Archives for posts with tag: self help

“When are you gonna love you as much as I do?” – Tori Amos

Who’s worthy of love? If you answered, “everyone,” then congratulations! You move to the head of the class! And for the rest of you, looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us today. I suppose class is in session.

The topic of love is something concerning which I have an abundance of expertise. “Why?” You ask.  Well it just so happens that it’s been an ongoing issue for me. Yes, that’s right, Holl has her hang-ups. Who would have thought? (If you say you would have, then you can take your snarky self elsewhere;))

We’ve talked about the lack of self-worth so many people have and how that thinking can lead us to some pretty undesirable places, but I’m thinking more lately about unconditional love; about people hiding their true selves in an attempt to present the world with a facade. I think it’s probably a significant flaw of human-kind to feel so impelled to create persona’s for the rest of us to see and I understand the reasoning behind this thinking; we’re all afraid of people not liking us for who we really are. It’s fear that drives us to hide our precious selves from those who populate our circle; everyone from co-workers, peers, neighbors and acquaintances to the most valued loved ones in our lives.

It’s so interesting, this silly paradox of emotion. We lock away our secret selves in an attempt to protect ourselves, but what winds up happening, is we only throw tiny shards of ourselves out there for the world; these measly little bits and pieces that do not represent us accurately. It does us a disservice to withhold so much of ourselves out of fear of not measuring up; of somehow having deficiencies that outweigh our amazing-ness. (Yes, it’s been a while since I interjected some Holl-ebonix, but I knew you were all jonesing for a fix…;))

So Miranda*, a friend of mine I’ve had for the last several years, said something to me very recently amid a torrent of self-depreciating tears. It’s not an unfamiliar principle, nor is it something we haven’t already explored, but the fact that it seems so pervasive, only adds to the cogent nature of the statement. She said she didn’t know if anyone knew what she really was–all the mistakes she’d made and all the flaws she bore–if any of them would still love her. Really? I mean, don’t get me wrong I totally get what she’s saying, but I’d like to think the people closest to me have more to them than just some superficial appreciation of me. That they love me for all of me.

Here’s hoping that people won’t define me based on my greatest flaw; that I won’t be remembered for my most significant deficiency or my worst mistake.

Can y0u imagine if your name was forever linked to the fact that one time in the ninth grade you shoplifted? Or if people always associated you with the time you picked on a kid at school? I mean don’t get me wrong; these things are certainly not things to be proud of and actions that are harmful to others are likely to have a lasting impact on both them and you. The point of life is not to achieve some level of flawlessness and to live steeped in self-loathing and regret when that’s not achieved, but rather to grasp each opportunity for progression and affirmation as they present themselves, to reach out to those around us by first loving ourselves. It’s an invaluable lesson and an effective tool in building deeper, more enduring relationships with the people around you as well as healing the internal rifts caused by years of self-neglect and derision.

It’s kind of like when the flight attendant cautions you to not leap to the aid of those around you until you’ve first secured your own breathing mask. Wise words from the friendly skies.

This is, undoubtedly, easier said than done. I’ve been pretty blunt regarding my own inability to ease up on self-criticism. To give you an idea of just how insidious it is, I remember in the first grade attending parent teacher conference with my parents and listening intently as my parents discussed my scholastic progression with my teacher. My parents used a phrase that was then echoed by my teacher. I had never heard it until then, but it has chided me with regularity since:

“Hollie is her own worst enemy.”

Wow, I remember thinking at the ripe-old age of six. That doesn’t sound good.

No, Holl. It doesn’t.

It think it’s difficult not to scrutinize our actions and achievements and to often find ourselves lacking. In a world where a person’s worth is often measured by their resumes and people are constantly garnering respect and admiration by burning themselves at both ends, it can be challenging to remind ourselves that we’re each composed of something greater. That we’re more than our accomplishments and likewise more than our shortcomings.

To remind ourselves that as human beings, we’re good enough–sans resumes.

I think it goes without saying that achievement is crucial in contributing to the world around us and endeavoring to leave this planet better and the people in it improved for having humored us throughout the drama of mortality. Progression and productivity are essential in creating our best selves, however, to obsess about it–to feel inadequate when we don’t measure up to some ridiculous ideal of what makes a good man or woman–is counterproductive. I think it’s putting the cart before the horse.

Perhaps if we just concentrated on building character, then the accomplishments would fall naturally into place. We would find greater effectiveness in our pursuits, because we would be operating with greater intentions; motives of a better quality.

I think that God created each of us like vessels. That our spirits take on many forms. I imagine a table filled with crystal decanters, vases and glasses of varying sizes and shapes. And likewise of varying capacities. If you are represented by a small, eight-ounce juice glass and you fill it until it’s brimming wouldn’t that be a greater success than if you were a large, cavernous vase 14 inches tall with nothing more than several drops resting in its base?

Maybe we’re each just responsible for attaining the full measure of our own individual creations. That’s what I’m inclined to think.

I’ll extend a challenge–yes that’s correct–a challenge. When you get some time, flip open a newspaper and peruse the obituaries. It seems morbid, I know, but stick with me on this. Scan over the entries. Read the words of the loved ones of the deceased. Soak in the memories these people have of their friend/family member. Absorb the impact that life had on those around them. See what good people are really remembered for and the effect that a person’s life has on others.

