Monthly Archives: August 2013

Cool Story

“Nothing’s better than the wind to your back, the sun in front of you, and your friends beside you.”
– Aaron Douglas Trimble

So.  Wanna hear a cool story?

Ok, see this pic?

MEZOEblog

That’s me on the left.  And on the right is my friend Zoe.  [Isn’t she gorgeous!?]

Ok, so it’s a picture.  No big deal, right?  Just a pic of two chicks who are friends.  Both women, both in the same age range, (both, incidentally, feeling silly taking a ‘selfie’ pic…), both smiling and happy and healthy.  I can hear you now – “Yeah?  So what?”

Ok, so we’re both runners. Is that a tad more interesting?  No?  Ok, how about this….We’re both runners training for a half marathon.  Slightly cooler, right?

Still nothing earth shattering?

Hmmm..  Alright, let’s try this – we’re training for a half marathon together.  Now, is it cool story?   Sure it is.  Two friends training for a half marathon together.  That’s intriguing, no?

Oh shoot.  Silly me.  I almost forgot the most important part.  The part we writers like to call the twist.  You ready?

Zoe lives in Australia.

I live in America.

Yep.  You read that right.

world-map

With 14 time zones, an ocean or two (I sooo didn’t pay attention in Geography class…), and a boat load of cultural differences between us (people use kilometers?  Really?  I know about the 5K and the 10K, but you mean there are others??), Zoe and I are training partners for our half marathon on November 9.

So, how did this all come about?

Well, it’s pretty simple really.  In early May, just a few short months after starting my blog, and just days before my first half marathon, I received my first comment on here that was not from someone I know personally.  It said:

Good luck! From Melbourne, Australia!

I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your writing- I found you when I was searching running blogs as I’m a new runner myself and totally obsessed. You write so evocatively and thoughtfully, and I often find myself smiling or nodding along to your musings! Best of luck with your half, you’ll smash it!

Warm regards,
Zoë

I’ll never forget how thrilled I was to get that message.  Not only did it make me realize that other people were reading this stuff (besides my ever-loyal friends and family in real life), but someone was actually reading it in Australia!?  What?!  How cool is that?  This message was the first in what would become a banter between two women all the way across the world from each other over the next few months.  And then, when I announced that I would be training for my second half marathon in November, Zoe suggested that we train together.

So, here we are.

We’re only in our first week of training, but I intend to post a few updates along the way to let you know how we’re doing.

Isn’t this great?  Someone way over on the other side of the map is my buddy.  My training partner.  We’ve never laid eyes on each other in person, never heard each others’ undoubtedly cool accents (ok, her cool accent – my southern drawl is nothing much to brag about if you ask me…), and have never even shook hands.  In many ways we’re still strangers, but in many other ways – the ways that matter – we’re friends.

We’re just truly never alone, are we?  No matter how much we may feel like we are at times, something like this reminds us that we’re not.  Somewhere out there, there is someone not only going through whatever you’re going through, but willing to go through it right beside you if you let them.

Yep.  That’s good stuff.

Ok, so now is this a cool story?  😉

And guess what?  It’s just going to get even cooler.  So, stick around!

***

“In union there is strength.”
– Aesop

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Nothing

“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing.  We worry too much.  We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

So, I’ve recently discovered something about myself.

I don’t do enough of Nothing.

(Hush up, grammar police, that was NOT a double negative.  I capitalized Nothing, so therefore it becomes a something.  See?  Seeeee?  Ok, now if you will let me continue….)

I have always been someone who is continuously on the go.  Sometimes by choice, sometimes not.  My life is one of constant movement.  I have a job that is over an hour’s drive (one way) from my home, so work alone keeps me on the move for much of the day.  Then, in the few hours that I have remaining of the day, I spend my time trying to squeeze in picking up one child from dance, one from cross-country practice, and even…(gasp!) making time for my own activities.  I know, right?  A mom with her own activities?  Trust me, I know how unheard of that is.  I have gotten the lecture from strangers and family alike.  I get it.

But that’s a blog for another day.

The point is this – I’m busy.  And I like it that way.

Well, until I don’t anymore.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that I’m not handling stress well.  It’s like I’m in constant “chaos” mode.  Whenever anything negative happens – no matter how small said something may be – my brain signals the “catastrophe” alarm.  All hands on deck!  Snap to attention!  This problem MUST be solved. Now!  It’s HUGE.  The world itself will stop spinning on its axis if this problem is not attended to RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND.  Even if said problem is…oh, say maybe I’ve run out of milk at the house?  MY CHILDREN ARE GOING TO STARVE, PEOPLE!!  Milk must be procured IMMEDIATELY!

