Are You Settling or Choosing?

Sometimes you hear a phrase that speaks volumes to you. That really makes you stop and think. That makes you pause and reflect and say to yourself…”I need to think about this…”

The other morning that happened to me.

What was that phrase?

“10 years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life. Not that you settled for it.”

That’s a tough one to think about, isn’t it? Because in all honesty, most of our lives are a combination of both.

Sometimes we make good decisions, good plans. And sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we think carefully about our plans and decisions, talk them over with friends or family, weigh the pros and cons, and come up with what we think is the best plan. Sometimes it is; sometimes we find out years later it really wasn’t.

Sometimes we make long term

plans based on spur of the moment decisions, jumping into something because at the time it sounds perfect, almost too good to be true. And then find out we made a terrible mistake and have no good way to get out of it.

Many times we all look back at times in our lives and realize the plans we made, the decisions we made, were the wrong ones and wish we could undo them and start again.

Sometimes we make decisions because we don’t think we have a choice, don’t think a better opportunity will come along, and decide to make that step, even though we know deep down inside it’s not the right thing to do.

Does this resonate with any of you?

We may not have necessarily chosen the life we have right now. It may be the way it is because some one or some people made it the way it is. It was not our choice.

But….

We can choose how we handle today in order to make tomorrow more of our choice than settling for something else. Something easy. Something we know isn’t right for us, but we don’t think we have any other choice.

But let me tell you, we always have a choice. We can settle for status quo, decide that where we are now is where we’re always going to be. We can decide to just say “I’m done” and stop striving for more. And settle for what we have.

We can remain in the same place and give up trying to achieve what we know we want, because we’ve lost our hope.

Or…we can say to ourselves “I’m not settling for second best. Or third best. I’m not settling until I have what I know I deserve, and I’m choosing right now to make it happen. Somehow.”

You may not know how you’re going to do it, but just by making that determination, you’ve already started making it happen.

Yes, realizing our hopes and dreams, making our choices a reality, isn’t always easy. There are bumps along that road, but in the end, it’s worth it.

It won’t happen overnight. Anything worth waiting for never does.

But do you want to say in 10 years you settled, or do you want to say you gave it your best shot, and made your best choices?

You’re too old, you say? My friends, we’re never too old to make choices that we will live with the rest of our lives.

It’s your choice, and it’s up to you to make it. Do you settle or take a chance?

I know which one I’m taking!

The Things We Can’t Control…That Make Us Unique

We complain a lot. We do, you know. We complain a lot about things in our lives we have no control over, or even things we can control but choose not to.

One Sunday morning our pastor listed three things we cannot control, because the Lord determined those three things when we were born. We had absolutely no input into them. It was not our choice to make.

Do you have any idea what those three things are that we have no control over? If you think about it, it’s really quite simple. But I’d never thought about it either.

1. We have no control over where we are born. I’d venture to say most of you reading this were born in the United States, as I was.

How often do you think about that, and thank the Lord for where you were born?

You could have been born in a country with food shortages and lack of clean drinking water. Where there is very little infrastructure, sparse electricity; where you may not always know where your next meal is coming from. Where health care is almost non-existent.

You could have been born in a country where there are very few freedoms; where talking openly against the government could literally get you killed. Where practicing your faith could also literally get you killed if you did not believe as the government told you. Where a dictatorship controls your entire way of life.

2. We have no control over the family we were born into.

Many of us come from a loving family, and are fortunate enough to stay close to our family through the years, even when miles separate us.

But many others are not that fortunate. Many come from broken homes, in which one parent doesn’t really seem to care about their children and hardly ever, or never, see them.

Many have families who want nothing to do with each other, or who literally spend time putting down other family members because none of them want to get along with each other.

Many have families who have ostracized them because they don’t agree with their choices, their lifestyle, their chosen faith, or even their politics.

But that’s the family you were given. You can’t change it.

3. We have no control over what we look like, how tall/short we are, our hair/eye color (well, the hair we can do something about later in in life), our skin color, our body shape and size, and its physical characteristics.

Most of us at one or more times in our life want to change something about how we look because we think it’ll make us happier, more acceptable to others, more attractive, and bring us more luck in finding a spouse, a better job, even.

Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with having our teeth straightened, our hair colored, exercising to keep our bodies in shape. But many people decide they want to drastically change how they look because they just don’t like themselves the way they are, and they’re sure if they make those changes, maybe even try to look like someone else even, they’ll be happy.

But God determined these three things for a reason when He individually created each one of us and determined our life by giving us each these three distinct elements. No one else has exactly those same three elements. Now you and your siblings usually share the first two, but the third, well, unless you’re identical twins, you’re not completely sharing the third one. And even identical twins have a few characteristics that make one just a bit different from the other.

We are all created as individuals, unique individuals. There is no one else exactly like us in this world, and there never will be. Not ever. When we were created, that particular mold was broken, never to be used again.

I am also adding a fourth thing we have no control over, and that is our talent. We all have a special talent; a gift that we were given that is in no way exactly like anyone else’s. Yes, we can learn things like music, writing, or one of the trades that are so important to our every day life. But if we don’t have a special talent, a gift, for that particular thing, we won’t excel in it.

Now we can’t all be a famous scientist like Albert Einstein, a master artist like da Vinci, a master composer like Beethoven, a singer like Barbra Streisand, or a successful writer like Stephen King. They all have a master talent. But each and every one of us is talented in some way.

