You’re So Vain

It’s Halloween, and my 11-year-old daughter – in costume – is admiring herself in the mirror. I’ve seen her do that before, when she is wearing something she particularly likes. It’s something I actually love to watch her doing, because she is always pleased with what she sees in the mirror.

She is always pleased with what she sees in the mirror.

WHOA!

Can you say that about yourself?

I’ve watched her do that many times before. New shoes, a dress she picked out, fancy earrings, a hairpiece or hairdo … her bikini … or even just a face-painted design. It’s particularly fun for me when she puts together an ensemble or certain ‘look’ – she is so proud of herself, so happy with what she came up with, and how she looks in it.

And I’m happy to see that. So very, very, happy.

It was my admiring her self-admiration this morning when a few things really hit me. I’ll say the first thing again: She is always pleased with what she sees in the mirror.

I’m not. I never have been, at least as far as I can remember; however, my father might tell you something different. One of the many things he told me regularly when I was younger that I was vain; his famous line was that “Susie is so vain. She can’t walk by a mirror without admiring herself.” He still says that now, in past tense.

He was both right and wrong. A mirror did stop me – but it was not for admiration; it was for a checkup, to make sure what I wanted hidden or camouflaged was hidden or camouflaged. I was almost never admiring myself, because I was almost never happy with what I saw in the mirror – even at my daughter’s age.   
 
I was told I was fat regularly, and in a variety of creative ways: “You’d better lay off the ice cream, Cheeks.” and “I don’t understand how those legs of yours can hold you up!” and “Fat people are the loneliest people in the world.” and (if I reached for seconds at the dinner table) “Do you really need that?” I remember one time my aunt had mentioned that I lost weight. She said to my father, “Don’t you think so?” His answer? “Yes. But I’m not going to tell her that; she’ll stop.”

I have to point out that this is not complaining. This is simple recounting of what happened. The one thing I had and have always known is that my father’s intentions were and are always in the right place – he just went about it wrong (yes, I am saying that). I even told him that back then that I needed encouragement, not ‘breaking’.  But Dad was a drill instructor who’d had his own brand of parenting (like all people), and he did the best he could with what he had. As angry and as hurt as I would get about the things he said – and as many times as I would try to get through to him without success, I would console myself a teeny bit with the thought: “He’s an idiot.”

Honestly? I hope that my own kids think of me that way. That I did the best that I could with what I had. That my intentions were in the right place. That I was an idiot.

Being happy with how you look is not vanity. Caring only about how you look is.

As children, we learn about the idea of being happy with ourselves in stages. How we look is first. Think about it, what were the first five years or so of our lives about? What did we hear all the time? “Oooh … she’s/he’s adorable!” “How cute is she/he?”

Our first frame of reference for judging ourselves is our appearance. Kids believe they are ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ and beautiful’ because that’s what everyone told them, all the time. Then they get a little older and go to school and begin to hear other things; they begin to understand the barrage of advertisements on the radio and television and learn about what makes certain celebrities so popular. Then, they make comparisons with themselves and others.

The second stage is usually learned as a consolation: “She may be very pretty/thin/popular, but she’s not a nice person, and being nice is important.”

Well, that always made me feel better.

Being happy with yourself is not about how you look; it’s about how you feel about yourself as a person – but none of us realize that until well after childhood, when we’ve had relationships (romantic, friendships, and work- or team-related) and we’ve had the chance to experience other types of contrast.

An initial negative self-image sets the stage for more negativity. No, I couldn’t walk past a mirror without stopping for damage control – and all I saw when I looked was my flaws, something that got worse as I got older and knew there were more to see.

Positive self-image starts somewhere. Children are set up with all the ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ and ‘awwws’ they hear. When they start thinking to believe it, let them. Even when they choose an outfit that is mismatched, or want to wear a Batman cape to school every day – even if you yourself think they look fat in that bathing suit (you can be honest with yourself, right? Remember, you’ve been ‘programmed’, too).

When children start off admiring themselves in mirrors, they will be more likely to continue looking for what they like in them, rather than looking for things to tear apart.

