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Jun 20

When we’re dealing with difficult life transitions like job loss or the death of a loved one, it’s not uncommon for us to focus a little too much on the past and the future. We may ruminate about the day our supervisor delivered the bad news. Or we may obsess about how we’re going to make ends meet without the help of our life partner.


Experiencing these feelings is natural, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that we try to bury them. But there’s something to be said for balance and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, and being with “what is” today. At a workshop I recently attended on Complicated Grief, the featured speaker, a grief counselor for the Hospice of the Western Reserve, highlighted that point.


The presenter talked about how people who are faced with the sudden death of a loved one, experience a great deal of pain, and need to learn how to live with the pain, rather than pushing it away or self medicating themselves with alcohol or drugs. She recommended a number of helpful strategies, including staying in the present moment, which she said helps ground us in our current reality and is the key to bringing more joy into our lives.


What she described really resonated with me and surprised me.  While I’ve been practicing the art of living in the present moment (sometimes known as mindfulness) for years, with the help of books by great spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh, I hadn’t really thought about the connection she was discussing. I hadn’t really considered how we often live more in the past and future, when we’re navigating difficult life transitions. But it’s true, and I’ve certainly witnessed that tendency in myself and in many of my coaching clients.


It’s understandable that many of us feel anxious and in pain when we focus on our regrets about the past and our fears of the future. But when we shift our attention back to the here and now, and listen, really listen to the Robin singing just outside our window or allow ourselves to savor the delicious meal set before us, we often feel more peaceful and happy.


By the way, I’m not suggesting that mindfulness is a happy pill. But it can be a helpful tool to have in your toolbox. So, if you’re dealing with a difficult transition and notice yourself slipping into the past or future a little too often, you may want to try this exercise to help you return to the present moment:


Take a few deep breaths, noticing the rise and fall of your belly. Feel your feet against the floor. Look around you. Notice what you see. Reach out and touch something and notice how it feels.  Become aware of the sounds around you. You’re now in the present moment.

Please keep in mind that learning to live in the present moment is a process, so be gentle with yourself, when you notice your mind drifting. Then take a deep breath and bring yourself back to the here and now.


If you’re going through a tough time, in what way would it be helpful for you to live in the here and now more often?


How has mindfulness helped you in your life?



I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on ShareWIK.



Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at www.ellen-brown.com to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Ellen Brown articles, click here.

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 19

Do you believe in the pursuit of happiness? Or do you believe that happiness will always be beyond our reach, if we search it out?


While I personally believe that happiness is an attitude, rather than a destination, I think there are steps we can take everyday to feel happier. Of course, these steps will be different for each of us, because we are all so different, and what makes me happy may make you miserable, and vice versa.


I’ve been interested in the topic of happiness for a while now, and earlier this year, I was captivated by The Happiness Project by bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. The book chronicles the year-long journey of Rubin, as she tested out the advice of such happiness experts, philosophers and spiritual leaders as positive psychology guru Martin Seligman, Oprah, Samuel Johnson, and the Dalai Lama, who have suggested everything from keeping a gratitude journal to being in the moment, to daily meditation to simplifying your life and so much more. In the end, Rubin came to believe that you truly can boost your happiness but it takes time and determination and experimentation. She also learned that happiness is a very individual pursuit. So just because something such as meditation makes others happy it doesn’t guarantee that that certain something will bring YOU happiness.


I loved that Rubin admitted from the get-go that she was pretty happy, in general, but believed she should, be happier, given the fortunate circumstances of her life. I also loved the fact that she didn’t embark on a year-long adventure set apart from the worldly pleasures of her life: she stayed right where she was in New York City, with her husband and her two young children. Because she wanted to learn to be happier right where she was and hoped to boost her happiness threshold before she was faced one day with the sort of adversity we’ll all inevitably face in life, whether it’s the death of a loved one or a friend with a terminal illness or something far more daunting.


At the end of her book and stay-at home-adventure, Rubin challenges all of us to start our very own Happiness Projects, and that’s exactly what I plan to do on January 1, with the help of Rubin’s handy Happiness Project Toolbox website.  Her free “toolbox” offers eight simple tools to help you construct your own project and begin boosting your happiness today. My personal Happiness Project is going to be my happy alternative to New Year’s Resolutions, which have rarely, if ever, worked for me.


The truth is that I’d planned to start my Happiness Project earlier this year, but the project got put on hold when my Mom became ill in January, and slowly declined, finally dying in July. As you might imagine, it was a tremendously emotional time, and throughout the year, I often wondered if it would have been helpful to have had a Happiness Project in place before my Mom’s decline. Though I’ll never, of course, know, my hunch is that taking conscious steps to boost my happiness, beforehand, could have served as a healthy buffer during what was one of the most painful and miraculous and transformational times in my life.


Since reading The Happiness Project, I’ve recommended the book to many of my coaching clients, who are dealing with difficult transitions such as job loss, chronic illnesses, or the death of a loved one. I’ve also suggested that they consider starting their own Happiness Projects, because more than ever, I’m convinced that finding a way to bring more enjoyment into our lives can have huge benefits. I truly believe that happiness and inner peace are worth pursuing whether you’re on top of the world, or you’re facing the Tsunami of your life.


I’d love to hear what you have to say about the pursuit of happiness. And if you’ve already started a Happiness Project or are considering launching one, I’d appreciate hearing about your experience. Please leave a comment, here on ShareWIK.com.


Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH, and a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com.  Visit her website at http://ellen-brown.com.  

 

For more Ellen Brown columns, click here.

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

Dec 19

Do you believe in the pursuit of happiness? Or do you believe that happiness will always be beyond our reach, if we search it out?

While I personally believe that happiness is an attitude, rather than a destination, I think there are steps we can take everyday to feel happier. Of course, these steps will be different for each of us, because we are all so different, and what makes me happy may make you miserable, and vice versa.

I’ve been interested in the topic of happiness for a while now, and earlier this year, I was captivated by The Happiness Project by bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. The book chronicles the year-long journey of Rubin, as she tested out the advice of such happiness experts, philosophers and spiritual leaders as positive psychology guru Martin Seligman, Oprah, Samuel Johnson, and the Dalai Lama, who have suggested everything from keeping a gratitude journal to being in the moment, to daily meditation to simplifying your life and so much more. In the end, Rubin came to believe that you truly can boost your happiness but it takes time and determination and experimentation. She also learned that happiness is a very individual pursuit. So just because something such as meditation makes others happy it doesn’t guarantee that that certain something will bring YOU happiness.

