How hard it is to stay quiet. Sometimes, I’ve become aware of fearing the very thing I crave. This morning when I was doing my meditation ritual, a sliver of sunlight insisted on showing itself through the olive tree branches in front of my window. All was quiet. I was aware of it, it being a kind of willing participant in silence. Actually, the longer the light pierced the leaves, the more aware I became.

Power and Light

I became immersed in a natural, diffuse yet potent quality that was far more definition of me than all the other personality traits I insist on clinging to. My sense of self was part of the field, a member of the whole which revealed itself. I was essential. As my awareness expanded through the quiet, not only did it feel organic, I also began to associate a sense of home to it.

Home is a funny thing. As mammals, we have such a physical need for nesting, over-associating a sense of comfort and security with physical space in which we reside. But the sense of quietness as home, maybe even womb-like, is different.

The Pull

There is something unique, inexplicable and indistinct that draws me to quiet. The phrase “moth to a flame” comes to mind. Quiet is both a lure and a disorientation. It carries with it a subtle fear of extinction. Scientists believe moths are drawn to light when their navigational systems become disrupted, leaving them confused and disoriented. And yet, drawn in they must be, even at risk of death, of which they cannot really know. There is something inevitable suggested in eventual death and transformation. Yet who rushes to it.

For me, as time slowed and I entered the subtle perception of a difference of being, it struck me as I, too, had become disoriented, though for a time, I seemed powerless to resist. Continuing, I rode the wave to its peak.  Up to a point! For a time, it was certainly worth the risk. Of what? Of the fear of losing my previously assumed sense of self, of what I’ve defined myself to be in mortal earth terms? In a flash, I had awareness that quiet is sourced from a different dimension, the quality of the Divine. It is outside of time and even space once you really settle into it. And therein lies both the comfort and the fright.

To Be or Not To Be

Quiet suggests a fright that is both compelling and repelling. Sometimes I just cannot stand all the noise of the world and must escape. At times even, quiet contains a whisper of ultimate freedom yet one with an eventual loss of a sense of self as I have previously been defined. Quiet presents the ultimate conflict because I both want to lose that sense of self which is purely fiction and an architecture of my own ego’s creation, as well as maintain the very fiction I have made. What am I if not my sense of self definition? While I personally believe I reflect an expression of God, I have gone about my physical existence segregated from that belief all too often.

If God exists as the silence, as pure potentiality as some scientists and theologians believe, then there actually seems to be no definition whatsoever other than potential expression as defined by… What? Me? A conscious human being that has been blessed to be born a human like the Buddha suggests, being endowed with the raw ingredients from which to evolve into greater consciousness? If God has created all things as expressions of his potentiality, which is infinite, He is everywhere and nowhere. He is both alpha and omega, beginning and end, over and over again.

 Context is Everything

He/She/It spins out a potential within a context, be it inanimate or animate, be it a life form, a liquid or a solid. What a sense of creative joyful play He must have! He gives each thing parameters, a context in which to further develop and continue his initial creation, active participants, a sort of “God thinned down” within, to carry on what He begat! Each thing carries the torch of ongoingness. One of the problems with us humans—and of me— is that we think we have done it all. That pesky ego we have been endowed with, an outgrowth of animal evolution, presumes to think we are the creators of ALL of our own lives instead of realizing we are merely stewards of His raw ingredients. We are so very arrogant!

But back to quiet. Quiet is both a whisper and a thunder, a lure and a resistance. At times I crave it whether I’ve cultivated it or stumbled into it by Grace. Regardless, I cannot ultimately stay away. The noise of the world becomes a pressure cooker after a time, one that requires a release of steam. Plus, I know in the quiet resides a real “me” to be rediscovered!

So of course I continue on, alternating between quiet’s pull to its very fright. At the end of the day, it makes no matter whether I understand or try to define it. Ultimately, I acknowledge the reality of creation and the rules that guide it are not up to me. Rather, I am aware of being a kind of project manager, a steward of gifts given me by a Source greater than I can truly comprehend. At the end of the day, I must surrender to a power greater than myself to follow the light of Home, that flame that calls us all, whether inside or out of time. It is the ultimate peace.


