Always a Freshman

First jobs, first loves, first apartments, first heart breaks, first time trying a new food. It dawned on me that there are also so many second and third and twentieth times that evoke the feeling of being a “freshman” — because, in my experience, no two situations are ever the same.


What are common commodities that need to be protected? Wealth, jewelry, art, homes, fancy cars, precious instruments, car titles, passports. All of these things, though special and often priceless, can be insured and secured with guards, locks, or vaults. So what about time, love, desire, thought, ideas, and integrity? How are those items, er concepts, secured and protected?

In a roundabout way, I’ve had the misfortune of interacting with a vampire recently. A vampire? Like Dracula? Like Edward? No, a mere mortal vampire, someone who sucks the life-force out of me, someone who omits truths (I think that’s really called lying), someone who takes things without asking (stealing is the modern word), and recalibrates stories to fit with their program (manipulation). As disarming as all of this is, the worst part is that my time has been wasted and my trust in humanity has waned. One of these vampires is not someone I’ve met in person; rather I’ve had unfortunate dealings in removed, six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon sorts of ways.

A true existentialist, I believe that life is short and I must be protective of my values and time. So what do I do with these vampires who usurp my energy, who waste my time, who treat me like prey? I don’t eat garlic, but I do briefly consider the motives and then MOVE ON. I look at my role and MOVE ON.

So how do love and integrity fit in? Well, sometimes people say they’re loving but their actions are incongruous with their words. I think love is the most important feeling, thing, behavior, concept in the world.  Mixed with integrity, it’s so powerful and attractive. But when I’m prey, I lose hope that there is really enough love and integrity to go around. I worry that I’ve missed my chance or that someone else has been bitten by the vampire fangs and he’s doomed before we have a chance to progress. Or what if someone comes back into my life and he’s already gone to the underworld? Is there enough sunlight to eradicate the demons?

My Hebrew name means light. It’s no coincidence that I’m tasked with shining light on the vampire and killing it with my goodness and removing it (and all associations) from my life. I used to be paranoid that I was being followed or stalked, but now give it no brain power. Instead, I light extra candles, laugh more, enjoy the warmth and integrity of my unicorn and good gnome friends! Together we are a stronger army than the energy vampires who’ve crossed my path!

Our collective light is part of the time and love that I protect so dearly. I value lessons I’ve learned and DO NOT WANT TO REPEAT THE MISTAKES! I light my path with luminarios of goodness, floodlights to keep me safe.

I still don’t know how to keep vampires from circling my world (emergency garlic packs?!), but I’m learning how to shield myself from their disastrous entrance. I know not to give them any attention, not to acknowledge their seedy ways, not to empathize with their manipulative plights. I have to stay on my well-carved path and keep my focus on lighting the way for myself and others who have felt this decrepit and insidious pull. My friends help me, and I help myself. I must remember that my life, including my time, my love, my passions, my integrity are my most valuable commodities and must be held sacred.

Vampires are here to challenge me. I resolve to be stronger than their bites and keep my values protected.

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin

The Short and Long Game of Happiness and Meaning

I recently heard one of my favorite authors speak:  Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis is a modern miracle, a gem, a woman who is wise and sensitive, offers timeless wisdom, shows respect and compassion to people, and offers just the right amount of comfort to grieving people and those suffering.  Among the topics in her wonderful talk in San Diego, one of the most important features I took away was that all people are looking for happiness.  But happiness, plain, simple happiness, is not enough.  It’s crucial to live a meaningful life.  Viktor Frankl wrote about this in Man’s Search For Meaning and Rebbetzin Jungreis sees meaning (or goodness) as a major factor to a healthy, purposeful life.

Just leading a happy life is associated with being a ‘taker’ while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a ‘giver’. “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” according to authors in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Researchers say that happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like hunger — you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. To me, this is also known as instant gratification. What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister. Martin Seligman, the Positive Psychology guru, says “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.”

