Thursday, February 28, 2019

Inner strength

"How does being fierce look for you? It looks different for all of us. Be fierce in your beautiful, individual way today." ~Patti Digh, Your Daily Rock

At Cranbrook Gardens / Cindy La Ferle

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The meaning of indifference

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” ~Elie Wiesel


"After the storm, Heritage Trail" / Cindy La Ferle
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NOTE: If you missed it earlier, my article on friendship in midlife is featured on BoomerCafe this week. The piece includes tips from several nationally known friendship experts, plus new research on the health benefits of having an active social life. If you'd like to make new friendships or improve the ones you have, please click here to read the feature.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Not taking things personally

"If you are irritated by every rub, 
how will your mirror be polished?" ~Rumi


Reflection / Cindy La Ferle

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Inner work

"If you want to make the world a better place in any way, you have to start by becoming whole yourself." ~Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star


Cindy La Ferle

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Living today

"Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present." ~Jim Rohn

In Saugatuck / Cindy La Ferle

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Friday, February 22, 2019

The real you

"Share your hard moments. Show your real side. It'll either scare away every fake person in your life or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called 'perfection,' which will open the doors to the most important relationships you'll ever be a part of.”  ~Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing


"Dropping the masks" / Cindy La Ferle 


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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Facebook-free for two years

"In reality, we have choices. We decide who and what we allow into our inner sanctums. Not everyone deserves an all-access pass. Not every opportunity deserves a yes. In fact, there can be a lot of freedom on the other side of  "No, thank you." ~Kris Carr


Inner peace  / Cindy La Ferle



Note:  Lately I've been rehashing this topic with fellow writers and other friends, and thought I'd share some new reflections here. Parts of this updated piece appeared in an article I wrote in 2017... 

The morning after the 2016 presidential election, my husband and I quit Facebook -- and we haven't been back since. Weeks prior to my own exodus, I was deeply disturbed by the political rancor that poisoned my daily feed. And when I posted a photo of my HILLARY lawn sign a week before the election, more hell broke loose on my home page. 

To be fair, a few users made gallant attempts at civility while presenting their political arguments. 


In a long and carefully composed private message, for instance, a Facebook friend who described herself as one of my "column fans" said she was surprised to learn that I wasn't voting Republican. While I'd rarely written about politics in my newspaper pieces, this woman had assumed I shared her political beliefs. And so, as she put it, she was "extremely disappointed" in me for supporting a Democrat. I know she was trying her best to be tactful ... but still. Our loose but pleasant online connection began to fray in an awkward exchange of stilted paragraphs.  


Other comments -- less personal but more hurtful -- suggested that voters in my political camp were downright evil. Yet another Facebook friend called me "a communist." 


I felt shamed and scolded. And here's the deal-breaker: Whenever people try to make me feel shamed and scolded -- for any reason -- I'm not inclined to hang out or schedule coffee dates with them. Likewise, I won't tolerate emotional abuse and spiritual pontification from "friends" online.


All of this transpired before we learned about Facebook's formidable security breaches and privacy leaks, and before the platform was implicated in political collusion with Russia. 

But I had several different reasons for blowing that pop stand.

Facing the un-reality of Facebook

Maintaining a Facebook presence was intruding on other aspects of my daily routine. Like so many social media users, I was experiencing life’s precious moments almost exclusively through the lens of my digital camera -- all for the purpose of "sharing" my life, my work, and what I ate for dinner, on Facebook. But why? 

I needed to do some serious soul-searching. 

What was driving me to seek attention from hundreds of virtual strangers? Was something missing from the friendships I'd formed before Facebook existed? Did I feel ignored or neglected by my family? What did Facebook offer that I wasn't getting elsewhere?


Social media sites foster a false but immediate sense of connection and intimacy. Whether we're lonely or need approval or encouragement, there's always instant validation online. That's not such a bad thing.  

But real friends share more than curated status updates, selfies, and "likes." Real friends check in with you on the phone, schedule lunch dates, send birthday cards, help you move furniture, listen to your problems, invite you over for lasagna, and make other three-dimensional attempts to be there for you.  

Friendship like that is built on the other side of the screen. And it takes effort.  

Are we really in touch? 