The emotional types respond with facility to world glamour and to their own individual inherited and self-induced glamour. The bulk of the people are purely emotional with occasional flashes of real mental understanding – very occasional, my brother, and usually entirely absent. Glamour has been likened to a mist or fog in which the aspirant wanders and which distorts all that he sees and contacts, preventing him from ever seeing life truly or clearly or the conditions surrounding him as they essentially are.  (Glamour: A World Problem by Alice A. Bailey and Djwal Khul)

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What is it about music that moves your insides, at least it does mine. From JT to Aretha, from Bonnie Raitt to Handel, from Pachelbel to the Bee Gees, or the Beatles—there are too many masters to name. Then, then, I came across this guy, Tommy Emmanuel, and was, well, WOW’d. No wait, I was mesmerized. No, that’s not right either. I can’t think of a word. Moved? It still doesn’t quite cover it, cover him. A classical, blues and jazz guitarist extraordinaire, when catching a clip posted on Facebook this morning tears welled fast, uncontrollably. Not because anything was sad or sorrowful, not even The Trails piece I’ve listed as the middle link. Rather, tears came spontaneous and unbidden because of the powerful talent that pours, no, erupts, no, blasts out of this man’s genius play. That’s what it looks like, Play! He PLAYS!! This is what inspired musical play looks like, sounds like; feels like. Read more

It is beyond mortifying, witnessing what is happening socially and politically in our country these days. In Part 1 of this little series, I wrote about the decline of democracy in America, erudite and intellectually bent, to be sure. This follow-up is far more about emotion, psychology, and grief! While many pundits, academics, and editorialists are pretty much describing the train wreck of our culture in graphic terms, with the GOP coming apart at the seams, the inevitable disintegration in front of us as a whole, is palpable and real. It’s like the 60’s and 70’s in reverse.
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I’ve been reading “Gift From The Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh recently, feeling even more affected by it than the first reading years ago. The beauty of it, her poignant insight, strikes a profound cord someplace deep. Take, for example, the following passage:  Read more

The BenchSo I’m getting ready to move in less than a month, having found a lovely little adobe home-share situation. Because the place is already well-established with current tenants, much of my furnishings will either go to my son for safe-keeping or be given away.  Read more

I watched a documentary recently, “Alive Inside”, about people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia or impairment, including just getting old, and was profoundly moved. In an odd way I recognized myself which was nothing short of sobering, to say the least! While my mother endured Alzheimer’s some years ago, quite frankly it was not that identification that was so jarring to me. Rather, it was the sniffing out of my own slow leak from a sense of my former self. This was not because I have any more “age associated memory loss” common to being in the early 60’s than the next person. Instead it seems I may be both blessed and cursed with taking my substantive ‘temperature’ of who and what I am and want at a plethora of  life stages. It’s almost as if I’m being dogged by some form of conscious interior evolution. Drat!

This past year I have come to observe a kind of tiring, a rejection of that turbo charged daily living that prevailed in my younger years. Having ‘put it all out there’ from ego-driven ambition, the idealism and naiveté of youth, and the drive to prove myself as a consequence of insecurity, I have felt spent—and for more than a year, actually: probably about six or seven!

There’s a down side to outgrowing the above stage(s) of course. While it provides a measure of much needed respite, a kind of inertia creeps in when chucking so much stimulation: inertia or a filling time with illusory often trivial tasks that hide the loss of authentic robust and energized living can result. It seems this downsizing of an over-stimulated lifestyle has come at a price, and not just for me but for others I’ve observed as well.

Now, I have made LOTS of change in my life, some of it wise and some of it foolish although I didn’t know so much about the foolishness at the time. This reflection is probably no different from most people’s on the planet. Still, it is sobering to consider one’s life in retrospect. The rearview mirror-gazing looms large in the accountability department, revealing subterranean conflict that requires a piercing examination, some of it horrifying, some of it funny. Yes, funny. One better be able to laugh at one’s self if for no other reason than to reduce the freight that bad choices contain, especially choices one still feels stuck in. Sometimes, I swear that state feels so dense, so swallowing, I can almost hear a sucking sound. Awful.

Enter a conversation recently at breakfast with friends, one of whom said he was mad at his dad for shrinking (my word not his) from his former robust self. I remember, too, being really angry at a friend who I felt had done the same thing: a brilliant woman with a PhD who got stuck after the death of her husband. From where I sat it seems she was mired down in an over-attachment to the only thing/person that defined her and identified her greatest reason for being. It had always been obvious to me she had her own reason for being.