I’ve encountered the question of happiness and meaning time and again.  Recently, I’ve been faced with the issue of personal suffering and sadness, and how that relates to both meaning and happiness.  Do I have to go through deep pain and sadness in order to appreciate happier times?  Can meaning and happiness coexist, or are they mutually exclusive?  Is there a shortcut or work-around? So far, this is what I know:

I know that I love laughing, joking, and being playful! These are fleeting moments that make me feel happy.  I love feeling deeply connected in a respectful and considerate way.  I love sharing my life with my best friends and falling in love. This is ultimate happiness!  These experiences give my life deeper meaning.  But, they’re not enough.  These are the short game.  To me, the short game is seeing only the immediate, small picture.  It does not account for the betterment of myself or my loved ones.

My long game is having these experiences in tandem with working for the greater good of my clients, my family, my friends, and my partner.  In my long game, I can see the forest through the trees.  The meaning of my life stems from reflective experiences when I think and feel, when I have choices, when I make decisions that are carefully considered. Conversely, when I make rash choices and don’t think about my actions because I’m caught up in temptation or my short game, I’m not living my most meaningful life.  It can be tough for me to navigate. Lately the short game has felt awful for me.  It hasn’t been fun or happy.  Yuck.  The short game has made me feel defeated.

Purpose/meaning is such an anvil. It can be unwieldy and heavy, and sometimes casts a dark shadow on the immediate relief/happiness I want for myself. For a short spell, I made long lists of my life’s purpose and what makes me happy.  These lists got me nowhere fast.  I was ruminating in my head and trying to get “there.”  Then, I realized that there is no “there.”  As I constantly relearn, there’s only here.  These lists take me out of the present and put me in my head (a place that already gets enough visitors).  When I remember to actually breathe and live, I experience joy, anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, boredom — these are fleeting emotions that come in, I talk through them with my trusted circle, and then they leave.  I’m much more present this way, and this feels meaningful. When I avoid and deny my truth, it brings me neither happiness nor meaning. I live with the consequences of lost love and missed opportunities as much as I live with the excitement of learning strategy for a new board game and cooking BBQ.  My life is one of meaning as much as it is generally happy.  I have some serious (fun!?) goals ahead that are the long game.  In the short game, I’m trying to smile and laugh while accepting what really is, and that mine is a is a meaningful life with an eye on the long game.

*Special thanks to EB for talking this out with me.  Would love your comments.
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To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin

Why I’m doing this

I recently experienced a setback in my professional life, which has left me in a tailspin.  It’s been an island of shame and questioning of whether I chose the best career path, if I’m truly capable, and if I am “smart enough.”  In this Facebook era of humblebrags and boastful moments where people post about their minute victories (“I’ve been ridiculously productive all day!”) to their true accomplishments (“I want to thank my team for getting us to Regionals…”), it’s hard to express anything but triumphs.  Goal-setting (yes, I do it, too), positivity groups, internet memes and quotes advocating “Never. Lose. Hope.” tend to feel like Tony Robbins stepped into my personal world uninvited and leaves no space for an alternative experience or opinion.  I feel like Negative Nancy even suggesting staying with the feeling of sadness and grieving my loss, rather than “looking on the bright side.”  As someone who is generally and genuinely optimistic, even this is too much for me.  This island is lonely and yet, I can’t be the only one who feels uncomfortable with the advice to “keep my chin up no matter what” or other benign platitudes that don’t speak to specific events.

I’m starting this blog to overcome my setback in an authentic way that acknowledges feelings of defeat, failure, loneliness, shame, sadness, grief, and anger.  I’ll be interviewing people who have experienced defeat and failure and who are on the rise.  I don’t know what will come from this, but hoping to gain insight to my own process and learn from other people about how they felt and during these seemingly impossible times.   Some friends have suggested that my failure was really for the highest good for me and all others concerned.  At this moment, I don’t feel that way… but then when I look at case studies of successful people who faltered and eventually got up again, I wonder if that could be me, too.

I’ll be interviewing real people about their real experiences with setbacks, defeats, and failures.