Solo and Hungry in Boston’s North End

Hello to all from Boston. Your curtain raiser is in town to catch a couple of Red Sox games and push a few personal boundaries. To achieve both I have left the familiar behind and am travelling solo.

And I’m loving it.

Never one to mind my own company I’m loving the freedom and adventure.

Today I attacked Boston’s freedom trail. Whilst I have done sections before I have never been able to do the whole length. The trail takes you on a 2.5 mile historic tour of Boston. There are several ways you can do the trail, I chose to do it unguided with only a map in hand. The trail
is marked by a red line and takes you back more than two centuries.

I suggest taking a map (costing $3.00) because there are places where the red line embedded in the footpath becomes a little confusing.

Part of the trail takes you through the North End. North End was home to Paul Revere and also to a large Italian population, although probably not at the same time. It is also home to many fine Italian restaurants and Mike’s Pastry, an Italian patisserie featuring signature calzone. A must try and always busy.

Coming back from Charlestown which is the end of the trail (think Bunker Hill), I decided it was time for dinner. Having had enough of fast food I went in search of some fine Italian in the North End.

The time was around 6.30 and diners had started in on their entrees (in Australia, this is the course before the main one). My first stop was a restaurant called Strega. I chose this one because my Italian MIL always says “Ostrega”, which as far as I can tell means something like “oh geez”. The lobster ravioli in a crab bisque also caught my eye. Mains were priced at $20 to about $42 and the place was a quarter full.

Having confirmed I didn’t need a reservation I asked the maître d for a table for one. She had been standing in the door way trying to spruik for business when I arrived.

I was informed that the table for one was a no go because she was fairly busy but that I could dine at the bar.

Say that again? You want me to eat at the bar whilst watching the couples have a fine dining experience?

I politely declined and started to walk away when she explained I would not be dining at the bar per se, but at a high table near the bar. Apparently you have to be at least a twosome to enjoy dining at a normal table. I declined once more and went in search of another place to eat.

The second place I tried had very few diners and another spruiking maître d. This one handed me a menu and explained the nightly specials. Then I asked for a table for one. We can seat you at the bar was the answer.

Do solo people in Boston never dine at a table?

I have to scratch my head at this letting the bird in the hand go logic. There was no queue and both places were spruiking for business. I would have come and gone in half an hour. It was a Thursday night.

With dishes priced $20 and up, it is not unreasonable to want a dining experience rather than just food on a plate. To me, this includes ambiance and being treated with respect.

Being relegated to the bar as a single is a slap in the face. It is also a short sighted strategy. My money is clearly good enough, but my single status is not. So much for goodwill.

I could have dined at a table and been converted into a raving fan. I could have gone back to my hotel and told everyone about the dining experience. I could have blogged, tweeted and jumped on Facebook and raved.

No doubt, there is usually no shortage of restaurant patrons on the North End. But if filling the restaurant is so easy, why spruik? Because the restaurant competition in the North End is fierce.

I had heard about discrimination against solo travellers, but this was the first time I had experienced it.

Goodwill generation requires more than just seeing diners as walking credit cards. It requires seeing diners as people.

In the end I dined on $8 clam chowder at Quincy Market at a normal sized table. A most enjoyable and tasty meal and one that I’m more than happy to blog and tell all my friends about.

As my MIL would say:

OSTREGA

or perhaps the better word is:

Fuhgeddaboudit.

IMG_2987.JPG

Saturday Soapbox: Angry Men – There Should Be An App For That

Angry Birds

Angry Birds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have all heard of the angry middle aged men stereotype. Hollywood has even recognised the concept with a movie, which spawned a sequel.

