Feelings And Fish

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I am not sure this will make sense but I am sure going to try.

Today was THERAPIST DAY. It was a doozie. She always makes me think and dig deep to find my own truths.  This is what she said to me that made me have an “A-hah!” moment. It was something I “knew” yet something that was not yet crystal clear to me.

You would think that at middle age I would have “gotten” this before or at least been observing it under the lens of magnification before, but suddenly today it became very clear. Like turning the dial on the microscope and finally being able to focus in tightly and clearly on the subject, which in this case just happens to be me.

After telling her about how I felt sharing my feelings in my relationship was important and anything less was somehow dishonest, she said, “No one else is expected to honor your feelings except you. They are yours alone. Stop expecting that B will honor what are yours to carry.”

Really! I thought that was what marriage was suppose to be about. Honoring the relationship, honoring one another in that relationship. Apparently not when it comes to your own feelings. No expectations here because all you will be is disappointed. Yeah, I know, the Buddha says the same thing.

“Stop worrying about the stuff up there, what B is doing, what B is thinking” she said looking upwards. “Go deeper and dig to find your own truths. Think of it this way. You know when you walk in one of those aquarium  tunnels and the sharks and fish are swimming above you?  Sure, you could worry about all the murky stuff floating/moving above you, the weight of all those millions of gallons of water, the sharks breaking free and swallowing you whole. But seriously, if you have your feet planted firmly on the floor examining your own truths (these tunnels are safe) and not worrying about the sharks swimming above you, you will finally relax and enjoy what it is you are seeing.  And you will soon see the truth. Your truths. The truths that you are meant to discover. Eventually you will just enjoy watching the fish and will discover that you can ignore the poop that is floating above you. In fact, by ignoring the other (fish poop, worries about tunnel caving in, etc.) then you can really get into it and experience all the wonder of the relationship around you. ”

Now, somehow I am suppose to transfer this bit of fish lore to my life and my relationship with B. I am not exactly sure how, but said therapist assures me that as B is left to look at himself, instead of me trying to get him to see all that is floating around in the water with us; everything will soon become much clearer to me…and to him too. This doesn’t mean everything will turn out the way I would like but at least with clarity comes a sense of truth and knowing what you are doing is the right thing for you… and this woman needs a boat load of that.

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Precious Presents

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I have a small group of friends that know me pretty much inside and out…and bless their hearts… they are still my friends. We were brought together by virtue of some shared characteristics of our children. The bond that we have gone on to form transcends our original purpose of providing support to one another. Our relationships are now based not so much on our children’s issues but on our real concern and love for each other. We now enjoy a Friendship that begin with a capital F even if it is mostly virtual.

Many of these friends I have met in “real” life. A few I have yet to meet except out in cyberspace. We have shared our joys and concerns. We have lived each others ups and downs. We have been there for the little victories and some major defeats. We have watched each others children grow and been there when a diagnosis threatened to overwhelm. As a result of sharing such intimacies over the years we read each other fairly well.

Recently, I found myself at a crossroads… a low point so to speak. My friends gave me the encouragement that usually brings me to my feet again. Most important they took the time to give me ideas and options that they thought might make my life just a little brighter. Yet, I remained on my knees and they knew it. Then yesterday I went to our group and found that a member had posted the start of the most beautiful and meaningful gift I have ever been given. She started a list entitled 25 Random Things We Love About You. The list was sincere, uplifting and once again reminded me of who I am and who I want to become. Some things were funny, some serious and some were eye opening but all the things on the list were written with love. When I read the list I laughed and cried. I was truly touched and beside myself with delight. Because of that list I am standing on my feet once again.

A present that affirms you for who you are…warts and all… only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. It is a gift are as rare as the most precious gem. It’s a gift that teachs, stirs, and allows you to remember yourself as you were at your best. It restores confidence, grants healing and puts you back on the path to yourself. It is a gift that everyone should give to at least one other person in their lifetime. Everyone should be so lucky.

