Danielle Navonne: a Writer, experiencing and sharing the journey of life one Word at a time.

Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Get A Life!

It’s been longer than usual since my last post. During that time, the sudden and untimely deaths of a few people in my circle have encouraged a lot of conversations and thoughts about death – and more importantly, about life

…About making sure that we are not just living, but that when it’s all said and done, that we have lived a LIFE that leaves the world – our world – a little better than we found it. We go to work, pay our bills, run our errands – all things we need to do to live comfortably. But aside from those necessities, those things we “need” to do, what are we doing to make a life for ourselves?

One of the reasons I’m so transparent with many aspects of my life is because I wholeheartedly believe that I’m not living just for me, but that the life I live is also for others. While I do believe that I am meant to enjoy life, I also believe that it’s a lot bigger than me and my enjoyment. I believe that my life is fueled by my ability and willingness to help someone else.

I’ve always had a strong feeling (even as a child) that God placed me here for others. To help others, to encourage others, and to connect with others. I didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but the helping/service part was clear to me:

  • In elementary and high school, I sent encouraging greeting cards. Hoping that my thoughts and words would inspire the recipient.
  • After undergrad, I went to seminary, thinking that maybe I was supposed to be trained to help from the pulpit.
  • Now, I’m writing this blog, hoping that my written words will help someone else on their life journey.
  • And, I’m sure in a year or two, I will have added another mode of helpfulness to my list.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, I longed to go to New Orleans to help in the relief efforts. Since I spent my undergraduate years there, part of this longing was because of the friends and loved ones I was concerned about there. But the other part of that longing came from that place of helpfulness. That place in me that wanted to add meaning to my life by helping the people of New Orleans.

When the earthquake happened in Haiti, I got the same feeling, only this time, I had a few more resources to make it happen. Although I didn’t have a personal connection to the area like New Orleans, the desire to use my life to positively affect someone else’s remained. So without one connection to Haiti, I found a volunteer group, reached out to my Facebook friends for relief items to take over, and got on an airplane. (At some point, I plan to blog about my experience there.) To this day, I have maintained several of those connections, and feel connected to that part of the world in ways that I hadn’t before.

I wrote a meditation that was published in Devo’zine some years back, and it told the story of my encounter with a young woman while riding public transportation in Chicago. She was homeless and looked a little (OK, a lot) disheveled. She was basically the lady no one wanted to sit near. She ended up in the seat next to me and of course, wanted to spark conversation with me. I reluctantly engaged and it ended up being a great conversation about life, struggles, etc. As she was preparing to get off of the bus, I asked her name. This woman was in tears as she responded. She said that people always look past her and no one has ever cared enough to ask her name. That moment, that one question made a difference in her life, and thus, added meaning to mine. It wasn’t a volunteer trip to another country, but an intentional effort to connect with another person.

The purpose of this is not to tell you all the “good” stuff I’ve done (because believe you me, I can blog all day about the not-so-good things too!). The purpose is to share with you how these moments of connecting, connected my life to a purpose larger than myself.

We can easily get consumed with our own lives. I must often remind myself that life is so much bigger than just me. Bigger than the Grande, non-fat, no whip Mocha that I want; bigger than that last 7 lbs that I’m trying to lose. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not forgoing my mocha or those 7lbs, Lol. I’m just trying to stay conscious that sometimes, getting a life means not focusing so much on my own.

I encourage you to take a moment today, tomorrow, this week to look past yourself and add meaning to your life by connecting with others. It may be through an organized volunteer group or just some one-on-one time with a young person who needs some guidance.

When you connect your life to something outside of yourself, the impact of your life grows. And so does your feeling of connectedness and purpose in the world.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of doing something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody” (-Anonymous).

*As I was working on this post, the song below stayed in my head…

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Lessons from My Mother on Mother’s Day..

(…Well really it’s the day after Mother’s Day, but whatever! Lol.)

