Prayers & Dreams Really Do Come True

About ten months ago, I came to the realization that it was time for me to move back into the world of going into an office for my “day job.” In the beginning, I loved the 25 step commute from my bedroom to my downstairs office/den – but over time, the solitude evolved from peace into emptiness.

My four years of self-employment also helped me gain clarity about what matters to me in  my professional life. For me, it’s not about climbing a corporate ladder or breaking through the glass ceiling. It’s about working in an environment where people and community matter.

In some ways, it wasn’t easy to think about returning to Corporate America; I’ve had my share of bad bosses and toxic work environments, however I believed that it doesn’t have to be that way. I also knew with certainty that it was time to take a leap and find the right position.

My Prayer Box

I have a prayer box beside my bed.  I write my dreams and my worries on slips of paper and put them in the box.  It keeps them from rattling around in my brain all day because I know they’re in a safe place and one by one my prayers will be answered. The practice is one of many valuable things I learned from reading “Walking in This World” by Julia Cameron.

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This morning, while sifting through my prayers and giving thanks for those that have been answered and asking for help and patience with those that haven’t, I found the words I’d written at the beginning of my job search:

I am praying for, asking for a professional opportunity that offers me the following:

  1. A positive environment.
  2. People to work for and with that like to work hard and also like to have fun.
  3. A successful company with growth potential.
  4. Financially and/or Geographically enables me to easily visit family and have my  kids visit me.
  5. A work philosophy in which everybody matters.
  6. Provides me the ability to continue to grow and nurture my creative side.
  7. A position and experience that is a positive step and offers a learning opportunity to equip me to realize my ultimate dream – abundance through creativity and helping others.
  8. Offers a good work/life balance.

Amen

My Prayer Was Answered

It was really strange, and at times uncomfortable, to approach something as important and a job search without thinking in terms of specifics such as title, salary and location. Somehow I managed to stay the course throughout more interviews than I can count using both my fingers and toes, not to mention the ups and downs associated with the emotional roller coaster that comes with the territory.

Every time I thought the right position and I had found each other, followed by the disappointment when it didn’t pan out, brought me one step closer to landing the perfect job for me. The funniest part of the whole process is where I landed geographically. My initial conversations with recruiters went something like this:

One of the first questions was always, “You’re open to relocation?” To which my reply was always the same, “I’m definitely open to relocating. I just want to stay east of the Rockies, Washington D.C. and NYC are out – they’re too expensive. Other than that I’m open to anywhere but Omaha.”

Omaha is exactly where I landed, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I guess that’ll teach me to try and dictate what’s best for me. 🙂

It Wasn’t Easy, But it Was Worth It

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns – nor did I expect it would be. The company is going through more than a few growing pains, which are a lot less painful than the kind of pain you go through when a company is downsizing.

All in all, the leadership team believes everyone matters and the company has many ways of sharing information and recognizing individual contributions. My peers are smart, caring and dedicated.

My team is young, energetic, hard working and they also love to laugh and have fun. They’re not too old or too stuffy to pose for a picture with Santa Clause.

team with Santa

We all look forward to quarterly pot-luck lunches in the office and team outings in a more relaxed environment.

fun team

The walls of my office are covered with expressions of my personality and glimpses into my creative side. It’s fun to be able to hang artwork from a session at a local Paint and Sip as well as a calendar that offers a pretty big clue that I’m an avid fan of “Gone With the Wind.”

Love my job

What’s really amazing to me, is the amount of creative growth I’ve experienced since re-entering the land of Corporate America. Instead of spending less time pursuing artistic endeavors, my work is evolving and I’m gaining the confidence needed to break out of a reliance on others to teach me and to start exploring on my own.

Experiences from my day job and my personal life have begun inspiring what shows up on my canvas. I’ve read many times that emotions, both positive and negative fuel creativity – I’m beginning to understand how that feels.

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My job hunt adventure began in Indianapolis, wound it’s way through Kansas City (a couple of times), Fargo, Boca Raton, and Raleigh.

It took longer and was more difficult than expected, but it was 100% worth every step and every journal entry along the way.

