Tag Archives: Marriage

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

2 May

I don’t know if it’s the email spam lists I’m on or where I hang out (the beach) or what’s on TV (I seldom watch) – if you’re not coupled up, you just don’t count.  In the news, the debate about gay versus straight marriage has become tantamount as if marriage and coupledom is the only way of life.

But consider that with over 1/2 of marriages ending in divorce, and an equal split between singles and married adults in the US and one has to wonder why the 50% of singles are nonplussed.  When I survey most of my single friends, many would prefer to be in a committed loving relationship to being alone and would love to find love (wouldn’t we all!)  One friend of mine is miserable because she loves many male friends but professes that she really needs to be “in love.”

The pursuit of love (in my estimation) is a red herring – looking to “find love” should be a misnomer because love is all around us (and in us).  Romantic love (the kind in the movies and fairy tales) is fun, often fleeting, but it is only one kind of love – one that depends on another to fulfill us.  That’s where the problem lies – reliance on anyone other than ourselves to feel love!

Having been married half my life to someone who truly loved himself (and I him), I am discovering that the key to true love can only be found through “selfless self-love” – truly accepting oneself for the combination of beauty, faults, strengths and weaknesses we see in the mirror.  Many grow up without the self-esteem to know that we need to be attracted and attractive to ourself first and foremost before we can truly share love with anyone else.  Yet this is the ultimate truth – self-love is the root of happiness!

I frequently quote don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements because I truly admire and embrace the essence of his work.  The First Agreement “Always live with integrity” truly expresses the core concepts behind self-love.  I used to think that this agreement simply meant one should be honest and ethical – but that is so far off!

“Always live with integrity” means never, ever say anything to yourself that you would not say in love to a best friend.  So, the “I’m too sensitive, too xxx, whatever” needs to be banned forever from one’s vocabulary (both to yourself or to others!) and replaced with “I am who I am and I love me.”  Taking care of oneself first is like putting on your own oxygen mask first on an airplane – it allows you to function AND be able to share with others!  For me, this was an incredible concept as I was always told (and taught) and experienced that I had to give before I received.  Yet, by not giving myself the love I truly deserved, I gave away my sustenance and what I needed to truly survive.  Self-love is not selfish, it is selfless and necessary!

If you’ve read this far (and I’m almost done my rant for the day!) – you might be thinking that I am professing to become as narcissistic as the person I am no longer with, but this is wrong. Or you might be saying “how could you grow up without knowing self-love and putting yourself first?” (It happens to more than me, I guarantee it!)

I’m not saying one should become obsessed solely with oneself, but rather that finding love in the world means starting with truly accepting and loving ourselves.   We truly deserve our own true love.

So, what’s love go to do with it?  Loving yourself in all your splendor is the right thing to do – and once you’ve mastered that – love has found YOU!

Have a great week!

Carol

Unconditional

5 Apr

Unconditional…

A Dr. Suess concept concocted as a dream, half-baked, and fed to the masses eager for acceptance and love.

Whoever says life in any way is unconditional has mastered self-love (which can be unconditional), and accepts the world at face value and the terms it presents.  Relationships with others are, at their core, conditional on what each party can get out of it.  When one party’s conditions are that the other give completely (while they take completely), the relationship ends. Sometimes conditions are parasitic, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes conditions change. But there are always conditions.

Love is based on relationship(s). Life is a complex web of rules and conditions.  Always changing, morphing, ebbing and tiding.

Not bad, not good, just is. Life is a conditional reality.

Have a happy day – and love yourself for the wonderful person you are!

Carol

“To have a friend you have to be a friend” – hogwash!

11 Aug

Did you grow up with this “momily” like I did?  I didn’t realize how invasive this hogwash was until recently – in fact until others pointed out to me that people I allowed into my life were not “friends” at all.

I’ve spent time in past posts talking about how damaging toxic relationships can be to our psyche, but just last night a true friend reminded me that I was giving “friend” status to people who had chosen me – not that I had chosen for myself.  I didn’t screen them  before allowing them into my life, and that’s when the “momily” hit me!

