Decisions

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So I’ve taken more time off than thought I would from my blog and  the promise (to myself) that I would write consistently no matter what. Maybe the lack of motivation was due to the myriad of political nonsense we have to endure every night on the news, maybe the lack of topics to address through this blog was associated with being saturated with so many people’s opinions on social media and not wanting to be another one who thinks she is right. Tired of repeating what I have said out loud..ntot wanting to put those words online… Whatever the reason for my poor enthusiasm, I am back, sort of…

I have been focusing my energies onto other causes and avoiding discussing politics with friends (worse thing you could ever do) or co-workers (do you want a new enemy at work?) but somehow during election year it is very difficult to truly avoid addressing this topic. I do feel I have to comment even so briefly so you might not fall asleep, because it is an important election and because I am a voting citizen too.  Basically what I want to say is pleaseee people get a grip ! Do not follow just to follow.

Think about your choices and think hard about the consequences of those choices. Just because someone says what they think without any filter or regards for others, you need to pay attention to their volatile and impulsive attitude. You need to think what will their extreme self-confidence do to a nation like ours. Do not forget previous leader with such demeanor. remember Hugo Chavez and what he did to Venezuela? Self-assurance, arrogance and poor political experience does not guarantee a good president. All these wonderful traits can actually do great harm with foreign policy and international economic affairs. This type of person can and will offend world leaders, nations, individuals of diverse races and religious beliefs. This type of person can take us into more wars and international problems we could face. Think about that!

Yes, I know some of you say do we have better options? The options may be limited but we have the opportunity to ensure that it doesn’t get worse. We need a leader who can understand diplomacy, who can make decisions with long preparation, think things through, rely on other’s feedback and counsel when necessary. Being auto sufficient in this position is not desired. We need someone who will not change their mind later saying they were only suggestions. That’s weak. Yes, I got suggestions too. Everyone does. But do not say this is your plan of action, get everyone excited or angry and then oops it is just a suggestion.

We all know this person’s suggestions are absurd and not feasible. Also we know these suggestions will only cause harm and more hate towards the United States. We need someone who can unified the nation with common goals, who will continue to support health care for everyone, with access to services and to education. We need someone who can support women’s autonomy and not punish women for their reproductive decisions. Someone who will not make fun of another’s physical disability. Someone who will listen and respect other’s opinions. We need someone who will ensure billionaires are taxed and both working class and middle class citizens are given an opportunity to thrive.

Yes, it is a difficult election year…so many decisions…so few choices…but there are choices. Think about them…carefully.

 

 

 

New year, new promises

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A new year is here, you make new promises, new resolutions and new intents to make your lives better but after a few weeks of 2016 you would go back to the usual routine and most of you will forget all those promises made. It’s normal, it happens to all of us, I done it dozens of time. But here’s the deal: Having a resolution, a goal for the New Year is very healthy; it makes us feel more enthusiastic about getting older and the prospects of a new tomorrow. Otherwise people get nostalgic for the past, the better part of their past and things that may have not gone so well.

Yes, you’re older, a little fatter, a little grayer, and perhaps you did not achieve everything you would have like. But guess what? It’s never too late, really…so knowing you have another whole year to do it is encouraging. It gets your engines going full speed to look forward to new experiences and new adventures. The only thing is to keep one motivated, how do you accomplish it? One good way to keep track of your steps to get to your final goals is to document it. Yes, call it a diary or a journal, or even an agenda / calendar where you write your daily mini-goals for the week. The mini-goals are the smaller steps you can take to accomplish your final objective. The steps that you have to take to get you there are more important that the ultimate goal (losing weight for instance).

Keeping track of what you want is a good way not to forget what you decided in December and also will help to keep you motivated. Journal entry: Monday January 4th – go to the gym for instance. Checked !  that little check mart at the end of the day will feel great, the more check marks the better you will feel. Yes, go ahead and write your thoughts/feelings if you want, after all it is your journal. Next day the same thing and keep going, before you know it you get there. Want another job? January 4th, go online, post update and post resume. Look and apply to 10 jobs. Checked! January 5th, go online and apply to 10 more jobs, checked! Before you realize you have done much more than expected, you will get the interviews and then a new job for 2016.

