Category Archives: Parenting

Single mom, sexuality, dating, two-year-olds, infidelity, divorce

Avoiding the Vacuum Syndrome

stoptalking

The ‘vacuum’ is a syndrome. And I’m a magnet for it. Just ask my college BFF. She can tell you many stories about ‘girls night out’ that resulted in me getting sucked into this vortex by a man who needs a therapist to help him. It sort of goes like this: all the other girls are having fun at a bar, a party or a venue—giggling, talking with all the men who have flocked over, dancing, etc. At one point, someone in our group wonders, “Where’s Laura?” until they find me sitting at a corner table with the first man who introduced himself to me. I’ll have a panicky look on my face, that he clearly doesn’t notice. I’m desperate to get away, but am stuck in his mid-stream confessional rant. I am a magnet for TMI conversations with random strangers.

Now I know the only way to true intimacy, joy, and a real connection is through vulnerability—but Jiminy cricket, not in the FIRST encounter! Why is it that I’m the girl random men, at bars or events, or first dates, like to confess to? Why can’t I be that girl that fun men drag to the dance floor? Why can’t I be like my college roommate who always ended up meeting men who’d later take her to concerts, dancing, or to see comedians?  I’m the gal men want to take out to eat, or go on walks with and TALK. I mean, I have countless stories like this. I’ll go to a bar with friends to hear the local band and dance and instead, end up hearing about one man’s horrific child abuse; or another man’s endless thoughts of suicide after his divorce; or how another man just can’t get over the fact that his mother died of cancer 5 years earlier. These sort of deep convos happen within minutes of our meeting. Well, not always within minutes, but SOON after. I call it the vacuum syndrome because by the time I realize I’m in one of these situations, I have a hard time just getting up and leaving, as the man is typically mid-sentence about something horrifically sad and I feel bad for this person.

But the thing is, I need to feel bad for myself. I need to have more healthy fun in my life! I need more levity, more spontaneous dancing, more gut-hurting laughter. I need this sort of abusive encounter to stop. Especially now. I’m a single mother. So I take care of my sons 24/7. Even when I’m out, I wonder if the babysitter fed them well. Only during the 4 weeks they are with their Dad, do I get that mental vacation from responsibility and worry. I don’t need another drain to my energy or another person who needs a mother, therapist or savior. That needs to be clear.

My line of work is also very giving. As a therapeutic yoga teacher, I listen to others a lot. I can also feel their dis-ease and we talk about it and practice meditations that will help ease chronic pain, anxiety, fear and even combat cancer. I love what I do, and I love my boys and my life. But when I go out, I want to laugh, be silly and basically not be asked to listen to horrific tales as a bar-stool therapist.

Recently, a few girlfriends convinced me to do online dating. I don’t date the men I meet in my yoga classes, that would be unprofessional. And I don’t go out as much as I’d like, so meeting new people outside of my neighborhood or my circle is a challenge.

I naively thought this vacuum syndrome was over. I mean I live in sunny southern California where the skies are blue, the ocean is near and there are many playboys who want to stay young and play forever. But my recent parlay into online dating was disastrous. I mean, ridiculous. I should send each and every man I met for a date a bill for my services.

First, there was the man recently separated who went on and on and on and on about his ex. I told him to stop. Did he even read my online dating profile that said only to reach out if you want to try to make me laugh and lets not talk about exes? Um, clearly not. I ended up coaching this gentlemen and reminding him that his ex is the mother of his children. That it’s important to try to understand before being understood. To practice taking deep breaths and responding, rather than reacting, and to stop talking smack about her in front of their children. At the end of the date, that I cut short, he gave me a big bear hug and told me he loved me. YUP. I RAN to my car!

Then there was the guy who told me about horrific abuse by his father, toward him and his mother.  We had just ordered our meal. I had given up alcohol for lent, but was DYING for a drink as he spoke. I felt like an addict needing a fix. He just wouldn’t shut up. And he was beautiful. So damn beautiful. I remember just mentally drifting, so his voice sounded like Charlie Brown’s principal, wa wa wa wa wa wa wa. As I looked up at his gorgeous mouth I recall thinking: What a pity. If he could’ve just made me laugh, had a casual evening, I would be kissing those lips later. But NO, this former football player and model kept going on and on about how much his mother went through at the hands of his father, their divorce, being raised by a single mother—and then he started crying. Not just a little tear, FULL FORCE crying. Shoulders shaking the whole bit. “I’m so in awe of what you do. Single mothers are beautiful.” Um, OK. What the hell do I do with that? Again, what a pity. He drank an entire bottle of wine and most of the evening I barely got a sentence in, and when I did, it was to reassure him. He even told me a detailed story about a horrific rape he witnessed. I had to put my hands up and stop him. My stomach was turning. By the time we said goodbye, I had NO desire to kiss that man. No attraction to this gorgeous person. I drove home calculating the babysitter costs and feeling super drained and resentful.

Didn’t these men see my profile? In the headline, it clearly stated “Life can be too serious these days. Reach out if you can make me laugh or have a silly evening.”

