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The Path…Interrupted

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The path had been washed clear a fortnight before by the season’s first gentle rains, and in the days that followed, the spring’s warmth absorbed any hint of dampness that would cling to her feet.  She could find no fault with her path or her duties as Guardian, and though optimistic, she remained vigilant, anticipating what she could not see.

A sudden wind stirred the grass and an unmistakable rumble rolled beneath her feet.  The ground shook and dread fell from the trees.  Her pace quickened to match the beat of her heart, but where to turn, she did not know.

The shadow loomed to engulf her, the forewarning she knew too well.  She did not have time to change her footing, as the beast came at her vicious and strong, tackling her from behind, forcing her to taste the harsh reality of her choices.

Not willing to relive yet another blow, she scrambled to her feet, but slipped.

Thick, oily, green-gray mud bubbled up from between the cracks on the once smooth path, through the seams she had spent years of her life mending.

The blue sky swirled with fear and darkened to a toxic hue, then unloosed its watery fury, pelting her with shards of wet, gleaming steel.  Her shoulders hunched against the pain as each stab created divots in her armor.  With cold and shaking hands, she swiped at them uselessly.

Footsteps approached.  Some fast, some slow, but she recognized each one. They’d always been there, surrounding her, urging her forward.  Never had they allowed her to falter or lose sight of her task.  Normally she basked in their presence, but now she dare not look up, for she did not want them to see the uncertainty in her eyes.  The need to run and claim to the menacing skies “Let me be!  I am not as strong as you believe!” exploded from her cells, howling for release.

Wisps of light circled her, hovering only moments until she closed her eyes in surrender.  Blue-white heat grazed atop her damaged armor, the depressions filling in and strengthening her with resolve.  Tears spilled, but quickly evaporated in the knowing that the path before her, though flooded with sludge, was solid.

With each step her load lightened and the curve of her back disappeared.  Instead of studying the ground before her, seeing only the small section of the path, she stood tall and faced the beast that now stood before her.  She grasped the hilt of her sword, ready to strike it down.

Its eyes were rimmed with sadness, but could easily have been mistaken for anger.

She paused.  The air stilled around her, quiet as the impending death, and with ancient eyes watching the slow movement of her thoughts, she drew her sword from its sheath and held it steady at her side.  Her fingers twitched, anxious for a reason.

The great beast’s gaze slid down the length of the sword and held fast at the deadly tip.  Its bristly hairs stood on end.  It slowly raised its head, the sadness in its eyes replaced with venom that spilled over and trickled down its time-worn cheeks.

Her armor did little good when he looked at her in that vile way.  She knew it was time.  Time to leave the forest behind, lest he draw the light from within her heart that she held so close. One step back, one last look, before she turned.

“Why do you leave?” the beast roared, its pain-soaked voice ripping through the thin fabric that cloaked her soul.

She slowly turned, her hand once again tightening on her sword.  Whispers penetrated her mind, a reminder of her strength.

“Why do you stay?” she asked.

“The forest is dark.”

“The meadow is light.”

They stood, face to face, bound together by time long past, a bond neither could break.

“I cannot go where you lead.”  The words spilled from their lips in eerie harmony, entwining like the overgrown vines suffocating the abandoned forest they once shared.

She shook her head.  There was no more for her there, and though she found a bit of relief, the sadness grew inside.  Sadness for the beast who will never know peace.  Sadness for herself, for neither will she.

Mid-Life Crisis? Me? Umm.. No.

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“Girls Night Out”  Me (left) with two of my amazing friends, Natascha and Kate, on my trip to California.

I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”

I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him.  The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex.  He had to have been.  Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)?  The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul.  (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)

“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone.  To me, this phrase smacks of negativity.  As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.

Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.

Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis. 

“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery.  It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.”  So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing.  Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what?  Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us.  If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place.  And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses.  Will we ever come back?  I hope not.

I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough.  I’m a threat.  I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest.  I’m a break from their safe routine.

The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.

So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.

The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well.  So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery….  Cheers!

It’s More Than A Hug…It’s Life

I like touching people.  It doesn’t have to be much – just a touch on the arm or hand, a pat on the knee, or better yet, a hug.  Most of us have heard of the health benefits of touching and how beneficial it is for the giver and the receiver – strengthening of the immune system, positive mood stimulation, reassurance, and comfort.  It is said that humans needs four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth.  How many of us actually get that?