Tell them they are smart. Praise them when they show foresight. Encourage them to think positively about everyone around them. Teach them that opinions of others don’t need to affect them (without being too harsh on others). Let them know that what they like is perfect for them, and should never be changed for anyone else.

But remember, their first 50,000 compliments and words of encouragement heard all had to do with how they looked. Let them be happy with how they look. Let them make decisions on what they think looks good for them. They will learn to make the ‘what’s right for them’ choices a little earlier, even with outside differences of opinion – that starts off smaller at younger ages, and they can learn it in small bites. Then, they will grow into making more and bigger ‘what’s right for them’ choices.

This will change the programming. It’s up to us to support it – despite our own ingrained ‘stuff’.

Think it doesn’t matter? I grew up believing I was fat and stupid. I hated myself, all the way up until I began to see that I did not have to accept others’ opinions of me as my own – and then, I had to fight myself to stop believing it (and still fighting). That’s taken a lot of time. Having to spend time erasing takes time away from moving forward.

Four months ago, I was with my father and he made a reference to me being skinny. When I say it stopped me in my tracks, I am totally understating how it affected me. I said to him later that I never (never) thought I would hear him say that about me. He said in surprise, “That was thirty years ago!”

Idiot.

(I’m smiling as I say that.)

He and I will probably not always see eye to eye. We grew up with different experiences and different types of programming. He may not even believe in programming the way that I do. Because I am me, if he ever sees my daughter admiring herself in a mirror and dares to comment on it (and I know he will), I will probably feel compelled to line up more mirrors so she has more to look at (and he knows I will)!

There is much more to being happy with yourself than just how you look – but it has to start somewhere.  I struggle to make sure my daughters don’t have the same poor body image that I had/have. My older daughter doesn’t have a great body image, but it is better than mine was. Maybe my younger’s will be even better. And, hopefully, they will both think I’m an idiot.

Without-getting-into-it-now-but-feeling-the-need-to-acknowledge-it: I understand there is much more to the dynamics of body image, self-worth and the idea of ‘programming’ (I’m sure I’ll be getting into that, later) – but let’s take this in small bites.

Let children love themselves – every single part of them. Relearn the love you had for yourself before you were told there was less to love.

A word about selfies: is it a sign of insecurity to post a picture of yourself when you think you look good? Or is it a statement to the world that “I think I look good and that’s all that matters!” Doesn’t that ‘insecurity’ stem from the perception of what others think and why? You are allowed to take pride in being happy with how you look; you are allowed to love every aspect of yourself.

Look in the mirror. Smile. Be happy with what you see. All of it. It’s all yours.

November 8 is Coming!

It will be November 8 in three weeks, and people can’t shut up about it – for the wrong reason, as far as I’m concerned. We have an election coming. Big deal.

I will, to some extent, agree that it is a big deal. We are all to vote for the individual we feel will lead this country onward and upward (or against someone else’s ‘takeover’).  This particular election is particularly heated; emotions are rather high on both sides and things that are being said about the candidates are quite ugly.

The ugly mudslinging isn’t only occurring between candidates; it is happening between us, making us no better than them. Tensions get spectacularly high the month before the election – for no reason, if you think about it; at this point nearly everyone has made their choices and none of this last-minute campaigning between us is going to make a difference. We are like the children rushing around to finish the book report that is due tomorrow that we had six months to write.

It’s not like we haven’t been here before, yet the months leading up to the election have people acting like the choice we have one chance to make is a ‘do or die’ thing. Technically, all of the elections are like that. We question and whine about the final candidates we have to choose from, ignoring the fact that it wasn’t just support they received within the previous year that got them there – their support started long before that. Rising to the top of the election food chain is a time-consuming process, and it is the individual attitudes and moves of the people of this country combined that got them there.

Our government has been selected by us; if we hate what we have to choose from on the ‘final’ vote, we have only ourselves to blame.

I will do my civic duty on November 8 – but if I’m going to inundate myself with anything about that date it will be on something that I consider so much more worthy of my time: it is my best friend’s birthday. I know she doesn’t birthday like I do, but I am still very sorry that the election has to fall on that day. I’m actually offended that an event so wonderful is being overshadowed by something so negative.