Anyways you get the idea.  Writing your goals, keeping track of them, it helps to make your resolutions much more tangible, they become more real and it gets you to do something about it every single day. So if you want to keep your new year’s promises, make yourself have a purpose to get there. Make a plan, keep track of it and do not surrender, even when you may skip a day from your to-do lists, or you may forget to write in your agenda, forgive yourself and do it the next day, you will see that having a small break doesn’t mean you have to give up for the entire year otherwise you’ll be making the same resolutions for 2017.

The grass is greener…

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I had a wonderful winter vacation in the city that never sleeps: New York City. Yes, people everywhere in a hurry to get somewhere. Nobody sees you, nobody talks to you but there are more opportunities to interact with others: at the store, at the subway, the park, with the taxi driver, the doorman, anyone. And everyone walks firmly and hurriedly. Everyone appears to have no time to waste. I loved the diversity, everyone came from another country, I did not meet one American born person there. The diversity is so large you learn from so many different cultures and countries. All the accents, the different cultures and all the races, you can never get bored. The noise, the constant honking of cars, the bad city smell, the cold weather, the rain (no snow this year), all of it was wonderful and exciting. Why did I like it so much? Well perhaps because here in California there’s none of it. Nobody walks in LA. Just like the song. Everyone keeps driving, people are more patient as we have learned we have no choice when stuck in traffic and well, the weather is always sunny and appealing consequently we can’t complain too much.

California has been my home since I came to the USA in the late 80’s. I didn’t think California was too different from what I used to know, I lived in a beach town before and so coming to Santa Barbara was similar in a way. Then I moved to Los Angeles (Glendale to be exact), and yes there’s some diversity but you mostly meet people from the same 2-3 countries that have immigrated here. You get used to it and don’t get curious anymore. And traffic was something else too, many cars, many long lines sitting in traffic but I learned to cope with it and be patient. Always safe in my car, socializing is minimal in California going long distances have been the norm, commuting to work every morning. After work, my neighborhood is so quiet, and now that I moved a little further east from Los Angeles, it’s so quiet at night. If we want to do anything we better get out before 7pm. People go to sleep so early in CA. So whenever I travel to NYC because is so contrary of what I know here, it attracts me and that’s what I like now: the noise of the city. I like that it’s 11 pm at night and I can go out for a drink or something to eat and it won’t be scary or lonely, it will be crowded.

We tend to like what we don’t have. The phrase the grass is always greener on the other side is so very true and it can be applied in most areas of our lives. The other job, the other family, the other car, I could go on and on. Why is that? Well, because we become accustomed to things. We get in a routine and whenever we can get out of the routine, it’s attractive. It’s special. So that’s why we love to vacation, because we can break away from the day to day predictability. Yes. I still think I may like the city more than the country side but if I lived in the city I would probably complain about the noise or the crowds and then I would take a vacation to a nice beach town where’s no noise, where everyone goes to sleep by 8pm. That’s human nature, and is good to know this so whenever I want something else I can remind myself of what’s like when I take a vacation. Then I can ponder a little longer before deciding if I really want that other thing that I don’t have or if I can water the grass a little more…

 

Now what?

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After hearing of yet another shooting it has become apparent that people no longer see it as rare and infrequent. It’s unfortunate that we have come to think of these events as just another tragic situation in our society. We are in a war zone or so it seems, we’re expecting these events to occur at any time anywhere but when it gets so close we get frightened. We worry about our safety and the safety of others. We cannot process why someone would do this. But they have. They did it and we may never truly comprehend their motives. Then we worry what are we doing, as a society? What matters now is how we respond, what we do from now on. I know Americans will not give up their guns and gun control is a very sensitive issue in this country. But the reality is pretty simple: it is too easy to arm yourself with weaponry and enough ammunition to go into a battlefield. Not one person needs that many bullets for self-defense. Really.

The argument of the right to bear arms was appropriate and reasonable over 100 years ago. I do not believe it makes sense now. People killing others have become so easy that very few people are actually using their guns for self-protection or for leisure pursuit. These people buying rifles and all kinds of weapons are not going to the shooting range for fun; they are going into public places to murder innocent bystanders for no worthy reason. It is heartbreaking, inconceivable and it has to stop.

