Compassion and empathy. The opposite of love is indifference not hate.

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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
― Dalai Lama XIV,  The Art of Happiness

We need to treat each other with compassion and empathy. We can probably all see the wisdom in this. The problem arises when we realize that we aren’t seeing and feeling what they are seeing and feeling. Sometimes we can’t even begin to understand where there hurt is coming from. It isn’t that big of a deal in our mind.

In a book I just found, How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny I think I’ve found some answers. When I saw it I thought maybe we have something here. Talking doesn’t always get us what we want. We want change,not rehashing over and over who was wrong, or more wrong,  How do we actually fix things? Even if they aren’t completely fixed can we move towards better?

The authors say yes we can move toward better without involving our partner at all. We can do this because we react to each other’s behavior, mood, body language, tone of voice, etc. We’ve all walked into a room or house in a good mood and been infected by someone else’s foul mood, and it seems we couldn’t help ourselves be not affected by it. This does put the partner in the good mood at a disadvantage. It seems negativity trumps in the mood department.

The authors tell us why we have problems communicating is because men and women don’t feel the same things. Men feel shame, and women feel fear. Women have a hard time understanding men’s shame and men have a hard time understanding women’s fear. When it comes to compassion and empathy we will never one hundred percent get the other persons point of view.

In the beginning of our relationships we were like a violin and a cello playing in harmony. The violin wasn’t trying to be the cello and the cello didn’t think the violin needed to be just like them. A long the way we lose some of that harmony and we don’t appreciate the differences which attracted us in the first place. We don’t want a mini me in our relationships. Sometimes we think we can only have harmony if we are the same. We can only have harmony if we play together in harmony.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

One of the things this book tells us is when women leave the relationship they’ve often thought long and hard how they can make it work out there alone. Men on the other hand the book says often fall in love with their wives again as she walks out the door. All of a sudden they now want to offer all she wanted, but they didn’t offer it when she was still in the relationship willing to work on it.

The advice the book gives is for each of us to be true to our core values and then to invoke the four core value inspirations.

Improve – when we inspire ourselves to improve we don’t necessarily have to fix the problem just find a way to make it a little better to feel better our self.

Appreciate – find something about our partner we value and focus on that instead of the problem. We increase the value of our own life when we appreciate our partner in any way.

Connect – genuinely care about our partner’s emotional state. To connect we need to at least on some level intuitively understand his shame or her fear. It also requires an understanding that our emotional well being is tied together. If he feels good – you feel good. If she feels bad – you feel bad.

Protect – helping him relieve his dread of failure as a provider, lover, protector, and father and helping her reliever her fear of isolation, deprivation and harm.

Oprah said one of her biggest fears was ending up a bag lady. It is probably one of our biggest fears also. The book says women fear being a bag lady because they would feel vulnerable, unsafe, and have no security. Men on the other hand feel shame because they ended up on the street.

Looking at things this way gives me a new perspective on why we have such a disconnect sometimes. Why we can’t see why something is such a big thing. We can’t see it because that isn’t what is a big thing to us.

There are so many books and so many therapists and the internet is filled with people and their psycho babble. This book explains things to me that makes sense. Gives me actions I can take that don’t involve the other person. I know the only person I can control is me. One of the reasons I think therapy doesn’t work a lot of the time is we are waiting for someone else to get fixed and they are waiting for us to get fixed. It’s easier to see our partner’s offences than our own. I’m working on owning my offences.

When we understand that our emotional well being is important to us. That our relationship is more important than anything we resent and worthy of appreciation, time, energy and sacrifice. We have something to work on. Not something for the other person to work on.

I just read something that jumped out at me.

It’s nice to have romantic weekends, intimate dinners and great vacations. If they are not accompanied by a loving routine, they are more likely to have a negative effect, in the physical exhaustion and psychological letdown of getting back to your humdrum routine. To nurture love over a lifetime we have to nurture small moments of connection day by day.

We can be the change we want to see in our relationship. We can find some little thing to make it better. We can appreciate our partners good attributes. We can find some common point of connection. We can find a way to help him feel less shame and her feel less fear.