Well, I try.  As my friends can attest, I hug just about everyone.  It takes me awhile to get through a room full of people I know, because giving a heart-felt embrace takes time.  I’ll even take a chance on people I meet for the first time.  They’re surprised for a second, but most of the time they open up and give as good as they get.

Aside from the benefits, I hug because it feels good.  I hug because I can.  For me, it’s a way of exchanging energy.  It grounds me and connects me to others.  I have a lot of energy and touching and hugging is a way to disperse it, keeping the flow going.  Without it, the qi can back up and turn rancid.

Like the moon and tides, I go through cycles where my energy runs high and I have more than enough energy to share, but then almost from one moment to the next, I’ll fall and I’ll fall hard.  It’s during those times when I’m drained, that hugs from others are life savers, helping me to fill up the stores again.  Very similar to long distance runners, with nothing to replenish the energy I put out, I bonk.

For the most part, I find people are receptive to hugging, but not everyone feels the same as I do.  Some people don’t like to be touched at all.  I can count on one hand how many times I’ve hugged my mother.  She was one of those who just did not like to be touched.  That trait was apparently passed down to my oldest brother.  On the rare occasions that we see each other, I’ll instigate a hug, but as close as I try to stand to him, he makes damn sure there is plenty of space between us and all I can feel is a light tap of his fingertips on my back.  Kind of like air kisses.  Completely pointless and far from satisfying.

My son is sort of like that.  He’s generous with hugs, but when I try to touch his leg, knee, or arm, he’s quick to get out of reach.

“What’s the matter?” I asked him one day after trying to get his attention by tapping on his knee.

“I just don’t like being touched,” was his reply.

“Why?”  I reached for his knee again and he pulled away.  “What is it about being touched that bothers you?”

He thought for a moment and shrugged.  “It’s kind of like the backward kneecaps on a flamingo.  That’s just the way it is.”

*Blank stare*  Yeah.  Thanks, buddy.  You really cleared that up for me.

But, to each their own, and I totally respect other people’s spaces, but it’s all I can do to not give people like that a drive-by hug.

So what about you?  Are you the touchy-feely sort?  Do you make it a point to hug or is your personal space yours and yours alone?  Everyone is different and that’s why I’d love to hear from you!

Feng Shui – It’s Not Just for Rooms Anymore

I read a quote on Twitter the other day by @Perlkvist:  “Giving up can mean you are weak.  However, it can also say you are strong enough to let go.”

The first step...Photo: Epinions.com

So I lined them up – five Rubbermaid containers – the big ones – and filled them with all the things that just didn’t work for me anymore; the residua of procrastination and a marriage gone south.  I smudged the rooms with sage to banish the negative energy, cleaned the cobwebs from the corners, and read books on Feng shui for the house.  I de-cluttered and simplified my life.  The qi was definitely moving in the right direction.

Then I’d step out of my cozy little nook and hang out with my friends and I realized I didn’t always have that same great feeling.  I found myself avoiding conversations with some and avoiding eye contact with others.

There is a woman I encounter on a daily basis.  At first our conversations flowed easily enough, allowing the energy to exchange in a positive way until one day I noticed a slight shift.  I can only assume it was because we were becoming friends that this person felt comfortable enough to start unloading the negative suitcases from her baggage cart, but it got to the point where I would ask, “Hey, how’s it going today?  Wait.  Don’t answer that.”  I would steer clear of any verbal triggers that might set her off, taking our conversations spiraling down tunnels I never wanted to go.

"Wanna hear how my day is going?" just-pooh.com

And it wasn’t just her.  I have more than one Eeyore shuffling their feet around in my orbit, and talking with them – hell, just being with them – is absolutely exhausting.  It throws me off balance.  After a particularly stressful encounter with one of them, I knew what I had to do…

I had to do some Friendship Feng Shui.

It is my nature to be the peacekeeper, the one who placates people and smoothes ruffled feathers.  Being the perpetual optimist, I try extremely hard to find the good in people, but when subjecting myself to their negative qi threatened my sanity, when the relationship used up my precious energy, I had to draw the line.

