Resisting Your Impulses

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Throughout my life I have gone through periods of impulsivity. During my teenage years impulsivity reined supreme as I cast off my life as a teenage daughter and tried on a new set of clothes as a 15-year-old “adult” making her own way through the world alone. Sure,  it all turned out okay in the end… BUT… was it the really the best way to go about things? Did impulsiveness help me to embrace myself and my talents, love myself more, while not inflicting unnecessary pain upon my soul as I journeyed? I suspect not. As the years have gone by, I have come to believe that there was a kinder gentler way of leading me towards myself and I suspect I would have found it sooner had I had been less impulsive.

During the past three years,  the “almost divorce” period, I found that impulsivity tried to rear its ugly head once again. Repeatedly.  My thoughts became dominated by:

  1. The things I should do
  2. How I SHOULD react
  3. What I needed to do to not look foolish to myself and others
  4. The steps I needed to take in order to “feel better” again (can you really in this type of situation?) and take back my life from a husband in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis.

Yet, ultimately what I discovered was that impulsivity did not allow me to “feel better” again. In fact, it produced the opposite effect. It created both physical and mental chaos. Slowly I came to comprehend that by acting impulsively instead of mindfully, I inflicted deep wounds upon my soul. Over time, I realized if I did not “rope it and rein it in” my suffering would increase exponentially, and God knows, I didn’t need anymore of that!

When I think back to the number of times I almost walked out or threw B out over the past three years…well, it was almost a daily occurrence. But thankfully, during these times I would hear my therapist reminding me (over and over again) how now was the time for mindfulness, discovery and curiosity. It was not a time for impulsivity.  She showed me how “sitting with things” and “seeing what comes naturally” instead of forcing things allowed me to examine my fears and act in ways that I am now extremely thankful for. This is true especially in regards to learning how to let fear pass through me without acting impulsively because of those real/or imagined doubts and anxieties that were hiding in my mental closet.

While I am still working diligently on seeing impulsivity for what it is and reacting appropriately; I have discovered that there is great power and joy in just letting sudden impulses pass by me without acting on them. By observing and not reacting to impulses, I don’t stop the flow of what I need to know from occurring naturally without the roadblocks that impulsivity puts in the way. I can truly say that I have found a greater sense of peace by not bending to fleeting/momentary “desires” or “fears” which I have discovered are actually often only transitory thoughts.  Dismissing impulsivity gives me the ability to postpone the immediate gratification of “action” and instead look ahead to find those things that fulfills me more or improve my life in ways I never dreamed possible had I given into the impulse.

In nine days it will be the one year anniversary of finding out about the affair. I am grateful that I have not let impulsivity direct these past 365 days.  For if it had I would be in a far different place than I am now and while things are not perfect they are much better than I imagined that they would ever have been just one short year ago.

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After The Affair

I was talking with my therapist today. It was exhausting. Almost 60 years of life to look at…some of it not pretty but a lot of it brilliantly played and enjoyed.

After the three years of B’s affair and the “almost” demise of my marriage it has been difficult at times to believe that B has changed and that our life together is stronger too.  The doubts that plague me have swirled fast and furious especially in the first six months after the storm.  The calm surety I have been searching for has been more elusive and more difficult to trust when I see it. Sometimes it appears to me that my life is only an illusion and I am always checking to make sure what I see is real. That process is exhausting and life-robbing. It is not life affirming nor is it increasing my sense of stability.

As I come upon 11 months of “knowing” about the affair I do feel hope and real joy again. The anguish and pain are slowly diminishing. Parts of me have been re-born and parts re-shaped into a better part of my whole. I have grown, explored and examined parts of my life that I saved until “LATER.” Yet, conveniently, LATER never came… until the affair… when I was forced to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild myself and my marriage. And now, believe it or not, at times I am even thankful for B’s affair because it has allowed both of us to evolve and create something different within ourselves and within our relationship. We are rebuilding on something that resembles bedrock and our foundation is no longer sinking in quicksand.

Another tidbit. For years I have not dreamed. Not once. EVER. But in the last month I have had three vivid dreams about B and “the other woman.” All involved water. In the last one, right before I woke up, an image of a goddess came to me and she held her hand out and said, ” Stop looking, It will come to you if needed.” The imagine was vivid, profound and unlike anything I have ever expeirenced before.