What I have come to know now is that my friend’s inability to move forward in recapturing the best parts of herself, separate from any identification from spouse, previous profession, or lifestyle (including the energy of youth) happens far earlier than any single event. Rather, a single catastrophe may mask a cumulative pattern of avoidance brought on by the event itself thereby serving as a tipping point that exposes some character defect yet to be resolved, worked through, transcended.

I see this dynamic at play from my own previous inability to resolve or change certain behaviors or problems in my life. It is glacially slow and subtle, this interior evolution thing, right up until it smacks you around and you either shrivel up and die (not always a literal death) or mutate and overcome the problem. This occurred earlier in life when my miserable marriage reached intolerable proportions, as well as when I was forced (thank God) to confront my inability to stop drinking on my own and had to seek help to stop. This kind of confrontation occurred again when faced with a tumor-sized polyp triggered in part by DNA, but also certainly by a lifetime of doing work I grew to hate. I remember my surgeon describing the tumor as “angry.” And, yes, I had been angry; for years and years and years, suppressing it without ever truly addressing it.

But back to the documentary. “Alive Inside” shows old people, dementia-riddled people awakened to some sense of their former selves by listening to music that once moved them. It is a powerful and beautiful thing to see as they leapfrog over a lifetime of who-knows-what-kind-of-unresolved-avoidance-riddled crap, arriving at something elemental and basic in their souls. They are enlivened by the beat and rhythm of life traveling to their head and heart by an iPod filled with music meaningful to them. For those of us boomers who still struggle with unresolved crap, this film offers hope not just for aging parents and loved ones but for ourselves as well. After all, sometimes a person may reach the end of all they can do in a lifetime whether the body continues on or not. And with modern medicine keeping us alive longer and longer, it’s hard to get off the planet these days. This does not mean, however, one has to shut down all faculties, including joy and connection with others which provides the most meaning to all of us.

Oddly, I’ve long had a fascination with old people, a fascination, curiosity, and identification as if recognized from a former state and time. Yet, as I witness my current reluctance, even resistance in avoiding entrenched crap in several areas, I have a new appreciation, even compassion towards those individuals unable to change one more thing, to transcend one more problem. It is hard, this aging process, of which the body’s role is the least of it!! Body breakdowns are a nuisance, yes, but it’s the deeply emotional, psychological, and spiritual wear and tear that really takes its toll. And like so many things, it is easier to notice this dynamic in someone else before we see the slow leak within ourselves.

So as 2015 approaches, I hope to take stock of that which I am able and willing to change in my own life and accept and surrender that which I am not. Part of this (we can call it a New Year’s Resolution) involves summoning yet more strength and courage to look at the really hard, shitty stuff honestly, which is no small feat.

And the other part? I’m pledging to listen to more music, main-lining it if necessary, as well as do more things that invigorate me, animate me, and massage my heart. I’ve even started a list of songs to share with my son just in case I get Alzheimer’s. He’ll know what to do with it. And if I never lose the mind, I will have at the ready a plethora of spiritual ‘nutrients’ that will enliven me for the rest of my days.

For anyone interested in the documentary “Alive Inside”, it is available on Netflix, a portion of which can be viewed on Henry. I highly recommend watching the entire film. It’s an eye-opener.


I was at the church the other day and ran into the choir director, Rebecca, a supremely gifted soprano who possesses a stunning songbird voice. After introducing myself, I told her how much I love to hear her sing anything, that I’d love to hire her to sing Ave Maria for me personally if only I could afford it. Alas, my financial situation does not allow such an indulgence. But no pity, please, for God’s Grace was about to unfold.

“Why don’t you come to the funeral on Monday; I’ll be singing Ave Maria,” she told me with aplomb. “What a great idea,” although I confessed I did not know the deceased person.

“That doesn’t matter,” was her practical solution-oriented response.

So I decided then and there to go and am excited at the prospect of hearing Ave Maria again, regardless of the circumstance. What’s more, it occurred to me that I would be killing two birds with one stone since weeping uncontrollably is permitted at such an event. Why would there be tears? Breathtakingly beautiful music can illicit such emotion in the most glorious way when I hear it. I’ve been known to weep listening to The Messiah, Pachelbel, and other great compositions that move me to that state of Grace and beauty.

