Tag Archives: Relationships

Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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Big Love in Utah

No, this isn’t a post about the former HBO series, or Mormonism, or polygamy. This is a post about the benefits of extended family vacations. My immediate family takes two per year (one ski trip with my husband’s family, and one beach trip with mine). I’ve just finished zipping up the last suitcase to prepare for our flight home after spending a week in Alta, Utah with my husband’s family (the littlest ones were already in bed before this photo was taken). IMG_7121

Three generations (19 people in all) came from California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to live under one roof. We skied, played games, held daily “inspections” of the kids’ rooms (a contest with prizes–and, shockingly, my son and his cousin won), and caught up on a myriad of the past year’s trials and tribulations.IMG_7123

For some, this type of vacation may sound like a nightmare. Granted, it was not particularly restful, and the volume reached a feverish pitch around the dinner table. But the minor moments of discomfort were far outweighed by the many benefits of being together.

The kids (teens included) actually put down their devices for tremendous chunks of time and skied, played chess, Scrabble, and Guesstures, and hung out conversing with the adults (gasp) in front of the fire. The eldest generation reminisced about the decades of experiences in Alta. We were all treated to fabulous meals by the staff, forcing some of us with pickier palates–gently clears throat–to try new dishes. Kids learned to manage roommate issues. Differing parenting styles had to bend in order to avoid conflict among the nine kids. Abundant exercise and inspirational views filled all the senses. Heck, I even got a bunch of snuggles from my teen daughter (who has never been the snuggling sort).

As always, at the end of this week, I feel renewed kinship with my husband’s entire family, all of whom are unique, accomplished, and fun-loving individuals. I’m also thankful to Dan and Dusty (who run the house) for helping me with more research on competitive snowboarding and backcountry skiing. Finally, I’m grateful that we all are leaving this beautiful yet potentially dangerous mountain range without injury! FullSizeRender(28)

If you’ve never organized a major family trip (or reunion weekend), I highly recommend it. There may be a stray tear or argument, but your heart will be bigger when you leave.

xo-Jamie

Temptation’s Silver Lining

Another new year, another round of resolutions. I’m not even going to list them because, if history predicts the future, chances are good that I won’t keep them for more than about five months. *sighs* Temptation–to eat that sweet, to nap instead of hitting the gym, to watch TV instead of purging the closets–usually wins out. Although I hate to admit it, I am weak! There, I said it, and I’m not going to skulk away in shame.325872_s

All kidding aside, I do spend a lot of time thinking about temptation. Polite society tends to cast it in a bad light, making it a boogeyman that steers a corrupt person off course. But as a writer, temptation has a purpose: it is a material part of the push-pull of any good character arc. The more direct the conflict between what a character believes is right and what s/he wants, the better the story tension, and the faster a reader should want to turn those pages.

Sometimes I’ll use a story to tease out my position on a personal conflict, other times I’ll borrow from a friend’s or relative’s experience. In all cases, exploring every side of an issue/argument is my favorite part of building any character and any story.

It isn’t always pretty, and my characters aren’t always “heroic.” That’s intentional. Frankly, most of us mere mortals are flawed and make bad choices now and then. We hurt others, we self-preserve, we justify.

What I love about writing is trying to take a flawed character and redeem him or her. I think such a character’s journey to redemption is irresistible to we flawed readers because, if he or she can acknowledge a mistake and do better–can earn forgiveness, love, and respect after a major misstep–than so can we.

When viewed in this way, temptation serves a vital function in fiction and in personal growth.

Do you feel the same, or do you view temptation in black-and-white terms and become unable to root for a character who has crossed that line?

XO-

Jamie

Romance 2.0

I’m feeling whimsical today. Maybe it’s because of the perfectly sunny fall day. Or maybe it’s thanks to that last Tate’s chocolate chip and walnut cookie I just ate. Or maybe the upcoming release of Accidentally Hers has me focusing on romance.

I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. The point is I’ve got romance on the brain today, so I might as well be productive about it.

As a woman who has been in the same relationship for twenty years and counting, I know how it can sometimes feel like there aren’t any surprises left. If there are things I don’t know about my husband, it’s because he’s hiding them, right?

