Thursday, December 12, 2013

Choose Yourself. Love Yourself.

Recently I've had some beloved friends experience heartache and sadness. People they cared for deeply had broken their hearts, or treated them badly. And yet, there is much more to what they are going through than just a relationship on the rocks or ending.  My heart is troubled because I see a deeper issue, one with which I have personally struggled. The issue of self-worth.

I've dated men who did not treat me well. I've put up with emotional unavailability or infidelity or outright disrespect. I'd make excuses for them, explain it all away, look at my phone anxiously hoping they'd call or text. I put up with less than what I deserved because, I'm ashamed to say, I did not feel I deserved better. Now, this isn't a conscious thing. You don't go around saying that you deserve to be treated like crap. But when this is how you feel inside, it colors everything you do. You don't love yourself and so you're desperate to be loved by someone. It's a hole you try to fill with other people, until you realize the only person who can fill it…is you.

I see this happen to so many amazing women (and men, too). They're smart, funny, caring, successful, and yet they shortchange themselves when it comes to the potential partners they meet. They are willing to overlook red flags and behavior that is inconsistent with what the other person says. They settle for crumbs and scraps instead of the full, authentic experience of love. And then it all goes to pieces and they're heartbroken once again.

I was that woman. Until I finally learned my lesson. That Prince Charming ain't coming. We have to save ourselves. And it starts with loving ourselves AS WE ARE. Not when we lose 10 pounds. Not when we find the right job. Not when we make X amount of money. I continue to struggle with this, at least the appearance stuff, but I know now that I really do love and value myself. That is progress and it's reflected in the life I lead today.

A beautiful thing happens when you begin to not only accept yourself the way you are, but love yourself. You attract a much higher quality pool of potential partners. The more selective you are, the more likely you are to find a person who actually deserves you. And you are willing to take your time getting there.

I look back sometimes at the people I dated in the past (and not so distant past), and realize if I'd met them today, most would never have made it past the first or second date. I did have at least one wonderful relationship in my late twenties and I still respect, love and value him for the good man he is. However, most of the other guys? I just wouldn't be interested today because I know who I am, I love who I am and I know what I deserve.

I want the women in my life to feel this, too. I want them to see themselves through my eyes, to see how lovely and intelligent and interesting they are, how much they are loved and deserve to be loved. That any person who does not treat them well does not deserve their affection or loyalty.

That they should choose themselves.

It took me a while, but I finally got it. That single realization has added richness and joy and sparkle to my life that it did not have before. I am happy. As I am. Some days are easier than others to feel that way, and on the yuckier days, I just think of all the things that make me grateful.

I don't *need* to be with someone. I can choose to share my life with someone, and that is infinitely more powerful for both of us.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Who is your Daily Saint?

Mikaela is second from left
The idea was brilliant in its simplicity: 

Stake out a spot in one of the most popular shopping areas in the Los Angeles area and give people the opportunity to write down the things that make them thankful. 

The event was created by my beautiful, big hearted friend Mikaela. She and I met at ABC News. We bonded over our love of literature, writing and our shared tendency to tear up easily and often over things that made us happy or sad. We are both optimists and believe people are mostly good, despite the news we used to report on a daily basis. 

Thankfully, Mikaela took her convictions to the next level, and created a place online, The Daily Saint, that feeds your soul and restores your faith in humanity. Good deeds. Good people. Good news. 

A fervent Vonnegut fan, Mikaela chose a beautiful quote to help her name the site: "By saints I mean people who behaved decently and honorably in societies which were so often obscene. Perhaps some of you are or will be saints for her child to meet."

Those saints people the online community of the Daily Saint:

The vet who created a tiny wheelchair for a piglet born without use of his hind legs.
The Division 1 athlete who gave up the rest of his season to donate his bone marrow to a leukemia patient.
The little girl who asked to give roses to strangers to celebrate her 5th birthday.   

Young, old, furry, 2 feet, 4 feet, these daily saints are all perpetrators of random acts of kindness that range from the smallest good deed to saving lives. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

There are hundreds of stories on her site. HUNDREDS. Stories that will give you a lump in the throat
Our Daily Saint Mikaela!
and that warm, full feeling in your heart. It's a great reminder of the power we all hold within us, the power to make a difference in someone's life. It's also a wonderful way of cultivating gratitude for the daily saints that make our lives worth living. 

With 3,400+ likes on her accompanying Facebook page, it's clear Mikaela has tapped into a universal hunger, a hunger for stories that connect us. So she decided to take that need for connection offline and made them grateful. Fittingly, it took place the day after Black Friday. 

Armed with markers and a large colorful paper board, we set out to ask passersby to participate. At first, many people were startled. It didn't make much sense, and I got the feeling they thought we were selling more than gratitude. But as we got bolder in our approach, more and more people took part and the board began to fill up.  
So many thanks!

Some were shy and had to be coaxed to take a marker. Others, especially kids, eagerly picked out a spot on the board and wrote their hearts out. One adorable girl told me she could not write yet so I suggested she draw a rainbow. She drew several. 

My nana wrote she was thankful for all of us and that she was here. I wrote that I was grateful for my nana because she loves me so much. 

One older man wrote, "I'm thankful for my wife of 55 years." A young man wrote, "I'm grateful for my boyfriend. He makes me laugh and is the best person in the world." 

Pito gave thanks for Pita

A boy wrote so much, his thanks stretched over two panels. His little brother just wrote his name. It's the only thing he knows how to write. 

Some young men wrote in Arabic, some wrote in Hebrew. Thanks were written in English, Spanish and French. One man told me he'd been very lonely and that it cheered him up to write down the things that make him happy. 

Entire families wrote on the board. Two curious police officers gave thanks for their families. Some witty guy said he was thankful for his brother who made sure he knew the scores to his favorite teams' games. One new mom wrote her toddler's favorite thing: pigeons. 

This little guy wrote,
"I'm thankful for my dog
 & my girlfriend."
When his dad said,
 "You have a girlfriend?",
the boy ran off laughing
and shrieking.
There were smiles, hugs, high fives. You could feel the energy, the LOVE in the air as people shared what or who made them happy. It was proof that gratitude and compassion are powerful things that connect us at the heart. It's what Mikaela shows us every day on the Daily Saint, that love brings us closer together, while fear and negativity drive us apart. 

We need each other. 

So forget cool and snarky. I'll take corny and kind any day. 

By the way, if you're curious, family topped the list of things most often written, closely followed by friends and pets. 

Not a single person gave thanks for their flat screen TV.