After getting a divorce, I signed up for online dating sites, read tons of articles about dating and signed up for all kinds of newsletters on dating advice.
I’m approaching my second divorce anniversary (divorceary?), and I was cleaning out my junk email inbox. The many subject lines from these dating newsletters frustrated me.
“Top 3 mistakes women make that cause men to lose attraction”
“If you’d only known the right thing to say to him…”
“Can your clothes really help you attract the guy you want?”
“Playfully say this if you want him to ache for you all day long”
“A simple way to change his mind and his heart”
All I can say is, are you kidding me?
All of these emails imply that there is something wrong with women. That if we change just a bit, we can catch the man of our dreams.
Women (and probably men too) have enough criticism coming at them. I’m considered an attractive woman, and I do believe that, but there are days when I look in the mirror and all I see are flaws. Most people have those days. We don’t need someone giving us dating advice about how we need to change to attract the right man.
This advice gives the underlying message that men are perfect beings and we just need the right bait to attract that elusive fish. This advice is similar to what a girlfriend told me soon after my divorce. She said I needed to start listening to country music to catch a man, “Um, no.” (I have started listening again, but not to catch a man. I realized that, I do, in fact, like some country music after going to a few concerts with friends.)
But, I’m not going to change my clothes, my look, what kind of music I listen to, or who I am to attract any man. They would be attracted to an imposter anyway and what fun that would be?
I do believe in personal growth. We can all become a better version of ourselves. And I do take time to reflect on how I could've handled a difficult situation better whether that’s a conversation with one of my children, a coworker, friend or a someone I’m dating. But that is just life and what you should do to become a better, happier person.
I want to become a more effective communicator, a more giving person who can stand firm on my boundaries and on how I should be treated. But I want to communicate that in a firm but kind way.
And I know there are things I’ve done to push someone away and there are things men have done to push me away. But that is part of the learning process.
One guy barely communicated in a passive and passive-aggressive way and pushed me away, and another over communicated and pushed me away. It’s different for everyone. There’s no magic bullet, no secret sequence of words on how to catch a woman or man.
Heck, I can’t even tell you what the magic amount of communication is for me.
What I can say is that open, direct, assertive (not aggressive) communication with me is key. Being able to say what you want and need is critical because otherwise how can the other person know if it will ever work or if they can deliver?
In the movie Field of Dreams the voice says, “build it and they will come.” So, here’s my dating advice: Be the best version of you and the right person will come. Make yourself happy.
The right person will be attracted to you for being you. And I can tell you from experience that I don’t want to date someone who is trying to be someone else. That mask falls off eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later).
I believe in being the most authentic and genuine person you can be. That is how you attract the person of your dreams not by clicking through an email to learn exactly what to say and when. Or to try and guilt you into thinking if you had only known a few key words to capture their heart you wouldn’t have lost them.
When you show up and are vulnerable with the person you are talking to, you are giving your all, and that’s all any of us can hope for. Sometimes it’s a good match and sometimes, not so much.
I don’t have a significant other this Valentine’s Day, I have something better: I have two incredible boys and a ton of friends and family who are simply irreplaceable. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s a silly made-up holiday to sell a bunch of stuff that will either die (flowers), make you fat (sweets) or just reduce the size of your bank account (jewelry).
But what I love about it is that people everywhere celebrate love. So for the first time ever, I’m making myself my Valentine this year. I love me. I love that I sing loud and off-key in the car and at HEB and really just wherever the mood strikes me. I love that I dance in the open and dance in the rain. I love that I am often unintentionally funny because I do really silly things. I love that I don’t take myself seriously. I love that I’m generous, kind and forgiving. I love that I treat my body like a temple and sometimes like an amusement park. I love that I love amusement parks.
I love that I have courage to keep my boys’ lives steady even when it would be so much easier to move home or just anywhere else and start over. I love that I let myself be vulnerable when it would be easier to say that relationships are for the birds. I love that I have values and boundaries and that my favorite word is one you don’t hear in polite company.
So for all you single peeps celebrating today solo, cheers to you! I hope you remember to love and celebrate yourself today.
Making a change can be scary. But unless you’re in prison, you aren’t really stuck. You just can't make a decision…or can you?
When so much information is at our fingertips, we tend to research things to the nth degree. Analysis paralysis takes over. What if it doesn't work out? What if I fail? What if it isn't the right choice? Am I doing the right thing?