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My therapist tells me this is a good thing. That my psyche is clearing things out and washing them away.

I have also been busy creating my therapist provoked artwork. A recent picture is of a bird’s nest filled with various objects along with the words: LEARN, REST and FAITH interwoven into it. She says these are important words for me to concentrate on.

“What is faith?” she asks.

ANSWER

“It is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Can you see the wind? No? But you can see or hear the evidence of it in the sound of the wind chime or the rustling of the leaves. So REST in the hope that you have for your marriage and have FAITH in the evidence that you are seeing that things are changing for the better. Believe your goddess who is telling you to stop looking for trouble. and to believe that you can LEARN from your past, REST in the comfort of now, and have  FAITH in your future.

AND THEN SHE SAYS

“What if you get the stability you have been searching for your entire life? Will you see it and embrace it or will you run from it?”

GOOD QUESTION…AND FOR NOW…I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER.

I would like to think that I have matured suffienctly to embrace all that has come and will come my way. Yet, at other times, I am just not sure. Sometimes I still want to just slide down the rabbit hole into another time and place.

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Yet, no matter what I choose I know that I am strong enough and wise enough to handle it because I have lived through the worst year of my life and not just survived but thrived!

 

Pain In The Neck

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For about 25 years I have lived with chronic pain in my back and neck. It was the result of two on the job injuries one of which involved trying to catch and patient and his ventilator as he began falling off a gurney on the way to the shower. This was followed two weeks before or later (I no longer remember) when I caught an old lady who was going down on the floor. Several years later I was in a car accident. All of this has added up to chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. If I don’t go crazy the pain/spasms are manageable but certain things set me off like repetitive bending and sitting for long periods of time. After all these years I have gotten pretty good at knowing where I can go and what I can do without setting myself up for painful back spasms.

Recently, my primary care physician sent me to a doctor who specializes in pain management. He is a nice guy who listens well and treats his patients with care. I had a workup and in the end he thought it would be helpful to have injections in my trigger points to break them up and hopefully provide some relief to the pain. I had had those same injections soon after the original injury and I passed out cold in the doctor’s office so I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure. In fact, I have been dreading it.

Well, today was the day and luckily it wasn’t as bad as it had been previously. I had ten shots in my neck/shoulders and while it made me woozy I am happy to report I remained upright and conscious the entire time!

I am now home with a massive headache and a lot of hope that this treatment will help decrease the chronic pain that I have endured for so long. Living with chronic pain has affected my life in so many ways. It has made me tired, grumpy, and hesitant to do/try things. It has made me uptight and has decreased my self-confidence. Usually I have managed to keep my discomfort under wraps so as not to burden others but not always. Sometimes I just got grumpy with those who love me the most and I am sure it contributed to my “maybe divorce.” I also believe that it is the root cause of my fibromyalgia.

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Happily, today, I truly believe that this time the injections will help. Like so many things going on in my life at this particular point and time, I expect to have a fundamental shift in how I interact with those around me and in how I treat myself if I can decrease or eliminate this pain. I am excited and am blessed that I live in a country in which this option is available to me and I can hardly wait to jump for joy again as chronic pain becomes a distant memory.

Reminder: If a loved one suffers from chronic pain…believe them when they say they are hurting and lighten their load if you can. Until you have endured you will not understand how daily doses of pain effect you and your family. Be kind, be patient, be gentle and ask what you can do to help. Who knows, someday the table may be turned and you will want the support that someone who has lived lived with chronic pain because they will understand what you need and will be there for you. Indeed, what goes around come around!

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Visiting With Ghosts

“I’m not being bossy, I’m just telling you what to do,” says my husband.

As you can imagine these are not the choicest of words to say to your wife or any other woman who is over 30.

Years ago I would have told this man where to shove it if those words were said to me. Today, it is more complicated…kids, a 30+ year history together, mortgages…and then there is the sex which has always been divine.  So what does one say when the man you have admired more than anyone in the world hits his 50’s, goes through male menopause, and suddenly becomes someone you no longer know. Somehow…”SCREW YOU ASSHOLE”… no longer feels like an option when you are trying to become your best self and live in a more authentic and pleasant sort of way.