Like I said earlier, these candidates got where they are because of us and our choices. I’m using my privilege of choice to focus on things that are good and positive, and to try to be good and positive. Maybe if I do that more often I will live to see a day where my individual good choices and intentions will combine with the individual good choices and intentions of others and there will be an election day I will be happy to ‘celebrate’ – even in advance.

But until then:

Fuck the election – it’s Donna’s birthday in three weeks!

I brag constantly about my friends because all of them are truly wonderful. I am one very lucky girl, I know. Donna has been there since 1973 (you can do the math yourself; she hates when I brag about how many years it’s been – like I said, she doesn’t birthday like I do).

We have been through parallel lives, distance, anger, heartbreak, death, menstruation, love, parenting, alcohol, and everything else together.

She is the one I called when I ran away from home at age 13.

She is the one I first tried pot with (I’m still not sure if I inhaled – but I did try).

She is the one who wanted to punch the man who broke my heart.

I can say anything to her, and she can say anything to me.

(I would marry her if my daughters didn’t think it would be wrong for me to continue to go out with men afterward.)

We have relationships with our candidates; relationships that we’ve apparently not fully realized how we’ve nurtured them. If we understand that everything is related, and that we have relationships with everyone and every situation around us, then maybe we can pay better attention to what we nurture and give our attention to.

This friendship, this relationship that I have with Donna – like my relationship with and to everything else – got to this point because of that attention, from both of us. We gave it its foundation. It stands because of us.

Like our candidates.

Like the future of our country.

It’s not too late to start – it’s never too late to start – positive intentions and actions. The first thing we can do is to try and do our best right now.

So, when I think about November 8, the best thing right now I can think about is Donna and the fact that it’s her birthday – the day that caused her to be a part of my extremely grateful life. I will cast my vote in the election, too. I know what my decision is and will not play in any discussion about it, because it will not be as positively charged as my thoughts about her.

Election day is not the end of the world; it is always the beginning of something new, and all change has something positive about it. Remember that. If you see good, it’s because you can see bad. And vice versa.

This particular election day is no different.

For me, though, the election is quite secondary (or tertiary, or whatever comes after that).

Donna’s birthday is coming!


With Empathy (Brynnsight) – I probably should have cut this into two parts.

I’m not even sure where to begin here. Usually by the time I sit down to write a blog I already have paragraphs written out in my head, in order, before I even sit down with my pen or keyboard. I do know what I want to say, but the order is still screwed up. I would have waited until it was all ready, but it would appear that I have to write it now – the thoughts pushed against the front of my head so much that I was alerted (read: woken up) 3 hours before my alarm with an inability to ignore them. I’ve written before about how much I enjoy learning these little quirks of mine that validate my urge to write. I’ve even bragged about how little time it takes me to write something (because things percolate in my head first) – and I feel like I’m eating those words now! Whatever; I have to listen to the voices.

I’m also unable to control the length of this in my head – there is a measure of necessary backstory.

(Mom, you may as well stop reading now. This could be long.)

Let me start off by saying this: I do not take credit for my children in any way – blame or praise.

Children don’t ‘turn into’ creations we’ve molded them to be.  Think about this: we all have had those special moments of clarity when we realize what a unique spirit each of us truly is. In that moment – whether we manage to retain the thought or not – do we once feel that we were the product of our parents? No. What we feel is our own individuality – a feeling that we understand to be solely a part of our individual selves, separate from and above any one thing we have ever been taught and any one we have ever known. Is that sense of spirit something we ‘grew’? No. It is something we are, and are born with – and it is who we are, no matter our upbringing.

This is the basis of all stories involving children who grew up to become something other than what was expected of them, good and bad.

Understand, too, that there is more than one way to teach anyone anything. What is learned/accepted/absorbed depends on how a person learns and that person’s level of motivation to learn (for whatever reason, be it the threat of backlash, the desire for praise, or something in between).

Children do not learn solely what they are told, either. They’ve shown us in many hilarious ways that they are great mimics, too. Familial dynamics and birth order included, if you really think about it, anything we feel we’ve taught or imprinted on them is as relevant as residue. As they begin to feel their unique spirit on their own, they make choices about what they will accept from us based on what they resonate with. If they don’t like it, they can just brush it off.