Those questions can swirl around your head with the same effect of water swirling down a toilet. They have the potential to empty you, to drain you, to paralyze you with fear… in short, they are unproductive and add no benefit to your mental health and happiness.
It's one thing to look at and weigh all your options within a reasonable timeframe. It's another thing if you let those choices bog you down. And it's quite another if you let someone else control you and your choices.
I listened when someone I loved told me I couldn't make it without him. He said I'd never be able to support myself, that no one would ever hire me because I'd been out of my career for too long. He told me I'd end up like his mother, dependent on others to help me out. He told me I was too old, too fat, too many kids and too ugly for anyone else to love me. He told me no one would ever love me like he did. (God, please I hope not. If so, I haven't done my due diligence.) He told me that when he was finished with me, I'd be homeless, penniless and I'd lose my children.
With encouragement like that, I was paralyzed with fear and indecision. Even though I knew in my head that those things he said about me were bogus, my heart sometimes would fall into despair and need a reminder that the lies were not real…and not me.
I’ve heard similar things from other women. I’m stuck, how can I support myself? Am I doing the right thing for my kids? Will they be mad at me? Will he turn them against me? Is this the best decision? What will people think if I stay? What will people think if I go?
In “The Power of Love” Sue Johnson lays out the physical effects of love. “Sociologists are also finding that our life partner is often our only reliable source of support and comfort. Love’s function is safety and survival.”
So what happens when that breaks down in a marriage and it’s hard to figure out what the best option is? “Emotional disconnection literally hurts. Brain scans show that rejection by someone we depend on is processed in the same part of our brain, and in the same way, as physical pain.”
Well, I finally stopped being paralyzed with fear. I decided that while I could not control the situation or even control him, I could control how I react to the situation and at least control me. I got back in shape and lost 10 lbs. I landed a full-time job and more than doubled my income from my flexible part-time job. From that moment in time, I stopped letting fear get in the way of making decisions. Even if the decisions may not always be perfect, they were my decisions and it was empowering.
If I thought it was a nightmare being in my marriage, it was nothing compared to what would come after I began to separate myself from my ex and everything that came after our divorce. In almost every instance I felt like it was a dance: two steps forward and one step back. Each chapter brought it’s own challenges and times when I felt stuck, scared and unsure. Fight or flight mode kicks in and makes decision-making nearly impossible.
I've heard from others who feel stuck in unhappy situations. I would never be so bold as to tell someone what decision they should make, but I will say that you shouldn’t be scared to make one. Life is now. Why stay stuck in an unhappy situation?
Some were unhappy and decided to make their marriage work. Others decided it was better to leave. But the end result and the point is that they made a choice to make their situation better.
I’ve had a few friends who were afraid about what other people would think about their decision. People will judge. They will take the kernel of information they have and make a decision about your situation. But you can’t live your life trying to please everyone. Because of what I’ve been through, I’ve heard from countless people who are going through all kinds of issues. You never know what someone is going through. Even those who judge you harshly are most likely dealing with their own issues.
Some people will judge you for leaving. Why didn’t you try harder? But no one else has to live your life. That’s your job. It’s your job to be the best you that you can be and to make yourself happy. You can’t spread joy if you don’t feel it yourself. What comes out of you is what is within you. So if you want to spread joy, you must have it to begin with.
I read somewhere that you should flip a coin, because in that singular moment you’re waiting for it to land, you typically figure out what is in your heart. I also seek advice from friends whose judgement I trust. With all of this information at our fingertips, we often forget to trust in our instincts and listen to our hearts.
You have to trust your decision making is what will lead to the best outcome, not necessarily the path itself. It is all within you if you choose to empower yourself.
The picture above was the trail I ran the other morning. I had no idea where it went or if it would take me in the right direction. But I knew that I would make the choice to enjoy the journey of discovery that this trail had to offer. So, I just kept running and the path lead me to this beautiful fountain. My run this morning was a physical reminder that sometimes you just have to have faith and keep going…
My aunt and uncle have this sign in their bathroom and it was the perfect reminder that a greater power has control of my life. I may not understand why things are happening the way they are, but I have faith that if I can control my fear, I won’t be stuck and God has it under control.
After my children spend time with someone, they come back to me parroting back words of hate targeted to specific groups of people. I know where these words came from and I know that they are not their own words because they are verbatim the words I heard from the person they spend time with.
Words can harm. When planted and continuously fed these same words, they can take root and warp a person’s world view. I’m determined that these words will not be able to take root.