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Life is a Beautiful Mosaic in the Making

“She never seemed shattered; to me she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” – Matt Baker

For the past few months, my thoughts and feelings have found their way into the pages of my journal and onto more canvases than I can count -but for some reason, I haven’t been sharing them here.

This morning I woke up with a “funny” feeling that today is right day to start reconnect with my first creative love, the art of bringing experiences to life through words. Ironically, when I logged in I discovered that today is my WordPress.com anniversary! Six years ago I wrote and published my very first blog post, Wow! That was ‘Eye Popping 3D!’  

Reading the post for the first time since writing it, was a great reminder of how much capacity we have for growth at any age and stage of life. It also made me think about how much life’s experiences, good and bad make us who we are. It’s how we get through the difficult encounters that defines who we are and in many cases, the toughest experiences in life pave the road for the most joyous and beautiful times.

Disappointment is a Part of Life

I’ve become a bit of a ‘Paint and Sip’ venue groupie since moving back to Omaha. It’s been a great way to have some social interaction and be creative at the same time. Overall it’s been a positive experience, but as with anything in life, you’re bound to eventually hit some unexpected twists and turns in the road.

A couple of weekends ago, I met up with a friend for an evening of catching up over dinner followed by a couple of hours of painting at one of the local venues. Unfortunately the evening was a little disappointing. I’m not sure which was more distracting, the “while your paint is drying” games that were better suited to a bachelorette party than an evening of painting or the obnoxious drunk attendee.

She couldn’t seem to stop herself from painting her own thing at the expense of the rest of us who wanted to hear what the instructor was saying. It was pretty hard to focus on painting when she kept interrupting the flow of the class by shouting out things like, “It looks like we have a bunch of conformists here…”

It was great to spend time with my friend, but the painting ended up in the dumpster and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten my creative fx for the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon I decided to try again. All of my usual haunts were either hosting private events or the classes were full so I tried somewhere completely new. I’m not going to go into details, but it was a complete bust. There was a strange case of mistaken identity, intentions and integrity (mine) which left me feeling bewildered and disappointed.

The painting didn’t end up in the dumpster, but I’m going to sand off the paint and glitter and use the canvas to remove the negative energy and create something of my own.

A Mosaic in the Making

Neither a long walk or a margarita helped me shake off the icky feelings from the afternoon and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to recover and fulfill my desire for a creative outlet. On my way home I randomly decided to go the Family Dollar store and see what kind of tissue paper they had on hand so I could continue experimenting with collaging.

It was a shopping bonanza!

I could have purchased Starburst scented candles (for a dollar), but that just seemed like a really bad idea. 🙂

starburst candles

Instead I walked out of the store with $30 worth of treasures – enough tissue paper to make several collages, a set of sheets to use for a drop cloth and a box to store art supplies in.

dollar store shopping trip

After my trip to the Family Dollar Store, I cranked  up the tunes and blocked out the rest of the world with candlelight, a paintbrush, Modge Podge and balloon patterned tissue paper.

As the balloons came to life on the canvas, the unsettled feelings from the afternoon and previous evening floated away.

balloon collage

It’s funny… Without the two “icky” experiences, I never would have thought to create a collage using balloon patterned tissue paper from the Family Dollar store.

Nor would of that ‘one thing leads to another’ phenomena have happened and I never would have thought of creating something using tissue paper, sand and shiny shell-like embellishments. My mosaic, a work in progress – just like life.

mosiac in progress

 

 

Home is Where the Heart is

You can only lose what you cling to.
— Buddha

The image of my beautiful three story colonial was blurred in the rear-view mirror, as we pulled out of the driveway while returning the farewell waves and neighborhood wishes of “Good luck in Pennsylvania, we’ll miss you!” with a chorus of “We’ll miss you too, stay in touch!”

colonial-house

Now I’m back in the city I left nine years ago. It’s full of memories and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I didn’t expect it, but the most difficult part of the move has been in letting go of my attachment to what, in my mind, has defined both home and personal success. I could write an entire book about the circumstances that led me to Pennsylvania and back to Nebraska, but for now let’s just say that things haven’t exactly turned out the way I imagined they would.

That beautiful colonial home now belongs to someone else, a family who bought it for a song, after my 401K was emptied and my savings account dipped below zero trying to keep from going into foreclosure.

