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The Holiday Season has been so good to me that I almost expect it’s up to something. You know that feeling you get when your Significant Other unexpectedly treats you to a super special dinner and in the back of your cynical little mind you think, “Is he boinking the blonde in accounting?” Or when your boss gives you lavish praise and you wonder, “Am I on the list for lay offs?” Yeah- Christmas has been that kind of good. Some would say it was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!
No ghosts came to escort me through portals of time and I spent no time conversing with an angel named Clarence. They are small miracles I suppose but none the less they are mine.
Christmas miracle #1: My four-year old son bought my “Giving is Better than Receiving” shtick.
Trying to teach Leo about giving, I volunteered us to buy Christmas for two children in need. Wonderful in theory but in practical application, it can be rather difficult to talk a child into buying toys for OTHER children.
In the days leading up to the shopping trip I talked excitedly about how much fun we would have being elves. I have learned that talking about chores, vegetables and other “undesirables” with as much enthusiasm as possible can be helpful with children. It’s tricky though, kids might be all, “Brocoli, hell yeah!” However they are just as likely to look at you like you’re an idiot and refuse. In this case the tactic was working pretty well until the morning of the shopping trip.
“Are you excited about our trip later today? We get to be elves! Giving to those kids is going to make them sooooo happy and that’s what Christmas is all about!” I squealed.
“No it’s NOT Momma. Christmas is about getting toys and trucks and, and . . . and BOUNCY BALLS!” My son hollers.
Who says Bouncy Balls? Did Charles Dickens make an appearance at Leo’s daycare that I was unaware of?
Perhaps he just had not had enough Cheerios or juice that morning because when the time for Target rolled around he was in a significantly brighter mood. Still, lets not kid ourselves, I was walking into a potential hellish situation.
Boy was I wrong. He was an absolute angel. He spent some time looking at toys I knew he would give his left chubby cheek for but he never once asked for a toy for himself. His excitement grew as he helped me pick out all the gifts. He knew just what to get the little boy. He was less certain about the little girl, at one point he stopped in his tracks and loudly said, “Uh, don’t girls like THAT?” Pointing an accusing finger at a Hello Kitty toaster oven.
I was beaming with pride as we checked out and by the time I loaded up the toys in the trunk I was doing that crazy happy cry thing I do sometimes.
From the back seat Leo asks me, “Momma, why are you all stiffly?”
“I am so proud of you Leo! You did something that many adults (myself included) have a hard time doing.”
“Oh, but why are you crying?”
“Sometimes when grown ups are very happy they cry.”
“Momma, sometimes grown ups are silly.”
Christmas miracle #2: My Baby’s Daddy and I took our son to see Santa . . . together.
That’s right. Together. Was it awkward? Only slightly. We actually got along and may, I mean may have even shared a laugh or two. I left patting myself on the back for being such a mature human being, and thinking we may have a snowball’s chance in hell at getting along.
#3 My four-year olds wavering belief in Santa was completely restored.
#4 Fiance became one of those slightly creepy, yet magical Elf on the Shelf parents.
#5 No one got food poisoning from the Chinese food that by all practical purposes should have landed us in the hospital.
#6 I spent an entire holiday season with out getting down in the mouth about my dysfunctional family and was not once haunted by the ghost of Christmas past.
#7 XXX’s The Most Interesting Man in the world holiday ad campaign. One word: Brilliant!
#8 I hand crafted my Christmas gifts to Fiance and they didn’t suck!!
#9 I somehow managed to never set foot into a post office or mall.
#10 On Christmas Eve my son climbs out of the bath tub and as I wrap him up in a towel he looks at me with his enormous chocolate eyes and says, “Momma, sometimes I think I have so much love in my heart that it will grow and grow, like the Grinch’s heart. Only my heart will keep growing and it will just explode love all over you.”
I can feel myself raise my eyebrows. What is he up to? Does he want something? Another cookie, more stories, to open a Christmas gift? I brush the thought away like a snowflake from my shoulder and I pull him to me tightly.
“Sometimes I think mine will too.” I tell him as one of my dumb happy tears rolls down my cheek and on to his back.
I guess miracles are not up to anything after all.
Annnnd, because if you know me you know that I heart George Michael. It would not be Christmas with out this:
Peace out Christmas.
