Bucket List

I was talking with some co-workers the other day, and the subject of “bucket lists” came up. No, nobody had received any catastrophic news about their health; we were just having a conversation about things that we’d like to do before our inevitable meeting with the Grim Reaper or as I prefer the Angel of Death. Talking about death is not morbid; it’s a part of everyday life. Just look at the number of bumper stickers and magnets that tout, “Live Each Day As If It’s Your Last”.
While that’s a lovely motto, what does it really mean? Does it mean to make sure you get to bungee jump, sky dive, or climb Everest before you pass away? No. Nor, does it mean that you quit your job or leave your family to join a monastic order, ashram or retreat, or make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Mecca, or Jerusalem.

So what does it mean to live each day as if it’s your last? Think about it. Think about the people around you, your family, coworkers, and even strangers. Think about how you interact with them on a daily basis. Think about the beauty of your surroundings. When was the last time you got up early to watch a sunrise with the person you love, or climbed a mountain to see a sunset. How often do you stop to look at a flower, or watch a hummingbird, or skip stones in a pond? How often do you hear a song that makes your heart soar? How often do you put away your phone and computer to have quality time with your spouse and children or have some laughs with good friends? That’s what living in the present is all about. It’s recognizing the extraordinary in the ordinary every day.

It’s always fun to see what people have on their bucket list. During our conversation we had everything from going to Paris, climbing on The Great Wall of China, diving The Great Barrier Reef, auditioning for a play, racing at the Indy 500, swimming with a dolphin, and doing a photographic safari of Africa. By the way, none of those were mine. When it came to my list, the only thing I could come up with was, finish my book on Love, Compassion and Happiness and go from there. Maybe it’s because I try to live in the present…and it’s pretty wonderful. So, when you think about your bucket list, have fun, but remember to enjoy the here and now.

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Cyber Monday

Do you celebrate “Cyber Monday?” Hopefully you’ve lived through “gray Thursday”, “black Friday”, and whatever color they use for the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, without any mental, physical or emotional injuries. Now it’s time to move into the Internet shopping arena and begin Googling, Yahooing, and Binging for the best deals possible for that perfect Christmas present you couldn’t find over Thanksgiving. What happens, if you can’t find that perfect gift? Do you start going through the plethora of catalogues to see what you might have missed? Do you think, “Well maybe I could just give a gift certificate,” then dismiss that as impersonal? Do you then go on to step 4 of what seems like a 12 step Christmas present buying program and consider making something? Unless you are a craft person and make things all the time, Christmas is not a good time to begin, unless you want to start drinking and end up in an actual 12 step program.

Are you crazy? Think about this; the reality is many items on sale aren’t name brands or are last year’s models. The sales prices may not pertain to the items you want. Or, my favorite, recognize that if you buy that exceedingly coveted item, it will probably sit on a shelf, go in a drawer, or never be used. Sad, but true! It’s happened to all of us. But if you still really desire owning those items, consider waiting until after Christmas when prices may be reduced even more!

Does it ever occur to you that you’re spending hundreds of dollars, in time and effort, to save a few bucks? Why do we do this to ourselves? How has Christmas turned into this destructive, hostile, combative time of year when you’re spending more money than you planned, battling for parking spaces, fighting traffic, dragging your exhausted children from store to store, and getting into arguments with strangers about who saw an item first. Rather than “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men”, it’s become “hostility on Earth and animosity toward men”. Somehow, I don’t think this is the spirit of Christmas. It’s become a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

Forget about “Cyber Monday”. Realize the Internet is 24/7. Take your time and make sure you’re buying what you want and need. Christmas should not cause you ongoing angst and consternation. Don’t let consumerism run amok get you down. Believe in “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men”…it’s a much nicer way to live.

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Terrorist Attack

With the terrorist attack on Paris last Friday, our sense of security has been threatened. It’s difficult to witness such a pointless, vicious and cruel act of violence against innocent people. It affects everyone on a visceral level. We empathize and feel for those who lost friends and relatives. Collectively we desperately try to logically comprehend an illogical, senseless act. And collectively we succumb to the anger and fear, which is exactly what the terrorists want. Fear and anger separate people.

