Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Life is an Oprah Episode - On Faith

Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.
     It's  simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.
                                                                - Joni Erickson Tada


 Unless I am asked, I usually do not discuss religion or politics.  Many of my friends know where I stand on relevant social issues and I have very definitive political views.  By nature, I am not religious in the sense that I feel I need to preach my beliefs to another human being. For me, it's been private, and I'm just as comfortable with others speaking about their beliefs.  I was raised Roman Catholic, and I have no need to follow any other organized religion, in spite of recent scandalous events.  The atrocities committed by members of the church were human frailties   What I've discovered, using Catholicism as home base, is my spirituality. 

I believe in God; my relationship with Him is personal, and He is at the core of my faith.  Throughout good times, and less than good times, I have used prayer and my faith as a compass -- my true North.  There have been times when I have experienced raw emotional pain, so debilitating, so paralyzing, that although I've never been suicidal, fully understand how a person would do anything to make the pain stop.  I have drawn on my faith to sustain me through those times, and it has enabled me to be grateful for all the other areas of my life when I was too self-absorbed to be thankful.  

As the year winds down, I find myself, not unlike many others; reflective of the past, and perspective of the future.
My wish for myself is to have an open and empathic heart.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book Illusions by Richard Bach : " You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.  Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them. You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past."   
At first,  I thought, well, you really can't have a different past.  But, what this really means is that you can change your attitude about what in your past has hurt you.  Because, the past really can not hurt you anymore....unless you dwell on it and it keeps you from moving forward.  Kinda like having cement shoes on. Been there; done that.

Now, I am looking forward to a New Year and although I long ago gave up making resolutions, I have set some goals for myself and with a little help from my faith, will see them to fruition. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - It's in his kiss !

Okay, we call it love, but, scientists call it philematology.  And, its in the kiss.  And, like the Shoop, Shoop, Shoop song recorded by Cher, It's in his kiss.  No really. It is.  I've tested this numerous times over the years and it one of the things in life I am sure about.

So, how come?  “Kissing is a mechanism for mate choice and mate assessment,” says Helen Fisher, a Biological Anthropologist from Rutgers University..  Hmmm....I don't usually think about a mate choice when I'm being kissed, at least not at first.  But, I can tell you with great certainty, that if the kiss does not feel right (good), I'm outta there!  Mate assessment, I guess.

 The first boy I kissed was Peter Hill.  I don't think I was more the seven (7) and my friends watched as I got on top of him and planted one.  What I remember was pressing my mouth on his for about three (3) seconds and that was it.   By the age of twelve (12) I had my first real "make-out" session with Benny Cottiletto in the Tunnel of Love at an amusement park (actually it was called "Ye Olde Mill").  Again, just lips pressing together with no movement.  I wondered...is that all there is?   I tried not to panic.  What is all the fuss about kissing, and making out?  After all, I had played "spin the bottle" many times; still, no real satisfaction.  Finally, at the age of thirteen (13), and after my eight grade prom, Marty Dulin pulled me into the coat room upstairs and asked me out.  When I said yes, he pulled me close and kissed me with great passion -- well, as much as a thirteen year old can muster.  It was better than earlier kisses, but, still I wasn't crazy about it, so I broke off with him before another kiss took place. 

So what’s all the making out about?   It is about true love?  No, it really is just about chemistry.  The unexplainable ingredient which defines many relationships.  Aside from the earlier kissing experiences, by the time I was sixteen (16), I understood what real kissing was about.  I did not have a name for it then, but, it was chemistry.

My first real love was Ronnie Greene, and we started going out in the summer just before I started junior year in high school.  Even though I had other boyfriends before Ronnie, and I had made-out with most of them, no one kissed me in a way that kept me coming back for more.  There was tongue, and long, lingering mouth on mouth sessions.  Ronnie was a year older than me, and he had already had sexual experiences.  We were together for about two (2) years (off and on), and I don't think I kissed anyone more than Ronnie.  We almost had sex on New Year's Eve of my senior year, but, we were interrupted by his brother.  Back to kissing only for a while.  The prom held out promise, but, Ronnie was in the hospital with mononucleosis just two days earlier.  He had the kissing disease?  I was jinxed.  I finally did lose my virginity to Ronnie, and when he went into the Army, I found someone else to kiss.  They say you never forget your first love, and that may be true.  For me, I never forgot the first great kisser. After years of  relationships, it has been the same for me.  If the kiss isn't right, it doesn't work.

