Kelly’s Soapbox, and when she got kicked off it.

Just after Christmas, I received a message via Facebook messenger. The content of the message jarred me, and after stewing for a day, I ranted on Facebook thusly:

Dear Facebook Friends:

I invite you to contemplate the issue of Manners. Yes, manners. I realize that we communicate these days in a very informal ways via Whatsapp, FB Messenger and so on, with phone calls and emails taking a back seat. I’m all for it. I hate phone calls…so intrusive.

Anyway, in using various instant messaging applications, we tend to economize on characters used and so shorthand communication is the order of the day. Please be aware that in your quest for brevity and conciseness you sometimes come over as rude, imperious and demanding. And I’m not here for it in 2018. I know this is not your intention. But I’ve rolled my eyes and sighed one time too many this year at some of your messages to me. Please don’t force me to ignore or block you in 2018.

Exhibit 1:
“Hi Kelly. Please give me your email address. I have an assignment that I’d like your help with.”

This assumes that we already had an agreement in place that I’d assist you. And of course I’ll help. It’d be my pleasure! But your presumption was offensive. And even after I overlooked and assumed that your motives were pure, and took my valuable time and shared with you, you never ever came back and told me how your final assignment turned out. Shame on you. This is how you should have approached the situation:

“Hi Kelly. I would really like your help on an assignment I have. Could you? I’d happily email the brief to you. Please let me know.”

Exhibit 2:
“Hi Kelly. Hope the holidays were good. Please call me at 1234567.”

This was from someone who I haven’t spoken with in years. Let me fix it for you:

“Hi Kelly. Hope the holidays were good. I’d like to ask you a question about xyz. May I call you? When is a good time?”

Exhibit 3
“Give me a number for xyz”

No “Hey Dog” or “please”.
You will be blue ticked.
Even if you are my bosom buddy, if you message me requesting something from me without saying please I will ignore you. Y’all have a nasty habit of typing in short-hand which seems to include omission of manners.

General tips

Use my name please. It’s a mere 5 letters. Hell… you can even stick with “K”. In face to face communication I prefer eye contact. In digital communication, I prefer establishing the interaction with the use of my name. C’mon. It’s not that hard.

If we speak after a protracted period of non communication, for God’s sake do NOT begin with “yuh dash me weh.” I most certainly will if you go there though. We’re now speaking. Let’s get on with it and keep it moving.

So in closing, as you seek to economize across your various communication modalities in 2018, do not skimp on good manners.

I felt good after hitting Post. “That will show them. People must have manners” I congratulated myself.

Then I received another notification via FB Messenger. The person who had messaged me and prompted my rant had something to say to me, and it went like this:

Good morning Kelly. I apologize for the approach previously in asking you to call me. I was diagnosed with Z (condition redacted) and I’ve been home couple months immobile, having to be attended to from bathroom help to feeding. While I can touch even to type, this is major improvement. I wanted to tell you two things. Like I called X and Y (names redacted) in person to thank them for their contribution to what I am today. I wanted to tell you in person how much unknowingly you have made me who I am. You have inspired me from my education to growing my children unknowingly. Thanks for sharing your life that has inspired me in so many ways.

I also wanted to thank you for sharing your meals as I have been able to accept now that I’ve have to live on plant based food. Thanks and blessings in 2018. I was able to see my error because anything you put on FB I read. …you do give me a positive outlook on life
Oh God.
I was thrown for a loop. I felt like a complete shit.

So I called her. I was terrified and ashamed. But I had no other choice but to call. She was so very gracious in accepting my call. We spoke. Her life had taken a sudden, horrific turn in October and yet she was so optimistic, open and grateful for life when she spoke. I was left with these questions:

  • Was the content of my rant wrong? 
  • Was I being unreasonable?
  • Did the fact that my friend was ill change the veracity of my post?

I’m still processing the whole sequence of events, and before I wrote this post, I messaged her requesting permission to blog about our conversation and the events leading up to it. She was as gracious as ever in granting me permission, and for that I am grateful.

I am not sure that I have conclusively put the matter to bed in my mind. Here’s where I am as at now:

Sometimes a direct and gentle approach is more meaningful and effective than a general rant that comes across as a “sub-tweet”…ask your millennial what that is 🙂 Perhaps if I had messaged her back instead of sub-tweeting, I could have made whatever point I felt I had to make in a more constructive manner aimed more at preserving relationships than proving a point. 
I am grateful for her graciousness and ease of overlooking offence. It made it easier for me to swallow humble pie and question my motives and modus operandi going forward. I hope that when an occasion that requires understanding and forgiveness and graciousness arises in my own life, that I will do likewise.
So sure, manners are important. Along with humour, manners act as the lubricant that allow us to get along and thrive. But relationships are more important than being right, and one must never forget that we are dealing with people. 
What are your own take-aways from this story? Did you agree with the points in my rant and do you now have a change of heart? I’d love to hear from you.