To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to it up to this point. Sure, I have come across the odd old curmudgeon in the past, but that was usually in the professional space and usually they were really old, I mean, like seventy-five or something to my then twenty-five or thirty. I figured by that age you earned the right to be a little bit cranky having honed the ability to spot a fool and respond accordingly. I hadn’t thought until now what a younger version of an old curmudgeon might look like and how these curmudgeonly skills are actually acquired. Clearly, by the time you have earned the right to get away with being angry you have been through middle age anger training school and have obtained a Bachelor of Bullshit Spotting in the University of Life. And I’m OK with that.

Lately though, my life has been full of angry middle aged men, both on and off the professional field. Pure coincidence, some Godly test or this because of my own middle aged station in life?

Let me be clear about the type of anger I am talking about. It’s not an overt type of anger, there is no name calling, physical violence, smashing of china, just a seething resentment and mounting frustration. Guys, let me tell you it is apparent to most of the world. It’s in your tone, your general attitude and your demeanor no matter how well you think you have it hidden. And what’s more and this is the biggy, it is usually directed at those who have NOTHING to do with the source of your anger. Or maybe the connection is that these men are angry at the world and we fellow Homo sapiens, being part of the world, are entitled to see the consequences in all its glory.

Typically, men tend to think they can handle their mental and physical health issues on their own. And its great that you have the whole macho thing going on, but spare a thought for those of us who have to come within your orbit.

Which is why someone needs to invent an App for Angry Men, similar to the concept of Angry Birds. I am reliably informed by Geek In Training that Angry Birds is based on a bunch of birds going after the pigs Anger quotethat stole their eggs. Do these fine feathered creatures sit around seething in frustration and resentment, snapping at each other. No! They catapult themselves into the air and go after those piggy thieves, crash tackling their way through structures and generally dissipating a whole lot of negative energy, even if they don’t get their eggs back.

The App would feature an angry man character having lost his cheese. He would be catapulted into the air by a non-angry female to take the long journey to find his cheese, flying over a convertible, his grown children, younger men in their primes and a bevy of buxom beauties. When he finally finds his cheese, he will have to smash through a few structures to get to it, but the more arduous the journey, the healthier and riper his cheese will be.

In all seriousness, there is no shame in taking a little time out in middle age in working the issues through. It is a period where many men, and women for that matter, feel a loss of control. The fact is a lot of things at this stage of life, inevitably change and if you try and resist, then someone will definitely move your cheese whilst you are busy pouring all of your energy into that resistance. Rail against the world if you must, but channel that energy into something benign, like a punching bag. A true punching bag in no way resembles a human being. We are more curvy and generally more witty.

I hope all my friends in the blogosphere are doing well and enjoying the various seasons, summer for you Northerners and winter for us Southerners. I have been reading your posts and ruminating, but just had to get this one off my chest.

Angry men to the left of me, frustrated men to the right… stuck in the middle with you.

 

I Feel The Need… The Need to Read!

Top Gun, what a classic. Fighter pilots, men in uniform, men out of uniform, aviator sunnies with cheeky handles like “Iceman”, “Viper”, “Goose” and “Maverick”. It also gifted us some great lines, one of which I have borrowed and contorted for my own nefarious blog purposes.  So whilst the remaining MiGs bug out, here’s a fantastic compilation video of Top Gun scenes with the song that has been playing in my head ever since I thought of the heading for this post.

I’m not going to be shooting down any enemy planes today, but I do feel invigorated. Why? Because today I refound my passion for reading books. This folks, is a big deal, huge, phenominal even!

To put this in context, a couple of years ago I used to be a voracious book reader, running at two to three a week. Mostly veg books, to use the expression of my fellow blogger, Eagle Eyed Editor. After a long day reading copious quantities of heavy and dry business material, I craved the escapist world of veg books, no thinking required, just pure emotion and verbage.  All my books were paper books and I loved thumbing the pages, loved looking at the well used spines lined up like sentinels on my book shelf and loved rereading my favourites when the mood struck.