Several years ago, I was getting together with someone I had been friends with for many years.  He had been divorced for a while, and we had gone out many times while I was still living in NY...mostly lunches, dinners, tennis matches and other sporting events.  He had come down to Raleigh to visit me because he wanted to try "dating" me, and take our relationship to a new level.  I liked him a lot; we got along great, he had a lot to offer as he had a solid career, made a lot of money, was attractive and funny.  I picked him up at the airport and he gave me a quick hug and kiss on the cheek.  So far, so good.  I dropped him off at his hotel and went upstairs with him so he could change for dinner.  When we got into his room, he turned to me, grabbed me,  pulled me close, and kissed me.  Buzz kill.  I had better kisses from my cat.  Nothing. Nada.   I was in trauma.  Quickly, I told him I was starving and needed to be fed.  All through dinner I kept figuring out a way to not kiss him again.  I knew I was letting go someone special, but, the chemistry just wasn't there.  I let him down easy by saying I was still involved with someone else, and preferred to wait until I was free of the other person before pursuing another relationship.  As the scientists put it, saliva  is a chemical cocktail, and lots of hormones are in it.  He didn't have the right stuff.  Is that too shallow?  I needed the kiss to be great.

Anyone who says kissing isn't what it is all cracked up to be, is either lying, or just doesn't know any better. I won't be with anyone who doesn't get my juices flowing. (loose termination).  Is there a certain technique?  Do you know most people turn their heads to the right just before the kiss?  I like music in the background, soft lighting, or candles.  Who am I kidding?  I like it even with my back pressed up against a wall in bright daylight -- if the chemistry is there; being taken by surprise.   Yes, I like to be kissed.  And, I think it is a chick thing, because men have admitted to me that they would still have sex with a bad kisser.  I can't imagine making love without kissing.

Does he love me, I wanna know 
How can I tell if he loves me so?
  (Is it in his eyes) - Oh no, you'll be deceived
        (Is it in his eyes) - Oh no, he'll make believe
        If you wanna know if he loves you so
        It's in his kiss - (that's where it is), oh yeah
(the original Shoop Shoop Shoop song recorded by Betty Everett.
 Sorry, Ronnie...found another great kisser!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - On Feminism, Gender Roles, Double Standards

Feminists.  I can only imagine that saying that conjures up images of women that hate men, don't wear makeup, have hairy armpits & legs and wear frumpy clothes. Well, I am a feminist, and let me assure you that I love men (every inch of them), I do wear makeup, and I shave my legs, armpits and get regular bikini waxes.  Feminism refers to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political and social rights of women and also equal opportunities for women.  Most feminists I know are women, however, I also have some male friends that I consider to also be feminists.  They care about equal rights, not only for women, but, for any group that have been typically discriminated against -- gays/lesbians, blacks, hispanics among others.

When I was a very young child, growing up and playing street games in NYC, it never occurred to me that there were supposed to be gender roles.  I mean, I was playing all those games with all the boys -- games like stick ball, punch ball, handball, etc.  Even on Sundays, when I had to wear a dress all day, I still played with the boys.  I also collected baseball cards and used to "flip" them to win more.  Once while flipping cards in the school yard with Danny Caliente, a boy I had a crush on, I let him win, so he would still like me.  I realized then and there that girls would not be liked if they could beat a boy in a game.  Once I found out he liked someone else,  I challenged him to flip cards until I took away his favorite player -- Mickey Mantle.  Identifying gender roles would be on hold for me until later on, or, until I liked another boy.

When I was nineteen (19) I became engaged.  I have to admit that the first thing that crossed my mind immediately after the ring went on my finger was "wow, I am glad I got this out of the way", -- translation - finding a man and getting married.  The first weekend of the engagement,  my fiance and I went to his friend's house for Sunday dinner.  They were a very large Italian family who sat me down and began to quiz me about the wedding, where we were going to live, etc.  Then these women told me that as soon as I get married I must put my entire paycheck in savings so we can get used to living on one salary for when I had all the babies and stay home.  My head was spinning.  What !  I can not spend my money, that I earned if I want to?  I'm having babies? I can't go to work?  I'm only nineteen.  On the way home, I was hyperventilating and broke out in hives.  I knew for sure women were not treated as equals and future years would prove this time and again, most notably in the corporate world.