Good grief, I’m tired just reading that paragraph.

As a friend of mine posted on Facebook recently:

mess

Yeah.  That.

I think it’s finally starting to catch up to me.  So, I’ve made a conscious decision to stop.

Yep.  That’s it.  Just stop.

Now, I’m not going to stop everything of course.  Some of the things I do can’t be stopped.  (There would be some angry, hungry teenagers sitting outside dance studios and cross-country tracks if that were the case.)  And some things I do, I don’t want to stop.  My hobbies are more than just “hobbies” really.  They define me.  I’m a writer – so yes,  I want to keep writing.  I’m an actor, I want to keep acting.  I’m a runner, I’m going to keep running (I’m even training for my second half marathon right now).

But here’s the difference….

I’m going to chill out a little bit.  Or rather, I should say, I’m going to allow myself to chill out a little bit.

I have started to cut back quite a bit on my blogging.  If you’re a regular follower and you’ve noticed, please allow me to apologize.  (Oh, and if this fictitious regular follower person exists, let me extend my deepest gratitude for reading my stuff so often that you actually noticed I was gone.  How cool are you!?)  Being a writer, I never really stop writing exactly.  Phrases and ideas are constantly going through my head.  And when they do, I write them down somewhere.  But the difference now is that I’m not in such a hurry to get to a computer (or a notebook – yep, I still handwrite things sometimes, can you believe that!?) and put those words and phrases into a story or blog entry.  They’ll still be there when I’m ready – when I have time.  There’s no deadline.  There’s no need to push myself to the point of exhaustion to keep up with some imaginary quota that I’ve invented in my head.  That’s ridiculous.

As for acting – I mentioned in a previous blog that it’s time to take a break.  Auditions came and went for the next show at my theatre and I didn’t attend.  That alone was a source of pride for me – I was actually taking a stand for my own sanity and health and forcing myself to rest a little.

But then something happened that made me really have to put my money where my mouth is.  I received a message asking me to consider a role.

Whoa.  Ok, now that’s different.

I didn’t even go to auditions…I did what I said I was going to do, right?  I stuck to my guns and tried to take a break. But to be asked to play a role?  How flattering, right?  Acting is what I do.  And this role – man, it sounds perfect for me.  Right up my alley.  It would be ok to accept it just this once and rest later, right?

Nope.

I politely declined and thanked them for the consideration.  Wow.  I turned down a role.  I can honestly say that as an actor, this was a first for me.  Acting is so important to me – I would jump at any chance I got to play a role like this in the past.  But now?   Well.  Right now I’m tired.  Bone tired.  I don’t want to see something I love turn to something that I feel like I have to do.  I just can’t let that happen.  There will be other shows.  When I’m ready.

Now, as for running….yes, I know I just mentioned that I’m training for my next half marathon.  I know what you’re thinking.  That’s not “stopping,” right?  What the heck is up with that??  I thought this chick said she was going to chill out.  How is training for a half marathon chilling out?  Well, you’re right.  It’s not.  Not really, anyway.  But see – this is something that I really want.  Yes, it’s hard work, but the feeling I get when I finish a run – no matter how slow the run happened to be or if I met any ‘goals’ or not – is one that is hard to beat.  It is a relaxation in itself.  It’s a purging of all that’s wrong with the world.  If you’re a runner, I know you know what I mean.  Before a run, you can be weighted down with all the worries you can possibly carry – and then after the run, you feel lighter.  You feel free.  I need that right now.  I need to create a better me.  A calmer me.  A more controlled me.

A me I can live with.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were sitting in the living room at home.  The errands were done, homework finished, work and school day complete – and there we were.  Just sitting.  I looked over at her and said, “Is there something we’re forgetting?”  She replied, “What do you mean?” and I said, “Well, I just feel like there’s something we should be doing.”  Her response?  “I guess it’s all done.”

“I guess it’s all done.”

Yeah.

At that moment, I’m sure there were other things that could have been done.  I could have went over my sad budget one more time.  I could have washed another load of clothes.  I could have exercised, I could have laid out my clothes for the next day, I could have forced myself to start on my next blog.  But I didn’t do any of that.  At that moment, sitting in my living room in the silence with my daughter, it really was “all done.”  Everything else would be there when it was time.  But for right then, I allowed myself to bask in the nothingness.