In January 2015, terrorists attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, killing 12 people. In the aftermath, the magazine reopened and the people of Paris came together in a stronger display of solidarity. Parisians will do the same after this last attack. Joann Sfar, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo summed up the position of the majority of Parisians when she posted the following in response to the “Pray for Paris” tag on social media: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music, kisses, life, champagne and joy #parisaboutlife.”

Maybe because France is such an old country and has been invaded many times before, they refuse to let terrorists define and change their lives. Paris, The City of Lights, is bound and determined not to let their lights go out. They are determined not to live in fear.

This may be a lesson America can learn. If we had chosen to unite as a country and not look for a terrorist around every corner after 9/11, we might not have lived under an umbrella of fear for the past 14 years.

As all Americans reflect on the violent attack in Paris, and the ongoing threats by ISIS and other terrorist’s organizations, it’s important to realize that “fear” is the greatest enemy. As we have seen in the past, America and Americans can be a formidable nation when the people unite and refuse to let fear run rampant.

While I feel for those who lost their lives and send my condolences to their friends and family, I choose not to let my security be threatened or live in fear. And say to all of Paris: “Vive La France, and continue to celebrate life with music, kisses, champagne and joy.

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Cuddling

Are you a cuddler? I am. Are you a hugger? I am. Are you a kisser? I am. I believe in the importance of cuddling, hugging, kissing, holding hands and touching for your emotional health. I came from a very demonstrative family who hugged and kissed if you went to the store.

Researchers are now learning more about the importance of human touch. A study from Princeton University found that babies and kids, who are touched a lot, at least till the age of 12, had a greater capacity for intimacy and loving in a relationship. They were able to cuddle, hug, touch and hold hands comfortably, as opposed to those kids who didn’t receive such touch. Touching is essential to humans, but for some reason our society feels that as we age we shouldn’t touch anymore. We need to change that. Touching builds our immune system; it makes us feel better about our lives and ourselves.

Touching and cuddling are so important that there has been an explosion of Cuddling Center’s for adults. Hospitals have cuddle volunteers to work in neo-natal units to help premature babies. Benefits of cuddling are numerous. Cuddling releases oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the “feel good” hormone that helps you feel connected to others. It boosts your immune system and decreases pain and stress. Cuddling helps deepen relationships; even non-erotic touch releases dopamine that increases sexual desire and strengthens your relationship. Cuddling and touch reduces social anxiety and lowers your risk for heart disease.

Mental health professionals agree that touch and cuddling is an important aspect of human well being, but they are wary of Cuddling Centers. Many mental health professionals interviewed about these Cuddling Centers agreed that for touch to be positive, a feeling of love has to be authentic and you can’t have real authenticity if you have to pay for it. Personally, I disagree. I was fortunate to be in the audience when Mother Teresa opened a chapter of her Sisters of The Poor in Phoenix. We asked what we might do to help. She replied, “Find someone who has no one and show them love.” Cuddling, hugging and touch is a way to let someone know they are not alone.

Dr. Virginia Satir said, “Humans needs to get four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” Human contact is as necessary to life as vitamins and minerals, so hug your children, hug your spouse, and hug the people who are important in your life.

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Trauma

Do you believe an entire country can suffer from “trauma”? I do. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”. Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of unexpected stressful events that can destroy your sense of security, resulting in feelings of helplessness, vulnerability and fear. Sound like something the majority of American’s have been suffering from, since 9/11? Do you remember how you felt? For those of you who were at least 10-years-old, I bet you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Traumatic events have that affect on people.

It’s been 14 years since that agonizing day and, I believe, Americans are not only exhibiting trauma symptoms from 9/11, but the aftermath of constant terrorist alerts, the war in Iraq, the fall of our economy, and the continuing lack of cooperative leadership in our country. People express trauma in a variety of both psychological and physical ways. Emotional responses can include anxiety, fear, feeling disconnected or numb, depression, irritability, mood swings, withdrawing from others, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. Physical responses to trauma may include insomnia, nightmares, rapid heartbeats, unidentifiable pain, fatigue, muscle tension, hyper-alertness, difficulty concentrating, agitation, and being easily startled. These symptoms may dissipate after awhile, but can be easily triggered again by any reminder of the experience or new trauma.