As for double standards, the most recognizable area that applies is  -- SEX.  You know, if she does, shes a Slut.  If he does, he's a Stud.  (there's a great book about double standards -  called . He's A Stud, She's a Slut, written by Jessica Valenti - a feminist I've known she the day she was born)...I have never understood that concept.  Look, I was afraid to have sex when I was a teenager, and "held out" until I was almost eighteen (18).  But, I wanted to, and spent those hormonal years  grinding and being groped so I would not go "all the way", afraid of becoming pregnant or being thought less than.  That was just crazy.  Plus, I found out that all my friends had already "done it".  That pissed me off!  Society is still hung up on it, and girls still get a bad rap.

What gets my blood boiling these days are Purity Balls.  Purity Balls promote virginity among teenage girls who are encouraged to sign a pledge that they will remain sexually abstinent until marriage.   The balls are attended with their fathers who pledge to protect their daughters purity of mind, body and soul.  The whole idea of this makes my skin crawl.  It's creepy.  First of all, these girls are typically pre-teen, about age 11 and 12.  They know nothing of their sexuality and how they feel about being a virgin.  It sets them up for failure, because statistically, less than 95% remain virgins, so now they have unrealistic expectations and pressure on them.  Why should their father make choices for them?  And, more importantly, why should these girls believe that they have a higher "value" on them if they remain a virgin?   Pure?  Why should having sex with anyone be considered a gift?  If a girl or boy chooses to wait until marriage to have sex, that is fine and it is their choice..  Just as choosing to have sex is their business.  The true gifts one should bestow on a partner is caring, sincerity, kindness and respect.  I do not think that very young girls (and boys) should be having sex, but, the reality is, teenagers are having sex.  What they need is to be educated about their bodies, and how to be safe.  The whole idea of teaching "abstinence only" is ludicrous.  I know that some reading my blog may not agree with me and that is okay.  These are my feelings; my opinions; my beliefs.  I believe in equality and hope someday we'll actually have it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Life is An Oprah Episode - Living in the Moment

When faced with challenging times, as I have recently experienced, I have found it a daily chore to maintain a positive attitude. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  I know and understand, at an intellectual level, that worrying solves nothing....it will actually create many problems, emotional and physical.  But, to sync the heart and head seems impossible.  It usually comes back to fear -- fear of the unknown.  I know what you're thinking -- nothing profound or new there. There are hundreds of self-help books that address every issue we face and then some.  What to do?

I made a  choice a couple of weeks ago to subscribe to "living in the moment", or mindfulness.  I know, I know, very zen-like of me.  But, I had to try something.  So, I set out, daily, to live in the moment.
It sounds very prosaic, almost boring.  I have been attempting not to focus too much on the future, but, only in the present, and only use the past as a source of reference.  What I have found out, for sure, is that living in the moment takes a lot of practice.  You have to train for it as though it is a sport.  I start out in the morning by looking at my reflection in the mirror, and instead of saying that I need some serious eye cream, I say "today is a good day".  I stay in the present ...in the moment.  I've been practicing every day and try not to let the distractions -- distract me from my daily goal.  The odd thing is...is that is works.  And, at the end of the day, just before bed, I look at my reflection in the mirror again, and say " I forgive you".  I borrowed that line from Kitty Carlisle, who was a actress, singer, broadway star, etc, many years ago; I saw her being interviewed one time, and that line stuck with me.  It gives  a clean slate to wake up to in the morning.

The present reveals itself in every moment and often we are too busy to notice.  Now that it is the Christmas season, true craziness abounds.  I love Christmas, and if you have been reading earlier blogs, you know my current situation -- financially, which prevents me from participating in any gift buying.  I have long despised the commercialism of Christmas; I know many of you feel the same way.  At the same time, I love seeing expressions on faces of those I have purchased gifts for.  I have rarely asked what they want for Christmas, but, rather have always enjoyed exploring shops to find something that matches their spirit.  I'll miss that this year and still feel sad about it.  But ,being in true mindfulness form, I am no longer worrying about it - well, actrually, trying not to worry.  Would I like a small fortune to land on my doorstep, or someone to rescue me, at least in the short term?  Is that a trick question? Of course the answer is yes.

To live in the moment, one has to behave as though no one is watching.  While I draw the line at talking to myself out loud, I do smile or laugh when I am thinking of something that makes me do so wherever I happen to be.  I perform an act of kindness whenever I can, and try to lose track of time and only focus on what I am presently doing.  This comes in handy when I know I should be cleaning out a closet, but, instead writing this blog.  :)