Tag Archives: Maya Angelou

Sneaky Depression & Forgiveness

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I’ve been teased and complimented (equally) on my smile. I am often smiling, even when I’m faking it till I’m making it. I smile to fool my kids when I’m sad. I’m smile to keep striving, to keep working toward my goals, to keep working, when I’d rather stay home in bed. I snapped this picture on a day when someone stood me up for a date. Yup. It’s happened three times in the past month that I’m tip-toeing out into the dating world again. I’m determined to not take it personally, keep a sense of humor, and not let them have another chance. SO rude! I’m glad I heard Marianne Williamson tell her story (over New Years weekend) about being stood up and saying over and over again “I forgive you, I send you to the Holy Spirit” until she no longer cared and of course, the guy called again and she said NO. That happened exactly the same way with me three times with three different men and when they all called later asking for another date, I was able to laugh and say no thank you! LOL That is really for a story about online dating, but I snapped this pic to remind myself to keep smiling, to keep laughing, to keep taking care of myself, to keep connecting to my inner light, to stay trusting, yet to set firm boundaries that represent self love. But trust me, that smile was not a super joyous one, LOL.

Why am I fessing up to my inconsiderate potential dates? Because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about depression and its causes, roots and the difference between clinical depression and blues. Why? Because depression runs in my family AND some dear friends suffer from it. Plus, one friend was a bit upset about my last post, where I outlined Marianne Williamson‘s best quotes from her New Years Eve retreat on forgiveness. Specifically, he didn’t like this quote:

“You must have already decided to not be joyous if that is how you feel. Recognize you actively decided wrongly. So choose again. Ask God to help you. HE will listen to your slightest request, your slightest willingness.”

It felt too simplistic to him. He was convinced that the person who wrote this, said this, must never have lost a child, lost a spouse, endured a major illness, tragedy, attack, war, etc. Clearly, we can’t be joyous all the time. When I had a seven month old baby to care for all by myself, after losing my job, losing my dog (seriously, this was the biggest loss), losing my mother’s mind to advancing Alzheimer’s and losing my husband…lets just say I could barely function. Was I joyous? Hardly. But I recall looking into my baby’s eyes as he smiled a wet gooey post breastfeeding grin, and being humbled by how much love was between us, and how pure his light was. I shook with the realization that that moment was perfect and precious and exactly as it was meant to be. Of course, moments, days afterwards, especially when I was severely tired and not taking good care of myself, mindless, negative and pity-party thoughts ruled, triggering me into the blues.

Why am I sharing this? Because life throws us hard balls and sometimes we land on our asses without anyone familiar to comfort us. We aren’t supposed to be joyous all the time. But I’ve come to accept what Marianne Williamson meant by that paragraph (and she has certainly experienced many losses in her life). I think it means to let go, to surrender, and to allow more light in by focussing on the present moment—while also taking responsibility and accountability for our roles in each situation. Maybe you didn’t cause a specific situation, like a family member with cancer. or a death in the family, but what can you do to get through to the shores of peace again? Can you reach out for help? Can you pray? Can you drink more water? Can you take deep breaths and eat healing foods? Can you get more sleep? Can you find something meaningful to do to give to others? Can you take long walks or say no to obligations? Can you say kind and loving affirmations to yourself?

I read in a blog post recently the ego is behind all depression as when we are in our ego, we are in alignment with separation from God and separation from others. The ego embraces criticism, fear, cynicism, the belief of lack, the belief of not being worthy, the belief in a punishing God, the belief of sin and loss of innocence, isolation, confusion, permanent death, disease, pain, … etc. As I read this long list, it hit me that really the ego is just the mindless voice of criticism in our heads, like a bully on the playground. It is the voice of fear. And fear always lives in the past. Always. To be in the present requires letting go of the past with forgiveness right?