There were a few other dates that were nearly as bad. So, the online profile is now down. The only reason I did this experiment was to get over someone, but instead, I ended up missing him even more. I miss silly energy. I miss laughing. I miss having someone need me as a woman, and not as a mother or a therapist. Single moms and yoga teachers give and give and give. I want someone to lift me up and not take care of me necessarily, but to add some lightness to my highly responsible world. Just because I’ve lived through a lot, doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to talk about it all the time, or marinate in deep heavy topics. There is a time and place for everything. These men need to contact a therapist, a counselor, a support group or come to one of my yin restorative yoga classes. But going out on a Saturday night, for me, needs to be light and fun.

For now, I’ll either stay in and binge on netflix comedies, or go to a friend’s hip hop dance class, or take paddle boarding lessons to hopefully play with some dolphins. If I meet someone doing things that make me smile, great. But I’m not going out of my way, paying for a sitter, to just get sucked into the vacuum any more!

Here’s to Healthy Love & LIGHT & SILLINESS this week. 🙂

L. XO

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How Does IT Feel?

A few weeks ago a friend explained to me why she no longer modeled. She simply said: “I just don’t feel good when I do it.”

It was such a simple statement, yet  has stayed with me. How often do any of us ask ourselves how we feel about what we do, until we are bursting with negative feelings? Even then, I bet half of my female friends reading this typically just push aside the bad feelings due to obligation or fear. We stay in dead-end jobs with negative energy or abusive bosses, for instance, because we need the pay check and are afraid there won’t be something else out there. I get it. Or, we sometimes put up with abusive and disrespectful partners because we don’t want to be alone, or be that ‘single mom’ that we see rushing around and struggling financially.

 

Fear and anxiety, obligation and childhood programming can really get in the way of just knowing how we feel and then doing something to move away from a negative experience and towards a more positive one. What we focus on expands. It’s taken me a long time to trust the Universe enough to move towards what feels good. Maybe I didn’t think I deserved to feel good or to be treated with respect or to be nurtured? Maybe I just didn’t think I was allowed to ‘do what feels good’ for a living? It takes time to shift out of fear and into awareness—and even more time to shift into action. Yoga and meditation is what has helped me the most. I’ve written about that a lot. Here’s one story about the process of shedding trauma that leaves a watermark of crippling fear. ( The Science Behind Sanskara )

After shedding some fear and embracing who I am and what I have been through, I’ve been able to shift into allowing myself to ‘feel good’ and not just ‘do good’ & ‘be good’ & please everyone else. It’s hard to make this shift, especially as a southern woman and a mother. I think many of us women are programmed to be good moms, good wives, good friends and daughters and to serve, serve, serve to the point that we no longer even know what feels good because we are so busy helping others. Balance is key. Knowing I, and you, are worthy, allows us to seek that balance. Yoga has helped to release super heavy memories and scars and to lighten up. I’m still in that process of recognizing what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. So here is a list of some of what I’ve been processing and what the Universe is sending me through ‘teachers.’ The Italics are how I am responding or not responding, yet shifting mentally.  I share to be of service.

Someone being disrespectful. I lean away. No need to even explain myself or engage. I Float toward those who UPLIFT & SUPPORT.

When someone ignores me or is neglectful. I no longer try to reach out & am not available the second they are demanding & ‘need me.’.

When someone makes fun of what really matters to me. Next. Don’t even engage. 

When someone lies to me. No time for more of that in my life. That phase is OVER.

When someone is abusing substances & is no longer a safe, reliable or loving friend. I don’t own their issue and I don’t need to fix them or even be there for them. 

When someone is pushy and tries to force me to do something that clearly benefits them, that I don’t want to do. Sorry, it’s just not for me.

When someone is being manipulative and trying to make me feel sorry for them so I will continue to ‘help’ them, even though they know I’m strapped for time as a full time single mother who is working:  Instead of being resentful I just mentally drop this person and explain to them:  “I hear you, but I’m really swamped right now. “

When what someone says isn’t backed up by their actions—like a man who says he loves me & is my boyfriend, and then disappears for weeks at a time, not even texting or responding to a text; or the friend or family member who says they are always there for me, but never has time to chat or call me back when I finally muster up the courage to call—Your actions matter. I send you all love and wish you well, but this doesn’t feel good. I deserve to be treated with kindness and with respect. I love you. I know you’re wounded. I see your closed heart. I feel your fear. But these things I do not own. You own these. I’ve worked through my own. I wish things were different, but they aren’t. Good bye. Be well. I now float towards what feels good. 

When someone doesn’t want to listen to me. Ever: I stop trying. I recognize that this is what I grew up with. This is what I felt in my marriage. This is a pattern that must stop by letting go. If I can always find time to listen & ‘try to understand before being understood,’ the right friends, lovers, family,  will emerge who can find time to do the same. The Universe responds when I visualize supportive, nurturing people flowing in and stop expecting those to  give, who just can’t.