The majority of clients I see display a varying degree of trauma and already are on medications. The problem is most people don’t understand what a traumatic event it is. People understand how military personnel have PTSD. They’ve been in a war situation; they’ve experienced bombings, attacks, having friends die in their arms and possibly having to kill someone. That’s trauma. But, trauma is also losing your job, filing for bankruptcy, having your house foreclosed, having your car repossessed, not being able to take care of yourself or your family, having difficulty functioning at home or work, divorce, contracting a disease, having a sick child or parents with Alzheimer’s Disease. But instead of seeing it as trauma, they self medicate. Some people turn to alcohol and drugs. Others get medications for depression and anxiety. Many are just frustrated because they cannot understand their feelings.

Trauma disrupts your natural equilibrium, keeping you in a state of hyper-arousal and fear. Recovering from trauma takes time. But first, it takes recognition; facing and resolving the feelings and memories you’re avoiding. So is America suffering from trauma? I think so.

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Blaming

It’s not my fault…the dog broke the lamp. I don’t know how the cat got out; Jake must have left the door open. If Marge hadn’t called when she did, I wouldn’t have burned that roast. Roger didn’t put gas in the car; now I’ll never get to work on time. Sound familiar? Do you take responsibility for those annoying mishaps that happen to you or do you automatically want to blame someone else. Think about it. You trip on the sidewalk and automatically look at who’s to blame. Rather than acknowledging you’re a klutz, you want to blame the City, or the kid on the bicycle who rode by, or the driver who honked his horn…anything or anyone but you.

There are extremes in the blame game. While some people always want to blame anyone else, even if it’s God, other’s want to assume the blame for everything, including global warming. The social attributions of blaming might relate to a person’s general propensity to make inappropriate internal opinions regarding being a failure, inept, foolish or irresponsible. Those same tendencies might deceive you into crediting your successes to external factors, such as fate, chance or luck. The problem is that blaming or assuming all the blame puts you in the position of victim, which is emotionally unhealthy.

There are reasons we all play the blame game. It helps protect our sense of self-esteem. We all get embarrassed when we feel foolish; blaming someone for spilling that glass of wine on the white rug protects our self-esteem. We use blaming as an attack mode, a way to hurt someone else, i.e. you’re holding me back from doing whatever. We need to justify our own, or other people’s behavior, i.e.; the only reason he/she got the job is because… It’s easier than accepting responsibility. Sometimes, we just plain lie. It’s much easier to lie and blame someone rather than take the responsibility for your actions. Regardless of the reason we play the blame game, in the long run we lose out. It’s much healthier to just be responsible for your actions. Then learn from them.

I’ll admit it; I’m to blame for writing this blog. I would have written about something else, but the dog peed on my computer and it’s getting late.

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American Fear

What has happened to America that we have become such a fear-based society? If someone appears different, they aren’t to be trusted. If they’re Hispanic, they’re automatically perceived as illegal aliens. If they look Middle Eastern or have a Muslim name, they’re considered terrorists. If they are Black, they’re identified as criminals. These attitudes have become so pervasive it’s frightening. Have we lost our humanity? This is not the America I grew up in, the America that was the “melting pot” of the world. Is this the brave, strong, confident America that was the envy of the rest of the world? Not when trust is gone and fear takes over.

How can we teach our children to trust and not fear, when we have teachers and schools that have a 14-year-old boy arrested for making a digital clock? Does the fact that the boy’s last name is Mohamed and he’s a Muslim have anything to do with it? That would be my guess. But again, the school overreacted. Not only did the school overreact, so did the police by not letting the boy contact his family, which isn’t actually legal. According to McKinney’s Family Court Act, 305.2. “A child under 16 may not be questioned unless he and his parents or other person legally responsible for his care have been advised of the child’s right to remain silent and request to have an attorney”. According to Mohamed’s father the first he heard of the incident was when he received a call from the police saying his son was being charged with having a hoax bomb. So, if you’re Muslim, our laws don’t apply? Would the same thing have happened if this were a 14-year-old Caucasian boy? Doubt it.