I have yet to comment to my friends how I feel about such receiving such a treasure. I mean it is truly like winning the lottery. I find it hard to contemplate about what was said without feeling such a overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have such a group of wonderful women watching my back…I almost dissolve in tears. So lacking any real gift that could compare in return I just wanted to say thank you my dear friends. I want to thank you for giving me your time when I had none to give back and thank you for giving me your strength when I was too weak to support myself much less you. Thank you for giving me your love and your truth. You have given me your best over the years even when I fell short. I am truly blessed to have known each and every one of you. All of you have taught me so many things but most of all you have taught me the true meaning of friendship and for that I will always be grateful and in your debt.Someday I hope I can give back to you what you have given me over the years. For now….all you get is this IOU.

*I wrote this several years ago and just looked at it again. I feel just as blessed remembering this as when it happened. Thank you friends!*

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Words

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We are walking along the cliffs. The wind is blowing. Huge waves are crashing against massive boulders in anticipation of the storm that is blowing in. B huddles deeper into his coat as the air picks up my words and delivers them to the man beside me.

“Everyday, you can choose to love or you can choose not to,” I say to B. “And so I choose to love you today and I will choose to love you forever.”

“That’s nice,” he says flashing that smile I have known and loved for so many years. The smile that I suddenly want to slap right off of his face.

THAT’S NICE?????!!!! REALLY….AFTER OVER 30 YEARS TOGETHER IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT? DON’T YOU KNOW YET THAT…

I am a woman who needs words. I write for a living for God’s sake! I love hearing double vowels, romantic words, and certain letters rolling off the tongue like the sound of an L, which can be so incredibly sexy when you are at the right place in time with the right person. I like hearing sharp bursts of words from children who have found dragons and mermaids and have to tell you all about the experience in 2.3 seconds or less so you see them before they vanish in thin air. I like words that are carefully chosen like a mother who measures cough syrup for her child in order to get the correct dose thus ensuring no harm. I like playful words like tumble and words with double meanings. I like words that are said with a laugh oozing up out of the throat, desperate words that are said while waiting for hot sex, and the words you whisper to a baby as their heads slump onto your chest their eyes fuzzy with Mr Sandman’s visit and almost nearly closed.

I LOVE WORDS!

So what is a woman to do when she is married to a man who doesn’t? Can she be happy without an “I love you too, honey” coming back at her? Can she feel understood and cherished when the words she needs to hear do not come out of his mouth? I’ve lived without them for so long why do I desire them now? Is this what a “maybe divorce” does to you? It makes you word crazy?

I realize to many this isn’t a problem at all. There are much more serious things in the world. B doesn’t beat me. He goes to work everyday. He doesn’t abuse me. He is great in bed…isn’t that enough? I mean…. REALLY…ISN’T THAT GOOD ENOUGH?

How many times I have heard my girlfriends tell me they wished they had a husband like mine….so kind and sweet….and he even does housework!

Why can’t that be enough?

I know many women whose lovers have said all the right words and meant none of them. Better to have no words than lies? Better to endure omissions rather than half-truths? I have no clue… but I do know that often B doesn’t respond with reassuring words and after these past two years of hell I find I want them. I might even need them.

All I know is that without words life is dull…like living in a black and white movie. It’s like eating salad everyday for dinner and skipping the dessert. Life without meaningful words looks like a bare bulb dangling in a stark white room. Its like a warm beer when it is 103 degrees outside and feels like that pit you get in your stomach when a cop pulls you over for speeding.

I want words. I want endearments, I want to know what you are feeling. I am tired of missed opportunities or the absence of words that leave me confused and hanging. Because without the proper words it feels as if storm clouds have entered my head and the disappointment is whipping up the winds that blow through my mind and turning what could have been a gentle spring shower into a raging hurricane. So button your coat and sink even further into it because a storm is coming. And I think it is me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving On A Jet Plane

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Today B left on a 5 day business trip. Now to most, this would sound mundane. Five days. Big deal. But for me that is exactly what it is…a big deal.

Almost two years ago B came home while the rest of us vacationed for an additional 10 days. A few days after I arrived home is when he said he was wanting a divorce. Fast forward marriage therapy, individual therapy, meditation, Marriage Encounter…you name it we tried it. It was a merry-go-round of great successes followed by some major failures.

