Friday, March 28, 2014

Advice on love, relationships

I’ve got some news for this guy, this “love expert” Gerald Rogers and I’ve got 4 years on him. I was married 20 and I was the one to file for divorce, so I’ve got a little different take on things. Unlike Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame (he appeared on the Today Show after his post went viral), I don’t ever intend to marry again. Will I fall in love? Probably. Will I find a committed partner to share in my golden years? Maybe, we’ll see. What I won’t find is another co-dependent, mutually devastating cluster like I was in.

  1. Make the effort, of course. Be romantic, sure, but guard your heart. Gerald says, “She chose you,” as if you had no say in the matter. Go in with your eyes wide open and realize that you chose EACH OTHER. Both parties should be equal in their giving. And if you learn to love sacrificially, you’ll never go wrong in trying to outdo your partner.
  2. Guard your heart (see above). Love yourself fully and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t love themselves. You have to protect your own heart fiercely. But if you radiate that kind of love and confidence, you’ll attract the right kind of woman.
  3. Fall in love. Again, be romantic. But know that love is not just some gushy mesh of sentimental feelings and words. Love is action. Be a doer, not just a talker. Show your love and stay connected. It doesn’t fall just on you, but you can certainly lead by example, or better yet, LOVE by example!
  4. Be realistic. She’s not perfect and neither are you. “Always see the best,” as Gerald suggests is not reality. There will always be things about your partner that could improve, and that may even bug you. Get past them. If they are immovable objects that would hinder your moving forward, either get help or get out. “Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love?” C’mon, dude, get real. Again, love is not some puffy cloud of lovey-dovey feelings up in the stratosphere. Love is both a choice and an action, but you have to see your partner for who they really are, warts and all. If you can’t handle that, then stay single.
  5. Show tough love if absolutely necessary. Everyone has faults. Some people that we love NEED to change for their own good. Sometimes a tough love approach is the only way. Is it our job to change our partner? No, certainly not. That burden falls on them alone. If you can lovingly help your partner see where change is needed, then is it more loving to avoid the challenge or to meet it head on? Ask yourself the difficult question.
  6. Be accountable. On this point we both agree. You share half the burden in the relationship, whether there is credit or blame to go around. Accept your share, apologize if you have to and carry on. You can only control you, period.
  7. Be honest. You have to be honest, first, with yourself before you can be honest with your partner. Are the things bothering you because of your own faulty perceptions, past hurts and failures? Be honest with yourself before going to your partner with a grievance. If there IS someone to blame, it could be the both of you. Only an honest, adult discussion can get you through what’s troubling you. For one person to bear the brunt of the blame is completely unfair and unbalanced.
  8. Be who you are. Don’t put on masks for your partner and don’t expect her to wear them either. Give her the freedom to be who she is and to express herself genuinely. Don’t make assumptions about gender roles, like Mr. Rogers. The man doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength upon which she leans. You should be equal partners in the relationship, able to lean upon each other. She will be your pillar at times, as you will be hers. It’s no one person’s job to be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time (refer to #4 and  #7).
  9. Be silly. Be child-like, but not childish, and laugh as much as possible. Gerald hit a home-run on this one. I was suckered into believing, at the beginning of my marriage, that I had to “behave like an adult.” I lost the utter silliness that my ex and I had shared, at times, as a young couple. Laughter is, indeed, a good medicine.
  10. Know and speak love languages, fluently. If you don’t know them, then read Gary Chapman’s book about them. Go back and re-read #3. Love is action. Actions speak louder than words. Put your love into action by speaking your partners love language fluently. Be a doer. Be sensitive. Read the damn book, already!
  11.  Live in the moment. He was close on this one and the one, above. Be in the moment, fully present and appreciate what you have.
  12. Sex is good. And in a committed relationship, it should be fantastic, but that only comes through connection. Stay connected. “Masculine presence?” What the hell is that guy smoking? And how many Harlequin romance novels has he read, anyway? Sometimes your partner will want you to be the aggressor and other times she will want to dominate. Sex, as in love, is a give and take. Communicate. Be in the moment and give it all you got. If either of you has hang-ups about sex, then please go to a counselor or sex therapist. It will kill the romance, otherwise.