We each have a gift for something, although we may not know what, may have not yet discovered it. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. But that is certainly not my gift! As much as I’d like to have that talent, it’s not there. And it’s not something I can really learn, although I’ve tried and tried. But I can write, and I think I’m fairly good at it. And I can use my words to draw “pictures” in other people’s minds.

The surgeons who will be operating on my husband this week have a unique gift for cardiac surgery. They are the best in their field in our area. They may not be famous, but we’re sure glad they are using their gift in the way God intended.

What about you? What is your unique gift? Have you discovered it yet? And if so, are you working to develop it? Because that gift is also specific to you. No two musicians sing or write music in the same way. No two writers have the same exact style. And no two physicians have exactly the same talent, even in the same field.

Your gift is very identical to you, and you alone. Find it. Develop it. And use it in the unique way it was intended for you.

Because you are unique. There is only one of you born where you were born to the parents you had, with the same physical characteristics and the same special talent that’s your special gift.

Celebrate who you are! There’s only one you!

Living In The Past

It only keeps you from your future. And isn’t that where you want to go?

Do you really want to stay in a time in which you know the end of the story? Because you can’t change the ending, you know. The past is already done. Gone. There’s no changing anything.

Yes, there were lots of good times. And it’s sometimes easier to dwell on how great those good times were, rather than remembering the events leading up to the end, and the ending itself. And how awful it was. However, sometimes in our memories we change the ending so it’s not as bad as it really was.

In fact, sometimes in our minds we change the ending and make what happened someone else’s fault instead of our own. Or we wrongly blame ourselves for something someone else did to us. That way, we can continue to live in the past, in our own mind, and change that unhappy ending to something that makes us feel better.

But that ending only exists in your own mind, while everyone else around you is living in reality…in the actual here and now. You’re just not living there with them. You’re living in your own reality, but no one else is living there with you. So you’re even more alone.

Living in the past is like living with a ball and chain around your leg. It prevents you from moving on, from going anywhere new.

It keeps you from moving into tomorrow; into your future. Sure, you want to go there, you really do. But that piece of the past you’re still dwelling in just won’t let you. Like someone with that short length of chain attached to that huge heavy ball around their ankle, you can only go so far. And no farther.

Until you decide to free yourself from the past…to let it go and not go back to visit…you’re not going to move into your future. And you know that’s where you want to go…where you NEED to go. Because staying mired in the past won’t accomplish anything but making you miserable. You’ll watch everyone else moving into their future, and you’re still left behind. Where it’s definitely no fun!

So try it. Be adventurous. Stop dwelling on what happened in the past; on what you could’ve done differently. Stop thinking about what’s gone and won’t be again. After all, no matter how much you look back and think about the past, it’s not going to change one thing. Not one detail. So why do you keep doing it? Do you enjoy the pain? I sure wouldn’t.

Instead, look at what’s ahead. There’s a brand new adventure coming. No, you don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be so much better than where you are now. All you have to do is put the past behind you once and for all. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t do the “what if…” Don’t look backwards, because that’s not where you’re supposed to be going.

Because if you do, you’re not going to ever get rid of that ball and chain. And you won’t be able to go into your future.

Where you’re supposed to be. And tomorrow is that future.

And it’s going to be amazing! And beautiful! If you only let it be that way.

Yes, this is a shorter blog than I usually write, because I want you to start planning your tomorrow instead of reading too long. I want you to close that door to the past and leave it shut! Lock it and throw the key away! And take off that ball and chain and throw it away! There is absolutely nothing there in that past for you any more; if it were, it would be your present. As well as your future.

So don’t wait any longer. Don’t waste any more time, because you have something very special waiting for you.

But I Know He/She Loves Me

“Why else would he keep telling me that all the time? He tells me I’m perfect, I’m the best woman he’s ever met. That he knew it immediately. He’s even planned our family holidays, our wedding, where we’ll live. He says he can’t live without me. He wants me to be with him all the time. He doesn’t want me to talk to other guys, let alone date them. He says I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have found him. No man will ever love me more or treat me like he does. Wow….

I’ve known him for two weeks. But yet…. He has this way of making me uneasy. I think I love him, too, but something isn’t right.”

“She says she’s never felt this way before. That I’m the best looking, sexiest man she’s ever met. That she’s been wanting someone like me forever, and she’s the luckiest woman alive. She wants to cook for me every night. Clean my apartment. Meet my kids and my friends. She’s even said how much she’ll love living here after we’re married…and that she’ll even be happy moving in before that so we can plan our wedding better.

I’ve always thought I’d meet someone like her. I’ve looked for her a lot. But yet…why am I feeling smothered? Uncomfortable. I really like her, but this is too much too soon. It’s only been three weeks…I don’t know that I can do this any more.”

And a few days later…

“I told him it was too fast. Too much. I needed space; needed some time. And suddenly he was a different person. Yelling at me. Accusing me of all kinds of things, like lying to him. Making him think I loved him when I didn’t. He wouldn’t leave me alone. Called or texted me continually, berating me and telling me I’d be sorry I broke his heart. Then crying that I ruined his life and he couldn’t live without me.

I was scared. I didn’t know what he’d do. Either to me or himself. Friends told me to cut all ties with him but I was afraid it would cause him to do something to himself, and I’d be responsible.”

