Mistakes (I’ve made a few)

Mistake. It’s a simple enough word. But one that is fraught with negative emotion. We live in constant fear of making them. Yet, mistakes are as inevitable as the sunrise.

What if we change the way we see them – Not only accept them – But expect them? Take the power away from those two little syllables that influence our decisions and rob us of opportunities. How might you have lived your life differently if you had not been afraid of making a mistake? What might have you tried? Sometimes, you’d fail, but what of the times that you would have succeeded?

What if we saw every mistake as a gift? After all, it is a chance to gain personal insight and change the way we interact with the world. Our broken places often heal stronger than ever before. Maybe, we should wear those scars with honor instead of shame.

When we were young, our first response was, “It’s not my fault.” Hopefully, we have moved beyond that reaction and learned to love ourselves enough to accept our mistakes. Loving yourself means the whole package – the bad as well as the good. It is exactly what distinguishes us from our ten-year-old selves. There is something freeing about owning our actions. By taking responsibility, we rob a mistake of the power it has over us – it’s ability to put fear in our hearts, regret in our minds and – worst of all – self doubt in our decisions

The next step is to forgive yourself. Remember that forgiveness is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It does not negate or erase the mistake. Instead, it says that we are human and therefore imperfect. It allows us to move forward and not be dragged down by a single choice or decision.

Mistakes are not failures: Holding on to a mistake is. It stunts our emotional growth. Every mistake holds a lesson. Ask yourself, “What might I have done differently?” Or “How can I avoid this outcome again/next time?” Observe and learn. These are the blessings mistakes bring. Then, put it behind you and move on.

The next time you are faced with a tricky decision, weigh the consequences of making a mistake. Hopefully, it will no longer be that scary monster-under-the-bed. Maybe the perceived benefit outweighs the risk. More options will open up before you because there is no fear of being wrong. I’m not recommending that we be reckless. But, if being wrong is the only thing that’s stopping you, it might be time to dig deep and put in a brave face! Think of the possibilities!

If we are able to expect and forgive mistakes in ourselves, we will be better able to do so for those around us. And that will make the world a much better place for everyone.

I am Woman

The sexual revolution of the sixties is still raging in my head.

Being a woman of a certain age in the twenty-first century can be challenging. As hard as we try to adjust our sails to modern culture, there are certain things that just do not come easily.

We were given amazing bodies, capable of miracles and inhuman feats of strength. We shoulder the responsibility for the future of mankind, for which we endure excruciating pain. These are not only the facts -They were the expectations that molded our young minds, decades ago. But it wasn’t the whole story! The best part was left unsaid: Our bodies are also capable of giving and receiving intense pleasure.

But, from the moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” we were conditioned against ever pursuing or reaching our full sexual potential. Enjoying it was completely out of the question. Our mothers had it even worse as they were coming of age. So it stands to reason that they did not have the wherewithal to encourage us to explore our sexuality. In many cases, it wasn’t even acknowledged. We were not allowed to become sexual beings at all.

Sex education was nonexistent, leaving most of us to learn through experimentation with equally ignorant partners. Information about important things like birth control and STDs were left to whispered conversations during sleepovers with our often misinformed girlfriends. There were no books written to educate young women, no sex on television and certainly no Internet.

Taboos were the norm. Girls who became pregnant were forced to leave school and give up their babies, while the rest of us silently prayed with relief that it wasn’t us. Shame was our parents’ best weapon against their own fear that their daughter might be next. Frank discussions about the discrepancies between what we were feeling and what society demanded were nonexistent. Our hormones cursed through our veins and we had no tools or knowledge to help us deal – only threats of disgrace and scandal.

Most of us fumbled our way through getting our periods, dating, losing our virginity, marriage and childbirth. The information highway opened up only when we had a husband and another human life growing inside us. This was in all accordance with society’s efforts to squash any possibility of an independent, young woman brazenly in control of her own body.

Fast forward, some forty-five years. Those of us with marriages that did not last have had to re-enter the world of dating. Fortunately for our younger counterparts, the rules have changed – or at least relaxed – but the double standard is alive and well. Sex education, information and professional advice are prevalent nowadays. Sex outside of marriage is not only accepted, but expected. Women have been given legal rights over their own bodies. The veil of shame associated with enjoying our sensuous nature has started to evaporate.

Why, then, is it so difficult for us to go out there and have a little fun? Thanks to menopause, we no longer have to fear becoming pregnant. We’ve let go of the unrealistic notion that our bodies are anything less than perfect. We’ve created life, birthed a new generation, nursed our babies. We wear our stretched skin and Caesarean scars with honor. Finally, we are comfortable. We are free.

But, are we? I don’t know a single woman my age who can truly enjoy casual sex. Or, as it is known, NSA (no strings attached). That guy who stands a little too close and touches your arm when he makes a point might look good. He may smell even better. Those familiar, tingly feelings surprise us. It’s thrilling to find out you’ve still got it, right? Another merlot takes the edge off and helps silent that little voice – the one from 1972. The one who makes you feel guilty. Irresponsible. Dangerous. Dirty.