My children are having problems effectively dealing with conflict and each other when they come home. They are quick to anger and quick to call each other names. It’s heartbreaking to watch and to hear the intolerance.
These are not my same sweet children. Like with any other problem, I wanted to find a solution. In typical “me” fashion, I got a book (or two or three).
I’ve read the Harry Potter series to them for years. I bought the newest book and to my surprise, it’s written as a play. So, we all have parts and take turns reading the play at night. Just like the other Potter books, it’s full of great teachable moments about relationships.
This one seems to serve up those teachable moments in almost every scene. It’s been a wonderful example and has provided some great discussion about healthy and unhealthy relationships as well as healthy and unhealthy reactions.
I also turned to a nonfiction book, “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.”
I had them take the assessment tests to figure out their style under stress. The assessment breaks down the categories into silence or violence, which are the typical reactions to stress. Under silence, you have masking, avoiding and withdrawing. Under violence, you have controlling, labeling and attacking. The book is designed around conversations and how even violence looks in dialogue. We’ve been reading the book and discussing the lessons off and on.
When they got into an argument the other night, I stood listening for a bit. Neither were raising their voice, but the things they were saying to each other were so sad. I’d heard enough to get the gist and that they were clearly not going to resolve it themselves, so we all sat down and had a chat. We discussed what they were saying and how what they said fell into the different categories of stress, how people react when they feel disrespected, attacked and so forth. We discussed how their sibling’s words made them feel. I tried to get them to get really specific about their feelings and they did a great job.
Then we circled back to the critical questions in the book:
I know that they will continue to have disagreements with each other and other people. I know that they will continue to be exposed to hateful messages and toxic people. But, I’m hopeful that the lessons they learn will carry them onto the path of improving relationships, empathy and understanding.
I’m in the middle of spending an entire month without my kids. I’ve never gone this long without being with them. I distinctly remember my first five days without them and it was excruciating.
This is a whole lot longer than five days and I miss them, but it’s completely different this time. I still get to text, talk or FaceTime with them every day. Even it’s a short and sweet “I love you and miss you,” we touch base.
I miss seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter. I miss goofing around together, watching movies together, playing games and just hanging out. I miss their late night philosophical questions. I miss hearing, “I love you mommy” on a daily basis and seeing their eyes sparkle as they say it. I miss hearing about their dreams, goals and fears because that rarely comes up during a phone call. I do the mom thing and still worry about them daily (I’ve been told this never goes away).
However, this time is different because I’m in a different place. Maybe because of that I’ve approached this month in a completely different way than I approached that first five days. That first time I was focused on trying to fill that time with things to do just to keep my mind off of not having my kids because it felt like a loss. I was needy and needed my friends. This time I’ve approached it as a time to solely focus on me because when do you EVER get a month to focus on you?
So far, it’s been wonderful. I’ve read, danced all over my house with music blaring (and singing loudly and off-key), relaxed, made a significant dent in that ongoing to-do list, reconnected with old friends, hung out with my group, decorated my house, eaten a lot of delicious food, gone out and lived it up just like a vacation (except the whole working during the week thing, there's still weeknights).
I’ve also taken the time to do a lot of reflecting. Being alone in my very quiet house has been awesome and given me the opportunity to do a lot of soul-searching, analysis of the past and healing.
I feel myself settling back into who I was before I got married (hopefully a wiser and more experienced version, or Me 2.0). I’ve made mistakes, asked for forgiveness and more importantly learned from those mistakes and forgiven myself.
I’ve reached out to an old friend whose friendship I lost because of a person who is no longer a part of my life. It’s funny how close friends try to tell you something and you just aren’t ready to hear it or accept it. It’s hard to watch a friend be dragged down by a toxic relationship they refuse to leave. That conversation was healing and awesome because we had been so close and I never really had satisfactory answers as to why things broke down. Understanding brings healing and our friendship has picked back up. I’m thankful for that.
My sweet boys have a bumpy few months ahead of them. Not only because of transitioning to new schools (middle and high) and growing up, but also because of personal things about to happen in their lives. So this month has given me the chance to learn more about how I can be there for them, support them and guide them through it. I feel a lot more prepared as a parent.
Although these times apart from our children can be hard, finding a way to make this time about you is truly is a rare gift to recharge.
Vacation, The Go-Gos
We all get the wind knocked out of our sails from time to time. Whether it’s your ex causing you static, not getting a job you wanted, getting passed over for a promotion or your kids just not listening.