“I told her we needed time apart. I couldn’t do every night…every weekend. I had to have time for myself. My tennis pals and golf buddies were ready to replace me. She told me it was ok, that she’d just come over and stay at my place while I was out with my friends. She’d have dinner ready for me even. Maybe even redecorate a bit. That was bad enough, but then she started questioning me about who I was with; who I was talking to….

I couldn’t do it anymore. And I told her. Told her we needed some space. She cried. Said she’d done everything for me; had even given notice at her apartment so she could move in with me. I’d never even mentioned it. She kept calling and texting me afterwards, telling me she was sorry, she loved me, couldn’t live without me…I finally blocked her number. And hoped she wouldn’t come by my place to see what I was doing.”

It’s not just women who start dating people who aren’t right for them, and don’t know how to break it off. Or worse, are afraid to break it off because they don’t want to be alone. Or they’re scared no one else will be there, and being with someone is better than being alone.

Or is it?

We’ve all heard stories about people (usually women unfortunately) who stay with people because they think things will change; that the person really doesn’t mean it when he/she says those crazy statements meant to intimidate or threaten. When they try to be around all the time, smothering their supposed significant other to the point of making them run the other way.

Or worse, when that person starts threatening, berating, screaming, or in some cases, eventually resulting to physical violence. And afterwards, of course, apologizing, begging forgiveness, promising it won’t happen again. Until it does. Or even blaming the other person for his or her actions, saying, “You made me do it! It’s YOUR fault!”

We’ve all either been there, or had friends who’ve been there.

That’s not love. That’s manipulation. Control. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. Intimidation. Jealousy. Whatever you want to call it.

And let me tell you, it’s eventually very dangerous.

You say it won’t happen to you? Think again. It can. And if you stay in a relationship like that, it will. Trust me. I know.

You cannot change someone like this. And without professional help, neither can they. You may care for them, or think you do, even think you love them, but that kind of love isn’t healthy, and leads to nothing but disaster. The best thing to do in this situation is walk away. Run away. Don’t look back, because each time you do it opens the door for the cycle to start over again.

True love is not manipulative. It is not one sided. It is not smothering. It is not jealous. It does not force guilt on others. It is never violent.

True love is patient. It respects the other person. True love requires each person in the relationship to think more of the other person’s feelings than their own.

The actions of true love speak louder than words ever can.

A relationship of love is built on mutual feelings. Mutual respect. It does not happen overnight. Yes, attraction certainly happens immediately, but true love requires a deep emotional bond with the other person that can only come with time. Time to get to know each other. And to develop a relationship that deepens as that time goes on.

He/she loves you? Maybe in their own sad way they do. But it’s not real love.

And it can only lead to broken hearts. And disaster.

Are you in a relationship like this?

Oh, but yours is different, you say. He/she is changing because they’ve promised you. And you can already see it. Well, sort of.

Right. It’s different until it happens again. And you get another apology. And then, a few weeks or months later, it’s the same old story.

Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit and get yourself out of that relationship.

Because the right one can’t come along until you get rid of the wrong one.

I know from experience!

But I Know He/She Loves Me

“Why else would he keep telling me all the time? He tells me I’m perfect, I’m the best woman he’s ever met. That he knew it immediately. He’s even planned our family holidays, our wedding, where we’ll live. He says he can’t live without me. He wants me to be with him all the time. He doesn’t want me to talk to other guys, let alone date them. He says I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have found him. No man will ever love me more or treat me like he does. Wow….

I’ve known him for two weeks. But yet…. He has this way of making me uneasy. I think I love him, too, but something isn’t right.”

“She says she’s never felt this way before. That I’m the best looking, sexiest man she’s ever met. That she’s been wanting someone like me forever, and she’s the luckiest woman alive. She wants to cook for me every night. Clean my apartment. Meet my kids and my friends. She’s even said how much she’ll love living here after we’re married…and that she’ll even be happy moving in before that so we can plan our wedding better.

I’ve always thought I’d meet someone like her. I’ve looked for her a lot. But yet…why am I feeling smothered? Uncomfortable. I really like her, but this is too much too soon. It’s only been three weeks…I don’t know that I can do this any more.”

And a few days later…

“I told him it was too fast. Too much. I needed space; needed some time. And suddenly he was a different person. Yelling at me. Accusing me of all kinds of things, like lying to him. Making him think I loved him when I didn’t. He wouldn’t leave me alone. Called or texted me continually, berating me and telling me I’d be sorry I broke his heart. Then crying that I ruined his life and he couldn’t live without me.

I was scared. I didn’t know what he’d do. Either to me or himself. Friends told me to cut all ties with him but I was afraid it would cause him to do something to himself, and I’d be responsible.”

“I told her we needed time apart. I couldn’t do every night…every weekend. I had to have time for myself. My tennis pals and golf buddies were ready to replace me. She told me it was ok, that she’d just come over and stay at my place while I was out with my friends. She’d have dinner ready for me even. Maybe even redecorate a bit. That was bad enough, but then she started questioning me about who I was with; who I was talking to….

I couldn’t do it anymore. And I told her. Told her we needed some space. She cried. Said she’d done everything for me; had even given notice at her apartment so she could move in with me. I’d never even mentioned it. She kept calling and texting me afterwards, telling me she was sorry, she loved me, couldn’t live without me…I finally blocked her number. And hoped she wouldn’t come by my place to see what I was doing.”

It’s not just women who start dating people who aren’t right for them, and don’t know how to break it off. Or worse, are afraid to break it off because they don’t want to be alone. Or they’re scared no one else will be there, and being with someone is better than being alone.