This past January, after coming back from a business trip to China, once again B stated he wanted to separate. Then I went away and realized I did too. I was done with all this back and forth. Either you want to be together or you don’t. I wrote a five page note putting my feelings into words and the actions I wanted to take, out there, in plain site, for him to read…only now he didn’t want to separate. So we made a deal. No more talking about divorce for 6 months and things seem to be better.

Now three months later B is alone on another business trip and, frankly, it made me a little nervous. So as we were walking to the other night I decided to be honest and spill my guts. I said to him:

“You know you are leaving and the last two times you have gone away on your own you have come home wanting a divorce/separation. Obviously, I have some concerns because being alone seems to take you to a place of not wanting to be together. So I wanted you to know if you are even thinking this again don’t bother to come home because I don’t want to deal with it and your indecision. This is a scary thing for me to say this but I am dreading your time away because I don’t want to be hurt again.”

“It sounds like you are scared,” he says using a phrase that he has learned at the therapists office.

He keeps walking. I do too but immediately feel my stomach clench.

“Really! That is all you are going to say!” my brain almost exploding with these type of thoughts.

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And so I stopped walking.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” B says to me.

“Honey, this is the point where you are suppose to offer reassurance. I appreciate you recognizing my feelings but you need to go further. Just recognizing what I have said isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to react, reassure, or explore a little more. This is a pattern in our relationship. I express myself and you barely react to what I say. You could say more but you choose to withhold words that could be helpful, kind, or could bolster our relationship. You have gone away twice for periods of a week or more and both times have returned wanting to be single. I need honesty and reassurance from you that this isn’t going to happen again.”

B looks perplexed. He stares at me like I am a alien from Mars. But then he pulls me close and gives me a kiss.

“You don’t need to worry. I will be excited to come back to you.”

Okay, he’s not the best with words but it is a start.

This morning B left. When I went downstairs I found a note by my computer which read:

HONEY,

HAVE A GOOD WEEK AND EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE WHEN I RETURN. THANKS FOR GETTING THE KIDS AROUND WHILE I AM GONE. LOVE YOU, B

Maybe he is starting to “get it” after all.

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Preservation

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When I visited with my therapist this week I told her about an incident that happened while we were in New York. I wanted to explore it a little deeper because I knew that it was important and while I thought I knew why it needed to be tackled, I wasn’t sure that I had all the pieces I needed to fully understand why I did what I did.

On Sunday, our son West, was telling us we should sell a piece of property that we own, to which I replied:

“Honey, we can’t do anything until Dad and I know what is happening with this relationship and if we are even going to stay together.”

I think that is what is called starting to pound the nail in the coffin or maybe torching the bridge.

“So, why did you do it?” my therapist asked. “Why did you open the EXIT door and go right through it when you said that for six months you would not talk about divorce?”

“Because I felt like West was confused,” I answered. “Here we were so happy and yet we have been teetering on the edge of divorce. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.”

“First of all it isn’t West’s business and you didn’t owe him any explanations about where you are in your relationship. But I’m not sure that is all there is to it. Anything else come to mind?” she chuckled.

I stared back giving her my best evil eye. She laughed again. I squirmed.

“Okay, I guess I was feeling scared. Everything felt so wonderful and right this weekend. It felt too good to be true. I just couldn’t trust it and needed to put it back in the place I am used to…limbo.”

“So you went ahead and made sure it was too good to be true for everyone involved. You undermined your relationship which gave you a plan of escape. You abandoned the people you were with because you went through that EXIT door. Your plans and words gave the impression of wanting to escape. Why not have a plan to preserve your relationship instead?”

YIKES. WHY DON’T WE TAKE A LESS PAINFUL WAY THROUGH THIS PSYCHOLOGICAL CRAP …FLOGGING MIGHT BE A BETTER CHOICE.

“Think of it this way. There are many ways to preserve food. You can use a water bath, you can freeze-dry,  or dry it like jerky, or even pressure can it. Some things need to be preserved in just one way and some things can be preserved in many ways. But the object is the same: preserve what you have so you can enjoy it on another day. That is what you need to start doing with your marriage.  You can’t preserve your relationship if you are so busy running away through the EXIT door that you can’t stay in the kitchen to get the tasks done which will keep you and your relationship healthy.”