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
― Steve Maraboli,  Life, the Truth, and Being Free 

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Gratitude and Happiness. We’re supposed to be grateful for “everything”?

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In spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser and happier as a result. Joseph B. Wirthlin

Gratitude as an attitude makes life better. It is easy to be grateful for all the good in our life. We are grateful for all the people that make life work. We are grateful for our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children and friends. Grateful for the work we have to do. Grateful for full store shelves and services we have access to.

I’m reading we are also to be grateful for the challenges that come our way. I’m finding it very hard to be grateful for the cold or whatever it was I got after returning home from Jamaica. I understand we grow through challenge.

I don’t want challenges; does that mean I don’t want to grow? Life rolling around even if not perfect often feels more comfortable than the challenge that arises that in the end may make it better. It’s not all that comforting in the midst of the challenge.

Michael J. Fox has called his Parkinson’s disease the gift that keeps on taking. If he can see the gifts he’s getting while losing all he’s losing I better take another look at the gifts/challenges in my life. They aren’t that extreme.

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. Napoleon Hill

Oprah says that when we need to learn something first it comes to us as a whisper. If we deal with it; good for us. If we don’t deal with it, it comes louder and bigger, until at some point we realize we have to deal with it.

When life meanders along we sometimes find that boring. When we get that sharp jerk telling us everything isn’t okay we come to attention. At least we should and deal with whatever challenge/problem has arisen.

Too often we are blindsided by our problem. Where did that come from? We are stuck. Sometimes the problem/challenge is so big we feel we are white water rafting through our life. Holding on for dear life, hoping we don’t capsize and hit the rocks. Sometimes we capsize and hit the rocks, then we hope we don’t die.

Many people have epiphanies as they face death. I had one of those experiences once. My girlfriend and I were driving home late at night. The road was icy. A police officer was outside of a car he’d stopped on the highway. Our car hit ice, spun out and did a 360 degree circle in the middle of the highway. How close we came to hitting the Police officer still makes me shudder. We ended up facing the way we’d been facing, waited for the Police officer to make a move toward us. He didn’t, we drove on.

I didn’t expect to feel the way I felt after that. Feeling like I’d faced death and came out the other side I was exhilarated. I was more grateful, more filled with the thought I needed to find my purpose. We were nineteen or twenty at the time. Did anything actually change after that? I don’t know.

I tried to reconnect with that girlfriend years later. Somehow through circumstance and timing it didn’t happen. I wonder where life took her. Where life will continue to take me?

I’ve enjoyed this journey as wife and mother. I’m not relinquishing being a mother but it is definitely a new role as I step back even if only in my mind to let them make their own decisions and live their own lives. My husband and I are returning to being a couple.

I hope this new chapter will be a good chapter, a healthy, fun chapter. We don’t know the challenges/gifts coming our way. We will I hope weather them with grace and humour. The challenges we face will make us strong, the gifts will make us wise.

I waited six months for a second mammogram. I was grateful the news was good. I’m finding it hard to believe I would have been grateful if the news was bad. Finding the nugget of gold in every instance is the way to live a good life. I understand this on some level but digging for that gold would take everything I have. I’m grateful I’ve never been put to the test. Finding a way to be positive in the face of adversity is the best way to live our lives. I look at people with adversity and am grateful I am not them. Am I alone in this thought?

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has. Bill Graham

He knows not his own strength who hath not met adversity. William Samuel Johnson

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The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life Paperback – August 16, 2016



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Teachers, reaching our young. A teacher can make a difference in a child’s life by being there for them when they think no one else is.

2019 A Year Of Possibilities - photo of coral rose by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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What a teacher is, is more important than what he teaches. Karl Menninger

Yesterday my husband and I were watching Ellen. She had a Guidance counselor on who was recently put on administrative leave. The school she works for knew she was gay and with the same partner for 20 or so years. When same sex marriage became legal in their state, they got married four years ago. The marriage certificate was presented at the meeting. She could dissolve the marriage or keep this quiet and continue teaching (for this year) they would not be renewing her contract.

