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Quitting doesn't always equal failure

June 11, 2011

I grew up believing that quitting was paramount to failure. That's not to say that I've never quit a project, a job, or a relationship, because I have.  I just haven't let go without beating myself up with guilt and/or second-guessing my decision, not only in terms of the consequences, but also in terms of what quitting said about me as a person.

The belief that quitting equals failure doesn't take into consideration that some people, myself included, tend to overcommit, which by definition means that we've taken on more than we can comfortably do. While our intentions may be pure and our motives just, there are only so many hours in the day. By the time you deduct the time necessary to take care of the essential business of daily living, there's only so much time left for anything else. 

Then there's the issue of goals and desires.  Things change, and so do people.  The dream job that inspired us at 30 may no longer excite the flames of passion at 50.  People change, and so does technology, the workplace, and the economy.  Even if we still love the professions we chose, circumstances may dictate course corrections in order to survive financially in today's marketplace.  Friendships that worked years ago may no longer be compatible with the person we've become as we've matured and learned life lessons the hard way. Our definitions of success may have changed along with our understanding about what truly matters in life.

Thanks to a recent article by Laurie at Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals, I'm reminded that not only is it OK to let go of dreams, desires, and even commitments we may have made to ourselves or others in the past, quitting may even be healthy.

So, if there's a character flaw involved in quitting, perhaps it's in taking on more than we can accomplish in the first place, recognizing the reality of our current situation, or an acknowledgement of the ways in which we've changed an grown...rather than a lack of commitment or completion issues.  At least I'd like to think so.

Gardening it forward

May 22, 2011

Yesterday I struck up a conversation with a women in the gardening department at Home Depot. After talking about our respective gardens for a while (hers being much more established than mine) she said she was going home to thin out some of her favorite flowers and had been trying unsuccessfully to find a good home for them. She asked if I lived nearby, and if so, if I might be interested.  Absolutely!

A few hours later she was showing me her lovely gardens, full of beautiful flowers and plants I'd never seen before.  And, she had already prepared about 10 different cuttings for me to bring home.  I offered to pay her, but she smiled and said "No, this is what gardeners do.  When it's time, you can pay it forward from your gardens."

What a beautiful gift and a more beautiful challenge to pay it forward.

Reframing Mistakes

May 7, 2011

I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, many small, but some huge. I've spent a lot of time replaying those mistakes over and over, beating myself up and asking all sorts of questions for which there aren't any answers.

I'm beginning to realize that all the condemnation and recrimination in the world won't make those "mistakes" go away. I'm also beginning to realize that I may be doing myself and my spirit a serious disservice by attaching value judgments to past decisions. The intrepretations I attached to them were much worse than the decisions themselves were. They were not "good" or "bad", they just were.

Would I have made different choices and done a lot of things differently if I knew then what I know now?  Of course I would. But therein lies the point... IF I'd known then what I know now... the simple truth is that I didn't.

I have to accept, and live with, the consequences of my choices, all of them. But I don't have to continue to beat myself up because of them. Through God's grace, and the process of healing, I'm learning to realize that I did the best I could at the time. I didn't knowingly make decisions that would cause pain for me or others. If I'd had the wisdom, patience, strength, or courage to make healthier choices I would have. God knows that and He has forgiven me. Now it's time for me to forgive myself.

Photo by eggman at

Patience pays

May 4, 2011

I spent at least 4 hours over the past weekend searching for a 42" TV.  Never mind that I need a new TV like a need a hole in the head, but I really wanted one.  It's been a very challenging winter on several fronts and I needed something tangible to boost my spirits and remind me that I'm not making all the sacrifices I'm making for nothing.

By Sunday afternoon I was so frustrated and exhausted with the process of trying to figure out which TV was the best value that I was ready to buy anything - just to be able to be done with it so I could go home and watch a movie.  Everytime I made a decision, I found out that the TV I'd chosen wasn't available in-stock, or they only had one left and the stand was missing. Great.

Thankfully that small still voice, confirmed by a friend who'd come along to help me get my new TV home, convinced me that perhaps the reason I was having so much trouble with this decision was because that was not the time to make the purchase.  Of course that only made me more frustrated, but I resisted the urge to buy one anyway, and went home.

By yesterday I felt ready to try again.  I made a few phone calls and realized that model I was leaning towards was no longer available and the next closest model was $75 more.  When I got to the store determined to buy this one while I had the chance, something amazing happened.  I found a similar TV, with double the Hz speed (refresh rate) for $200 less!  I got the TV set-up last night and discovered that I love it.  I am a very satisfied customer, but more importantly, I am again humbled by the lessons God teaches us in the most unexpected ways.  He's always talking. It's up to us to listen.

Love really is a verb

April 16, 2011

It's not often that a blog post moves me to tears, but this one did. In it, WillThink4Wine  writes so eloquently about the true meaning of love. I couldn't agree with her more when she writes that "I believe that when someone really loves you, really values you deeply, the words "I Love You" need never be spoken. You will feel the love, all the way to the core of your being."