Or is it?

We’ve all heard stories about people (usually women unfortunately) who stay with people because they think things will change; that the person really doesn’t mean it when he/she says those crazy statements meant to intimidate or threaten. When they try to be around all the time, smothering their supposed significant other to the point of making them run the other way.

Or worse, when that person starts threatening, berating, screaming, or in some cases, eventually resulting to physical violence. And afterwards, of course, apologizing, begging forgiveness, promising it won’t happen again. Until it does. Or even blaming the other person on his or her actions, saying “You made me do it!”

We’ve all either been there, or had friends who’ve been there.

That’s not love. That’s manipulation. Control. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. Intimidation. Jealousy.

And let me tell you, eventually very dangerous.

You say it won’t happen to you? Think again. It can. And if you stay in a relationship like that, it will. Trust me. I know.

You cannot change someone like this. And without professional help, neither can they. You may care for them, or think you do, even think you love them, but that kind of love isn’t healthy, and leads to nothing but disaster. The best thing to do in this situation is walk away. Run away. Don’t look back, because each time you do it opens the door for the cycle to start over again.

True love is not manipulative. It is not one sided. It is not smothering. It is not jealous. It does not force guilt on others. It is never violent.

True love is patient. It respects the other person. True love requires each person in the relationship to think more of the other person’s feelings than their own.

The actions of true love speak louder than words ever can.

A relationship of love is built on mutual feelings. Mutual respect. It does not happen overnight. Yes, attraction certainly happens immediately, but true love requires a deep emotional bond with the other person that can only come with time. Time to get to know each other. And to develop a relationship that deepens as that time goes on.

He/she loves you? Maybe in their own sad way they do. But it’s not real love.

And it can only lead to broken hearts. And disaster.

Family Feud is NOT Just a Game Show

“Name something you’d like to give your mother-in-law for Christmas.”
“A one way ticket to Australia.”

“What’s your favorite thing to do when your in-laws visit?”
“Help them pack to go home.”

“What famous person would you say your father in law reminds you of?”
“Herman Munster!”

“What do you think his/her family says about you?”
“I sure wish he/she had married someone else…anyone else!”

These answers are funny when they’re on a TV game show. We laugh along with the host and the audience, wondering which team will win the big prize.

But when it’s real life, and your real situation, it’s anything but funny.

I’ve written before that when we marry we marry the entire family, not just our spouse. But it’s not always the in-laws who create family disagreements and feuds. Our own families can do that quite well without involving any other families in the mix.

Sure, every family has their issues, and I’m speaking of our extended families, not just husband/wife/children, or divorced families, which is a whole other subject.

We always hear how “blood is thicker than water.” And yes that’s true in some cases, but more and more we hear stories about dysfunctional families and the rifts that certain family members can cause, many of which are never healed. Obviously the blood in that situation has really gotten thin!

And that’s sad. Because everyone misses out. We don’t get to share family stories, and we don’t have those happy holiday get-together memories that the media shows us every season. The ones we envy, and miss, or in some cases, can’t imagine what it would be like.

Some families have never experienced closeness. In fact, you almost wonder how the marriages of some of the members ever produced any children!

My own father’s family, at least the only few members I met were a prime example. I remember asking my dad one time when I was really little if he had any parents, because I’d never met them or even heard him talk about them. My mother quickly shushed me and changed the subject.

The subject never came up again until one day a few months after my father had died. I wasn’t quite 9 years old when a car came driving into our yard on a Sunday afternoon in April, just about three months after my dad had died. And I remember my mother saying “Oh my gosh it’s Mr. and Mrs. Chapman!” I asked her innocently who they were.

“They’re your daddy’s parents. Your other grandparents.”

My who?

Up until that day I’d never known they existed; I’d never heard about them, let alone met them. To this day I don’t even know if they even went to his funeral. As I got older I finally asked my mom what had happened between her and my dad and his parents and the only answer I got was that when they met me for the first time as a baby, they weren’t real thrilled and kept making comments about me that weren’t very nice, and my dad evidently said “enough!” And stopped seeing them.

I thought it was really strange, because my mom’s family was very close, and loving, just the opposite of my dad’s family. But as I got older, I discovered almost every family has those issues to one degree or the other.

One man tells the story of how his mother used to stop speaking to him or one of his brothers or sisters if she got mad with them, and it would go on for weeks until the child apologized! Later when he was going through a nasty divorce he asked her for help, and she stopped having anything to do with him for ten years!

Another family refuses to invite their daughter’s husband to family events because they don’t like him. (They’ve never even tried to get to know him.) She brought him with her a few times and her family was so rude to him she hasn’t gone back. And sadly, now they have a baby, and her parents still haven’t met their new grandson.

Siblings and cousins aren’t immune to these types of threatening conditional love-hate relationships. Perceived slights and insults can separate once loving family members for years, never reconciling because neither side will make the first move; because they’re right and the other is wrong and that’s it!

Family feuds can be started by major events, or little things that, left unchecked, grow into big things. And sadly, most families never recover.

Who loses out? Everyone. But most of all, the next generation who will never have the opportunity to know their relatives; never have a chance to bond and learn family history and exchange family stories. They’re separated not necessarily by miles, but by canyons of anger, pride, and resentment. And building a bridge over those canyons is usually next to impossible.

But we still need to try. As another recently popular saying goes, it’s sad to think that most family reunions are now being held at funeral homes. And then it’s too late.