The marriage I hoped would be salvaged by the move fell apart faster than anyone could have imagined, and the job opportunity that drew me there turned into lessons in how to survive when a company files Chapter Eleven. I learned the hard way that being a Freelancer isn’t as easy as the self-help books make it sound.

In an unexpected way, the path back to a career in Ecommerce and back to Omaha was paved, one experience at a time over the past nine years. Wheels set in motion; I began to search for the right next opportunity.

My heart was set on moving into a space that wouldn’t require anyone to sleep on an air mattress and would have plenty of room for an art studio. In other words, I wanted a four bedroom house. Economically it didn’t make sense, but I wanted it.

The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis. I was clinging to the notion of home and success being equivalent to house and more rooms than I need 361 days out of the year.

There was an air mattress involved in the holiday sleeping arrangements and I don’t have space dedicated to an art studio, but the attachments to old definitions of home and success are disappearing.

My youngest son put it into perspective when he said, “Mom, it doesn’t matter where you live or what you have. What matters is that we always feel welcomed and loved.”

After the holidays, the walls of my apartment reverberated with memories of laughter and love.

The silent air is filled with the sounds of playful bickering over the rules of a game, of philosophical conversations that are “to be continued” and of memories that extend way beyond the past two weeks.

Home is where you make it.

home

 

 

My House, is a Very Very Fine House

Five years ago is a summer I will never forget and am glad that I can now look back on it with laughter instead of tears. In July of 2010 my life as a single mom and sole provider for my youngest son began. The first and most important priority at that time was to find a house to rent.

Finding a house to rent sounds like it should be pretty easy, but as it turns out it wasn’t.

I signed up to receive email notifications for rental properties that were within my budget, in our school district and accepted pets. Days and days passed with nothing showing up in my inbox. I was beginning to think something was wrong when, ding, ding ding – I had mail!

There was a house that met all of the criteria, so my realtor scrambled to make an appointment the very same day. Christian and I wandered through the house. The carpet was worn, there was a very damp smell to the basement, and the yard was seriously in need of some attention. Sizing things up, we kept repeating to each other, “it’s not great, but it’s better than the apartment.”

We convinced each other that it was going to be great and we could make it work, so I filled out the paperwork, dropped it off, and held my breath. One day passed, another day passed, and on the third day our application was rejected – or rather we learned that the house had been leased to another family.

In between sobs I explained to my parents how horrible it was that we wouldn’t be moving into a house we didn’t love, in a neighborhood that wasn’t great. Wow, now it even sounds ridiculous to me. 🙂

It seemed like forever until I finally received another promising email, so long in fact that I had ordered and received new shower curtains, towels, and comforters for the apartment. I’d also hung new pictures and put flowers in the window of the apartment to try and lift our spirits and soften the memories.

As with the first opportunity, I was on top of the situation. Within hours of receiving the email I’d arranged a visit with the home owner. The references in the lease to specific types of nails and cleaning supplies should have been a clue that it wasn’t going to be a great fit, but it wasn’t….

I sent the homeowner pictures of my kids and of my home in Omaha as a way to convince her that I’d take good care of her property. After the she called and grilled my close friends (character references) about my ability to take care of a home, she extended the offer to rent to the house to me. Not only that, she agreed to let me paint the walls and I agreed to use the cleaning supplies listed in the lease.

Although the agreement was only verbal, I turned in my notice at the apartment complex with a smile.

The morning I was scheduled to meet the painter an email arrived,

Good Morning Beth,
 
Thank you for sharing the photos of your family and your home with me. You have beautiful children and a lovely home.
 
At this point, it is with sadness that I must tell you that I cannot enter into a rental agreement with you. After serious soul searching, tossing and turning through the night, I have decided that it is time for me to move forward in my life.
 
I have held on to that house for many years because I have a hard time letting go of things I love. I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks and it is time for me to lessen the load and stress I have been carrying for too long.
 
My days of being a Landlord are behind me. As I told you, I really want to sell the house. I’m sure you and your son are wonderful people and we would have had a great relationship. Nonetheless, the season in my life has changed.
 