In search of Poinsettias…or so I thought….

“There’s a lady on Church St with the loveliest poinsettias at good prices” she offered.

I was looking for fluffy, good looking poinsettias that wouldn’t  break the bank and a colleague at work tried to help. She too wanted some and we agreed to pay this downtown Kingston vendor a visit. She reassured me that I would get parking (in the JPS parking lot…she had business to do at JPS so we wouldn’t be lying) and that she would direct me.

So at the appointed time, we removed our jewellery (Downtown Kingston, DUH!), grabbed our tiny purses (no need to advertise) and headed out in my car. Traffic was heavy going up Duke St. The commercial district that is Downtown Kingston was a bustle with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. On a regular day, Downtown is a bargain hunter’s paradise. So everyone and their mother trying to maximize their Christmas spend was out in the brilliant December sunshine in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.

The traffic was sluggish and I decided to make conversation as we slowly made our way up the road. You see, my passenger/guide is my co-worker but we’re not close friends, if you understand what I mean.

“So what are your plans for Christmas dinner?” I enquired. Food is always a great place to start as far as I am concerned.

“Well…” she hesitated…“We would normally go to my in-laws, but for the past two years we’ve done nothing.”

There was an awkward pause. But not for long. I sensed a story.

“How come?” I pushed.

She sighed. “Two years ago my sister-in-law was rude to me at dinner, Kelly. I was hurt but I held it in. And I decided that I didn’t need to put up with that ever again.”

As I listened, I sensed that she was conflicted, that she responded the only way she thought she could have, but that she wasn’t comfortable with her own decision.

“So how do your hubby and your kids feel about your decision? Don’t they miss the jollification and family togetherness?” I asked gently.

Another sigh. “I’ve encouraged, I’ve begged them to go without me, Kelly, but they don’t.”

I explained to her that as mothers WE are the nucleus of the family, that everything revolves around us, and that if we aren’t happy, no one else is really happy. Then I felt led to share a story with her.

I told her about my friend Rachel Cunning. I met Rachel on Twitter. She was a thirty something professional who was suffering from Lupus when we met. She was a lively and engaging tweeter, posting links to interesting topics and offering witty comebacks up and down my timeline. She tweeted in passing that she was spending Christmas alone. Immediately I perked up. No one should be alone at Christmas unless they choose to, is my belief, handed down to me by my own mother. Now let me confess, I am not the most sociable person. I am no social butterfly who loves to entertain. Not me, no Siree. But Christmas has always been a time for family and food and fellowship and so I reached out to her. She immediately accepted my invitation to dinner. It was a bit of a logistical challenge for me as she was not mobile and she lived all the way in Portmore, miles and miles away from my Coopers Hill home. But I planned around it, picked her up early, and warned her that she would have to watch me cook and prepare and just spend the day with me. I got a bedroom ready for her in case she needed to rest and took out blankets and socks since Coopers Hill is delightfully cool at this time of the year. I fussed for nothing. Rachel fit right in with the family and we all embraced her immediately. Our other guests came later in the day and December 25 2016 was another warm, enjoyable, fun time.

One Wednesday in early October I spoke to Rachel. She was in hospital but was upbeat that she would be discharged on the weekend. I was supposed to call her that weekend to make arrangements to get something to her later that week or so. I didn’t call her. The weekend passed and on the Monday morning heading out I remarked to Nick that I had to call Rachel “today today today.” Imagine my horror when I saw “RIP Rachel” on my twitter timeline later that Monday morning. Two phone calls later confirmed the worst: Rachel had passed away in hospital the previous evening. 

“Life is short” I told my colleague. “At the end of the day, is whatever you’re holding on to really worth it?

By this time, we had parked and exited the car. All the nice poinsettias were sold off. But I wasn’t disappointed. I had the distinct feeling, almost certain knowledge, if you will, that the drive out for poinsettias was not really about poinsettias, but more about the delivery of a well needed, perfectly timed message to my colleague that could potentially impact her life and her family’s life for the better: something infinitely better than potted plants for my home.