And then I stopped. Cold. I flirted briefly with reading some non-fiction books, but I never became so deeply immersed as when my imagination was ignited by fiction. The only real explanation I can think of why is that slowly or possibly not so slowly my reading habits changed from paper to online. Suddenly my reading became centered around blogs of all kinds, personal blogs of my WordPress friends, blogs about management and leadership, blogs about marketing and social media, newspaper and journalistic blogs, blogs about writing, and blogs about blogs!

image from microsoft clipart

Most of the material was and is engaging and it is material that as an Australian I would never have had access to before the online age. Suddenly there was a whole new world to explore and learn from. And it was all free and accessible whenever I needed. But I think it came at a price.

Blog pieces, or at least the best blog pieces, are less than a thousand words long and possibly even shorter than that. They are short sound bytes designed to tantalize and entertain and much territory could be covered in the space of an hour online. Get to the point and prove your expertise quickly or find yourself in the middle of a cavernous snoozefest. During my blog hopping phase I did pick up a book or three in the hope that I would once again find my reading passion and the buzz of immersion. Maybe they were the wrong books or maybe it was the environment, but more often than not I found myself stopping after five pages. That was until I read a couple of recent books, including the book I discussed in my last blog post

Today, my journey back to the book world reached a pivotal point, for today I wondered into my favorite bookshop. It is in fact the last of the giant bookstores in my city, three levels of tomes, stacked on pallets, stacked on shelves, well…just stacked! Today there was a promotion for a classical music CD taking place when I walked in and the sounds of a soulful cello played. The musician was in store with his cello and there was a buzz. Customers and store clerks milled about and there was some serious browsing taking place in the aisles.

Gratuitous aviator sunnies pic

I felt like it was almost a spiritual experience with a real sense of it feeling right. I savoured reading the book jackets and combing the shelves for an hour and I am happy to say came away with three books to read. It is time to be immersed, to be transported. It is time to read the marathon after a long time spent sprinting.  I am revelling in this sense of anticipation and looking forward to getting reacquainted with turning pages, sneakily reading ahead and shutting the book cover when the last full stop has been read.

It is time to feed the need, the need to read!

Did you find the internet impacting your reading habits? Do you love to read? Do you sneakily read ahead?

Avoid Losing The Most Precious of Things – You

In my last post I advocated for the practice of ethical hedonism and noted that mothers owed it to themselves and those around them to indulge just a little. Preferably, they should do this without guilt. You can read about my views on hedonism here.

In that post I referred to the “intense stage of mothering young dependant children” and how emerging from it was one of the factors that lead me to my current views on hedonism. In their comments to my post, my blogging buddies at Grown and Flown, also reinforced the importance of that emergence and by doing so gave me the idea for this blog post. Thank you ladies!

There is no doubt that emerging from that phase (which I will call the Emergence in this post) was a game changer for me, although I never realised it at the time.

Like most new mothers I really had no idea going in just how intense mothering young children would be. Up until the point of the birth of my first child, I never had the opportunity to be around young children and certainly didn’t seek them out. However,  the motion picture of my life in my head always included children and so it came to pass. Within a month of deciding to fall pregnant I fell well and truly down the mothering rabbit hole and came across all manner of interesting tea party guests and situations that I had never before encountered.

I remember the very early days, sleep deprived and racked with guilt about not breast-feeding, feeling totally inadequate amongst the mess that was my house. I remember how I latched onto every progressive variation to baby routine like a starving woman and recounted to the Italian Stallion how the high point in my day was baby graduating from 60 mls of formula for every feed to 90 mls. Then there were the toddler years, when baby was all ability, no common sense and when one’s watching and listening skills are honed to perfection. Then it was onto the daycare and school years where your life became a dance to the starting and finishing times of these fine institutions.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of great times too and the rewards of parenting are some of the finest in life. I wouldn’t change the rhythm of my life for anything. However the above is the reality of mothering young children and it’s more than permissible to admit that it is hard work and that some days are just about survival.

“What did you do today, dear?”