There’s an Italian phrase that comes to mind: dolce far niente.  This means, the sweetness of doing nothing.

And it was perfection.

Time to start creating more moments like that in my life.

More dolce far niente?  Why, yes, thank you.  Don’t mind if I do.

***

The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
– May Sarton

Happy Badges

So, I’ve decided to give this whole ‘running’ thing a go again.  I haven’t officially signed up for it, but there’s a half marathon in November that is calling my name.  Eventually (maybe next year?) I want to work my way up to a full marathon, but I’m not quite ready to think of that just yet.  So, for now, another half it is.

Next week, my 10-week half marathon training plan will officially start, but I decided to head out on a 4-mile run yesterday to start prepping myself for the longer distances.  (Lately, with my time constraints I’ve only been able to work in 2 and 3 mile runs, and those have been few and far between, to be quite honest.)  And even though this run was only 4 miles – not even a third of what I’m signing up for – this thing seriously kicked my butt!  I had to stop and walk a few times, and maybe even got a tad frustrated with myself at times (shhhh… Miss Positive Pants here can’t admit that, right?  Pretend you didn’t hear that.)

So, when my run/walk/curse fest was complete, I hit the ‘save’ button on my MapMyRun software that tracks my routes and times, and I noticed a new option pop up.  I saw this:

happybadge6

Hmmmm.  Rate my run, huh?  Ok, let’s see what my options are.

First up, was this one:

happybadge5

Finished with a Smile.”  HA!  Well, I suppose we can mark that one off the list.  NEXT!

happybadge4

Crushed my Goal.”  Hmmmm.  Well, I suppose if my goal had been to survive, then I could choose this one.  Barely.  But, alas, it wasn’t.  My true goal was actually to run 4 miles without stopping.  And that didn’t pan out so well.  Well, poo.

Next.

happybadge3

Kicked Butt.”  Aha!  Ok, now we’re talking!  Check!

Oh, wait.

Crap.  I think this is saying that I kicked butt with the run.  Shoot.  My bad.  I thought it was saying the run kicked MY butt.  I thought I finally had one I could choose here.  *Sigh*

Back to the drawing board….

happybadge2

Took it Easy.”  Hmmmm.  We’re getting warmer.  Ok, I guess I could choose this one.  But that would be a lie.  Because I didn’t really take it easy.  Yes, I walked some.  But it wasn’t because it was my intention.  It was because I was mad at myself and I was tired.  And I sure didn’t “take it easy” on myself, that’s for sure.  So….  Close, but no cigar.  Looks like there’s only one option left.

Here we go….

happybadge1

Grew Strong.” Ok, what?  That’s it??  No matter how much I jammed my finger across the screen on my smartphone, the stupid thing wouldn’t scroll anymore to the right for more options.  Seriously, that’s all I’ve got to choose from?

Oh.

They’re called “Happy Badges.”  Somehow I missed that at the beginning of the instructions.  “Pick Your Happy Badge.”

Ha!  Happy Badge?  Really?  I was miserable.  I was lazy.  I was out of shape; out of breath; out of patience.  How the heck am I supposed to pick a happy badge?

And that’s when it dawned on me.

Everything that happens in your life – everything – whether it’s running related or not, falls into one of these categories.

Think about it.

I mean, yeah, it would be great if we could always pick those first four options.  Crushing goals, kicking butt, and finishing with a smile are always good things.  And sometimes you’re not going to get the absolute best results because you chose to “take it easy.”  Nothing wrong with that, right?  A life filled with those first four options would be fantastic.  Perfect, even.

But unfortunately….  Yeah.  Unfortunately, things don’t end up that way all of the time.

And that’s ok.  Because you know why?

Sometimes that fifth option is necessary.

If life weren’t filled with things that make you stronger – failures, disappointments, life lessons – I don’t think we’d ever have the opportunity to pick those other options at all.  How could you feel the thrill of finishing with a smile or kicking butt if you hadn’t worked through the tough parts to get there?  Where would be the sense of pride in crushing a goal if you had never known those times where you fell short, and had the courage and perseverance to get up and try again?

You see what I’m getting at here?

So, no.  No goals were crushed this time.  No butts were kicked other than my own.  But did I grow strong?  You darn right I did.  I got my butt up off the couch and I started the process that is going to lead me to another half marathon, and that will eventually lead me to a full marathon one day, and that will ultimately lead me to where I’ve been headed all along.