One of the girls from the school that started a Go Fund Me page said that last year she spent a lot of time in the Guidance School’s office speaking to this teacher. She really helped her.

She seemed like the kind of Guidance Counselor we all want our children to have a chance to talk to. Nothing changed in her life with her marriage except she formalized her commitment.

My son and daughter both had some excellent teachers. My daughter had a drama teacher who was particularly helpful to the kids. She even took in one whose home situation was impossible.

I had someone ask me years ago, would I be upset if a gay couple moved in next door? I’m thinking what people do in their bedroom and with whom is their business as long as the person is of age and willing. I can hardly manage my own life. I don’t need to manage someone else’s.

It amazes me some of the issues that come up, I thought we dealt with. As a society I thought we moved on. I thought how good, effective, caring, encouraging a teacher was mattered, not who she slept with or married.

My husband calls me naïve and maybe I am. I’d rather be naïve than cynical mostly I’d like to tell the truth, and be able to accept the truth. We have something to work with if we are working with what is.

I’m sure this teacher will get another job. Another group of kids will benefit from having her as their Guidance Counselor, the school she left will be poorer because she’s gone.

One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen. Philip Wylie

I think being a teacher would be one of the hardest jobs. It is hard to be a good influence on so many different souls. It isn’t just math, science, reading and writing they teach. They teach children to dream, to dare, to believe in themselves, to get up after failure and try again.

Sometimes when kids are falling through the cracks the only person there for them is a teacher. We owe teachers a lot more than money. They build our society because of their impact. Getting rid of good teachers maybe even great teachers because of small mindedness is not helping our society grow. The kids who didn’t get help when they were falling through the cracks may never find what they needed. It is a loss for all of us.

For those of you who are teachers or have teachers in your family, know we do appreciate you. We also take you for granted. Just like we take for granted there will be bread at the store when we go to buy it. One of the blessings we have in our country of peace and plenty is we can take things for granted. We aren’t wondering if there will be teachers at our school this year, or even a school.

We need to feel grateful for all we have. All the people who make things work. Yesterday I was listening to the radio and the rate of sucide among young people is going up. Society, teachers and parents don’t know what to do about this. Why when we have so much, hope, opportunity, resources, education, are our young people disenfranchised, hopeless, rootless, depressed?

I feel some of those kids need to meet the right teacher, mentor, coach, pastor, who helps them see the opportunity staring them in the face. If you are lucky your child met a great teacher. I wish every child could meet that teacher. It is obvious because of the choices some make that we need more great teachers, mentors, parents, pastors, coaches, and counselors. Kids are falling through the cracks. I know it is an impossible dream to think someone would be there to put every one of them on the right track. Still I think we are all better when we dream these impossible dreams. It is how our society progresses, how it gets made better. One great teacher at a time makes it better.

Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops. Henry Brooks Adams

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Belonging, ladies tea, laughter, time with friends. Building friendships, community, and helping each other grow.

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If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. Booker T. Washington

I belong to groups, a book club, a horticultural society, Toastmasters and a writers group. There are benefits to joining a group I never thought of when I joined.

The first group was the Horticultural Society, I joined around 2000 out of that I was invited to the book club. Toastmasters I rejoined in 2016 and the writers group I joined this summer.

The benefits of belonging to social groups are many, it is good for our mental and physical health and can add years to our life. If laughter is the best medicine we often laugh the most in groups. Yesterday we laughed and laughed at things that happen in Toastmasters when people choose inappropriate topics for their speeches and evaluators take their role too seriously.

We talked about neighbors boundaries and how one of the ladies found her new neighbor in her garage. “She asked him why he thought he would find his wood in her garage?”

Robert D. Putnam says people with poor social relationships are 50% more likely to die than those with just adequate social relationships. The risk of death from heart disease becomes lower if you belong to more than one social group. It can alleviate depression, the more social groups we belong to the less likely we are to suffer from depression. If one of those groups is a religious one, we are more likely to have feelings of well being. We are more likely to be healthier in terms of diet, exercise, and taking care of our self in general. All that and laughter too!