I’m a big proponent of team sports for this reason. My oldest son plays hockey. He gets checked into the boards and knocked to the ice, but he pops up every time. One mom calls him Gumby. His coach taught him how to take a hit, but it’s his spirit and his will to succeed that picks him up with a look that says, “What? That’s all you’ve got?” As his mom, I don’t like watching him take that hit, but I love watching him get up.
The lessons our kids learn and hopefully the lesson you’ve learned is that there is always a next time, a next play, a next take. You get a do over. My family does ‘do-overs.’ We do ‘try-agains.’ Because let’s face it, we all make mistakes.
We don’t always do our best. Sometimes we do our best, but it’s just not good enough or outside people try to wreck havoc on our awesomeness. We don’t bring it all on every occasion, but when you believe in someone and believe in yourself, you get back up, you do it over, you try again no matter what is knocking you down. The important thing is you get back up because eventually you’ll knock it out of the park.
Song: Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
“All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me.”
I’m not just celebrating our country’s independence this July, I’m also celebrating mine. My one-year divorce anniversary is just a couple of weeks away.
In the past year I’ve learned several things. The most important lesson I learned is that you are only limited by what you believe.
I bought into limits that were placed on me, told to me. I allowed those limits to take root and believed those things about myself until someone showed me that they weren’t true. That person saw me for me, made me feel cherished and full of life. I began to see myself as a different person. I started believing in myself. I started standing up for myself, standing firm and standing strong. I stopped running. I stopped hiding. I stopped caving.
The world is an amazing playground full of interesting people. Each new day is an opportunity to explore the world, meet someone new, see the world through their eyes, learn something and love with all of your heart.
Independence is bliss. I’m happier than I’ve been in almost two decades. No one tells me what to do, who I am or what I can and can’t be.
The people in my life now are my same close circle of friends who believe in me and who know that life isn’t just about the journey, it’s about the ones you invite to share it with. I’ve added to that outer circle and stopped inviting a few who see life in a different way, who drain instead of fill, who tear down instead of building up, who judge instead of understand.
The divorce process is hell, but emerging from the other side is amazing. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Life isn’t about surviving or the rote day-to-day, it’s about exploring, learning, growing and loving.
Carpe diem to all of those independent women out there!
I truly believe that the majority of people are trying to do the right thing to accomplish what they believe is in the best interest of everyone.
I also know that everyone has a different perspective. A childhood friend and I were talking yesterday about a situation I’m navigating. He related it to lesson he learned from his wife. When a pigeon poops on your car, you don’t get mad at the pigeon. The pigeon is just being a pigeon and going about pigeon business. So, the next time someone poops on you (hopefully just figuratively) remember, they’re just being a pigeon. Most likely, they mean no harm.
It also helps because sometimes I feel sad and exhausted from all of it. That also sucks, because I like to smile and laugh and love making others do the same. But I’ve also learned that it’s a lot healthier for me to sometimes cry, to be sad, to let it out and to be outraged by the unfairness of it all.
After I’m done with that, I just turn on some nice tunes, find my center again, thank God for all that I have, hug my boys, remember that pigeons are just pigeons and I keep on walking and dancing. Eventually these thunderstorms will pass (and with any luck the pigeons will migrate to other areas).
Song: "Keep On Dancin'" Ellie Goulding
Today is Father’s Day and I spent the entire day reconnecting with my dad. We live in different cities and only see each other a few times a year (more now that I’m single).
He’s not a big communicator. He doesn’t like to talk on the phone and my texts have to end with a question that requires a yes or no answer. So, it’s only in those face-to-face moments that we really get to reconnect. It serves as a reminder of how much I love him, miss him and need to spend more time with him.
I had a million things on my to-do list to get done this weekend. Instead, I slowed down and focused on my dad. We lunched and laughed. We went to my son’s hockey thing. Then we drove down to Zilker Botanical Gardens and literally stopped to smell the flowers, to watch a hummingbird and to take a picture of a turtle and a piece of wood because the texture of it caught his eye.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has loved taking pictures. One of my earliest memories is running through grass as tall as I was, trying to catch butterflies while he took pictures of it.
After dinner and a shared pizookie, we came back home and talked of past relationships, crushing heartbreaks and how beautiful the world really is. We laughed and cried (okay, I cried and he remained at that 30,000 foot level of ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes’). My dad’s all-in, never ending love for my mother (who died 34 years ago btw) is why I still believe in true, giddy, can’t-get-you-out-of-my-head love. It’s inspiring, it’s touching and it’s heartbreaking.