This morning she came in late and came straight to my desk. She was beaming and bubbling as she pulled up a chair.

“I know you were disappointed about the poinsettias, Kelly. But I have to tell you, I think the reason for our little outing was bigger than poinsettias.”

She shared how late into the night she wrestled with the challenge I offered her. She felt compelled to reach out to her sister-in-law to resurrect family dinner on Christmas day. She had discussed it with her husband and children and they all eagerly encouraged her to reach out. They were in full support. She eventually Whatsapped her sister at 7:30 this morning and almost immediately her phone rang. Sister-in-Law was on the other end, happy and eager to pick up where they had left off two years ago. My colleague told me that she felt a great weight off her shoulders and lightness in her heart. She was excitedly working out menu plans and best of all, the family was going to be together for Christmas. She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had done the right thing. I have a feeling that this Christmas will be a very special Christmas for that family.

Is there a fractured relationship that you need to address? Christmas is as good a time as any to deal with it. 

Is there a lonely person in your circle that you can include in your plans? Christmas is a great excuse to intrude. 

Are you the lonely one? Are you the hurt one? I am sorry for your pain and hurt. I encourage you to reach out. You’d be surprised at the welcome waiting for you at the end of that call or text message. 

Here’s to an abundance of love and happiness this Christmas. 

Courtesy Marion Ann


Coming Clean on Toxic Thoughts…

Have you ever found yourself in a less than desirable situation… say… a difficult marriage, a horrible job or been betrayed by a friend, relative or lover? Have you ever been wrongfully accused? 

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above, then you probably had “Toxic Thoughts”… you know those thoughts that are rooted in resentment and take on a life of their own as you plot revenge and conjure up scenarios where you triumph over the enemy.

So how did you deal with these Toxic Thoughts? How do you deal with them?”

I got many thoughtful responses to this post I did on my Facebook wall. So many of my friends contributed and participated with such honesty and humanity sharing from their personal journey. People who don’t know each other, whose only connection on my wall is that they know me, supported and cheered on each other. I was sent several inbox messages with those stories too personal to share on a Facebook wall. Some inbox messages were sincere words of encouragement and hope and “Go, Kelly! You can do this!” even though I didn’t confess to actually struggling with Toxic Thoughts in my FB status update. I am grateful. 

You all inspired me to try and pull your collective thoughts and input and experiences together into a playbook of sorts for dealing with Toxic Thoughts. So here goes…

Everyone has Toxic Thoughts at one time or another…
My most mild mannered, easy-going of friends confessed to having these feelings and thoughts. You are not alone.

Acknowledge Them
Face these thoughts. Articulate them. Don’t let them swirl in a murky, ill-defined mass in your mind and soul. 

Then Challenge Them
Sometimes you are simply the victim in the situation through no fault of your own.
Sometimes you are culpable in the whole mess.
Doesn’t really matter in the final analysis though. The net result is a miserable, hurting YOU, weighed down by these Toxic Thoughts that make you physically ill and show on your face.

Decide what you want
Some people hold on to anger and bitterness and use it as motivation.
But I’ve found righteous indignation to be tiring. Guilt is debilitating. The most desirable end state for me is one where I am free, happy and in a place to both receive and give goodness. 
So you don’t want to be constantly ruminating on your victim-hood, or plotting revenge… You want to freely celebrate someone else’s triumphs…You want energy that makes everything you do joyful and purposeful… You want the lines on your face to be from laughing too much, and not evidence of the constant internal grimacing that accompanies your Toxic Thoughts…
Good. Getting there…

Take Action!
Toxic thoughts apparently don’t simply expire over time. They have to be replaced. And replacing them requires some deliberate decisions then actions 

Some Practical Suggestions from my Friends:

  • Allow a set amount of time for rumination then clap your hands 3 times (ok the clapping is my idea!) and then decide enough!
  • Replace the ruminations with other thoughts: 

  1. Acknowledging what is good in your life
  2. Praying to God
  3. Giving thanks to God

  • Positive mantras like Bible verses that promise better days and healing and provision create new focal points and serve a pivots around which your entire outlook and attitude can shift
  • Accept what you cannot control
  • Do the things that make you fell better: Music or Walking or Dancing or Going to the beach  
  • Removing yourself from the situation (several people recommended this!)
  • Seek counselling from trained professionals or wise people who mean you well.
  • DO the opposite of how you are feeling. Feeling lonely? Call someone. Feeling like no one cares? Give someone a gift? Bemoaning how alone in the world you are? Invite friends over.
And remember this…