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Helen Keller

I joined groups because working from home I don’t have a lot of social interaction. Maybe my next group should be a Church. One of my problems with Churches is unmet expectations, theirs and mine. When my husband and I first went to the Church where we were married we were met by a lovely young woman whose first words to us were, “are you saved?”

One day I was accosted by the associate Pastor with a petition against abortion. He was later charged with sexual abuse. In my early years my Sunday School teacher said my father was possessed by the Devil. My mother spoke to a Pastor on her feelings on belonging to a Church, he said, “you should come and be an example.” He is right. We shouldn’t be judging people for the frailties of being human. We should do our best to be the example. Nothing is gained by tearing others down. It is not the way to build ourselves up. Hurt people, hurt people, we don’t know what burdens people carry.

In groups we can help carry the load. We help each other be better gardeners, readers, speakers, people. We all start from where we are, and belonging to a group will help us grow more quickly.

Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. Amy Poehler

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Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

May 24, 2016

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Commitment what does it mean. Long marriages worked through their problems.

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Commitment means making a choice to give up other choices. Unknown

We all say we are committed to the other. Is there an “until” in there? When there is an “until” in there does it really constitute commitment?

I know of someone whose husband went to war. He didn’t come back the same. His wife didn’t leave. A lot of her kids thought that was a mistake. She stayed to the end. That’s commitment!

From reports I’ve heard she was a sweet, wonderful woman. I imagine many spouses of people who go to war have to deal with the change war brings to their spouse. You can’t be the same person after you’ve seen certain things, maybe even done certain things. It might make it a little better if your spouse can stay committed through the tough stuff, and try to mend the broken places.

Marriage is not where two perfect people get together and walk on the beach with windswept hair, have salty kisses and moonlit nights of lovemaking. That would be a beach romance or a honeymoon.

You can’t only get the good parts and be committed. We are flawed human beings and we have stuff to deal with. It’s why our choice of partner is a big deal. We should be careful in our choice and strong in our commitment. Some people say I don’t really know you, but unless you got married after six weeks I think that is rarely true.

We thought they would change. That is a big mistake. It is my belief and experience that people don’t really change. We may act differently with other people because of expectations. People can shape up and fly right but that to me isn’t change that is the difference between acting worse and acting better.

When I’m talking about change I mean the fundamental things about a person are pretty much static. I don’t mean can you learn to clean up the kitchen after you cook kind of change.

For instance, I’m a talker or even more so a listener. I love conversations, long lovely conversations. My husband doesn’t see why I need to talk to anyone for that period of time. We have a fundamental difference here. We are unlikely to change. Of course I can choose people he objects to me talking to and ones he doesn’t. Generally I choose ones he doesn’t object to.

Maybe I love to talk/listen because as a writer I am looking for stories. Looking to understand people their thoughts, feelings, what makes them tick, what makes them get out of bed in the morning. All that information gets churned around in my brain and I put things I’ve heard into characters heads. Things I hear colour my blog.

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” – Simone Signoret

Back to commitment. I think working through our differences, problems, misunderstandings, betrayals (not talking about the big one infidelity but even that one people work through and have stronger marriages) will give us a deeper relationship you can only get by going through whatever life throws at us. A long relationship is deeper than a short relationship. If you’ve lived in a community longer you have deeper roots.

When I see people celebrating long marriages, I never think they didn’t have challenges. I think, there is a couple who lived through all of life together. They didn’t give up when the going got hard. They had their good days, weeks, months, years and their bad days, weeks, months, years and they stood beside each other.

People in long marriages have something I don’t think lonely single people have. Widows and widowers have it too. They lived through all there was. They are and should be proud of their commitment. It isn’t because what they had was perfect. I don’t know anyone who says they have or had a perfect marriage. If you stay in it, you can say I was committed. I meant it when I said it and I was true to my word.