I spoke to my Agent about this. She told me she just listed a beautiful house for rent which is available for immediate occupancy in the same school district which might be perfect for you. She will be happy to show it to you without delay. I believe these unfolding events will work out for the long term best for each of us. I pray your initial disappointment will become joyful just as quickly.
 
Sincerely and with very best wishes,
The woman who said she’d rent  to you

The house she recommended was so far out of my reach it wasn’t even funny. I honestly didn’t think the tears would ever stop after receiving this email. Thank goodness the management at the apartment complex accepted my un-notice and we still had a place to live.

I’d all but given up hope.

Then, serendipity made her presence known in my life.

My realtor texted me and, the next day I found “my house.”

The front walk was uneven and I made a mental note to be careful if I ever decided to wear heels again.  One misstep and I’d be sure to leave the whole shoe behind. My new landlord (lady) greeted with a warm smile and a hug after a single ding announced my arrival; I’d already begun to think of her as a friend.

“Let’s start the tour here in the kitchen, I’ll go over the appliances in here and Tim will be ‘round directly to show you how to use the fireplace and furnace. They can be a bit tricky, but you’ll be fine.  The neighbors are great and we’re only a phone call away,” she said.  

I took notes about everything from how low I could let the oil tank go, to which key went with which door, and how to prevent a moat from forming when it rains too hard.  I squeezed as many questions as possible in between her excited explanations.

The final stop on the tour was my bedroom.  “Now about your room, I’ve already decided this color is all wrong for you, its way too dull. But I want to wait a bit to paint so I can think of just the right color to fill it with sunshine for you.”

My room is now the color of sunshine.

I don’t have two cats in the yard and sometimes life is still hard, but I am grateful every day for my very, very fine house.

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Rain Doesn’t Make a Day Awful, it Just Makes it Wet

Saturday was a plan C sort of day. A few weeks ago my friend Dan invited me to join him and his parents to check out the Tall Ships Festival on the riverfront in Philadelphia. A trip into Philly to spend an afternoon with friends is always fun and the festival was a unique opportunity to learn a little about naval history.

L’Hermione, L’Hermione, “A French replica of the 145’ long Concorde class frigate of the French Navy.” Image credit: Tall Ships® Philadelphia Camden

As luck would have it, the forecast for Saturday was 100% chance of rain in the afternoon, not exactly the best kind of weather for an outside activity like touring massive ships with very tall masts and impressive sails.

Dan called to let me know that our group had expanded from 4 to 6 people and because of the rain he was organizing plan B, a visit to the Barnes Foundation Museum and dinner in Center City. Exploring one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings sounded like a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Between Thursday and Friday afternoon, the size of our group dwindled from 6 to 4 to 2. Dan’s condo is in the middle of a kitchen remodel and since the Barnes Foundation is something that can be visited at any time, it made more sense for his parents to visit another time. It also made sense to move to Plan C, a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A new exhibit, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting, had just opened at the Museum of Art and we wanted to see the collection before it moved on to another city. We reviewed the train schedule and he ordered our tickets for the exhibit to allow for plenty of time between the trains arrival and the admission time.

I love taking the train into Philly it’s fun to be able to relax and read or people watch instead of being stressed out by heavy traffic, potholes, and parking in the city. The train station is always lively and it’s not uncommon to hear the beat of drums or a beautiful harmony created by two violins played in unison.music performers in the train station

The clapping hands and tapping feet within the audience energized the drumming, dancing, and singing. I couldn’t resist putting a dollar in each of the buckets on the “stage” that hosted these 5 enthusiastic performers.

Dan and I met up on the other side of the station and ventured out into the drizzle to hail a cab. We started our adventure at a local pub and sampled a couple of beers while catching up and waiting for our assigned time for entering the exhibit to arrive. It was a short distance between the pub and the museum and although we used our umbrellas they barely got wet.

The museum supplied an audio recording to add background and insights about various paintings and artists featured in the exhibit. It was a great idea except I couldn’t get them to work properly for the life of me. Sooo, after trying and fumbling with two different devices I gave up and just enjoyed the masterpieces through my own eyes and interpretations.