“We survived with all body parts intact. World peace will just have to wait until tomorrow”

However, little did I know that the focus I put into parenting my young children, whilst pursuing a high-powered career and being a wife and daughter came with a cost. After all, everything you do is worth doing to the best of your abilities, right?  Naturally, you want the very best for your children, and you think that the very best is giving yourself completely and utterly over to the task. At least I did.

At the point of Emergence I felt rather pleased about some of the time I had regained. Time back for myself to do the little things I had put on the back burner for the past fifteen years. A few months after Emergence I was still trying to remember what those little things were and finally discovered the cost of all my “doing”. In putting my needs last and feeling guilty about indulging in a little daily hedonism during those years I had unknowingly eroded my most important relationship, namely with myself.

The human race is fond of labelling. We tend to spend a lot of time and effort pursuing high status labels. I knew I was a wife, mother, career woman and daughter. But beyond that? Who was I and who did I want to be? It’s only by answering these questions, that we are to find the path forward.

This is not to say I lay the blame solely at the feet of mothering. My Emergence was a real point of convergence – where Emergence meets middle age, meets searching for a more meaningful existence, meets career questioning. Everyone’s life path is different and points of convergence will vary.

I have a sense that finding the answers will take some time. Much like weight loss –  most of us gain weight through years of bad habits and then expect overnight miracles from our diets. It just isn’t going to happen. And there will be interruptions and glitches along the way.

So that’s why I advocate balance and a little measured pleasure. It helps you remain connected with who you are and your aspirations. I really hope that anyone involved with the concerns of others can take something away from today’s post. Giving yourself over to the cause is important, but remember YOU are a worthy cause as well.

So hello world, I’m just Judy and I like exploring but dislike labels. I also happen to be a mother, wife and daughter, an occasional humourist and blogger.

I’d love to hear how you describe yourself by taking it back to the most basic, without labels in the comment section below. Help us to get to know you.

Elephant and rock man images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Should Hedonism Be The New Black?

I read a terrific article on the weekend in our local newspaper – yes of the paper variety, remember paper fibre? – entitled “Days of Decadence”. It centered around the question of whether indulging in pleasure for pleasure’s sake can be good for you.

It opened up with the statement that fun is what you do when you are in your twenties and that traditionally hedonistic behaviour – long lunches, late nights, drinking too much, taking drugs and sex – is not considered healthy. The article further states that whilst hedonism, defined in the Oxford Dictionary as the “pursuit of pleasure: sensual self-indulgence”, tends to be frowned upon and signifies a lack of self discipline, its pursuit may just have its place.

I am here to advocate for a little hedonism for those of us in midlife and to make it the new midlife black. Like that little black dress in the back of the closet that you put on every once in a while and which makes you feel like a million bucks when you wear it. The secret of course is to not wear it every day, but as a wonderful indulgence, even when there is no special occasion.

I absolutely refuse to concede that having fun is what you do only in your twenties. Fun is not the sole province of youth, fun is ageless and timeless and more importantly, it is a state of mind, much like age. Most things can be fun and pleasurable if you approach it with the right attitude (OK maybe not root canal or certain medical procedures, except if you are a health professional). Personally, my sense of fun has increased with age and probably has a lot to do with increased confidence and wisdom, loosening up, mellowing out and emerging from that intense stage of having young dependant children. The promise of new, exciting and challenging experiences is heady and every day has the possibility of adventure. There will be plenty of time to lie down when I am six feet under.

Does this mean I am not self disciplined? I am not buying that puppy. Hedonism does not need to be unplanned or extreme. It can be as simple as having a long lunch in the sun, swimming, eating at a fine restaurant, blogging, travelling to new destinations, dancing, listening to music, sleeping in or reading in bed. It is about a little piece of personal freedom and doing the things you love. I advocate ethical hedonism, hedonism without living a harmful life. The key as always is balance and common sense.