We’ve all made that choice knowingly, in many ways. Did you always get along with your parents? When you started making your own decisions, who did or do you listen to first – or ultimately?

This is not an attempt at absolution of blame. First of all, there is no blame. Each and every one of us acts and reacts solely on the unique mixture of our own experiences, thoughts, and emotions; secondly, the idea of blame is the denial of self-power.

You made me do it. No. My reasons for doing it may have involved some consideration of you, but I made the choice to do it. The understanding of that comes down to the personal level self-awareness – remember, choices can be made unconsciously and by default, but they are still choices.

Whether or not my children do ‘well’ is entirely up to them. My job – my responsibility to them – first involves physical nurturing (food, clothing, housing, and clean diapers) and basic guidance (“look both ways before crossing the street”). Since they first learn what they see, I need to show them how to honor their own unique spirit by honoring my own, from that place of love.

Taking credit for them is also wrong. Credit and blame are two sides of the same coin. My children will understand that the power is theirs; I will not take it away from them by accepting credit for their accomplishments.

They are not going to grow into unique individuals; they are unique individuals. Each of my daughters’ being is and always was, and has very little to do with me. I’m a gateway, not a way.

In the same respect that the teacher is the student, I as the parent am also the child. There have been many occasions where my daughters have said or done something surprising – something I cannot trace back to anything about me or their lineage/surroundings. Those experiences have shown and continuously prove the idea of unique spirit. I have been made aware of it, and I’ll be damned if I attempt to thwart it.

If I really believed that my daughters were my creation, then I would have to believe that my real children were switched at birth with someone better’s kids, and that I should start looking for their natural birth mothers.

I tell them they are weird. It is the highest compliment I can give them, because it supports the idea for them that they don’t have to be anything other than themselves.
My girls have taught me so much in so many ways, and I am constantly in awe of both of them.
THAT BEING SAID, here’s the prologue:
(It’s Brynn’s fault this time!) 🙂

Brynn is eleven years old, and she is more adult than I am. She has a sense of the ‘bigger picture’ far better than I do, an immediate grasp of situations, and a talent for being able to put things in words succinctly. As of this morning (because it just occurred to me), I will now be calling this quality, ‘Brynnsight’.
Two specific examples (before last night) stand out:
Her father and I split up when she was almost six. Like all parents before us in the same situation, we ‘sat her down’ to give her the bad news. After we told her – making sure to tell her what we were supposed to – that this had nothing to do with her and that we still both loved her very much and respected each other, she got very quiet in a considering sort of way. She asked who she was going to live with and we told her she would live with me. Then she got off my lap and said, “I’ll be right back.” She left the room for a minute and came back with a tiny little clay animal that she had made and handed it to her father, saying calmly, “Here, Daddy. I made this for you in case this happened.”
WHOA!