Delete, delete, delete.

The process was ruthless, painful, and felt absolutely incredible.   I even had to inform certain family members that being part of my family was a privilege, not a right, and forcing me to deal with their hang-ups was not an option.

As social creatures we gather for coffee at Starbucks, meet over lunch, and hook up on Twitter and Facebook.  We share hobbies, sporting events, and conversations over wine.

Throw into the mix the 40-hour work week (and that includes the job of “Motherhood” that goes on 24/7), social/sporting activities, household responsibilities, and family time. And if you have a hobby or second career going on, that’ll pretty much tap out the well.   At this point, an energy budget is just as important as a financial budget.  We need to carefully choose where we allow our energy to flow in order to avoid a deficit.

With such a large network of friends and family, we are bound to have one or two in the group who make us want to click the “Block this person” or “Delete” button.

Those are the people my friend, Theresa, labels The Energy Vamps.  You know who they are. The chronic complainers.  The half-empty-glass people.  The ones who insist on bringing the planet and everyone on it down to their level just so they can have guests at their pity party.

It could be in the way they sigh a little too loudly or give us a smile that falls short of genuine.  All we know is that by the time we walk away, we need a nap, a double shot of espresso, a double shot of tequila, or at the very least, a week in a decompression chamber.

Any relationship should be mutually beneficial, bringing out the best in us, encouraging us to reach our full potential.  It took me awhile to realize that, no, I’m really not that bitchy or impatient.  I’m just that way in the presence of some people – the same people who no longer hover in my orbit.

You know that saying: “You can’t fly with the eagles if you’re swimming with the alligators.”  Well, look up in the sky…that’s me up there, soaring with my peeps.

Photo: rlrouse.com

So where are you?  How do you handle the Energy Vamps in your life?  Are you in need of a good Friendship Feng Shui?  What is the best part/worst part of cleaning out your friendship closet?    Leave a comment!  I’d love to know!

A Man’s Role In A Woman’s World

“When you marry a girl, don’t expect her to abandon her girlfriends, because you’ll never be able to take their place.”  ~ A man to his son

Truer words were never spoken.  It’s that whole DNA thing again.  A basic need that appears on an almost daily basis, to connect, to absorb, to reach out to our female counterparts – feeling completely and undeniably safe to expose whatever thoughts that happen to surface.  We know we will be accepted, but that’s a given because after all, women are from Venus, aren’t we?

But in life, there must be balance.  The yin to the yang, the black to the white, the leather to the lace.

So if I were to place an ad in the newspaper tonight, it would say something like this:

Wanted:  Seeking Males for Friendship Only – Applications now being accepted.

I’d do it because I like men, because some are strong, some are witty.  Some give that big brother feeling that women just want to embrace.  But most of all, men offer something girlfriends can’t – a perspective of life from a male’s point of view.  Men offer the other half of balance.  These friendships are easy-going and safe and are an underrated commodity that is a shame not to pursue.

 

But can men and women truly be friends?   It depends on who you’re talking to.

In college, I hooked up with Rob, who was my best male friend through my first year.  As a couple, we went bowling, watched movies, ate Chinese food in front of the TV, and took walks on the beach – sans the emotions.  It was a nice change from hanging out all the time with my three female roommates whose emotions ran to the extremes from one day to the next.

Then there was Chuck, Dave, and Dave (yes, two) who were always up for taking me and my roommates out clubbing.  Again, just as friends, and if there was any sexual tension between any of us, we never let it get in the way of our friendship.

Is this the exception rather than the rule?  What happens when there is attraction on one side?  What if two people met at the wrong time in each other’s lives and a relationship beyond friends is not an option?

A friend told me once that in order for men and women to be friends, the attraction had to run its course and then, only then, could the two be friends.

And if it didn’t run its course?  We could walk away, but then we literally toss out any chance of interaction with a person we were attracted to in the first place.  It’s a case of cutting off our nose to spite our face, and both sides usually feel the loss.

The end result of any relationship doesn’t have to be the progression of the human race or co-habitation in order to fall into the roles society has set up.

Friendships between men and women can be….just because.

What about you?  Do you think men and women can be friends?  If you are married, do either of you have opposite-sex friends?  If not, do you find yourself missing it?  I’d love to know!