I always feel a little bemused when people make comments like “I wasted half a day, I didn’t get out of bed until midday.” To which my response is: “And the problem is……?” Fair enough, if you don’t get out of bed before midday as means of regularly shirking responsibility or avoiding reality. But really, what’s wrong with getting out of bed at midday on a weekend morning, particularly when it’s cold, dark and raining outside after you have been working all week or even if it’s not? What’s wrong with sitting around talking, sharing, reading and laughing whilst the dirty dishes from last night’s dinner are sitting in the sink? That hour or two of bonding is enough to keep you going for weeks and give you plenty of energy and motivation to tackle any amount of dirty dishes, dirty laundry and other associated housework. Why are we conditioned to think that every activity must produce a tangible, positive result or be progress towards a goal?

Engaging in ethical hedonism is not only permitted, but I suggest, should be mandatory. Those who think that life is solely about obligations and achievement are missing out. Life is also about pleasure, the dolce vita and we should not feel guilty about the occasional indulgence. Mothers please take note, you owe it to yourselves and those around you to indulge just a little.

Let us not wake up one morning and think that today is going to be THE day only to discover our health and abilities compromised. Tomorrow may never come and those of us at midlife need to balance out living for tomorrow with our capabilities of today. So come and join me and practice a little ethical hedonism every now and again. You never know, it may even give you a longer, happier life.

Viva La Ethical Hedonism Revolution!

Do you have any little indulgences that keep you going? Is blogging one of them? If so, please share them with us. Do you agree that a little ethical hedonism is essential to a happy life?

Would You Want To Know The Halfway Point?

Firstly, thanks for embracing my Forest for The Trees post. I received some wonderful feedback on it and I am delighted that it resonated with many of you. Sometimes all it takes is to know that there is another human going through the same things or feeling the same emotions to lighten the load. If I have done that, even in a small way, then I’m happy.

Secondly, please forgive my absence of comments on some of your blogs. My Reader is having trouble updating and I am missing a lot of your blog posts. I’m going to have a crack at fixing the problem when I return from my next road trip which starts tonight. I m planning to return with some more great photos to share with you every Monday.

In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. Having reached middle age, I have a real sense that what has worked for me for the first forty something years of my life is not going to work for me for the next forty something. A very big part of Raising the Curtain is finding things, thoughts, methods and means that will work going forward.

One of my favorite quotes is from Soren Kierkegaard:

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

 

I am finding this quote has particular relevance at this middle stage of life.

Looking back, I can see that my discontent (for want of a better word) was building for the last three years. My thinking until recently was to just push through that discontent, but the personal price became too high. So I made some changes and will be making some more until recalibration has been achieved. Life has a way of throwing us pointers for our big decisions. The trick is to have your mind and heart open to recognise the signs and to appreciate them even if they point in a direction you haven’t before considered.

On my forest for the trees hike, I came across this sign:

At the time, finding it gave me comfort. It negated a lot of the variables that related to the walk we were taking – time, distance and energy required. It also confirmed we were on the right track.

It started me thinking (always dangerous!) as to whether it would be a good thing to have a similar sign pop up in our life’s journey so that we could be confident in living it and understanding it moving forward. Think about some scenarios:

    • Waiting for that train or bus
    • Waiting in that long queue, whether on the phone or in person
    • Waiting for your mate or significant other to come into your life or commit, whether that’s soul made, spouse, best friend, good friend
    • Knowing when you will have children
    • Knowing how long you have to endure ill/good health
    • Knowing how long you have to spend with a parent or other loved one
    • Knowing how long you will have to toil before you achieve that dream
    • Knowing how long you have above ground

Would you want to know the half way point?

Instinctively my answer for each of these scenarios would be yes. But this begs the next question:

Would knowing make a positive difference to your actions?

Knowing would certainly make planning easier and possibly bring some comforting validation, depending on which scenario applied. BUT I can’t help thinking that knowing in some of these scenarios would preempt certain negative outcomes, particularly if the halfway point is further than you expected.