I read one a couple of years ago that five children had composed regarding their beloved mother. I think of it all the time and I get that familiar sting in my eyes. Why? Because I’m a big baby who cries all the time when I hear something that moves me. The children recounted stories and memories. They listed some of the greatest, most relevant principles they had been blessed to learn from their mom. Then they shared the one thing she had provided that was of greatest relevance to them:

“She showed us the face of God.” they said.

Wow.

Not, “She made us do our homework. Or, “She made us eat our veggies.” Not that these things aren’t important. I’m a mother and I would feel no small amount of guilt had I neglected to set boundaries and be stern when necessary. But the greatest achievement this woman had was in rearing these exceptional individuals who, in turn, considered her greatest accomplishment to be instilling in them a deep appreciation for spirituality; a belief in something greater.

I’ve said it before: I don’t have all the answers. I am the Universe’s greatest work in progress. But there are things I know that resonate with me; that make supreme sense in an otherwise abstruse world. This principle, the idea that we are each distinctly unique and irreplaceable individuals, is likely the most crucial of them . Understanding this I believe is perhaps one of the great purposes of life; that our mistakes and faults may be facets of our life, but they are not what comprise us. Our humanity is more consequential than that. Our value is immeasurable. And yes, that does include each of you.;)

XOXO

hollie

“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.







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“Every second a seeker can start over, for his life’s mistakes are initial drafts and not the final version.” – Sri Chinmoy

Chief among the universal human attributes, is our ability to fail. Each of us as card-carrying human beings is engaged in a daily endeavor to succeed. Even those among us who are lovingly referred to as, “underachievers,” still succeed in sustaining their lives from day to day;  even if just barely.

This post isn’t intended to discuss the merits of overcoming adversity or of persevering in your quest for whatever it is gets you out of bed each morning, but rather as an exploration of the often sought-after, sometimes achieved, and too-frequently mourned second chances life presents.

That elusive thing that somehow we took for granted in our youth and crave with alarming nostalgia as we age.

As I discussed in a prior post, each day is a fresh start of sorts, an opportunity for a new, clean beginning. A welcome chance at finally getting things right and hopefully finding ourselves replete with fresh perspective and all the hope that morning can offer. (Unless, of course, you’re not a morning person, but that’s a conversation for another day. Consider this a metaphorical discussion as I myself am typing this at the ungodly hour of nearly 2:00 a.m. )

But of greater significance to me these days, is the question of second chances as they apply to us each in our interpersonal relationships. The Universe offers each of us many opportunities at greatness, but I’ve found myself recently pondering the relevance of our own imperfections and transgressions and our ability to extend second chances to one another.

And ourselves.

Wow. Did I just go there? I suppose I did.

I am, as I have blogged before, my harshest critic. By a landslide. I am often relentless in my criticism of myself and extend a much greater degree of compassion toward the people around me than toward myself. I suspect that’s part of being human, but I’m sure the degree to which this is true differs from person to person.

But, this particular post is not about the need for each of us to be more patient with ourselves; well not entirely. It has more to do with a recent experience I had, and as I am becoming in the habit of doing of late, requires that I share a little bit of Holl with you. I am becoming, if nothing else, deplorably vulnerable to all of you. Be gentle with me–Lord knows I’m not.

I have a good friend. I am grateful to be able to type that verb in the present tense as there was a time in which I truly believed that it would become more of a past-tense remark.  She is all that is good and kind and, blah blah blah. She is wonderful and I love her dearly, but I’d be lying if I said that sometimes her goodness and kindness didn’t grate on me. I’m not gossiping; she’s well aware of this “character flaw,” as I have lovingly termed it. Sometimes I just want to hear her curse or scream.

She wouldn’t yell if she was on fire. And I love her anyway. Go figure.

This sweetness of hers only served to exacerbate an overwhelming sense of guilt I harbored concerning our relationship and over the course of several years began to take root.

I had, during what was arguably the darkest period of my life, fallen into a crevice of self-pity and despair that left me completely unworthy of the moniker Friend of the Year . Can you hear that sound? It’s the sound of a noose of guilt tightening around my neck. I’m literally wincing right this minute.

My friend had many major life moments occur during my Dark Ages: a marriage was begun, two babies were brought into this world. She burst into adulthood with fervor and her life responded with undeniable favor blessing her with the things that make it worth living. Her perpetual smile and cheery demeanor were multiplied. Or so I had assumed, as I had become a bit of a prodigal in her life. My loss, to be sure.

After years of separateness and pursuits of the things that draw us along the meandering path of life, we were fortunate enough to have met up again; our segregated lives once again weaving together into a surprising fabric. I had assumed after my neglect that I had been written off.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I don’t do awkward. I just don’t. It’s like the color fuchsia–it will never have a part in my life. I will never embrace it; nor will I ignore it. I grasp awkwardness by the scruff of the neck and unceremoniously toss it from my presence.  No ignored elephants stand in the midst of my life’s living room. I haven’t the patience.

So when I saw her, I plowed ahead. I told her how sorry I was that she had lived an entire life and enjoyed these enormous blessings since I had last spoken with her and that all the while I had been incommunicado; that I had neglected to respond to the invitations to baby blessings and bridal showers. I just couldn’t. It’s a horrible thing to concede, but sometimes when you’re super miserable, it just doesn’t seem possible to watch someone–no matter how much you love them–being so much happier. It was never about jealousy–I truly couldn’t have imagined a more deserving person. It was just that somehow all these wonderful things that were happening to her seemed to make it all the more clear that they weren’t happening for me. Boo hoo, I know.

I apologized. A sincere, unqualified apology and awaited a stern response I was sure I deserved. Nothing. Crickets. She did nothing but smile.