The other time was just three years ago, when she was eight. Her sister Deren (who is older by eleven years) was nearing the end of a not-so-positive three-year relationship. Another … big upset had occurred, and it was becoming very clear to Deren that this may not be something she wanted. It was a case of the usual ‘how many times does something bad have to happen before I realize this may not be working?’ situation. The three of us were in the room together, and Brynn had her arm around Deren in sympathy. Deren was very upset, understandably. Brynn let her talk for a while and then said to her, comfortingly, “At least this wasn’t a surprise.”
(– I don’t know who was more shocked when she said that!)
NOW ONTO THE SPECIFICS OF WHAT SET ME OFF ON THIS TANGENT:
Like any parent who is tired of watching the same stupid children’s movies over and over and over again, I’ve begun exposing Brynn to a lot of older movies, movies I grew up with. I did the same with Deren. I tell them I’m exposing them to pop culture, but in reality I’m ensuring that the same stupid children’s movies we watch over and over and over again are the stupid children’s movies that I like. I admit it.
At this point I have to interject a little about myself – not to prove that Brynn is like me, but to show my basis for understanding her own uniqueness.
During my many therapy sessions – or conversations with my girlfriends over drinks (tomato, tomahto), I’ve begun to understand my own sense and depth of empathy. My best doctor/friend, Donna, was the one who helped me understand it the best. We were discussing connections, a very strong life-theme of mine, and I was venting my anger at my inability to understand why I can feel empathy to such a level that it incapacitates me. I can’t read or watch the news; when I hear of something bad happening to someone, I have a sense of feeling everything I can imagine they are feeling. I won’t go into detail, but what I experience is enough to paralyze me indefinitely. I wanted to know what the purpose of it was – I thought I’d be able to deal with it better if I understood why, or if I thought there was some cosmic benefit to it.
I can’t watch movies where children are being hurt, tormented, or portrayed as evil. Violence in movies actually makes me sick. I got into a full-on fight with my first ex because he didn’t change the television channel in time for me to avoid seeing something I didn’t want to see (something I still remember and feel to this day, nineteen years later).
I understand empathy to be a part of our connectedness, however I was questioning the whys of it. Donna gave me the kick in the ass I needed, by telling me in no uncertain terms that it was not my place to know why – that I don’t and can’t control everything. She also helped me understand that on some level, my taking on of those feelings was more of a Universal way of easing the load of the collective.  That I was able to understand, because I believe anything done to or for one is done for all.
So, anyway, now I’m introducing older movies to Brynn (mostly 80’s classics). I’ve been trying to guess her taste by what she showed interest in. I was very surprised that she loved “Forrest Gump”. Honestly, I thought that because she didn’t know most of the history of it that she would have no interest. She has stated openly that she now realizes she likes romantic comedies – but not all. She loves “You’ve Got Mail” but hated “Sleepless in Seattle” (except the ending).  She hated “Sixteen Candles”! What? She wouldn’t even watch the whole thing! All she kept saying was, “Why didn’t she tell her parents they forgot her birthday?!”

I did tell her it ended happy, but it wasn’t enough for her to endure what she called ‘torture’.  It was after this that I realized we share a similar quirk of … something, regarding what we can or cannot expose ourselves to (she knows I only repeatedly watch the endings of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Pursuit of Happyness” because I cannot endure the pain of them). Okay. Noted.
Then, we tried “Moulin Rouge”. After it ended, she looked at me and burst into tears – partly in anger at me that I made her watch a sad movie. Apparently, she and I are not alike in our taste of ‘reflective’ sorts of movies.
I told you she was weird, right? She’s a rule-follower. To the letter. She takes pride in that, too. Doesn’t use bad words, or even words she considers bad. Totally not me.
She is also very – very – expressive in her happiness. If she is enjoying something, she will stop and just announce, “I LOVE THIS!” I love her constant expressions of appreciation.
As her mother, and knowing her life, I would not say she’s had the best childhood – at least nothing to brag about. Her parents are not together, she’s never lived in a house, she has gone without more than with. And she is happy, oddly enough.
The first time I had to reprimand her – actually, reprimand her – was four years ago. She broke down in tears to the point of hyperventilating. I then had to explain to her that there will be some times she will be yelled at, and that not everything is perfect. Her answer? Between crying hiccups she stammered, “But … it … always … has … been!” That blew me away.
Last night (I know, FINALLY!), I suggested “Edward Scissorhands”. She knows who Johnny Depp is and Tim Burton (even though she thinks he’s creepy), and appreciates Danny Elfman’s music (“The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack is a favorite).
BAD DECISION.
I was working, so she was watching it alone. She came into my room after about 45 minutes or so with an odd look on her face and burst out crying (they had turned on him).
She told me (I can’t remember her exact wording here) that as she is getting older, she is being exposed to more things (not just movies) that upset her and “she can’t do anything!” – which hit me hard, with my own understanding of painful things paralyzing me.
I asked her if she understood the ideas of sympathy and empathy, and explained to her the general definitions of sympathy being the idea of feeling sorry for someone and of empathy being the idea of feeling the same feelings as another.
I told her that I understood her feeling that way, mentioning my own quirks about what I feel the need to inundate myself with or avoid.
I also told her that I was trying to understand her point of view. She liked “Notting Hill” – and Hugh Grant is miserable during a lot of it. She liked “Forrest Gump” even though his mother and Jenny died. I knew from “Moulin Rouge” that she didn’t like sad movies, but I couldn’t put my finger on what separated one partially sad movie with a happy or inspiring ending from another with her.
This is where she sat me back on my heels, both in her explanation and in her ability to understand her own feelings enough to vocalize them clearly:
“I feel that sense of …
(ready for this?)
… abuse.”
How the hell did she come up with such right, clear, concise, and understandable words? How does she understand herself so well at her age? The understanding she has of herself is truly amazing. I have to get a better grasp of that before I really piss her off.
Thank you, Brynn, for giving me an explanation even I understand. Thank you for proving more clearly to me each person’s own unique spirit. Thank you for teaching me more perspective.
Thank you, too, for waking me up too early and causing me to start my day later than I wanted to.