Ironically, Americans collect countless friends and followers on social networks -- yet many admit to a lack of depth in their friendships, reports Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness. 
“Between two-thirds and three-fourths of Americans believe there is more loneliness in today’s society than there used to be, and feel they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago,” Nelson says. 

On the other hand, I know people who use Facebook to communicate with out-of-town family and friends -- which is Facebook at its best. Now that I've deactivated my account, I'm often asked if it's harder to maintain long-distance relationships. In some ways, yes, it is. 

But even back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no Facebook, I managed to find ways to share news, photos, and birthday greetings that didn't involve the Pony Express. All in all, it goes back to how much effort (there's that word again) you're willing to extend to build real relationships. 

Deactivating my Facebook account forced me to schedule dates with friends and family. As current studies indicate, a healthy social life involves regular interaction with others. Checking status updates while you're sprawled on the couch at home with a carton of Haagen-Dazs doesn't count. 

Working it out


But what about professional advancement? Did leaving Facebook impact my writing career? Not really. 


As novelist Cindy Harrison notes in her own recent post about quitting Facebook, "I don't think my Facebook business page sold many books."  


Like Harrison, I don't believe Facebook is the last word in marketing. For one thing, my Facebook friends weren't interested in my published essays and features; they preferred seeing photos of my dog and cats. Furthermore, the editors I work with today still contact me directly -- via email -- and new ones learn about my work through this blog, my professional web site, or LinkedIn.


The simple, foursquare truth of the matter is this: The amount of writing I'm able to get published depends on how hard I work on the writing itself -- not how much horn-tooting I do on social media.


Going my own way

I'm often told that I'm an overly sensitive person, and I suppose I should own that. There were times when I'd get overwhelmed by the shrill cacophony of voices, the white noise, vying for my attention 24/7 on Facebook. 


I need lots of quiet time.

After living Facebook-free for more than two years, I also prefer the invisible cloak of privacy I wear every day. As rock icon Stevie Nicks once said in her criticism of social networks, there's something very attractive about "not sharing too much, and having a little mystery." I love that.


And I don't miss the stress and anxiety I experienced while reading all those divisive rants in my Facebook feed. These days, I do everything I can to cultivate inner peace while our nation roils in its ongoing political bedlam.


Minding my own business feels like pure luxury now. When I'm fully engaged in life, I'm not tempted to compare my work, my friends, my pets, my family, my vacations, or my dinnerware with anyone else's. I'm more grateful for what I have, and less competitive.


Best of all, I no longer take friendship for granted -- as I often did when I was on Facebook -- and I'm spending my time in ways that feel meaningful to me. ~Cindy La Ferle 

Note: For more content like this, please click on the "Essays" section on the home page of this blog. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Just the way you are

"Not everyone will like your art. Not everyone will read your book. Not everyone wants to be coached by you. And not everyone will fall in love with you. None of that changes your inherent worth as a juicy peach of a human being." ~Susannah Conway


"Work in progress" / Cindy La Ferle


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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Behavioral psychology

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." ~Carl Jung


Too cool for school / Cindy La Ferle


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SPECIAL NOTE to subscribers: Depending on your subscription feed, some of you didn't receive Saturday's "Weekend Column" post. If you want to read what you missed, please click here

Monday, February 18, 2019

The cure for approval-seeking

“If you find yourself craving approval, you are low on self-love. Stop grasping for a few scraps. Go home and make yourself a feast. Love yourself deeply today.” ~Vironika Tugaleva


Vintage cookbooks / Cindy La Ferle


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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Weekend Review: This Messy Magnificent Life

"It's as if we slide back and forth between the desire for more (love, earrings, experiences) and fear that we will lose what we already have." ~Geneen Roth, This Messy Magnificent Life


Cindy La Ferle
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Even before I finished the first chapter, I knew I'd want to share This Messy Magnificent Life with friends. I'm planning to purchase several copies to give as gifts, in fact, which is the best recommendation I could give any book I've reviewed. By the time I got to the final paragraph, I was seriously tempted to phone author Geneen Roth to explain that we're possibly twins separated at birth. 