Today’s dilemma comes to us from the dredges of the dating world. Not really a shocker. It is a truth universally acknowledged that dating sucks a big one and we all put up with it because no one, no matter how independent they claim to be, wants to be alone. If this is not a truth that you don’t personally subscribe to then I don’t trust you.
Dear Ms. Love n Happiness,
I have a friend who was dating someone new. There was no communication on his part for some time except a few posts on Facebook. Then one night she called him up, he came over, they spooned and then he left. They set a date for coffee the following weekend. The day before their coffee date he left a friendly message on Facebook, but didn’t return her phone calls to confirm the coffee date. She thought nothing of it because of the spooning incident, I mean if you’re gonna spoon then coffee is certainly not a big deal, right?
Coffee day rolls around and the guy completely stands her up! She called and bawled him out on his voicemail. In return he blocked her from Facebook. A middle-aged man acting like a child. Any advice for my jilted friend? She is left confused and angry.
Thank you so much for your question! I am sorry for what happen to your friend. I don’t think I have ever been stood up by someone. Well, except for that time my own boyfriend stood me up when we were supposed to meet my family. Whatever. I am not bitter.
Getting stood up by some chicken shit is inexcusable now a days. I mean for Gawd‘s sakes, we have text messaging which makes it both easy and fast to lie! Now, I am not sure what your friend said when she “bawled out” this dudes voicemail, but in general Facebook blocking should be reserved only for the most persistent of stalkers.
And the cherry on top of the big ‘ol insulting-ass cake? All of this happen post spooning. In this girls opinion spooning is pretty sacred stuff. I’d rather kiss a guy and have him go around telling people my tongue was fuzzy, or perhaps go on a group date where the guy flees screaming “I never want to see you again!!” But THIS after spooning? Ugh. I feel your friends pain.
That being said, it’s time for your friend to brush the dirt off and move on to the next one. Would it help for your friend to think in the terms that her sucky experience is but a small microcosm of a far greater sucky entity? Because as we acknowledged before: dating sucks a big one. And it makes perfect sense that it would.
First of all, you’ve got the whole communication thing, which is tricky enough for people who have known each other for a life time. We certainly don’t know how to communicate with this new person! Questions start racing: “What do I say?” “How much truth is too much truth?” “Will she think I am being rude if I tell her I don’t really like to spoon?” ” Should I tell her I am allergic to coffee?” Often times the racing questions become overwhelming and at this point we (read: mostly men) have a tendency to drop off the face of the planet.
Then you have got the date itself. You’ve got a wacky conglomeration of strangers thrown together, each with their own dating past, their own sets of fears and insecurities and sometimes their own personality disorders. Often times there are hormones and alcohol thrown in the mix and voila! — you have a recipe for a potential disaster! Like the girl who once approached the bar I was tending and demanded, “Quick! I need two shots of Jack! I am on a terrible date!” Um, the worst part? This was said in front of her date. I poured three, one for each of them and one for myself to wash down the bitter taste that was rising in the back of my throat.
So we have a pretty good idea why dating sucks: people can be weird and love is complex. We also know why we subject ourselves to the potential torture: potential romantic bliss or at least a good meal. But how do we make this process less painful?
I don’t know.
Sorry, but that’s the truth. I don’t know. I am sure there are a lot of theories on how to date out there, books of rules and what not. I don’t believe ’em. I am about to marry a man I met in a greasy grimy pool hall. I have dated a few men who looked perfect on paper, and quite possibly were perfect, but I guess I don’t do well with perfect. I have friends who have known each other for years and never thought once about liking each other romantically. They are now married with a perfect little cupid baby boy. I know a couple, complete soul mates, one is a New York City business woman and the other is a bona-fide cowboy. They met on Match.com. Don’t get me wrong, if one of those guides works for you or your friend, then sweet! But, I doubt that the same book would work for all three of your best friends. I believe that love is way too vast to put in a one size fits all category.
It’s said that you have to kiss, er spoon, a lot a frogs before you find your prince/princess. Maybe yours is the very next frog? My best advise is to not take these dating dilemmas too personally, have a sense of humor and believe that one day these dating injustices will be nothing but really good stories to tell a special someone over a cup of coffee.
♥ n ☺,
What about you guys? Got any dating horror stories to share? Comparing notes on crazy can be really helpful!
