Present Tense

Confessions of a hard-ass

fistI have a confession to make.  I’m a hard-ass.  Check that:  I’m a reformed hard-ass.  Here is my second confession:  I was wrong.  For a long time.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I embraced the old ‘tough love’ philosophy.  But, really there was no love involved.  In fact, that whole thing is a smoke screen.  It’s just a way to be a hard-ass and seem like it’s kind and noble and ‘for their own good’.   It’s really not.

Most people really don’t need tough love.  They need kindness, encouragement, compassion and honesty.  They don’t need to be kicked when they’re down or told that they made a stupid mistake or that they get what they deserve or that if they had followed some particular set of arbitrary rules ‘this never would have happened’.

I’m embarrassed that I used to think that giving people a break meant that you were weak or wobbly or a ‘bleeding heart’.  I believed that punitive actions were what ‘those people’ needed.  Take away their privileges, make ‘em fend for themselves, teach ‘em a lesson.

I have changed my view.  I am finally conscious of all of the help that I got along the way.  I’ve realized that my success in life is partly due to luck and circumstances that shined like a beacon on me throughout my life, even as I stumbled.  I had a stable family with loving parents.  I grew up in a safe and secure neighborhood.  I went to decent schools and was able to attend college at my parents’ expense.

Even with all of these blessings and this foundation, I stumbled.  I take that back; I fell down, flat on my face into a gutter.  Several times.  Yet, that support system that had always been there, stood strong and pulled me up and out.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Not everyone has these advantages.

We all need help now and then.  We all fall from grace at some point.  Keep that in mind if you find yourself rolling out a verbal beat-down on someone.  Keep that in mind as you watch the news and start tossing out judgments against some person or group that you’ve never met.

Being a hard-ass is easy.  All you have to do is withhold love and kindness when someone needs it.  Or point out their faults or their weaknesses or why their life is in shambles. We’re all one or two acts or decisions away from shambles, my friends.

Be well and lighten up.

August 25, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Encouraging nonsense

“What if a mid-life crisis is just people going back to who they really are?”

During a conversation on this topic last week, that statement made me stop in my tracks and say a silent “YES”.

What this means is that at some point in middle age, we suddenly realize that it’s just too much work to be someone that we’re really not.

Being a grown-up is serious business.  We’re encouraged to leave behind our childhood passions, fantasies and often, talents in order to be successful, productive adults.  Society tells us there’s no time for nonsense once you hit a certain age.

Sometime in our 40s or 50s, the pull to allow some nonsense back in becomes too much to resist.  We feel the tug of our childhood passions and fantasies or we just decide that the whole nose-to-the-grindstone deal sucks.  We’ve lost our connection to what animates us and motivates us.  We don’t dance or sing or throw a ball around or swing or draw or color or write or cook for fun.

I think the reason that this evolution is often referred to as a ‘crisis’ is because most of the people in our adult lives didn’t know us as our real selves.  We met them in our grown up costumes, with our grown up character firmly in place.  If we begin to stray from that role, it can be unsettling for spouses, children, friends and bosses.  Easier to call it a crisis than to face it and talk about it.

I also think there is a double standard.  Women are allowed this metamorphosis much more so than men.  We can blame or credit menopause for our unusual behavior .  Guys just don’t have that luxury and that’s too bad because quite frankly, a sports car isn’t any more ridiculous than a girls trip to Tuscany; both serve a purpose and that is to let loose.

So, there.  You have permission to give in to your mid-life yearnings.  Don’t call it a crisis.  Call it a reset or a regression or a rebirth.  Take off your hot, repressive, suffocating grown-up mask and let the real you out again.  If other people complain or freak out, let ‘em.  They’ll be in their own crisis soon enough and you can guide them along.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put up a tire swing…..

August 25, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 13 Comments

We’re all gonna die…

There are times in life, when a corner is turned.  Sometimes, we are completely unconscious of it happening.  We aren’t even aware of that right angle that we just traversed.  Other times, you feel it; you recognize that a little flag of triumph was raised in your conscious or sub-conscious mind to announce your progress.

I’ve turned a corner.  It’s a corner that is the size of a very large racetrack, as it’s taken me a few years to get around it.

I used to be suspicious when life was good.  One of those, “Things are going so well, that I just KNOW it can’t last” kind of people. When life was glorious, I tiptoed around just waiting for the big, old thud of that other shoe as it hit the floor.

Well, that was my corner and it’s behind me.  I’m happy with my life and the dread is gone.  Vanished.  Well, not really vanished; its been a process and I’m so glad that I took the first step on that journey a few years ago.

There isn’t enough time and space here to outline everything that I did to get to this place, but it’s pretty well documented in each and every post on this blog.

What I’ve accepted and even embraced, is the reality that bad stuff happens.  Always.  If our lives are going swimmingly and perfectly, bad stuff will occur.  If our lives are already in the crapper, more bad stuff is in the offing.  That’s just the way it goes.  Might as well accept it and not let it ruin all of the beautiful times that in my experience, FAR outweigh the bad.

I also began to recognize what’s bad and what’s merely inconvenient or annoying.  We tend to categorize fairly minor bumps as bad, when they’re really not.  It’s a matter of degrees.  Begin to honestly categorize things on a scale of 1-10 and you’ll start to see that disasters are often not all that disastrous.

I’ve also learned to look around and see how other people are handling REALLY bad stuff.  Cancer, loss of a child/spouse or parent, a terrible accident, etc.  They keep going; pushing forward knowing it will be behind them at some point if they just keep getting up out of bed every morning.

Look, the truth is, we all die.  That’s it.  All of us.  Every single person reading these words has a finite amount of time.  I guess you could say that the ultimate ‘bad stuff’ that befalls us is death.  Ultimately, that is what we fear the most. It’s our most deep-seated fear and most other fears emanate from it.

We lose everything that is dear to us at some point, so when you accept that premise, the dread dissipates.  For some of you that is unacceptable and I understand that, but I won’t live that way.  Accepting death and impermanence has been very freeing for me.  It has, quite honestly, brought me to a place of joy.

Be well.  Be peaceful.  Accept what is.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Who’s happy? Me

I’m told that the best blogs are short and to the point.  So, as I was sitting outside on a glorious northern Michigan day, I began to list the things that make me happy.

I don’t do that often.  I tend to ruminate on the things that make me unhappy or worried or nervous or anxious.  You know; stuff that will never happen.

So, when I mentally noted that hummingbirds make me blissfully happy, my list began.  Here is an incomplete list of the things that make me happy:


–Big, old trees

–Watching my dogs swim (this would actually be under the “things that delight me” category)

–A light breeze

–Anything written by Anne Lamott

–Sun on my face

–Early Saturday mornings

–Sitting around a fire

–Eating something that is freshly picked


–The first snowfall (actually almost any snowfall)

–Fleece…anything made of fleece

–My husband’s laugh

–Christmas lights.  Lots of them.

–A fresh coat of paint

–Seat warmers

–Completing a task

–A hug from someone that you’ve really, really missed

I feel better. Uplifted, renewed, refreshed, grateful, content.  Now, make yours.  It doesn’t have to be exhaustive or noble or a list of what you think should make you happy.  Be genuine.  Feel free to share in the comments.

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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