I loved that Rubin admitted from the get-go that she was pretty happy, in general, but believed she should, be happier, given the fortunate circumstances of her life. I also loved the fact that she didn’t embark on a year-long adventure set apart from the worldly pleasures of her life: she stayed right where she was in New York City, with her husband and her two young children. Because she wanted to learn to be happier right where she was and hoped to boost her happiness threshold before she was faced one day with the sort of adversity we’ll all inevitably face in life, whether it’s the death of a loved one or a friend with a terminal illness or something far more daunting.

At the end of her book and stay-at home-adventure, Rubin challenges all of us to start our very own Happiness Projects, and that’s exactly what I plan to do on January 1, with the help of Rubin’s handy Happiness Project Toolbox website.  Her free “toolbox” offers eight simple tools to help you construct your own project and begin boosting your happiness today. My personal Happiness Project is going to be my happy alternative to New Year’s Resolutions, which have rarely, if ever, worked for me.

The truth is that I’d planned to start my Happiness Project earlier this year, but the project got put on hold when my Mom became ill in January, and slowly declined, finally dying in July. As you might imagine, it was a tremendously emotional time, and throughout the year, I often wondered if it would have been helpful to have had a Happiness Project in place before my Mom’s decline. Though I’ll never, of course, know, my hunch is that taking conscious steps to boost my happiness, beforehand, could have served as a healthy buffer during what was one of the most painful and miraculous and transformational times in my life.

Since reading The Happiness Project, I’ve recommended the book to many of my coaching clients, who are dealing with difficult transitions such as job loss, chronic illnesses, or the death of a loved one. I’ve also suggested that they consider starting their own Happiness Projects, because more than ever, I’m convinced that finding a way to bring more enjoyment into our lives can have huge benefits. I truly believe that happiness and inner peace are worth pursuing whether you’re on top of the world, or you’re facing the Tsunami of your life.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about the pursuit of happiness. And if you’ve already started a Happiness Project or are considering launching one, I’d appreciate hearing about your experience. Please leave a comment, here on ShareWIK.com.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH, and a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com.  Visit her website at http://ellen-brown.com.  

 

For more Ellen Brown columns, click here.

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

Mar 11

A couple years ago, I was working with a client who wanted to incorporate more “fun” into his life. When I asked him what he enjoyed most in life, he drew a blank. It had been a long time since he’d had any fun, he admitted.

 

During a coaching session, I helped him remember a time when his life had been more joyful and spontaneous. And we explored some ways that he could incorporate more fun into his life.

 

Then, I presented him with a challenge: what could he do right now to enjoy his life, without adding a single activity to his schedule or traveling beyond the boundaries of his own home? The question stumped him. He politely suggested that I didn’t understand what he was saying: his life wasn’t satisfying, and he wanted to change it, to make it more enjoyable.

 

While I told him it was perfectly reasonable and even admirable that he wanted to improve his life, the truth is, we can begin enjoying our lives right now, if we choose. In fact, it’s just as important to enjoy where we’re at right now, as it is to makeover our lives. Because all we ever have is the present moment. And if we are constantly waiting to enjoy our life until we land that next job, or take that Alaskan cruise or lose an extra 20 pounds, life will never be satisfying. Because there will always be another goal to chase, and we will always looking toward the future for our salvation.

 

So why not find a way to enjoy our life right now? How do we do that, you ask? By focusing on the present moment instead of ruminating about something that happened last night (or last year) or worrying about an event that’s yet to take place.  Making this shift can admittedly take some time and may even be a life-long process. But it’s a worthwhile effort. Because when we live in the present moment, we’re open to the wonders all around us, whether we’re listening to the raucous honks of wild geese gliding through the sky, breathing in the sweet aroma of chocolate chip cookies cooling on the countertop, or noticing the first sprouts of green rising out of the earth.

 

If you’re looking for some practical ways to live in the present moment, and enjoy life just as it is, here are some ideas:

 

n     When you sit down to have a meal, pay attention to how the food looks on your plate. Instead of inhaling your food, take small bites. Notice the texture of the food in your mouth and the blend of tastes. Savor each mouthful. Eating slowly will allow you to appreciate your food more and may even cause you to eat less, because you will become more aware of when your body is satisfied.

n     As you are traveling around during the day, notice the beauty all around you. Oftentimes, when we are driving from one place to another, we get caught up in our thoughts. Sometimes, we don’t remember anything about our journey. Instead, be aware of the scenery along the way.

n     When you’re at work, stay focused on your current task instead of getting caught up in your thoughts. Sometimes, we get caught up in a whirlwind of “what if” thinking and worrying about whether our outcomes will measure up to what’s expected of us. But if we focus on each step of our task, instead, we will be more productive, and in most cases, the outcome will be more favorable. When you notice yourself losing focus, take a deep breath to help you return to the present moment. Feel your feet against the floor and your back against the chair. Breathing deeply and staying connected to your body helps you live more in the present.

n     As you’re engaged in everyday activities such as cooking or grocery shopping, be there fully rather than thinking about the next thing you need to check off your to do list. If you’re chopping peppers, notice what the peppers feel like and how they smell. As they fall into the skillet, what does it sound like when they meet the heat?

n     Remind yourself to remain present by setting alarms on your watches, computers or cell phones as a signal to return to the present moment. Or if you’d prefer, use the sounds of nature – like the call of birds – as a reminder to become grounded again in the task at hand. While the goal is to remain present as much as possible, the fact is that many of us live in our heads, most of the time. So be gentle with yourself when you find yourself slipping into thoughts about the past or future. Because learning to live in the present isn’t going to happen overnight.

 

Like anything else it’s a process that takes time.

 

The best part about living in the present is that it allows us to enjoy our life right here and right now. While we may choose to change our lives in some way, if we live in the present, without resistance to what is, our journey toward that “better life” will be much more peaceful and joyful.