At the end of the tour Dan surprised me with a gift of 6 tiny color pencils from the museum gift shop – I think it’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received. 🙂 They’re almost too cute to use.

color pencils from the museum

Our walk from the museum to the restaurant was an entirely different story from the walk earlier in the afternoon. I held my umbrella as close to my head as possible and followed Dan’s feet through the wet sidewalks and puddle filled streets.

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By the time we got to the restaurant our clothes were dripping and we could do nothing but laugh about our state of severe sogginess. I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t look in a mirror, I can only imagine that my hair must have resembled something that belonged on the head of a clown and not anything like it did when I started the day.

The restaurant is located in a renovated firehouse and has some of the best beef brisket I’ve ever eaten. (In case you’re wondering, the person in the picture is a random stranger who was sitting at the bar)

Philly Restaraunt_06_27_2015

It’s across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum – which is now on my list of “must do adventures.”

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After dinner we managed to hail a cab to the train station, but not quite soon enough to avoid getting drenched again – proving once again that neither of us were going to melt in the rain.

In reality, it would have been tempting to stay home and plan our adventure for a sunny or at least dry day, but we would have missed out on an awesome day and time spent with a good friend.

My Choices Shape My Future

My Choices Shape my Futuer

Last night I could not get past writers block. I did write for about an hour, but only managed to squeak out 2 ½ paragraphs that sounded forced. It’s easy to get carried away and strive to be profound when the art journal entry that corresponds with the written piece is “My Choices Shape My Future.”

This morning I deleted the words written last night and started over with a fresh heart.

Just as I was settling in, the steady low roar of the lawnmower stopped abruptly with the clank of the blade against a rock. I didn’t have to see what happened to know that my son felt the vibration from the impact, there were sparks involved, and the clatter was without a doubt the last noise the mower would make.

My writing direction changed once again. I was going to write about the fact that I’ve made some pretty bad choices and how they ultimately shaped my future in a good way. Thoughts about the power of positive, the importance of self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness raced through my brain.

The sound of the lawnmower brought me back to reality and to the smaller kind of choices we make every day. How we choose to handle life’s minor mishaps and whether or not we allow them to ruin the day.

This morning I had two choices, one was to be mad and ask my son rhetorical questions like, “why weren’t you paying more attention?” and then remind him that money doesn’t grow on trees and he really should be more careful. The other option was to take a deep breath before going outside, accept his apology calmly, and ask him to help me find a replacement.

For whatever reason, the first approach seems to be human nature but it really serves no purpose. My son already felt bad and knew he should have been paying closer attention, his face told me so. It wouldn’t have made either of us feel any better if I’d yelled at him. We’d both be feeling miserable, small, and angry.

Together we shopped online for a new mower. He selected an old-fashioned push mower for the following reasons: it was the most affordable, it’s environmentally friendly and quieter, and it will provide him with a little more exercise. I’m proud of the way he handled the situation. He also had choices, and he handled it maturely by owning what happened and remaining calm.

It wasn’t the way either of us wanted to start the day, but life happens and mishaps are part of the deal and we have no control over them. We only have control over how we react to them. I’m learning that facing problems calmly is far more effective and pleasant than hiding from them or living in a constant state of hysteria and discouragement.

I’ve come to believe the way we handle the little things life throws at us has a significant impact on shaping our future. It establishes a pattern of behavior and sets the stage for how we handle the big things.

My Choices Shape my Futuer

Listen With an Open Mind and Hear with Love

I Hear With Love

Listening with an open mind isn’t always easy. As human beings we come into most situations with our own predefined thoughts based on our individual experiences and beliefs. Most of the time we believe that what we think is right and often-times we go into conversations with the intention of changing someone’s mind and not our own.

Listening with an open mind means more than being open to someone else’s opinion or point of view, it means that you are receptive to being influenced by what you hear. It means listening to each and every word without jumping to conclusions and striving to understand what the other person is saying without judging whether or not they are right or wrong.

Hearing with love is partly about listening with empathy but it’s more than that. Empathy helps us understand better where someone else is coming from emotionally and conceptually but it’s not the same as hearing with love.

Hearing with love takes it a step further, hearing with love not only means understanding it also means compassion, kindness, and goodwill. When we listen with love we listen with both an open mind and an open heart.

Our opinions may or may not change as a result of the conversation but if the end result is a greater understanding of the other person and  a mutual feeling of acceptance and goodwill, it was a success.