  13. Learn from your mistakes. And if you see old patterns popping up in your relationship, nip them in the bud. No one is an idiot, but only a crazy person keeps repeating the same mistakes/patterns and expecting a different outcome.
  14. Be passionate. Know what you want out of life and go after it. Allow your partner the freedom to do the same. If she has different interests than you, then encourage her to explore them fully while you do the same. Giving each other the space to enjoy different things just makes sense. Don’t give up the things you are passionate about just to please your partner and don’t expect her to give up those things, either. Enjoy your differences. Admire the passionate side of your partner and encourage her pursuit of things only she enjoys. In other words, don’t be a controlling douchebag!
  15. Trust. Ahh, the “t” word. One of the most difficult things to cultivate and maintain in a relationship. Sure, there is a level of vulnerability that you must maintain in order to have it, but you don’t have to be gullible. Trust is given but it is also earned. Be a trustworthy person and get to know each other. If she is trustworthy at the same level, then be as vulnerable and transparent as you want to be, but go in with your eyes open and your heart exposed. Know that it can be broken or hurt at any time. Being able to trust depends on your full willingness to be hurt at some point. Only gullible, foolish people give away their trust immediately and without reservation.
  16. Allow your partner to love you. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, see above. But allowing someone to love you when you are completely naked to the core is really difficult. Some people just can’t handle that another person would love them after seeing just how vulnerable they are. You are loveable. If you love yourself fully (see #2), then you should have no difficulty in receiving love from your partner.
  17. Never stop dreaming together. Growth comes naturally. People tend to give up on their dreams, however. If you have an equal partner who shares your hopes and dreams, then you have something really special. Foster that sense of wonder and romance in each other. Don’t ever lose it. Setbacks will inevitably come, but they can be overcome when you are a team.
  18. Money. Interesting Mr. Rogers should bring it up. Marriage is nothing but a legally binding financial contract. Surprised that his divorce didn’t teach him that. Keep money out of it. Relationships are about people, not about improving your financial future. Common sense dictates that you’ll have to combine and share resources, but don’t let them get in the way of relationship. Things are just that. Things. They are unimportant. The love of your partner will get you through just about any problem in life. Money solves nothing. My divorce taught me that marriage, in the eyes of the state, is nothing but a business agreement between two parties. Who needs a contract to live with someone they love?
  19. Forgiveness is for you, not your partner. Don’t think for one minute that forgiveness is about releasing your partner from blame. It’s about releasing yourself. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was getting at, but he talks about the past like it can be left there and never brought up again. See #4. Don’t live in a fantasy world where everything is unicorns and rainbows. Skeletons won’t remain hidden in a closet. They rattle around and make noise. The past will always be part of your present and future. You can’t lock it up and throw away the key, pretending that it never happened nor will ever affect you again. That’s foolishness. Your past is what shapes you. Your history with your partner is the only foundation you’ve got. If there are cracks in it, deal with them. Do your best to patch them, but don’t ignore them. The same goes for you as an individual. Embrace your past. If there are cracks in your character, do what you can to fix them, even if it means seeking professional help. Don’t you want your partner to have a whole and complete person to love? Well, you can’t be whole and complete until you learn to forgive. Start with yourself.
  20. Repeat #3. Learn that love is a choice, a sacrifice and an action. If you really chose love, then you’ll choose to act, to put the other person first and to succeed. Success depends on the both of you, but it starts with you. That’s the only thing you control in a relationship is you—how you act, react and respond. Choose love. Real love, not the gushy sentimental, Harlequin romance love that Mr. Rogers is seeking.

That’s really all I have to say on the subject. Maybe I missed my calling as a counselor. Life has taught me some tough, but invaluable lessons. One of them was not to marry someone, at least not until you’re older and really know who the hell you are. Love yourself first. That’s how I’ll end this long post. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mind-cleansing walks in Springtime bring about control

I've been saying the Serenity Prayer a lot, lately. Not the verbatim prayer (at left) that you'll hear at most A.A. meetings or self-help groups. No, I've just uttered some version of that prayer nearly everyday. It has helped.