It is radical to forgive. It is also radical to believe that God loves you so much, He/She put a bit of GodLight inside you. That GodLight exists in everyone. Not just some people, but EVERYONE. Not forgiving, or bad-mouthing, is not forgiving yourself, or badmouthing yourself. That’s a hard concept to embrace, I know. Nothing you do. Nothing you say, takes your light away. It is the same with others. When I am in fear, I am not loving to myself or others. If someone ‘wrongs’ me, it represents their unloving choices, not their lack of light. So if love is the only thing that is REAL, if I am unloving by not forgiving and holding onto grudges, judging, or talking smack, I am participating in more unloving nothingness. Think about it. Depression is connected to this concept. According to experts, depression’s roots come from a lack of enthusiasm for life, a feeling of isolation, a belief in the inability to stop chaos or out-of-control situations or pain from entering our lives. It is connected with a lack of love for ourselves, God or others. It is connected with a lack of purpose too…Therefore, negative thoughts—especially obsessive looping thoughts of lack, of fear, of criticism, of re-playing past conversations or past events—has to be especially damaging. If they trigger bad choices, like letting in people who are not loving, or trigger negative habits like drinking, or isolating, or eating fattening foods, or not exercising, being hyper critical, etc. it can have the powerful domino effect of creating bad physical feelings in the body to springboard more sadness, confusion, feelings of emotional lack. It’s a cycle that perpetuates the myth of unworthiness. It hijacks from the present moment. It re-iterates the mindset: “Why bother? It won’t work anyway.”

I know, I’ve lived it. For me, it ALL boils down to forgiveness. Forgiving myself. Forgiving others. Then finding ways to ‘feel good’ in my body: yoga, walking, dancing, listening to music, eating fresh, healthy foods, etc.

Thanks for reading my meandering thoughts this Sunday, six months since I’ve been off ALL social media by the way! I’ll end with the beautiful Maya Angelou:

“Forgiveness. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. You are relieved of carrying that burden of resentment. You really are lighter. You feel lighter. You just drop that.”

XOXO

 

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NV’s Inspirational Single Moms List

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I need inspiration these days—maybe you do too? Being a single mom doesn’t necessitate giving up on personal dreams and goals, right?! … I keep telling myself this—like a mantra to get me through the eye of a storm. Yet, weeks go by where I find myself juggling demands from school, illnesses with the boys, a myriad of activities, homework help, cooking, shopping, freelance work, etc. … I know I don’t need to tell any of you about any of this! I am not alone. There are more than 10 million single mothers in America, according to the US Census Bureau’s Mother’s Day 2013 report .
I’d venture to guess that most of us are great moms. (Regardless of what silly politicians may say!) We put our children’s needs first and work diligently to provide safe and nurturing homes for them. But there’s no reason why we can’t also put ourselves, our dreams, and aspirations on our to-do lists, too.

For inspiration, I started researching successful women who pursued their passions—while also raising children solo. From poets and journalists—to athletes and politicians—these single working mothers beat the odds, pushed aside doubts and societal conventions and fought to make their dreams come true. I hope you are inspired by NV’s Inspirational Single Moms List:

mayaMaya Angelou: Ms. Angelou tops my list. Before writing I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings—and certainly before she became the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University, OR read at Clinton’s inauguration, OR inspired Oprah—Angelou held a number of wild jobs to help raise her son Guy, including dancing, acting, writing and waiting tables. She was even rumored to have been a madam at one point. Thankfully, she kept writing, as her her poetry and vision has inspired millions. Angelou received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, numerous literary awards, theNational Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama.  

Maria Montessori: Most have heard of the popular Montessori schools, but did you know the person who developed that particular method of education, was a single mother? Her determination in a male-dominated field, must have helped Montessori later as a single mother. Montessori had to fight her way into the University of Rome in 1890 to study physics, maths and natural sciences—subjects women in Italy were not allowed to study at the time. (When turned down, she pled her case to the Pope.) Upon her graduation, with another intercession by the Pope, Montessori entered the Faculty of Medicine, and became the first woman to enter and graduate medical school in Italy. Her work as a physician with disabled children, inspired her to ultimately create the Montessori style of teaching . Her drive and ambition is incredibly motivational, especially at a time, and in a country, that shunned women from science and further education.

IsadoraDuncanIsadora Duncan: The inventor of Modern Dance led an adventurous and rather unconventional life for the times. She was born  in San Francisco in 1877 (on my birthday, May 27th, coincidentally), and taught dance at a very early age.  After a few stints with dance companies in America, she sailed on a cattle boat to England at the age of 21. She worked throughout Europe and even in Russia, creating schools of dance to follow her modern dance style. Duncan interpreted music freely and without restriction, with a fondness for scarfs and Greek-inspired attire. A performance in London, with her dancing barefoot, soon enraptured concerts halls throughout Europe. The revolutionary dancer was a single mother of two.