The good thing that has come from this injustice is that Americans are speaking out. The widespread support for Mohamed and his family is something to be proud of. Even the President, whether you like him or not, did the right thing by acknowledging his engineering talents and inviting the young man to the White House. I hope that this outpouring of support can nullify some of the trauma young Ahmed Mohamed went through being arrested.

We need to remember; when we let fear take over we lose. We lose our morality. We lose our humanity. And, we will eventually lose our civilization.

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Overreacting

What is going on with people? Overreacting is running rampant. Just listen to the news. All the Republican pundits are overreacting to anything Trump says. Every time the DOW Jones appears it might drop, the world is going to come to an end. Most American’s think there’s a terrorist around every corner. A man shoots a driver for cutting him off on the freeway. Just the other week a teacher, a principal and school had a14-year-old boy arrested, for making a digital clock they mistook for a bomb.

Those are just a few of the recent incidents of public overreaction. My favorite, and the one that should get the big award for overreaction, is the Disney Pop Century Resort. After guest, David Swindler, made an inane comment to a Resort employee, about being able to make a meth lab in the time it took to get service, the Resort called police and had them raid the room. No, the Swindler’s hadn’t made a meth lab. Big surprise! To add to the insanity, the Disney Resort booted the family, David, his wife and two children, and placed a trespass warning for all of Disney’s properties banning Mr. Swindler from entry to any Disney Resorts or Parks. WOW! Talk about an overreaction! Getting banned by Disney? I wonder what Mickey would say.

Did the Resort employee really believe Mr. Swindler was making meth in his room? I doubt it. Did the employee over respond to Swindler’s frustration about the lack of service? Most likely! In my opinion this was an employee, who probably had a very bad day, and decided to “get even” with a guest. But calling the police? That’s a bit much, even for someone who’s stressed and angry. You would think the Disney Corporation would apologize to the Swindler family, but instead according to a Disney spokesman, Mr. Swindler was asked to send a letter to security, asking to have the trespass removed and the company would review it. This is Disney, for God’s sake. I can see Walt turning in his grave as I write this.

Everyone overreacts occasionally, but it’s not a good habit to develop. Overacting is related to your stress levels, feelings of anger, and becoming defensive. Recognize the difference between reacting and overreacting. It’s normal to have your emotions and express yourself, appropriately. The trouble arises when your reaction is disproportionate to the problems.

So relax and don’t let the little things get in the way…especially if your staying at a Disney Resort.

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Bucket Lists

I was talking with some co-workers the other day, and the subject of “bucket lists” came up. No, nobody had received any catastrophic news about their health; we were just having a conversation about things that we’d like to do before our inevitable meeting with the Grim Reaper or as I prefer the Angel of Death. Talking about death is not morbid; it’s a part of everyday life. Just look at the number of bumper stickers and magnets that tout, “Live Each Day As If It’s Your Last”.
While that’s a lovely motto, what does it really mean? Does it mean to make sure you get to bungee jump, sky dive, or climb Everest before you pass away? No. Nor, does it mean that you quit your job or leave your family to join a monastic order, ashram or retreat, or make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Mecca, or Jerusalem.

So what does it mean to live each day as if it’s your last? Think about it. Think about the people around you, your family, coworkers, and even strangers. Think about how you interact with them on a daily basis. Think about the beauty of your surroundings. When was the last time you got up early to watch a sunrise with the person you love, or climbed a mountain to see a sunset. How often do you stop to look at a flower, or watch a hummingbird, or skip stones in a pond? How often do you hear a song that makes your heart soar? How often do you put away your phone and computer to have quality time with your spouse and children or have some laughs with good friends? That’s what living in the present is all about. It’s recognizing the extraordinary in the ordinary every day.