Allow me to explain…

Growing up (long ago!) I was taught that friendship had to be earned and that “to have a friend, you have to be a friend (first)”.  At the time, I never questioned this – and not only have I allowed people into my life because THEY consider me a friend (without consideration of my own needs), they abused that privilege!  Friendship should be a two-way street… just because one party drives into the traffic (as if it is a one way!) does not change the two-way rule.  “Friends” who insist on one-way traffic… well, are they really friends?  (Think about what usually happens to drivers when this happens!)

Recognition and termination of relationships devoid of mutual respect is THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

Many of the acquaintances (today I realize they were not “friends”) I tolerated during my marriage could be classified, by clinical standards, as verbally abusive.  With my divorce came a new awareness about friendships and relationships: “friendship” should be mutually beneficially to both parties!  Today I know I deserve better and I hope you do too!

There is a reason that some people don’t make it into our future, it’s to make room for new people who WE mutually choose – not just those who choose us!

Have a great week, and thank you for reading!

Carol

Alone but not Lonely…

22 Apr

I waited literally months and months to be able to proudly announce this!

This is not to say that I’m finished my journey towards full acceptance that being alone is a choice and an honor to myself, but rather to announce to myself that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am.

When I got divorced five years ago after an adulthood of being married, I looked around to find that most of my friends were acquaintances who live around the world (that is still true), or neighbors who weren’t really friends (my next door neighbors allowed my ex-husband to live with them for six months after the divorce), and local “friends” who chose sides and were unavailable to me.

wildflowersI felt totally alone for the first time in my life (having grown up with 4 siblings, this was a rare occurrence) – and the isolation and loneliness felt like it was going to swallow me whole.  At the time, I yearned for friendship and the company of anyone who would share a coffee with me!

You’ve probably heard that the universe (or God) seldom gives you more than you can handle – and that all good things come to those who wait – and in retrospect, I have to agree. I would never wish the isolation and utter loneliness I felt on anyone – yet I know that loneliness can be a state of mind as much as a circumstance.

As an extrovert, being alone was not a natural state, but today I applaud the solitude and refreshment that comes from loving one’s own company.  Today I CHOOSE friends who reciprocate my giving, and I no longer tolerate people who use me.  I realize that I deserve people in my life who respect and honor me – and I am cutting out people who do not.

For the first time in my life, I honor that  my new best friend (me) deserves only the best treatment from others – and I will not accept anything less on her behalf!

This wasn’t always the way – when I loved others more than I loved myself, I would end up giving others more than I gave myself and I felt sad that the reciprocity simply wasn’t there.  Now, I realize that the only one who will ever take care for me is me!  You can never be lonely when you are happy to be together in your own company!

Do you agree with me?

My message to you with this post is this:  If you feel lonely in your own company, commit to changing your outlook – one day at a time. 

In other words, commit to becoming your own best friend and finding fun and happiness with him/her.  You will be the only friend you’ll find who is guaranteed not to leave you!

My journey has taken five years (and I’m still traveling) – but it has been well worth the hills, mountains, valleys and swamps I’ve traversed to get here.  There are still days when I recall my daughter’s words after the divorce:  “Mom, you have to walk through fire for a long time to get to the other side, but it WILL be worth it!”  She is too wise for her 27 years!

Begin with becoming your own best friend and cheerleader – today!  Learn to celebrate the great things about you, yourself and you (sidenote: The Royal We is “me, myself, and I”!)

Start by writing down (get a pen and paper right now) 50 things you like about you- or are grateful for… and keep the list with you. 

How often have you thanked yourself for who you are?  Start with saying “thank you for being…” and watch the difference it makes,

Or try the third person technique:  if you can’t get to 10 quickly, pretend that you were looking back at your life and writing about yourself in the third person.  (Here’s an example:  Carol is an eloquent and passionate speaker.  Carol cares about people more than things…)

When you focus on becoming your own best friend, self-love emanates from within and you’ll become happier by the day (no matter what your external circumstances).  Being alone and not lonely is one of the greatest gifts my divorce has given me – I love being with myself, and I am truly grateful for who I am – for me.