But enough of that.

Today, I was sitting inside when I suddenly heard the roar of B’s hedger. I decided to go out and help him because his back has been hurting.  Upon arriving outside I find B taking it to the rose buses with blades the size of a helicopter and my beloved pink agastache already mowed almost to the ground.

“What are you doing?”

“The trick or treaters won’t be able to make it up the walk. Had to make room for them.”

“B, those were precious to me. I work hard to have a beautiful yard. Why don’t you honor what I do and how hard I work?”

“There you go again. I can’t do anything right.”

And with that we were off. He went his way thinking his wife is a bitch and I went back into the house fuming while feeling what I do is devalued. As I crossed over the threshold it occurred to me that I could be right and I could feel miffed… or… I could have peace. Which did I want? It was a no-brainer. Outside I went.

“B… we need to talk. I came outside to help you so you don’t have to bend over”

“I’m busy. I’ve been working all day. I don’t need your help.”

“Honey, I am done with this old pattern of relating. I say something and you respond that you can never do anything right. Then we both go off into our corners with our invisible boxing gloves on. It is time to do something different.”

He looks at me suspiciously.

“Look,” he says “The kids can’t go up our sidewalk without running into our bushes.”

“I understand that now but didn’t realize it was that much of a problem. But instead of destroying what I worked so hard to create it would be helpful if you would come to me and state your concern about the kids. Then you could say, “Honey, I am going to cut the agastache down if you don’t come out and take care of them your way.” That way I am responsible for what happens. Not you. And I get to do things in the manner I choose; in a way that preserves my plants and my dignity.”

“I didn’t mow them all down…”

“Honey, lets just agree to disagree and try harder not to do the same dance which gets us nowhere. Right now, I am choosing not to be right at all costs. Instead, I am choosing to create peace.”

Later, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We all know that they are getting too old for this folderol but it is a tradition…something to hold onto when so many things are up in the air and our relationship is hanging like grapes on the vine. As we entered the farm, I reflected on our “Days From The Past” and I remembered the happiness our family had experienced here. I harkened back to the times when I saw B in a kinder, gentler sort of light and felt a soft glow surround my heart.

I suspect that sometimes this is what is needed…reminders of times gone right. Those moments in our lives when our joy outweighed our sorrows and fits of laughter outnumbered our tears. Days filled with pumpkins, sunflowers, corn mazes and a frosted cup of apple cider. Maybe these are the things we all need to sustain us when things in our lives morph into things we no longer recognize.

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So this Halloween, instead of paying attention to the ghosts of the present who rattle their chains in an effort to be heard; I think I shall visit with the ghosts of the past to gain a new perspective and appreciation for what was and could possibly be again.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Set oven to 350. Clean pumpkin seeds. Mix with melted butter, dark cherry vinegar, garlic salt, and rosemary. Roast for 25 minutes.

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The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Conflict

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When I was younger I enjoyed conflict. It meant that I was letting things be known and getting things done. These days I just want peace. Gone are the days of spending two hours trying to convince B that I am “right.” Gone is the time spent crafting a great argument. I would much rather spend time meditating and sitting quietly than fighting.

Yet, there is something to be said about the positive effects of conflict. During conflict we are often forced to grow, to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers that are needed, and do a bit more in an effort to resolve the issues that are at the root of the problem. Oftentimes, conflict brings us some much needed insight about ourselves and our loved ones that can then be used to find solutions that best fit our mutual needs. Usually conflict forces us to do a bit more thinking, to take action, and encourages us to analyze patterns that are dug up when our nest is disturbed.

Conflict is hard, especially when we as a species, tend to want to chase rainbows and live our lives surrounded by sunny skies. Many of us avoid conflict like the plague. But conflict if managed with mutual respect and sharply attuned listening skills can unearth gems that can change our lives or our thought patterns. So while I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start a fight with their loved one; I am saying that the next time you are in conflict with your loved one try to look for the treasures that conflict can bring. You may find exactly what your relationship needs in order to take that next step by digging deep and listening carefully and in doing so; you might just find the peace that you have been searching for.

