Fail (to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved)

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I’ve been taking a deep, long look at myself lately. Trying to figure out who I really am and if that is who I still want to be. This type of introspection makes me look at specific moments and compare them to past moments. This is the way I do things now but 10 years ago, 25 years ago or 40 years ago I might have done the same thing differently.

Take cooking, for example.

People who know me today have heard of my many cooking and baking fails. I have set fire to many foods like garlic bread, steak, and chicken. The smoke from one particular Fathe’s Day barbecue was so bad that someone called the fire department. It was out by the time they arrived. And no, I did not go out and greet them to tell them it was my fault. My first recollection of setting food on fire was in high school when I was cooking a frozen hamburger in a pan on the stove top. The flames touched the ceiling. Safety Alert: Grease fires and water do not mix.

Baking has its own share of stories like the angel food cake that caught fire or the peanut butter cookies that called for a yellow cake mix. Lemon cake is yellow, right? I don’t suggest you try it. Successful baking usually included some kind of burn somewhere on my body. While I used oven mitts to take a pan out of the oven, when it hit my bare leg I still got burnt.
These are funny stories but they became THE story. I was not a good cook and an even worse baker. I failed at both. When I look back at other kitchen moments in my life, I enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom and grandmom. The kitchen was where I heard family stories and attempted to learn family recipes. It’s a place of warmth and happiness in my memories. I’ve cooked hundreds, maybe thousands, of meals in my lifetime so far. And the successes outweigh the failures exponentially.

So why and how did this become MY story? So I failed a few times. The definition of fail says “to fall short.” It doesn’t say that you can’t do it. It just says that it didn’t work out THIS TIME. In this case, I allowed someone else to make my failures permanent. Why would I do that? Two reasons. First, he needed to be better than me. Second, when you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it. Until you don’t.

I’m taking back the things that I am good at. In the future, I will remember that failing at something is not the end. Any cook has stories of failures and they all end with “I’ll never ______ again!” For example, I will never in my life use lemon cake to make peanut butter cookies again. And neither should you.

Heartbreak (great sorrow, grief, or anguish)

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Heartbreak. We all experience it at some point in our lives. It could be the death of a pet, moving away from everything you know, your closest friend betrays you, someone you love dies, or your relationship is ripped apart. Whatever the cause, true heartbreak is physical. The feeling of your heart being ripped out while still beating in your chest. The reaction to that kind of shock is to curl up in a ball and howl in pain. It’s a visceral acknowledgment of loss.

Nearly a year later, I can still physically feel that moment of genuine heartbreak when I choose to revisit that night. It’s as if the wounds to my heart haven’t completely healed and may reopen at any moment. I’ve spent these months walking through my life with a palpable pain that has become noticeably less, but not gone. It still strikes with such ferocity that I am, again, brought to my knees.

This was, and is, not something I could navigate on my own. My immediate reaction was to call my mother but she was on vacation. So I called a friend and drove an hour hoping she could magically make sense of it all. It’s actually a funny story for another time.

I reached for the people closest to me to share my shock and the burden of my agony. I called health services at work to find a therapist NOW. I met her within days of the event. I discovered for myself that the most amazing things happen in the midst of horrific pain. Some will refer to the people that love and support them as their village, their tribe, or their support network. I call them my basket because they support each other even as they are supporting me. I am suspended in their love.

The one year milestone is rushing at me. I have discovered so much about what I thought I had versus what I might have actually had. I’m reflecting on who I was and who I want to be. I have begun to expose those things about myself that I had hidden away in the name of compromise that may have actually been submission.

This kind of anguish grants the opportunity to look inward. And I do.

Truth (the true or actual state of a matter)

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It seems to me as I get older that truth is a matter of opinion. Some truths really are fact based but others are based on a person’s point of view. What I see as truth in a given situation may not be the same as the other three people involved. Especially if it concerns anyone’s feelings. Add emotion into the mix and all bets on finding a single truth are gone.

Why am I musing on such things? I started this blog in order to begin writing again. In the past, much of my writing was “secret.” Secret in the sense that only a select few would get to read it. As a teenager, I would leave poetry, notes, stories, etc. around the house as a way of communicating indirectly with my mother. I wrote for classes and myself. Precious few bits of my writing would end up in public for anyone to see. I still have in my possession several notebooks of things I wrote. They range from silly broken-hearted teenager stuff to very raw emotional rants. Each one held a bit of me from the moment it was written.

Today I struggle with writing because it’s very public – if you can find me. I’ve been posting erratically but I have several drafts saved. The last one I started is the one that led to this particular post because I want to understand my hesitation. My conclusion is that this hesitation is caused by fear. FEAR. Fear? Really?

Yes, really. If I let go of my tightly controlled hold on things and just put out there what is rolling around my head then things could change. People may not like what I write. What if my mother doesn’t like it? What if my 13-year-old daughter reads it? (We are heading into that “I hate my mother” phase.) What if my husband, who is no longer in love with me, reads it and it’s different from his truth? What if, what if, what if…

Never in my life have I spent so much time in the land of What If. I’m used to spending my time at the corner of What the Hell and Who Cares What They Think.