Feuds and disagreements happen in every family. I don’t know one that’s not been affected at some point in time. And there’s certainly nothing funny about it. That’s only on game shows; not real life.

What’s going on in your family that needs to be changed? Your attempt may fail, and you may not be able to fix it, but what can it hurt to try?

When Worry Consumes Your Life

Who, me worry?

Yes, as a matter of fact. We all worry at times. Some of us more than others. But no one is immune.

And sometimes that worry may be justified, especially if it’s over something we cannot control. Or about someone we love who may be making bad decisions, or may be very ill.

But when worry takes over your mind, consumes almost your every thought, prevents you from enjoying anything about your life, that’s a big problem.

Worry can keep you awake at night, laying in bed while your mind runs wild in every direction with every worrisome thought you can imagine. Small worries turn into bigger than life problems as your thoughts take you to places and circumstances that don’t even exist…except in your mind.

Worry can consume you to the point of becoming physically ill. You’re so focused on not knowing how you’re going to fix something in your life, that you don’t eat properly, which in turn makes you ill. You worry so much that you develop headaches that last for days, and then worry that the headaches could be a warning of something else wrong in your life.

Or you dwell on a specific problem you have for so long that you can’t find a solution for it, because all you’re doing is concentrating on the problem itself and not doing anything to find a way to solve it. Your friends or family offer their advice, but all you can think about is why their suggestions won’t work…without even giving them a try.

Or you concentrate so much on that problem, on various scenarios that could happen, your mind runs away with you to the point that every solution has a disastrous ending. In fact, you convince yourself that not matter what you do, that problem is going to have a very unhappy ending. And suddenly your worry becomes a paralyzing fear.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you done this? Or maybe you’re doing it now. Or someone you care about is doing it.

Worrying is a natural thing to do when circumstances in your life start to go wrong. But how you deal with those circumstances makes all the difference in how quickly the circumstances can change.

Worry doesn’t make the problem go away. It only escalates it to a higher level. And it solves nothing.
But what do you do?

Instead of continuing to dwell on how bad, how bleak your situation is, and worrying that it won’t get better, start focusing on ways to fix it. Make plans that can help you make the problem go away, or at least become easier to deal with in the interim.

Worrying about your situation never solves your problem. Neither does ignoring it. It never makes it easier to deal with. And instead of making it go away, it becomes larger and larger, until you feel like you’ll never get ahead again…you’ll never get out of the situation you’re in.

And guess what!? Your situation won’t change, and you’ll be stuck in your circumstances, wondering why everyone else is doing so well while you’re barely hanging on.

Worry can suction the very life out of you if you let it.

So what do you do?

It’s easy to say stop worrying, but that’s easier said than done.

You simply have to start finding solutions to your situation. That’s not always easy either, but it’s the only way out. Many times the short term solutions are the only way, and even though you may not like that short term solution, it may be the only solution available for now. It’s a start, at least.

But “now” doesn’t mean forever. It means just that…for now. In six months or a year that “now” may be gone, and a permanent solution found. One that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t taken the temporary solution.

You’ll notice up to now I haven’t mentioned any of those specific worries you may be burdened with. There are all the big ones, like losing a job, an unwanted or unforeseen divorce, having to quickly find a new place to live, facing a serious medical diagnosis, paying medical bills for a prolonged illness…and the list could go on.

Sometimes the situations we worry about have no good solutions, but instead of doing nothing but worrying about them, we have to make plans on how to deal with them. You may want the problem to go away, but sometimes you can only find ways to deal with it rather than solve it, because there really may be no real solution.

But worrying is not a solution. And neither is ignoring it. Because chances are, that problem won’t go away, but it sure can grow!

What are you worrying about today?

What are you going to do to solve that problem you’re worrying about?

Or are you going to keep worrying and not do anything about it until it’s almost too late?

Only you can make that decision. But make it now before it’s too late.

Falling in Love…With Falling in Love

Is it love or the idea of being in love? Yes, there’s a big difference. And it’s one many people get confused.

“I met this great guy a few weeks ago, and I can’t help it! I’m already in love with him! He’s everything I ever wanted!”

A few weeks ago? You haven’t even had time to get to know him. You may think you do, but do you really? You may know his favorite color, his favorite tv show, his favorite food. But do you know who he is inside, under that list of favorites?

“I know we’ve only been seeing each other for a month, but I KNOW this is it! His last name sounds so perfect with my first name! He has a great smile, and we look so good together! Life is going to be so perfect!”

And then another month later, “I don’t understand. I finally couldn’t take it any more, and I told him I loved him. He didn’t say it back…instead he told me I was a good person, and a lot of fun to be with, but he wasn’t in love with me. In fact, he said he wanted to start seeing other women as well. What I thought was going to be the best night of my life so far…it was the worst. I’m devastated. My life is ruined….”

It’s not just limited to women either. Men do the same thing.

“I met her and it was instant attraction. I mean really, really strong. We were together 4-5 nights a week. We’d talked about moving in together when my lease was up. And then after two months…nothing. She said she just didn’t want a full time relationship. So I took the ring back I’d bought her… I won’t make that mistake again.”

Until the next woman comes along.

There’s a difference in falling in love…being in love, and being in love with the idea of being in love.

When we’re lonesome, tired of being alone, it’s really easy to imagine that we’re falling in love with the first person who starts paying a lot of attention to us.

And we overlook things we shouldn’t overlook. We put warning signs out of our mind.

They’ll change, we think.