She assured me that my apology was unnecessary. Huh? How could that possibly be? I’d been such a d-bag! But what did she do? She had the nerve to hug me and then, upon pulling away, looked at me with all the gentle irony only a good friend could possess and offered me the most genuine smile a person could produce. Wincing again.

I had completely underestimated her. And, quite frankly, myself. I had a revelation right there in the Smith’s produce section surrounded by kumquats and kale and misbehaving children; a surprising epiphany:

Sometimes the hardest thing about second chances isn’t giving them, it’s getting them.

Sometimes we feel so undeserving–so unworthy–of such acceptance; of such unconditional love. There’s enormous pressure that becomes heaped upon us at the mention of the term, “second chance.” It somehow can serve to remind us that we botched the first chance. That we’re flawed; human.

Perish the thought.

XOXO

hollie

“We’re given second chances every day of our life. We don’t usually take them, but they’re there for the taking.” – Andrew M. Greeley

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.” -Charlie Brown to Snoopy

Sometimes I go to bed at night and as I drift into unconsciousness, I have this small, quiet thought enter my mind: tomorrow will be better.

Where I got this idea, is beyond me.

But it does serve to calm me down as I approach the unwinding of an arduous day. This calm, reassuring voice endeavors every evening to bring me down from a day fraught with the anxieties and stressors of which the human experience is composed.

Is it my sub-conscience attempting to talk me down from the proverbial ledge? Is it the small, unerring voice of the Universe?  Is it some friendly ghost? (Casper?)

I know this: that each night as lower my wearied frame into bed, I hear the chanting in my mind’s ear. (If you can have a mind’s eye, why can’t you have a mind’s ear?)

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be better.

These consoling words seep into my enervated bones, soothing and placating an exhausted mind and body.

And you know what? It usually is better. Usually.

Maybe it changes my expectations. Perhaps it serves to remind my less-conscience mind that there’s something better on the horizon and that raises a level of hope. Possibly, it causes my mind to find and adhere to the greater, more positive aspects of the subsequent days.  In short, maybe it causes me to see what I expect to see; I find what I expect to find.

There is in this world an abundance of negativity. The overwhelming majority of the planet has adopted an attitude of “kill or be killed.” Which is with good reason. Most of us have experienced rejections and disappointments that have left us wary and suspicious. But every time I think that those thoughts might permeate the membrane of positivity I systematically erect, something out there leans into my sleepy ear and whispers,

Tomorrow will be better.

I have a friend who recently attempted suicide. She, in a moment of extreme despair, swallowed an ungodly amount of prescription pills and laid down for a long nap. I didn’t believe then that she had wanted to die. I truly believe she just wanted to sleep; to succumb to the lure of a chemically-induced coma from which she would awaken and find that her world had righted itself.  While none of this makes sense to the rational mind, no one in extreme pain is thinking rationally, and no one who attempts suicide is not in extreme pain.

She couldn’t hear that same voice I hear every night. Either that or she didn’t believe it.

It’s more than just believing that  tomorrow is a day worth getting out of bed for. There’ s obviously action required to bring this thought–this belief–to fruition. But just nursing that modicum of hope, is an excellent starting point. It is  purpose in its rawest, most infinitesimal form. Taking this tiny seed, you can cultivate it into a full-fledged axiom and that can lead you to the birth of a phenomenally effective method by which to gain the momentum required to move forward; to shake the fog of the crappy days that threaten to suffocate your every ability to function and progress. It’s the sure-fire technique for achieving whatever incredible-ness for which the Universe created you.

So after a day that, while not crappy, had it’s bumps, I lie here in bed and tell myself aloud, “Tomorrow will be better.” And once I turn off the lights I feel it echoed around me, a persistent reminder:

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be better.

XOXO

hollie

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People change and forget to tell each other.” -Lillian Hellman

Memory’s a funny thing. We often index  past events into distinct compartments; defining and cataloging them with definite purpose. We have these mental tally sheets of good and bad, right and wrong. And even the most open-minded of us often can find ourselves cramming our impressions of people into equally restrictive spaces.

As I reflect on the most recent portion of my life, I find myself musing over the unexpected and often bizarre turns life tends to take. I think I can say with a great deal of certainty that very few of us have found ourselves in the precise place we had once planned. We evolve in ways that are surprising and unexpected and, in embracing this fortuitous progression, can create a person of quality and substance.

In understanding this principle as it applies to me, I’ve found that extending this to those around me has provided me with something akin to having a super power. That super power is: acceptance. For someone like myself, endowed with a hearty helping of stubbornness, acceptance can, at times, seem counterintuitive. The compelling need to fight things tooth and nail can sometimes take hold and thwart any attempt at achieving acceptance. However, embracing it as weapon in your arsenal  with which you battle your way through life, will do nothing short of liberate you.

As one year after another fades into our memories, we become embroiled in the day-to-day of life; constantly striving to meet the demands of careers and family. We somehow freeze the events of the past like an aging snapshot steeped in nostalgia and catalog them under specific headings in our brains. Archived there, they lie dormant and untouched except for the rare revisiting of them on occasion.

While there’s nothing at all wrong with this method as it pertains to events and most generalizations, it can prove to be a disservice with regards to the people we’ve been blessed to know. Sometimes as we grow and evolve, we tend to forget that those we knew in these bygone eras, have changed and grown as well. We can recall with impeccable clarity the cruel actions of a class bully to the extent that part of us imagines him the same way now; as though he goes to work, punches a time card then proceeds to spend the eight-hour work day inflicting swirlies and wedgies on his coworkers. Perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration, but it’s for dramatic emphasis. I am not above employing hyperbole when it suits my purpose.