I've been taking walks around the lake in our neighborhood, enjoying the Spring weather here in Tallahassee. The mild temps, sunshine and fresh air are good for my soul. The walks are good for my body. The Serenity Prayer and the reaffirming self-speak have done wonders for my mind and emotions. The last few days, I've been referring to these walks--2.5 to 4 miles--as mind-cleansing walks. And they have been. It's been my chance to center myself in the middle of the day.

The last year has been a grueling one. I'd even argue that it's been one of my worst, possibly second all-time. I've survived a divorce, a failed relationship, an extended separation from my children and other minor set-backs along the way. I've always heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that hasn't necessarily been the case except for in my darkest times.

I did come out of a severe depression in 2000 much stronger, but still battled many of my demons. I even survived a suicide attempt at the end of that year. A few months later, I was restarting my life in a new house and about to adopt my first baby. I learned a lot about myself in that year of about-face orientation. I still had a lot to learn and I'm not always the easiest student. I can be quite stubborn and hard-headed.

A look at Springtime Azaleas in bloom all around my
Tallahassee neighborhood
After some serious setbacks in 2006 and 2008, I was still determined to maintain my course even if I wasn't headed in the right direction. Fast forward to 2013 and circumstances tried to kick me down again. Out of that tumultuous year, I do believe that I have emerged even stronger still. So maybe it has taken several years and a couple of really bad ones to get my attention, but I have learned and grown.

It's been on these mind-cleansing walks that I've seen the most evidence. Take today, for instance, I put into practice the learned art of self-compassion. I walked 2 miles around that lake, speaking affirming words to myself that entire time. Thankfully, I didn't encounter too many others on the walking path. After a rough and emotional morning, it was the perfect therapy for me.

I read a book about self-compassion in December 2012 and it was quite eye-opening for me, but I won't repost here what you can read in my blog entry here. Suffice to say, that this was quite an accomplishment for me, and putting it into practice today made me realize just how far I've come since 2000. There was still so much critical energy, so much pessimism and self-doubt in me even after I recovered from my depressive episode. It took years to finally overcome that, and I still struggle with it.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou

It was just a few days ago on one of my mind-cleansing walks that I accepted an important truth and slayed an age-old myth. That myth is the one that convinces us we are in control. As I was contemplating this blog post, I ran across another good one by a dog trainer in Texas. He talks about The Control Myth and how it skews our thinking (Note: this is more than a blog about dogs, so take a minute to read it, it's really good).

The important truth that I realized on my walk is that I can only control three things--my actions, my attitude and all that goes on between my ears. I like to draw a small circle just in front of me when I'm walking and talking to myself (I know I must look crazy, but I don't care what people think of me). I make that circular motion with my hand and remind myself, "This is the extent of my sphere of control."

I can't control anything beyond that sphere, that in reality, encompasses only my body and nothing outside of it. I can't control people, the weather, circumstances, other's perceptions of reality, etc. I can only control me, and more importantly, what's going on inside of me.

This afternoon, I also ran across this cool little series on WikiHow about gaining control of your emotions. That one, for me, is huge, also. I was on my walk yesterday, a four-mile round trip to Publix, when I really had to do some digging to realize what was wrong with me. The day had started off rather pleasantly, then I let myself get upset about things outside my control. I went on my walk thinking I just needed to be more positive. Well, I realized after some digging why I was upset and allowed myself to just be upset for awhile longer. My feelings had been hurt, so it was okay...not to be okay. After realizing the root of the issue, I dealt with those negative feelings and then got past them, giving myself permission to go there and then walk out of it. That's an example of controlling your emotions. It doesn't mean allow only the positive ones. It allows space for all emotions to grow and subside.

For me, the control comes in when I deal in a healthy way with all my emotions. I don't bottle any of them up or try to stifle the painful ones. I just let them breathe. I go outside and try to focus on the beauty of nature. I try to live in the here and now, focusing only on my present surroundings. I breathe deeply and listen to my heartbeat. I try to keep my wandering mind in check. The last couple of days this has worked well for me.