So, what if I decide to write my truth, my way and in my own time and not worry about “people” or fear? Maybe I’ll become a better writer. Maybe something I write will help and/or touch someone else. Maybe I’ll grow back into my own confidence. Hmmm…

Options (something that may be or is chosen; choice)

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Options. It’s always nice to have them. It’s especially nice when you have to make hard decisions, to find that there are several options. The truth, for me, is that having the ability to make a choice makes me feel as if I have some control over my life.

When my life starts careening around odd corners and slipping toward the edge, I find comfort in weighing my options. I put everything down in charts and spreadsheets to see where I am, where I need to go and how the hell I’m going to get there. Then I will make small changes just to see how it will affect my choices.

Some may say I’m obsessive but I like to think I’m being thorough. I met with a professional on a subject that’s been of concern to me and found out that there was nothing surprising in what he had to say. That made feel good about my own methods of thinking things through. It didn’t change things dramatically but it did give me additional options to think about.

Each and every day we make choices big and small. I choose to make the ones that will have the positive impact.

Balance (a state of equilibrium)​

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Balance is a word that is being tossed around lately. Emotional balance, financial balance, work-life balance. What is this balance and does anyone really achieve it?

I find my emotional life very off-balance these days. I can go through my days pretty well for a good part of the week and then BAM! Some little thing takes my breath away and I’m off balance AGAIN. It’s usually unexpected. A song, a card or note, a picture, a phrase that someone uses in conversation. Nothing big or brash. Small, quiet, quick. A knife turning in the heart and days of walking on a balance beam trying not to fall off.

I have to admit that there are longer intervals between episodes. I even believe that they may become a yearly event instead of weekly. Of course, this is still a great improvement over the daily battle for balance I was facing nine months ago.

Even when I feel that I’ve achieved a precarious emotional balance, there’s still the rest of my life that is in the mix. How do I balance work, home, kids, family and just stuff? At work they like to talk about work-life balance. While listending to a podcase recently the person was saying that the phrase should really be work-life integration. I like that MUCH better. It actually seems more attainable than balance.

Balance suggests that there is equality between your work and your life. Reality suggests otherwise simply because you spend so much of your time at work, thinking about work and getting ready for work. Integration suggests that they can each work around and within each other. So instead of coming home exhausted and trying to make my grocery list, I can start it during work at a time that I need a mental break. That mental break will also give me a different prespective on whatever I was working.

And by the way, someone where in all of this I’m told that I need to find time for myself.  Time to do things that I want to do.  You know, like blogging. I do this so well, that I’m doing this at 10:30PM when normally I like to be in bed, lights out ready to sleep, no later than 9:30PM. I’ll pay for it tomorrow when 6:00AM rolls around and I’m feeling groggy.

Maybe I’ll try for balance again in a couple of days. Tomorrow will be an experiment in integration.

Struggling (have difficulty handling or coping with)

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Life is full of curveballs. Sometimes it will bring you a happy coincidence and sometimes it will punch you in the gut. Either way, it’s never a straight line to where you are going. How you react and regroup is what determines your path.

The past year I have had several “punch in the gut” moments that I have refused to let define me. I have had people expect me to behave like the person I was 15 or 20 years ago because they cannot, or will not, see the person I am today. How I’ve changed over the years. How I’ve grown or at least how I think I’ve grown. It makes me wonder if they still see me like that because they have not grown at all. They have become stagnant and struggle with life.

The nice thing about rolling with the punches is that I’m at a point where I feel like I’m growing again. Things look brighter, less gray. I’ve begun to think about things I let go, like writing. I’m choosing to make my life more colorful, active and meaningful. I’m spending my time with people who are important to me. People who are positive, uplifting, funny and creative. The kind of people who believe in love and kindness.

It’s not as if I never struggle with parts of life, it’s that I am determined to face each struggle head on with a ferocious will to overcome and learn. Lately, I’ve learned that I am resilient and that is a very good thing.

Friends (a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard)

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My mother told me if I was like lucky I would find 2 or 3 close friends who would stick. She told this to me when I was younger and felt like I had no friends because I wasn’t part of the popular crowd. I’ve never actually felt like I was part of a popular group even if I friends who were. However, and yes I’m putting this in writing on a public forum, my mother was right. I am lucky and I do have a few very close friends who are always there.

The nice thing about these types of friends is that they will stand by you when you are up or down. Broke, just getting by or living it up, you will still find those faithful few. I discovered that in order to have that kind of a friend, you have to be the same way with those same people. You can’t have people who will stick with you and yet you’re not available to them when they need you. Or the reverse, you stick by someone and they are never there for you.

Friends that are in it for the long haul are not afraid to tell you when you’re on shaky ground or when you ought to rethink your position. They will hold you when you’re crying even if they think that the situation is actually in your best interest. They will listen to you go on about a romantic interest that they know is not good for you but keep quiet until they feel it’s time to stop that particular train wreck from happening. They will tell you when they think a job opportunity is not really an opportunity and you should just keep looking. When they let you know that they are concerned about your decision, relationship, choice, etc., it’s because they care about your well-being as a whole person and not just because they will no longer get something from you.

These friends are precious and, like my mom said, very few. They are people to cherish and hold. I try to let each of them know how important they are in my life on a regular basis. There are times in life when you need those people who will love you as you are and are willing to do anything for you – listen, wield a bat, be logistics, paint, pack or hold. They know your faults and your talents and they are there. Always.