Happy Birthday to Me!

49-sounds-like-more-wine

” … maybe this particular blog as a ‘summation of what I’ve learned thus far’, so to speak, should have waited until next year on my ‘milestone 50th’ birthday, especially since I’m often spouting about how we change all the time and I could change my mind on these things by next year; however, my opinions on what I’m writing about now haven’t changed, and – wait ‘til next year? Puh-leeze. If you’ve learned anything about me here it’s that: patience is not my strong suit and I almost never do what I should do.

Then again, I could still change my mind in exactly one year and completely recant everything I’m saying today. I might even do that. Just for the sport of it.”

Read more of ‘The Birthday Blog’ here.

Creating the Life I am Living (The Birthday Blog)

In the ‘birthdays are a time of reflection’ category:
I’m 49 today! Big deal, right?
Right. It is a big deal. To me. And that’s all that matters.
(I may or may not be sticking my tongue out at you right now. The odds are good on the former.)
Anyway, maybe this particular blog as a ‘summation of what I’ve learned thus far’, so to speak, should have waited until next year on my ‘milestone 50th’ birthday, especially since I’m often spouting about how we change all the time and I could change my mind on these things by next year; however, my opinions on what I’m writing about now haven’t changed, and – wait ‘til next year? Puh-leeze. If you’ve learned anything about me here it’s that: patience is not my strong suit and I almost never do what I should do.
Then again, I could still change my mind in exactly one year and completely recant everything I’m saying today. I might even do that. Just for the sport of it.
But for now, as a new 49-year-old, right now:
I. LOVE. MY. AGE.
I love being older.
When we were younger –
– I say ‘younger’ instead of ‘kids’ because I still feel like a kid –
 we couldn’t wait to grow up because then we ‘could do whatever we wanted to do’.
(For the record, I haven’t grown up yet. At this exact moment there are still no plans to.)
Do you realize how true that is? We can do whatever we want to do.
I’ll say it again: We can do whatever we want to do.
I can hear the argument that starts with the discussion of all the things we have to do because of our ‘responsibilities’: we have to work to support our kids, our homes, our lives.  We feel we have no choice here; but we do. I can choose to work or choose not to work. And then the argument goes: you have to work or you will lose what you have.
Think about that. Consequences or repercussions do not imply lack of choice, they merely change the parameters of what we are choosing between. If I choose not to work, I will suffer the consequences, right?
Then I am making a choice between working and not getting paid, and not between working or not working. The ‘consequence’ of the choice is the actual choice. Ergo, I still have the ability to make a choice, and there is no have to.
See what I did there?
What I have learned is that it really depends on how we think (and, of course, if we think). We truly do create our own realities.
When we are younger, our beliefs are quite expansive. We have no knowledge of how to limit ourselves. That comes with age. And later with more aging, we learn how limited we’ve allowed ourselves to become.
We then make another choice: live with the limits we learned or take a deep breath and let them go.  
As we get older we begin to see that so many of the rules we live by are learned and not natural. What we knew as children before we were shown the ideas of expectations and judgment was natural … and right. We learned to worry about what other people thought of us, and were taught to behave under specific standards of conformity – and these differed geographically.
How can so many different groups of race, ethnicity, gender and religion not see that if they’d simply been born somewhere else their whole learned-belief-scope would be different? And if they see that, how can they assume their learned-belief-scope is the one and true way? Doesn’t that simple fact prove unequivocally how much of what any one of us believes now is learned and not known?
There is a difference between belief and knowing. Belief implies a base hope; knowing just is.
We were born out of love, and love was our first experience. As babies, we looked around at the world around us with awe and appreciation at how different everything was – but then grew up to be taught that only some differences are acceptable.