As I continue this crazy, out of control journey called Life, I hope to gain more control over the things I actually have the power to do so. I will continue to let go of the things and people that I cannot, thereby denying the myth. I will continue to love and affirm myself in order to maintain a positive attitude. I will not be reduced, as Maya Angelou said in the above quote, by all the events that happen to me. I will stay rooted in reality.

Drawing a small circle around me, I can only control this area right here. :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

No, thanks, I got this eHarmony!

I'm not looking to get married ever again. I came to that conclusion more than a year ago, the ink not even dry on my divorce judgment. Fresh out of a year-long relationship, I don't even want to date anyone!

So you might be asking yourself what I'm doing blogging about the online dating service, eHarmony. Well, I signed up last month for something to do and mostly out of curiosity. I didn't pay a subscription fee, I just created a well-rounded profile, uploaded a couple of pics and waited for the matches to roll in. And at first they did.

You see, anyone can put up an eHarmony profile for free. You can even upload pictures and bare your soul for the world to see. However, if you don't pay for their "expertise" you don't get to shop around too much, especially if you're a window browser like me. No, this site is only for the very serious--or desperate--depending upon how you look at it.

The first couple of weeks, I was receiving around 3 matches daily. This was apparently meant to whet my appetite. The entire time, eHarmony's been badgering me to pay to join their millions of subscribers. They don't know just how broke I am or how little I'm looking for a forever mate.

Suddenly, I stopped receiving matches. I get daily e-mails, mind you, but not matches. They've offered me free communication weekends--I'm already communicating for free, so that was bogus--free dating advice and discounts on membership. But really all their website amounts to is a huge marketing tool. And it was rated as one of the five worst websites by Time Magazine.

I don't pay for their help, so I don't even get to see profile pics of the other users. You know, because that would be superficial and shallow...not meeting their standards of compatibility. Since when is physical attraction not a key component of compatibility? Rather, I think the whole point is that they want to hold member's profiles hostage in order to make more money. And that's what this website is about. They don't care if you find a perfect match. All they care is that you keep looking...for as long as possible!

I'm really not looking...nor interested in dating at this point. I just wanted to see what eHarmony is about. It's about making money, plain and simple.

When I am ready, I'll try my luck on Facebook before I lay out cash for some website's help. At least I can see who I'm talking to...and make up my own questions for conversation starters. Follow Time's advice and steer clear of this money-grabbing website.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love by example

When I was much younger and thought I had it all figured out, I was asked to give a talk on leaders to a group of men on a spiritual retreat. I used as the basis for my outline a book by Andrew Murray, titled Humility. Based on the wisdom of Philippians 2, this book lays out the simple life matrix of considering others before yourself, of loving sacrificially. And in the case of leaders, I argued, it means leading by example.

As I was making my morning pot of coffee, I was thinking about my girls who lay in their beds asleep, taking full advantage of the fact that it's spring break and they have no reason for which to set their alarms. In all my life, I've never taken to the concept of sacrificial love or employed it as I have with them. Those two precious souls are the lights of my life! I'd do anything for them, short of remarrying their mother. I'd step in front of a moving train if it meant saving their lives. I'd fight off a pack of hungry wolves, take a bullet or hurl myself into a raging sea...but most fathers would do the same.

It was while pouring my first cup of coffee that I had this thought about loving sacrificially and displaying that gift before my girls. Just as any leader would do, blazing a trail with his actions, not only his words, I determined that I would continue loving them by example.

In my doing so, they will not only see and feel what love is, they will come to understand a very key element to life. There are things in this life much bigger than us. Love, for example. Love is a transcendent concept. It is as critical to human beings as the air they breathe. But it is not just a bunch of sentimental ideas meant to make us feel good. It is tangible and real. It is meant to be experienced--touched by all of our senses and not just our hearts. It's more than a bunch of words in a blog or on a greeting card. It's in the mundane details of life, like a simple meal.