When people ask if I would want to renew my vows? I say, “no”. I meant them when I said them and it is still true now. Vows I said then couldn’t possibly mean more now, than they meant then. Why would I recommit to something I’m committed to? It’s a running joke at our house when we hear of people recommitting their vows often. Seems a divorce is coming soon. We aren’t often wrong. If you meant it let that stand for your life together. Use that money you would use renewing your vows to take a fabulous trip somewhere you both want to go. I’m up for that. Or use it for something else just for the two of you. You can say to your spouse, “I’d marry you all over again,” and mean it. It doesn’t mean you should do it.

If you planted a rose bush or a walnut tree the day you got married. It has grown, flourished and is beautiful. Would you dig it up and plant it again? Can you mean it more now than you did then?

You never know if you’ll make it to the end until you do.

Time is the secret to a long marriage. Unknown

Accepting criticism with Grace. Giving criticism with diplomacy and kindness.

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We judge others by the worst of their actions and ourselves by the best of our intentions. George Bush

Often the critical spirit that affects us the most is our own. We are hard on ourselves and when we get criticism from others it seems like overload. My son said to me the other day, “you should appreciate criticism, how else can you grow?” A good way to look at it, not so easy to do.

Criticism often feels like a personal attack. Are there ways to give criticism to make it so it’s not received like a personal attack? Are there ways to receive criticism. Is there a way to take criticism and take the sting out of it and still keep the helpful suggestion imbedded in it?

I was at Toastmaster’s the other night and we have a grammarian each meeting whose job is to note the use of language. She noted that people were making mistakes with grammar and privately talked to them about it. I think that might be overstepping the grammarian role. I think I will mention it to her, she is well meaning and very well spoken. People are sensitive to criticism, she will be sensitive if I talk to her. Did the people she talk to feel criticized or helped?

Our Toastmasters group is very diverse, for many of the people English is their second or third language. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears we all have. Anyone who gets up in front of people and puts themselves out there may be sensitive to criticism. Having their grammar corrected can seem critical to them. It would to me. I still fumble sometimes to find the right word. She did it privately which is better than publicly but usually we just give a count and note if it seems we are progressing or regressing. Particularly good phrases are sometimes pointed out. Everyone loves to be one of the ones who said something someone liked.

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
– Charles Schwab

Most of us find the hardest part of Toastmasters is being an evaluator. We are expected as an evaluator to give a two to three minute speech on the speech we just heard five, ten or fifteen minutes prior. We are to point out the good and give a suggestion for improvement. I try to make sure I point out more good things than ways to improve. It is the suggestion for improvement we often struggle with. We feel we are being critical. Some people are critical but not many in my experience. Many evaluators are thought too gentle but better to err on the gentle than the harsh. We have had members who never returned after getting an evaluation of their speech. I have never been present when this has happened.

We can try when we have something to suggest to say, “what would make this better is, I’d love it if.” It is also good to be specific so there is a take away. Something the person can reflect on and if they think your suggestion is good they can implement.

Sometimes we are kind in our criticism. We ponder and think and rethink how we will discuss what needs to be discussed. I think these are often less problematic. It is thoughtless criticism that jumps out at someone. If we do it too often it seems they are always being criticized like being pecked by a chicken. The first peck, well okay but by the hundredth peck they feel nothing they do is good enough. Sometimes this is ourselves being too sensitive. Sometimes it is others being too critical.

Even when we give gentle criticism it can be hard for the person to hear. When we get gentle criticism it can be hard to accept. We need to ask our self how would we receive this if someone said it to us?

We will never perfect the art of positive criticism. At least we can try not to criticize the person even when we criticize the action. I’m going to make a conscious effort to be a better person by accepting the suggestions coming my way and being less critical of people even if I have to point out actions that need improving.

“It is much more valuable to look for the strength in others. You can gain nothing by criticizing their imperfections.”– Daisaku Ikeda

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Emotional cheating is this a real thing? What is fidelity in marriage?

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“Do we really mean it when we say ‘in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do us part or do we add a silent clause, ‘unless you shame me or disappoint me?’ What is the cost of unconditional love and how capable are we of giving that?”
― Deirdre-Elizabeth Parker, The Fugitive’s Doctor

We hear about emotional cheating all the time. It is a concern for a lot of people. A concern in my estimation that makes it so you can’t win no matter what you say. When you are guilty of actually cheating, actual misbehavior, then something happened that shouldn’t. Something you are or should be in control of.