But I have another reason for tears at this particular juncture, having a backlog of them. The emotional congestion is so great I’m in danger of rupturing something internally if there is no release, and soon. Why? I have been accumulating an off-the-charts stress load due to a ‘temp job’ I’ve undertaken, one I rarely do anymore.

What three week temp job can generate such stress?  The fever pitch mother lode of about-to-leak-out emotionality has arisen because I’ve been “keeping an eye” on an elderly woman, Nana, and her (daughter’s) little dog, Toto, for the last couple weeks. The dog is a dream; the elderly lady, not so much. A more generous but accurate description is that said walker-dependent woman may be as emotionally and psychologically crippled as her legs, at least that’s how she appears to me. She is just that starved for an audience. And even if her need to constantly connect through non-stop negative nattering about minutia is a bit overstated, her self-inflicted deprivation is in dramatic contrast to my need for ‘alone time’ and quietude. All of this is an emotional toxic stew not lending itself to an easy accommodation. It’s not about blame. Quite simply, our pathologies and habits simply do not mesh.

While I have great compassion for Nana, am aware she has a good heart, am even aware she means well and is doing the best she can, she is hard to be with for any length of time. As a friend of mine describes her situation with elderly family members, it is ‘not so easy.’ Indeed! At times Nana feels hellish, at minimum, purgatorial, although she likely is not experiencing as much pain in the situation that I feel. After all, I’m enduring her talk, talk, talk which I don’t typically experience living alone, while she is getting greater relief from a new and captive audience.

The conflict for me is that I want and need to ‘be kind’ to myself as well as her. This requires her being ‘left’ alone far more often than she’d prefer even though, to some degree, that’s what her live-in daughter and partner quite often do. This leaving involves me going into another room, walking the dog more often than is required, running imaginary errands to get a break etc., just so I can exercise responsible self-care to escape the relentless onslaught of her talking.

Hence my need for a good cry. The build-up has reached a fever pitch. I can’t wait to go to the funeral in part to not only get away and hear stunning music but to grieve the temporary loss of a personal sanctuary. I have never been this excited for a funeral. While that sounds weird even to me, it can’t come soon enough! I’ll be able to escape into Ave Maria as rendered by Rebecca, with the added bonus of releasing my mother lode of tension accumulated from the lack of peace and quiet. How odd that this has been miraculously arranged through a grief-friendly, socially acceptable funeral ritual invitation where weeping is allowed, if not encouraged.

After the funeral has come and gone I still have one more week of “keeping an eye” on Nana and taking care of the daughter’s little dog, Toto. I may need to Google upcoming funerals at other area churches just to keep my sanity in check. And while it has occurred to me that I might inflict my own nattering on others in the future, until then, I’m grabbing what sanity I have left and heading to the closet to select my funeral attire for the festivities tomorrow. Let the Grace continue!

If I could only point out your discrepancies, your flaws in thinking, I’m sure I could fix you. After all, I’ve read all the books and, having made some progress, am wiser than you might think! So goes my ego thoughts when feeling the need to impart my superlative ‘spiritual’ (or otherwise) wisdom to another.

Recently, I had the great (mis)fortune of doing just that. A client I’m consulting on a writing project was describing some of her spiritual practices, a few of which I had imbibed in during an earlier phase of my life. As she named several teachers/writers, I described them as being part of the ‘astral circus,’ which surely implied how I perceived her spiritual state. Oh, how self-righteous I felt, couching my presumed intention to impart something of value to her undoubtedly for her own good. How generous I was imparting my ‘advanced’ wisdom in helping her along her own path. Yet, as soon as I used the term I regretted it, knowing it was so far out of context not to mention incredibly ego-driven on my part to do so.

Oh, the arrogance!

Of course my behavior was to boomerang, a karmic consequence if there ever was one, coming fast and loose a few short weeks later. Upon stewing on this absurd display of impudence and pride however craftily I thought I had disguised it, my client called me on it. She told me she was hurt by what I had said, feeling I had denigrated her beliefs and therefore her. Regardless of whether I felt my perception was right or wrong I knew from whence my true impulse came: and that was from the ego, spiritually beneficent or not!

Once her assertion was leveled, I instantly apologized knowing deep down that my true intention was to position myself as ‘better than,’ ‘further along than,’ and ‘more spiritually evolved than,’ her. In rapid succession I became aware of two other things: of being exposed, having to confront not only her but, just as importantly, myself, and also that ‘being right was more important than being kind.’ Ha! How spiritual is that?