Madeleine K. Albright:  The first female Secretary of State took a circuitous route in her career. For many years Albright focussed on raising her three young daughters and supporting her husband and his career. After her husband left her for a younger woman, Albright, who earned a Ph.D from Columbia University, became foreign policy adviser to vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. By 1988 she was advising presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. In the course of that doomed crusade, she met Bill Clinton and wrote him a letter of recommendation to the Council on Foreign Relations. A few years later, he named her ambassador to the United Nations. And we all know where this position ultimately led her.

NataschaNatascha Ragosina: As an undefeated professional boxer, this Russian athlete spent much of her career as the top super middleweight of the world. Not afraid to show her sexiness, or her powerful reach and quickness in the ring, she held all major female super middleweight titles and two heavyweight belts. This single mom embodies strength, power and beauty.

J.K. Rowling: Rowling worked hard—to not only support her infant daughter—but also to write a little book that would become known around the world: Harry Potter. After divorcing her first husband while pregnant, Joanne “Jo” Rowling raised her daughter Jessica solo while on state assistance and writing Harry Potter. Her depression during this period inspired the now famous soul-sucking dementors.  Rowling wrote in 2008 that there were “fringe benefits of failure,” explaining that she poured all her energy into finishing her book, as she considered herself officially a failure in everything else in her life.  “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged.” Rowling’s hard work writing in cafes while her baby girl slept, paid off. She is now remarried and has two more children. Oh, and the mother of three has sold more than 400 million copies of her Harry Potter series worldwide. Her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, was published in 2012.

katiecouricKatie CouricThe now-famous TV journalist and talk show host, lost her husband to colon cancer in 1998—leaving her to raise her two teenage girls on her own. Couric rose to fame as a NBC new reporter, landing a job as the co-anchor of Today, then in 2006 becoming the first solo female anchor of CBS Evening News. Now Couric has her own talk show, Katie.  Clearly, she’s done a great job juggling single parenting and her career, while making it seem effortless.

Naomi Judd:  Before becoming the elder member of the wildly popular country music duo, Naomi Judd was a young single mother raising two little girls. She worked several jobs to support her family, including being a nurse, secretary, waitress and clerk, before she and her daughter Wynonna formed The Judds. The group would go on to become country music’s most successful mother-daughter duo. Her second daughter, Ashley Judd, became an acclaimed film actress. Along with her daughter, Wynona, Naomi has earned five Grammy Awards, and eight CMA awards. Not too shabby by any account!

mcclendonSarah Newcomb McClendon: McClendon worked as a long-time White House reporter and founded her own news service as a single mom during the post-World War II era. What I didn’t realize, is that this woman clearly embodies Texas grit and determination. After enlisting in the War and being assigned a public relations post, her husband left her before he met his death. She, meanwhile, was pregnant. Using her connections in Washington, D.C., McClendon landed a job—the same month as her daughter’s birth. Her moxie was evident her entire life as the savvy reporter became a leading model for women in the press and she was well known for asking bold questions during Presidential press conferences. She died in 2003.

Harriet Strong:  Her last name is perfect. I can’t imagine the strength it took to be able to invent a water conservation device and irrigation system during the first World War—after her husband left her and their four daughters for the California Gold Rush. The single mother and scientist was also a well known speaker for women’s independence and suffrage.

Julie-Newmar-CatwomanJulie Newmar: There are many actresses who are single mothers today. But to be honest, it’s hard to garner inspiration from their lives, when many achieved stardom before having or adopting children and have an entourage of help and money at their disposal. One actress, however, is a bit different. The original Catwoman in the popular “Batman and Robin” TV series, Newmar was an accomplished Broadway success in the 50′s and 60′s. Few realize, however, that she  raised her son, John who has down syndrome, alone—taking him with her all around the world. She showed that women can pursue their passions, while finding a way to provide love and security for a child.

Why Can’t I Embrace Time Off?

In my own way, I really do know why the caged bird sings. And I know why the bird stays too—even when the cage door is open. It seems selfish to take more than a quick flight around the room. No, the bird comes back to where she’s comfortable and finds beauty in her surroundings and in how happy her singing makes those in the house. Even when those in the house barely notice her and come and go as they please—she knows her role and knows that, somehow, the beauty of her singing and her reliable presence is helpful to those she loves.

I read that in Vietnam (and probably elsewhere) Buddhist worshippers release caged birds to improve their karma. In theory, this sounds wonderful. But I doubt that it’s a wonderful feeling for the birds. A picture I saw of a Buddhist releasing three birds spoke louder than words. Instead of flying away, the three birds crashed into one another with their wings barely opening widely enough for flight. It’s not easy to just take flight away from all that you have known, is it?