My late grandmother and I, 1999

I lost my grandmother in December of 2003. She used to always say that you should “give people their flowers while they’re living.” Here are a dozen “flowers” for my mom. A Dozen Lessons I’ve learned through her example:

1.) Never look like what you’ve been through.

Growing up, I occassionally watched my mom have bad days and then go out into the world like nothing was wrong. I never understood why she would act so chipper on days when things weren’t going right. I now realize that she was making a choice not to let her pain dictate who she is. Just because you’ve had a bad day, doesn’t mean you have to look like a bad day.

2.) Never stop learning.

Since she’s been retired, my mother has taken guitar lessons, horseback riding lessons, and has taken up doll-making (among other things). No matter how old you are, how long you’ve been on the job or in the marriage – things don’t get mundane because of how long you’ve been there; they get mundane because you’ve exhausted the learning and the possibilities.

3.) Life is not always as complicated as we make it.

I have a very regimented routine for my face:

  • Step 1: cleanser (applied with cotton pad);
  • Step 2: toner (applied with cotton ball);
  • Step 3: moisturizer (which must contain SPF).
  • *Alternate weekly between facemasks and facial scrubs.
  • *Add in occasional steaming.

My mom’s routine?

  • A bar of soap and water. Period.

And her skin is more flawless than mine has ever been! While her simple soap and water routine never seems to do justice to my skin (of course I’ve tried it! Lol), it taught me sometimes simple can be better. Everything is not as complicated as we make it.

4.) Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Whether you own the building or you’re mopping the building floor, my mother consistently treats and speaks to people the way she wants to be treated and spoken to. Seeing this growing up taught me a valuable lesson in valuing people.

5.) You can enjoy and experience life on a budget.

As I got older and realized we weren’t the “ballers” I thought we were, lol, I wondered how my mom managed to create so many memories of zoo/museum outings, piano lessons, fun restaurants, family trips, etc. It’s because she took advantage of museum/zoo “free days.” It’s because she knew how to make large group trips with other close families seem like fun extended family getaways, instead of the more-people-to-chip-in-so-this-can-be-cheaper trips that they sometimes were. Despite financial limitations, my mom was resourceful and made sure that we experienced culture and life.

6.) Have a relationship with God.

My relationship with God gives me life, hope, and love. Although my relationship with God is my own, and may look quite different than my mom’s, that life-giving relationship exists because of her example.

7.) Sing like no one’s listening.

Randomly, throughout the week, my mother will sing. Not to me, not to my siblings, she will just sing – to herself, but loud enough to be heard. When I was younger, I thought it was weird, lol. As I get older (and find myself randomly singing around the house as well), I realize that this practice is kind of therapeutic. There is something healthy and spirit-lifting about having a song in your heart.

(Here’s one of the songs I remember my mom singing all the time. And it’s one of the ones I find myself singing now…)

8.) Never go out without lipstick, or whatever gives you that extra boost.

I’m not a big makeup person (although I’m slowly getting better thanks to Courtney ;-)), so for me it’s earrings. You will never catch me outside of my house without earrings! Lol. Whatever that thing is that makes you feel a little bit more confident/more beautiful, don’t leave home without it. You’ll feel better and walk taller.

9.) Never let anyone run you out of your home.

When I was nine years old, I was attacked by a man while walking to a neighbor’s house. By the grace of God his plans to rape me were interrupted just in time. But of course after that incident, I was afraid beyond consolation. Because of my fear, I begged my mother to let me live with my grandparents; she wouldn’t let me. In her eyes, home – with my parents – was where I belonged. Now whether or not she should have acquiesced is a matter of opinion. What I do know is that from that experience, I learned never to allow anyone (or any fear) to run you out of the place you are meant to be.

10.) You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show people you love them.