So we talked it through and I recognized the enormous value of owning (taking responsibility for) the truth of what I had done. What’s more, once exposed to myself, I was aware of doing this kind of thing throughout my life, whether imparting precious insights about politics, God, healthy food patterns, parenting, whatever. While becoming increasingly more conscious of the dynamic of “I know best,” it seems I have generated an opportunity for practicing humility and none too soon!

Fast forward a couple weeks after my lesson in humility and truth-telling to self and karma has surely sought me out. How? I was to be on the receiving end of someone else’s presumably ‘well-intentioned’ spiritual vanity when a friend told me I had made numerous ‘dualistic/causal’ statements that hampered my spiritual advancement. Oh, the justice in the universe! Naturally, I was angry and defensive, calling her on some of her own ‘causal’ beliefs even though her style is often different than mine. But dualism is still dualism and naturally, the paltry ego went into action right away to point this out. It also occurred to me that defensiveness can take the form of defending one’s integrity and it seems I owe myself that much.

Still, as the days wore on, I fumed. But something else was unfolding as well. My regard for my client’s honesty and integrity for communicating how she felt in the first experience grew in my estimation. In addition, in the karmic exchange that followed between she and I a greater ‘owning’ on my part occurred, which was a relief. With this, I felt profoundly better, allowing the emotions to surface and dissipate.

What’s more, I became aware that until such time as any of us truly become enlightened and transcend the ego altogether we are stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, however, we can’t take responsibility for the (ego’s) actions, quite the contrary.  Becoming ever more conscious of what we are doing is the way to reduce unwanted effects, ultimately taming the pesky illusion we all suffer from. I, for one, am only able to practice this process when conditions are right in combination with my intention to do so, when the opportunities present themselves, and so I must.

With that, I (dualistic description that it is) march on, practicing vigilant awareness on these, at times laughable at times cry-able, human characteristics we all suffer from: those of vanity, pride, and arrogance, juicing our own positions, juicing my own positions and perceptions, resulting in the unconscious habit to ‘make someone else wrong’. As Helen Keller so rightly put it: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Dedicated to Carol Scott (and women everywhere who have believed in others more than themselves)


Cool Women are not actually cool in the modern sense. When I say ‘cool women’ I am not talking about dress or any sense of fashion. Nor am I describing cleverness or some level of professional achievement. Rather, the cool woman moniker describes a woman who is somewhat aloof, inaccessible emotionally, yet is otherwise quite frequently intriguing, setting up an allure maybe even a mystery about her that one wants to know more about. Cool women are typically smart in some way, acquire a veneer of social grace or competency and are otherwise invitational in nature. They are often accomplished in speech and have established a sense of presence for themselves as part of their demeanor and polished façade.

The cool woman façade creates the impression that she is agreeable, obliging but in actuality is anything but. She often displays these characteristics towards both males as partners and friends but this is particularly true with females who may seek emotional closeness with them. What is not always apparent initially is that the cool woman is far more focused on performance and meeting or exceeding social/class expectations (whether professionally or domestically) both for themselves and for their children. This leaves any genuine emotional intimacy or connection with others a distant second, fearing destabilization from it.

As a consequence, this achievement driven focus often prevents them from affirming positive qualities or accomplishments in others. Instead, the cool woman typically withholds direct such feedback defaulting instead to a subtle critique ‘for one’s own good.’ Furthermore, cool women typically view other women as rivals, sending out ‘signals’ that other’s read as ‘better than’ with their own position relegated to ‘less than.’ Even if no rival signals exist, other women feel ‘in competition’ with the cool woman since the strong desire for closeness sought but withheld becomes a challenge.

One can easily be fooled by cool women when they are exceptionally good at utilizing linguistic skills of an intellectual nature. The most accomplished cool woman suggests closeness without ever having to deliver it. This is in contrast to the cold woman who either has an edge to her persona, is overtly critical, or even aggressive. Someone drawn to a cool woman for psychological reasons may become quite frustrated with her since she rarely if ever lets others in to the most vulnerable recesses of the cool woman’s heart.