The first two scenarios are “no-brainers”. I think we would all want to know the half way point. But what about the others?

Photo from freedigitalphotos.net

For example, would knowing how much time you have left on earth help you maximise that time or would you constantly feel under pressure to maximise every moment and be let down if you didn’t? Would you get the life equivalent of the 4pm Sunday afternoon work blues if you knew? Would you be discouraged or encouraged by reaching the halfway point?

Surely, the answer is individual for all of us.

Would I want to know?  Possibly not, living life forward and only understanding it backwards may just be enough in the long run. For now, the journey lies in TRYING to understand. The process of reaching for that brass ring may just yield more dividends than the brass ring itself.

Would you want to know the halfway point?

Halfway (rachaelrossman.com)

Mid-Life: Where Empowerment Meets Confusion

The Universe has been sending me a few signals lately that I need to return to the original theme of my blog, namely the journey through middle age. OK, Universe, I hear you and as always I am your humble servant.

Firstly, the ladies at Lipstick Rhetoric wrote two wonderful blog posts about middle life. In one they ask whether a mid-life crisis is tied to paid employment and whether as a result it is only a recent phenomenon in women  and in the other they write about a mid-life career crisis and whether this is attributable to the general midlife crisis phenomenon. Both of these posts resonated and I believe that the more people talk about this topic the better. All of us may be pioneers in our own lives and journeys, but none of us are pioneers in the wider sense. Ask enough questions, read and hang out long enough and you will come across those experiencing the same feelings, asking the same questions. Let’s use this wonderful technology to laugh, communicate and support each other and I don’t just mean the women. Men, your input into this issue is important, valuable and extremely necessary. I know it’s difficult for men to overcome the notion that they must remain strong, but men, let me tell you, there is no weakness in talking about this. Rather there is an honesty and level of self awareness that should be applauded. After all, that is the first step to change.

Furthermore, the only certainty in life besides death and taxes is that nothing is actually certain. Anything can change in a blink of an eye. To me, middle age, more than any other stage, teaches you how to deal with uncertainty to prepare you for the trials and tribulations you are bound to encounter in old age. It teaches you to question more deeply and that good planning will only get you so far. It gives you the confidence necessary to deal with the consequences of your decisions and to shed those parts of your skin that no longer work for you. Those that use middle age wisely can be reborn. Those that don’t will continue to struggle. Wisdom will usually require some tough decision and facing of fears.

There are some days when I feel like this

The second sign came from an article in our popular press over the weekend on how some Australian high-profile women are positively facing middle age. The article focused on women aged between their early forties to their early fifties, which of itself was an eye opener for me. I always wrongly held the notion that mid-life crisis point was only reached from the age of forty five but I suspect that soon we will be dropping the word “mid” from “mid-life crisis” and that more and more people will start their questioning and catharsis at an earlier age.  The impetus for this comes from several areas  – there are many more life style options that are available today and society in general has a more tolerant view on people embracing lifestyles and workstyles that are not considered to be conventional, if not totally alternate.  In that sense, these are exciting times.

I agree with the article that there are a lot of positives about middle age. I admit to a degree of trepidation at turning forty after I was too exhausted preparing for children when I turned thirty. But as my forties have worn on in terms of physicality, self-confidence and energy, I am embracing this decade like none before. After decades of trying, I finally have my weight under control and am embracing everything I can about finally being in proportion, including self confidence. What joy to have finally arrived at this point!!

I have concluded that middle age is that stage when empowerment meets confusion, rather than a number. There is no doubt the search of answers can be disconcerting, particularly if you had absolute direction to this point. The difficulty lies in realigning your life’s compass, after all you know so much more now than when you initially set it. True north, though, is still true north!

The hard part for me is finding the time and space to strategize about my own life whilst still being there for my family.  These are the absolute truths I have discoved about  middle age:

    • rebirth is not easy
    • strategizing takes time
    • you can’t strategize effectively with other noise in your head
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around on a dime
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around without affecting the position of other nearby boats
    • a mid-life crisis is harder on the partner not going through it.

