Regrets

Photo Regret

I picture them as microscopic annoyances with arms and legs. Their sardonic grin and facial features make you wonder if they are any relation to the Grinch. In military formation, they strive to locate access to any route possible in order to achieve their goal; to get under your skin. You’d be better off having thousands of these invaders with endless time on their hands tackle you on pogo sticks than what you are feeling right now. It’s an endless loop of what ifs, how comes and whys that relentlessly keep poking at you.

Now that they have you where they want you, they regroup and continue their campaign. This is the clandestine location that you do not want them to invade at any cost; inside your head. Once they make camp there, you are prisoner to a persistent voice that repeats a mantra that is able to continue regardless of time and location. If you’ve ever pressed your tongue against a sore tooth repeatedly, even though you know it will be hurt, you know that feeling of not being able to let go. This is it.

According to Psychology Today: “…Studies have shown that regret is the most common emotion people mention as part of their daily lives. Fortunately, rewriting history in our heads, rather than playing the cards in our hands can also have some positive aspects to it. Using past mistakes as a growth opportunity, analyzing whether or not it was our fault and consoling ourselves that it could have been worse will train us to regret less and better…”

In time, you realize that you are your own Commander and you begin to feel a sense of power. You can rise up and counterattack, casting out all those regrets the same way they came in. Now engaged, your mind has outmaneuvered your remorse.

As Henry David Thoreau advised: “…Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” To live afresh is to be morally born again…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Cleaning: Body, Mind and Closet

Photo Spring Cleaning

Every year, we would fall back into the same poorly orchestrated routine. Excited to “spring ahead,” each of the four of us teens would turn the clock ahead one hour on our arrival home late Saturday night. This would result in chaos for the next couple of days. Someone would wind up at church either a few hours too early or too late and we were never sure if we were eating Sunday brunch or Sunday dinner. Usually by Tuesday our lives would return back from Somoan Standard Time. No one seemed to want to change this practice, so we chalked it up to organized confusion (another family tradition) and life went on.

To me, spring has always meant a new beginning and I celebrate its brightness, its warmer weather and the coming of Easter by planning to start fresh. As it did back then, the first daffodils remind me that it’s time to get started. I know that, once a year, I need to venture where no man has gone before; into the dark recesses of the place that houses the wardrobe from where my style initiates: my closet.

It always begins with me asking myself “…Who am I?..” This is the point in the process where I look deep down into myself and question what I want my new image to be. All those visions of fashion, style and design in my head overwhelm me and I have to sit down on my closet floor to ward off dizziness (note to self: next year, remember to bring some sustenance). Cross legged and looking up at the clothing sorted by Item, then color on their perfectly aligned hangers, I tell myself that I will not let its well-organized arrangement intimidate me.

I’m feeling stronger now and make the decision that I want to up my game and go for an edgier style this time around. Coming from someone who, for years, wore hose every day of the summer, handbags that matched her shoes and white only after Memorial Day, I realize that edgier is a relative term and that this will be my personal version of the jazzy, new me.

I rev myself up and become a lean, mean, methodical machine. Music helps the process; chances are good that I will not be hypnotized by the rhythmic sound of the hangers gliding across the closet rod and bypass some business outfits that should have been retired years ago while I am rocking my signature dance moves and singing at the top of my lungs.

The range of emotions that evolve as I try on every item always startles me. Some get torn back off immediately while I mumble “…What was I thinking?..” Some are accessorized with jewelry and shoes and then torn off (same mumble). Out of respect, some get their last moment in the limelight, as I gaze in the mirror and reminisce about a special event before tearing them off too. I take a moment to pay homage to those articles that have withstood the test of time. I can depend on them to always give me the classic look I am going for.

I’ve lost track of time. I look around and I’m awe-struck to see all the shopping bags around me stuffed with the clothing that once held a prominent position as part of my wardrobe. At this point, I need to proceed with caution. This scenario can play out in two ways: I can either run the bags to the trunk of my car and drive directly to my choice of donation centers or I can decide that I might have missed some great Halloween costume options and decide to peruse each bag’s contents.

Seeking fortitude from closet lessons of the past, a light and airy sensation comes to mind. This leads to a feeling of confidence that I will now leave my home always feeling like a “ten”, having just delivered all my “1-9’s” to a better place. I rationalize that one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. Someone else’s personal statement might be made up of my fashion faux pas mixed with just the right amount of their panache.

