Friday, 19 February 2010

Take The Plunge


My "starting over" time was in January--a perfect time for new beginnings don't you agree? A time when most of us start new diets, join the gym, write a new goal list, and so on. New beginnings, fresh, exciting—a great time to begin again. I spent this past New Year’s Day in my new home which sits on its own little perch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was in December, about a decade ago when I packed up my family, my personal belongings, and my pets and moved from our familiar and long-time residence, saying good-bye to wonderful friends, dear family members, and successful business relationships. Leaving a comfort zone I’d lived in for the past 15 years. Why, you may wonder? Because it was time—a time to move forward—a time for change. It was a time for starting over.

Starting over can be scary. Have you ever lost a job, or moved across the country, or ended a relationship? Yes, starting over can be hard and can even be frightening, and even sometimes painful, but it can be the best time of your life. The key is your attitude. While change can be sometimes difficult, change can also be beneficial. New opportunities will be presented for your personal growth and development. It is a wonderful time to re-examine other areas in your life. What other changes might you need to make to live a healthier, happier, and more satisfying life?

Starting over can be exciting! You don’t have to move, leave your job, or change your career to gain the benefits of starting over. You can start over today, right where you are, and begin to create the life you dream of living. When we really understand our ability to direct our lives where we want it to go it’s pretty empowering!


If you are anything like me, you might have postponed making some changes you need to make in your life. What have you put off because you are afraid, have been discouraged by others, or have failed at in the past? Examples might include pursuing an acting career, starting a catering business, or even getting married again. Get up close to your fear and examine it in detail. What is at the root of your fear of pursuing an acting career, for example? Is it your high- school drama teacher's criticism of your acting technique that has stuck with you all these years? Get a different perspective. That was only one person's opinion. Perhaps he/she was having a bad day when they lashed out at you and your work. If necessary, take more acting classes until you feel more confident in your ability.

Honor your dreams. Begin by taking a deep breath and resolving to see it through once and for all. This requires a shift in attitude of course. Act as if your happiness (and your life) depends on it. It does, doesn't it? Promise yourself that you will do whatever it takes to change the things that make you feel like you aren't living up to your dreams, up to your potential to live a joyful, fulfilling life. Do it so that you can look at yourself in a new way - with pride and respect. Prove to yourself that you are not a quitter and that you are capable of creating your own happiness.


Sometimes starting over can mean letting go of old ideas, negative thinking, or bad habits. And sometimes that may mean you have to reach out to others for help. The first step in any change is admitting you have a habit or problem in your life that is neither healthy nor conducive to real happiness is, as you well know, the first step to positive change. Whether the habit is smoking, drug or alcohol addiction, or overeating, you need to get help overcoming it. Physical and/or emotional abuse, while not physical addictions per se, can however be seen as emotional habits which may need outside intervention in order for you to get out of and avoid future abusive relationships.

The second hardest step is asking for help because pride, ego, shame, embarrassment, etc. can keep you trapped in your harmful habits. Someone I know recently said, “My pride and ego are killing me.” And in this case, no truer words were ever spoken. To reach out and ask for help, to admit to others that you can’t overcome whatever it is that stands between you and your happiness or peace of mind can be hard. You need to be very strongly motivated. One way to do this is to keep your focus on the benefits of giving up your habit, of not having to smoke, drink, gamble, or do drugs. Focus on the freedom from your habit. What will you be free to do? Exercise, get out of debt, or pursue a new career?

Your life is up to you. Prove it by kicking that bad habit once and for all. How many of your decisions in the past were made based on whether or not you could smoke, where you could smoke, and how often you could smoke, for example? How much of your life is determined by a habit (or habits) that is keeping you stuck and unhappy? That is even killing you?


It is true that life can throw us curves and it seems that how quickly we can "recover" can often be the difference between crashing and staying the course. I don't know much about race car driving, but I did once know a driver. He told me that one of the first things they teach you is how to "look forward" and instead of concentrating on the trouble you may find yourself in, look up the road, ahead, to the place you want to go. I have tried to live with a similar philosophy.

While many people have told me I am strong, I often felt like a coward, without the courage to "live in the moment" when the moment seemed too tragic. I got pretty good at looking at the road ahead. While it served its purpose during those times in my life, those habits or beliefs later created problems for me. I would not describe myself so much as strong as I would brave. Today I too am trying to live in the moment. To look neither too far ahead, nor back, but to sit still in what is… and that is the now. It is a different take on life for me and has required some effort on my part. Old habits can be challenging to break however the tougher the challenge, the greater the benefit!