Annnd, keep your questions coming! @email@example.com
And I suppose we can all just be grateful we are not dealing with THIS:
I don’t know what it is. Bad genes, too tight socks, lack of potassium in my diet? But I was never one of those overly happy people. In high school it was the perky-cheerleader, in my early twenties the America’s- sweetheart- social darling type and now it’s the Stepford- ish-PERFECT MOM, or the light-as-air-spiritual-looooove-organic-girl-next- door type, I’ve always been leery of these overly happy types. It was as if they had something, even if that “something” was just the energy to put on a happy face, that I myself did not have. Essentially I was a half empty type and on top of that I was envious of others half fullness! Perhaps I am slow, but it only occurred to me fairly recently that happiness is one of those things I’d have to actually work on, as opposed to just wait on.
12 Things Happy People Do Differently
“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live – that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
“Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives. (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)
I want to honor and discuss each of these 12 points, because no matter what part of life’s path we’re currently traveling on, these ‘happiness habits’ will always be applicable.
- Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
- Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
- Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an older version of yourself.
- Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
- Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
- Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
- Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
- Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
- Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
- Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
- Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
- Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.”
As if these twelve items were not enough to both daunt and motivate the hell out of you, go check out their site for more list that inspire. I really enjoy practicing number one and two. I struggle with number three . . . a lot. I feel like I have been working on number seven my whole life and I could definitely stand to work on number ten.
What about you guys, how do you stay so effing happtastic? Got anything to add to the list?
One interesting take on a happiness mantra:
In this weeks installment of Dear Ms. Love n Happiness the question comes from a dapper and endearing young man who I will refer to as Mr. Empty. Oddly enough, Mr. Empty is far from being empty. In reality he has a huge heart and is endowed with the kinda gifts that change the world, he just doesn’t know it yet.
Mr. Empty asks:
Dear Ms. Love n Happiness:
Why, even in a relationship, do I always feel ’empty’? I am now in my early twenty-somethings, have been in multiple medium-term relationships, yet have not found myself filled with joy, or anything close.
Dear Mr. Empty,
Who are you trying to kid? This is no relationship question. I know you are far too brilliant to actually believe that any relationship or for that matter any thing external could fill up this emptiness you are experiencing. You just want me to be the boring ol hag that tells you what you already know. Fine. Knowing full well that I am about to be trite, tired, cliché and commonplace, I am just gonna say it anyway: All those warm fuzzies you are longing to experience . . they have to come from you first.
If you are anything like most of us, you have to hear things 1 billion and a half times, so I’ll give it to you again and this may sting a little: All the girls you bed, all the money you make, all the art you create, any drug that you take will not fill up that hole. Duh.
Here is another little nugget of truth that may piss you off before it sets you free: Your pain is not special. Whatever it is that is gnawing away at your insides, your childhood, something you didn’t get, something that you got you didn’t want, whatever you call your cross: It. Is. Not. Special. Neither is mine. Neither is my moms, or my lovers. Not my sisters, not the guy on the bus who smells funny, not the asshole that broke my heart, and sadly not even the bitch that seems to have it all. None of our very painful burdens are special. What a heartless bitch, right? I know. But think about it, they are not special because we all have ’em. Look around, from the most prestigious and powerful to those on the fringes of society, we are all running around with heavy loads to bare and trying to fill up aching holes. And believe it or not, this is really good news! Once I saw that this false feeling of emptiness is part of the human condition, so much of the problems power over me was taken away.
Now at this point you have a choice. Many people choose to get all dark philosopher prince on the shit and question the existence of God, don dark-colored garb, shake their fist at the heavens and write mad treatises from caves. Whatever. It’s been done. Do it again if you want. But, I think that what you really want is something different. You want to live from you heart and your soul. And this here is how I think it’s done, clearly I am still working out the kinks myself:
1) Find something you believe in with all your being and get your arse involved.
Sure, your heart is empty and your soul is shriveled up. But, my hand to God the best prescription for this emptiness is to give more of yourself. Giving gets the heart pumping harder and your soul stretching. Its gets you out of the Philosopher King head and into your heart where the fuzzies live. You will find, as a natural consequence of giving to others that your own healing starts to occur. You will realize that the cause you choose to get fully behind is the one you need most for yourself. (Is it a coincidence that I am writing a book about my experience as a single mom or that my dream is to start a program for broken-hearted little kids who want to write, or that my best friend helps troubled teenagers through art, or that my neighbor works with gay children?) In short, heal others and you heal yourself.
2) Realize that cynicism is overrated.