It’s not that big a deal, we think.

That was in another relationship; ours is totally different.

Because we’re in love. And we’re surprised how quickly we fell in love. No, he/she isn’t perfect, but none of us are. We overlook all the little criticisms he/she makes. The times he/she is inconsiderate of our feelings, and we just go along for fear of angering him/her and risking losing the person we know we’re in love with.

But how do they feel? Are our feelings reciprocated? Are we afraid to find out? Why?

Is it because we’re in love with the idea of being in love? And not necessarily the person we’re with? Or want to be with?

It’s human nature to want someone to love us, and someone for us to love. We dream of that perfect relationship of happily ever after.

We love the idea of being in love.

And sometimes we try to make every person we begin to date be the one we fall in love with. Because we’re afraid no one else is going to come along.

The idea of being in love is only the first step to actually BEING in love. There are a lot more steps ahead that you both need to take in order to realize you actually love each other.

Love is commitment. Love is caring more about the other person than yourself. Love is a deep knowing in your heart that no matter what happens to him/her you’ll still be there, and vice versa. Love is accepting each other with every fault, every irritation, every piece of baggage that comes with him/her from past relationships. Love is not jealous. Love is not conditional. Love cannot be turned on and off like a water faucet.

True love takes time to develop. It is born into infancy and needs to take time to grow into that feeling which can develop into a lasting commitment, a lasting relationship.

Like a fire, it always starts with a tiny spark. Without that spark, it’s almost impossible for true love to develop and grow. And that true, lasting love requires two sparks; one for each of you. How the fire develops from those sparks, no one can really predict.

When we’re in love with the idea of being in love, it takes awhile to get that spark, if we ever really do. Sometimes we imagine we have it, just to convince ourselves we’re in love. But the spark never really takes hold; we imagine our future with him/her, but we imagine in our minds we just can’t seem to recreate in reality.

And if that’s what you find yourself doing, then you’re only in love with the idea of being in love; not the person you’re seeing.

So which is it? Are you really in love with that person? Can you imagine a happy future with them in ten or fifteen years? Or do you find yourself wondering if you’re trying to love someone who’s really not trying to love you?

The idea of being in love is wonderful; it’s easy to imagine. Being in love, and staying in love, is much harder.

But much more rewarding. And worth waiting for.

You Can’t Force Love

Once again he thought he’d finally met the right girl. So pretty. Great personality. They liked the same things; the same music, same type of movies. The same types of food. She enjoyed cooking and he liked helping her in the kitchen. They had similar life goals.

But there was a problem. Every time he approached the subject of making their relationship more permanent, more serious, she pulled away, changed the subject. Then he wouldn’t see her for days.

But each time they finally saw each again after such an absence she seemed fine; happy to be with him again…until he brought that subject up and he wouldn’t see her again for a while.

But he didn’t give up. He continued to call and they’d talk, and then get together. But when he eventually brought up the subject again, after each of those conversations it seemed she had excuses why she couldn’t see him for a while. They were good reasons though, and he believed her…wanted to believe her.

Until he saw her one night having dinner with another guy, sitting really close to him, smiling and laughing like he’d never seen her do, and a huge diamond sparkling on her left hand.

This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to him.

But why???? He had no idea. What was he doing wrong? Too much too quickly? Too desperate? Too pushy?

All he wanted was for someone to love him….

She kept thinking of every man she met as a potential husband, thinking he was going to be The One. She was lonely and tired of being by herself.

After one or two dates, she always thought she was falling in love.

Even though in their conversations they’d tell her things that she really had issues with. One told her he left both of his wives because they hit him. Really? Could be, but what are the chances?

Another said he left his wife because she gained weight and wouldn’t lose it. She stopped wearing the type of clothes he liked, and let her hair go to its natural gray. “She just wasn’t attractive like she used to be. I couldn’t deal with it.” Really? How a woman looks is the most important thing in a relationship? How shallow is that?

Another kept telling her about all the other women he’d dated, and what was wrong with each of them, and warning her if she did this or that, he’d stop seeing her, too. Another told her he liked her and they had fun together, but he didn’t want a long term relationship again, and if she did, well, she’d better look elsewhere.

Another told her she was exactly what he’d been looking for…on the first date. He pushed and pushed for her to commit. Until she did. And then found out all he was looking for was someone to take care of him, do everything HE wanted, WHEN he wanted, and HOW he wanted. Suddenly her opinions didn’t matter at all, Thankfully, she was able to get away before they got married.

And so it went.

“I just want to be loved….”

But at what price?

Love is not settling. Love is not overlooking and ignoring someone’s warning signs just because you’re lonesome and don’t think you can get anyone else.

Love does not require you or the other person to change your thoughts, ideas, values, appearance, or your total way of life in order to be loved. You are both who you are, complete with your faults. It’s a package deal.

Love is not conditional. It cannot be turned on and off because of someone’s physical appearance. True love looks at the heart, the whole person; not just the outward appearance.

Love doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen because you want it to. It happens because it’s right. For both people. And it’s not in YOUR timing.

You cannot force someone to love you, any more than you can force yourself to fall in love with someone you’re not attracted to, just because you’re alone. You should never mistake curing your loneliness for love. Because eventually you’ll realize that’s not what it was, and by then it may be too late.

Love is always worth waiting for. Even if we don’t like having to do it.

Because when that right one comes along, you won’t have to force it to happen.