My wise cousin who knows a thing or two about how peoples minds work, reminded me that letting go and replacing Toxic Thoughts is often times not a one-off event, but rather a process. If you’re headed in the direction of Freedom, then you’re doing good…

“In my personal journey, I have discovered that sometimes forgiveness and letting go is not a one time thing. I don’t know why I always thought it was that way or that it had to be that way. Perhaps it should be that way. However, letting go in increments is still a victory. It’s still letting go. And by this I mean, I often work with people who believe all is lost when we worked through a problem LAST week but this week it popped back up causing distress. This doesn’t mean that it’s all over. It just means that gently and carefully we stitch up the heart again and go about our business. This is life. It’s not perfect. But in the end, that’s okay.”

And so, before I set off to work yesterday, I decided up front not to focus on everything that was not as I wanted it to be. And then as I rounded the corner, I saw this, and I knew that it was a gift to me… a reminder that life is more than I can see at a particular point in time. It was perfect. And it was splendid. And in that moment I gave thanks.
Sunrise over Kingston Harbour….

And nothing changed, you know…except me. I listened as people made their presentations. I heard the half-truths and the selective exaggerations. And as I listened and observed, the less than savory things about certain people still came to mind. But this time I acknowledged them even as I declined to pass judgement. 

One of my friends shared this on  my wall in response to my question on Toxic Thoughts. Think on these things…

From Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”: In the Foreword written by former US President Bill Clinton, he notes: “I once asked Mandela to describe his long walk from prison to president. Mandela’s reply was: “When you are young and strong, you can stay alive on your hatred. And I did for many years.” Then one day after years of imprisonment, physical, and emotional abuse, and separation from his family, Mandela said, “I realized that they could take everything from me except my mind and my heart. They could not take those things. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.” 

President Clinton, like any rational person, could not readily wrap his mind around what Mandela was saying, and so he pressed for more: “Tell me the truth,” he said to Mandela, “when you were leaving prison after 27 years and walking down that road to freedom, didn’t you hate them all over again?” and Mandela replied, “Absolutely I did, because they had imprisoned me for so long. I was abused. I didn’t get to see my children grow up. I lost my marriage and the best years of my life. I was angry. And I was afraid, because I had not been free in so long. But as I got closer to the car that would take me away, I realized that when I went through that gate, if I still hated them, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.”

You can either focus on the walls around you or you can simply look up and see the endless possibilities…your choice. Photo Credit: Rachael McIntosh

another (not so) random in-flight encounter

The drill was the same as it was a few months ago… I had just completed 2 days of meetings and was returning home, tired and thankfully not as dispirited as I was last time. I was still battling the tail end of the ‘flu and a tad worse for the wear having closed the bar a few hours earlier. Leave it to a real Rum Head like myself to spot the lone bottle of Wray and Nephew whites hidden on the second shelf to the back, pushed disrespectfully to the corner behind several other bottles of pretenders… I was literally standing on the lower rung of the bar stool directing the bartender and insisting that I needed “that bottle right there…yes…no…go more to the left…pull out those 2 bottles…no those….THERE YOU GO!” But I digress.

So I boarded the plane and made my way down the aisle looking for 11C. We were told that the flight was full (what’s new) and given specific instructions as to our hand luggage management. I thankfully had gotten an aisle seat and waited to see who my seat mates would be. Despite the ‘flu and the hangover (which had abated somewhat due to the Excedrin that I had snacked on earlier) I was in reasonably good spirits and had decided to play nice and smile.

You see, I have what people refer to as a “resting bitchy face”, which simply means that if I’m not smiling, I look as if I’m angry. I’ve been told that I’m intimidating and appear unfriendly and unapproachable. I’m not as bothered today by those judgments of others as I used to be, but I accept that a smile and a friendly word or two can lubricate deliberate and chance encounters making the experience more enjoyable for all. So, enter Rose. Rose came down the aisle, a woman about my age, short, round, wearing a sweat shirt, jeans and sneakers, hoodie draped over her handbag, pulling her carry-on down the aisle.  She smiled at me and said “this is me right here, but lemme find somewhere to put my bag”. I wished her good luck and she found a space way down in the plane.  When she came back and I extricated myself to allow her in, I remarked to her that she’s going to have hell retrieving it and disembarking once we had landed.  She agreed and said lemme go move it den. Ah boi. That decision resulted in me and Miss Rose playing musical seats, up, out, in, down over the next 5 minutes as she co-opted a flight attendant in her quest to optimally place her hand-luggage. I would normally be very irritated, but remember, I had decided to play nice and smile, come what may.  Miss Rose apologized as she squeezed in for, praise Jah, the last time and thanked me for understanding. We both laughed as I told her that I really was not about to stand up again and that she had better climb over me.  So she did and we laughed as she settled into her window seat.  And on that full flight, the only empty seat was the one between Miss Rose and me. My donuts (yes…7 Dunkin’ Donuts  for my favourite people back at home…it’s a thing I have with them…) and her bag and hoodie shared that middle seat.