The reference to “Titanic” here is as a symbol for a large ship, not a sinking one!

Like I said at the start of my blog, I am not a self-help guru and I have no wish to preach at anyone. I hope by outlining my thoughts and feelings about my own journey others may feel less alone, less disconcerted. There is much strength to be gained from solidarity and discussion. And if a friendship or two develops along the way, so much the better.

Have you discovered any truths or insights about mid-life? I would love to hear from you.

Tawny’s blog and Tawny’s posts always carry a meaningful message and this one is no exception. I love Tawny’s outlook and so am reblogging this.

I came across a couple of wonderful sayings recently:
“Everything you want in life is on the other side of fear and discipline.”

“You can’t heal what you don’t confront”

Yes, yes a thousand time yes – to both!

So that said, what would I ask my fears if I invited them to dinner? “What is the essence of you that makes you so gripping?”

Can’t wait for the further instalments in Tawny’s Fear Act series.

The Tawny's Blog

How does fear manifest itself in your life?  How do you deal with it once you recognize it? 

In Fear Act I, I shared a scenario to illustrate the sneaky nature of fear as it related to my attachment to my first baclofen pump.

I hadn’t expected the piece to mirror any relationship where fear creeps in, but was pleasantly surprised by the development because it does work the same way with everything.

We give others our personal power often in relationships.  Much the same way I gave my personal power to my first pump.  This is also what happens in depression, addictive behavior and with those who go from relationship to relationship.

Why do we do give away our power?  We do it for any number of reasons—insecurity, low self-worth, the belief that we need something or someone else to “complete” us, avoidance of looking inward, etc. 

Your…

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O is for Orchard: Finding The Sweet Apples of Life (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

In September 2005 Louise Eldrich published her novel, The Painted Drum. The book, which I have not yet read, contains one of my favourite quotes of recent times. So good in fact, that I had one of my friends, Toni Legates, who is a Photoshop magician, create a photo montage with the saying. The montage is reproduced below.

This is a quote that resonates deeply for me at middle age. I think if I had encountered it ten or fifteen years ago, I would not have appreciated its full meaning – at least not in the context of my own journey. There are some extremely powerful messages in the lines of this quote. Some messages, I already knew, some messages I needed to hear and some messages that I have embraced.

By the time I reached middle age I had worked out that no-one can lead a rich life without taking emotional risks. People and their reactions are things we cannot control and there are times when you just have to put it out there. Life does not come with 100% absolute guarantees and it never will. However, I think most people get to that stage sometime in their life that they develop the confidence to know that they will be able to handle any negative consequences that may arise from taking emotional risks. I now have. Being prepared to risk emotionally means creating the potential to reap rich emotional rewards, a potential that was denied to me in the past.

I can also now more fully appreciate the need to let myself sit in the orchard of life and just listen. Having emerged from a time when I thought there was NO time to sit and think, I have now made appointments with myself to do just that. We wouldn’t think to break a committment to others, but we tend to quite readily do so in the case of commitments to ourselves. Well, I am giving my appointments with myself at least the SAME amount of importance as I do with my appointments with others. We need to process and have enough clarity of vision and clear headedness to pick up on the cues the universe sends our way.

Having given myself permission, I now find that the sweet apples of life are everywhere. I take gratitude in the small things. The small wins are to be savoured and deserve just as much, if not more, focus and energy than the more remote possibility of a big win. Yes, it would be nice to win the lottery, but what are the chances…really? So I am not waiting for life to hand me lemons or one giant apple, I am reaching out for as many smaller sweet apples as I can and taking a huge bite of them. Happy to say, that I have encountered very few rotten cores to date.

When life hands you apples, you could make apple sauce, but I’d rather enjoy their crispness.

Have any quotes or passages ever resonated deeply with you?

M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]