 

How would your life be different if you were able to be rooted to the present moment more often? What are your greatest challenges in remaining present?

 

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment here on ShareWIK.com.

 

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH, and a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com.  Visit her website at http://ellen-brown.com

For more Ellen Brown columns, click here.

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

 

Much is made about happiness in pop culture and media. We’ve become a society affixed on the idea that it isn’t just our prerogative, but our right, and that anything less than outstanding and endless satisfaction of whatever expectations we’ve collected along the way is a real and serious crisis.

 

Women in particular are deemed the unhappier gender, particularly those in my demographic. Careful – I’m about to admit a startling fact –  I’m a middle-aged woman and a mother of two young kids. (What can I say, my eggs lasted long enough to survive my youth.) And, that is a two-fisted slam against joy: one for being in my 40s, the least happy time in an American woman’s life according to research. The other happy zapper is from parenting.

 

Based on data collected over the past 40 years, women are reporting decreasing levels of happiness, not just versus their female counterparts from the past, but also in general as they age. In fact, where teenage girls once were as happy as teenage boys, they now start their adult lives less so. But why?

 

Societal and self-expectations?

 

One reason is our society’s increased obsession with youth and standards of beauty that are out of reach for most. This creates a sense of alienation and of feeling invisible. It also turns out women are harder on themselves than men; we focus on our flaws more than our strengths.

 

Marcus Buckingham, a happiness guru who studied this trend found that “since women, as a group, believe that success flows from drilling down into their weaknesses, and since, as has happened to women over the last 40 years, they’ve gradually acquired more and more domains in which they are supposed to succeed, a researcher would expect to see women characterizing themselves more and more by who they aren’t, becoming more and more self-critical, and more aware of their flaws and failings, all of which might well accelerate these dissatisfaction trend-lines.”

 

As our expectations skyrocket, our sense of personal satisfaction declines. We just can’t keep up with the images of perfection surrounding us, overlook our strengths and magnify every last damn hair out of place, metaphorically speaking, in our lives.

 

Family obligations?

 

It takes a tremendous amount of work, being the architect of a child’s character, all the while harboring worries that previous generations did not have to face (environmental, political, social, sexual and technological pressures.) All in a day’s work. Argh! And, it turns out we may be glamorizing parenting, you know, like swallowing that bitter pill with a spoonful of sugar. I know some women who seem perfectly content to cater to their babes. Certainly, children give lives meaning and purpose, but can I honestly say that motherhood guarantees happiness?

 

Ask me that question after I have just one day free of complaints, spilt milk, requests made in high whiny voices, big brother pushing little sister who has already figured out by age three how to push his triggers. ‘I ‘noyying him,’ she admits with her eyes grinning bright. Yeah, it sounds as cute as when she explains, “I tempered,” after a full-blown body-slammed on the ground explosion. Ever try to peel a toddler off the floor in the midst of a storm?

 

Feminism and the paradox of choice?

 

Maureen Dowd questioned whether feminism benefited men more than women. She writes, “When women stepped into male-dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.”

 

Has feminism opened up so many opportunities that women are now faced with too much? If this is so, then why aren’t men also reporting more distress? Their choices have increased as much over the past two generations, and yet they report increased happiness.

 

Perhaps it is our reactions to these choices, particularly when something goes wrong. According to Dowd, women, “tend to attach to other people more strongly, beat themselves up more when they lose attachments, take things more personally at work and pop far more antidepressants.” Can it be that we are sad because we have too much to do, too much to chose from and too many responsibilities? Or is the answer something else?

 

Blame Men?

 

And then there is something I read, written by a man. “Women are sadder,” he said, “because deep down, men are shallower.’ Here’s the thing though: Man-bashing isn’t my forte. I think the whole battle of the sexes is a maladaptive consequence of a social-political-religious paradigm that has restricted our full expressions and experiences of love and self-actualization.

 

With that mouthful said, I’m fully intrigued by what’s going on in our simultaneously hyper-masculinized (as in hardcore pornification, a whole other blog, someday…) and de-masculinized culture (as in let’s blame men for all our problems).  And, have you looked at fashion magazines lately? More and more of the models are androgynous and pretty. All fodder for another blog if I ever get the time.

 

For now, I’m just wondering why happiness declines for women in their middle years. Taking blame out of the scenario, acknowledging the challenges of family, work and parenting, and just dealing with the topic frankly, I’m hoping you’ll tell me your thoughts on who or what is at the crux of this reported collective sadness?

 

Tinamarie is an occasional poet, blogs at www.tinamariebernard.com, and writes for several websites. You can find her at twitter @ModernLoveMuse and Facebook, or send her a private message at modernlovemuse @ yahoo dot com.

 

Read more Tinamarie columns here

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 17

On my recent birthday, before the sun even came up, I adjusted the cold seats in my stepdaughter’s sporty red Volkswagen GTI and went out to fill the car with gasoline.  Ran it through the car wash, too, while trying to comprehend the audio graffiti they call music that comes out of the speakers.  She’s suddenly 18, truly a good soul, trembling with excitement and trepidation about the colleges—a great young citizen of society with a will of her own.  The world would be wise to prepare for Samantha.
 
I called my 15-year-old stepson Austin, an auburn-haired boy of uncommon kindness, to stir him up from sleep.  It was first light and my two children at home needed to get going for school.  The young man looks like a long drink of water. It being a new day, he was already musing about his girlfriend. He is so in love that it has required him to actually calibrate life beyond his usual umbilical relationship with his deific iPhone, which he understands better than I do the Talmud.
 
My oldest daughter Sari, 30 years of age, oval-faced and vegan-slim, was also in the house, though she resides in New York City.  Circumstances brought her to California exactly when I was to have been in New York celebrating my birthday with my wife and soul mate, Audrey. Audrey was, much to my interim disappointment, in the Big Apple and soon to convene with her national business colleagues.   
 
As I stirred in the kitchen, quietly helping to organize my stepchildren’s breakfast and lunch arrangements, Sari murmured a tender “Happy Birthday, Dad,” to me from her slumber position in the adjacent living room and I remembered the day she was born, wiping a tear of happiness.
 
