SECRET LANGUAGE

There are things we do as children we could stand to do more as adults. Playing outside, using our imaginations to solve problems come to mind. I am going to share another one with you today. Once again I am going to use the two people in the picture above as an example. That would be Margie and myself. Before we get into the idea I want to share with you, allow me to give you the all important back story. When Margie and I met and after we started dating we initially saw each other at work. Work in those days saw Margie behind the DJ booth and myself behind the bar. It was at a place called The Hideout. It was a small corner bar but between the two of us we packed the place most nights. This was great for business and for our pocketbooks, but not so great for being able to love each other.

The dilemma we faced was the only time we really got to see each other was when we were both so busy it was hard to even say ‘hello’ to each other. Both being creative souls, we came up with a unique solution – a secret language. Something you may have used as a child when playing games or forming secret clubs. Margie and I came up with hand gestures that we could use with each other across the bar to say simple things like “I love you” or “I’m missing you”. We continue to develop our secret vocabulary to this day. Thankfully, we no longer work separately. We DJ sitting right next to each other. Although still working in the bar industry which is a challenge to even the best relationships, we have moments where we cannot hear each other or may have to be away from each other. There are also moments when we are out with friends, or at social events where we may be across the room wanting to let the other know we are thinking about them.

Developing this unique form of communicating allows us to keep loving when it may otherwise be a struggle. It is also a fun way to be creative in our relationship. Having something that is uniquely between us also creates a special bond. Create signs that can communicate with your loved one. It is fun, creative and can really come in handy at certain times.

THE SIDE EFFECTS ARE HALF THE FUN

Working with the public I have seen this far too often. Oddly enough I have noticed that it is men who seem to do this more. There are exceptions to every rule, but when it comes to belittling people in public to try and gain favor with others I feel men take the cake. Perhaps they view it as some macho thing to do. I once put forth to a friend of mine who made a habit of doing so. I asked him, “If the lady you are trying to impress sees you do this to your friends, what do you think she will imagine is in store for her?” I have always found building your friends up not only shows a great deal more of self-confidence, but makes a far better first impression.

Regardless of which gender you fall into, putting down others to make yourself seem great is really a move for those who do not have any strengths to be proud of. I liken it to hanging around with people shorter than you in order to feel tall. It doesn’t actually change your height any, only your perception of it.

I know an individual who lives his life in this pattern. Wherever he is, he has nothing but negative things to say about those around him. Sure, sometimes he may get a chuckle from others at people’s expense, but eventually those laughing will be the ones being made fun of when they are out of earshot. Not only does this man exhibit his fear and lack of self-confidence, but shows he is not a very trustworthy or loyal person either. Often times he can be found sitting alone or searching out people to talk to.

Do not be like this person. Gossip works much the same way as belittling others. Although they may not be able to hear what you are saying, or be embarrassed by it, it still amounts to putting others down. I encourage all of us to try doing the opposite. Make a game out of it. Try complimenting others in public. Not in a flattering type way, but a genuine nice way. When people start to gossip, try throwing in something good about someone.

At first it may make you feel like an outcast, but eventually you will notice some really cool side effects of taking this action. Immediately, you will notice you start to feel good inside. Yes, even though what you say is something nice about someone else, doing so will give you an emotional lift. It almost seems selfish at first, but it is an example of reaping what you sow. The second side effect you will experience is an increase in popularity. This should really seem like a no-brainer. Who would not want to be around someone who might just say something nice about them? In addition, it feels good to hear good things about people. The third side effect is an increase in loyal friends. The person I mentioned earlier has people talking poorly about him, just as he does of others. Deep down I think he knows people are not likely to get close to him knowing how ill he talks of others. When you are known for building others up they appreciate that and will do the same for you when you are not around. How good does it feel to hear someone said something nice about you when you were not around? The sure way to hear that more often is to start doing the same for others. Again, as you sow, so shall you reap.

The final side effect is my favorite. Therefore I decided to take a moment to expand a little bit more on it. By knowing that you are going to genuinely compliment people more you will start looking and thinking about what is good in people in advance. Before long, your mind will subconsciously start to do this whenever you are on your way to meet someone. Your mind will begin to think, “I am on my way to see Nicole. What wonderful things can I say about her to those around us?” The one place this tends to have the most extreme results is in your intimate relationships. I can tell you without a doubt your spouse would love to hear you tell others the wonderful things you love about them. What is even better is to know that you do it when they are not around. Too many times these days people gather together and complain about their spouses to each other. That baffles me. At the post office or even while working with Margie I can hear these stories some that seem to go on and on. I am often tempeted to stop them after a while and ask, “If they are such a terrible person, what kind of fool would decide to be with them?” It is easy to complain when those we love anger us, but ask yourself, would you want them to do the same? Instead share what your partner does to make you happy. It will not only make you look better it will make you feel better about your relationship. As we mentioned earlier this is exactly how it works with friendships, coworkers and any other relationship you can think of.