Strive not only to understand another person’s experiences and thoughts, love and embrace them for who they are because of them.

I Hear With Love

Inspired by Louise Hay ~ “I Hear With Love.”

Don’t Throw Out the China

holiday table set with fine china

Divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best it’s not an easy experience. It’s laden with “what if’s,” “should have’s” and “what do I do now’s.” This is my fourth Christmas as a single mom and tonight I’m more thankful than ever that I didn’t throw out the china.

Backing up just a bit, a little over three years ago Christian and I moved into my lovely artist’s vessel, aka home.

my lovely artist's house - the livingroom

We’d been living in an apartment that was one third of the size of the house we left behind. This meant that one third of our belongings were sold, a third was in storage, and the rest was in the apartment. Although I’m not so sure it was quite as evenly split as that.

After much angst we found a house to rent and it was time for the belongings that had been gathering dust in a storage container to meet the light of day. I scheduled the moving company to deliver the contents of the storage container and my parents volunteered to help me unpack.

surrounded by boxes

I won’t go into all of the details but suffice it to say it took me 322 days to unpack all of the boxes and turn my porch into a slice of summer.

finishing touches

Unpacking items I hadn’t seen or used in two years was almost as surreal as walking through my house and marking things with labels that designated the disposition of individual belongings as keep, sell/donate, or store.

My standard line for the day the storage arrived was, “I haven’t used it in two years so I don’t need it, put it in the donate pile.” Memories, both good and bad, poured out of each box I opened. Naively I thought the experience would be without emotion.

One of the most difficult moments was when I opened the box labeled “china.” I unpacked a dinner plate; memories of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and special occasions flooded my mind and pushed tears down my face.

Hoping no one had seen, I stood up and said, “I haven’t used it in two years, donate it.”

It’s an understatement to say I was irrational that day and if Christian hadn’t asked, “but Mom, what dishes will we use for special occasions?” – I would have thrown out the china.

For me the china represented the hope I had as a new bride and the disappointment that things didn’t turn out the way I had planned. For him the china represented family, traditions, happy times, and perhaps stability or familiarity.

Tonight he asked if he could set the table for dinner. We’d invited his girlfriend to join us for pre-holiday meal; he chose to use the china.

holiday table set with fine china

Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out.

A Table for One

In Nebraska if you go out with friends after work, you meet for drinks. In Pennsylvania (at least in this area) you meet for “happy hour,” which is what I did this past Friday night. This may not sound like a significant event to most, but it’s somewhat of a milestone for me. To date, my social outings have consisted of lunches and dinners with friends who I used to work with.

A a single person, I’ve discovered the value and importance of treating myself to the things people do when they’re part of a couple. During the week I cook myself nice meals, attend a drawing class, and occasionally make it to my writer’s group meetings. On chilly nights I curl up in front of my fireplace and doodle in my ink journal or work on a drawing.

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On weekends I treat myself to an evening out on Friday or Saturday night. Sometimes I request a table for one, other times I sit at the bar, and I always bring along a good book. It doesn’t bother me in the least to ask for a “table for one” or to read my book at the bar; upon occasion I end up putting my book aside and engaging in an entertaining conversation with the people sitting near me.

I find it interesting that people quickly jump to conclusions regarding the reason I’m out by myself. I’m not sure why but often-times they seem to think they should feel sorry for me because I’m alone. A few weeks ago I was sitting at a table, enjoying my meal when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Oh my dear, I feel so sorry for you,” said a well-meaning woman.

“Why?” I asked.

She patted my shoulder, “Well because you’re all alone, and that’s sad.”

“Really there’s no need to be sad or feel sorry for me. I’m actually very happy and I’d rather spend the evening with a good book than to dine out with someone I don’t enjoy being around.”

I look at it this way, I have two choices: one is to sit at home and feel sorry for myself or two I can live life the way it’s meant to be lived and embrace the community I live in. Having said that, it was also nice to be invited to a happy hour and extend my social circle beyond co-workers from my previous life.

As far as the “well-meaning” woman – I hope she now understands that there’s no need to feel sorry for someone who sits at a “table for one” or in the future keeps her comments to herself.