There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone

“I’m so tired of seeing couples together. Everyone seems to have someone and I’m all alone. It’s not fair.”

“I’m so tired of being by myself. All my friends have a husband or at least a boyfriend, and I have no one. I’m so tired of being alone.”

“I’m over 30 now and there’s no one in sight who I can love, much less want to marry. This is awful. I need someone to care about me. I’m tired of this single life.”

“I don’t like being alone. Before the divorce I had a husband and a home. Sure, it wasn’t always great, but at least I had someone. Now I’m by myself almost all the time and I hate it!”

“I finally met someone. Thank goodness. He’s not the guy I had in mind, but at least he seems to care about me. I’m not sure I’d really want him for a husband, but he’s all I’ve met so far, and at my age, I guess I’m lucky to just find anybody that wants me. And I don’t want to hurt his feelings by not seeing him any more. Maybe I can learn to like – or love – him. If I just ignore the things I’m not finding attractive with him…”

Hmmmmm. Not exactly how you want to feel, is it? Not how you pictured your life being.

And it’s not always women who feel this way. Loneliness can strike anyone. At any age. Particularly when you’re divorced. And you’re having a difficult time dealing with all the changes that happen all at once.

One day you have a home and someone you’re sharing it with. You have plans for the future. Dreams and goals. Things may not be perfect, but together you can do anything, work everything out.

Six months (or even less) later, your life is totally different. Your spouse is gone, and now referred to as “your Ex”. He/she has someone else. Maybe they’re even on their second or third “someone else.”

And you don’t.

You’re starting over. Totally. It’s not fair, no. But it’s also not all your fault. And spending your days thinking it is and wondering what you could’ve done different isn’t going to help either.

Quickly trying to find a new partner, a future husband or wife, won’t magically make it all better right away. It’s not a cure-all for everything in your life.

I know. From experience, and from friends’ experiences. There are worse things than being alone.

And that prolonged loneliness can cause someone to make bad mistakes.

“I thought he was wonderful. Just the perfect guy. He gave me flowers and little gifts all the time. I knew our life together was going to be everything I’d ever wanted. Unfortunately all he’d wanted was my money…what little I’d inherited from my father. I had no idea until it was too late. Now I’m not only alone…again. I’m totally broke. And he’s nowhere to be found.”

“She was so nice. So caring. She said all she wanted to do was take care of me. I’d had an awful divorce, so she was perfect. Or so I thought. But her jealousy was off the charts. As soon as we were married she started accusing me of sleeping with every woman I worked with; every friend’s wife; and even got mad at me for talking too much to our servers at restaurants. Why? Because she was doing exactly what she accused me of doing. I had no idea.”

“I thought it was really nice when he’d make suggestions to me about certain things. Like my clothes, my hair style, and suggested little changes here and there. He always said he liked the “new me”, whether I did or not. But then he tried to get me to stop going to my favorite places, stop seeing certain friends, saying they weren’t good for me. Like a fool I listened. Until I realized all he was doing was trying to change me into something I wasn’t, and make me totally dependent on him. Someone he wanted me to be. When I finally started trying to be myself again, he left me. And of course said it was all my fault….”

“I thought he was a good man. No, he wasn’t everything I’d dreamed of, but he seemed to love me, and I wasn’t getting any younger. And I figured it would work out. Well, it didn’t. How did I know I was marrying a violent man? There’d been no signs of it when we were dating. But after 9 months and a sprained wrist, a black eye, various pieces of furniture thrown at me, he pushed me down the stairs and broke my arm. He told me, as always, that I made him do it, and left me lying there while he went out with his friends.”

“My friends warned me about him. There’s something not right about him, they said. He makes me really uncomfortable, another said. He’s too smooth, another friend said; almost like he’s acting. I didn’t listen; I was too ready to get out of the dating game; I wanted to be married again. Until I found him cheating on me in our own bed! And telling me it was no big deal and asking me to join them!”

Yes, there are worse things than being alone.

The bottom line…before you even start a new relationship be sure you’re comfortable with who you are; with who you’ve become since your divorce. Know who you are now and what you want. Be sure you’re ready to take on another commitment, and that the other person is ready as well.

Don’t rush into a relationship because you think he/she is the only one out there, and you may not get another chance. Don’t settle. Because as soon as you do, you’re giving up, when that right one may be waiting just around the corner. You’re never too old to find happiness. And you have a lot to offer. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Or you may find yourself with a similar story to tell. And find yourself even lonelier than you were before that disastrous relationship.

There really are worse things than being alone.

Marrying Into the Family

It’s something you really don’t think about. Not really. You’re totally in love with your husband/wife to be, and can’t wait until the wedding day. As well you should. Because marriage is supposed to be forever. Forever with the love of your life.

And with his/her family. That includes parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins…the whole family tree. Because now they’re your family as well.

In an ideal world, that new family tree is great! It’s strong, and its branches are ready to support a lot of new growth. Branches that are grafted on are quickly accepted and grow along with the other branches, just as if they’d always been part of that tree, blending in perfectly.

That’s in a perfect world. And sometimes that perfect world exists.

But a lot of the time it really doesn’t.

Because there are too many branches that don’t want new growth. Or new ideas. They don’t want to accept anyone new because they don’t want to change the family tree. It’s been good to them for a long time, so why mess things up by grafting on new branches?

Now before you start getting offended by this writing, let me make one important point. This is NOT written about any one family, or any one person. I’m not perfect, and neither are you. My family’s not perfect and neither is yours. But I wouldn’t have them any other way. However….