Meanwhile, Debra, the indomitable 27-year-old, the writer with pinwheel eyes and a crushingly funny Broadway sense of humor, was texting me good wishes from New York.  (I’m allowed on my birthday, a day of awkward self-absorption, to mention that Debra works for the freakin’
New York Times, okay?).   Debra would be connecting later in the week in New York with Audrey for drinks, while I continued to run the carpool culture that is the transcript of this decidedly edifying domestic re-run of a movie I’ve been in before.
 
Audrey sent a romantic message via text before 5 AM. I was already awake in the bed that was bereft of her fragrant and delicious presence and responded with a bit of a cyber-sonnet.  She called:  “What are you doing up so early, my love?”   I thought: planning menus, kid.  But what I said and what I mean is, “Missing you.”
 
“I know.  I love you, darling.”
 
It was not even 7 a.m. and I already got all the gifts a man requires

 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


 More Ben Kamin articles, click here 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

If a man (of the cloth) can write, "Women are sadder because deep down men are shallower"  about his gender, what truth, if any, is there in those words? And do I, as a woman, have any business repeating his observations?


Apparently not, according to one male reader of that column, who ranted on about how sexist and childish the title was. Never mind that the content of the blog was about those expressed convictions on gender issues and the need for healing. 


“Would you write an essay that said women are sadder because they are neurotic and self-absorbed?” he challenged me. I could practically see spittle coming from his lips.


Yep. I would.


Truth is, women have long been labeled worse, and often blamed for that matter, for their own dissatisfaction and the psychological wounds of their children, spouses, extended family, etc. Son is gay? Mom was too controlling. Daughter has a drug problem? Mom must have withheld love. Husband strays? Well, who could blame him for philandering in someone’s else’s bed after she let her waist grow thick?


We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders (and just to be clear, I don’t mean that men aren’t carrying their share, or suffer any less. It’s just that I can only muse on my particular biosuit). After the feminist movement pushed those damned shackles off our backs, giving us access to previously restricted professional successes, the hope was that greater freedom and opportunities would translate to greater inner satisfaction, for men and women.


Except, that hasn’t happened if the research is to be believed. If success is measured by happiness, many signs point to the epidemic failure of painting men as the enemy. There are many warriors-in-transition reframing the gender-happiness-relationship dialogue from the masculine perspective. As two women readers responded, this issue isn’t about men versus women per se. All these wise mentors of mine (long list of names!) teach me daily about the inner work that must be done to bridge the masculine and feminine.


It’s an inside job first.  When we can own the feminine strengths such as nurturing as much as the masculine traits of protectiveness, for example, then this ‘battle’ of the sexes will finally be a quaint artifact of our past. As long as we blame one side or the other, we are the snake eating its own tail. The truth of happiness, or the lack thereof, has much less to do with how we look, our emerging opportunities, the changing roles of men and women, and the like.


I believe the answer lies in something far more fundamental than the trappings of modern life. When you strip away the to do lists, the meetings, the expectations, the technology and the masks, humankind’s needs are fundamentally the same. They are the same as they were two decades ago, when these studies on happiness were initiated: Human connection.


We are sadder because we have discovered that the emptiness within cannot be filled with professional success, Botox, or a purchased pair of perky breasts and biceps.


We are sadder because the burden of raising a family doesn’t guarantee a connection to those we love the most, and a fabulous career with a stellar title doesn’t keep your demons away at night.


We are sadder because we have an unfulfilled need to be known, to be seen, to be heard and to be loved in a way that is incompatible with life as we now live it. And we are not certain what our intimacy essentials are or how we can go about fulfilling them.


We are sadder because we are further away from understanding our yearnings and desires in a world that places greater value on the material over spiritual, on riches over wealth, and on popularity over substance.

And finally, I suspect we are sadder because we crave a real and abiding intimacy. But the problem is that we are afraid to admit to a need that may appear as if we are weak, needy or dependent on another in a world increasingly critical of admissions of vulnerability.


Does all this make any of us who are tuned in to the human condition, male and female, neurotic and self-obsessed? Sure does. And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way, because the alternative is to go numb. And that hasn’t served us all that well either.


Tinamarie is an occasional poet, blogs at www.tinamariebernard.com, and writes for several websites. You can find her at twitter @ModernLoveMuse and Facebook, or send her a private message at modernlovemuse @ yahoo dot com.

Read more Tinamarie columns here.  

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Dec 17

There is only one thing I need for Christmas, a constant reminder that I can have a wonderful life.


I am the person for whom it is most difficult to Christmas shop:  I have everything. 

 

You may wonder why you haven’t heard of me before.  Since I fly under the radar of every list of the world’s richest people, my anonymity is not surprising.  This is not because I cheat on my taxers, but because we don’t need to be exceedingly rich to have everything. What’s surprising is how many of us have everything we need.  Having a wonderful life isn’t very expensive. Virtually all of us can have a wonderful life, but few of us know it.


Why?


We either misunderstand life or we forget what its all about.


What’s my problem?  I have a severe case of recurring amnesia,

For some reason I can’t seem to remember the meaning of wonderful and I’m not alone.  For many of us, we have a case of collective dementia when we consider the quality of our lives.


At this point, many, if not most of you who are reading this are struck with a profound case of skepticism if not a state of disbelief.  How is it possible that there are so many of us looking for happiness, who could have it, but cannot find it?

 

I understand the magnitude of what I am saying.  I too am a citizen of disbelief.


All I ask is that you willingly suspend your disbelief for the next few few minutes so we can consider together what it means to have everything and what it means to have a wonderful life.

  

In Plato’s Republic, two young men asked Socrates to explain the best possible life, and why it is worth living the best possible life, when there are alternatives that appear more attractive.


I am one of those young men.  As I look around I see many lives that seem superior to my own.  I see many people with things I envy.  I wonder every day whether, of all the paths before me, I have selected the path to happiness.  On my difficult days I wonder whether the path to happiness has room for me.


Socrates disagrees.  In Book 2 of the Republic, he describes the life of those who are living the dream:


Will they not produce corn and wine and clothes and shoes, and build houses for themselves. … They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves … And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods in happy converse with one another.  And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means, having an eye to poverty and war.   … And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them

.

According to Socrates this is the wonderful life.


Is he serious?


Yes.