It’s always fun to see what people have on their bucket list. During our conversation we had everything from going to Paris, climbing on The Great Wall of China, diving The Great Barrier Reef, auditioning for a play, racing at the Indy 500, swimming with a dolphin, and doing a photographic safari of Africa. By the way, none of those were mine. When it came to my list, the only thing I could come up with was, finish my book on Love, Compassion and Happiness and go from there. Maybe it’s because I try to live in the present…and it’s pretty wonderful. So, when you think about your bucket list, have fun, but remember to enjoy the here and now.

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Sleeping In The Buff

To sleep in the buff or not to sleep in the buff, that is the question. Which is better for sleeping? According to sleep experts, sleeping naked can be advantageous for your relationship, your health and the quality of your sleep. Unfortunately, according to a survey of 3,700 men and women, only 8% said they slept au natureĺ. Which isn’t surprising since the majority of people I talk with have difficulty with body issues.

You may want to rethink those pajamas though. Studies have shown skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin stimulates feelings of trust and makes us more sensitive to other’s emotions, enhancing both physical and emotional feelings of closeness and intimacy. Oxytocin also reduces stress, anxiety, and blood pressure. Cotton USA surveyed over 1,000 adults in Britain and found that couples who made a habit of sleeping in the nude reported being happier than those who slept clothed. This kind of closeness can encourage spontaneous and unplanned sex contributing to a happier bond between partners.

If a happier relationship isn’t reason enough to sleep naked, scientists have discovered it may be beneficial in managing your weight and avoiding metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. I don’t know about you, but this is reason enough to get rid of my cozy flannels.

Regardless of what you wear to bed, or whether you sleep naked or not, discovering what makes you sleep best is important for your health. Maybe you might try sleeping naked before you decide it won’t work. Then if it doesn’t, and you’re uncomfortable, wear as little clothing as possible. But if you decide to give up your jammies, here are a few suggestions to make sleeping naked easier. Invest in good bedding. Wash and change your bedding frequently. Use natural fibers such as cotton or silk. Keep your bedroom cool but make sure your hands and feet are warm. If you’re still uncomfortable…you might want to remove that ceiling mirror.

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Social Media

Have you ever looked back at your life and thought how grateful you are that you didn’t have to spell in order to communicate with your friends? You didn’t have to go through the litany of social media, Facebook, Twitter, texting, instant messaging, e-mail, video messaging or gaming, to converse with your best friend. It was so much easier when I was growing up. The majority of your friends were from your school or neighborhood. You talked in person or on the telephone. Yes, we did write the occasional letter, but the majority of interaction with friends was mano y mano.

A new study from the Pew Research Center reported today’s teens’ (ages 13 – 17) have access to a variety of technology platforms. This unlimited entrée is linked to their inclinations to make friends online. According to the study, teens that used smartphones and online environments like gaming or social media tended to make friends online. While they may have made friends online, only about 20% ever meet each other in person. We just had pen pals. Most teens feel social media connects them to their friends’ feelings and lives. I might argue that point, since the report also noted that most conversations were superficial in content, especially with “friends” they didn’t have a personal relationship with.

There are always good and bad things about changes in society, especially when it comes to the influence of technology. The good thing is that virtually all the teens’ interviewed said they spend time with friends outside of school, but not necessarily on a daily basis. The bad thing is the amount of time teens are on their social media devices. It’s rare to see anyone under the age of 8 who’s not umbilically connected to a cell phone. The other problems that arise are that parents have a difficult time overseeing the social media and other sites their teens are using, which makes it easier for predators to contact your child.

While I enjoy all that technology has to offer, I sometimes think today’s kids miss out on the bonding and friendships that come from the simple things, like walking to and from school with a group of friends, sitting on the lawn with your best bud and talking for hours about your dreams, or playing an ad-hoc game of kick the can because it’s there. Kids are adaptable and today’s social media just makes things different, not better or worse.