Roth wrote this book for women exactly like me -- women who should be counting their blessings, yet can't quite shake the feeling that there's something else to fix or one more thing to worry about. I kept a highlighter handy as I read it, nodding in agreement and sometimes laughing aloud while I underscored quotable lines. 
As the author suggests, finding inner peace is entirely possible wherever you are -- no matter how screwed up things seem to be. 
Each chapter in This Messy Magnificent Life reads like a stand-alone essay, covering topics such as aging and body image; facing crisis and loss; health and weight issues; managing stress, and other challenges. While there are countless personal-growth guides that address similar issues, this one doesn't advise you to "fix" anything. As Roth points out, real life isn't a problem to be solved, nor is self-improvement another "project" to add to your list. Finding inner peace is possible wherever you are -- no matter how screwed up things seem to be. 

But what makes this book stand out from the rest is Roth's voice. Deftly combining humor with profound insight, she leaves readers feeling validated and uplifted -- even when she's sharing her darkest moments. Roth is best known for several best-selling memoirs about emotional overeating and weight problems. (The topic resurfaces in this book, too.) She and her husband lost their life savings in the Madoff debacle but somehow managed to survive -- the subject of another Roth best-seller.

"Freedom from mental suffering is not a mystery, but a willingness to examine what keeps us from directly experiencing the deep-blue peace and quiet joy that are always accessible and forever unaffected by the passing show," she writes. 

It's a terrific read for nerve-wracking times -- right now. ~Cindy La Ferle



Friday, February 15, 2019

Funny Friday: Fact checking

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." ~Isaac Asimov


Wind god / Cindy La Ferle

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”  ~Robert A. Heinlein

Happy birthday to my Valentine man! / Cindy La Ferle


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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Truth and beauty

"Could it be that beauty is about seeing, and not about being seen?" ~Geneen Roth, This Messy Magnificent Life


Valentine rose / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Feeling lighter

"If you want to fly, you must give up 
everything that weighs you down." ~Pema Chodron

Empire Bluffs / Cindy La Ferle


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Saturday, February 9, 2019

WEEKEND COLUMN: The essential gifts of friendship

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” ~Zig Ziglar

Cindy La Ferle


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Sometimes I can't imagine what I'd do without the dear friends who keep me glued together, grounded, and (mostly) sane. 


Current medical research supports my theory: Our health literally depends on the company we keep. Having an active social network can lower the risk for depression, enhance our ability to cope with illness, and increase longevity. As reported by AARP, women with large social networks reduce their risk of dementia by 26%. 

By now, you've probably heard about the latest social isolation study released in May by Cigna, the health insurance company. As reported on WebMD, the study revealed that an "epidemic" percentage of Americans describe themselves as lonely -- especially those with extensive social media connections. According to Douglas Nemecek, MD, Cigna's chief medical officer for behavioral health, "loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity." 
"If you want to start a new friendship or revive an old one, you have to reach out several times." ~Shasta Nelson, Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness
Healthy relationships with family members are also essential to our wellbeing, but experts suggest that key health benefits are gained through active friendships outside our family circle. In this case, social media "friends" don't count unless you're spending time with them -- offline. Sorry, Facebook.

But making new friends while keeping the old can be a challenge for empty nesters, caregivers, retirees, and freelancers who work at home. Gone are the days of commiserating with other parents in the school parking lot, or gathering with coworkers by the coffee maker on weekday mornings. 

"It's a myth that people over 50 don't need or want new friends," notes Lois Joy Johnson in The Women's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50. "We've moved away from old ties, are widowed, unemployed, separated or divorced. It's time to make new connections and reboot your social life."

Ironically, while Americans collect countless friends and followers on social networks, many report a lack of depth in their friendships, says Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

“Between two-thirds and three-fourths of Americans believe there is more loneliness in today’s society than there used to be, and feel they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago,” Nelson writes. 

So, how and where do we begin to rebuild three-dimensional social circles? 

Taking the initiative isn't easy if you're an introvert, but the rewards are worth it. Look for kindred spirits in your art class, health club, or favorite community group. Make coffee dates. Seek out neighbors you haven't met and start a book club or walking group. Or, like I did, find others who are willing to meet for breakfast weekly at the same restaurant. To paraphrase Nelson: Real friendships take time and effort; they don't magically happen.
  