 

Has he persuaded the teenagers?

 

Not in the least.

 

They argue that the life Socrates describes is too minimal and simplistic.  They want more creature comforts and elaborate food, saying:


You should give them the ordinary conveniences of life.  People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas and eat off of tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

 

After the two young men describe at greater length the modern conveniences they seek Socrates sees what must be done to provide what they wish:


Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and …  contractors; also makers of diverse kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now.


On first glance what the young men want seems reasonable enough. It is what any civilized person desires.

But Socrates recognizes a defect.  To get this we will need a standing army, and if we get it, our diet will give us a greater need of doctors. This is not a civilized city, but what Socrates calls, the “City of Pigs.”

If the young men get what they want they will also get indigestion and war.  What’s worse, they are fine with that.


Reluctantly I must confess that I am as well. I say that I want to live a wonderful life, but when I take a look at myself I find I am devoting myself to create a glorified pig-sty, albeit one that looks and smells good.

 

Socrates believed that the wonderful life was centered in relational contentment.  Most of us could cut our income in half and still see our way to a more fulfilling life.

 

Is Socrates right?  Part of me shouts, NO!  But not the best part of me.


I am brought back a decade to a scene from an African refugee camp filled with people seeking to survive famine.  When a delivery of food arrived from an international relief agency the men and women spontaneously began to dance singing with the greatest joy repeating the following, “We have food, we have shelter, we have everything”


I have everything I need for a wonderful life: Family, friends, and more than enough wealth to have my needs met.   But rather than seeking contentment in my family and friends, I push them aside in order to create the best pig-pen around, even though I know it will lead to conflict and ill-health.


I am anything but content.

 

I can relate to the sage who said he did exactly what he didn’t want to do and didn’t do what he wanted to do.


Contentment is what our body needs.  And our mind.  And our soul.


My Christmas prayer is that we would forsake a way of life that leads to ill-health and destruction, and find contentment in the discovery that we have all that is needed for a wonderful life. 

Let’s pray together.

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Six years and about 35 pounds ago, I gazed at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. After six pregnancies and three births, I spoke out loud, "Okay, I’ve got to accept that this is what my middle-aged body is going to look like. It’s time to move on and get healthy.”



Hand on my belly, I deputized ‘the pooch’ as my badge of honor. 



I let the ‘aha’ moment sink in. Previously, I had focused on avoiding the pain of being overweight. It was time to seek the pleasure of feeling good in my body. So I made a decision, then and there, right hand resting on ‘the pooch’ as if swearing an oath on a Bible. 



If I was never going to be thin, again, I could certainly be healthy. THAT much I could do for myself. Couldn’t I? 



Not long after my third child was born I opted to stay home and do the ‘mom-thing’ full time. Wow. I have never worked so hard in my life. You’d think those 16- and 18- hour days of constant motion would just shed the pounds – after all, who had the time for a proper meal, anyway? 



But instead of losing the weight, my erratic eating habits, lack of regular exercise, constant snacking off the plates of my kids, and general feeling of being overwhelmed kept my body in a kind of pudgy homeostasis.



As my naked body stared back at me from the mirror that day, I surrendered to what I thought was the inevitable dowdiness of middle-age. I determined to focus on feeling well for myself, instead of attractive to others.  I wanted to be able to climb a flight of stairs without feeling winded, pick up my rowdy pre-schooler without faltering, and have the energy to continue the pace of my life without a constant feeling of exhaustion. 



I wanted to feel healthy, for me. 



I wasn’t exactly sure how to get healthy, and I was secretly hoping I could do it without making “exercise” a large part of the plan (that was before I discovered that exercise does not necessarily require being publicly intimidated by obscenely skinny women in spandex). But I knew one thing clearly: my focus needed to shift from negative to positive.  Instead of trying to ‘lose’ weight, I grew determined to create health.  



It was time for a more loving and accepting approach to my body. 



I didn’t realize at the time how much that attitude change would contribute to the gradual though significant weight loss I experienced over the next few years.  In retrospect, it’s very likely that my positive mindset, my ability to reframe my focus to what I wanted to create (and why), had more to do with my eventual good health than any of the specific “weight loss” strategies I employed.   



Weight loss doesn’t happen in the body alone.  Change starts in the mind and the heart. The mind is strongly influenced by our motivations, our feelings and our values, which come from some place deep and has a lot to do with self-love and respect. 



It turns out, my WANTING for myself – truly, deeply wanting better – was a major player in my long-term success.  



Shortly after I left the world of dieting forever (for me DIET always stood for Deprivation Ineffective Every Time), I embraced the world of coaching. THAT was the best trade I’ve ever made.   



Through coaching I began to respect myself differently, not just for my accomplishments, but for my authenticity.  Intellectually, I knew that I was deserving of happiness and entitled to a good life.  Things began to shift when I started to believe it. The pounds started melting away when I wanted to take care of myself because I felt better when I did. 



Sure, there were many other factors that went into dropping four sizes in four years.  We all know that we have to “eat less and move more.” But to do that effectively, you have to get your head and heart in the right place.  It helps to love yourself enough to want the change you’re seeking – not for appearances, or what others might think, or even to get into those skinny goal jeans in the back of the closet (which are now too big, by the way).  



After you get clear on what you want, the why has to be pretty compelling.  If it doesn’t have something to do with feeling good about yourself, if you don’t believe you deserve to take care of yourself, you may be fighting an uphill battle. 


 

My health focus has been in place for more than six years, and I continue to tweak things regularly. I often get well-meaning comments and questions like “You look so skinny.”  “How much weight have you lost?” and “How did you do it?” 



Since the beginning, my answer has been clear. To the “skinny” comment I respond with, “Thanks, I feel healthy.” I love the response that gets!  To the “how” questions, I usually answer, with a broad grin, “I got happy.”  My success lived in the combination of the two. My conclusion: Healthy Leads to Happy (& Thin)™. 



What I Know Now™ when it comes to getting healthy:

1.   Give yourself permission to truly WANT for yourself, something deeper than appearances.

2.   Get clear on WHY you want to change and what it will do for your life.

3.   BELIEVE that you are worth it.

4.   Put some effort into learning to LOVE yourself.

5.   BELIEVE that, too.

6.   Have patience with the process.  When you falter, go back to step 1, and start again. 


And when you get to Step 4, slow down and give yourself the love and support you deserve.


Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Parenting Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching and ImpactADHD™. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here. 


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Aug 20

I took it personally when Ben Bernanke asked if I was happy.  I was on the treadmill at the time, when four TV screens at the front of the gym were covering Bernanke’s question to the American public.  I came home and posed the question to Phang.


Happiness, we decided, is a mix of feelings of well-being and feelings of joy.  A basic level of happiness depended on having the basic needs of life…food, shelter, and clothing.  After that, said Phang, he wanted happiness for our kids and leisure time.  


Not enough to make me happy, I thought.  I’ve got to have a good workout each day, friends who put up with me and love me anyway, a body that never ages, and a book that becomes a best seller.  Not much to want, right?


I’m not needing to win the lottery, own a yacht or take a trip around the world.  But looking good and being loved and appreciated … that’s better than just happiness…that’s joy.


Phang says I have Susisms.  They are my favorite sayings and ways I look at life.  It’s my attempt at planning my own happiness. 


1-It’s not your age that counts…it’s your weight.  I don’t get up in the morning thinking about my next birthday, but I hit the scale daily to check my fluctuating weight.  It’s just a way of keeping score.


2-At this point in life, I want to look good and be fun to be with.  It is no longer my goal to hit the perfect backhand or sink my next hole-in-one.  I just want to be fun to include and look like I belong.


3-Money does not make you special.  Money gives you opportunities you would not otherwise have.


4-Grandchildren make any day happy.  Ask any grandparent.  This is genuine joy.


5-Peace is a gift I give myself.  No one else can help me find inner peace.  It is a quiet moment in the morning, between my dog and my mate.   It is when I say the world will have to wait until I am ready to re-enter.  It is when I express my gratitude for the happiness I feel every day.


So, Ben, I could always be happier.  I could always be wealthier.  If you are granting wishes, make us all healthy, give us all what we need for a good life, and make us all appreciate what we have that makes us happy.  


Help us to struggle less, face fewer challenges, and give us the energy and the ability to solve and resolve.  You could bring down the cost of gas.  And get rid of property taxes on our homes.  And make my next book a best seller.


Thank you.



Susanne Katz is a registered mediator with HYPERLINK "http://www.mtvcounseling.com/"Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.


More Susanne Katz here.

  

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Nov 19




At present, there is much talk of the “Fiscal Cliff” we are facing if Congress and the President don’t act by Jan. 1, 2013.  Mentioning this date will by no means “date” this blog as irrelevant in the years to come.  The fiscal cliff to which our politicians refer is more like a fiscal pothole compared to what truly lies ahead.


As of November 2012, our current national debt is $16.2 trillion, our personal debt is $15.8 trillion, and our unfunded liabilities (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) total over $120 trillion and are rising.  


The prospect of cutting two percent of our spending and raising taxes by two percent on Jan. 1, 2013 does little to unbalance the equation with which we are faced.  Politicians continually push ahead the day of reckoning, as they are presently consumed with so doing.  But they are only making the ultimate reckoning more economically traumatic.


What I have said will hardly surprise any of us.  Whether we follow politics and economics closely or not, we are all acutely aware something is wrong.  There is a question many of us fear asking: Is there hope for the future?


Most assuredly, yes.


There is an antidote to the fiscal cliff.  This antidote won’t cure the economic trauma with which we are faced, but it will provide us with a means to not just endure the economic trauma to come, but thrive. 


What is the answer?


I learned it from a family in Romania.


I first visited Romania in 1996 with a group of medical professionals who volunteered to do medical clinics in rural Romania.  I will never forget driving over the border from Hungary into Romania and feeling as thought I was transported back 100 years in time.  Farming was done with horses and manual labor. There was very little modern technology, and little by way of medical technology or medications.


While on a subsequent trip, whenI was asked to teach at a major university, I lectured almost 40 hours a week because there were no libraries nor books.  Students learned by taking notes and memorizing them.  I was the library.


At that time there was virtually no social safety net.  If you lost your job or your health, there was no government program that could help in any meaningful way.  


In the late 1990's the median income was $80 per month.


The profound economic disparities that separated me from my students and their fellow citizens was brought home to me one night when I was at small grocery story to buy a bottle of water.  I had a laptop computer in my bag and $2000 hidden on my person, as it was a cash-only society.  There were two female students in front of me looking through their bags to see if they could muster together enough money to buy an orange they could split for dinner.


I wanted to pay for the orange, but I was so overwhelmed by the moment I couldn’t utter a word.


I have seen life at the foot of the fiscal cliff.  


It rendered me speechless.


But moremportantly it has given me hope.  There is life at the foot of the cliff.


No one has instructed me on this point more deeply than the family of the teenage girl who was my translator in 1996.  At the time, Cristina was 14 years old.  As a child during Communist times she would stand in lines for hours on end waiting to buy a loaf of bread.  When I met her, economic times were difficult, in many ways more difficult than they were under Communism, but Cristina did not live as if things were difficult.


She lived.  Every day.  For the gift each day was.


She taught herself English by watching TV, and at 14 she did not live as if she was condemned or in exile, but as if all things were possible.  Not because she had the power to make all things possible, but she had learned that no one can take away the possibility of all things.


There was a reason for the audacity of her hope.  


It is how her family lived.


Her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her parents, all lived with the hope of things unseen.


I have been to Romania more than 30 times since 1996 and trip after trip, year after year, I would find Cristina and her family giving to the poor all that they could find to give.  They would find used clothes to give to families who had little to none.  Bus fare to help children go to school.  Food for those who were without, especially those in elderly rest homes with eight beds to a room.  They cared for the handicapped who had no one to care for, and they shared with all in need whatever they had, small or large, little or nothing but a prayer and a smile.


Now to many Americans this may not sound like an antidote to anything but happiness.


I beg to differ.


Last month I returned to Romania for the marriage of one of Cristina’s siblings.   On the way I visited the UK and Belgium and found both the UK and the European Union moving toward paralysis in the fear of their economic future.  When I arrived in Romania, I found a country in which things were economically hard, but, unlike Western Europe, I found hope.  