A place where I am proud of myself.

‘Grew Strong’ happy badge?  Don’t mind if I do.

“Check!”

***

“The race does not always go  to the swift, but to the ones who keep running.”
 -Anonymous

Muse

“I never exactly made a book. It’s rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say.”
– C. S. Lewis

museblog

This writing thing is weird.

Let me explain…

Lately I have been in a bit of a slump in my life.  I have fallen out of love with something that used to be my biggest passion. My sanctuary.  My oasis.

Acting.

I actually stumbled across a poem I wrote years ago about how I felt about acting.  Mind if I share it with you?

Acting

My passion.

The feel of the hot lights on my face –
The way my heart beats wildly just before the curtain rises –
The adrenaline rush.

My escape.

Reality takes a back seat for two short hours –
Life’s problems are forgotten –
I am no longer me.

Scenes and emotions swirl around me
I get lost in the drama, the melodies;
Dilemmas are solved, Everyone is satisfied –
Happily ever after.

Not like the real world at all.

*sigh*

It makes me sad to read this.  The passion that I felt while writing this poem has managed to disappear somehow.  My escape from the stresses of everyday life has now become one of the stresses.  It has become work.  It has become tedious.  It has become a chore.

I’m just so tired.

Feeling something you once loved slowly slip over into something you dread is a very unsettling feeling.  It can really throw you off course.  Something that once defined you and made you who you are is no longer something you even like.  That’s crazy!  I mean, think about that for a minute.  If you don’t like the thing that defines you – the thing that you are, doesn’t that mean that you no longer like yourself?

Hmmm.  No wonder this has affected me so deeply.

So, my thoughts are weighted down with this heavy stuff this morning – feeling like I’m going to throw in the towel altogether on this whole acting business – when, as part of my normal morning routine habit, I check my blog stats.  Now, my stats show me how many views that each blog entry has received, including when the particular entry was last viewed, and it always surprises me when an older entry has been looked at.  It makes me wonder why.  Did someone remember it and look it up?  Did it show up in some kind of search results?  What called this old stuff to someone’s attention now?

This happened this morning, and the blog in question was the one entitled Burnout.

I saw that so many people had viewed it so, on a whim, I clicked on it myself and read it again.

Wow.  I wrote that?

At the time when I was writing it, I was talking about running.  But, reading it now, it blew my mind realizing how much I could take what I said and apply it to my acting.  There was a time that I felt like I would never run again.  But I was wrong.  After a much-needed break, I’m back.   I’m even thinking of signing up for another half marathon in November.  Being a runner is in my soul now.  It’s too late to turn back.  I couldn’t if I tried.  I’m a runner, whether I’m running or not.

Wait…what did I just say?

I’m a runner, whether I’m running or not.

Well.

Now, how about that?

I guess after re-reading that old blog entry, it’s safe to say that I can make the same assumption now.

I’m an actor, whether I’m acting or not.

No matter how much I feel like I’m ready to give it up, I’m not.  I just need a break.  I really needed that reminder.

Who knew that I would be turning to myself for advice?  It’s crazy, man.  I read this stuff and it’s almost like someone else wrote it.  At the time that I write these things, I’m tapping into a source of strength and energy that is not always there.  I’m not always positive.  I’m not always seeing the ‘silver lining.’  I’m not always someone who Chicken Soup for the Soul is ready to claim as one of their authors.  Believe me.  I can be just as grumpy and grouchy as the next guy.  But somewhere inside me is…well, I don’t know what.

A muse, maybe?

Oh heck, I don’t know what you call it.  But whatever it is, I sure am glad it’s there.  And I hope that the people reading this stuff can benefit from it the way that I have.

Sometimes I’m actually kind of proud of this thing I do.  I can’t wait to see where else it takes me.

***

“…Call it an angel
Call it a muse
 Call it karma that you’ve got comin’ to you
What’s the difference?
What’s in a name?
 What matters most is never ever losin’ faith
‘Cause it’s gonna be alright
You’re not alone tonight.”
– Keith Urban lyrics

Chicken Soup

I have been kind of keeping something a secret.

Oh, I don’t know why really.  I guess at first I wasn’t sure whether I should say something when I wasn’t 100% positive that it was going to be true (I’m still not sure really, but I’ll explain that soon enough).  Then, I was a little embarrassed to say something about it.  Not sure why that is either really.  I guess I just didn’t want to put the cart before the horse or whatever.  And then, finally, I was afraid to say something in fear of…well, I don’t know…jinxing it maybe?