“I like you” grinned Miss Rose at me.

“Well ok then!” I grinned back at her.  We exchanged names. Ever fass, I asked her if she was returning home, or going to JA for a visit. She explained that she was off to Jamaica to look for her mom and relax for 8 days. I told her that I was returning home after attending meetings in Florida for 2 days.

“Is yuh man that?” she asked as she pointed to my colleague who I was travelling with, sitting across the aisle from us.  Before I could answer, he said “yes…this is my wife.” She saw the look of horror on my face and realised that Steven was messing around.  I made the introductions, clarified the nature of our relationship and we settled back.  She complimented Steven and told him that he was a very handsome “half chiney man”.  Steven, good natured idiot that he is, remarked to Miss Rose that she too looked half Chinese…

I then took a good look Miss Rose.  I asked her if she was really half Chinese.  She was dark skinned, had in braids so I couldn’t assess her hair type and texture, had tiny, almost squinty eyes, high cheekbones and full lips on that broad smile of hers.

“Yes!”  I said to her…”you really look like you have some Asian somewhere there. What’s the dealio?”

Miss Rose explained that she was half Japanese (wait…what?!) and that she is this close to doing plastic surgery to shave down her cheekbones and widen her eyes.  I turned my body towards her and settled in for what I felt was going to be an interesting story.

“Tell me why” I invited.

Miss Rose’s mother is a black Jamaican woman who was married to an abusive man. He was working in England when Miss Rose mother went to work as a domestic helper for a Japanese family living in Jamaica. Mother ended up getting pregnant for the Japanese son. Miss Rose was born. She recounted this starting off very matter of factly, but growing hesitant as she revealed the truth of her origins.

“I guess you could say my momma was a ho” Miss Rose apologised.

“Oh hell no she wasn’t!” I countered. “She was lonely, abused and simply received affection where she found it…and look at the result of that..You!”

She smiled and wiped at her eyes, and said softly: “I guess.”

She went on: “My mother’s husband came back and she left that job and went back pregnant to live with him and their other children.  I was an outcast from the moment I was born. I was never accepted by the Japanese family, and my siblings mocked me and physically abused me. My step father was also abusive towards me, and my mother wasn’t able to shield me. I was made to do the hardest manual work while the other children played outside.  I was teased about my Japanese origins at school and tried to just keep to myself. There was a neighbour, a big man, who used to keep me company in the kitchen round the back where I often left alone for hours to work. From the age of  8 that man would have sex with me. He was the only person I had interaction with and he violated me and hurt me.” By this time she was crying as she recounted her story.  “When he died, I remember being so afraid.”

She explained to me that she was happy he was dead, afraid that it wasn’t true and that he would reappear to harm her and that she was once more alone…a contradictory mix of fears and emotions, too much for a child to bear, let alone process.

She went on to claim that she had made a good life for herself. “I’ve been living in the states for 33 years now. I’ve visited my Japanese relatives in Japan several times, and they have welcomed me.  I wrote to my mother and siblings and asked them to forgive me for anything that I may have done to hurt them.  I have given so much money to my brothers and sisters, my mother and even my now dead step father.  I paid for medical care for him in the years before he died and before he passed he asked me to forgive him.”

“So have you been able to forgive him and them?” I asked with some hesitation… You see, I accept today that forgiveness of self and others is the fundamental prerequisite for inner peace and moving on in life.  But I also accept that it is a process that comes after a decision to do so, and that to glibly admonish someone to forgive their detractor or abuser without acknowledging the hurt and understanding that forgiveness is not pressing a button is both disrespectful and inhumane.

Miss Rose wiped her eyes and was quick to say: “Of course I have. But I have a pain right here that never goes away”.

A pain right here that never goes away….

“So you think that by changing your face you will somehow expunge the cause of your unhappiness and pain, Rose?” I challenged gently. “You were not a mistake. You have survived and continue to make your way forward, helping others in the process.  Please don’t try to erase what God has put together.  You are perfectly beautiful as you are.  And wider eyes, more slender cheekbones looking back at you in the mirror will do nothing to affect the pain that you still feel, and they cannot erase the awful things that you experienced.”