CRAP

“So, this week I want you to think about the things in your relationship with B that need to be preserved so they don’t go bad. Or think about those things that have been neglected and need to be revived. How do you go about preserving them so you have something tasty and good in the future? What work do you need to do on YOU that will allow your relationship to be preserved and ultimately flourish, instead of becoming moldy and rotten?” Are you going to leave the food out or are you going take care of it so it lasts a long time?”

As I headed home I stopped at the fruit stand and bought a lug of strawberries. On a lark I decided to make jam. So I cut,  smooshed, cooked, and added just enough sugar to make the syrupy fruit sweet. Everything in the kitchen was sticky to the touch as I lifted the jars out of the waterbath and as the jars started cooling on my counter I began to contemplate what my therapist was trying to convey. And then it happened… I began to hear the sound that all canners long to hear….the tinney POP of the lids as they seal in the freshness of what is put inside the jar. A POP that tells you that you did everything right and what is inside is preserved.

It was hearing those tiny little pops that made me realize that I wanted to put the best of what we had into our jars to keep what was inside fresh and free from contamination. After 30+ years of marriage, the good the bad and the ups and downs; I finally recognized that someday our cupboard will once again be bare and we will need what is preserved inside those jars to sustain us.

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Stilettos

“Mom,” says Gracie. “I have an orchestra competition and I need black shoes with heels.”

Heels? I think. She can’t be old enough for heels, can she? There is no way. Just yesterday I was rocking her to sleep, picking out her clothes and teaching her to ride a bike. Heels? I am not ready for this! Heels means makeup, makeup means proms, and proms mean BOYS. Crap…not boys! Not yet! Not EVER!

An hour later we are headed for the store doing the joint mother/daughter thing to pick out her first pair of heels. As I drive a feel a pull in my gut warning me that I should just turn around and go home.

” I like these,” she says as she holds up a pair of 5-inch stilettos that any good hooker would covet.

OH HELL NO! explodes like white lightning throughout my feeble brain. My mother’s words of “No daughter of mine…” come flooding back to me and trip over my tongue on the way out of my mouth.

I feel compelled right here and now, in the middle of the shoe department, to the have “the talk” about what is appropriate and what is not at her age. As I drone on she grimaces, “oh moms” and rolls her eyes more times than I care to count but I think my point has been well taken until she whines…

“I’m not a little girl”

“You’re not twenty-five either nor do you have a job and you don’t earn your own money to buy the things that you want.”

“Of course I don’t have a job,” she shoots back. “I am only 12! But if I did I would be buying those shoes!” her hands gently caressing the soft black velvet.

I take this as a cue to hold up a pair of ballet flats figuring if I show her THESE, knowing she likes THOSE, perhaps we can find a compromise somewhere in this warehouse of shoes.

Gracie holds up a different pair with four-inch heels that climb up her legs like a vine on a tree.

“How about these?” she says with a smile that looks more like a dare.

“How about not.”

And so it goes until she shows me the 10th pair with heels that shoot you up towards the sky.

“Honey,” I ask. “Why is it that you are drawn to shoes with such high heels?”

“Come on mom, think about it. I am the shortest one in my class and on the diving team. No one sees me. Just once I want to look up at someone instead of them looking down on me.”

Finally, I get it. Her need for height is a need for being seen. For being like everyone else, in a world where Asians are often not seen nor heard. For being “looked at” instead of being invisible.

I give her a squeeze and suggest we find something that will give her lift but not up to the clouds. We finally settle on a two-inch inch wedge that gives her a little extra notice but not in that over-the-top teenage way.

As we drive home we talk about girl things. Things I once understood but don’t quite get now. Things I have forgotten as the years have rolled by. Big feelings that once threatened to overtake me when I was her age.

“Mom,” Gracie says. “I have a confession. I didn’t really want those big heels. I just wanted to see what you would let me get away with.”

“Really? Why would you do that?”

“Geez mom, I’m almost a teen. I have to start pushing the boundaries someday you know.”