Well, maybe not, actually.34252037_s

When I step back and think of it, we’ve both changed a lot over the years. Sure, we’ve been together for those growth cycles, but I can’t say we’ve always discussed them in detail, or that I know he who really is now as opposed to who he was when we married. Honestly, who has time for philosophical discussions when one is stuck in the middle (of life, of careers, between needy kids and aging parents)?

With so many important matters vying for one’s attention, relationships often get shoved to the bottom of the to-do list, and you talk less and less about non-essential things. But those dreamy, non-essential things are precisely what people spend so much time discovering about in the beginning of any relationship. What if that on-going dialogue is the key to keeping a relationship fresh?

With this idea in mind, I thought it would be fun to make a short list of little things anyone can do to boost his/her real-life romance and renew intimacy:

  1. Daydream together (what if we won the lottery, where would you most love to retire, if you could be granted one wish, who’s your current real-life hero…). You know, just make it fun and see where the conversation leads.
  2. Give your undivided attention to your partner when you ask about his/her day. I mean it! Look him/her in the eye and really listen.
  3. Hold hands while driving/riding in the car.
  4. Make a list of your partner’s best/most admirable traits and surprise them with it.
  5. Ask him/her what you can do to make their day better.
  6. Make his/her favorite dinner on the weekend, when everyone can relax and enjoy it.
  7. Send a sexy text (no, not a “sext” pic) in the middle of the day to set the mood for later that night.
  8. Make a list of relationship goals (be specific, like twice-a-month date nights, one weekend per year road trip, and so on).
  9. Let each person choose a movie (in my house that would be heavy drama for me and anything with Will Ferrell for my husband) and then watch them each together (no complaining allowed…or at least keep the eye-rolling to a minimum).
  10. Role reversal! Basically, walk in the other person’s shoes for a day. Cooking, laundry, yard work, whatever. Get an appreciation for what your partner contributes to making life a little easier in the household and talk about it later.

Hopefully these little efforts will yield big payoffs in the romance department. And don’t be shy. If you’ve got an idea to share with the rest of us, please do so in the comments!

XO-Jamie

Investing in Relationships

The old adage “you get what you give” can be applied to many things, but most especially to relationships. It’s usually pretty easy to identify when you feel like someone has let you down or isn’t giving you enough attention and support. But how often do you step back and ask how you might be neglecting those who are important to you?

People who know me well would likely agree that I’m an initiator. I plan lunches, getaways, parties, and pretty much look for any opportunity to connect with friends and family.

Of course, life happens and sometimes one truly can’t follow-through on a commitment to catch up with a friend. But rarely will I decline a social invitation because of being “too busy.”  Honestly, like all middle-aged women, I am very busy with my family and career.  Yet investing time in friendships is critical to my sanity and happiness. 16848434_s

In the decades since my youth, I’ve noticed how fragmented society has become. Extended families no longer live in the same town and only infrequently get together. Friends move in and out of neighborhoods within a few years, making it difficult to maintain a deep level of connectedness. People (including me) tend to rely on social media and texts instead of phone calls and drop-ins to keep in touch.

I haven’t found the perfect balance, but I know one thing with certainty. I don’t want to wake up five or ten years from now–once my kids are out of college and on their own–only to realize I don’t have any close friends or family members left because I’ve neglected them along the way.

Toward that end, I’m looking forward to spending Memorial Day in Vermont with my husband’s family and then taking a weekend trip to a lake house in the Catskills with some gal pals in early June. I’ve also planned two major family vacations this summer with various members of my own extended family. And while I look forward to the workshops at the National RWA convention in July, I want to also take time to get together socially with some of the writers with whom I’m in constant “virtual” communication throughout the rest of the year.

In addition to those big plans, I’m going to reinstate my weekly lunch dates. I’ve let the winter doldrums and my writing deadlines interfere, but now I’m inspired to get out and rotate through my various friends for lunch dates in the coming weeks.

Am I alone, or have you also let potentially precious moments slip through your fingers because you’re overwhelmed by your to-do list?

xo-Jamie