My youngest always tells me that the single most important ingredient in every meal I cook for her is love. She's only 9 and she's as wise as the Buddha. It's love.

Love, expressed in such a way that leaves no doubt in the person's mind, is the kind that is lived out daily. It might be secured with frequent confirming messages. "I love you," is something we don't say nearly enough. But it is amplified to soul-shattering levels when acted out in humility.

Back to the men's retreat some 20+ years ago and I'm talking about leading by example. I was telling the men to be the kind of leaders that the author Andrew Murray would be proud to write a book about, men who lead by humility, kinda like the guys who were serving on that retreat weekend as toilet scrubbers. Some of the dorm-keepers on that weekend were accountants, attorneys, sales executives and corporate leaders, yet they didn't think it beneath them to scrub a dirty toilet. And why did they do it? To show the other guys, not just about leadership, but about love.

Thinking back on that this morning, I came to realize that I've been loving my girls by example. I am their pack leader and that's my job. Upon that realization, I searched the web for an image that said "love by example" and the image at the top of this blog post is what I found. I obviously wasn't the first person to think of it, but I'm glad that I did. It's a transcendent concept. And in 45 years on this Earth, I've learned that not everyone gets it. Not everyone lives by the rule of humility, or understands what it means to sacrificially love someone else. I'm reminded by my daughters all the time what that means. And I'm committed to doing my best to love them by example.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ghost roads to nowhere (Fallschase)

Dateline: Tallahassee

Disclaimer: I was provided these personal photos by a friend of mine and ghost hunter who did not want to be named for obvious reasons. The photos credited to Anonymous Donor are his property and are used with permission on condition of anonymity.

Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
There are ghost roads in Tallahassee that wind through moss-draped live oaks, heritage oaks and pine trees. They meander through an area stuck in time, it would seem, a reminder of what the east side of town used to look like before the urban sprawl. These long abandoned, curbed thoroughfares descend from Buck Lake Road through what promised to be Tallahassee's premier, luxury home neighborhood in the mid-1970's. It was the brainchild of would-be developer E. Lamar Bailey. Fallschase. Even the name conjured up images of pine forests with babbling creeks that cascaded over rocky falls and into a pristine lake.

I drove by the brick entry sign that spelled out Fallschase in block capital letters many times before ever venturing down those forgotten streets.
The sign but a mere memory now, razed when the development of a town center mall and new Fallschase Parkway were laid out in the first decade of the new millenium, was a landmark along Buck Lake Road. It pointed towards a never-realized promise of peaceful living among the massive trees, on sleepy, canopy-like roads, on a hill overlooking two lakes.

According to my research, it's now been 40 years since real estate developer/swindler E. Lamar Bailey laid out a master plan for a residential neighborhood in the forested, rolling hills between Buck Lake Road and Lake Lafayette. There's no need for me to document the entire sordid history, as you can read Bob Rackleff's timeline here (through 2003). Suffice to say, there was corruption, lawsuits, bankruptcies, bank foreclosures, federal grand juries and plenty of legal wrangling over this jewel on Tallahassee's east side. Sadly, nothing ever became of the residential part of it, but it wasn't for a lack of funding. There were millions in defaulted loans and somehow Bailey and his son have kept their hand in the proverbial pot the whole time.

Aerial view of Fallschase looking south, Photo credit: LAI Engineering 

As you can see from the aerial photo above, borrowed from the LAI Engineering website, this is what's become known as the Fallschase Town Center at the corner of Mahan Drive (US 90 East) and Buck Lake Road. The large white-roof on the right side is a Wal-Mart Supercenter and the building in the furthest corner is Costco. The dirt patch in-between those two giant retailers is now home to a Bass Pro Shop. Look to the back of Costco and you'll see a rectangular holding pond, a dirt patch and what looks like a small landing strip. That's the end of a road in the old Fallschase Development that still winds through the western half of the property over to Davis Road, where all the luxury homes were to be built.

The old house that served as E. Lamar Bailey's residence and home office, 4475 Buck Lake Road, is boarded up and stands along one of the paved, one-lane roads leading into the old development. You can still access this private drive off Buck Lake Road just past Fallschase Parkway. A team of ghost hunters entered the boarded-up residence in January 2013.