I ran into a girl once in the mall with whom I had attended high school. She was physically rather unchanged, as we had only graduated a scant two years prior, but there was a very definite shift in her demeanor. She had in school been rebellious and disrespectful, but I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t amusing. Her fights with the teachers were legendary and she possessed a tendency to back-talk that, while lacking in respect, did often supply her peers with an ample amount of entertainment.

I  called out her name and she glanced around her in surprise. Her eyes settling on mine, she seemed alarmed at first, then ashamed. As I approached her, she cast her eyes downward in embarrassment. I wondered what she could have felt so ashamed of. I hadn’t known her well enough to have merited any reaction nearly so personal. As she again raised her eyes to meet mine, I saw in them a vulnerability that was rather unexpected. It seemed to flash across her features like a restaurant marquee announcing the dinner special.

We made small talk for a minute or two all the while she fidgeted nervously. Finally with a ragged breath, she attempted an awkward smile.

“Look.” she practically spat the words out in her impatience. “I’m not the same as I was in high school. I’m a mom now and I’m not into the stuff I was into then. I’ve changed.” That’s what she had been embarrassed about. She was afraid that I and everyone else would forever remember her as being some trouble maker like she was in high school; that we would never assimilate the progression into adulthood that nearly always leads to maturity and change that she had experienced. She wasn’t giving herself  or anyone else enough credit.

But it touched me. The way she had endeavored so hard to change and to grow; much of which I suspect was the result of motherhood. And I realized something then: it wasn’t fair to pigeon-hole someone into some compartment just because it once seemed to have fit them. It was a disservice to that individual as a human capable of change, to deny them the opportunity to be recognized for that change. But, it was also a disservice to me if I didn’t allow my interpretation of that individual to be as fluid as their growth would inevitably be. I would be depriving myself of having wonderful friends who just became wonderful-er with age.

How would you feel if  everyone associated you with the worst thing you ever did? If they endlessly identified you as being whatever you were at your lowest point?

It made me think a lot that day and a lot since. I thought about the courage it takes to change and the confidence it requires to shake off the tags and labels people–including ourselves–seem so wont to affix to us. That we can change every day; that we can shape and control the people we become, that’s another super power. (Wow by the end of this post we will have developed two!)

So when we choose to accept people we take them in whole–the good and the bad. We accept them as they are now and as they’ll be in the future. We accept the worst they are with the best they are. And we give people the opportunity to surprise us. Because we’re more than the failures and fears and we each deserve the opportunity to prove that. I’m just phenomenally grateful that those closest to me have afforded me that chance, even when I didn’t feel I deserved it.

XOXO

hollie

“The curious paradox  is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” -Carl Rogers

“I would give the world to you.” -Ian Axel

For some people who are not parents, becoming one can seem  not only daunting, but repressive; that the responsibilities it entails are so limiting that there’s no place for it in a life of excitement and independence. I won’t argue that parenting can be restrictive.

Gone are the late nights of freewheeling abandon and the ability to engage in social merriment at the drop of the proverbial hat. But that’s only because it’s how the Universe opens you up to something else.

Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.

Trading in a bustling social life for early bedtimes and parent teacher conferences can seem, to many, to be a little…unappealing. But, if I’m being honest, those were some of the reasons I was terrified of becoming a parent. I knew I would miss the freedom to do as I pleased when I pleased. And, while this is not everyone’s reason for not having children, it was a particular fear of mine. Call it selfish, but there it is.

But those aimless years of flitting from one social event to the next, of having no one who relies upon you, become emptier with time. The  glitter fades. The ability to invest one’s time and energy according to whim and fancy is a vital part of the human experience; a crucial part of growing. But as a long-term goal, it lacks substance (George Clooney.)

Don’t get me wrong, parenting is not for everyone. There are plenty of people who lead richly rewarding lives who never foray into the adventure of parenting. And likewise, there are plenty of d-bags who become parents who I’d sooner seen drawn and quartered. The evening news is replete stories of abuse and neglect at the hands of undeserving parents.

But, ideally speaking, I wish every good person who wanted children, would have the opportunity to join the fray of parents far and wide; that every person of good character with a kind heart could bring a child into their home to raise. I wish that every wonderful person I knew who wanted children and couldn’t have them, for whatever reason, was able to. To have the chance to have a person depend upon you for–literally–everything is humbling and fulfilling.

It is nothing I would trade and something I often wish I could have had the opportunity to do again.

I have an indescribable love and appreciation for my daughter. She gives me purpose in a potentially rudderless world. She embodies the hope and optimism that seem to fade as we age. She is Prozac in human form; I take her daily.

Her blue eyes and smattering of freckles are priceless art to me. She grows and evolves hourly and as I become excited at this prospect, I daily mourn the loss of each stage of her development. I have these ridiculous moments where it hits me: she’s not a baby; she’s not a toddler. I might never have that again. Even as I type that I cry.

And when I clean out her closet and cast out the clothes she’s outgrown, I cry more. Because she’s growing and shedding those years of childhood. And because I’m succeeding to no small degree in achieving one of the main things I believe the Universe had planned for me: helping her become the incredible woman she was intended to be.

I may not be prolific in my mothering, but it’s quality not quantity that are imperative here–and in that quarter I’m doing a damn fine job.