When I was away at school, my mom mailed me a post-it note, paper clipped to a few heart-shaped stickers. These stickers were nothing fancy, and looked like the kind that you get free in the mail when organizations solicit you for donations. If she paid for them, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than $1. Her note read: “9-6-2000. Hi- These may bring a smile to your beautiful face. Love you, Mom.” 12 years later, these cheap stickers and post-it note are still on my desk. Never under estimate the “little things.”

11.) Do what you think is right.

As much as I love my mom, I’m quite clear on the fact that she’s not perfect (sorry mom! 😉 ). I’ll even admit that I don’t agree with every decision she’s ever made. But my respect for her lies largely in the fact that I wholeheartedly believe that even in the times when I didn’t agree with her, she did what she believed was the right thing to do at the time.

12.) Teach by example.

Of these lessons from my mother that I just shared, not one of them was ever spoken to me. Most of what I learned from my mother, I learned from watching her. Remember: People pay way more attention to what you do than to what you say.

Thanks for being a great example, Ma! 🙂

Teaching People How to Treat You

“We teach people how to treat us; be careful of the lessons you give.”

This was my Facebook status a few days ago, and it seemed to resonate with many of my Facebook friends. I actually grew to learn this lesson some years back, and was very recently reminded of its truth.

Although I’m not a huge Dr. Phil fan, (sorry, 😐 Lol), I wholeheartedly agree with his admonition on this subject:

You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t. This means you are partly responsible for the [repeated] mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape others’ behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot.”

My lack of understanding this concept when I was younger, resulted in me accepting what should have been pretty unacceptable behavior from people. As I grew older and began to look at the mistreatment I’d received (in romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, etc.,), I was able to identify ways in which I taught people that I would accept unacceptable behavior.

I can recall an old boyfriend who repeatedly disrespected our relationship. But because I wanted to forgive and give him (and our relationship) another chance, I agreed to stay, with virtually no consequences to his actions. And like clockwork, every few months, this same disrespectful behavior happened again. At the time, I couldn’t understand it: “Shouldn’t he be so grateful to me that I forgave him with no consequences, that he would never do that disrespectful thing to me again?” Quite the contrary, it’s because there were no consequences that he was taught that it was acceptable behavior.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that forgiveness is a very necessary part of our emotional health. But, in my opinion, forgiving it, and taking it are two totally different things. If we are disrespected, mistreated, put in harm’s way, or disregarded, we must choose how to respond to that mistreatment. And whatever choice we make, sets the precedent and teaches that person what they can and cannot do to us.

I’ve also faced this situation with friends. Friends who were emotionally draining, financially draining, or disrespectful of my time/space. At times I would think, “why does she always dump her problems on me, but is never there when I need an ear?” Or, “why am I always the one she comes to when she needs money?” I realized later that the reason was simple: because I taught her that she could.

Inherent in my compliance, was acceptance. Whether I complied by always being there, always loaning the money, or saying nothing at all, I was teaching that I accepted this kind of treatment. And until I changed my acceptance level, I kept getting the same thing.

People do to you exactly what you allow.

Let’s look at this in a very simple and practical setting: You work a 9-to-5 job, and your friend doesn’t. She calls you almost everyday – during the middle of your workday – to talk about absolutely nothing. You’re frustrated but you keep answering the phone. Well, as long you keep answering, you’re teaching her that, “even though I have a 9-to-5, it’s OK for you to call me in the middle of the day to talk about nothing.” If you stop answering between 9am and 5pm, eventually she’s going to learn not to randomly call you during that time. (And if you’re wondering, yes, I have actually tried this one! It works. Lol 😉 )

According to my bff, Dr Phil, if the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, you have to figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment. For example, when people are aggressive, bossy or controlling toward you — and they still get their way — you have essentially rewarded them for unacceptable behavior.

Take some time to think about how people in your life are treating you. What standards are you accepting right now? If anyone is treating you poorly, pay attention to what message you’re giving them about that behavior.

Commit to teaching people how to treat you, and make sure the lessons are clear.

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