"Spending time together is essential. Unless your time together is automatic -- meaning you're both paid to show up at the same job, for instance – there’s no other way to foster a real relationship,” Nelson says. “Growing a friendship requires a lot of initiation. Repeatedly. If you want to start a new friendship or revive an old one, you have to reach out several times." In other words, you won't win friends by waiting for others to call you.

Roll with the changes and ditch the toxins

As we mature, it’s natural to put a premium on loyalty. Old friends who share our interests and values -- not just a common past -- will always hold a special place in our hearts and on our calendars. 
"It's important to nurture a few close friendships to meet our various needs." ~Irene Levine, PhD, Best Friends Forever
Once we hit middle age, however, we're less tolerant of frayed or toxic friendships. As Lois Joy Johnson writes in her guide: "It's your party and you get to choose the guests." Since our emotional health is very dependent on the quality of our relationships, sometimes we need to reconsider the ones that hurt more than help, she says. 

"Buddies you keep around from habit, history, or guilt will emotionally drain your spirit," Johnson explains. "Real friends always celebrate your wins, mourn your losses, pick you up, or at least prop you up when you fall down." If a friendship starts to feel one-sided or uncomfortable, you have a right to make yourself less available or to cut the cord, guilt-free, Johnson advises. Devote your energy instead to reciprocal, mutually satisfying friendships.

According to sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst, most of us reevaluate or replace about half of our friends every seven years, usually due to a change in residence or lifestyle. 

Relationships that are based on proximity -- or a built around a single common interest -- are more likely to fade when the common interest changes. As our kids grow up, for instance, we're not as socially involved with the parents of their schoolmates. Likewise, when we change jobs, we might lose contact with most of our former coworkers. Friends naturally drift apart for a variety of other reasons -- but the happy memories are still treasured. 

Building a tribe of BFFs

From Lucy and Ethel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the “best friend” partnership is often idealized in pop culture. Who doesn't imagine having a BFF who'll always take your desperate calls after midnight, agree with your politics, love your favorite books, bail you out of trouble, and buy you the perfect birthday present every year? 

This fantasy friend only exists on TV dramas and sitcoms. Furthermore, according to Irene Levine, PhD, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friendit's wiser to build a team of good friends. Having a variety of pals puts less strain on one friendship -- especially if your bestie moves away or the relationship suffers a disappointment or misunderstanding. 

Better yet, having a variety of friends will help broaden your perspective and enrich your social life, Levine adds.

"No person -- whether a friend, spouse or lover -- can fulfill all of an individual's needs for friendship and support," Levine told me. "For example, some friends are great listeners; others are role models who set the bar higher for our career accomplishments; others are kindred spirits with whom we have many shared interests. Thus, it's important to nurture a few close friendships to meet our various needs."

Best of all, having a team of healthy friends guarantees that you'll almost always find someone who has precious time to spend with you.  ~Cindy La Ferle

Part of this article was first published in Michigan Prime magazine, a supplement to The Detroit Free Press. Special thanks to Dr. Irene Levine ("The Friendship Doctor") for her advice and input on this article.



Friday, February 8, 2019

Funny Friday: Steven Wright

“If a man says something in the woods and there are no women there, is he still wrong?” ~Steven Wright


In St. Joseph, MI / Cindy La Ferle


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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Listening skills

"When you hear only what you want to hear
you’re not really listening. 
Listen to what you don’t want to hear, too. 
That's how you grow
There’s always room for 
a new perspective, a new step, 
a new possibility." 
~Marc & Angel Chernoff, Getting Back to Happy


Cindy La Ferle


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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Nostalgia

“You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” ~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Cotswold Cottage, Greenfield Village / Cindy La Ferle

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

My new essay in Victoria

“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” ~Karen Davison


Victoria magazine, March/April 2019
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Coco/ Cindy La Ferle

I still get a thrill whenever my byline appears in a national publication -- but this one is twice as special to me. Victoria is one of my favorite shelter magazines, and I'm always proud to have my work published in its pages. This time, the March/April issue includes a new piece I wrote about adopting our sweet rescue dog, Coco, shown in the photo here. The issue is available in bookstores, Walgreen's, and on newsstands this week. ~Cindy La Ferle