She is everything good in me and everything good I wish was in me. I finally understand unconditional love. There is nothing–nothing–that she could do that would ever diminish my love for her.

I think that’s the gift of being a parent. That’s the gift she gives me every day.

XOXO

hollie

“In the end we have each other, and that’s at least one thing worth living for.” -Ian Axel

“If you love enough, you lie a lot.” -Tori Amos

  • Them: “Does this make me look fat?”
  • You: “Of course not.” Ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound bag.
  • Them: “I love singing. Do you think I have a good voice?”
  • You: “Absolutely.” If I cram enough Kleenex in my ears.
  • Them: “Do you think I’m smart?”
  • You: “Totally.” If by ‘smart,’ you mean… ‘kinda dumb.’

Lies. We all tell them. They’re not lies to hurt people; on the contrary. They’re fabrications created with the express intent of protecting someone’s precious feelings. It’s an inflammatory statement to say that we all lie, because, well, I’m calling everyone liars. But it’s really just me being hopeful; choosing to believe that people still care enough about other peoples’ feelings to provide the occasionally requisite lie.

I was faced with this not too long ago when I was at Walgreen’s and a sweet woman approached me carrying two boxes of hair color.  “Excuse me, ” she said. “Can I ask your opinion?”

“Absolutely!” I replied. And, yes, I did respond with an exclamation point. That was not added for dramatic emphasis in the retelling of this riveting story. I have opinions and I love nothing more than actually being invited to share them. I was loving this lady already.

“Which of these colors do you think matches my natural hair color?” She asked, raising a hand to gesture toward her head–her head of phenomenally fake-looking hair. Her head that sported one of the worst dye jobs in all of Christendom. It strongly resembled the purple hue of a pair slouchy socks I wore with pride in the fourth grade. That’s right: purple. In other words: amethyst, mulberry, plum, heliotrope, violet, eggplant,  puce. All colors I can say with a great deal of certainty are not to be found naturally on any head of hair.

But, if she was intent on lying to me about said hair color, I was not going to fault her for that. If a man can cling with pathetic desperation to a few lingering strands of hair and comb them from one side of his skull to the other in a sad attempt at convincing himself and the world that he’s not actually balding, then who am I do deny this poor woman the opportunity to assure herself and those around her that God had somehow endowed her with a riot of grape-colored hair?

So, without missing a beat, I jumped right onto her crazy train and joined in with the lies. How can I not be merciful to someone with hair the color of  grape Kool Aid? I motioned toward one of the boxes she held–does it really matter which? After all, neither of them were marked, ‘purple.’

“This one.” I assured her. “That one looks just like your real hair.” She beamed up at me. I felt good. It was a happy lie. She was a woman radiant with gratitude.  She seemed impressed with how quickly I had responded; as though I had somehow evidenced the validity of her ‘natural,’ hair color by way of my rapid response.  I guess I rock like that.

Lying serves a purpose. Like so many things in life, it can be used for good or for evil. But sometimes, even when we really want to spare someone the sting that truth provides, telling them a lie is very detrimental. Yes, that can be logged under the heading, ‘obvious,’ but I felt the disclaimer was necessary.

And this is the manner in which I proceed.  I go on assessing every situation as best my human mind and determine whether it’s appropriate to humor people, or whether the glaring light of reality has a place in each particular scenario.

So, like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause and that blessed stork, lies can be very beneficial in helping us maintain some semblance of hope in a world that can be a little dark. So, if I ever ask any of you, “Do you like my blog?” I think you know what the answer should be, even if I beg you not to lie….

XOXO

hollie

“On a bad day, I have mood swings–but on a good day, I have the whole mood playground.” -Charles Rosenblum

So…contrary to popular belief, I am not always in a good mood. Today was one of  “those days.” You know the days where you look heavenward and ask “Seriously?”

I looked heavenward a lot today. A lot. In my defense, I had some legitimate reasons for my mood.I do, however, have a series of techniques I employ in an effort to somehow schlep myself from the realm of orneriness to life’s lighter side. I seek after a place of supreme happiness. Okay, that’s probably more of my famous hyperbole, but the point is I try to make an improvement. My charming stubbornness refuses to let life’s circumstances take the reigns with regards to my mood. I just cannot cede control of my attitude to the likes of some irritating little black cloud.

It’s similar to my reason for not listening to music on the radio. I feel like these people I’ve never met have no right to tell me what to listen to. Insane? Yes. Paranoid? Maybe a bit. Adorable? Well, you be the judge of that one…

What are these methods for coping with life’s little negative distractions? First, I eat healthy despite the fact that it’s the VERY last thing I want to do. These depressive stages seem to be the ideal breeding ground for weight gain and, let’s face it, that’s not going to help anyone’s mood. I won’t lie to you: I do occasionally surrender to the lure of a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae to assuage the irritability. “Occasionally,” being the operative word.

Then, I put on some music. Tori works well, but she can be a little hit or miss. It’s easy to have some of her more angst-ridden stuff exacerbate an already cranky mood, but sometimes she’s just great for a purge. Rage Against the Machine works well for this same reason, but their strong political messages are not for everyone. If all else fails I throw on some bubble-gum pop courtesy of my daughter. Did I just admit to that? I suppose so…

And, because I’ve already lost much of my dignity by way of my last confession, I’ll admit that I often dance to these songs. Dance and lip sync. In a room. By myself. Sad? Yes. Hugely cathartic? Totally.