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Slowing Down

I have been moving at a  pretty fast pace lately. Whether it be traveling from one side of the country to the other or in my interactions with those I love; warp seems to be the speed at which I move these days. So I was more than a little ticked when my therapist “suggested” that I take more time in all aspects of my life. In other words…

S L O W

I T

D O W N

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When I wrote B that recent letter I shared with you… I was ready to be done that day, move into a new home the next and be in court a couple of weeks later. That is the way I do things once I decide to do them. Final Decision=Changing My Life For Good.  Let’s cut through the crap and start a new chapter. But my therapist says that type of thinking is self sabotaging and creates more pain in the end. Incidentally, B’s therapist also feels this way.images-7

One example she has given me to highlight this type of thinking is that if you are driving 100 miles per hour you are going too fast to see the little important things along side of the roadway. Things that may influence how fast you continue to drive or if you need to stop or slow down. When you are going that fast nothing is crystal clear and everything becomes a blur. Decision making, instead of being thoughtfully planned out, becomes spur of the moment and as a result it creates pain and suffering. To quote her:

“You have to remember that not all suffering is the same. The suffering you may face from leaving before the time is right may be nothing compared to the years of regret you might have because you didn’t take the time to work through the things that needed to be addressed even if that does result in divorce later on. Usually going at a fast rate of speed only leads to serious pain and regret.”

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According to her, speed will destroy what it is I ultimately want to accomplish.

“If this marriage ends due to knee jerk reactions,” she says “then you will not learn to trust yourself or the decisions that you make. Doing that takes thoughtful planning and seeing each part of the decision-making process come to fruition. That’s when trust in yourself begins to build upon itself when you see things coming together because you took the time to do things right and get what you need in the final outcome.”

And so I am trying to slow down and put into place the things that I want and need for my future. Although I do not know what that future holds I want to be sure that when I get there it contains all the things I need to live this second half of my life on my terms and not to be left holding a speeding ticket because I took the laps too fast.

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I tell you that I’m leavin’,
You can’t believe it’s true!
You say….
Girl, there’s just no livin’ without you.
Don’t take your love away from me.
Don’t you leave my heart in misery.
‘Cause if you go, then I’ll be blue,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Remember when you held me tight,
And you kissed me all through the night.
Think of all that we been through,
And breakin’ up is hard to do.
They say that breakin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up I wish that
We were makin’ up again.
I beg of you don’t say goodbye,
Can’t we give our love just one more try?
Come on baby, let’s start anew,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Written by Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I arrived home Friday to a man who was so sweet I wondered where he had been for the past year-and-one-half. Since I had told him that I want him to leave, of course, there has been a change….there always is for this type of thing. I guess it is to be expected. Shaking things up puts the boulders on top until time slowly sinks them back to the bottom. Some things never change.

He missed me while I was on the coast. He believes you don’t let go of something we have had this long. Or so he says. Now when the fear of losing me is closer than he had  ever dreamt. Filling the pill boxes, carpooling, doctor appointments. Is it me he wants or my numerous occupations…nurse, taxi driver, cook, house cleaner, bill payer, laundry folder…the list is almost endless and so is my need to know.

We talk. I am insistent. He is adamant we need to keep trying and he is staying. I suggest that he take my letter to his therapist to see what she says. I tell him I bet that she will say that he should take this time for himself. I also tell him that I want him to give his therapist permission to talk to mine to see if there is any middle ground there. He agrees. We talk late into the night without hurting each other. What do you know!

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The next day we go to lunch and start talking about separation. It is not a pleasant conversation with plenty of “My lawyer said this” and “My lawyer said that.” That little exchange gave us a preview of what was to come and neither of us liked it. Yet, one thing has changed. Paul is noticing that we are apart more than together and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. He wonders why we have to leave? “Can’t we just be a family again?” he asks. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it shaking the earth under his feet.

Later, we decided to look at our calendars to see what kind of leaving can be done during the month of March.

Shit! I totally forgot that I leave with Gracie on Wednesday on a cross-country trip for a diving meet. Gone until the 7th.

B leaves the 10th for a business trip to Canada and Pennsylvania. He comes back the 17th.

The following week is the Highland Games that we have both committed to.