My mentor, Arlene, once told me I could start my day over at anytime. Today, if I catch myself ‘acting out’ in an old behavior or bad habit, I can stop and start over right that minute and I must tell you that there have been days I have started over several times!

What about you? If you could create the life you’ve always dreamed of, where would you start? What changes would be necessary to make those dreams come true? What steps would you need to start with? What can you do today? How would you feel at this very moment if you were living that life? Would the effort to make the changes be worth the result?


1. How do you feel about starting over? Do you see it as a wonderful second or third chance to make your dreams come true? Or do you see it as just another attempt that is doomed to fail? Check your attitude and get to the root of your fears. Your success depends on it.

2. What dream do you want to pursue but have given up on? Why? Be honest with yourself. Do you still want to pursue this dream or will it no longer contribute to your happiness? If not, let it go. But if it will make you happier, resolving to go for it can inject purpose and enthusiasm into your life.

3. What is keeping you from asking for help? Is it pride? Are you ashamed? Are you afraid? Whatever you are feeling use it to jumpstart yourself into asking for the help anyway. In other words, instead of feeling ashamed, take pride in knowing that you are taking control of your life.

While you may have thought that starting over can be hard or even frightening, you will find that the benefits far outweigh the challenges and that starting over can be a new beginning for your new life. Why not start today?

You can do it!



Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Swan's Song

Love. You don’t fall in love.

You fall down, fall short, fall apart; but you don’t fall in love. Besides, if you are going to do any ‘action’ in love then stand in love… don’t fall. Now I am assuming we are talking about romantic love, the sort of love that is lasting, one hopes. I agree there is a sense of weightlessness when one becomes enamored with a new relationship—there is a euphoria that exists and it is true a certain endorphin is released which might give one a sense of ‘falling’ I suppose. But love? Are you sure you aren’t talking about infatuation?Webster defines love
Love (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2): attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b: an assurance of love <give her my love>2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>3 a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love> b (1): a beloved person: darling —often used as a term of endearment (2)British —used as an informal term of address4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God5: a god or personification of love6: an amorous episode : love affair: the sexual embrace : copulation8: a score of zero (as in tennis)

Verb1: to hold dear: cherish2 a: to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for b (1): caress (2): to fondle amorously (3): to copulate with3: to like or desire actively : take pleasure in <loved to play the violin> 4: to thrive in <the rose loves sunlight>intransitive verb: to feel affection or experience desire

Clearly the word love has many different meanings—at least in the English language. Love can mean anything from something that gives one a little pleasure to the score of a tennis match. It’s no wonder so many are confused about love. Even Webster’s can’t narrow down a definition!

So what then is love?

I would like to suggest that, as my fellow blogger put it, “… the move of a beautiful woman’s hair, and the glimpse of a cute smile,” have little, or nothing, to do with the sort of love I think of when I consider long-term mutually loving relationships. Traps he says? How could one equate love and trap in the same subject line?

A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the idea of love.

"Someone define love," I said.

No response.

"Doesn't anyone want to try?" I asked.

Still no response.

"How about this: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?"


"Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person."

Every hand went up. And I thought, Oh boy!

This is how many people approach a relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. As my fellow blogger Rob indicated, you fall in love, and you can fall out of it.

But is that true love?

I’ve had a few relationships where I felt what I deemed was “true love” for the fellow. Some of those moments of feeling love were when we embraced. Others were when we shared intimate personal truths together. And for some of them it was love felt when they left!

How do you define love?

Some say it's mysterious, magical, complex, difficult, imaginary, thought-provoking, inspirational, intuitional, joyous, immeasurable, ecstasy, and undefinable. Perhaps.

In one of Dr. John Gray's audio cassettes he defines love as follows:
"Love is a feeling directed at someone which acknowledges their goodness."

On the same cassette, he refers to the definition by M. Scott Peck:
"The willful intent to serve the well being of another."

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. - 1 Corinthians 13:5-7

My favorite is by ParamahansaYogananda:
"To describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavor of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavor. So with love."

Love itself is a universal experience. Yet, every individual occurrence - while perhaps bound by a common thread - seems absolutely unique. Love is what love is! To everyone it expresses itself differently.

Could it be that Love is a story that can never be fully expressed?