You are very brilliant, and for brilliant people it’s easy to use your intelligence to find all sorts of evidence to support cynicism. I know because I spent my entire college career doing just that. I paid about 60k a year so I could sit around and commiserate with a bunch of other Sad Sams. We studied Nietzsche and Pound. We psychoanalyzed every halfway optimistic text within an inch of its life. We compared horrific childhoods and told blood curdling stories about he atrocities committed in the name of faith or love. Oh- we had so many super pseudo-intellectual reasons for our emptiness. Our emptiness was a big, beautiful badge that we proudly wore. It was symbolic, it was artistic. It was bullshit. I walked away with astronomical student loans and a still empty heart.
3) You gotta believe in something.
For me belief is not something I can categorize, summarize, rationalize, or intellectualize. For me, belief was something that lived inside me all along. I just had to quit beating it down with a stick and let it come out and live a little bit. For you, and for everyone else, belief is a personal experience. How you experience it, how you express it, how you access it could be as different as my fingerprint is from yours. What I do believe is universal is the fact that somewhere, maybe deep, deep, damn deep down in all of us, we know our truth. We believe in something outside of ourselves. Life is a process where our knowing gets covered with shit. I suppose the challenge is to start shoveling the shit!
4) You gotta use your powers for good
The darkside really does not need any more help, they got that bizz on lockdown. Plus, the pay off and benefits are shitty. Mr. Empty, I would suggest that you take all your brilliance and all the energy you have put into to constructing your identity as the: intelligent, artistic, deep, emotional, wounded dark and slightly cynical man into something new. Use your immense powers for good and build yourself as the man who experiences joy and fulfilment and lives surrounded by love.
I have a feeling joy is right around the corner. So take your remedy for a while and then lets compare notes. I know a whole tribe of non crazy, at least in the dangerous sense, mildly cool peeps who are on the same plan.
♥ & ☺ ,
Oh, and spreading all this love n happiness is kinda hard work, so laughing helps too.
When little kids are not making up wild stories or telling bald face lies, like the time in third grade I told everybody there was a dolphin living in my pool, one of the best things about them is that they are refreshingly honest. Unlike myself, who is always wearing different “hats” and often feeling like I am presenting to people, my son is completely comfortable in his own hat at all times. One day I was risking our lives in rush hour traffic when I lost my temper in front of Leo. “What? Where do you want me to go you dumb ASSHOLE??” I holler at the guy who is incessantly honking at me as we sit in gridlock on the highway. Leo cocks his head and says, “Momma, I don’t like the way your face looks when you are mad.” Then he thoughtfully suggests, “Maybe that guy just needs a nap? Maybe he had a bad day?”
Regretting that my mom “hat” slipped and a bit of ugly truth slid out, I think: God, he is completely right. Schooled by a four-year old.
Sometimes I think of my son as a little Buddha, spreading truth and wisdom. And then . . . he tries to eat one of his boogers and the whole image is blown. Sometimes his honesty and openness is more embarrassing than inspiring. Case in point: I call The Ex to speak with Leo who is visiting him for the weekend. The Ex answers using the hands free function in his car and my voice is broadcast over the speakers. I hate being on speaker phone when The Ex is around, I can just feel him rolling his eyes at everything I say, however, he insists that cell phone radiation will warp our sons brain so I deal with it.
“Hey baby, what are you doing?” I croon to Leo.
“Oh, hi Momma! We just had Mexican food!”
“Momma, my dad is on a date right now.”
“Oh!” I say, a little confused, because his dad just answered the phone.
“Yeah he is on a date with _________n. She’s riding in our car right now.”
“Oh! Mexican.” I have to say something!
“She is really nice to me Momma, but I think it’s because she likes my Daddy.”
“Did you have cheese dip?” Why can’t I stop talking about Mexican food?
“Yes. But Momma, I wanna tell you something! You are more pretty than ___________!”
“Oh! Okay, well I am gonna go to the grocery store now. I’ll buy some taco shells!” What is wrong with me?
I hang up the phone, absolutely mortified. Why in the world would The Ex choose to answer my call, on speaker phone no less, if he had a date in the car?
Maybe this is The Ex’s version of being refreshingly honest and breaking ’em in quick? “Hey, I have a four-year old boy! He can’t sit still in a restaurant! He says all kinds of crazy stuff! My Baby’s Momma is always gonna be around! She is awful in awkward situations! Can you deal? ” And I hope she can, because dating someone with children is a huge undertaking, just ask The Fiance.