I laugh and I know that she does, but I hope she will wait just a little bit longer before the boundaries are pushed all the way to Siberia. For the truth is it isn’t the boundaries that worry me it is the fact that she is my baby and there is a small part of me, in a world that moves too fast, that wants her to remain that way forever.

Slowing Down

I have been moving at a  pretty fast pace lately. Whether it be traveling from one side of the country to the other or in my interactions with those I love; warp seems to be the speed at which I move these days. So I was more than a little ticked when my therapist “suggested” that I take more time in all aspects of my life. In other words…

S L O W

I T

D O W N

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When I wrote B that recent letter I shared with you… I was ready to be done that day, move into a new home the next and be in court a couple of weeks later. That is the way I do things once I decide to do them. Final Decision=Changing My Life For Good.  Let’s cut through the crap and start a new chapter. But my therapist says that type of thinking is self sabotaging and creates more pain in the end. Incidentally, B’s therapist also feels this way.images-7

One example she has given me to highlight this type of thinking is that if you are driving 100 miles per hour you are going too fast to see the little important things along side of the roadway. Things that may influence how fast you continue to drive or if you need to stop or slow down. When you are going that fast nothing is crystal clear and everything becomes a blur. Decision making, instead of being thoughtfully planned out, becomes spur of the moment and as a result it creates pain and suffering. To quote her:

“You have to remember that not all suffering is the same. The suffering you may face from leaving before the time is right may be nothing compared to the years of regret you might have because you didn’t take the time to work through the things that needed to be addressed even if that does result in divorce later on. Usually going at a fast rate of speed only leads to serious pain and regret.”

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According to her, speed will destroy what it is I ultimately want to accomplish.

“If this marriage ends due to knee jerk reactions,” she says “then you will not learn to trust yourself or the decisions that you make. Doing that takes thoughtful planning and seeing each part of the decision-making process come to fruition. That’s when trust in yourself begins to build upon itself when you see things coming together because you took the time to do things right and get what you need in the final outcome.”

And so I am trying to slow down and put into place the things that I want and need for my future. Although I do not know what that future holds I want to be sure that when I get there it contains all the things I need to live this second half of my life on my terms and not to be left holding a speeding ticket because I took the laps too fast.

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Never Thought I Would Do This But…

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Okay, this week is really busy. This morning has me by the balls so instead of writing I am going to give you a cleaning tip. That’s right! A cleaning tip…something I never thought I would do on this blog! EVER!

So my friend, L had been in the restaurant business for a long time when she looked in my microwave and went YUCK.

“I know, but it is impossible to clean,” I said with red creeping up my neck.

“Here’s the trick,” she said. “Put a teaspoon of baking soda in a dish and mix 1/2 c of water with it. Put it in the microwave and turn it on for three minutes. When the three minutes is up take it out and immediately clean it with a sponge.”

I tell you this works. Well. Very well. So go clean your nasty disgusting microwave and as you do, say a little thank you to L who has your back. For this just might be the trick (besides slut suits) that saves your marriage as you enter middle age.

What It Means To Love Someone Fully

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Yesterday, we had a Marriage Encounter meeting at our home. It was fantastic and the people who came were interesting and good, kind folks. One of the questions that we shared in our circle was: When I first met you did I know what it was to love someone fully?

Of course, for me, the answer was no. When you marry young, I don’t think anyone knows what it is to love fully. I think we try, God bless us, but until you have lived with someone for quite a while I don’t think it is possible to even fathom what loving someone fully means because it often means different things to different people. I think having experienced a history together is necessary for this type of love to come into sharp focus.

I can say that for a very long time I was selfish (maybe still am) because I was demanding to get my needs met by B because they had not been met as a child. I should have been wise enough and mature enough to meet my needs myself but I did not understand the complexity of what that entailed and the depths you have to plumb within your own soul to accomplish that. I also tried to make B love me in ways that were comfortable to me instead of ways that were comfortable for him because I was unwilling to change. I clung to ways I was familiar with instead of having faith in the love B had for me and that his way of showing it was also valuable.