Then, as that aforementioned dignity begins to dwindle to nothing but a distant memory, I’ll make another admission: I do a cheer. In front of the mirror. It’s no small wonder that I have any self respect at all.

Good job, Holl.

Then I journal, call/visit a friend or I blog. Why do I save these far more rational/mature techniques for the last? Why do I relegate them to a place of “if all else fails?” Your guess is as good as mine. I love Hollie; I just don’t claim to understand her.

Yes, I do refer to myself in the third person on occasion. A practice in others that I find somewhat annoying, but rather enjoy affecting myself. Hypocrisy is just another endearing attribute of mine…

Hugs help. Time with my daughter and dog are supremely effective, but sometimes black moods can be contagious so I try and be cautious with this one.

And you know what? It worked. I scaled the wall of my ravine of despair (sounds like something in a fantasy video game.) And here I am offering unsolicited advice to people on a subject I have yet to master. Who wouldn’t love me?

XOXO

hollie

“When my cats aren’t happy, I’m not happy. Not because I care about their mood but because I know they’re just sitting there thinking up ways to get even.” – Percy Shelley


“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” -William Jennings Bryan

MFEO. Remember that from the movie Sleepless in Seattle? The little girl who’s friends with Jonah uses this term. MFEO:  Made For Each Other. It’s an acronym that’s made its way into the archives of Holl-ebonix and it comes in handy when describing the nature of relationships. It can be used in seriousness, but where’s the fun in that? Who wouldn’t rather look at someone who has the appearance of a parolee and turn to their friend uttering the words, “See…he’s totally your type. You guys are MFEO.”

Many people are against the idea of a soul mate; they think it’s unrealistic, but I completely, wholehearedly believe in the existence of soul mates. That’s right, all things considered, that probably surprises many of you; but I do. I really do adhere to the belief that there is an individual with whom you will find the greatest degree of fulfillment. I will concede that there could be degrees of soul mates, perhaps,  with the ‘one’ poised atop a pyramid of idyllic options. Maybe not the traditional definition of “soul mate,” but it could possibly be the best marriage idealism and realism regarding this hot-button issue.

I have an awesome–no super-awesome, no uber-awesome– friend who’s forayed into the bizarre world of online dating. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag with some really wonderful people whose primary purpose is meeting new and interesting people and pursuing possible relationships with them. Most of these people are normal; “normal,” of course being a relative term. And then there are the crazies. After sharing many of their profile pics with me, I reached the definite conclusion that some of these people had just resorted to using their mug shots. Sadly, that’s only mild hyperbole.  I strongly suspect a goodly number of these people are dwelling in their parents’ basements wiling away the hours immersing themselves in the fantasy worlds of Halo and Modern Warfare. But they are a definite upgrade from the ones that I’m quite sure are accessing a computer only through a prison work release program.

At any rate, I watch as, at the ripe-old age of 30 (practically on the shelf in the world of Utah), my uber-friend engages in the grueling pursuit of finding her other half; of determining if any of her prospects meet the criterion for being her soul mate. She endeavors daily to conclude whether or not any of these “suitors,” will be worthy of the term: MFEO. It is no small task, I assure you. So daily we talk, text and IM regarding the progress of her search and you know what I love? She never, ever gets discouraged. She never whines. Okay well sometimes she does, but she really makes whining not only tolerable but highly entertaining. She gives so many people a chance and is fairly slow to make snap judgments, even when the guy looks like a total flamethrower. (An accidental addition to Holl-ebonix when I tried to enter a word into a text and my arrogant phone made the presumption that I meant flamethrower. Jerky phone.)

Okay so brace yourselves for another reference to a romantic comedy. Remember in Serendipity when John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale keep just barely missing each other? Remember how they nearly bump into each other over and over and how frustrating it is to watch? Sometimes I wonder if that’s really how it is. If, for those of us who are unattached, we find ourselves constantly within a stone’s throw of our other half. If we just turned that corner at the grocery store and gravitated from the bread aisle to the condiment aisle ( I love mayo) if we wouldn’t run right into this astounding individual who promises to complete us; to fulfill us in a way that is unparalleled . I often imagine my friend–we’ll call her Sarah, because…well…that’s her name–winding up with some incredibly fascinating, world-traveler with a litany of exciting stories–tales of heroism and aventure like James Bond. Either Roger Moore or Sean Connery (hubba hubba) not those girly men who portray him now. I imagine this man with a strong jaw and a cleft chin (subtle, not some facial faultline.) He has piercing eyes and just the right amount of stubble. His hair is thick and waves a little like Clark Kent and it has the consistency of something ripped right out of Pantene commercial. And his hands….wow. When he smiles women swoon, but he only has eyes for Sarah (darn.)

Sure he has character, but who wants to read as I chronicle an inventory of those traits? Boring. And as I observe Sarah’s admirable efforts to procure this kindred soul, I am so impressed with her attitude in the face of what can very often be a phenomenally discouraging process. She plows ahead with nose to the proverbial grindstone and proceeds with an admirable amount of faith in the existence of this wonderful man who might possibly make himself somehow deserving of her love. While her requirements and expectations evolve as she does, she never compromises regarding the attributes most imperative to her, despite others’ attempts to lure her to the dark side of settling. I really love and admire that about her. I’ve never much been one to settle for things that I feel convinced will fail to make me happy, but dating can be intensely frustrating. It can be energy depleting and demoralizing, but she soldiers on. We love her for that.