I can only hope that what ever woman gets the extreme joy of having my son in her life recognizes how wonderful he his. And . . . since we are all being so refreshingly honest, I must admit, I am wearing my shallow and petty “hat” and I am happy my son says I am prettier!
Because this guy is always funny:
Dear Ms. Love n Happiness,
I hear that you are sort of an expert on “really ridiculously dysfunctional families” and “trying your damnedest to live a good life”. I usually rely on excessive introspection when it comes to my troubles but I could sure use some help unraveling this exasperating character that some might call my father but that I prefer to call “Eeyore”. Allow me to make a long and unpleasant story short and unpleasant. After years of being mean, stingy, unloving, and well, an asshole my father recently had some sort of soul spasm and seems to have started having normal human feelings. While that itself is moderately irritating, I can forgive and forget for the most part. The problem lies in that he insists on acting victimized by life and demanding constant pity. No matter how many times his kids call or visit him it is never enough and he makes that known every chance he gets. While I want to tell him that he is lucky that any of his kids can stand the sound of his morose voice and the sight of his disgraceful face I find myself just avoiding his calls which leads to unpleasant indignation at the inevitable email I soon receive. (Yes, Eeyore learned how to use a computer ONLY because he craved one more avenue for spreading his misery). All I want is to live a good life and be a good person. As Pooh would say, I “think think think” but all I know is that if I avoid him it only adds to the load that my sister has to endure, if I continue a relationship with him I will have to sacrifice my precious few moments of peace, and if I kill him I will go to jail. Oh, bother. I apologize for the sullen tone of this question and I promise that next time I will lighten the mood by hashing out some of the homophobic and racist comments I had to endure at Thanksgiving dinner.
Much love and kisses,
Your biggest fan 🙂
Dear Biggest Fan,
Oh bother. I sure can relate.
I wish these “characters” in our lives would just stick to the script. I mean, your inner director is probably saying “Look, Pops, you are the asshole father. That is your role. I have learned after many years and a shitload of tears to deal with your two speeds: angry or absent. And now you go and try to add a third? Despondent and downtrodden? CUT! This is bullshit.”
And I am right there with you. This is bullshit and it needs to stop. The only thing, and I mean the only thing that your father has a right to complain about to you is how crummy he feels that he attempted to screw up large portions of your life.
Now, as I see it there are two possible explanations for his behavior. Note the use of the word explanation not excuse.
Explanation One: You said that your father is having some sort of “soul spasm,’ my guess is that this convulsing is due to the huge gaping hole inside his soul. Your father is trying to get you and your family to fill up the hole for him. He realizes that he can no longer use angry threats to get what he wants. That does not work with a grown-ass strong woman such as yourself, so he figured how to get you where you are weakest and he is tugging at the strings of your big ‘ol heart. But don’t you see that what he is doing is manipulation? Sometimes manipulation comes to us wearing a pretty smile, bearing gifts or in this case brushing tears off his weather worn cheeks.
Even though your father was a total shmuck, it must feel good to know that he needs you and it is probably tempting to start trying to appease him by pouring what ever we can spare into that cavernous pit in his heart. But the truth is even if you gave everything you had, it wouldn’t work. No one else can fill up that hole for your father, he has to do the dirty work himself.
Explanation Two: He does not even know what he is doing, to be honest your father may not even be capable of masterminding true manipulation. Chances are Pops did not have much training on how any relationship works, let alone on how to be a father. He feels bad about the past and his aching soul hole demands to be filled up so he grasps at straws and tries what ever might work, and apparently the Eeyore routine works. Like a Pavlovian dog he wines and cries until you give him the little scrap of food he needed to momentarily fill himself up. This will go on and on until you run out of scraps to give, because as we discussed above, these soul holes can not be filled by others.
Regardless of the motives behind his behavior, I think we can both agree that this shit needs to stop. You have been a big enough person to forgive this man for the pain he has caused you and let him back into your life, then the very least he can do is play life by your rules!
So here is what you do, damn it: the next woe-is-me communication you get from Pops you very simply tell him, “Dad, I’m happy to hear from you but I really have to insist that we focus our conversation on positive things.” You must use your words! Whatever words those are, use them. Do not infer this, wish this, tell your friends and family about it, or ignore him and psychically channel the words to him. You must speak up and use your voice. Why? Because first of all it feels damn good, like you are wearing the best big girl pants ever! And because it’s true that people will treat you the way that you demand to be treated, but first you have to give them a chance by telling them how to treat you.