Wishing you a happy weekend, whether you spend it alone with your new best friend (YOU!) or the company of others!

Best,
Carol
p.s. It is EARTH DAY today… I am grateful that YOU are on this earth and reading this!


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Realities of mid-life survival

11 Mar

Do you know how many books today proclaim that success is imminent if you just buy them?  Thousands!  In addition, the self-proclaimed experts often have nothing more than their own experience of rags to riches “expertise” (sometimes just plain luck) that propelled them to fame.

Moreover, the number of books on the shelves for baby boomers especially women – who find themselves at mid-life having raised children, nurtured husband’s careers, and are now alone and broke is increasing.

According to a recent study, 46% of adult Americans are single in 2011.

Western-raised women are stereotypically taught to take care of everyone (at their own expense) and this practice has been handed down through the generations of well-meaning elders.  At mid-life having raised our children to maturity and independence, and having put our spouse through many college degrees and jobs, we find ourselves alone with a tawdry collection of hand-me-down furniture, discarded belongings, and a shambles of friendships abandoned in favor of raising our family.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Here I sit five years post-divorce, with two wonderful grown children who are independent and healthy (a big plus and a source of pride!), few friends (it’s difficult to set up relationships at mid-life and with a career involving travel), fewer male friends (at least not within the vicinity), an albatross of an over-mortgaged  house (because I had to buy the ex-spouse out at an exorbitant price to keep my son in his home),  and a career challenged like many today.  I’ve got baggage, but I’ve survived a lifetime of giving and being taken.

And, I am alive and well and have the chance to be happy!  At mid-life, I am starting completely over – in fact, at 50 paces behind the starting line when I consider that my financial situation is one where the ex-spouse made off like a bandit in the divorce due to a some unfortunate circumstances.  But, 50 paces behind the starting line with a chance of a second half of life of happiness and freedom is so much better than no life or the Stepford wife existence I lived a mere 6 years ago.

The realities of my life today are much different from the last time I was single more than 25 years ago!

If you are like me, maybe you can identify with some of these realities:

  • A garage full of garbage: that was left by my ex and my children when they moved out. Memories of a lifetime of child raising (toys), school sports (a motley crew of athletic equipment), boxes of discarded books (which “friends of the library” charity will happily take), tools, leftover paint cans, and garbage that my ex-husband promised to clean up (and didn’t) before he moved;
  • An over mortgaged house with zero equity: and rooms that I never walk into.  My 22-year-old son has promised me for months that he will clean out his old bedroom of the clothes and discarded bits that he left when he moved out 6 months ago.
  • Maintenance that I cannot do (or afford to hire to have done): my gas dryer stopped working and I know that a service man will happily see a “little lady” who can be taken for hundreds of dollars.  In Florida, there seems to be no work ethic or morals and the edict “do your research and know exactly what you need to have done before you hire anyone to come in” is the moral of the day.  I don’t have the energy to fight with men who want to rip me off so I do without the dryer (and other household maintenance).
  • Friends who are mine! When I was married, we had ‘our’ friends (his friends) who he worked with or we knew as parents of our kids’ friends.  Today it is wonderful to have friends who know me for me and who love me for me!
  • Toxic friendships that I must discard: One of the lessons I’m learning is that I was too giving as a person in my former life – I allowed people and “friends” to take advantage of my kindness. Some of those “friendships” include people who I thought were friends and who preyed on my giving nature. One such “friend” begged me to give her grown daughter some space to temporarily store an apartment full of items in my garage.  Six months and many un-returned phone calls and emails later, she (and the daughter) refuse to talk to me because I have asked them to remove the items. There is no thank you, no courtesy and no respect for the favor I granted them. It is toxic to our being when a “friendship” is one way without respect or give-and-take.  In my past life, I tolerated this treatment by thinking that somehow it was what I deserved, but today I know that such tolerance is toxic to me. When people in our life get angry when we set healthy boundaries it is a sign of toxicity. Any friend that abuses you was never really a friend.
  • LOTS of time alone: As an extrovert who lives alone, works alone from home (when I am not teaching out-of-town), has no local family, has grown children, and friends who have busy lives, I have a lot of alone time. The challenge after a lifetime of taking care of others is for me to be happily alone without feeling lonely.  There are days when I feel quite isolated and it is then that I long to be on the road working so that I will be among others. When I return home, it can be more lonely than when I am traveling alone for work.
  • A challenging career today: the economy has wreaked havoc on consultants and trainers – we are the first roles to be cut in downsizing and recessions.  I find myself overqualified and too long a freelancer to be considered for most jobs today. As such, my financial status (due to the economy and the divorce) is a fraction of what it once was, as is the income I once enjoyed.
  • Acceptance and freedom: I don’t know what your relationships are like, but I am happy today to be able to choose a restaurant without getting blamed that it was not a good choice (or feeling responsible for “his” happiness); to be able to make a sandwich the way I want (without being told I’m doing it wrong); and to buy a pair of black shoes with my money (without being told I don’t need them).  It is a joy to come home to my cat who accepts me and loves me for who I am not for who he thinks I need to become.  Acceptance and freedom are wonderful rights!