Emotional cheating can be leveled at you and you have no defense. You haven’t done anything wrong, you can’t prove what you are thinking, you have no defense. This is in my opinion a way to make people believe there is a problem when in all likelihood none exists.

If someone is insecure they could call you an emotional cheater even if you have been circumspect your whole life together. How do you prove your fidelity when it isn’t an action you haven’t taken? Cheating is cheating, full stop. Let’s not try and muddy the waters and make it so people are guilty before they are guilty of anything.

“Problems that don’t get fixed, situations that neither get resolved nor go away, and annoyances you live with year by year–that’s the engine knock of a long-running relationship.”
― Rob Sheffield, Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love & Karaoke

Are there boundaries in relationships that we have so there is less chance of inappropriate relationships happening? Yes, if those boundaries get crossed because they are unclear when you are close or over a boundary this should not be a big deal unless it leads to something. You should be able to discuss your concerns, and the other person should listen to your concerns but the reality of your marriage should stand this test. If something happens that leads to something more that is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about the times we may be insecure that our wife or husband is talking to someone younger, cuter, richer, better looking, funnier, sexier or anything else than us. We may feel they are interested, we may feel our relationship is in jeopardy. That does not mean it is. They are not guilty because we have insecurities. We all have insecurities from time to time.

Infidelity is a big problem. If it isn’t our problem we should quit looking for a problem and be happy we have someone who is true to us. I am reading about women who are being accused of having emotional affairs with women.  How do we square this?

If someone is looking for a problem where there isn’t one. What does that say about the person looking for the problem? Why are they looking so hard for a problem?

I believe emotional abuse can also be leveled against people and they also have no defense. Words get twisted all the time. We do not remember 100 percent of what we hear nor 100 percent of what we say. To think we do is wrong. Sometimes when we are mad we just want to lash out at someone.

The people we love the most are often who we lash out at. We can do tremendous damage to good relationships when we lash out and accuse them of things they didn’t do. When we try and put them in a corner where there is no defense. Questions like when did you quit beating your wife? How is anyone supposed to answer that?

Emotional affairs are probably smoke screens for bigger issues. An affair is an affair – a physical thing. It is not amorphous, it is or it is not and even if someone comes close to a physical affair but does not then they are still not guilty of an affair. To look at it other than this is to do real damage to the institution of marriage. People will make stupid decisions. They may start down a road; if they get off that road then they can’t be held responsible for what they did not do. They are only responsible for what they did do.

If a man on his way to cheat on his way wife has a reflection of all that he will lose, all that he will give up and changes his mind and turns the car around and doesn’t have sex with the intended party. He is guilty of something but it isn’t infidelity. That is reserved for those who actually physically cheat. The relationship may not survive but he still did not cheat.

If there is something you can do, something you can change then you can take action and do or change. If it is a perceived something how do you change that? You can be as circumspect as you can. You can make sure you never go out to lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex. You can curtail your conversations with the opposite sex. Someone can still level “I know you want” whatever they think you want, leaving you with no defense. They feel they are just being proactive, nipping it in the bud so to speak.

I think it is better to trust your partner more, believe in them more than to be too quick to look for impropriety. Everyone may not see things like this. That is their choice. Every couple is going to have to navigate these tricky waters. Being able to level the offence of an emotional affair at someone muddies them even more.

“Maybe that’s what it all comes down to. Love, not as a surge of passion, but as a choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what obstacles or temptations stand in the way. And maybe making that choice, again and again, day in and day out, year after year, says more about love than never having a choice to make at all.”
― Emily Giffin, Love the One You’re With

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Fidelity: How to Create a Loving Relationship That Lasts

Aug 21, 2007

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Love the One You’re With: A Novel

Apr 21, 2009

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The road not taken. The road less travelled. Living with the choices we have made.