Now that my cage door has been blown apart, I see how ridiculous living for others all the time truly is. It’s okay (and healthy) to do things for yourself. It’s okay to take flight once in a while just because it makes you happy. Taking flight is scary for some of us. Doing things for ourselves can seem selfish. Especially if we are the person who fixes things, who kisses booboos, who makes sandwiches, checks homework, listens to woes and gives advice, and who lives daily for the crazy schedules of playdates and homework and dinners, and sports events and mommy-and-me classes. That’s the good stuff, right? It seems to give most of us (I’m talking the co-dependent us) more pleasure than our work—if we work outside the house. And it’s tougher than most work too—at least the two- and three-year-old tantrums are. When you’re the person who supports others, it’s hard to support yourself. (You know who you are: you’re the one who remembers birthdays, writes thank you notes, sends presents, plans parties, playdates, activities, camps, Dr. visits—all between other work duties you master. You’re the one who feels guilty taking time for yourself to exercise or get a rare manicure—as your goal is to make others happy and pleased and not to think about yourself, right?) So where do you exist when all of that is cut off? Where are you when that fades to black? Sound familiar?

I wrestled with all of that after my husband left at the end of 2009. But since he lives in Europe and I care for the boys pretty much 24/7, they kept me insanely busy and not able to focus too much on this question. Back then, I was just making it day by day and trying for force myself to eat and keep going. That’s how it was in the beginning with a baby and an 7-year-old to take care of. Flash forward two years and you’d think that I’d have overcome this crazy guilt I have about taking time for myself. To be fair, I have really been taking strides that started with baby steps and I’m getting there. At first, I felt insanely guilty about putting the baby in daycare so I could write (I’m a freelance writer) and get a break. After a year of separation, with me weighing in at 90 lbs and getting little to no sleep due to my insanely sleepless toddler, a good friend urged me to put my little guy in a small, family-run daycare so I could pursue my work and get a break. I did and within a few months landed some great freelance writing gigs. I was able to grocery shop without drama. I wan’t driving for an hour to let the baby sleep since he doesn’t nap at home. I was able to take a run and eventually joined a gym. Taking a pilates or a yoga class felt crazily selfish—even though I went months without a day off to sleep in. Why I felt this way is such a long story including a family history of co-dependency and an upbringing in the South where ladies who do-it-all and support their man are still highly admired.

But all of this is part of why the rare, cherished time-off from the kiddos, can be extra-ordinarily and oddly, hard for me to adjust to. The summer holiday for my kids with their dad should be a time for joyous celebration, right?

I should be thinking: Hurray! I’m finally going to have some time to myself!

And I am excited about that. I’m so looking forward to being me, traveling, writing and reading and just being a woman and not always a mommy. But a large part of myself is also wondering if my kids will put on sunblock or whether they’ll remember to say their prayers/gratitude lists at night or whether they’ll have fights that I can’t help them with, or if a tantrum might push someone over the edge, etc. Seriously, it’s so sad. Even as I write this, I wonder about my sanity. I am the quintessential co-dependant woman. There, I said it. So now, I guess I’ve become the co-dependant single mom who is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she’s going to be away from her boys for a full MONTH. I haven’t had a week off since last Christmas and I think the last two days off was three months ago. So, yeah, I guess I’m due.

Why, then, am I not jumping up and down with glee!? It’s scary to take flight. It’s frightening to venture out and try to reclaim life outside of motherhood. I’m grateful for the chance, but hesitate at the door.

Any advice out there, my soul-sister, single moms? Seriously, any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated this week as I say goodbye to my little guys.

Lots of love,

L. x

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

A wise friend told me this and I’ve repeated it to several women recently. I’ve had so many conversations over the past three weeks with a variety of new and old girlfriends who seem be to stuck or tempted by the grass is greener ideology. For instance, one married woman lamented to me that she was a bit jealous of my single status. “I miss getting butterflies while getting ready for a new date! I miss the first kiss, the romance. You’re so lucky.”

Another married woman said to me that she was tempted to cheat. “I can’t stand the monotony. I get criticized for not making a stellar dinner. He points out if I’ve gained a pound, but just sits and watches football and drinks too much. Where’s the fun in that?”

I understand. Really.