She looked back at me saying nothing. I inhaled deeply: “May the God that has brought you this far, finish His work by hugging you tight tight and taking away the pain you feel. God bless you, Rose.”

I have been thinking about that (not so) random encounter.  I don’t know what I am supposed to take away from that encounter. What I do know is that once again it has been demonstrated very clearly to me that we all have a story…a back story. H and I have a list that we’ve been maintaining: “Interesting People We’d Like to Have Dinner With.” A bunch of people have made it to that list, based on things that intrigue us about the selectees: ” Fareed Zakaria, Hilary Clinton, Bill can come too, Oprah (at my insistence), Malcolm Gladwell, Lady Saw…to name some. To qualify you have to have original thought and a fine mind. Simple. These are all people in the public domain, easily identifiable because of their public personas. But interesting people are sitting right beside us on the plane, or lying beside us on the beach, or drinking to our left in the village bar, or waiting with us in the doctor’s office.

It is our humanity, our weaknesses, our strengths, our experiences that are all woven together to make up the beautiful tapestry that we are. To hide an experience or a failing out of shame, in order to project what we think is a more acceptable image, is to compromise the beautiful original work of art that we are. Miss Rose was open enough to share where she was on her journey. I suspect that her story is not over. I pray for the day when Rose realises that she can’t gift or buy her way to inner peace…that she is uniquely beautiful, a gift to the world…when the pain that sits right there goes away… that nothing she has done or not done has caused her adversity. And in the mean time, Rose lives her life. She goes to therapy, she works hard, she raises her family, she takes chances.  She has two failed marriages under her belt and she presses on in hope of finding love.

Last week I tweeted one morning that I was determined to listen more. One wise person on my time line agreed and admonished me to add “observe” to “listen”. Wise, wise words.  I have a friend who comes over as closed off, saying very little, arms folded tightly across his chest almost always. In response to my pestering him, he admitted that he observes people and tries to understand them and the context at hand. I suspect that there’s more that he’s not saying and that he too has some issues surrounding his own humanity that he’s processing. Listening and observing without a willingness to share will limit the value and beauty that can result from an encounter with another human, whether this encounter is deliberate or (not so) random.

So I have no profound revelation to share from that (not so) random encounter with Miss Rose. No ah ha! moment transformed my life. What happened was a memorable, interesting 90 minute trip back home, getting to know another human being, logging her story into my consciousness for later retrieval perhaps when I need to share with someone else or remind myself what strength and grace looks like. So I share it with you.  Take from it what you will. Listen, observe and be open. Let us acknowledge and embrace our own humanity as we journey on and share this planet. And know for sure, that our story nuh done yet.

Dear Monica Lewinsky:

Dear Monica:
It’s been a while! I was pleasantly surprised to hear you this past week.  It’s hard to believe that so many years have passed since you were introduced to the world.  Listen: I for one have no problem with your decision to do the Vanity Fair interview.  If this is what you have to do today as part of living out your Best Life Ever, then so be it.  Hell, so many people have spoken on your behalf, put words into your mouth and told your story over the years.  Your time now!
Your own story illustrates the hypocrisy that exists where women and sex are concerned.  Bill was the married one.  He was the boss.  Today he remains an uber celebrity, making speeches, being warmly welcomed everywhere he goes.  Yet, you seem to have faded into the shadows, seeming to live every day in apology for something that you participated in years and years ago. 
I can imagine how difficult it has been for you.  It started off so heady and exhilarating, didn’t it… repeated flirtatious encounters with the very charismatic President.  It probably knocked you off your rocker every single time it struck you that this man that is flirting back with you was The Bill Clinton! That he saw you, complimented you, paid attention to you was almost unbelievable to you I would imagine. Those encounters probably became the high and focal points of your days.  In those moments, you were unable and unwilling to comprehend the likely consequences of any fall-out.  That doesn’t make you a bad person, Monica.  It makes you human.  Let me repeat: it makes you human.  It is over time that most of us build up our own self worth and become less dependent on the validation of others. I think that I can identify with what happened way back then.  And I’m pretty sure that there are many more like us who do identify and shake our heads sadly at how the fall-out affected you in particular. And there’s no need for us to re-hash the fall-out. You lived it.  You felt it.  Those close to you did too.  That certain knowledge probably caused huge amounts of pain and guilt and regret for you.
I’d see you in the months and few years after you were publicly drawn and quartered for things that many of us had done and were lucky enough to crawl away from in private.  You bravely tried to tell your story, but I’d see the sadness in your eyes.  I’d see the slightly bowed shoulders.  I’d hear the constant apology in your voice. And then we didn’t see or hear from you.  My heart went out for you back then.  I wanted to tell you that it could be ok.  I wanted to tell you that you were no worse a person that any of us out there.  I wanted to tell you that you could get through this and emerge with dignity.  I wanted to say to you: “I can imagine how tough this is.  Here’s a hug”.  I really did.
I have done things that I am not proud of, Monica.  And what I am going to say next is not meant to be a lecture, or admonition, or anything like that.  It’s simply my story, and if you can relate or find use, go right ahead.  I had to accept forgiveness from God first.  I eventually did.  And then I struggled with trying to forgive those close to me that had hurt me.  I really wanted to forgive and move one.  You see, cerebrally I accepted and believed that living my best life ever would never happen with bitterness, resentment and anger tying me up.  Every day I got up and asked God to help me to forgive.  I acknowledged that I wanted to forgive but that it was so darned hard.  I tried. I spoke to my shrink.  Some days were better than others, and then on other days, the hurt would just rush in and I felt like I was right back at square one.  And then I read a book by Gary Chapman about Apology.  It was very useful, but the real benefit for me didn’t come until near the end of the book.  It struck me like a lightning bolt that I couldn’t move forward until I forgave MYSELF.  Long story short, I purposed to forgive myself.  That doesn’t mean that I pretended that I had done nothing wrong.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t accept responsibility for my actions.  It simply meant that I accepted that in spite of what I had done, I didn’t have to live with guilt forever more.  I went through a process that took strength and humility to forgive myself.  And that is why I cannot sit in judgement of anyone.  And that is why I cannot allow anyone to judge me.  What I did does not define me. Not in the least. 
You have the same name as my own mother and her mother.  They are formidable, awesome people.  I suspect you are too.  Live strong, Monica.  It’s past time for you to take your finger off the pause button of your life and live your best life ever.  Don’t look back, Love.  Don’t look back in remorse and regret over what some would call (maybe you do too) your lost years.  Living your best life ever starting today can more than compensate for those years.  This is Your Story.  Own it. Learn from it. Tuck and roll.
I can tell that there are people who have shown you unconditional love through this period.  My own mother remained my biggest cheerleader and rock.  My aunt was another huge support, who barked at the opposition when all I wanted to do was cry and regret.  When you feel weak, remember them. 
You’re obviously a smart woman who still rocks the most fabulous hair!
Photo Courtesy of Getty
I wish for you every good thing.
You are not alone.


A few Life Lessons

I don’t aim to be preachy.  I’ve been through some tough and painful times and I’ve thankfully been able to extract some key learnings that continue to serve me through the highs and the lows of this thing called life. I’d like to share three truths, lessons, learnings…whatever you want to call them.  So here goes.

GOOD FRIEN’ BETTA DAN POCKET MONEY (it’s better to have a good friend than a fistful of cash)
Oh.. this is so true!  I remember some pretty dark times when the 7:30am call from one particular girlfriend every single day over a few months, to test my emotional temperature, is what sustained me.  She listened to me cry, she commisterated with me, she offered help.  I remember after work drinks with girlfriends who listened and shared and supported.  I remember calls from my flesh and blood sister at just the right times, with words of comfort and faith and support and love.  We laughed, we cried, we cussed.  And after all was said and done, I came out on the other side with my friends’ support and love. 

“Be gentle with yourself” is one of the best pieces of advice I ever got.  Face up to your mistakes and missteps.  Accept responsibility.  Make ammends.  And then offer grace to yourself. 

I know what it feels like to want a kind word.  A sympathetic ear.  A word of encouragement. Some tangible assistance.  And I know the difference it made when I received them.  So I would like to believe that I’ve become a kinder person.  Everybody has their own story.  You may never know what someone is going through.  There are people working with you and people who cross your path as you go about your life that have experienced heartbreak, hurt, rejection and loss.  Sometimes a kind greeting or a sympathetic ear may be all that it takes for them to keep on keeping on.  Bring to mind the times when you were on the receiving end of an act of kindness and resolve to pay it forward.  Resolve to be more understanding and tolerant.  Demonstrate kindness at least once per day.  Volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourselves.  Be kind to those close to you and be sensitive to their feelings.