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The Road Not Taken

BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

This is the most famous poem in American literature. Most of us can quote the last two lines thinking this is a poem praising individuality for not following the pack.

We comfort our self by assuming our current position is the product of our own choice not chosen for us and not by mere chance.

David Orr in his new book The Road Not Taken says we all get the meaning wrong. The poem he says is a commentary on the self deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.

This poem is often wrongly referred to as The Road Less Travelled.

We have all at one time or another chosen which road to take. This choice colored the life we live; the life we live is not the life we would have lived had we taken another choice. We don’t always see the life changing events as they present themselves.

I didn’t know when I took a bus to Toronto after high school that I would live the rest of my life here. I don’t actually know I will live the rest of my life here although from this vantage point it looks likely. What choice might we make in retirement?

Chance, serendipity, grace, luck, good fortune, accidents, misfortune, running into the right people, run ins with the wrong people, the financial fortune of our country at the time we are making our decisions all play a part in our life and how it unfolds.

Whatever road we chose it is the road we are on. Is it the better road? We won’t know, we can’t compare the two we can only deal with the reality before us.

A woman I have known for years that was never my husband’s girl friend, but I always got the idea she would have liked to be. Said to him one day when I wasn’t around, “I should have married you.”

In her own mind she may think that was an option she had but didn’t take. He said, “in my wildest nightmare I would never have married her.” Just because in our own mind we think we could have or should have taken other roads doesn’t mean those roads were there to be taken.

The road less traveled is hard to walk It takes a soldier Who knows his orders– To love like I’m not scared Give when it’s not fair Live life for another Take time for a brother Fight for the weak ones Speak out for freedom Find faith in the battle Stand tall but above it all Fix my eyes on You”

– For King and Country

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Laughing through tears. Talking to mom. Going forward, onward and upward. Dealing with what is in my circle of influence.

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Almost every problem people face in their lives are all the result of not taking enough action. Unknown

Laughing with mom is one of the things that usually happens in our lengthy phone calls. We have three provinces between us. It is a lot of distance but our relationship is close. I can talk to mom about almost anything. I hope my kids will feel they can talk to me the same way.

Mom has lived a lot in her 93 years. She has seen all the progress technology has brought us and she has seen the problems as well. She lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 – two of the defining periods in Canada. She was a homesteader with her parents; she helped shape a community out of wild Saskatchewan land.

She raised eight kids and I have to go to work to figure out the grand children, great grand and great great grand children count. I think my mom has lived her live dealing with “what is”. She didn’t live a life of pretense. Living on the farm I think she thought her life didn’t compare to her sister’s city life. I think in the end her life exceeded theirs. I think she ended up better off financially. I think her relationships were better.

The bitter tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mom is my role model. A model of how to live your life with truth and grace. I have tried to live up to the example she set. I try to behave in ways I think she would be proud. This is why we can talk. I don’t pretend things are better than they are with mom. Things have always been pretty good in my life, but I don’t pretend they are better than they are. I’ve always thought if you start living a life of pretense, how do you fix what’s broken if you don’t acknowledge it?

We all fall short of expectations we set for our self. As we reach a certain age we realize those expectations will never materialize. One day I realized I am never likely to be “rich”. Except when I looked at my life I was “rich” in all ways except being able to spend exorbitant amounts of money. I was rich in love, I live in a safe and happy home, I have a great husband and happy productive kids, I have enough financial resources to meet my needs but perhaps not all my wants. I have time to be creative, space to be creative and the resources to be creative. I am fit and healthy, not as fit and healthy as some but for my age I feel good about my health and fitness level.

This is the time to take stock of my life. I am pretty happy with it. I don’t have any public recognition for great deeds. I am not a philanthropist building hospitals or feeding the poor and disenfranchised. I am not a millionaire, but I believe I am a “realionaire”. I live in peace and plenty. I can deal with the realities of my life; I can look forward to the future with optimism. I can feel proud of the life I’ve built, the person I am the roles I have as wife and mother. I am proud of the business my husband built with my help.