My stomach is growling and I notice that it’s almost nightfall. I exit my closet a different person from when I entered it earlier that day. This yearly cathartic exercise in re-evaluating and letting go gets me off to another terrific start. It serves to remind me that it’s a beneficial practice to maintain, whether it involves apparel or any other parts of my life that may need a little tailoring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dos and Don’ts of a To-Don’t List

Photo To Dont List

Creative example of a single mom’s to-do list

It was the perfect hostess gift; an artfully designed to-do list. If you want to make me smile, present me paper in any form; a pad, a journal, a notebook. There is something about a blank page that is so enticing. It invites me into myself. There, in my own quiet world of thoughts and emotions, I find joy by intermingling words into just the right form of personal expression.

It will probably come as no surprise that my Mondays always start out with a well-crafted to-do list. Under the headings of “Call,” “Do” and “Go,” are the tasks that I will look forward to checking off as they are accomplished. No more than a week’s worth of undertakings are addressed and can easily be accomplished. There is always a master list lurking in the background which provides material for the future, to be allocated into manageable segments.

So, it was with reckless abandon that I considered thinking outside the box and creating a to- don’t list. This single list would provide a handy way to remember all those things that I continually promise myself not to do and could be updated as needed. It would prompt me to keep close those comments and ideas from others that had sparked such enthusiasm in me the first time I heard them. A brief peek would keep me on the right path, progressing forward:

  • Don’t look back
  • Don’t procrastinate; just do it (thanks, Nike)
  • Don’t overthink
  • Participate, don’t anticipate (sage words from a new friend)
  • Don’t waste time
  • Don’t let perfection control me
  • Don’t stop learning
  • Don’t let expectations define me
  • Don’t put my head up when swallowing pills (kudos to Kim for that one)

By year’s end, I may be subjected to a few extra paper cuts, but I am content with what I have accomplished. What’s on your to-don’t list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindita Light

Photo Lindita Light

I don’t even drink diet soda, so I was surprised that it would provide me with so much inspiration.

I am very aware that I have a tendency to go overboard. In every aspect of my life, I am able to overwhelm myself by mixing perfectionism with determination, then adding a dash of rumination. I can ruminate the heck out of any situation, replaying and rehashing every aspect of the issue at hand. The black sheep of the problem-solving family, rumination only serves to overcomplicate matters and leave a bad taste in your mouth.

It was time for me to take it down a notch and become a lean, mean, less minutiae-oriented machine. I would try to create a lighter version of myself; same sweetness and effervescence, but tastefully more carefree. I giggled to myself and called the project “Lindita Light”; “Lindita” after the name that my Spanish grandmother called me (adding ‘ita” after a name indicates affection) and “light” after soda performing with a sugar stand in.

So, it was with great confidence that I began my daily practice of paying more attention to becoming a lighter version of myself. I found that there was no magic potion, no elixir that would instantly transform me. On the contrary, it was a day-to-day struggle to remain steadfast to the promise that I had made myself.

Little by little, I seem to be making progress. Now, when I become transfixed on a subject, I am able to distract myself by doing something that requires focus. I tell myself that I can be determined and the best I can be without overdoing it. Though, at first, it was hard to swallow that I might be a bit of a micromanager, I work at holding my tongue and try not to impart my opinions to anyone at any time, whether they want them or not.

In the midst of my undertaking and while researching for this post, I stumbled onto something that inspired me to persist. In the early 1900s, a carbonated beverage called “Moxie” was trademarked and was the first mass produced soft drink in the United States. Coincidence or a sign to continue to drink in all I can, in order to become the best me I can be?

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Op

Photo Photo Op

Late again! She ran through the house, grabbing her coffee and her car keys. Her arms were full, so she held her breakfast, a whole piece of toast, in her teeth. She gave her mom a thumbs-up and barely paid attention to her comments, only hearing that her mom and her beau were going out again (this time to the opera), so she was on her own for dinner.

Meredith took a deep breath and started her car. Even though she hated the commute from her mom’s suburban home into the city each day, it was the only time she had any peace. Her mom meant well, but she was tired of her eye rolling every time Meredith ate junk food. Her suggestions that Meredith get a haircut or try some new makeup or lose a little weight were not inspiring her to act on any of them in the near future.

She knew she would have to stay late again to make up the time. At first, she had thought herself lucky to be able to come and go unnoticed and set her own hours, but later realized that it was a measure of her insignificance to the hospital department that she was a part of.