When it happens again you say: “Dad, I really can’t talk to you when you are being like this.” And then, DON’T. Remember Pavlov? That lil doggie has gotta learn you mean business. And as far as you sister goes, I suggest she do the same damn thing. Gang up on his ass.
And really, what’s the worst he is gonna do? Get angry? Go away? You have seen and survived both just fine. And the best? He has a moment of blinding clarity and he never darkens your door with his morose nature again and instead become the father you always wanted. Or . . . maybe something in the middle.
Trust yourself. Use your big ‘ol heart and smarts to stand up for yourself and the life that you are creating. It’s not the same old same old. It’s new and nifty and pretty damn brilliant.
♥ & ☺,
Thank you so much for all your questions. Keep ’em coming. “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” rolls around every Tuesday. I am really digging this and I hope you do too!
I used to tell myself a lot of things about myself that simply were not true. I used to say, in my typical Cynical-Cindy way, “Eh, I’m not really in to the holidays. I don’t really go out for the whole tradition thing.” I envisioned myself more of the Thelma and Louise type. On Thanksgiving Day I’d be more likely to saunter into a gin joint in some far-flung border town and order the bar a round of shots than to cook up some dead bird. Let me tell you, that was fantasy. Pure bull shit, really. As it turns out, I love tradition about as much as an Alabama church lady loves deviled eggs.
This brings me to: The Second Annual Thanksgiving Deviled Egg-Off. This is a relatively new tradition where creativity, competition and everyone’s favorite picnic food unite for a good old fashion throw down:
Like any good contest there are rules, most of which we made up as we went along.
Rule Number One: There are to be no repeating recipes. This rule was promptly vetoed by Fiancé, who argued rather convincingly that was like saying that Grandma couldn’t make her famous fruitcake every year. I don’t like fruitcake much, but he did have a point.
Rule Number Two: All entries must be named. There were She-deviled Eggs, Domino’s Pizza Eggs and something called Shmeggs. Don’t ask. Contestants had to give a little presentation about their eggs over a bull horn. Even though there were less than a dozen of us, a bullhorn just makes things seem more official don’t you think?
Presentations went something like: “These eggs are fresh from a local farm and topped with prosciutto made from pigs that were fed only chestnuts.”
“These eggs come from places so far away we have never even heard of them. They are pumped full of hormones and ingredients you can not pronounce. There is a lot a fear and rage inside each of these eggs.”
Then it was time to vote. After we discussed different categories and a lot of complicated formulas that looked like logarithms, we finally settled on the ‘ol put a ballot in a hat method. There were ten guests and yet seventeen ballots were counted. The winner took home an original piece of art (magic marker on copy paper) and a full belly.
oh and did I mention the amazing table scape??
The rest of the holiday was chock full of more fun traditions. Some old, like my cornbread dressing and canned cranberry sauce. Some new, like combining the card game Apples to Apples and the liquor 99 Bananas into one stellar drinking game. (Maybe we should start calling that Fruit Salad?) Some ill-advised, like staying out far too late the night before said cornbread dressing and deviled eggs are to be made. Picture if you will me in my robe and my sleepy fiancé in his underwear desperately trying to peel eggs and chop celery in our tiny kitchen. And some completely foreign, like me at a college football game, watching as 150 year old trees get toilet papered and people take tailgating to a level I had never knew possible, and – gasp! – enjoying every second of it!
Now is the time that people all over the world are starting the preparations for their upcoming holiday traditions. As I write this people are busting out menorahs, flinging tinsel, hording wrapping paper and booking extra appointments with their shrink. In the days to come people will be buying Wal-Mart out of outdoor lights, annoying coworkers by incessantly humming Christmas carols under their breath, dusting off the ol holiday sweater, and slaving over the annual family newsletter. The air around us is alive with tradition and I find myself wondering: what in the heck I ever had against it anyway?
Oh, wait, I know. Because tradition is a tricky little minx. Sure, that cornbread dressing is delish but in order to eat it do we have to sit around with a table full of Sad-Sam’s or Angry-Andy’s? We look forward to feeling warm and fuzzy, basking in the glow of a fire as we roast chestnuts (not that I have ever roasted a chestnut in my life, but you get the point) only to wind up feeling let down and empty after all the nuts have cracked. So many us developed the tendency, like myself, to Grinch-out a bit and just say Bah- Humbug to the whole tradition ordeal.