But, alas, as my ever-helpful boyfriend said to me about my fear of the jinx (while quoting the great philosopher, Andy Griffith):

There’s no such thing, Barney.”

(Full of wisdom, that one is.)

Ok.  So, jinx be darned, I’m ready to spill my guts.

See this?

chickensoup

This is the cover of a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book that is being released on December 24.  And guess what?

There’s a very strong chance that one of my stories will be in it.

EEEEEEK!

Ok, let me back up a little and explain.

About four months ago, after starting my blog and getting some pretty positive feedback from people, I decided to try on a little confidence and see how it fit.  I started submitting some of my works.  Mostly, I entered a few little contests here and there (one of which I won!), but then I started looking into submitting works for publishing.  I stumbled across a webpage that listed various publishers and Chicken Soup for the Soul was on the list.  When I saw it, it was like a light bulb went off in my mind.

That’s it!

I had always had trouble deciding how to describe my writing.  My grandmother, who is not techno savvy AT ALL and has thus, of course, never seen my blog (and probably has never even heard of the word ‘blog’), would ask me “Well, Melissa, what is it that you write?”  I was stumped.  I had no idea how to answer that. The things I write certainly don’t fall into the “novel” category (I can barely hold a thought long enough to make a complete sentence, much less maintain a thought for the entire process of writing a NOVEL!  Sheesh!);  they aren’t short stories really (they aren’t long enough for that, and they’re not fiction); they’re not “essays” exactly, but that was what came to closest to describing them I supposed.  But I still couldn’t quite explain to her (or to anyone) what they were exactly.

And then I saw the request for submissions to Chicken Soup and realized that those were exactly what I write.  Just like what the Chicken Soup books are filled to the brim with, I write short little nonfiction personal accounts from my own life that I hope will somehow make a difference to someone else.  As my friend Chris Hansen once said in a Facebook status, “We are more alike than it seems.”  He followed it up with the following quote :

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
– Thích Nhất Hạnh

That was my goal.  I wanted many people from many walks of life – no matter their age, religion, social status, whatever – to look at the stories coming from this one little person floating out here on the planet along with them and think, “Hey! That sounds like me!” 

So, I decided to take a chance.  I sent in a submission to Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

Now, I know a lot of my blog readers are “closet writers” –  I know this because you tell me so with your “I wish I had the courage to do what you do” emails – so I’m going to describe a little bit about the process. (And for those of you who are not writers, I’ll try to keep it short so I don’t bore you to tears.  Or, if you want, you can skip this part.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings, I promise.)

First, I perused the Chicken Soup for the Soul webpage and found the “submit your story” link in a column on the left (which I’ll post at the bottom of this blog for you closet writers I referred to earlier…you know you wanna!).  When you click here, it will give you a list of some possible upcoming book topics.  You then submit your story based on one of these topics.  The story has to be nonfiction – it has to be something that happened to you or someone you know – and can’t be made up.  You actually have to sign a release form later swearing to the truth of what is contained in the story.  The submission is entirely electronic – you just copy and paste the story on to their site and fill in some info about yourself – and Voilà!  You’re done.  It’s that simple.  (And it’s free!)  And then what happens next?

You wait.

If your story isn’t chosen, you just don’t hear anything at all.  I’ve read that they can get thousands of entries on each individual topic. (Holy cow!)  And I’ve also read that it can sometimes take up to FOUR YEARS to hear back from them even if your story is chosen, depending upon when the production date is scheduled for that particular book.  So, if your story is chosen among the entries, you get an email from them letting you know.  (And that email gives you a small little heart attack and makes you cry…or so I’ve heard…) Then, you go on to provide them a small bio about yourself and sign release and waiver forms with regard to your material being printed in the book.

This is the step that I’m at now.  I have just sent in all of my legal forms and wrote a short bio about who I am (50 words or less – that was hard!) to be printed in the book if my story makes the final cut.  According to the assistant publisher (who I’ve spoken with by phone and email a few times at this point), the “vast majority” (her words) of the stories that have made it this far will be printed in the book.  However, if you’re familiar with the Chicken Soup books, you know that each book is divided into different sub-topics.  She explained that sometimes one sub-topic will be “too full” so to speak, and they may have to leave some stories out to keep it balanced.