On this particular day, she watched her copies run through the copy machine and, for a few minutes, lost herself in thought. How did her life become so mundane? Her growling stomach brought her back to reality. Walking to the cafeteria, she almost tripped on a frame that lay in the middle of the hall. She picked it up and was quite taken with the picture of the handsome man smiling back at her, even though it was the one that came with the frame. She stuck it in her purse and continued on.

The usual long line greeted her at the cafeteria door. With a big sigh, she prepared herself for the wait, when she heard a man’s voice behind her say “…Anything good here? I noticed your employee badge, so thought you might have some recommendations…” Meredith was speechless. Was she hallucinating or did this man look a little like the photo in the frame? She finally sputtered a few words and before she knew it, they were sharing a table and dining together.

Everything about him was charming. She hung on his every word and almost forgot to eat. He said he was a new volunteer, still trying to figure out what his calling would be. He seemed so interested in what she had to say. She cared little about what time it was when she finally returned to work and spent the rest of the afternoon daydreaming.

She surprised herself and her mom by being up early the next morning. She left right on time and couldn’t help but smile at her mom’s comments about her appearance. She had made sure to take extra time choosing an outfit, styling her hair and actually applying makeup. Maybe this weekend she would take her mom up on her offer to treat her to a new haircut.

Lunch couldn’t come quickly enough each day. All the next week, she found her handsome stranger on the cafeteria line. They’d trade smiles and sit together at the same table. She noticed that her lunch choices were now not only healthy, but half the size of what they used to be. From their conversations about her goals in life and how she could pursue them, she walked with a new-found confidence.

She purposefully kept the framed picture in her car’s glove compartment, away from her mom’s intrusive prying, so it was with surprise that she noticed it was gone that Saturday afternoon. She ran back into the house and, out of breath, asked her mom if she knew of its whereabouts. Nonchalantly, her mom responded “…I threw the picture away that came with the frame, cleaned it up and put it in your room, so you could make use of it…”

The words stung Meredith and as her mind raced through the past couple of days, she realized that yesterday, she had left her mom alone in her car when she ran into the drugstore to pick up a prescription for her. At that moment, she made up her mind that it was time for her to move to a place of her own.

Mondays were usually the worst day of her week, but Meredith rushed to the cafeteria with a spring in her step. She didn’t see her stranger, so waited at the entrance for a while. When he didn’t show up, she decided to sit and eat alone at their favorite table. Disappointed, she decided to walk over to the volunteer department to see if he was working today.

She realized that she only knew his first name and was startled when Sister Jean, the nun who sat at the front desk, stated that there was no Theodore listed as a volunteer. Determined to find him, Meredith took the time to describe her stranger and mention what little she knew about him. Sister Jean could only listen and nod, but felt as if she had to respond in some way to this agitated young woman. “…Did you know that the meaning of the name Theodore is God’s present?..,” she said softly.

Meredith smiled and thanked the nun for her time. She felt a wave of happiness wash over her and she walked back to her office with determination and wrote the resignation letter that she would send as soon as she was accepted into college. She called her sister and said she would take her up on her offer to live in her guesthouse if she took on some nanny duties for her nieces. It would be good practice for the teaching degree that she planned to receive.

She smiled, put her hands through her newly coifed hair, and said  “…Thank you…” out loud. She placed the frame on her desk and gazed at its cardboard backing. There was no need to replace the original photo with any other. In that way, she could picture just what she wanted to, as she made her way back into the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyonce and Me: Honing Our Zoning Skills

Photo Zones

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about a ritual of hers. When she is on tour, Beyonce makes it a practice to return to her hotel room immediately after each concert, watch the video of her performance and note any areas for improvement. Her notes are then typed and passed out to everyone involved. In this way, adjustments can be made before the next show.

In his Ted Talk entitled “How to Get Better at the Things You Care About,” Eduardo Briceño, uses Beyonce as an example of how the most effective people alternate between the activity zone and the performance zone in order to achieve maximum success in life.

In the activity zone, our full attention is on deliberate practice in order to improve our skills. We develop new strategies, work to improve ourselves and use any mistakes we make as learning tools.

The performance zone is where we execute what we have already mastered. Our goal here is to minimize mistakes and get things done.

According to Briceño, working hard doesn’t always equal success. Many of us hit a performance plateau, satisfied that we are doing a good enough job, and neglect the activity zone. This is where those feelings of frustration and stagnation come from.