So what can we learn from Sarah’s experience in this realm? There are the obvious points: persistence, patience, and confidence. But mostly, I think the relevance lies in her refusal to settle for anything less than a wonderful man to compliment her wonderful Sarah-ness.  I think in a world where so many people feel compelled to settle, it’s refreshing to see these instances of people around us who adhere to different, higher standard. I like it–a lot. Because the only person who has more exacting standards for Sarah’s future husband is me, and I’m a lot stronger than I look…:)

XOXO

hollie

“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the very best, you very often get it.” -Somerset Maugham

“If we knew what we were truly capable of, we would astonish ourselves.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

I have a secret. It’s a deep, dark, terrible thing; a fear that boldly follows me to the very farthest reaches of my life. It’s viral. It’s insidious: What if I’m not good enough?

There. I said it. Well technically I typed it, which is almost worse because now it’s out there; permanently cataloged in the vast expanses of the cyber universe to be recalled and scrutinized at will. No givesies-backsies. No do-overs.

“What is she thinking?” you wonder. Stick with me and I think I’ll ultimately seem less crazy…perhaps ;o)

It’s a thought that barely occurs to me these days. I’ve never been a person lacking in confidence, but I have definitely been known to be self critical on more than occasion. Thank the Lord for the fact that your twenties don’t last forever. And your teens, well they barely warrant mention these days.

As many of you know, I recently moved and while I was in the throes of packing/unpacking, I ran across an old journal. It’s a veritable treasure trove of emotional exploration, covering the years between high school graduation and my daughter’s toddlerhood.

In it I spied a conversation I once had with a dear, old friend that had been filed away in my brain left to collect the layers of dust provided by years of life’s distractions. I feel compelled to offer a shout out of thanks to the Universe for guiding me back to this memory.

Perched atop the weathered oak of a reliable old bar stool, my friend–we’ll call her Annie–nervously fidgeted with a crumpled piece of paper she clasped in her anxious hand. The paper had definitely seen better days.  I still remember the look in her eyes as she raised them to meet mine–red, swollen, awash with tears, the pigment of her irises seemed so much more vibrant than usual. Annie was not a weak girl; she was tough and bold and daring. She was fearless and strong and this side of Annie was entirely new to me. I watched, a little shocked, as a tear seared a hot path down the contours of her face.  Annie was broken. She was broken and terrified and completely out of her element in this place of emotional vulnerability.

The conversation that followed was one I’ve had more times than I can count. With friends, family and even myself. She proceeded to share with me this great and terrifying secret that she carried around with her–the same one I myself had. This brave, self-assured girl who would later go on to become a confident, happy woman, shared with me her crippling fear of failure; of never being good enough. She told me of incessant self-criticizing thoughts that permeated every aspect of her life. She, like everyone, suffered from periods of insecurity, but hers could , on occasion, become so intense she felt debilitated. I can still feel my heart break a little when I remember the pain imprinted on her face.

The paper, she confided, was a list of reasons why she was an unacceptable girlfriend as provided by her loser ex-boyfriend. She, in her susceptible state, viewed said list as being nothing short of a detailed accounting of her failures as a human being. The two, she was unable to see, were unrelated.

What we discussed that day went a little something like this:

She listed all of her supposed deficiencies that, I suspected, were the same ones enumerated in that damn missive her ex had so compassionately provided her. With each newly-revealed flaw, she became more and more despondent; more and more hopeless. And I grew to love her just a little bit more right then and there. This wonderful friend of mine who had always been characterized by her hardened shell of immunity was now so endearingly susceptible. It made her seem so human and that made her an even more beautiful person to me. I learned a few valuable lessons that day, not the least of which was that strength and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. Each compliments the other. A genuinely strong person will not see it as weak to, under the appropriate circumstances, disclose portions of him or herself to others simply out of fear of being considered weak or frail.

We muddled through the harrowing business of climbing out of the emotional holes we tend to dig. She regained her composure, but was changed a bit for the experience. She had gained some perspective. We discussed at great length the merits of her character; that she was not only good enough, but that she far exceeded such a trite characterization. We grabbed an old shoe box and I wrote her a new note to replace the crumbled piece of refuse she had clutched so tightly. In my letter, I sang her praises and held a proverbial mirror for her to reference in the future dark spots life would inevitably offer. We laid it into the bottom of the shoe box and I gave her explicit instructions to fill the box, one note, card or memory at a time, with more accurate opinions of her worth as provided by her loved ones.

A year later she paraded the box out for me to see its contents which included birthday cards and snapshots she had sought and received. As well as notes of appreciation penned on sticky notes and a drawing scribbled in crayon by her neice with the words, “To my favorite aunt. I love you!” scrolled across the top.

She wasn’t the same Annie. She was better than ever and radiated the lauded praise of those who knew and loved her best.

So believe in the mantra that you’re good enough as is–damn good enough. Don’t be afraid to be exactly one hundred percent whoever the Universe made you. Whatever you believe of yourself it had better be good, because that’s precisely who you’ll become. Drag yourself, bodily if need be, from the despairing crevice into which you have fallen and trudge the path to a better place knowing all the while that you are without a doubt supremely worthy of whatever wonderful things the world has in store for you. This paragraph exists as much for my benefit as for anyone else’s . ;o)

And if you ever want to, stop by my place and I’ll show you my shoe box. It gets dragged out on occasion when I have a crummy day and need to remind myself of the same things I told Annie all those years ago.