Prayers will truly not end this situation. We are getting into a civil war zone. Are we expecting everyone to carry guns when they go out now? But not one person had a gun to defend themselves at the recreation center this time. What if they did? How many mass shooting turned out better by having other people with guns there? How that last shooting would look like? More death? More blood? More misery and discontent? I doubt it would have avoided the massive attack. I doubt less death would have been the result. People have to start making the change. No more violence. More education, more prevention, more support for mental health, more background checks for all and less emphasis on having a gun at home. Having a gun isn’t a right you need to fight for. Having access to mental health services is a right to fight for. Having access to resources and protection is a right you have to fight for. Having your workplace be safe is a right to fight for. Going out in the street and feeling safe is a right to fight for. Having our family be safe is your right, fight for it! Safety is your right. Safety is worth fighting for, not gun ownership.

 

Guilt

guilt_carry-manGuilt can slowly consume you until you cannot longer bear it. Guilt is one of those emotions you cannot truly explain or describe. Dictionary.com says Guilt is “the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability” and “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined”

Pay attention to the last line “whether real or imagine”. Our perception over the problem is what makes us feel guilty. In psychology it’s the sense that you did something either right or wrong but you did something and you cannot help but think about the effect that something had on someone else. It is cognitive. People think they caused harm. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with a crime. That’s not what I’m writing about. That’s a completely different type of culpability. I am referring to the guilt you feel because you might have hurt someone’s feelings or their ability to see you as they did before. Guilt over your behaviors (overspending, lying, manipulating someone into doing something you wanted, misbehaving, cheating on someone, or cheating on your diet, etc). The outcome is the same; you hurt someone psychologically or even physically. That someone can no longer see you with the same consideration. They may see you now with disappointment, bitterness and resentment. You may see yourself with these emotions as well; addicts do whenever they relapse and the guilt weights on them.

Guilt is so powerful that is the only emotions that can lead you to feel grief and misery. It is a death. The loss of someone, the loss of the relationship you had with that someone. Their love and caring feelings towards you have changed and will no longer be the same. The loss of your development. The loss of your self-worth. The loss of your tranquility and harmony. Your guilt has turned into grief, the cost of your responsibility, your burden and remorse for what you have done.

People will always and undoubtly regret many things in life, they may regret the trips not taken, the adventures not fulfilled or the jobs that didn’t work out and then of course the relationships they left behind. But regretting can be a passive feeling of inconsequential outcomes and in a way it’s safe because with regret you can still move on. You can perhaps do something to remedy the bad experience and it’s likely that it may help to lessen the guilt. In time it may become just a bad memory. However, there are times when you cannot undo the past, cannot undo the event that led you to feel this way. The guilt stays and doesn’t let you forget. How can one alleviate that feeling of guilt? In those cases there a few things I believe might help reduce your guilt feelings:

In cognitive therapy if you change the way you think then you can change your feelings. We try to help patients eliminate their negative thoughts which cause them to suffer. The negative automatic thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety can be changed but it takes practice. Here are few suggestions:

Stop Catastrophizing things, is done. Nothing worse will happen (hopefully). Take action: If you can apologize, DO IT NOW. If you can do anything to make it better DO IT NOW. Stop thinking how badly the situation is, stop thinking there’s no remedy. Do amends if possible and remember nothing lasts forever, not even the bad things.

Then forgive yourself. You made a mistake, you are only human. You had no intention to purposely to do this (say cruel things, not loaning money to a needy friend, being disloyal to your spouse, not supportive of a friend, whatever that event was). Be kind to yourself. You are learning. We all are. Recognize this will not happen again, you have the ability to do better next time. You will do better. Positive self-talk.

Talk about it. Do not let it eat you. You need to express it somehow e.g. Talk, write, sing, draw, color, anything to get it out there. Be honest, be sincere.

Lastly, if you are experiencing severe grief and depression that becomes impairing in your day to day life, seek professional help. Talking to a counselor or therapist will be essential in regaining mental health.

No!

It’s ideal to take a break every so often to reflect on your relationships and determine if what you have it’s constructive to your life. It’s important to recognize when a relationship does not bring positive energy into your being and actually causes you to feel unhappy and distressed. For instance a bad marriage, or a dreadful working relationship or even a childhood friendship that no longer makes sense. Then we know it’s time to walk away, to start over, to be honest with ourselves and with them. However there are other relationships that are a little bit more complicated to abandon.