The next week is our anniversary with a trip to the East Coast to see our son. Neither of us wants to give that up. It should be interesting. Hopefully, we can communicate like the middle-age adults we are suppose to be rather then using our usual two-year-old communcation methods…me,me,me…you,you,you. Never just us.

Now we are into April.  Two more diving meets within the first two weeks and a business trip to Colorado. In between all of this, I am trying to become a volunteer for hospice which will require training.

All of this to say…who has time to break up? Doesn’t mean we won’t. Just means that there is a lot of booked time away from each other this coming month. Yet, Paul is noticing and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it. Deeply.

I think it is just what we need. It may not be my original plan but it’s good enough for now and sometimes that is all you can ask for.

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Fixing Things

Usually when I talk of fixing things it is about myself or my relationship. Today there is a new subject at hand.

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The repair man is here. He is fixing my refrigerator which decided a couple of weeks ago that water flowing all over the floor would be a good thing. A button decided to stick creating a flood that was biblical in porportion. We waited three weeks for the part which came and no one at the repair place knew it. Shipped from Japan and slid into the country… quietly ignoring Sears computer tracking system.

He will be there between 8-12. This I am told by a robot on the phone. I put a note on the door. “Be back at 9” knowing the robot cannot relay this information that I might want to give.

I blow through numerous yellow lights determined to make it back home before the service man arrives and then leaves because I am not there. I shoo the kids out the car door getting dirty looks from them as I skid my tires and drive away.

I arrive home… and… he is waiting. Bless his heart. Surprise hugs my face like a water balloon ready to explode. I look as astonished as he does.

I’m typing now while he is banging away at my 5 yo fridge that is suppose to last a lifetime. In the past 20 years I have noted that the lifespan of appliances has now diminished to a period of time that is equivilant of birth to kindergarten. I think he will be done with his work before I finish this sentence. How does that work?

He is gone. I am not…staring at a screen…. which does not self type.

Tomorrow I will be doing the same song and dance. I will be waiting for the repair man to fix my dryer for the fourth time this year. He’ll be here between 10-2. I have to pick up the kids at 3. Which makes me wonder….why is it that people can no longer do more than one thing? Both repairs done through the same company.Why couldn’t this dude have fixed my dryer too?  It appears that these days one repair guy does clothes washers, one refrigerators, one garbage disposals, one dishwashers…and so it goes.

Can’t anyone do more than one thing anymore?

And then it dawns on me…the reason they can’t do more than one thing any more is this…they are men…they aren’t moms…end of story!

A Good Book

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I am reading the book Perfume River by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. His words flow like a river during the spring rains…rushing and so powerful that they threaten to pull you under. Yet, Butler also knows how to write as if the river is also drying and receding into itself … the author’s words trickling from the pages in a sparse kind of way like the character who finds himself parched and unable to continue his journey.

As a writer I find it amazing when an author can match the flow of his words with the flow of the story. It’s a rarity, that. Most people can write of feelings and place but show me an author who has the gift of using words to match the tempo of the story, like a composer who pens his first notes for each instrument; well, it is a gift to the reader.

I wish I had the ability to match my words and actions with the tempo of storyline that is running throughout my life. Often I feel that my passion is too intense for the scene or that I fall behind not realizing the importance of the moment until it has passed. Sometimes I find  myself experiencing a momentary loss of words as I traverse this life that is mine. Having my emotions and words match what is going on in life often presents a bit of a challenge and I find that sometimes I am missing the perfect words that would complete the chapter in a satisfying sort of way for all the characters in my life.

But if the truth is told,  seldom is the time that we get to write our own life story as we envision it. Often plots are pushed upon us through no fault of our own and characters we never imagined magically appear. We expect a monsoon but get a drought instead. And as we journey through life we often forget that our words set the pace for what happens next, who we become, and the quality of our relationships that we are in.

So today, let us be mindful of the words we are saying and where they might be taking us. Let us craft our words and deeds like the chapter of a good book. And by thinking before speaking, let us be like that author who knows what to edit out to make the story flow. After all, it is our own personal story so its up to us to make it interesting and something we would be proud to let others read.  We may not get a Pulitzer Prize but we will get immense satisfaction in taking the time to craft a life that becomes our own bestseller.