Why does this matter to me? My mother was a cool woman. Never did I truly know how she felt about me or anyone else for that matter. Yet, I couldn’t help but sense she loved me on some level. She never stated it directly nor did she indicate any valuable quality of mine, which of course held mystery and confusion for me. This ‘loved’ belief largely rested on the fact that, as a homemaker, she was present throughout most of my childhood and adolescence.  She seemed to communicate caring through her homemaking acts, preparing all her daughters to become like her as their first responsibility, and only secondarily acting on any sort of intellectual or creative talent or impulse.

This is not to say, she didn’t value education and wasn’t promotional of it. She was. She had a bachelor’s degree in education and, you guessed, home economics, which she used to support herself before marriage and later on, ironically, to help fund college educations for her daughters. Yet, the modeling she consistently portrayed was that of homemaker and wife and not as a professional woman. This would sound counter intuitive to the cool woman described above were it not for the fact that all of her private resources were used to keep others from accessing her true feelings. In short, my experience with her was that she was never truly accessible emotionally to any of us children, with the modest exception being her youngest daughter.

Homemaking was mother’s achievement and she did it well. She knew how to do it right even if that was a subjective interpretation of hers. Furthermore, homemaking was the measuring stick we were to be measured against. She was not alone in this belief system in that it was common to many, many women in the 1950’s and earlier. Yet, this focus was also the barrier that kept me separated from her and ultimately from a portion of myself. Homemaking was not interesting to me. Cooking, sewing (only out of necessity) and the ‘domestic arts’ was boring! Making the perfect pie, having dinner on the table at the right time, tending the perfect garden, sewing the best dress were her priorities. We children seemed to be unwitting accomplices in the protective coating she established for herself.

How did she create the impression she was accessible when in truth she was not? In short, she had all the characteristics of the cool woman described above but with her own unique expression of them. She had lively eyes when something tickled her. She possessed the most beautiful soprano voice when she sang. She was physically present throughout nearly all of my upbringing with the exception of my junior and senior year in high school when she went back to work in a home economics classroom. And when she did go back to work, she seemed to come alive. Some distant renewed spark ignited and for a time, she became a different person. She actually displayed personal enthusiasm as opposed to the robotic nature I witnessed during all the years that came before.

Why does any of this matter to my perception of cool women in general now? Without being fully aware, I seem to have been looking for warmth and affirmation from my mother in the bodies, personalities, and relationships of other cool women I have come in contact with throughout my life. Of course, this has been to no avail. Unwittingly, I’m drawn to cool women as if by some magnetic force field all in an effort to make a particular cool woman let me in, to even affirm me in some way. It seems I have been attracted to cool women friendships and professional connections so that I might finally get from one (or more) of them what I was unable to get from my mother.  While this is certainly a frustrating psychological dynamic, there has always been an accompanying suppressed fear that I might be a cool woman myself!


In contrast to cool women, warm women are easily accessible emotionally and psychologically in that they are open, willingly tell you how they feel and want to know how others are feeling. They are generally nurturing and affirming of others although they may or may not be self-nurturing. In addition, the warm woman usually has a positive outlook on life and is not cynical or critical.  If she happens to criticize, it is delivered in thoughtful language that is mindful of the other person’s feelings while still being clear, thus softening any blow which may or may not occur.

Warm women are often (though not always) adept at raising children, instilling a strong sense of self worth due to ongoing overt affirmations for their children’s personhood. Warm women are noticeably loving and loveable. While they readily acknowledge accomplishment and achievements, the warm woman also clearly communicates another’s value unrelated to performance, relying instead on acknowledgement of and a genuine affection for a person’s essence.

The warm woman is often a good listener, conscious of not only what you have to say but your right and need to say it. Her general demeanor is one of kindness and observable awareness for how another is handling their life, their pursuits, and their struggles. She is eager to communicate with friends and family about her own life’s experiences as well as learn about those for whom she cares. She will even drop what she is doing sometimes, making an obvious effort to connect as opposed to ‘half listening’ or putting a person off to finish some task.

In addition to being open and receptive to others, she frequently initiates unsolicited communication with close friends and family members to inquire how they are and/or support them emotionally in whatever way is reasonable. In most all things she is self-assured and confident and even when she is not, she is aware of her shortcomings and works to correct them. The warm woman is open to self-critiquing as long as it is constructive. She listens well to other’s concerns about her, taking subsequent steps to either address a perceived slight or change ongoing behaviors that may be disruptive to a relationship. This is due in part to the high value she places on relationships in general.