I have limited myself continuously out of concern of judgment from everyone around me; my parents, my school, my churches, teachers, the ‘popular’ kids, the rich kids, the boys, the girls, the men, the women, society, magazines, politics, my kids, my kids’ teachers, other parents, boyfriends, husbands, siblings … and that guy on the corner.  Their expectations and the threat of judgment from them played a big part in how I acted, spoke, dressed, worked, played, taught, learned … and even thought. Yes, in some cases I did choose the path of rebellion and did things to spite them – but it still proves that my life was limited or controlled by others’ thinking (even in reverse). And I chose that, because I was still stuck in my learned conformity.
I realized that sad fact a long time ago. At first, I spent a number of years being angry at everyone else for doing that to me; then a few more years angry at myself for letting them. Then I realized I was wasting time and decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to change – secretly, of course.  Secretly, because if I told anyone what I was planning to do – who I was planning to be, whose rules I was planning to follow – there would be enough opposition to make me cower back in my corner and conform.
It took even longer to get up the courage to act on my newer way of thinking.
Now, I’m more committed to doing what I want more than ever – to being who I am.  No matter what anyone else thinks or says. That’s the beauty of it. The freedom in being myself – being true to what I know­ – is incredible. Do I still use bad judgment? DUH. Sometimes I’m even aware of it at the time and choose it anyway. Does it still hurt if someone judges me, or is disappointed in me? Of course; but not as much, and definitely not as often.
I am so much happier this way.
The flip side (because it’s never this OR that – it’s always this AND that) is actually even better. The more I release myself of outside expectations and judgments, the less I expect and judge others.
I am creating my own reality – even your part in it is somewhat of my own creation. What I choose to ‘get’ from you is what I want to see. As co-creators together, this is the most and bestest support I can give you, as long as what I choose to see in you is positive. Without judgment or expectation, I am learning to love you as the love you were when you were born. I can be happy loving you, because love is always positive. If I feel I’m being hurt by that, then I need to change my expectations of you and allow you the same freedoms of choice that I am learning to allow myself.
No, I still don’t quite have the hang of it yet – but I’m getting there.
Back to the ‘flip side’. This AND that. It is always this AND that. The other side of the coin – both sides at the same time – because without both sides there is no coin. There will always be something positive in what we perceive to be negative, and always something negative in what we perceive to be positive. Polarity is necessary for perspective. The person who is born blind will never know what darkness is if he’s never seen light. Polarity is necessary for choice of preference. So-called ‘bad’ choices are helpful for the same reason.
If I remain aware of my freedom of choice in my thoughts and make sure to find my positive in everything, then I – and only I – control my actions. Actions are the results of emotions which are the results of thoughts. This is how we create our reality.
This is how I’m creating mine. It took me 49 years to get here, but with the focus on the right perspective I can say it’s been a great time. (Don’t ask me about that on a bad day – I have occasionally been known to choose self-pity.)
I control my life. I love the power and freedom in knowing that. No matter what I do; right or wrong, good or bad, stupid or stupid-er. There is no blame on others, and can be no blame on myself because I make choices based on my knowledge at the moment.
You can think whatever you want of me. That’s pretty great for you, isn’t it? And whatever you think is fine – good even, because it has no effect on me unless I want it to, or if I decide to teach myself a lesson and choose for it to.
 (I’m hoping to grow out of that.)
My reality, my choice; your reality, yours. How fun is that? We each get our own piece of paper and our own crayons!
We were told as kids that we need to learn to grow. I feel like I’m still a kid, but lately I find I’m growing more by un-learning. Still more of this and that. I love synchronicity.
I can hear the Universe shouting to me, “Happy Birthday, Susie!” but it sounds like, “It’s about time!”
Yes, it is. 49 years’ worth. 

Happy Birthday to Me!