Have a great week!

My take on New Year Resolutions

So 2012 is upon us.  I love the idea of a New Year.  I use the opportunity to review the year past and anticipate the year coming.  And yes, I make New Year’s resolutions.  I also make New Year wishes.  I have never gotten everything that I have wished for, neither have I ever kept all my resolutions.  But I have over the years kept some of my resolutions and gotten some of what I have wished for.
I didn’t even need to wait until the end of 2011 to conclude that, all in all, it was a pretty good year for me!  I saw my children mature and do well in school.  I have a passion for teaching, and despite sending my resumes hither thither and yon, I ended up, almost overnight it seemed, teaching for a term at an institution that I hadn’t applied to!  That was a fun and fulfilling experience.  I did pretty well on my nine to five too, hitting pretty much all my targets and seeing my team execute (almost!) flawlessly. And last but certainly not least, I finally ditched some major emotional baggage.  I forgave myself for some wrong moves that I had made in the past and in so doing, freed myself to give and receive forgiveness. I thank God for who I am.
So in starting 2012, I have a few wishes.  Not going to articulate them here…might jinx them!  My resolutions are not dramatic, but significant to me and as I progress, I will add to them and modify them as necessary.  That’s low stress resolution making for you, and I highly recommend it. 
I’ve decided to revert to a low-carb lifestyle.  I know a lot of people get very nervous when they hear low- carb, but I’ve done it before and every single thing about my health improved.  So here we go again.  I will end up losing weight, controlling hormone balances, stabilizing my moods and improving overall well-being.  So far, so good- all seven days of 2012!
I’ve also resolved to review my blessings at the end of each day.  How this became a resolution is a story in and of itself.  Let me back up and start at the beginning of this one.  I had remarked aloud that I was going to start a low-carb diet.  Marcelle, my colleague on the other side of the divide in our workspace, chimed in that she was planning to do likewise.  We began sharing our carb-loving weaknesses, and I confessed that besides rice (oh blessed glorious any kind of rice!) I was fond of munching on salty, crunchy snacks late at night in bed.  She suggested that I replace that habit with an herbal tea habit!  Now I am not a tea drinker, but the way Marcelle suggested it totally intrigued me.  She suggested that I make a ritual of it: get a nice kettle, special mug and create a ceremony of sorts.  I thought: why not? So I went looking for caffeine-free, herbal teas and found a great item!  It’s a sampler box of fruity, herbal teas…great for a beginner like me who has no idea of what she likes.  I started and reported back gleefully to Marcelle.  It really is a very soothing and calming thing, this tea making a drinking last thing at night.  My ex-husband used to enjoy a cup of tea before bed, and used to beg me to make it for him.  I did not. Too much of a production, I thought at the time.  Now I know.  I told Marcelle the irony of the tea making and a few days later, she came to my desk and said: “Let’s talk”.  That was kinda unusual based on our normal type of interaction. I nonetheless replied in surprise: “Sure!  Why not!”  She asked me if I had ever read “Love Languages”.  I replied in the affirmative and said that It is a must read for all people, especially those planning to marry.  Had I read it before I got married, I may still have been married today.  The book teaches you how to understand your spouse and how to make yourself understood.  Great book and I highly recommend it.  That lead to me recommending a related book also written by Gary Chapman: “The Five Languages of Apology”.  That book showed me that I needed to forgive myself and taught me how to.  My colleague seemed genuinely interested in my story of self-forgiveness and she also seemed happy for me.  We concluded our talk and we went our separate ways.
A few days later, Marcelle came to my desk again and said that she had a gift for me if I would accept.  She showed me a book where each day had a tiny space allotted for listing the things that I am grateful for.  She explained that she figured it would be a great addition to my tea ritual.  I slowly saw the sense of what she was recommending. There’s a line in one of my favourite movies, “The Matrix” that speaks about how we as human beings “define ourselves by our misery”.  So true!  I warmed to the idea of ending each day focusing on all that was good in my life.  So this past Thursday, I added articulating my gratitude to my tea ritual at the end of each day.  My children are now in on the tea drinking ritual and the gratitude giving.  To be honest, I had hoped for this to be my thing. But how can I exclude them from something that gives us another opportunity to bond and will hopefully create for them a tradition that they will carry on as they move forward with their own lives?
So there you have it: eating differently, deliberately winding down each night and giving thanks at the end of each day. Like I said, my resolutions this year are not dramatic and I will add and alter as necessary throughout 2012. I think I’m off to a pretty good start.