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I’m tired, I can’t sleep, I can’t think, I don’t have any energy…Sound familiar? Need a medical doctor? Not necessarily. All of these symptoms are not just common signs of medical illnesses; they are also signs and symptoms of many psychological and mental disorders. Think about it. How many times have you gone to your doctor, given blood, urine and other bodily fluids only to have them come back “NORMAL”. You then go back and have a variety of additional tests, x-rays, MRI’s and CT scans for heart, pancreas, stomach, kidney, liver, and every other organ, only to have the same results; “NORMAL”. How ticked off do you get? You know something’s wrong. You know you’re not functioning well. But what’s going on? You feel like you’re crazy, you feel depressed. Ah, there’s the rub. You may not be crazy, but what if your depression is an indicator of a psychological disorder. How would you react? If you’re like the majority of people, you just want your doctor to give you a pill to make you feel better and go into your Scarlett O’Hara mode; “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Even today, benign psychological disorders have a negative implication.

Fatigue, insomnia, and lethargy may be attributed to several influences, such as; lifestyle factors, including alcohol and drug use and abuse, excessive caffeine, over-exercising, inactivity, lack of sleep and diet, along with prescription and over the counter medications. Medical conditions like anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney and heart disease, obesity, emphysema, hyper- and hypo- thyroidism, sleep apnea, diabetes or even problems with your adrenal and thyroid glands. Or possibly the symptoms can be ascribed to psychological conditions, such as, anxiety, depression, grief, Bi-polar disorder, ADD/ADHD, and some psychotic disorders. A little overwhelming? You bet! That’s why it’s so important to not just let these symptoms continue.

So take control of your life. When you begin feeling like there’s a problem, look at all the options. Try changing your lifestyle and go to the doctor. But if it’s psychologically based, suck it up and don’t be afraid to see a psychologist or psychotherapist. We’re not that bad.

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Changes

I’m part of the minority of people who embrace change. Maybe it’s the way I was raised, as the USMC transferred my dad to a new Base every couple of years. My parents made it an adventure. Even leaving friends behind wasn’t traumatic. So, to me change is exciting. But like I said, I’m in the minority. Why is it some people are so afraid of any changes in their lives? Just the mention of something as innate as buying a different type of laundry detergent can send them into fits of despair. It’s the wrong brand and couldn’t possibly be as good as the one my mom uses. God forbid, they have to make any major transitions in life, like moving to a new house or city, losing a job, or breaking up with a spouse. That’s motivation enough to have a major panic attack, descend into the labyrinth of depression, hide in your room and eat comfort food until you can face life again.

I have many clients that say “I HATE CHANGE!!!!! I WANT THINGS TO STAY THE SAME AS THEY ARE.” My response is usually a very flippant “then you’re going to hate the next few seconds.” I’m not trying to be dismissive, but it does get their attention. I explain the world is in constant change every second, we just don’t notice it. Our world is continually moving and fluctuating, going from day to night, on its journey around the sun. The passage of each day brings about the transformations of seasons. And, all living things endure the process of aging every minute of every day. It’s called Life.

I understand the fears and uncertainties that change brings. We all become content and complacent in our lives. There’s a reason change is responsible for the greatest stressors in society. Transitions like losing a loved one, getting a divorce, moving away from friends and family, a career change or loss of a job, or even health issues. All of these changes require you to look at the unknown, the unfamiliar and the different. Something that is new and unusual. Something or someplace you’ve never been and have no knowledge of. That can be difficult, frightening, and overwhelming. Because you’re afraid, you only see the negative features. You blind yourself to the potentials for fun, adventure and excitement. So, next time you’re faced with a major change in your life, look at the possibilities of creating the life you desire. It’s easier than you think.

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What Do Women Want?

I was at a dinner the other night and a divorced friend turned to me and said: “Ok, you’re a psychotherapist, maybe you can give me some idea of what a woman wants.” Well, so much for a nice sociable dinner conversation. At least he didn’t ask about religion or the latest Donald Trump insult; that was a plus. So, as my husband sat back smiling at me, like the cat that ordered the canary as an entree, I asked him in what regard? Really, asking what a woman wants is a loaded question. I smiled and asked if he could clarify. Was he talking about what a woman wants regarding work, relationships, marriage, recreation, travel, homes, friends, family, spa treatments, jewelry or an infinite number of other topics? He laughed and said; “you know what I mean…relationships, marriage…what do women want”? I flippantly said sex, but he wouldn’t let me off the hook.