I am talking about one type of relationship that it’s very difficult to breakup with: The Acquaintance. Yes, you heard it right. That friendly stranger you keep running into is the most problematic person to breakup with. You know what I’m talking about; we have all been there at least once. You don’t know how to politely tell them you’re no longer interested, you don’t’ care to see them or to call them or to go out with them. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? So you avoid them, you don’t call them, you don’t invite them, you don’t feel curious about their lives and try to send the message without telling them directly that you have nothing in common. I mean if you have shared an event, a school life i.e. Grad school, a neighborhood, a common family friend and got along well, maybe a friendship could have developed but it never really did. After school (or any other common thing you had), you don’t have a bond anymore. Yet, you don’t tell them this and you pretend to be friends with them. You do your best not to hurt their feelings and somehow you end up responding and agreeing to go out with them. You smile, you make small talk, you ask how they are and you try to share enough to have a friendly date. Then you realize (for whatever reason) why you didn’t want to go out with them in the first place. Sounds familiar?

I asked people why it is so difficult to break up with an acquaintance. It is more challenging than breaking up with a lover they said. If you never had a quarrel or a bad experience with them it’s almost impossible to tell them “sorry but I really don’t like you, please don’t call me”. How rude and harsh would that be? But it would be honest. It would be sincere. Can people be as sincere without hurting feelings? How can one tell the other person that no deeper connection will come out of this relationship?  Here are some of my suggestions and with a bit of luck you don’t feel too guilty:

Since you only see each other sporadically and you don’t have an emotional investment, be okay with not answering calls, and be okay with sending a text (the less confrontational way) and say No. No is simple, is real, and is fine. No, I don’t want to go to the party. No, I can’t attend the meeting today.

Accept that No is a clear and authentic answer without going into a lot of details. The more details, the more excuses you will have and thus not being honest with the person. They will get the message (eventually).

Sometimes an email or a letter may be the best way to express your thoughts and allow the other person to take their time and review their response. It may be necessary with certain types of acquaintances such as a co-worker or a neighbor that you cannot completely avoid. Word of advice be clear, be considerate, ensure you’re not being self-justifying, or offensive. Do not be too apologetic either and remember that no matter how you do it people can feel rejected and disappointed. They will not like it at first but it’s only temporary. Let them know you rather keep the relationship professional at work or neighborly. Let them know that you have decided you will not socialize for personal reasons. No more particulars. “I thank you for the invitation but I rather keep to myself”. Or “I prefer not to attend” or something like that. Be firm. Do not say “maybe next time”. Be okay with this, you have the right to set boundaries. After all you have no emotional connection, you are breaking up with an acquaintance remember?

Meow…

IMG_3027I was reading about a cat café that I want to visit when I go to New York City this year. Asia and other cultures around the world are accustomed to Cat Cafes all over; here in the U.S. is still a novelty. As many excited people there were in line when the first café opened, there were many others who couldn’t fathom the idea and couldn’t understand what the fuss what all about.  Cat lovers are all over the world, and for those who can’t appreciate felines or understand the interest in them, I know going to a café with cats roaming around isn’t ideal.

After all cats have a much undeserved reputation (I think dog people initiated this). Cats are said to be discourteous (ignore our attention-seeking attempts, won’t respond to our calls to come here, come here). Cats can be arrogant (will walk gracefully around us, will dismiss us if not happy by slowly walking away), are easily irritated (get upset and scratch us until we bleed, will attack us in revenge if bothered) and of course they are self-centered (will approach us for some well-deserved petting, please scratch here, more there, and leave me alone, we’re finished). You know this, don’t you?  Yes, it’s a little true, after all cats tend to be autonomous and egocentric (hours of grooming, eating and sleeping), right?

Don’t worry this is not an essay on why cats are cool. I am not going to list the many reasons why cats are so loved around the world or the many talents they actually possess.  I am not going to tell you why we love them. You wouldn’t be interested, either you do or don’t know.  Cat people recognize the extra qualities and no bad reputation will stop them from adoring their cats.  After all cats are mysterious creatures that have always been treated like royalty (ask the Egyptians scholars).  However I wanted to focus on why people are so divided on this… I figured there must be a true human reason behind the hostility some feel towards these beautiful felines.