Could we have done things differently, could they have worked out better? Who knows, we did what we knew how to do. How do we know we aren’t exactly where we should be, learning the lessons we are to learn, becoming the people we are to be. Learning lessons we can learn no other way.

Sometimes I feel I live in a self involved bubble. Everything is alright with me. Is this a problem? How should I be living my life? Taking on everyone’s problems? I try to see problems from different angles. I have felt for a long time that happiness is an inside job. We choose to be happy in whatever circumstances find us. I think this is how I live. My husband sometimes says, “as long as everything is alright with Belynda.” Shouldn’t things be alright with me? Shouldn’t I be dealing with “what is,” and be at peace?

We can make things better, or we can make things worse. We can deal within our circle of influence. This is where I think I deal. If my little world can be okay then things can radiate from there. If my little world isn’t okay because I am trying to deal with things that aren’t mine to deal with. How does that work for anyone?

The measure gave was the measure we got back. Alcoholics anonymous

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Falling in love at first sight – twice. Manage the little things and the big things look after them self. Persevere through the tough times to better times.

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I believe in love at first sight because I am a mother. Unknown

I saw this quote in Jamaica. It almost brought tears to my eyes. It is things I don’t expect that catch me unaware.

I’ve heard of women who have problems bonding with their babies. My heart goes out to them, how must they feel. Everyone expects you to fall in love with your baby. What if you fell in love at first sight with your first baby, but not your second? How horrible would you feel as a person? Would the bond you should have between mother and child grow? Do some mothers and children never develop this bond?

I was lucky, I fell in love at first sight with both my babies. They fit so easily into our life it was like they’d always been there. I don’t remember the problem I hear about husbands feeling displaced. Everything we had before we still had only now we had a little family. We worked together, we raised our children together.

I remember envying some women who worked and others who stayed home with kids because I thought it would be easier some days to not look after kids and work at the same time. Most of the time I was grateful for the life I had. We built our life around each other, our work, our children and it worked.

When our work is integrated into our life I believe it is a blessing. Most of us need to work. We need to find balance between our work life, our family life, our couple life, our personal life. We need to keep all our love tanks full to quote John Gray. Where we fall into difficulty is one tank is very fulfilling so we overfill that one thinking somehow it will help with our empty tanks. I don’t think it works that way.

More family togetherness won’t fix the couple tank. More work satisfaction and success won’t fill the family tank. More pet love won’t fill self love. This is our great job to find balance in our life and show our children balance is possible.

A happy family is not one that never has problems. A happy couple is not one that never has challenges. Learning to deal with problems, knowing there will be problems but we can deal with them is the answer. Knowing we are better together weathering our storms, creating resilience over a lifetime. There is often not a better partner out there, only a different one.

Marriage and family is our petrie dish. Where we work out what we need to work out. Where we are vulnerable, where we are trusting, where we really get to know each other warts and all. It isn’t always easy. The good things in life aren’t easy. If you only stay for the easy part you miss the best parts, the parts that came after the challenges. The exhilaration one gets from having faced the worst and come through. You see it on the faces of people who have come through hurricanes and tornadoes.

If we don’t stand and face whatever it is we have to stand and face. We will never get to feel good about having faced it and moving on to a new phase. I’m not sure it matters what this challenge is. It matters that we accept the challenge before us and go forward.

I heard Dr. Phil one day saying he could predict the likelihood of a successful marriage by looking to see if the husband put the toilet seat down. It seems like a small thing. I’m beginning to think small things may add up to bigger things than big things do. The big thing is there, you can’t ignore it. The little things can be and are often ignored. They grow, they morph, they take on a life of their own.

Take care of the little things and the big things take care of them self. Unknown

I’ve always heard, take care of the little things and the big things take care of them self. I believe it. A lot of us don’t manage things because we don’t think things are big enough to manage. We’ll manage things when they get big. We never manage them at all, be it money, problems, time. Management and becoming a good manager is all about managing the little things. Little things become big things both good and bad.

It’s the little details that are vital. The little things cause the big things to happen. John Wooden.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Nov 19, 2013 | Special Edition

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