It’s an age-old question, with some age-old answers. When it comes to relationships there are a few elements that will never change. But, many of these elements are the same, regardless of sex. One of the most important attributes of any relationship is respect. Respect, loyalty, honesty, and caring are qualities essential to any relationship. If, at any point, any of these traits are questioned or missing, the relationship is headed toward failure either through divorce or apathy.

But those are just some of what women want in a relationship. Having asked and interviewed many women going through difficult relationships and marriages, there are a number of things that can be done to make life more interesting and fun. Communication is essential. Women need to articulate topics and it’s all right to just listen and not fix it. Women don’t like to come second in a relationship; not to work, sports, hobbies, cars, your mother, or anything else. While that’s not always possible, it’s something to think about. Kindness and consideration are important. Women want to know they are valued, that they look good, that they’re intelligent. Who doesn’t? Passion, intimacy and sex are also very important to the majority of women. If they say it isn’t…don’t believe them, they just gave up. But there is more to intimacy and sex than just coitus. While sex is fun, the majority of women enjoy touch. They appreciate neck, feet, and back rubs. Get out the oils and enjoy touching each other. Nurture the romance of being intimate. It will enhance the experience.

As I began getting into more of the sexual aspects of relationships, both my friend and husband began to look a little uneasy, so I just looked at my friend and said: ”A woman wants a man who will love and appreciate her. Does that work”?

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Codependency

The term “codependent” has been a part of our national lexicon for almost 40 years. Originally it was associated with spouses of alcoholics and drug addicts. There have been books, pamphlets, seminars, magazine articles and TV magazine shows dedicated to describing issues associated with and how to change codependent behavior. So when a friend asked me the definition of codependent, I was a bit startled. I flippantly answered “the majority of women in the world”. While I wasn’t really being serious, my answer had some truth to it. Women are the majority demographic for codependency. Women are commonly raised in the traditional female role of selfless caretakers. I personally like being selfish. To me, being selfless is not having a self. Not a good thing.

So what is the definition of a codependent? There are many descriptions, but I’ll provide you a Readers Digest version. A codependent is someone who supports or enables another person’s addiction, immaturity, irresponsibility or failures regardless of the impact on their lives. Though most people believe you’re only codependent in a relationship, that’s not true. You can be codependent with friends, family, children and even co-workers. While some of the traits of a codependent, such as excessive care taking, perfectionism and people pleasing seem positive; in excess they are detrimental to a relationship. Other traits of the codependent include, low self-esteem, denial that anything may be wrong, anger or fear of anger, health problems, addictive behavior, poor boundaries, difficulty communicating, dependency, intimacy problems, control issues, obsessive, reactivity, shame, anxiety, guilt, despair, hopelessness and depression. Wow! Do any of these fit you? The biggest problem is that most women or men, who are codependent, don’t realize it, until they are in therapy.

Before, you get depressed just reading the symptomology, there are a lot of things you can do to change your life. First, though, you have to want to change. And that’s the difficult part. Change isn’t easy for anyone, but for a codependent it’s even tougher. So how do you begin? Start with learning to love yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, relax and build a loving relationship with you. Quit listening to the negative self-talk that reinforces low self-esteem. Have fun and do things that are of interest to you regardless of what others say. Look at your positive traits. Stand up for yourself and be honest with everyone. Journal and get in touch with your feelings and emotions. Quit judging yourself and others. And above all else, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. This is your life. Live it for yourself and to the fullest.

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It warms my heart when I see an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand. There appears to be a caring contentment, a kind of knowing that only happens after years of being together. I was fortunate. My parents were married 66 years before they passed. They probably had many ups and downs, like most couples, but you’d never know it. They were best friends. They worked, raised 4 children, played golf, traveled the world, debated politics, cooked, danced, cuddled and laughed together for all that time. And while no child likes to admit it, they probably had a pretty good sex life. So what was their secret? How were they able to maintain a loving partnership? It couldn’t have been as easy as it appeared.