There is much evidence of vagrancy and vandalism in the last decade. That's unfortunate.

The residential section as drawn up by Moore Bass Consulting in June 2008
Through the years, many proposals have been submitted to the powers that be in Leon County, including the above drawing done for AIG Baker by Moore Bass Consulting in 2008. None of the proposals ever made it past that stage. And in the special taxing district's sordid 40-year history, only four homes were ever built. (See another AIG Baker conceptual design for the site, here.)

When I was driving through the mostly wooded neighborhood in the early 2000's, you could still drive up to a couple of the magnificent brick homes, one of which now lies in charred ruins (see below).
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor

WCTV reported a fire at an abandoned plantation house in Fallschase on the afternoon of March 31, 2010.
The Tallahassee Democrat posted an update that morning about the Fallschase house fire and provided a great photo. It was a sad end for one of the only traces of what Fallschase wanted to become in the 1980's. That's what those brick homes reminded me of...upscale subdivisions like the ones built near Carmel while I was attending a parochial high school on Indianapolis' north side (1982-86).

According to my friend, some of the curbed, tree-lined streets are still in good condition. The wooden bridges, for the most part, are as well.
Photo credit: Anonymous Donor
There are still brick walls along the main thoroughfare, a divided, two-way street, now covered with graffiti. When I drove those roads in early 2000, I noticed that the brick in those retention walls (and bridges) didn't exactly match the brick from the old entrance, photo'd above. I didn't really see the need for them, either, but it seemed to go with the mostly brick motif of the few houses and cul-de-sacs.

Urban Tallahassee reported in October 2012 that Columbus Pacific had bought out the property, including the town center mall and the proposed housing addition. Almost two years prior, it was reported that previous owner AIG Baker had filed for bankruptcy protection on the property. The company had posted to their website, "Residential ground breaking is scheduled for Fall 2008." No idea what Columbus Pacific plans, but AIG Baker had proposed more than 1500 homes in the Lake Lafayette watershed.

In early 2013, someone posted this ad to Urban Tallahassee forums. Apparently, the residential-zoned piece of Fallschase is again up for sale. It's now gone undeveloped for 40 years, since Bailey & Associates vision in the early 70's.

Unless someone buys this property, is environmentally responsible with it's development and actually builds some homes there, this land will remain unused and abandoned. From my friend's photos, it looks like a ghost town, a mere shadow of the prosperity of the 80's. And all those ghost roads, now blocked from Buck Lake and Davis Roads, as well as the parkway, continue to deteriorate as they lead no one to nowhere.

Here are more photos from the Tallahassee Explorations page on, as well as an online presentation from Rachel Cohen, below.

UPDATE (3/18/14):
Yesterday, I found an old Tallahassee street map from 1987 that not only shows the original Fallschase Boulevard, but names all the residential streets as they were orignally laid out in the 80's.

Notice, the original alignment of Buck Lake Road (and I had forgotten this), was further east on Mahan than it currently sits. I can remember, there was a dead-end segment that came off Mahan near the current day intersection of the two roads, but in the 80's you had to go past that to the flashing yellow light (I believe the stoplight came later), turn right, curve south and the brick Fallschase sign was one of the first things that you saw.

Looking at a current Google Map, you can still search these street names and the pointer will show you where they are currently. For example, Sperrit Boundin would've run through the middle of the commercial property where Costco is, and Hidden Nest-Gardens End cross streets would now be underwater, thanks to the commercial property's large holding pond. The first visible roads off the main road are Hahnsum (or Hahnslim) Kerridge and Thorough Brace. From that portion eastward, the roads are still pretty much intact including an arm that runs north to the old Bailey home and Buck Lake Road, while the boulevard runs east to a ridge, just feet from the unpaved portion of Davis Road. Wish the old maps showed those roads, however the branch connecting to Buck Lake seems to be a private drive for the residence at 4475 Buck Lake Rd (i.e. the old Bailey home). Not sure yet who owned the home back in the woods at the end of Davis Rd, or if it still exists. You can zoom in on Google Earth and see the home and an unkempt property, obviously abandoned.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Love in your language

I know, two posts in one week! I've just been in a writing mood lately and getting in touch with myself. I recently ended a year-long relationship that I was certain I wanted out of, but was ill-prepared for the emotional fallout. That's partly what's got me writing so much, I think, but definitely has me thinking about love and the language that I speak.