Okay, so maybe the dangerous part can be sort of exciting. It masks the emotional tug-of-war that goes on inside your head. You want this. You need this. It feels good. But you were raised with The Waltons only to wake up and find yourself in the middle of Sex in the City. And Mary Ellen is kicking Carrie’s ass.

You psych yourself out so that the chances of enjoying yourself are diminished, even if you decide to go for it. In a cruel twist of fate, it turns out that the only one who won’t respect you in the morning is…. You!

What’s a girl to do? If you’re patient (and extremely lucky), someone will come along who is willing and able to form the kind of emotional connection you need to allow the physical closeness that follows. I suspect the formula for that chemistry is different for each of us. But, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually find it. Meanwhile, our options are limited. Stock up on batteries. Invest in a rechargeable boyfriend. Join a convent.

Celibacy is highly overrated. At our age, it’s more like use-it-or-lose-it. And, while it remains admirable for our male friends to get laid, I fear that it will never be that way for us.

I hope that our daughters and granddaughters do not face this dichotomy. I pray that they are better equipped to make choices for themselves that do not chip away at their self worth. Perhaps, their brainwashing was more like a light rinse. I want to tell them, “It’s YOUR body. Not society’s. Not your parents’. Not your lover’s. It’s your body and it is amazing. Learn how it works. Test it’s capabilities. Make your own rules and set your own limits. Or don’t. Either way, enjoy it and, most of all, be happy.”

It’s a good message and I think I’ll start reminding myself, telling my single girlfriends. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late for the rest of us. (Shut up, Mary Ellen…)


Last April, I was driving and feeling overwhelmed by the consequences of some recent decisions. I never doubted that they were the best decisions for me, but the weight of them was sometimes unbearable. It caused me to second guess myself and made me feel inadequate and unsure of myself.

In an a effort to shake off the feelings, I stopped for coffee at a busy rest area off the interstate. An elderly woman of small stature was behind me in line. She reminded me of my mother, who had passed away two years earlier. The sudden yearning to talk to her and for her to know what I was going thru was sharp.

As I started to walk away with my coffee, the woman approached me. “I just have to tell you that you are my daughter.” I must have looked taken aback. She smiled and said, “I mean, you are the spitting image of my daughter. And she is a wonderful woman.”

Thanks, Mom.

I arrived at my destination, which was a visit to a friend’s new apartment in Connecticut, where he had moved the week before. A few weeks earlier, he had been at my house as I was packing and preparing to move. I had given him a few things from my house because I was downsizing. While he was visiting, he had needed to sew a button, so I offered him my mother’s sewing basket. Overwhelmed by the need to purge, it was one of the things I had been avoiding getting rid of because it reminded me so much of her. He loved the sewing basket and was pleased, despite it’s broken hinges. Before I gave it to him, though, I removed my mother’s thimble, measuring tape and a bobbin. I wanted them as keepsakes. But he needed the thimble to sew the button, so I returned it to the basket without a word.

When I walked into his apartment, the first thing I saw, among the chaos of unpacked boxes and out of place furniture, was my mother’s sewing basket. It had a prominent position on the table in his otherwise disorderly living room. When I commented that I was happy to see it, he opened it and took out the thimble. “I want you to have this back,” he said, handing it to me. “I bought myself a new one,”

Thanks, again, Mom.

Real is so Rare These Days

You ask “Why do you like me?” I answer that I like you because you are real – more real than anyone else I’ve met. You don’t pretend, you don’t hold anything back. And I like your body. (I can be real, too.)

I’ve thought about it some more. I like the way you vacillate between serious and silly. We tell intimate stories and connect on an emotional level. I share things with you and you listen, putting an arm around me when needed. Minutes later, you are being outrageous and obnoxious. I laugh so hard that I snort. This goes back and forth all evening with no effort. It surprises me at times yet it flows naturally and comfortably.

I love that you are physically affectionate without expectations. We can touch and snuggle honestly because it feels nice and we like each other. There’s no pretense.

I like that you have a history. You’ve loved, you’ve suffered. You’ve made choices that might not have been the best, but you walked away a better man. I like that you recognize and appreciate the same, in me.

I like you because you ask questions such as ‘why do you like me?’ And not just to make conversation – you desire a genuine and honest reply.

You are ambitious and self sacrificing. Yet, you are not a martyr. You are proud of your work, the way you treat people and the way you look in a pair of jeans. You are blunt and crass and then you are tender and insightful. It’s all you. And it’s all real.

Me vs. Hallmark

Don’t get me wrong. I like getting greeting cards. They brighten my day, especially when it’s unexpected.