In the beginning of a new relationship, his/her family is usually excited to meet you. You’re a bit nervous, because you want them to like you. And they usually do, or seem to, at least at first.

But many times, the more you get to know them, and the more they get to know you, well, you find there are a lot of branches on that tree you’d really like to trim away.

And you eventually realize they’d probably like to do the same with you!

Every family goes through this. There are no perfect family/in-law relationships. At least none that I know of. There’s usually at least one person that wants to make your life difficult because they just don’t like you, or maybe they’re jealous of you. And there’s nothing you can do to win them over. Sure, you try, but nothing changes.

Did you know they say the same thing about you? Of course they do. Everything’s your fault. Just like to you, it’s all their fault.

And sometimes that’s actually true. Sometimes it’s one or two family members who just like to cause trouble because they want to be the most important branch on the tree, and they want everyone to know it. And you represent a change they don’t like. Or you don’t like them for whatever reason, and you let them know it by your actions.

There’s not much, unfortunately, that you can do to change it. Any more than they can change you. Just be sure you’re not the one who’s trying to change everyone else and make them conform to your ideas and your way of doing everything. That doesn’t work either.

Because all families are unique. They have their own dynamics, their own idiosyncrasies, their own traditions and outlook on life. His/her family is no different from yours in that respect.

And let’s be honest; your family isn’t perfect, and they don’t always get along with everyone either. Do they? And what does your family really think of him/her?

Combining two families into one isn’t the easiest thing to do. I’m sure you’ve all seen the signs so popular at weddings today that read something like, “We’re all family now so pick a seat, not a side!”

Well, that’s true, but…….

I have no answers for solving this age-old problem. It’s been around forever, and unfortunately will continue to be. Why? Because we’re all unique. We all have our own likes and dislikes, our own ideas of who we want as friends. We get offended at things people say and do that hurt us, and sometimes we can’t get past it. Because either we’re too proud to try, or the other person won’t try.

Just remember, it’s his/her family and you’re now a part of it, too, or will be soon. Make yourself the strong branch to be grafted on that tree. And if the tree doesn’t accept you, as long as you’ve done your part, there’s nothing more you can do.

Except start a new tree with your new spouse. Plant it close to theirs, but realize it’s now got to stand on its own, rooted in good fertile soil and nourished by love. And one day, just maybe, a few of the branches on that older tree may finally want to be grafted on to yours.

When the Valentines Don’t Come

How many times have you seen February 14 referred to as “Single Awareness Day”?

How many times have you gone in a store when it’s getting close to Valentine’s Day and wanted to turn around and leave because all it did was remind you that you’re not part of a couple? That you have no one to buy those mushy, sugary cards for? That you have no one to give you candy or flowers or even a card on Valentine’s Day?

How many times have you wanted to take that Cupid and just throw him against the wall, or maybe even run him over with your car? Because his bow and arrow haven’t been working for you, and at this point you’re not sure they ever will.

How many times do you feel like calling out sick from work on that day, because you just know all the other women will have flowers, or candy, or balloons, or other reminders delivered to them at work, and you won’t?! And you’ll feel like everyone else is waiting for something to be delivered for you, and when it doesn’t you can just imagine what they’re thinking.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“Why doesn’t she have a boyfriend/husband?”

“Poor thing, I feel so bad for her…”

How many of you have felt like that? How many of you still do?

Surprisingly, our daughter never liked Valentine’s Day since about the time she entered high school. She always said, and actually still does, that Valentine’s Day is just a day designed for card stores and flower shops to make money. “Why should we have to have a day for everyone to remind someone they love them? They should do that every day.” And she didn’t say that because she didn’t have a boyfriend at the time. Because she did.

She’s even told her husband that same thing, ever since they started dating ten years ago. She means it.

And she has a good point. Why do we concentrate on showing how much we love someone on just one day each year?

What about the other days?

Don’t get me wrong. I like Valentine’s Day. But there were many years I was that woman who felt out of place on February 14 because I didn’t have a special relationship in my life. I was one of those who dreaded the day and was glad to see it over.

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a day that reminds those who are not in a relationship that they’re alone. But unfortunately it does.

So for this upcoming Valentine’s Day, instead of hiding or feeling depressed, make an effort to show your love to someone who’s important to you. I don’t mean try to enter into a romantic relationship; that’s something that just happens on its own, and usually when you least expect it.

So reach out to someone else who may be feeling the way you do. You may actually brighten each other’s day in ways you never imagined. Send a card to a neighbor or someone else you know who’s lost a loved one recently; Valentines Day is hard for them as well, perhaps even harder than it is for you, because there are so many reminders of what they’ve lost.

Buy a valentine card for yourself…one that speaks to your heart. It’s not as crazy an idea as you may think. After all, who knows you better than you know yourself? And aren’t you worth it? If you don’t really love yourself, how can you expect someone else to?

And remember, Valentine’s Day is just that. A day. One day.  The year has 364 more days in it. Even though you may think love has passed you by, believe me, it hasn’t.

The best is yet to come. It will come in its own time, and its own way. It will come when you’re not looking, and when you’re not expecting it. It’s not something you can rush, or force to happen.

Cupid works all year long. Not just on Valentine’s Day. Just because he doesn’t show up on February 14 doesn’t mean he’s forgotten you. He’s just waiting for the perfect time.

And then the Valentines will come. And on more than just one day of the year.