So…it’s not 100% for sure that I’m in just yet – but I sure am starting to get my hopes up!  Keep your fingers crossed for me!  (And toes and eyes and whatever else you got…)

When (if?) I’m chosen to appear in the book, the next step will be that I will receive a printed copy of my story to proofread and edit if necessary.  Once the editing process is complete, and the book is bound, I will receive ten copies to keep, which I will receive prior to its release date of December 24.  One month after publishing, I’ll receive $200 payment for my story.

Wow.

I mean, the money is cool and all, but at this point – who the heck cares!?  I’m soooo close to having my work published in a national best-selling book.  Oh. My. Gosh.  As my daughter said when she heard the news, “I don’t understand why they pay you.  Shouldn’t you be paying them?” 

Yeah.  Exactly.

So, for the next few months, I am probably going to be a nervous wreck.  This could be such a huge deal for me.  This is big, folks.

But you know what?  I think that even if I am one of the unlucky few that have made it this far and yet don’t quite make it into the book in the end – I think it’s still pretty big, regardless.  Out of hundreds, maybe thousands, of submissions, my story was chosen.  Wow.  I’m honored, humbled, and blown away that this is happening to me.  And I have each and every one of you who are reading this right now to thank.  Because of you taking the time to read this blog and giving me your positive feedback over the months that I’ve been baring my soul for all the world to see, I have gained confidence.  I have started to believe that I’m actually a writer.  And because of that belief – I have taken a chance.  And it may possibly have paid off.

Big time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming along with me on this crazy ride.  I’ll keep you posted!

***

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”
– Epictetus

Links:

Link to submit to Chicken Soup: http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

Link to read more about the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game book and/or to pre-order a copy on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1611599296/102-7001014-7473727?ie=UTF8&tag=chisouforthes-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=1611599296

One-Sided

“This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand of love, and keep modest as a giver.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

onesided

I want to talk about something that has caught my attention lately.

Givers.

And I don’t just mean givers in general – those who give their slightly used products to Goodwill instead of throwing them away; those who give an extra dollar every time the cashier asks if you want to donate to this or that charity; those who graciously give little presents here and there whenever and wherever they can.  Yes, those people are awesome (go team!), but no – that’s not what this blog is about.  I want to be a little more specific.  I want to talk about the givers in relationships.

To be even more specific, I want to talk about the givers in one-sided relationships.

[Now in this blog only (and I do apologize for this because I don’t usually do this kind of thing), I want to specifically talk about the woman in this kind of relationship.  Yes, I know that one-sided relationships can go either way – sometimes it’s the man giving their all while the woman does next to nothing to contribute (and sometimes it can happen within a same sex couple, which really throws a wrench into my theory here) – but as the author of this blog, I can only talk about what I know.   And what I know is what I’ve witnessed and what I’ve experienced.  In that experience, limited though it may be, I have seen that the giver is usually the woman.  I promise I’ll explain why I think that is soon.]

So.  One-sided relationships.  Oh boy, have I been there.  I also know a few friends who have been there, and I know some friends who are there now.  Not following what I mean exactly by one-sided relationships?  Ok, let me set the stage for you.

You’re with this guy and you just absolutely adore him.  He’s cute, he’s charming, he’s loving (well, most of the time)…man, you think you’ve hit the jackpot with this one.  So, you’re going to make absolute certain that you don’t screw this one up.  You’ve been known to screw things up in the past, so this time is going to be different.  First order of business?  Make sure he knows that you’re not one of those “needy” chicks that expects the man to pay for things when you go out.  Oh no siree, not you, Miss Woman of the 21st Century.  You are independent and self-sufficient and he needs to know it.  So, on the first couple of dates, you pay for yourself.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  You feel good about it – he seems impressed – win/win.  But then, as time goes by, you start paying for a few more things here and there – you start buying both of your meals.  You not only want to show that you’re independent, but you want to show him how much you care.  And we know how much a man loves food, so let’s buy him some.  Well, eventually, that doesn’t seem to be enough.  You don’t feel like he knows that you care.  And if he doesn’t know, then he might not stick around, right?  Better do a little bit more.  Let’s start buying him gifts.  Yeah – that’ll do the trick.  First, a little gift here and there.  No biggie – it’s sweet, right?  Then, those gifts start getting a little larger…he’s into cars?  Let’s buy him some car accessory we saw him ogling.  He likes a certain movie?  Let’s find the special collector’s edition DVD of it and give it to him for no good reason.  He likes a certain book?  Ok, never mind…I’ve went too far.  We all know men don’t read books….