My objection is to the forced celebratory holidays that seem to require attention to people important to us. Take Valentine’s Day, for example. Billions of dollars spent annually on marketing a day when we are supposed to shower our loved one with flowers, chocolates and dinner. Seriously? If you really love someone, shouldn’t you be demonstrating it on a regular basis? Do you need the calendar to tell you to express yourself by purchasing roses at greatly inflated prices?

Am I missing something?

My children are not allowed to celebrate Mother’s Day. If you want to take me out for breakfast or buy me flowers, I tell them, there are 364 other days in the year when you can do so. If it’s done because of some underlying obligation, it doesn’t really mean much anyway. And if your mom has passed or you never were able to become a mother, the days leading up to it can be downright cruel. Same for Father’s Day. Sort of like Valentine’s Day when you are alone. I could go on, but you get the picture.

I love traditions. Christmas brings me great joy, for instance. But even that is something I keep in my heart throughout the year. Whether you celebrate Jesus or Santa or both, that joy is something you should feel every day – not just on December 25th.

New Year’s is another one. I’m all for setting goals and making resolutions. But shouldn’t we be doing that all of the time? I want to be kissed at midnight, but not only once a year because the calendar demands it. It’s a nice way to usher in any day of the year!

If you care for someone, don’t wait for a designated 24-hour period to show them. Send the card. Buy the flowers. Say ‘I love you.’ Better yet, give the gift of your time and attention. Why wait for a Hallmark holiday? Make the ordinary extraordinary. Everyday.

“What’s new?”

Often people ask me ‘What’s new?’ My response these days is a resounding, ‘Nothing!’ You see, over a period of one year, I made about every major life change possible. By the grace of God and the love of my family and friends, I landed in a good place. The dust, as they say, has settled. Blissfully, nothing is new.

But that’s not entirely true. The transitions that took place last year were obvious. Thankfully, that turmoil appears to have ended, at least for now. There have been some changes, as a result. They’re less noticeable to the naked eye.

Things don’t last. Memories endure.

I no longer cling to material things. I am still sentimental and cherish the precious memories that are attached things. After getting rid of 40 years worth of saved memorabilia, nothing bad happened. Truth is that I didn’t even remember that I had most of it and I have already forgotten some of it (again). The other night, I sorted thru a couple of bins of stuff that survived the dumpster a year ago. I laughed out loud at myself, recalling how torturous each decision was. Now, I found myself wondering about my rationale at saving it. As the saying goes, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Embrace uncertainty. Trust the wait.

I’ve always been a planner. I like to know what to expect. So, when everything about my future was unknown and somewhat out of my control, it was difficult. There were times when I felt deeply anguished over an offer on my house that fell thru or a job interview that did not yield employment. Hindsight showed me that there were good reasons for those failures. Something better was, in fact, on it’s way to me. Now I know this: When you have nothing is when you have the most of one crucial thing – possibility.

Endings are really beginnings in disguise.

It’s easy (and human nature) to look at the things we’ve lost. The void is a painful reminder that cannot always be filled. When I find myself mourning one of those things, I allow a limited time for grieving. Then, I think about all of the things that have come into my life because of that loss. I have learned to ask for help and to count on my friends, thus enriching those treasured relationships. There are people in my life now whom I would never have met, otherwise. My professional abilities have been stretched and renewed in ways that make me feel useful and valuable. I’ve watched my children grow less dependent upon me and more independent and resourceful. Blessings, every one.

You really can do anything.

My mother always told me so but I figured she was biased. While all of this was going on around me, I put my mind to maintaining a few things that were sacred to me and that I did not want to lose. While I had every excuse to put them on the back burner, I chose to pursue them. I continued to write and had two pieces (a short story and a poem) published. I successfully auditioned for the Old Fiddlers Club of RI. In my heart, I knew that these were things I wanted to take with me into my new life. I thought that I was saving my writing and my music. It turned out that they were saving me. These small, personal accomplishments glowed brightly during an otherwise dark period of my life.

Not to say that I don’t have difficult moments. Life renovations cause emotional whiplash that rears its ugly head when least expected. But it also offers valuable lessons. I see the world a bit differently these days. And that’s a good thing.

Empty hanger

I once read an analogy between dating and the shirts hanging in your closet. Everyone has that one, comfortable shirt. It’s not your favorite. But it’s warm. Or, maybe it’s the only one that fits right now. You’re constantly shopping for a better shirt. You might even try on some new ones. But when you really need a shirt, you reach for the faithful one. You don’t treasure it. You believe that there is a nicer shirt, one that fits you even better. You just haven’t found it yet. This one will do nicely, for now.

I am that shirt. I am reliable, cozy and warm. Sometimes I’m fun to wear. I fit you nicely. But you don’t love me. You’re still shopping. When you find what you’re looking for, you’ll forget about me.

But here’s the catch: The next time you reach into your closet, you’ll find an empty hanger. I’ll be gone.