XOXO

hollie

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -Oscar Wilde


“Self love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.” – William Shakespeare

It’s been said that life is a series of meetings and partings. We greet new people and circumstances sometimes with enthusiasm, but often with trepidation. I mean who doesn’t have some mortal fear of the unknown? That’s human nature; the evolutionary imperative of fight or flight. We meet people and opportunities and assimilate them into the cozy folds of our life and in relatively short order accustom ourselves to their comforting presence. Even negative forces, parasitic relationships and destructive tendencies cozen their way into our hearts and the protective confines of our existences with alarming ease and somehow force us to become dependent upon their presence.

It’s these more noxious circumstances that are of special relevance to me right now. Less because of my own personal life station and more because of the current state of some of my friends’ lives. While the pain of enduring the negative effects of poor habits and pernicious relationships are always more daunting for those experiencing them firsthand, it is a difficult, often traumatic experience to be on the sidelines watching your dear ones withstand the onslaught of self-destruction. So grab a tea and let’s have an e-intervention.

I am a firm believer in the notion that the majority of poor judgement and life’s greatest woes are to some great degree the result of a lack of confidence; a deficit of self worth. Certainly it doesn’t account for all of life’s painful twists and turns, but I do feel strongly that if people had a greater sense of personal value, we would perhaps not visit so many of the dark places our spirits seem so wont to travel. There is a prevailing misconception that perhaps we would each be happier if only we would be less demanding, less picky; less exacting in our standards. However, that is a fallacy; the great deception. An observation I made some time ago, after much analysis, was that the happiest people I know, have high, but realistic expectations of themselves and those around them. Watch an episode of Jerry Springer and see how a lack of surety regarding one’s worth leads a person to a place of neglect, abuse, and bad hair.

So after watching a dear friend of mine carry her precious heart down a dark and lonely path, I found myself brokenhearted. She gave her priceless soul to someone so unworthy of it and found herself in a state of pain so deep that neither Cymbalta nor Sephora could ease the sting. She had affixed herself to a man of low character who is sorely lacking in concience and clothing taste. Not to mention the fact that the VAST majority of his Facebook profile pics were ones of him flashing his shirtless form with his mediocre flesh greased to man-whore perfection. Girls, any man so in love with his own pectoral muscles is one to be shunned with all avidity. Run–don’t walk–to your nearest girlfriend and self-medicate with all the facials and mani-pedis your little heart can handle. He will break you; he will use you up and leave you withered. I don’t care who you are–you are better than that.

No one will respect your worth if you don’t.

Nostalgia is a two-edged sword. The good Lord gave it to us to file the precious memories of our pasts into the gilded recesses of our hearts. But it is a blessing that–if not handled correctly–can quickly mushroom into a full-blown toxin. It can be pervasive and seep into the negative memories we have regarding a person or experience and somehow airbrush them into a state of romanticized memory. In short: we can find ourselves remembering things better than they were. Humans can often succumb to the tempting lure of nostalgia and re-label painful experiences as positive. We neglect to remember the tears and the searing pain of neglect, disappointment and betrayal and cling to the belief that we are somehow depleted without the presence of this person or circumstance in our lives.

My suggestion? Cry your river of tears, build a bridge and cross it. Get over it. It’s succinct, but not mean or insensitive. It’s short and sweet to illustrate how simplistic it really is. It’s not impossible, in fact it’s very possible. Out of the billions of people on this planet, there are scores of people who can love and appreciate each of us–flaws and all. There is virtually nothing that we can do that can make us unlovable. The Universe is that perfect. God loves us each despite our tendency to occasionally be d-bags. (Holl-ebonix: slightly less crass reference to the ever-applicable word, ‘douchebag.’ Hey sometimes, it’s really appropriate. ;o)) If God can do this, I think it stands to reason that we can.

So, at least for the time being, embrace the bad memories. Remember with unerring clarity the negatives. This is NOT a long-term plan, as it can lead to a place of dwelling in negativity, but it helps get us over that bridge and out of the place where we go days without bathing and find our eyes distended from the copious shedding of tears. Then, once some perspective begins to gain momentum, we can start to let some of our forgiveness take over.

It’s that anxiety regarding the unknown. Sometimes we are so overcome with fear–fear that we’ll be nothing without that person–that we’re paralyzed. But using this tool of a more realistic memory, allows us to gets to a point where we can come to the incredibly obvious realization: “Hey, I’m going to be just fine. I’ll be better off without that dirtbag!”

And guess what: you will be. Know that it’s not a sin to love someone deeply. It is, however, among the greatest of sins to not love yourself. If you can love and accept someone else, why can’t you extend that same compassion to yourself? Why not cleave to the idea that maybe–just maybe–you’re worthy of being happy and making someone else happy. Someone in this great, populated planet who can love you for your quirks and foibles and embrace you–part and parcel. If you don’t think they exist, you are wrong; very, very wrong. Given my past, if I can say that then there’s some serious truth to that statement.

So, clean yourself up. Take that long-neglected shower and throw on your most glamorous makeup, despite whatever lack of desire you feel to do it. Trust me: you will feel better. Call your closest friends and let them rally around you. They love you and want the privilege of picking you up and pointing you in the right direction.  Exercise, laugh, take up a new hobby and write in a journal. In this journal dedicate a page or two to all the reasons why this person is not for you. All the reasons why you’re glad they’re now someone else’s problem ;o) Then, for good measure, maybe toss out a prayer to the Universe for this person and the poor unwitting soul who’s going to be stuck with them next. Sing at the top of your lungs and shave your sexy legs.

And remember this: something better is just around the corner. I promise. And I’m never wrong… :*)

XOXO

hollie

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