The Romanians specialize in hard times and do so by settling for survival, but choosing the kind of living that is rooted in hope.  In Romania it was life as usual.  Unlike so many the US and Western Europe, they knew there is not only a future, but also a present worth living for.


Cristina’s family is still doing what they have been doing ever since I met them: spending every spare minute and spare Euro caring for those in need.


When I visit they have never treated me as a rich American.  Instead they love me, because loving others well is who they are.


Cristina and her family know that there is an antidote to the fiscal cliff, because they know the antidote to materialism.  Cristina and her family know that there is hope for the future, because they know that their hope does not lie in the mythology of an infinitely growing economy and standard of living. 


Cristina and her family know that the quality of our lives is related to the quality of love that fills our lives and relationships.  


In describing Cristina and her family, some readers may conclude that I am romanticizing hard times.  Most assuredly I am not, as they do not.  When they see humans in need of things the world could give but doesn’t, they weep.  Economic injustice angers them.  Why wouldn’t it?


But they know a love that transcends comprehension, and they share such a love with others.  They know that nothing can separate them from the love of God and they know that they will always be there for each other.


The antidote to the fiscal cliff?  A relational safety net sewn of love for God and each other.


What do we in America have to fear?  A life based on our economic standard of living rather than the quality of our relationships.


Can love rescue us?  Cristina and her family have taught me that the answer is most assuredly YES!



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  Follow Dale on Twitter @DaleKuehne.



Read more columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Dec 14


America is engaged in a dramatic high-stakes debate about the meaning of sexuality and human relationship.  There is more than a little time and energy being spent on the issue of same-sex marriage, but this is actually a diversion from the deeper and more important questions: 


  1. What significance, if any, does sexuality have in our relationships?
  2. What is love?
  3. Where can love be found?


We live at a very unique moment in the history of the West.  In the early 21st century an increasing number of us have stopped asking if sexual relations have any significance, and act as if they do not.  More and more of us believe that if we are robbed from having sexual relations with the one we desire, we are robbed of what it means to be truly human and the possibility of the best and most intimate of all relationships. 


What accounts for this shift in public opinion?


A new understanding of ethics.


We no longer live in the traditional world of the 10 Commandments; instead we live in what I call the iWorld, a world in which the "i" stands for individualism.


In this iWorld we have replaced the 10 Commandments with three taboos: 

  1. Do want you want so long as you cause no harm to others.
  2. Do what you want with others so long as it is consensual
  3. Don’t you dare question the life-choices or morality of anyone else or the fury of the entire culture will come down upon you.


As a result, our primary motivation is no longer what is good for all of us, or what is good for others, but to discern what is good for us.  Then we see it as our and responsibility to secure that good for ourselves.  


Relationships aren’t so much about seeking the good of all parties in a relationship, but rather about each individual getting what want and need out of the relationship.  


Dr. Zygmunt Bauman of the University of Warsaw referred to the contemporary "love" today as “Liquid.”  We live in a time of “Liquid Love” and “Liquid Relationships.”  


We increasingly believe in the importance of relational flexibility and keeping our relational options open because of the importance we attach to personal freedom.  Until recently freedom was understood as living in a virtuous and ethical manner with others.  Accordingly freedom required looking out of the freedom of others not just ourselves.  For example, freedom of speech was understood as the freedom to speak with integrity.  Neither slander or lying would be protected speech because of the way such speech undermines relationships and the lives of others.  Today, however, we understand freedom as the absence of restraint.  This has altered our understanding of free speech such that we believe we have the freedom to say what we wish without much attention to whether or not our speech promotes the good of all. 


The iWorld thinks in terms of “freedom from …” Examples are: 

  1. Freedom from nature
  2. Freedom from authority
  3. Freedom from want

When you combine the three taboos, the new definition of freedom, and our increasing compulsion to seek our own happiness, we find ourselves in a world with a rapidly changing relational and sexual landscape.  


As a result marriage and family are endangered species.  


The sexual act has been so disconnected from the pro-creative act, and the meaning of sex as become so focused on personal fulfillment, that our legal and ethical landscape is in the midst of a conversion experience.  Last year in Switzerland the Parliament debated a bill legalizing consensual incest.  The German Parliament is presently debating the legality of bestiality.  And in November 2012 Harvard University formally recognized a BDSM (short for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism) student club.


We live in the iWorld.


Will the iWorld be able to deliver the fulfillment for which we yearn?


If everyone was born mature and 18 it might have a chance of working, but for those under the age 18 the iWorld is causing an unsustainable (and inexcusable) amount of collateral damage.  Over 40 percent of children in America are born outside of marriage and what passes for ethics in many of our schools is teaching a child to make good choices without defining the meaning of the word good.  This "ethic" wouldn't work for people of any age.


We will likely never know the answers as to why the senseless shootings in Newtown, CT (or elsewhere), but is it the case that the iWorld doesn't provide a narrative of life rich enough to sustain life?


The number of senseless acts done in the name of individual freedom a constant reminders that the iWorld is unsustainable.  The iWorld will end in ruin.  Saying this is not a "value statement."  Unless you seriously believe in Anarchy the three taboos are an insufficient cultural narrative. 


Is there a better way?  Yes.


I believe that even in the ruins, love is there to be found.  


Where?  How?


We can start with a phrase etched into the architecture at the United Nations.  It is the golden rule: “Love others as you would want to be loved.”  The sacred text for Jews, Christians, and Muslims states that the most important commands are to Love God and our neighbor as ourselves.


Some may believe these have been tried and belong in the dustbin of history.


What belongs in the dustbin of history are those who have sought personal gain and enhancement all the while claiming their deeds are altruistic.


Love is real.  Love is discovered in the mutually sacrificial giving on which relationships have always been based,  This is love and this love will lead us out of the ruins and into the fulfilling relationships for which we yearn.  


The iWorld is a world without boundaries.  All of us have had enough experience with hedonism to realize that the pursuit of individual pleasure is a dead end.


There is a better way.  A world that focuses on the quality of relationships rather than material standard of living.  It is time to leave the iWorld behind and walk into the rWorld, where “r” stands for relationship. 