It has been my experience that after a while you will start doing the same thing about situations, places and things. Looking for what you like and begin sharing that. In return it will give you even more ways to feel good about yourself.

MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!!!

As you are reading this post I will be at the Wisconsin State fair. Today is the first day of the 11 day long festival. It is by far my favorite thing to look forward to all year. In the past I have stressed how important it is to have events to look forward to throughout the year. This is by far the one I look forward to the most. There is also a winter vacation, the bike expo, the first day of spring and many others, but the state fair is the biggest.

If I were someone who sat back and let life happen to them I would enjoy  this festival to the fullest for 11 days straight and them be sad when it is over. To some extent that is what happens, but I advocate and practice getting every last drop of joy out of life you possibly can. How do I apply this to the Wisconsin State Fair and how can you apply it to activities you look forward to in life? Let us take a look and start coming up with a few ideas.

First, as you can see by the photo above, spend the activity you love with the people you love the most. This is a picture of my lovely Margie and I on the sky glider last year. Margie and I have a wonderful relationship and both work hard to keep it that way and improve it all year long. We are always on the way to increase the amazing love we already share with each other. Being with her at one of my favorite places where I am extremely excited and happy provides a great opportunity to create life-long memories that will keep us smiling for a long time. It also increases the love and connection I feel with her. Having happy and joyous memories at my favorite place with my lady just leaves me with a feeling of love and gratitude for who I share my life with. In addition to Margie, I plan to enjoy days at the State Fair with my mom, and many of our friends. Together we will all create happy and joyous memories.

Then there is the planning. There is so much fun in just exploring and seeing what we discover. Making sure there are a few things we know we will enjoy is important as well. To that end we always look at the preview guide that comes out a few weeks ahead of the fair. There we discover bands we may like to see, food we may like to try and many other fun things to look forward to. This year we are even planning on an art walk they have to see many artistic displays featured in the park. There is also a garden walk in which you are shown different displays of greenery and how they are cultivated. Both walks feature a prize upon completion and are completely free.

Pictures. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes those are the easiest to forget. Taking pictures of the fun activities you experience and the great, and sometimes no so great, food we try will give us something to look back on for years to come. This keeps the great memories alive after the event, and sadly sometimes after the people have passed. In the past year with all of the loss Margie and I experienced, videos and pictures have proved to be a invaluable link to the past and those we care about. This has brought to our attention the importance of capturing all the joy as it occurs.

Being present. In contrast to being behind a camera or cell phone to capture the joy that is occurring, there is the act of being present. Noticing the taste of what you are eating, the people you are sharing the moment with, or in my case the smile on the face of the beautiful blonde lady next to you. There is so much beauty to behold in life that we must remain alert to soak it all in.

These are just some of the ways I will enjoy the Wisconsin State Fair this year. Add to that my new career as a food critic and I will have plenty of chances to practice that. I welcome you to share your ideas on how I, and all of our readers can make their special moments even more special in the comments below.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

WE HAVE IT ALL BACKWARDS!!!

When it comes to relationships I think we have it all backwards. It took me a while to realize this, and bless Margie’s heart, am still working on it to some degree. I will be the first person to tell you how important paying attention to your partner is. In my upcoming book I have 3 tips to accomplish this. Before all of this, there is something that we should focus on first – us.

Focus on yourself before your partner? What kind of great idea is that Neil? It sounded a little backwards to me at first too, so let us dive a little deeper. When you are entering a relationship, things always seem magical. Nothing your partner does seems to bother you at all. You find yourself doing all kinds of things you used to not enjoy. Some of that is a positive. I know especially when it comes to cooking, Margie is so talented she has me eating things I thought there was no way I could like. Those are good. The person we are with should expand our horizons.

Then there is the other side of the coin. When we are working hard to win someone’s affection we make sacrifices or even do things that go against our standards. The funny thing is later it will occur to us, “Hey I really do not enjoy these things.” Then when you stop doing them you appear to be doing less for your partner. They can rightfully end up thinking, “He/she used to do this for me and now they don’t. They must be loving or caring less.” Of course this is not the case, but taken from the other person’s perspective it can sure seem that way.

How can we fix such a tricky situation? By realizing the one person we can affect in the relationship is who we can work on, and that is ourselves. Before you get into your next relationship, be sure to know what your values are and what you are not willing to compromise on. There is always a good amount of give and take in any healthy relationship, but it helps to know what is too important to give on. The right person will not only be understanding of that but will share theirs as well.

There is a fun and important side to this and that is knowing what it is that brings you joy in life. Last post we talked about ‘doing you’ and this is yet another reason why that is important. When you know what it is that brings you joy you can share that with your partner. Plus, let us face it, being in a relationship with a happy person is a lot more enjoyable.