Love is a bond or connection between two people that results in trust, intimacy, and an interdependence that enhances both partners. (quotation by me!)

Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you. - Leo Buscaglia

Making Love is the highest level and the most loving way we can physically express or demonstrate our Love for our love partner. Everyone knows that the sexual experience can be the single most loving, most exciting, most powerful, most exhilarating, most renewing, most energizing, most affirming, most intimate, most uniting, most stress-relieving, most recreative physical experience of which humans are capable.

Love is More Powerful than Sex

Robert Roy Britt, a LiveScience Senior Writer posted a blog a few years back about a study announced in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology which read:

Sex and romance may seem inextricably linked, but the human brain clearly distinguishes between the two, according to a new study. The upshot: Love is the more powerful emotion.

The results of brain scans speak to long-standing questions of whether the pursuit of love and sex are different emotional endeavors or whether romance is just warmed over sexual arousal.

"Our findings show that the brain areas activated when someone looks at a photo of their beloved only partially overlap with the brain regions associated with sexual arousal," said Arthur Aron of the State University of New York-Stony Brook. "Sex and romantic love involve quite different brain systems."

Well, duh! Most of us could have told you that without a scientific experiment. Or is that what we all were doing all along—a scientific experiment?

So what is love -- real, lasting love?

After all this rambling, I suppose I really can’t define love either. Love must be experienced. I can tell you that the opposite of Love is Fear. Think about it.

Expectations and Demands

Last week my buddy Jim said he and his girlfriend were having some troubles. “I love her,” he said to me. “And that is what is killing me.”

I said, “It isn’t love that is killing you, it is your expectations of the one you say you love. Love doesn’t kill.”

Is it possible to have unconditional love? Love for another simply to love them? Expecting nothing in return?

No expectations - no demands… used to be my mantra. That is until I realized I had plenty of expectations and demands of the ones I loved. I expected my husband to come home at night. I expected my children to honor their parents, and in fact, sometimes demanded it. But isn’t real love simply loving someone without expecting anything in return; no judgments, no restrictions; no limitations; no expectations?

My Buddist friend tells me that true love is loving what is. I’m still working on that one.

To me, I’ve discovered that love is embracing differences and discovering ways in which to build a common lifestyle, share decision-making, and taking equal responsibility for the results. True love has a foundation of integrity, respect, faith and trust. Love is the force that brings about unity and harmony.

Although love is at the root of our basic nature, Love for another human being must be cultivated. It takes time for Love to mature.

Robert Heinlein in "Stranger in a Strange Land" said, Love is. . . "That condition whereby the happiness of another is essential to your own." As one who has a strong affection towards eagles, hawks, geese, and so on; I think they may have it closer to 'right' than we humans do for most of these mate for life. Why then is it so difficult for us, the evolved species, to do the same?

So why is it that love receives less instruction than the average driver’s education class? We don’t learn to drive by crashing until we get it right, but this seems to be how we learn about love.

I’ve had my share of crashes. There was even a time in my life I gave up driving all together. But eventually, like most humans, the desire to have companionship won out over my fear of crash and burn. However the first thing I had to do along my own personal journey to love was to learn to love myself and what a ride that was!

And that is a story for another blog…

© Cynthia Stewart

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Till death do "anyone" part?

Love. You fall in love. You decide to spend the rest of your life with that person. And then, something changes. You grow apart, a partner dies, people move on. So what is this crazy thing called love and how does it affect us in our relationships. I have fallen in love, I still fall in love. A move of a beautiful woman's hair, the simple glimpse of a cute smile. These I feel are all traps. Traps that have been defined by the natural order of the animal race. What we have done over time have sung the swan's song and decided that monogamy is the path that should be followed. And in some people's eyes, this monogamy takes them to their grave. However, does the notions of sexual activity, devotion, love and attraction all fit into the same basket?