Interestingly, it’s not always rosy for the separated and divorced women out in the dating world. Some of my divorced and separated friends seem to be on collision courses. In their frantic search for a new man, they are with people who have addictions or just treat them poorly because that’s who they are. I can’t quite get it.

“I just can’t be without a man,” said one woman who is with the wrong person and knows it. (A person addicted, mentally unstable and unable to NOT hurt her.)

“But maybe he’s treating me this way because he’s confused,” said another who is putting up with so much cruelty from a man that it’s unbelievable and too painful for me to watch anymore.

So I told these women in my life two things (not that I’m a savant, but taking time off from men can really clear your head!)

One: “The Grass is Greener Where You Water It.”

Two: (aka Gloria Steinem): “A Woman Without a Man, is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” Think about it. (By the way, I was reading Steinem’s book Revolution From Within in the kitchen of a newspaper where I was reporter in Maryland back in 1992/93 when the publisher walked in, looked at me, and said, “Shit.” He spit out his tobacco in a nearby trash can and continued, “I knew you were smart, but now you’re going to start asking for a raise. Put that Steinem crap away and get back to work.” KID YOU NOT!)

I know I can’t help my friends with their serious issues. (And I understand them as I recognize them in myself.) I can’t make them see that they are lovable. I can’t make them see that they are beautiful. I can’t make them understand that instead of quickly demanding a man commit to them, they might want to take a breather and decide whether or not that new man is worthy of their commitment. How do I help them realize that they are wonderful and deserve love that doesn’t hurt?

I guess I can’t do that. I can only take care of myself. So, I’ve decided to take a time out from men. Why not? This past month four married men propositioned me. (Seriously? What is UP with that?!)

Anyone who knows me well knows that even the most chiseled man couldn’t get my number if he has a wedding ring on. And there lies another problem … many men nowadays just take them off.

But this isn’t the main reason why I’m taking a time out. I’m not as jaded as I could be! No, I’m just exhausted. So thank you to the friends who want to set me up on dates, but no thanks for now. Taking care of two kiddos solo 24/7 is tiring. I love them dearly and thank God for my boys every day. But there’s only so much space in my life. I’m giving it to them (and me) right now.

Secondly, I’m the personality type (cough, can you say co-dependent?!) that puts another person’s needs WAY before my own. I’ve done it my whole life. Maybe you can relate to that one? I tend to wrap myself around the important person in my life and cater to their needs and put my own very far down the list. It’s time to get re-introduced to myself. I had no idea how bad it was until I was on the phone with one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for 25 years. Here’s how the conversation went:

“I’m SO excited! I’ve decided to hire the nanny and go away for a weekend.” I say to her six weeks ago. (She knew I had been brave and broken up with my first boyfriend since my ex-husband. It’s hard to walk away, but I’m learning to take care of myself.)

Great, where are you going dare devil,” she replies.

“I have no idea.”

“Wow.”

“I know. I’m stumped. I can’t even think of what I want to do or where I want to go.”

There’s a brief pause.

“Is this the same girl who traveled nonstop solo, taking new reporter jobs in random places just to travel. The girl I’d have to track down constantly, who moved to New York on a whim to write and who has at least 25 addresses in my address book?”

“Um, I think so. It’s just been so long you know. I’ve been in lockdown with the kids for two years, I can’t think straight.”

“Yeah. It’s crazy. You don’t even know what you like anymore. But I know who you are and what you like. Wow, you are so lost. Go somewhere, hole up and write.”

I hung up with her and thought about that.

Wow. I really couldn’t think of where I should go or what I should do with any time off. It’s like I had become the caged bird in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea.

At the last minute, I decided to cancel the solo trip for financial reasons, but it got me thinking, I really need to get back to the basics. Instead of taking what little time I have to go out on dates and to search for another someone in my life, I’m better off writing, working out, going to Al-Anon (long story) and getting to know who I am again.  You can’t build up strength on a shaky platform.

So, I’ve decided not to heed the warning of one man whose argument to begin an affair with him started with the fact that I wouldn’t be this attractive forever—presumably to be able to attract the likes of him … How sweet right? Be still my heart.

No, I’m going to take the risk of mother time creeping up on me and adding a few more wrinkles and thwarting hot prospects from entering my life in order to focus on … well … me. For once.

If you’re one of those single mommas who are spinning like a top in the dating world, what do you think? Can you try a time out for sanity’s sake too? Let me know how it goes and please share your tips of survival if you are still venturing out in this crazy dating world. Lots of love and luck to you if you are! x