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Looking back, 2012 really wasn’t the best year for many of us. It was one of those years, rather, that fades away into the blurry memory of "bad years," like one of those slushy, bitter days in the never-ending month of icy January. 


For me, 2012 meant deaths of people dear to me; illness of others; children who faced some difficult obstacles; and frustrations and challenges in my freelance writing career, among others. How did I get through the disappointment of 2012? By writing, prayer, my kids, enjoying music, laughing, reading, walking or running, making a point of seeing and connecting with good friends. But that's me. What works to keep one person sane may not work for everyone.


But I -- as well as anyone who's had a crappy year -- will immediately tell you that we realize it could have been worse, and so we are grateful. The images we saw in 2012 were horrific, and stick with you, don't they? The destruction, the loss; these are tragedies that make you stop in your tracks and feel it, deep in the gut, that people were really hurting. Many people even begged for the Mayans to be right on Dec. 21!


Yes, some would say 2012 pretty much __________ (fill in your word here.)


But let me offer some words of hope to you, my dear Reader With A Lousy Year, as we embark on 2013.


I could write something trite, like “Make next year better, it’s all positive thinking, folks!”


I could dig up a Biblical reference, or a piece of literature, or a poem. I could offer you some solace, reminding you you're not taking your last breath; be grateful.


But you already know this, and besides, if I said that, wouldn't that be invalidating, minimizing the things you did struggle with? Wouldn’t you want to strangle me? Don’t you hate it when you have a bad day and someone tries to guilt you, saying, “Oh, but I’m so grateful for all the miserable things that happen because I learn so much! I am so blessed!” 


Yes, we know that we can learn, but that takes some time and distance from the issues. These comments are the childhood equivalent of your mother telling you there are starving children in China when all you wanted was to scrape the green beans to the side.


I could suggest something more profound. How about Albert Einstein? “Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”


What he said: give. (Be careful, though. I tried random acts of kindness through December but screwed it up. I bought a coupon book which included free coffee and gave it away in reckless abandon: firemen, homeless, cashiers. One day, I even chased down a police officer to thank him for his service, and slipped him this piece of paper. “Thank you,” I said, and then ran back to my car for a getaway. Then I realized why he was eyeing me with great suspicion: I JUST GAVE A COP A NOTE AT A BANK AND MADE A QUICK GETAWAY--WEARING ALL BLACK.)


So maybe, instead of guilt, or giving you quotes, or ordering you to commit random acts of kindness, I could offer you a simpler wish for 2013. I think we can all adopt my friend’s recent plea. Ready for our new mantra of hope? Repeat after me: “Dear 2013, please be awesome."


 Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here, on Facebook, or on Twitter @writerandmom.


Read more columns by Kristine Meldrum Denholm here.


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 29


We are counting down the days now, anticipating the big day.  Ninety days…sixty days…thirty days…


“Are you sure we want to do this?” we’ve asked each other.  Phang says I have been excited about this from the start.  His friends say he has seemed happier since we have started of all of this wedding planning.


Getting married in our Second Life is so very different than it was in our twenties.  Imagine how it would feel to have everyone in your life in one room.  That includes children, grandchildren and friends who stayed with you as you transitioned from marriage to divorce and now to marriage again.  


This will be a day filled with humility and gratitude.  Our separate worlds are now a grand and vibrant universe.  It’s not about who we will be, but who we are now.  We just want to keep enjoying each other and the life we have already built together.  


So, why do older couples who have been living together for many years decide to get married?  We are grandparents, after all.  I told our seven-year-old grandson that Phang and I were getting married.  He looked bewildered.  


“You are already my grandmother, and Phang is already my grandfather, right?”  He shrugged his shoulders and asked where we were going for dinner that evening.  For him, nothing would change, and he was glad of that.


“So, when did you decide we would get married?” I asked Phang.  


“When I saw how excited you were about the engagement rings, “ he said.  


We were out for dinner with my kids and our grandchildren when we showed them the engagement rings.  They too were excited to see the new jewelry.


“When are you getting married?” they asked.


“I don’t really know,” I answered.  “We bought the rings but I haven’t been properly asked yet.”


That is when Phang proposed, over sushi and saki, at the restaurant with four kids and three grandchildren.  


“Will you marry me?” he asked.  “After all, we already have the rings.”


The most important questions in our relationship seem to have the same answer…


…how did we know we wanted to be together?

...because it felt good.


…why did we want to live together?

...because it felt so good.


…why do we want to get married?

...because it feels good.


…why do we want to take care of each other?.

..because it wouldn’t feel good any other way.


I imagine that the wedding will take our breath away, as we will look around the room, feeling loved and cherished, and knowing how good it all feels.


One friend told Phang there were three phrases that would ensure a successful marriage.


“You have to learn,” he explained, “to say … yes dear…you’re right…and I’m sorry.”


Another friend said to always bring her flowers.  


“If you think you might have said the wrong thing,” he said, “just to be safe, pick up flowers on the way home.”


I’m guessing there are many ways to ensure a happy marriage and a happy home, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  But for us, it is all about how good it feels.


Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC. She is co-author of the book A Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and caregiving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt. Vernon Counseling in Atlanta. A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications. Follow her on Twitter @SusanneGKatz.  


Read more columns by Susanne Katz here.


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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Class Notes: Special Needs
Learn from the journey of Jacque Digieso who was given a challenge and a blessing with her son, who has special needs.

What's Eating You?
Dina Zeckhausen, Ph.D. on food, weight, body image and raising resilient kids.

Steve Powell
Steve is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25-years in experience in human factors education and teamwork training.
Living On Purpose
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, teaches how to make life extraordinary.
rWorld
Dale Kuehne explores developing a world where relationships come first, and recognizes that individual health and fulfillment is connected to the quality of our relationships.
Teacher Feature
School teacher Margaret Anderson will provide insight into what really happens with your child in the classroom.
The Power of Grief
Diane Snyder Cowan specializes in grief therapy to help those in need deal with loss.
Jan Jaben-Eilon Cancer is Not Me and I Am Not My Cancer
My name is Jan Jaben-Eilon and I am an ovarian cancer survivor. I don’t like the expression, battling with cancer. I am living my life as fully and passionately as possible, despite the cancer. Cancer is NOT my identity.

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