And so yesterday, when I answered the question, I replied that I still did not think that I knew what loving B fully means. But today, after much contemplation, I want a re-do because I think I may have been wrong. Why? Because:

  1. If I am fighting to preserve my marriage through the worst of times and on those days where it seems impossible to keep putting one foot in front of the other but I do it anyway; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  2. If I eliminate major flaws within my own personality by reducing anger and increasing peace in order to save my marriage; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  3. If going to painfully sad counseling sessions to learn about myself and to try to learn to look at things from my loved one’s point of view, while listening to the pain and hurt I have caused them, and actively attempt try to remedy that hurt; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  4. If  I am actively looking for reasons to be grateful for everything wonderful and wondrous about my spouse; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  5. If I am working hard to see the good in my spouse and I have faith that he has my best interests at heart; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  6. If I step out of my comfort zone to do the things that make my spouse happy without expecting anything in return; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  7. If I work hard to improve communication between us in order to reduce misunderstandings; then I know what loving someone fully means
  8. If I take responsibility for my own actions instead of blaming; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  9. If I make the conscious choice to find ways to love my husband each and every day event though he may not be at his best; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  10. If I provide my spouse with gentle encouragement; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  11. If I talk to my man in the way I would talk to my best friend; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  12. If I decide that I will do whatever it takes to make things work between us; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  13. If I am actively working to keep that sense of aloneness between us at bay by finding opportunities for connection; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  14. If I let go and decide to trust my heart to B completely, then I know what loving someone fully means.
  15. If I work to put my spouse first… above work, committees and all the other countless things that need our attention; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  16. Being with my lover through the daily grind is easy but if I choose to be with him during the hardest of times; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  17. If I practice just listening instead of fixing or giving unwanted opinions; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  18. If I work on being fully present and in the moment; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  19. If I share my feelings in a kind and appropriate manner; then I know what loving someone fully means.

Let me say, that I think it is important that you do not lose yourself or what you value in order to love someone fully or have them love you back; for that is not what love is about. And let me also convey that this list is not meant to imply that I do these things perfectly or even well. But I can state that I think I am much closer to knowing what loving someone fully means because I am actively practicing what it takes to show that love everyday, instead of acting as if these things will take care of themselves. It means that although there are times that I fail and disappoint both of us; that at least now I am now mindful and aware of what loving B fully might mean and I try to act accordingly. It means that these are things I want to do of my own accord instead of doing them out of some sort of obligation or expectation. And it also means that although I will continue to have to practice the art of loving B fully each and everyday; that I have faith that because of my love for him, that I will get it right eventually, and that I will be kind enough to grant myself some grace until I do.

 

A Good Book

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I am reading the book Perfume River by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. His words flow like a river during the spring rains…rushing and so powerful that they threaten to pull you under. Yet, Butler also knows how to write as if the river is also drying and receding into itself … the author’s words trickling from the pages in a sparse kind of way like the character who finds himself parched and unable to continue his journey.

As a writer I find it amazing when an author can match the flow of his words with the flow of the story. It’s a rarity, that. Most people can write of feelings and place but show me an author who has the gift of using words to match the tempo of the story, like a composer who pens his first notes for each instrument; well, it is a gift to the reader.

I wish I had the ability to match my words and actions with the tempo of storyline that is running throughout my life. Often I feel that my passion is too intense for the scene or that I fall behind not realizing the importance of the moment until it has passed. Sometimes I find  myself experiencing a momentary loss of words as I traverse this life that is mine. Having my emotions and words match what is going on in life often presents a bit of a challenge and I find that sometimes I am missing the perfect words that would complete the chapter in a satisfying sort of way for all the characters in my life.

But if the truth is told,  seldom is the time that we get to write our own life story as we envision it. Often plots are pushed upon us through no fault of our own and characters we never imagined magically appear. We expect a monsoon but get a drought instead. And as we journey through life we often forget that our words set the pace for what happens next, who we become, and the quality of our relationships that we are in.

So today, let us be mindful of the words we are saying and where they might be taking us. Let us craft our words and deeds like the chapter of a good book. And by thinking before speaking, let us be like that author who knows what to edit out to make the story flow. After all, it is our own personal story so its up to us to make it interesting and something we would be proud to let others read.  We may not get a Pulitzer Prize but we will get immense satisfaction in taking the time to craft a life that becomes our own bestseller.