What? You don't know the five love languages? Dr. Gary Chapman coined the phrase and explains the five love languages in a book he wrote in 1992 by that title.

Here they are:

This book helped me to identify the ways that I give and receive love by determining which was my primary and which was my secondary love language. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is searching to get in better touch with themselves.

When I came across the book's website tonight, I found a thoughtful blog about being sorry and making restitution. Here's what it says:

When Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I wrote the book: The Five Languages of Apology, we discovered that one of the strong languages of apology is Making Restitution. “What can I do to make this up to you?” If you don’t offer to make restitution, your apology may seem lame. What they want to know is: “Are you really sorry?” and “Do you still love me?” We also discovered that often what they want you to do in order to “make things right” is to speak their love language. One wife said, “I just want you to hold me, I feel so distant from you.” Her love language was physical touch and she wanted to feel that he still loved her. When you make an apology, don’t forget to ask the question: “What can I do to make this up to you?” Then, honor their request. It makes forgiveness much easier.
How often do any of us practice the art of restitution? I can say that I haven't. I usually do feel really sorry when I make a mistake and hurt someone's feelings. But I also know that sometimes the I'm sorry's fall well short of their intended mark--making the other person feel it, know it and accept it. The act of restitution is a way to speak with your actions. It not only says you're sorry to the offended party, but it shows them how deeply felt your apology is.

This goes along with another adage that I truly believe in--Actions speak louder than words.

In the art of speaking someone's love language, there is always that component called "loving actions." You cannot speak love to someone through physical touch without actually reaching out your hand. You cannot speak love to someone through gift giving without actually making the effort to create or purchase the gift. Love without actions is not really love. It's a sentiment and people can't always feel sentiments.

You can have the best intentions in your heart. You can even be motivated by great passion to love someone, but if you just say the words a lot, it doesn't necessarily speak love to the object of your passion. Don't get me wrong, everyone wants to hear "I love you." To what level they accept and believe it is often determined by your actions. How do you back up that love and passion? Remember, the other person can't live inside your body and experience the deep feelings you may have for them. You have to make it real to them in tangible ways.

For example, if your partner loves words of affirmation, go the extra distance and write them a love note or a letter. Spell it out for them, not just with spoken words, but with an action. Don't stop there, either, because written words are still just words. Show that person through loving actions. Say to them, "I don't just love that you are a romantic soul, but I am going to show you how much by..." (you fill-in the blank). This is just an example of not only speaking the persons love language, but backing those words with action.

You really should get to know which are your love languages. It not only reveals to you how you best receive love, but is also an indication of how you show it. If gifts and surprises mean the world to you, then you are probably one of those people who likes to give gifts or plan surprises for those you love. Be fluent in your love language. Naturally, you are going to be better at speaking the one(s) that speak the most to you.

In my case, words of affirmation are number one. I can speak that language very fluently when I want to. But on the flip-side, I have a very critical nature, too. It stands at great juxtaposition with the lover I am on the inside. I have to constantly bite my lip and refrain from speaking negatively to those I love. But when I am being conscious about my words and actions, I can be the best, most affirming person on the planet. This only became apparent to me when I started putting it into practice. And the words of affirmation I have spoken to those I love--heck, even to the people I didn't love that I had to work with--not only changed the expression on their faces, brightening their outlook, but it did a world of good for me, too.

That's the neat circle of speaking love and encouragement. It comes back to you. It's like instant Karma.