Life I feel isn't that easy. Also, I feel that being one of the two genders in humankind, I find my agenda (subconscious or conscious) is remarkably different to that of the sweeter opposite sex. Also, age has changed many peoples agendas. At middle age I still have a great deal of respect for the opposite sex and have many aspects that confuse and test my differences between the need for companionship and that of simple sexual drive. Today though, many young people rack up a tally of relationships like baseball card collections. The notch on the bed post has spanned the egos of both sexes and promiscuity has become an acceptable invite to open sexual deliverance. I am going to look back at the knowledge I have of relationships and all the things entailed in this coming together and try and find answers. I start from my earliest understanding of, what has still remained today, that mysteriousness of the opposite sex. I was 4 or 5 and I was standing in the playground at school and a girl (her name will remain etched in my mind, but anonymous here) kissed me. She kissed me for a whole one minute. To me, aged as young as I was at the time, the importance of this moment wasn't the actual feeling but the duration. A minute kiss seemed to signify something to me. Also, and a little more important was who kissed me. This girl at four or five was in my mind a catch. Everyone liked her, so to have her kiss me was a good thing. Later, after this relationship failed (if that is what it could be called), another girl showed interested in me. Again to start with there was a mutual intrigue. The difference was, and it had nothing to do with preference or even physical attraction, was that this girl brought sweets for me every day, she would hang about and talk, etc. This wasn't a turn-off, what is was, was an indication that even at this early age, I know what the roles of man and woman had defined in this natural order. This rule was simply that a person was never going to be attracted to every person, regardless of how nice, pretty or how attracted they were to myself. Another early experience was that from my parents. Two points about this. One was that they talked of "when they met". I preamble to the dating conversation, or the father's talk to son. However, what I remember is that they talked of dating as a walk up and down the country path. They would tell me that they had to be accompanied in order to avoid improprieties, and such. In some respect I see the values of these sort of traditions in the dating game. What unfortunately has happened in this evolution of society, from a morally bound state to a media frenzied sin pit, is that part of the dating game now is not just dinner and a movie, but full blown intercourse. The point of this? Well I can only hypothesis. Society is doing one of two things. It is delivering images of idealism. Maybe through celebrity and their portrayal on film and tv, or magazine. This takes away from the humbleness and loveliness of honest-to-god honesty in a real person's make-up. This all, as well seems to be aimed at the woman, but saying that has crept into the images of an ideal man. So, the notion of sex before marriage has arose to test the possible compatibility of the relationship before "time is wasted" in legalities of churches and certificates and so forth. The other aspect of this is that society has become a frenzy of time controlled lifestyles. So dating is a more spontaneous affair as much as the next "blipvert", or 10 second ad. People just need to move on. Or there is simply a more direct sexual openness to the process of relationships now. Young women are having babies outside relationships, men and women living together outside marriage, everything to to pot! So, what is the best solution to the process of a relationship, or more so, the need to be connected to someone? I have had relationships, not many, but not few. Some have lasted months, some years, but one thing has been evident. That the time together has changed the people involved. Only recently I have found myself in a position to begin to understand what love is. The funny thing is, is that it doesn't seem to need a position in a totally involved relationship. The feeling is strong and true. It is based on a connection. the connection has understandings that the person has in fact go an indescribable quality that draws me. There was no initial value that stated she was my type, that she was even compatible in a relationship, or even would be. What was striking is the fact that 'something' just feels right. Unlike very sexy women dolled to the nines that pass me in tight this and provocative that, this person can be in sweats and smile and it overwhelms. There then lies the difference I feel between lust and love. Lust is the new provocation in many relationships that occur today. What happens from that point is that the relationship then slowly dies or peters out into and ended relationship. Love is an internal selfish emotion. Not selfish in a negative way, but selfish in the sense that it is held by that single person and is individual and very hard to express in an open forum, even to another partner. I have always questioned what love is. In a sense it is a pain that drives us to feel connected to someone when they are absent or hurt or bad to one. The overwhelmingness of love is never a union as much as the union itself. Instead it is an expressed condition that both parties seem to need or want to agree on. Loveless relationships work, so is there a need for love? Does love get in the way? Is love a masking term for sexual need? What I know is that as I get older the desire for love, sex, or fascination in another is overtaken by the need to find some simple compatibility. A laugh at a silly comment, a smile on a touch, and so forth. Sex comes naturally. It is our inbuilt id. Togetherness can be forced through economy, legislature or even apathy. However, understanding and complete connection is something that cannot exist falsely. I long to be in a union, that is the greatest desire. The love, the talk, the sex will come along with the true connection that means you are with the right person. So a relationship can be correct and perfect even over distance, even without legal union and even without physical involvement. Why? because the thing that makes the connection work is the thought of that person. If that person is such an affect on your mind then the power of that thought will control and influence all the aspects of the relationship. The process of being single is another thing. I believe, and am only saying this as a male entity, that sex is a strong driving factor in many relationships initiation.

© Rob Snow