Psychologist Ty Tashiro, in his book “The Science of Happily Ever After”, reveals only three in ten married couples will remain in a healthy, happy marriage. This statistic stunned even me. Considering our divorce rate is 50% and the average length of a marriage is 8 years, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. For the past four decades researchers have studied couples to find out what makes a relationship work. No it wasn’t money. Psychologist John Gottman and his wife, Julie, run The Gottman Institute, which helps couples, maintain loving, healthy relationships, based on scientific studies. Science to the rescue! By measuring blood flow, heart rates, and sweat activity, they were able to divide couples into 2 groups: masters and disasters. As you might expect, the masters were able to remain happy in their relationships and yes, the disasters ended in divorce. So what was the difference? Gottman observed that regardless of economic status, gender preference, color, or religion, in the masters group, the emotional needs of each spouse were met. It came down to being kind, respectful, appreciative and generous to each other. Kindness made each partner feel stable, cared for, understood, validated and loved. And, it doesn’t cost anything.

Maybe it’s as simple as kindness and generosity. While I agree these qualities are important, one other characteristic my parents demonstrated was humor. For 66 years my mom and dad were kind, respectful and supportive of each other. And they made each other laugh. In my book you can’t ask for more than that.

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HOMOGENIZED

Folk singer Pete Seeger, released a hit single in 1963 titled “Little Boxes”. It was a political commentary on the homogenization of America. The context of the song was that we all lived in little boxes, all go to the same schools and universities, all dress alike, all go to work, etc. That America was losing any trace of the individuality and chutzpah that made our country great. While there may be a modicum of truth there, is this type of generalization accurate? Fast-forward to 1992, John Gray publishes, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and makes an industry out of the generalized assumptions on how men and women are different, so just deal with it. More boxes. He didn’t discuss how to compromise, provide alternatives, or suggest ways to change or enhance your relationship or do anything different. While that reads well, it’s not practical in everyday life. Fast-forward again to July 2015. Today we have a plethora of books by spiritual gurus, business CEO’s, and even game show comedian emcees, providing lessons on life, love, business and the pursuit of happiness and still keeping us in little boxes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the spiritual, life altering, life coaching, mindful living, meditation for health and wealth, business success in 30 days, how to have everything you want in 30 seconds types of books. Each one provides some great insights. But aren’t most of these hidden secrets to happiness in life, love and business just common sense? Has our homogenized society, complete with updated little boxes, become so complacent over the past 52 years that anything out of the box is totally alien? Have we somehow lost our inherent capacity to teach basic horse sense, good judgment, manners and politeness at home? Are we allowing Hollywood and social media to determine social mores? Have we become so politically correct that we can’t delineate differences between peoples? Is this why, today, more people are self-medicating than ever before? Why more people are searching for their own identity than ever before? Why more people are searching for some sort of spiritual serenity. Maybe, they are searching for a way to get out of the little box.

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It’s bumpy and uneven. It’s a smooth ride with an exciting, fast bend in the road. Memories and moments flying by us in our peripheral vision. People coming in and out of the car along the way.
It’s an up and down climb to the nowhere of frustration. A fall to the ground and the pain of rough gravel. We pick ourselves up and start walking again. Feeling better. Then we reach that fork that forces us to change our path with fear or faith that everything will or won’t work out okay. But we keep going and finally, hit a comfortable long stretch of the highway. And settle for awhile. Until the scenery or the road changes again. Then we finally reach the summit and bask in the sunlight of achievement or quiet victory. Then we get bored or restless again and want to get back on the trail and keep running. Or we simply decide to be, age and sit still.

This is the life journey. Our experiences as we travel through the good, the bad, the ugly, the fun, the sad and the rush of very happy. Living our lives and sharing our experiences and stories is what we’ll be doing a lot of here at the Newsladies gathering place. Women, and yes our men too, will be contributing stories and articles as guest bloggers. Life moments we can all relate to as we travel this road we call life. So enjoy the many different points of views coming your way in our Your Life Blog.
Happy Travels Friends, wherevery your road takes you.
The Newsladies

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