But here is the great part – the Bob Crotchet, George Bailey, wonderful, wonderful part – that I am just now beginning to understand: I get to create my own traditions now. Be it gin joints and shots or dead birds, they are MY traditions.
So, lets start with a few of the traditions I will not be partisapating in this year: or any other:
I will not be driving all over town busting my ass to see multiple facets’ of family, some of which are not that pleasant to be around any way, because otherwise I would be sick with guilt.
I am no longer under any obligation to clean, cook and decorate my brains out for the never quite satisfied lover.
I will never again bust my ass on Christmas Eve buying cheap filler gifts at the mall just so that I have something to give the never quite satisfied lover’s Aunt Ethel who is always telling everyone that I am going to hell because I live in sin.
No more pretending that Uncle Roy is not drunk. Never again will I silently nod my head in agreement when Aunt Rita says “he’s just really tired” when he passes out in the mashed potatoes.
There will be no more silently praying to disappear or wishing to join Uncle Roy in blessed un- awareness as I listen to Uncle Keith spew all sorts of hate disguised as religion and politics.
And with all of the ghosts from holidays past outta the way, I have so much more room to create whatever traditions I want. Like Deviled-Egg Offs and Early 90’s Pop Sing-a-Longs-Thons. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get really into outdoor light displays à la Clark Griswold, or take up a toy drive. But one thing is for sure, this year I will be counting all my many blessings and enjoying all the room I have made in my life for love.
And what about you guys? What are you purging and what are you creating this season? I’ll be featuring your creative holiday traditions as well as humorous holiday horror stories here!
Send ‘em to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Annnnnnd here is a little something to get you in the spirit:
Dear Readers (all two of you),
You lucky dog! You have experienced me bending your ear about my wack-a-do problems. Now it’s your turn.
I thought it would be fun to experiment with a “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” feature on my blog. Like this one: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/09/chicken-soup-for-the-soul-or-dear-ms-love-n-happiness/ and I could really, really use your help.
Could you PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY please take a moment out of your crazy-ass life to do two things:
1) Jot down a question about life and fire it off to me. @ email@example.com
Don’t worry! You and anyone you speak about will remain completely incognito, unless of course you are glutton for glory.
Fear not! If you don’t have the time to craft a cutesy question, it could be a simple prompt. Think Mike Myers and Coffee Talk: “I’ve been dating this guy for a few months and the first time I spent the night at his house he came to bed in pajamas and a breath right strip. WTF? This was an absolute deal breaker and now I won’t return his calls. Am I shallow? ” I can take it from there. Of course if you fill inspired WRITE ON!
My areas of (supposed) expertise: Single parenting, parenting, dating, blending families, relationships, crazy ex’s, really, really ridiculously dysfunctional families, antics, rants, fun and trying your damnedest to live a good life. And! Powered by the world-wide web and a library card, I will even do research if I don’t have the answer. I. Am. Not. Scared.
And, while I may be a snarky puss the majority of the time, I am capable of being rather kind: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/10/25/the-amish-instinct/ and kinda deep. Kinda. See: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/04/an-open-letter-to-my-father-the-meth-addict/
2) Recruit a friend to do the same! Let’s face it, I am usually always stuck at a desk or chasing a toddler so getting my writing out beyond my circle has been tough. Please, let your friends, colleges and family members critic my perspective and crappy grammar! The more the merrier.
You are achingly beautiful and wise.
Dear Ms. Love n Happiness,
You seem to have been around the block quite a few times and you certainly like to give out a lot of unsolicited advice, so I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on a relationship situation for me. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over a year. I’m not sure what to do anymore; I just don’t feel like he loves me. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me feel this way but sometimes his behavior make me wonder if he cares one way or another about me or our relationship. I’ve gone out of my way to show him how much I care. I’ve begged and pleaded for him to show me a little bit of emotion, to let me know he cares in return. When I bring it up all I get in return is a blank stare. He tells me I am dramatic, that I have watched too many romantic movies and that life is not like the Notebook or Sleepless in Seattle. So, what do you think? Am I expecting too much or am I in denial of the fact that I am being settled for?
I am intrigued by your ability to both offend and engage me in just one paragraph! I’d also like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to feel as if, even only for a moment, that I am an expert at something. If that something is icky relationships then so be it! I’d also like to qualify any advice I give with the disclaimer that I rarely know what I’m talking about and that I am much better at analyzing strangers “situations” (which, by the way is a word that gives me the Heebie–jeebies ) than I am at applying the advice to my own life. But you opened up Pandora’s Box, so here goes.