Today, aside from my financial woes (which are temporary), I am happier than I have been in years!

I have self-love beyond any I have ever experienced, a few honorable and true friends who are there for me (unlike the acquaintances we had as a couple), and a recognition that I deserve love and respect (which I never believed in the past).  I am challenged to live this new solitary life – and there are up and down days along the journey.

But — Life is good and getting better all the time.  It is not the same as I grew up to believe it would be – or that was my experience in my former life – but I am truly alive in ways that I could never be had I stayed in a loveless marriage.

The realities of mid-life survival can be stark – but the future is bright!

Have a great week!

Carol


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Let Go of Letting Go…

16 Jan

Does this sound like a circular reference to you?  It is not if you let me explain how it makes sense to “Let Go of Letting Go”…

circleSo many self-improvement, positive thinking, psychology, and other books today talk about how important they feel it is to “let go” of things that hinder our lives:  past experiences, toxic relationships, negative people, poor choices, mistakes we have made.

Typically, the experts support a three-step letting go process along the lines of

  1. Identify what you need to let go of;
  2. Do some sort of “root cause analysis” (in the hope of avoiding it in the future); and
  3. “Burn” (either figuratively or literally) the issue to let it go from your past and present.

I do not know about you, but I find that this process is good in theory — but does not work in practice!  When I focus on that which I need to let go, it exacerbates the issue at hand (akin to rubbing sand in a wound) and does not get rid of it.  I am finding that the best way to really let go of something is to let it flow – in other words ride the waves of emotion and let go of the need to formally let it go.  Somehow the process of letting things flow (i.e., letting the waves roll over my subconscious and not giving them focus or concentration) seems to dissipate their strength – and the next time the same wave comes (it does not magically go away) its amplitude (size) is less. Before long, I know the wave will be a mere ripple.  By letting things flow instead of forcing the memory out (letting go), I also feel more open to the possibility of new better memories.

A quote that feels right for me is

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. – Wendell Berry

Wow!  To me, this means that when we try to let go of something or run from a bad memory, we can’t really escape it. Instead, when we add to our collective past with a positive memory, we escape what was there before.  The quote seems to give credence to my “Let go of letting go”  plus introduces the idea of adding on something better.

In my engineering, analogy thinking mind, it reminds me of a Lego house with eroding pieces…

instead of deliberately removing damaged pieces and leaving holes in the structure, I choose to allow new pieces to come in and thus, remove the old ones as a matter of course.  My life is like the Lego house.

This is a conscious choice – rather than trying to escape the past through concentrating on letting go, new positive experiences can replace the painful memories. 

As distance grows from the past, my new, positive experiences today replace (and add on to) my history.  Good memories enhance and build up on past good memories, and painful ones can be replaced with new adventures. This gives me hope!

In terms of relationships, now that I experience self-love, it adds on positively and I can escape the bad memories of love in the past. When my financial independence comes about with new employment and opportunities, my memory of the pain of financial troubles will ebb.  As I meet and engage with new positive people, I can escape the memories of toxic friendships of the past.

Let go of letting go – let flow…

Have a great week!

Carol

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