and threw the cup on the floor.  For months I was wringing my hands, trying over and over to get him to drink the milk.  My family and friends would call from all over the country to see if I’d forced him to drink the milk yet.  I was strongly  encouraged to thirst him out.  To literally give him nothing else until he drank it.  Children MUST DRINK MILK, right?  Wrong!!  It was his pediatrician who gave me permission to trust my instinct.  Everything in me was screaming that I should not force something that was clearly undesirable.  I didn’t like the message that sent to my child.  Nobody in my life agreed with me but they finally let it go. Guess what; he’s nearly 13 and he’s fine–healthy and thriving without ever consuming another drop of milk.  7 years of elementary school they forced him to take, and me to pay for, milk every day because I refused to sign a paper saying he’s allergic.  I refused to coach him to lie.

As we grow into a world where “no” is rarely an option for us, we begin to use it inappropriately.  Think about a two-year old child. What is typically their favorite word?  It holds a lot of power–that which they have quickly learned they possess very little.  And so it begins.  And as we grow it becomes ever more confusing and complicated.  Can you count how many ways your life might be different if you’d just said “no”–to that last drink, to those credit card offers, to that come-on, that cigarette, that cupcake…

We can’t change anything in our past, we can only learn from it.  Please don’t play the blame game; it is useless and so very destructive.  We can use our past as a tool to move ahead with better habits, rich in the knowledge gained at The School Of Hard Knocks.  Careful now, over-use of “no” is not better than under-use.  The key is in balance.  Tune in to yourself, to your life, and to those who matter to you.  When you start saying “no” to the things that are truly negative you will see your life change in amazing ways you never imagined.  We are all going to do some things we don’t necessarily love doing, but we learn when to say “yes” because it serves a greater purpose.  We feel better about stepping outside our comfort zone–about saying “yes” when we should, when we might have said “no” in the past.

So far I’ve said “no” to food that was making me sick and keeping me overweight.  My health has improved drastically and I’ve lost 40 pounds.  I’ve said “no” to cigarettes and I’m 17 months free from their hold on me.  I’ve said “no” to people who use me shamelessly but don’t appreciate me, and my stress level has dropped immeasurably.  These were not the easy habits to break.  I still do lots of things I don’t want to do, but I do them with a much better attitude.  I do many things I never did before that I really enjoy. I give of myself because I want to, not because someone demands it. I take pride in my accomplishments, work hard to keep changing the negatives, and live in better balance by using (not abusing!) the power of “no”.

LW

Prioritizing

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I live with 3 males and a guinea pig. I could really just leave it at that. But I want to be clear that I don’t believe I was created to be their maid service. Yes, the major house cleaning is my responsibility–both to do and to delegate. So it is my mission to prioritize…

I told David before we got engaged that I strongly prefer to live in a clean house but I’m not OCD about it and I don’t believe I’m solely responsible for it. 16 years down the road, add the fact that I don’t want my sons going out into the world looking for someone to take care of them. That makes for unhealthy relationships. So laundry, cooking, and basic sanitary maintenance skills are practiced regularly by all in my house.

…whether I’m cleaning or I’m delegating, what exactly is the level of housekeeping priority for us as a family?? It’s the burning question. Organization and cleanliness are very important life skills. AND–I will not live in pig sty!! But I’ve had to face the fact that some clutter is going to be a part of my life, and embrace it a little. It’s been a challenge, to say the least. I’m all about the sanitary nature of things. I’m a sink scrubber, counter wiper, bathtub and toilet cleaner, floor and carpet spot patrol, vacuumer, put things away person. However, I’m one of four people living here. Apparently my open and obvious expectation that they do things without being told falls on deaf ears. And I just can’t stand to harp at people all day.

I’ve noticed that in social etiquette it is the queen of any household who is ultimately judged on the cleanliness of the house. It’s a mindset that we’ve dragged through generations. I think it’s long past time to make some changes. Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…any of that sound familiar? I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard some version of “she isn’t much of a housekeeper” whispered with a disgusted look in reference to someone else. So as I compromise I’m left to wonder what people think of ME. Maybe I’m a little paranoid but I think that bar is pretty high for the average woman in 2011. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending hoarding or laziness! But I just don’t measure up to many people I know, and I find myself wondering how anyone lives in their house and enjoys their life without some evidence of that fact hanging around in the open. Paying someone to do it for you doesn’t count. : )

About 5 or 6 years ago I began to really take stock of what will have been important to me when I look back on my life. I have to tell you that having spent all my time on a pristine clean house doesn’t rank high on that list. Erma Bombeck was one of my idols and remains inspirational in keeping me on this path. Thanks to her I burn the pretty candles and drink out of the crystal. There is no “formal” room in my house that is only used on special occasions.

Let’s face it, life is messy. We do what we can do. There is so much more to life than being the maid or the drill sergeant all day every day. So there’s a little dust, but a lot more laughter. I’m good with that. But I must confess, I can’t put my dishes in the dishwasher dirty.

LW

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