I once had a boyfriend who I suspected of settling for me. For simplicity sake, for future reference and just because I find it fun to say, I will refer to him as Mr. Wrong.
Like you, there were certain things Mr. Wrong did that made me feel like he just didn’t care. The first time I met Mr. Wrong, he saved my number in his phone with my name misspelled. At the end of our relationship it was still misspelled. Telling, no? Just a few weeks into dating he invited me over for dinner and left me waiting outside his door for over thirty minutes while he ran to the store for beer and ground beef. Did I mention that I didn’t eat beef? Once he broke plans with me to go out to a hot new restaurant with some of his friends. He called me late at night to tell me he was bringing me a surprise.
Surprise! Here are my leftovers and this is a booty call.
Eventually I would get fed up and confront him with these behaviors. His response was to tell me that I’d read one to many romance novels, which just shed further light on the fact that this guy did not know me at all. I was a Literature major and I was too busy trying to translates Chaucer’s middle English, or attempting to figure out what in the hell was wrong with Hemingway to read romance novels. Or, he would hand me this line about how it was not him, it was me. Mr. Wrong explained that the real reason that I was offended that he always used all the hot water and that he still saved voice mails from ex- girlfriends was because I didn’t love myself enough. Sounded like BS, but he was older and believed himself to be wiser so I figured he knew what he was talking about.
I swear, a guy reads one article in your O Magazine and he can twist that shit around and use it against you in ways that will make you doubt your sanity. Perhaps I was off my rocker a bit. What young, hot, smart and capable woman gives years of her life away to a guy who always uses the last of the hot water before you can shower, does not know your friends names and does not know how you take your coffee? Please, don’t buy into the load of hoo ha about why he does not know what you take in your coffee. It’s not because men are from Jupiter or because he didn’t have a close relationship with his mom. He does not know because he does not give a shit!
As much as I value my coffee, it was actually chicken soup that put me over the edge. I was struck down with a horrible stomach bug and had to speed several days and nights in the fetal position on the floor of my bathroom. When I finally recovered enough to think about how empty my belly was, yet too weak to do anything about it myself, I put in a call to Mr. Wrong to request some chicken soup. He was out but told me that he’d wrap up shortly and bring me some soup. Hours passed. I woke up around three o’clock in the morning and stumbled across the room to retrieve my ringing phone. I had missed a phone call from Mr. Wrong. Praying he was on his way with chicken soup, saltines and ginger ale I listened to his voice mail:
“Hey, uh, they didn’t really have any soup at the bar,” he slurs, barely comprehensible over the loud music in the background, “so I brought you something else. Look outside your door. Call me when you feel better.”
I fired off a text message that read: “Take your chili cheese dog and shove it up your ass. We are over.”
The height of maturity, I know.
(Look, the cute puppy relieves tension!)
I wish I could say that at that point I walked away for good and I never dealt with anything similar again. But that would be a lie. After Mr. Wrong dropped off a peace-offering of a case of condensed chicken soup and gave me a brilliantly crafted part apology part blame speech, I continued to stand by my decision to take less than I deserved.
I was dedicated to drawing out my suffering. When Mr. Wrong and I did finally end, guess what? All the same crappy behaviors and feelings that were there from the beginning were there at the end and I suppose I could have saved myself a few scars and a few cans of soup along the way.
So, what does all this mean for you, Dear Settled? I recommend that you take a look at the advice that Mr. Wrong gave me many years ago. Sure, he was trying to take advantage of the power of Oprah, but he had a point. I didn’t love myself enough to demand a good relationship. And I don’t mean demand in some sort of deranged diva way that expects the world to be handed to her on a cushion with a tiny tiara and a fillet minion. I mean, deep down, I must have not thought I deserved real love. Why else would I knock myself out begging for scraps?
Too many romantic movies and books? Please, it is not as if we expected them to stand outside our house with a boombox playing \”In your Eyes\” or haunt a wind-swept moor on our behalf à la Wuthering Heights. We just wanted more than questions and canned soup.
And finally, I find it curious that we spent all this time worrying that they didn’t love us, wondering if they felt as if they were settling. When did we stop to consider, perhaps we are the ones who have settled?
♥ & 🙂 ,
And we could all use a lil of this in our lives. . .