What if you are in a relationship that is not currently working so well? The answer is the same. Focus on you and only you. That really sounds backwards so allow me to explain. When things are rough we are quick to focus on our partners faults and how they should change. That will never help things and may only add more distance and separation in the relationship. Focus on what you can do to bring positive changes into the relationship. Is there a communication problem? Do you feel your partner doesn’t listen to you? Think of ways you could make listening to you more enjoyable and desirable for your partner. Is there a lack of intimacy? Think of what you can do to set a more romantic mood, or better yet, ask your partner to help you. Make sure you do this in a constructive and loving manner.

What if you are in a relationship where you truly are doing the best you can and your partner, for whatever reason, is not doing their part? This is the main reason to work on yourself. When a relationship comes to an end we are often left with two emotions – sadness and regret. If only I would have said this, or if only I had not said that. Knowing you worked as hard as can be to bring the best version of you to the relationship will not only eliminate a lot of the sadness and grief you feel from that relationship ending, but set you up for the best possible chances of success in your next relationship.

WHEN LIFE IS A PILE OF…

This is an emoji of… well… a pile of poo. This is insanely popular for some reason. Margie has even received several orders for cupcakes in this design. I am using it for when our life feels just like a pile of poo. Your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose your job or even worse, you lose someone you love. Sometimes the poo really adds up in a hurry. At this point, life really starts to stink, both literally and figuratively.

We all have these periods. Even though it may not seem like anybody is having a worse time than we are, there are people out there who have it worse. Certainly not what we want to hear when the poo hits the fan in our life, or even worse, when we feel like the fan. However, a change in perspective can give us pause to think. So, your car broke down? There are people who cannot even afford a car, much less repairs. There are people, lots of them in fact, who have to walk miles every day for clean drinking water. It was Gandhi who said, “I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” No matter how dire our situation, there is always something to be grateful for. Your relationship ended or someone you loved passed away? Remember they say It is better to have lost in love, than never to have loved at all. There are people who never find that special someone to love. There are people who never have their parents in their lives. Be grateful for every day you experience love. Even if that love changes it does not mean it has to stop. Try finding just one thing to be grateful for. It will lead you to find another and then another.

Even if you are having trouble finding something to be grateful for, you can still use the poo in your life. How on earth do you use poo in life? Here we are obviously speaking in metaphors, but using a literal comparison can help. We are talking about poo situations in our life as we discussed above, but we can use the same logic as we do for the organic matter itself. I do not recall if it was Meijer, Walmart or somewhere completely different, but I found myself strolling through the garden center fantasizing that I had the ability to grow things when what did I see? Poo! bags and bags of the stuff. Ok, here it was called manure and did not have an emoji on it, but the contents was the same.

That is when the light bulb went on. If we literally use poo to grow stuff in our gardens, why do we not use it for growth in our lives as well? Just like our last post when we discussed failure, if we just dwell on the poo in our lives it would be like sitting in that manure. Just try and picture sitting in a pile of manure and complaining how awful it is. If you were to plant a few seeds in that manure instead of just complaining about it what may happen? You would grow new and wonderful things! Things that would smell far better than the poo itself.

What does that all have to do with our lives when they seem…well..in the toilet? Plenty! If a relationship fails, you can use what went wrong to improve your future relationships. If you did something that brought about the end of the relationship, do not do that thing again. Maybe you were just connected to the wrong person. Going forward be aware that you may wish to start a relationship with someone more aligned with your goals and values.

Did you lose your job? Use that to brush up on your interviewing skills. Perhaps you should consider going back to school? Maybe taking that time to finish the book you have always wanted to write? When you start looking for a new job, apply in a field you enjoy and not the one that just pays the most. In that way the loss of a job can serve as the growth of a new and more rewarding career!

Did you lose someone you love? That is always hard and very painful. If you find yourself sad a great deal of the time, remember that is ok. If your heart feels broken, that just meant it has loved. Be grateful for all of the moments you shared with that person. I have an article coming out next month on this very subject. I can tell you one of the best ways to ease burden of loss is to try and replace some of the light that person brought to the world. Did your grandmother always make people feel welcome? Then you should do that. Did your brother have a great sense of humor? Then focus on bringing laughter into the lives of others. Another emotion that comes up when we lose someone we care deeply for, and I speak from experience, is regret. We find ourselves uttering the all too common phrases “I would’ve/I should’ve/I could’ve” Use this to motivate yourself to live in the moment and put all your love and effort into the relationships you have now. That person may be gone, but they can certainly help you make the most of those you love that are still with you.

Use the poo in your life my friends. Just like the manure in the garden center, use the poo situations in your life as fertilizer to grow new and wonderful things. Pain and challenge can be one of the best catalysts for growth.

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.