Well, I could go on and on, but take the time to read Dr. Chapman's original work, The Five Love Languages. It's probably available at your local library. Make a habit of not only speaking that language fluently, but look for ways to show it, too. Make your lover understand in the most tangible of ways how deeply you feel about them. You only live once. This is your chance to make the most meaningful statement. If you love the person, love them completely and leave no doubt in their mind. My next ride on the merry-go-round of relationships, you better believe that I'm going to!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Moving forward

It's crazy, sometimes, the path life's journey takes you down. It's never what you expect. It's always ripe with surprise twists and turns. It takes you to some uncharted territories, not just physical proximity, but in your psyche, as well.

These last two and three-quarter years have been quite an interesting part of mine. I've successfully navigated two moves--one almost 1,150 miles--a separation, a divorce, another failed relationship, several changes in employment, the ups-and-downs of life and the melodramatic changes in my attitude about all of it. I can't say that it's been boring. I lived on a barrier island near the boundary to the tropics, played in a rock band, dated a beautiful woman, made trips to the Florida Keys and to Tallahassee to see my girls...there were several adventures along the way, most recently an unexpected visit to Mile Marker 59 on Alligator Alley due to a blown headgasket.

I'm thankful for the experience of living on the beach...a lifelong dream finally realized, if only for a brief moment in time. I fully expect to get back there one day, maybe not to Fort Myers Beach, but definitely to a barrier island somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico. That's what the image above reminds me of--a public beach access to a white, sandy beach somewhere in that vicinity. I will have my toes in the sand and a cold beer in my hand, that's for certain.

For now, life has me landlocked in Tallahassee, where I spent more than 20 years of my life. It's a place near and dear to my heart for three reasons--FSU, where I earned my degree and fell in love with college football, and two daughters who stole my heart, both of whom I adopted there. I'm committed to remaining here as long as they are both living here in the moss-draped armpit of Florida. Besides those three draws to this city, I picked a great time to move back. Springtime in Tallahassee, while incredibly shortlived, is quite beautiful--warm temperatures, low humidity and plenty of fragrant, blooming trees and bushes. It could be a lot worse. I could be enduring yet another feet-of-snow-producing storm in central Indiana. I'll count my blessings in that regard.

I've spent the most time journalling throughout this segment of my journey than I ever have before. Beginning in earnest July of 2012, I have made entries on a near daily basis, filling up a dozen spiral-bound, college-ruled notebooks. While therapeutic for me, it has also allowed me the practice of writing and getting in touch with my feelings. It began, largely, out of my loneliness and needing someone to talk to and has become a much needed and relied upon outlet. I just wish I had started earlier in my life, capturing my thoughts and feelings on things I have experienced the last 25+ years.

I know that I have grown and changed a lot. Still unsure of what I want to do with my life, professionally, I know much better now who I am. I've grown to love that person exponentially. And at the risk of sounding quite vain and conceited, I really love the man I've become. If you knew how completely self-conscious and truly self-deprecating I can be, you'd understand and you'd be congratulating me. Learning to love myself as compassionately as I love others was a huge milestone for me in the last two years.

More than anything, I've put more value on my time with my children, two incredibly gifted girls that were meant to be mine, no question about it. They are daddy's girls through and through. With one of them about to become a teenager, there was no better time for me to re-engage on a daily basis than now. Neither of them are getting any younger, and my time away from them, missing them like a central organ in my body, taught me just how critical they are to my existence here on planet Earth. I need them just as badly as they need me and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The two weeks I've spent with them in Tallahassee, so far, has been very heart-warming and healing for us all.

This journey has surprised me in life-altering ways. I've learned things about myself even in the last month that have amazed me beyond belief. And as cynical and jaded as I tend to be, I am very hopeful for what the next leg of this journey holds. I'm still growing...still learning, at age 45. I'm much happier with myself and much easier on myself than I've been in the past. I still have my days. I can be a very gloom-and-doomsday, self-fulfilling prophet, but I bounce back much more readily than before. My realism certainly helps to balance the dreamer in me and I'm learning to love that counterbalance! Still a hopeless romantic, I'm very guarded these days about my heart...slow to trust, but eager to do so.

Well, before I get any gushier or ultra-transparent, let me end this blog entry here. I could go on, but that is mostly what I wanted to say. This is me moving forward.