I was reminded of the night I finally realized my marriage was over. I'd asked my husband if he loved me. He thought about it for a while (not a good sign), and then he said "Love is the most overused and misunderstood word in the English language." I remember wishing that he'd just stabbed me with a knife. I think it would have hurt less. The fact that he couldn't answer the question directly told me all I needed to know at that time. Since then, I've realized that what was more significant was the fact that I needed to ask the question at all. He was being as honest and he knew how to be. And as painful as it was in that moment, and in the weeks and months to come, his honesty saved me from a lifetime of pain.

Thankfully, I've moved on, both emotionally and spiritually. And by the grace of God, I now know that I am capable of giving and receiving love, from the right people in the right circumstances. WillThink4Wine's post reminded me to embrace my relationships with an open mind and an open heart, remembering that not everybody who says "I love you" really does, and that sometimes those who really do, don't say it with those words. It also reminded me that the same holds true for me.

Photo by Fe 108AUMS at

Loneliness hurts

April 14, 2011

I saw the headline of an article earlier this week that suggests that having a "broken heart" can be physically painful. I think the same is true of profound loneliness.

I think there's a common misconception about what loneliness looks like.  That may be why so many people are in denial about their own loneliness or the loneliness of the people around them who appear to be anything but lonely.

Yes, I have friends, but most of my closest friends live too far away to be able to visit. Yes, I have hobbies and interests (both old and new) that occupy a lot of my time. Yes, I'm employed and interact with colleagues and clients every day. Yes, thankfully, my mother is alive and well and lives nearby so we talk almost every day. Yes, I enjoy solititude, at times, and I enjoy my own company (although I haven't always).  How, then, could I possibly feel lonely?

A busy life does not always equate with a fulfilling one.  Most of my days are as busy as I want (or need) them to be, and there are plenty of people that I could spend time with if I want to.  But that's not what I want.  What I want is companionship, a sense of connection and emotional intimacy. I want to go to a great movie and then talk about it for hours over dinner. I want to cook a great meal, knowing that someone is there to share it with me.  I want to listen to jazz, and maybe even dance, at a dimly lit jazz club. I want to play Scrabble late into the night, with someone who can actually beat me some of the time. I want to share my thoughts, my dream,s and my fears with someone who'll listen with open ears and an open heart. I want to give of myself to someone who'll appreciate my efforts and not take me for granted. I want to have plans to look forward to next weekend or next month. I want to make memories.

Can't I go to a movie, cook a good meal, listen to great music, e-mail my friends, or play Scrabble on my computer by myself? Of course I can.  And I do. I can also knit, read, take pictures, blog, surf the net and work on one of the many book projects that I have planned. And I do. Some days I'm perfectly fine with that, but even then, I'm still lonely as hell. It's as if I'm all dressed up, with nowhere to go. I think Vincent van Gogh summed it up when he said that "One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it."

Photo by Rogerio Zgiet on

The hypocrisy of false positives

February 14, 2011

I've always prided myself on being one who sees the glass as being half full rather than half empty.  No matter what the circumstances, I've always been able to find the silver lining and convince myself that happier days were right around the corner.

In recent weeks I've come to question that strategy.  I'm beginning to wonder if as a society we do ourselves a disservice by insisting that presenting a positive spin to the world, and to ourselves, is the only appropriate way to get through a difficult period in our lives.

Why do we think less of people who are unable to remain upbeat and optimistic when their lives are falling apart around them?  Why do we rush to repeat callous cliches like "It could be worse," "This too shall pass," or "Nobody said life was fair"?  Have those declarations, and others like them, ever made any person feel any better?  It's doubtful.

How many times have we been told, or told our children, that if we study hard, play by all the rules, and do our best, that we can do and be anything?  I'm certain there are countless un- and under-employed people with advanced degrees who'd beg to differ.  The world is full of people who have studied hard, worked hard, withstood the odds, done their best, and still can't find a decent job.

How often have we perpetrated the myth of Cinderella and her dashing Prince, convincing our precious daughters, and our own wounded selves, that if we are loving enough, patient enough, or giving enough, our Prince will come and we'll live happily ever after.  The world is full of wonderful, loving, caring people, both men and women, whose hearts have been broken time and time again.

I understand the philosophy behind positive thinking, and I can clearly see the downside of thinking negatively, but why must the only two options be the extremes?  While expecting the worst all the time would be terribly depressing, most of us know that our worst fears rarely come to fruition, which means that we're bound to be pleasantly surprised at least some of the time.  On the other hand, constantly expecting the best, only to be disappointed time and time again, gets to be terribly depressing after a while too.

Here's a novel concept.  Instead of wasting time trying to figure out whether I should be perceiving the glass as half empty or half full, maybe I'll just see the glass as it is.  And the next time I want to "help" someone who's feeling down about their circumstances to snap out of it, I'll simply let them know I hear them and wish them well.

UPDATE:  I wrote this post yesterday.  Today I was reading posts on a writer forum I belong to and a woman wrote that she had just been diagnosed with a rapidly metastasizing form of breast cancer.  A well-meaning person wrote back "Just remember... this too shall pass." I'm sure the guy didn't mean it the way it sounded, but when someone is fighting a potentially fatal disease, does it really help to remind them that this too shall PASS?  This is exactly what I'm talking about.  Why is it that we've become so quick to put a positive spin on everything, no matter how difficult or painful, that we lose common sense and decency?

Photo by Mr. Keef

2009 ·New Calling by TNB