Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sowing Seeds of Friendship and Jello

Even though I work hard at keeping an optimistic outlook, I sometimes engage in the “I wonder if?” mind game. This can be fun. It can also be frustrating. When you’re a writer, the hypothetical can be a great way to develop story lines and plot twists. But these “what if?” musing are not helpful when used in retrospect.

For example:

“If only we had invested in Google when it was $6 dollars a share.”

The past is something that can be used as an educational tool, but I don’t think it’s a great idea to use it as a flogging cane. That said, I had a recent experience that set my “What ifs?” in motion.

I’ve often wondered how my life would have been different had my parents not moved the family to Arizona. I was born in Chicago and lived there until I completed the first grade. It was a very welcoming neighborhood and everyone seemed friendly and kind. I had a bit of a reputation of being the female version of Dennis the Menace (my brother, Dennis, had the honors of the male version). I never meant to hurt anyone or anything, but I managed to stir up a bit of innocent mischief.

For instance, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Munroe, lectured us that we should work before we play. I decided that when I went home I would plant a garden. Not one to farm alone, I elicited the help of my neighbors Lee, Bennett and Marty. No one had any seeds, so I decided that boxes of jello mix would work. My fellow farm workers and I returned with boxes of jello and “planted” it in Bennett’s backyard.

I don’t remember the details, but I’m sure it involved a hose, dirt, and multi-colored boxes of colored jello mix on the ground, our clothes and in our hair. I don’t know what I imagined would grow from this agricultural experiment, but I remember feeling confident that something good would come of it. I can only imagine the mess.

However, my intentions were honorable and my mother would rarely punish me for my messy endeavors. She knew my heart was in the right place. Maybe she thought that I had envisioned a garden full of jello molds sprouting in the shape of pumpkins and tomatoes that would make her the envy of her kalookie club.

Anyway, the Marks family left our friends, family and schools in the Windy City, and moved on to Mesa, Arizona (Winter home of the Chicago Cubs). Although I don’t remember the details of our relocation, it must have been traumatic for me as I broke out in shingles. I eventually made new alliances, but I never felt as befriended as I did when I was a little girl playing in my South Chicago neighborhood on Creiger.

When I was 10 years old I decided to become a writer. I wrote for the school newspaper in junior high, high school and college, earned a degree in journalism, and even managed to sell an occasional story. However, making a living as a writer was harder than getting jello to grow in Bennett’s backyard.

That’s when I would think of Chicago.

Chicago was a big hub in the publishing industry and there were times that I thought my creative skills, friendliness and determination would have resulted in a brighter writing career had we remained in the Windy City.

One day, when I was reminiscing about my early childhood, I googled my old home and school. I joined and searched to see if any of my old friends were listed. I recognized Paul, a boy I had a crush on, and who became the namesake of my favorite baby doll. I searched for Marty, who had been my partner in mischief and merriment. He wasn’t listed, but I did see the name of his brother, Brad.

I wrote to Brad and asked about his brother. He sadly informed me that Marty, who always had a spirit of adventure and risk, became a heroine addict and was shot and killed when he was in his 20s.

Of course this was devastating news. I hadn’t seen Marty in decades, but I had always felt had we remained in Chicago, he and I would have been great friends. It occurred to me that an alliance with Marty and the dangerous world of drugs was just as likely of a possibility as networking with individuals who could have launched my writing career.

In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, there is a section on the importance of friendship. Here is an excerpt.

A desire for acceptance is normal. Human beings are social creatures and the desire to be a part of a group is a primordial component of survival. However, craving acceptance to overcome a lack of self esteem can destroy a person’s life. While it is important to have and nurture friendships, you must not allow others to define who you are. Friends can be valuable, but they are still fallible human beings who may not always have your best interest at heart. In addition, children, and very often adults, may not make the best choices for companionship. Children with low self esteem often gravitate to others who are experiencing similar problems. Sadly, these are the very individuals who are most likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or sex to numb the pain in their lives.

In order to make better choices regarding friendships here are a few questions you can ask yourself.

•Does the person display good qualities such as honesty, integrity and consideration?

•Are they selfish and self serving? All friendships experience a give and take of needs, but if you find you are the one doing all the giving, especially in the beginning of the friendship, it is best to step back and access the situation carefully. Often good-hearted individuals get sucked into an unhealthy alliance with a charismatic friend. Unfortunately, most of these individuals have learned to prey upon the kindness of others and are only interested in what they can take – be it time, money or favors. It is better to walk away from these people right away before you get emotionally involved.

•Do they talk critically about others behind their backs? If so, chances are they will do the same about you.

•Are they cheerful or cynical? Not everyone can be genial all the time, but someone who is consistently cynical operates on a lower vibration energetically, and if you spend a great deal of time with them your mood will be affected.

•Are they trustworthy and loyal? Remember that one’s actions speak louder than words. If a person says they are loyal, but demonstrates qualities that show they are otherwise, consider the actions, not what they say as the true barometer of their character.

We can’t change the past, but we do create our present and future. This week’s advice is “What if I focus on developing healthy choices and friendships?” Now THAT is a hypothetical scenario worth exploring.

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