Yet he stops to smell the flowers and enjoy the beauty in small things. He looks for the good in people. He’s patient and kind. He’s quiet. I used to spend hours with him in his darkroom while he developed pictures. Using very few words, he showed me how to develop pictures (not that he can’t tell a long (oy-vey) story when he’s passionate about something). He’s pretty methodical and takes things slow. He’s in his own head a lot. He thinks, then speaks.
He also knows how to be silly and sing out loud in public. He loves music and we’ve always listened to the radio and sang together. It doesn’t matter if you’re in or out of tune, just that you love the music and can feel it. He bought me my first album and many after that.
Someone recently asked me what I’m looking for in my next partner. I would have to say I’m looking for someone with more of the same qualities as my dad. My ex was nothing like my dad and that’s a life-lesson for me. My dad will also tell me I don’t need a “next partner” which is one of the many things I love about him.
My family doesn’t do drama. We don’t have family feuds. We live and let live. We’re independent. We love God. We forgive. We turn the other cheek. We love. We laugh. We play silly games. We laugh some more. We sing. We dance. We’re a fairly quiet bunch (unless there’s a football game on, or we need to bust into song). We cook together. We eat together. We’re inclusive. If you don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving, we’ll make room for you at our table. We’re curious. Most of us ask a lot of questions.
Before my dad left, he got on the ground and looked under my car to finish his diagnosis of all of the things I need to fix. He wished he was 20 years younger so he could fix it himself.
I wish he was 20 years younger too, but not so he can fix my car. My family lives a very long time, but it’s never really long enough and I’ll always want my dad to remind me of who I am when I need reminding and for when it’s time to slow down and smell the flowers.
Happy Father’s Day dad, I’m proud to be your daughter.
People ask frequently how I cope. One of the ways I cope is through an incredible support system - my tribe. My solid, bad ass group of girlfriends. They show up, get things done and have my back. It is the most inspiring and heart-warming thing I’ve ever experienced.
Songs about this are as long as my arm. When you’re going through a divorce, you need your tribe. You may instinctively know who these people are in your life. You may even be surprised at who all ends up in your corner.
Whether you initiated the divorce or it was thrust upon you, you will need these people as you navigate this very muddy minefield. These girls will give you a shoulder to cry on, say what a **** he is, drink with you, chill with you, go out with you, make plans for you, plan an entire birthday month of parties, spend the night with you curled up on the couch, pull you out of the house when you feel like binge watching Netflix, open her house up to you and your kids in the middle of the night, laugh hysterically when it takes the two of you an hour and several household tools to open a bottle of wine, and close up like a vault when your name comes up during youth sports or PTA meetings.
These women are your lifeline during this very crappy and sucky process. You need them. You’ve been there for them (or you will be when the time comes) and they know this. They know you. They know your strengths and your weaknesses (e.g. oatmeal raisin cookies that they will stock their homes with and whip up a fresh batch with “I love you” notes). They will not let you fall or fail. They will stand by you. They love you.
Let them love you during this time. It isn’t weakness to talk to them, vent, cry, laugh-whatever you need. Everyone processes this differently. Some let all of their emotions out and cry or vent. I wanted to squash it all and put it in a box to deal with at some other time in the very distant future. Coming out on the other side, I can see that each have their value and place. I’ve learned to cry with my friends and do a bit of venting as well.
Just remember during this process that they are your friends and not your therapist. Yes, they will fulfill that role at times, but be sure you are having fun with them too. Be sure to ask them how they are and have those typical conversations you had before your life was turned on its head.
After the initial shock wore off, I didn’t want to discuss my ex or situation when I hung out with my friends. Yes, I’d give a general update about where things stood, but I had those thoughts in my head enough. I wanted to know about their lives. I wanted to have fun with them like we always had. I didn’t need to relive every bad thing he said or did. Saving full-on gripe sessions for your therapist allows you to focus on your friendship with your friends. No one wants to hear about your issues over and over. You know the friend who always complains? Don’t be that friend.
If you don’t have a group of friends like this, go find some. Seriously. I have a girlfriend in Dallas who joined MeetUp and found women in similar situations. They bonded. They’re still good friends.
You also need to understand that you aren’t a good friend right now. That’s okay, but eventually, you’ll need to move on to the next phase and go back to being there for your girls as well.
I'm single and loving it. Two kids and a busy job. Life is an adventure. Being single is liberating. Life is short, spread joy.