With little formal education and no financial backing, I watched my dad methodically elevate himself, rung by rung, up the ladder of success. The owner of a construction company, he read self-help books, learned from professionals, constantly pushed himself and never stopped being curious and inquisitive. That combined with street smarts and a bit of showmanship was the perfect formula that worked for him.

My interest in business sparked when I realized that it was an opportunity to have my dad all to myself. In a high school business contest, he helped me formulate a sales presentation for aluminum siding that won me first prize. The judges commented that my product selection and my innate knowledge of every aspect of it took them by surprise. Thanks to my dad, this began my relentless practice of striving for excellence (I can still hear him saying “…Do it right or don’t do it at all..”)

Our father/daughter dinners started when I began my career. I relished our time alone, the fancy Manhattan restaurants and his commanding presence. I listened intently to him as he chronicled the ups and downs of his day (never dull), answered my questions and advised me. Not surprising, many of his ideas and suggestions were the basis of an MBA, without the fancy titles.

We develop confidence through ongoing learning. I’ve learned that a curiosity and a willingness to explore, to observe and to reflect are just as important as the achievements themselves. Rather than keeping our heads down, we need to look up once in a while, pay attention and strive for that balance between the activity and the performance zones.

Let’s create momentum and put our energy into keeping it going. Let’s find a willing mentor, exchange ideas with others, read, take a class, explore and create a better version of ourselves.

 

 

 

Go Where Your Heart Moves You

Photo Valentines Day

 

I always thought that I was the one that initiated our relationship. After eyeing the cover of that GQ at a newsstand, the photo of that young man in the pin stripe suit and horn-rimmed glasses became the basis of my positive thinking exercises until the hair on my arms stood straight up on the day that I met Mr. Wiz*.

He says he saw me in the taxi next to his at a red light and thought to himself that he’d like to meet me. When he noticed that the man sitting next to me was one of his co-workers, he knew he’d have that chance very soon.

Ours was initially a professional relationship and then a friendship, which blossomed into a business partnership. We spent 24/7 together, working hard to build our housewares sales representation agency. Prospective clients were never invited to our tony business card address; little did they know it was Mr. Wiz’s Park Avenue South studio apartment, chock full of product samples and files.

After our first big sale to a store in the then new and trendy SOHO neighborhood, Mr. Wiz suggested a celebratory dinner in a new restaurant. I remember thinking it might be more prudent to wait until we actually got paid, but his “go big or go home” attitude mirrored my dad’s philosophy and I was smitten. So much so that when he showed me on paper that by moving in together we could afford to rent a Fifth Avenue showroom, I was in.

Our yin and yang continued successfully after we married and Mr. Wiz was offered the chance to run a company in Chicago. From there, we headed to Arkansas for another job opportunity. It was there that he blindfolded me, surprising me with the idea to buy a derelict car dealership in the middle of a tourist town and turn it into a store. Mr. Wiz was a partner in a blacksmithing company when Big A* was born and we traveled to trade shows in a big truck, with Big A sitting happily between us in a specially designed car seat custom built by the company’s welders.

For a while, it was fun living in what I liked to describe as the movie set of “Little House on the Prairie,” but we missed the city life that we were accustomed to. A brief move back to New York left us thinking that maybe we should pick the city rather than the job, which brought us to Chicago.

Losing the vote to move from the area, Mr. Wiz was content to rehab units in our condo building and Big A and I were happy that our only move was from one floor to another. Years later, we would finally bid Chicago farewell, retire early and head to Austin, Texas where we currently reside. Soon after arriving in Texas and in order to keep the momentum going, Mr. Wiz invited me to walk 500 miles across Spain on the Camino with him.

After all these years, I still see the same sparkle in Mr. Wiz’s eyes and that smirk on his face as he conjures up another adventure. We are still two peas in a pod, though the pod has now become the vessel that moves us from one exploit to another. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be now, had I not taken a chance on someone who was more like the person I wanted to be than the person that I actually was.

When Gloria Estefan was asked the secret of her loving relationship with Emilio, her spouse of many years, she smiled and answered “…Remember to shave your legs…” I knew exactly what she meant; don’t take any of the facets of your relationship for granted. Keep those first date feelings close and use them to propel each day into an environment that houses a bit of mystery and romance; live, laugh and go where life takes you.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Wiz!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.