Why do warm women matter to me? Warm women are infinitely appealing for their very warmth, concern, and ability to extend themselves in a friendship. As a general rule, this trait carries through in primary relationships with partners as well. Yet, being raised by a cool woman, and even in the face of being drawn to warm women, they are quite baffling to me. Why? In short, they are unfamiliar territory and at certain points, I become skeptical of positive feedback even when offered. At this point, I may become irritable and look for reasons to push the warm woman away. While this occurs more frequently in friendships, it has also occurred in work relationships, disbelieving accolades.

Because I’m far more familiar with cool women (though ultimately, unsatisfied) they remain my default recognition as potential friends. This has rarely, if ever, been conscious. Yet, warm women are who I crave to spend time with, work with, and develop bonds with. I seek them out like a plant needing water yet the essential elements I crave ultimately limit the friendship when the warm woman praises my accomplishments or positive qualities. The early stages of a friendship of sharing and general optimism typically remain robust, the caring and comfort they provide leave me feeling liked/loved and supported. What’s more, it feels natural that I reciprocate; at least that’s how I perceive it at my end. It is only once I am affirmed or nurtured to a greater degree that I get into trouble. It is the classic ‘approach-avoidance’ syndrome at which point I head for the hills emotionally.

As a result of affirmation deprivation in my early life, I have tried to cultivate warm women behaviors, to lavish praise and support on others although I am more than a little conscious of withholding these traits as well. What’s more, as recent consciousness of both cool and warm qualities has increased, I have become painfully aware of withholding affirmation or nurturing for me! In fact, books or affirmation cards designed to boost a woman’s self esteem leave me skeptical, even scoffing, due to the uncertainty in my own worth, consistent with my disbelief when hearing positive feedback from others.

Why do I contend I have ‘no experience’ of positive affirmation or praise? Because even when given I think surely the deliverer must be mistaken! In my mind, I simply discredit it, however subtly. What’s worse, I am more likely to believe affirmations from a man than a woman which is ironic since I rarely received it from my father, quite the opposite. He was more likely to criticize while mother was flat out mute.

Enter Carol. I was blessed with a lifelong friendship with a woman who died several years ago. She was the warmest, most affirming, caring, loving person I have ever known. For several decades our friendship thrived. And even if I did not quite believe my value as seen through her eyes, I did value the fact that she valued me. Later on, however, there was a change. As I began to have professional successes, she would offer exceptionally glowing praise. Astonishingly, I found ways to criticize her though never directly. I found myself irritated when she would be ‘in awe’ of something I had done, which sounds crazy to the well adjust psyche. In fact, I would be so irritated and skeptical of her accolades I concluded there was something wrong with her, which just goes to show how uncomfortable I became with increasing acknowledgement and affirmation of my talents.

But the mind’s eye criticism I once directed at her has boomeranged. I have become more and more aware of what has always been deficient in me, which is my inability to acknowledge my own self worth and accomplishments from the inside. What was not provided in my formative years from an external (the mother) has left me at a perceived loss, though not an insurmountable one.

At times this feels like a handicap although not such a handicap that it can’t be worked through and overcome. With increasing awareness, I can make different decisions about what to believe about myself, to question early messages or lack thereof. With increasing awareness I can also make different decisions that acknowledge upon hearing positives by others, that they are trustworthy. After all, while being drawn to cool women out of familiarity, and possibly even by sharing some of their characteristics, I know the healthy and happy path for me is to overcome my discomfort and flight patterns both figuratively and literally when I hear supportive qualities or accomplishments about myself from warm women. I can also stop being drawn to cool women, stop expecting unrealistic outcomes. At the heart of it, I can cultivate the courage to make a seismic shift, to stop looking for ‘love’ in all the wrong places.

Oftentimes (though by no means always) a warm and listening heart, an affirming and positive demeanor is the quality I have provided others over the course of my lifetime even though I have withheld it from myself. Psychological ‘programming’ embedded as distorted beliefs are tough to identify in ones’ self, let alone, dismantle. While I think this is true for many women (as well as men,) it is time I accept the truth about myself in this regard. It is time for me, without the external craving for or the denial of it, to truly see what I have been incapable of seeing previously, to own my worth, to see what I may be capable of both personally and professionally, and to love and nourish myself independent of it all.