I started thinking why is it that some people are receptive to the idea of having a pet, any pet except a cat. That one’s personality, background, ways of thinking and sensitivity plays a part in choosing a pet, especially choosing a cat. People have always said cat people are crazy. Why is that? Is it because cats can never demonstrate the same loyalty and appreciation a dog could? And why have a pet that won’t love you back? Or so they said but that’s a different argument (my cat loves me by the way).

Yes, cat owners are a little eccentric themselves. I recognize that many of my cat people are a little odd but I don’t think is reasonable to simplify and generalize this, after all I am not peculiar (wink wink). But in all seriousness, I believe people have the tendency to misjudge cats for the same reason why certain people come across as being bigoted, intolerant or xenophobic:  Anxiety. Yes Anxiety (apprehension, fear, worry, concern, doubt).  These people might not be prejudiced, but they’re anxious of the unknown.

We humans are anxious of the unfamiliar; we worry about what to expect, we fear not being reciprocated with the same affection and dedication we demonstrate. We doubt we want to invest in something that may or may not give us return in the end. We are apprehensive in trying to understand the meaning of other’s unfamiliar behaviors, afraid they might hurt us, we don’t know their language (both verbal and body language), and the diverse cultures, beliefs and values they may have.  I know this analogy may not click with everyone, but if you think rationally, you will see the parallels in one’s thinking patterns, one’s life attitude and the way one reacts with felines friends. If one is not  willing to know others, to learn about others, to communicate with others, how can one formulate a reasonable conclusion?

Yes I have simplified my personal social analysis about humanity but I tell you that once you get to know someone and learn from them, you can understand their individuality and at that time you will no longer be fearful of them. You will appreciate them in a much better way… yes! You can be a cat person too (we’re still talking about cats, right?  🙂

Trust Yourself

I often wonder when I listen to my clients complain about their relationships, why has it been so easy to stop talking to their sister or brother for something they said or did at Thanksgiving dinner 3 years ago and yet so difficult to do the same with this other person who has hurt them over and over again.
People have the most difficult time letting go of romantic relationships. They have an easier time distancing themselves from blood relatives than from a complete stranger. Let’s face the facts, your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend or wife is not related to you. Really. They’re not your family. They don’t have any blood relation to you. They didn’t grow up with you. They didn’t share your childhood, your dreams and aspirations or your life until recently. Your best friend probably did most of it (listened to you, heard you cried, advise you, cheered you, supported you) until you replaced them for your significant other (not healthy I tell you but that’s another topic). And maybe you didn’t have the perfect family so you cling to your partner.

Nevertheless you think your bond is so strong and unbreakable because you shared some significant experiences with them that now it’s unbearable for you to let go. Yes, human connections are complex. Having shared happy experiences can create a deep connection. I get it.

Sharing time together, creating memories, celebrations, life-experiences and other romantic moments can and does create a solid connection. Having children with someone is a stout union of course. But if you know it isn’t healthy for you or the children why can’t you break away? Especially if you add the negative experiences to the history you shared (violence, cheating, insults, and lack of empathy, insensitive comments, and a myriad of other things that are making you unhappy).

Then answer may seem cliché but oh so spot-on. The reason you cannot let go of a romantic relationship not matter how bad and destructive it can be, it’s only due to lack of self-love.

You really cannot love anyone unless you love yourself first. Family relationships are protected, secured, you know you’ll have them forever but outsiders are different. You can’t let go because who else will love you? Poor little you. You don’t realize you own strength. Listen: This will not break you.

You need to love yourself first. Self-love has to come over any love for another. That’s the only way to break from harmful patterns e.g. the woman whose husband has been cheating for the last 10 years, she had become pregnant two more times after a brief separation and now she cannot move out because of the children. Does she love the husband or even her children? She doesn’t love herself that’s for sure. Or the woman whose husband attempted suicide because she’s having an affair, and she’s pregnant by this other man. Does the husband love her? The answer is No. He doesn’t love himself.

If you learn to love yourself it means you respect yourself not to be mistreated, not be humiliated, and not be unloved. Your life does not depend on this other person loving you. You will be a better person, a more lovable person if you have respect for yourself. How? I can’t!  you might say, so I tell you what I tell my clients Do things for you. Because of you. Enjoy your family and friends again. Remember what you can do on your own. You can and should be your favorite person. Use words wisely, they’re seeds and they can attract something greater. Stop saying you can’t.

Do think and act positive to produce positive things. Trust your ability to build a meaningful life and then you’ll see…,