(KIDDING, fellas!)

So, you catch my drift, right?  Eventually, somewhere along the line, the idea has entered your head that you can earn this man’s love.  Now, I don’t mean to emphasize monetary gifts, per se.  Sometimes it may just be cooking him dinner, or making him something, or writing him notes…whatever.  The point is, you are doing a heck of a lot more than he is.

Why is that?

Ok, well, I can hypothesize on this all day, but I’ll try to narrow it down.  There are so many possible reasons why women feel the need to do this, but first and foremost is this: we were raised this way.  Now, I know that times are changing and women are much more independent than they were in times gone by.  But at the heart of who we are is the need to nurture.  We are the ones who bear the children, we are the ones whose bodies produce the milk to feed our young, we are the ones who are taught from an early age to keep the peace, to keep our loved ones happy.  It’s just the way it is, like it or not.  And honestly, I’m cool with that.  The role we women play is a pretty important one, a necessary one, and we should be proud.

But here’s the problem with that.  We sometimes may tend to transfer that over to our romantic relationships. And then when the relationship doesn’t work out, we think we didn’t play our role correctly, so we try harder the next time.  And if that one doesn’t work out?  Try even harder the next time.

You following me?

Because of our nature, we think that we have to give, give, give in order to be loved.  Check out these snippets of lyrics from the song “Little Miss” by Sugarland:

“Little miss checkered dress
Little miss, one big mess
Little miss, I’ll take less when I always give so much more…
Little miss, do your best
Little miss, never rest
Little miss, be my guest, I’ll make more anytime that it runs out…”

See?  It’s who we are.  There are even songs about it.  And don’t get me wrong – like I said before, being this way is a good thing.  It really, really is.  But the problem is that sometimes we end up with men who take advantage of that.  Now, am I blaming them for that?  No, not really.  As much as I like to blame men for everything, I’m not sure I can put this one on them.  Much like we were raised the way we were, they were also raised the way they were – as the recipient of this nurturing.  Why wouldn’t they accept it?  It’s natural to them.  They’re thrilled with it – who wouldn’t be?

Well, I’ll tell you who ends up not thrilled.  Us.

Women.

Over time, we start feeling like we are the only one doing anything in the relationship.  Like we are the only ones keeping it going – we are the only ones busting our butts to make sure the relationship is happy and fulfilling, while the man just reaps the benefits.  We give, they take.  My coworker Tina, who is always filled with words of wisdom, has said this phrase to me many times:

“You teach people how to treat you.”

We have taught them that this is the way it is.  That the relationship will continue without any effort on their part, because we have it covered.  No worries, Mr. Man, we got this.  We’re women, we’ll take care of everything.

But you know what?  That’s really not cool.

And when we start realizing it’s not cool, and start realizing that things are one-sided, we start to feel resentful towards the man.  We start hoping that he will change.  But guess what?  He’s not going to.

You know who has to change?  You.

Again, like I’ve said many times in my blogs, I certainly don’t have all the answers.  I’ve been through my share of failed relationships, and I’m sure I played a huge personal role in those failings at times.  I’m no different than you are.  The only thing I’m hoping to do here is shine a light on something that might be wrong in your life that you have the power to right.  Don’t stop being a giver altogether, I’m not saying that.  But maybe you could just try not to give quite so much.  Maybe you can try not to control so much and have a little faith.  Let things happen on their own, without so much forced effort.  I don’t know – just try it for a while.  See what happens.

Hey, you never know – the man in your life may just be waiting for the chance to show you he cares, if you’ll just leave him a little room to do it.

And if he doesn’t?  If he doesn’t rise to the challenge and the relationship falls apart because you are no longer in the driver’s seat?  Well, then I guess you know that little instinct you’ve been ignoring has been trying to tell you something, hasn’t it?

Relationships, man.  This crap ain’t for the faint of heart, I’m tellin ya….

***

“Yeah, I’m a giver.  I’ve learned to be selective of the people in my world, because if I love someone, I will give them my blood, whatever they need.  In doing so, one can end up with little left for themselves.”
-Brittany Murphy

The Kiss

“Love is when you like someone so much that when you look at them, you just want to kiss their face.”
Riley, age 12

kiss

My boyfriend’s son and I were having a conversation a while back (we do that a lot actually – there’s just something about that kid…) and the topic of “love” came up.  I can’t really remember the details of what was said, but I remember asking him what his definition was, and his answer was what I quoted above.  You just want to kiss their face.  I jotted it down (that’s what we writers do) and knew that I wanted to use it one day, but just wasn’t sure how.  I mean, it wasn’t exactly “deep” or “meaningful” or anything – but there was just something about it that struck a chord in me and I didn’t really know why.

Until now.

I think I may have just figured it out.

In the past few weeks, I have seen two of my friends go through heartbreaks.  And in both of these circumstances, the men that were supposed to have loved them, have hurt them.  Deeply.  As I have listened to their stories (feeling my own heart break right along with them), I have come to realize something.  Something that humbles and moves me with a feeling that it is hard to even put into words.

I will truly never know what that feels like, ever again.

I mean, I’m the chick that blogs about hurt and pain all the time.  About rising from your circumstances and about forgiveness and about moving on, and blah, blah, blah. But as I have listened to what has happened to them at the hands of the men they loved, I know, deep in my heart, that I will never be using that kind of pain as my motivation for future writings.  Why is that?  Because I know, without a doubt, that Richard will never hurt me like they’ve been hurt.

I know what you’re thinking...yeah, right.  We ALL think that about the person we love, and then we find out something later on that shatters our illusions.  Everyone is going to hurt you, no one is perfect.  Get your head out of the clouds, stupid blogger girl.  

Ok, I get that.  Richard and I are going to hurt each other at times, there’s no doubt about that.  I hear what you’re saying.  But here’s the difference.

Richard would never intentionally hurt me.  Nor I him.

That’s the difference.

Let me explain. Any problems that he and I have had over the time we have been together (and there have been plenty) all seem to have this underlying theme to them.  If we took each and every one of our disagreements and misunderstandings and dissected and examined them, you would see that at the heart of each and every single one lies one common denominator: trying not to hurt one another.  In trying not to hurt one another, we have made some stupid mistakes.  We have withheld information, withheld communication, withheld necessary information at times – all just to try to avoid hurting the other.  And then, when this information is unearthed, it causes a problem.  Now, I’m not saying that this is exactly healthy, per se.  We need to work on that, I know.  Hey, we’re just as screwed up as the rest of the couples out there in the world are, I know this.  I’m not trying to say we’re not.  We don’t know what the heck we’re doing either.  But the major difference that exists here is this.  We never ever try to hurt one another.  You know?

And that is what I’ve seen my friends going through.

With both words and actions, these men have shown their women things that have crushed them.  Sure, the men think they have excuses for what they’ve done (don’t we all?), but the cold, hard fact is this – they have done something on purpose that they knew, without a doubt, would break another person’s heart.  And that really, really, sucks.

Which brings me back to where I started this blog.  12-year-old Riley’s quote.

“Love is when you like someone so much that when you look at them, you just want to kiss their face.”

Look at the relationship that you’re in.  Right now – take stock and look around.  Assess your partnership.  Get rid of all the stupid little details that don’t matter at all – throw out the things that just annoy you about him/her, or vice versa.  Throw out anything that has happened in their past before you ever came along.  Throw out any of the daily minutiae of money issues, work stresses, kid struggles…forget all of that for just a minute.  Just look at your partner with the simplicity of that 12-year-old and ask yourself this.

When I look at him/her, do I just want to kiss their face?

And maybe more importantly, do I think that when they look at me, they want to do the same?

There’s something so tender and gentle about kissing someone’s face.  It’s not like a full-fledged kiss on the lips.  For one, you don’t really get anything in return – the kiss is just for them.  It’s not selfish, it’s not passionate, it’s not greedy.  It’s just a simple show of love towards the person that has captured your heart. Whether it be a kiss on the cheek or a kiss on the forehead, either way it’s a kiss that is full of giving, not receiving.  And I think that’s so important to pay attention to.

Ask yourself if you are giving this kind of selfless love to the person in your life.  And then, if you’re in the circumstances that my sweet, heartbroken friends are in, ask yourself this same question as the recipient.  Are you receiving this kind of love?

Are you?

Turns out, this 12-year-old may have known what he was talking about.  Love is selfless.  It’s tender and gentle and would never ever hurt you on purpose.  Love is a gift.

Real love is a kiss on the face.

Do you have it?   Don’t settle for anything else until you do.  Trust me on this one.

***

“A man’s kiss is his signature.” 
– Mae West