When someone is judgmental and makes assumptions about me and pushes their ‘religion’ or assumes I ‘do’ or ‘believe’ something harmful: My GOD is LOVE. I love you enough to respect your choices, please respect mine. If this doesn’t work, I drift away with love for this learning experience as I must be authentically and unapologetically myself.

 

If you liked this post, check out these!
Manifesting B A L A N C E = More Play

YOU are the PATH: Loving from the Inside OUT

Struggling to Surrender to What IS

Still Sleep-Training??

A friend saw this video and sent it to me today. It was a wake-up call as life isn’t THAT much better since being given a sleep therapist. Four and a half years ago I was on the Dr. Drew‘s Life Changer’s show because a producer read this blog and saw that I was struggling to get my baby to sleep on his own. Struggling was an understatement. Maybe you can relate?? Dr. Drew hired a sleep consultant and gave me this gift. She did help, temporarily. My son is strong willed and screamed and screamed and kept my older son up. It did die down, but was SO hard. A few years ago I hired a nutritionist to help us as well, as she thought it was tummy upset from gluten allergies. Well, that helped a little, but not a lot, if I’m honest. When I think back to all the years when my son was always yelling and screaming and overcome with dramatic fits over bedtime…no wonder I turned to yoga! lol.

 

I’m sure it was my fault for giving in before the 3 week mark of letting his scream it out. I think single parents often over-compensate and snuggle a bit more with their kiddos or do the family bed thing for a lot longer than necessary just due to guilt, being over-tired, or just the need to get in more closeness if working too much away from the home. My James, now 8, still races down to my bedroom some nights, but it’s not a daily gig. Thank God for little miracles! He still insists that I snuggle in his bed (which I don’t mind!), read a book and then listen to soft music with him. We sometimes do deep breathing and always say our ‘gratefuls’. We have a routine. And I’ve put in star shows, twinkle lights, a range of soothing spa-like music and it’s still hit or miss as to whether he’ll be asleep by 9 p.m. on school nights. Sometimes it’s 10 p.m.after he’s gotten out and in bed over and over.

Seriously?

So, I think my friend sent me this video to remind me to toughen up. It’s time for life to get more organized and allow me more me time. My little guy has a safe and cozy room and a mom and big brother who love him. The energy is positive and loving in our house…so basically, he’s milking it! At 8 years of age, shouldn’t he be in bed by 8 p.m. and asleep lights out by 8:30 p.m. sharp every night? Any ideas on motivation? I’ve done star sheets, Taekwondo awards, allowances…what works for you? Seriously, I’d love to know, as this single mom needs her little guy in bed, lights out by 8:30 every night so I can be more productive and maybe chill a little in the evenings. 🙂

I look forward to your thoughts!! And, thanks for chiming in.

L. xo

Navigating Joy & Sorrow in the Labyrinth

maninmaze

Last night I had a gold thread dream. It’s this lucid dream that sometimes happens with me. I let it. I’m aware, yet the gold thread keeps creating a scene for me. I am not in control and I can ask questions as it keeps moving, sending me a message. Bare with me. I’m not on drugs or was drunk! 🙂  So, this enormous maze or labyrinth was being formed. As it was being formed, it was like I was in it.  Then we rose high above it, reminding me of the labyrinths I saw in Peru, except this one was much larger. I could see the formation that was intricate. I could also see a bus or large image enter it. This image just kept moving and trying to navigate its way through. We were watching, like spirit guides, hoping for the best.

The night before I had dreamed of a friend who just stopped, he decided to check out. Literally, a cash register drawer opened and closed shut as he faded away. He was going to talk with me, then walked away, like walking away from life. I woke up at 4 a.m. frightened for him.

In the labyrinth dream last night, I realized that this symbol was for all of us. It is the quintessential image for life. How we all must navigate our way through dark times to the light and how these times will continue to fluctuate. It’s our ability to keep going, to keep taking baby steps forward—even when we are lost or alone or without any encouragement or faith—that matters in the end. Who musters up the courage to keep going? Who asks for help or reaches out? Who sinks into despair or hides under a mask of false pretenses in fear of letting others know they are struggling too, until their ‘hidden’ struggles manifests in addiction or illness or some other outlet to fill the gaping hole? I know, I’ve been there.

As the gold thread dream started to move, I began to wonder if the person, or persons, in the maze or intricate labyrinth would get stuck? Like Harry Potter’s maze, once inside the high dark hedgerows, without the perspective above to see how it would end, would the person just sink in despair? Taking baby steps forward with blind faith and no real indication that I’m on the right path, is hard for me. Mostly on weekends, after a long work week and without breaks from kiddos, I can sink a bit. Even with the tools that I’ve found, such as mediation and yoga, just the months on with the kiddos and long work demands can leave me drained and a bit blue. Loneliness can sink in on weekends too, even when I’m enjoying hanging with the kids. I admit that I miss the husband best friend thing, of hanging out after the boys go to bed. I don’t miss the ex, just the feeling of having that best friend to chat with. But if I focus on what I don’t have, I tend to lose grip of what I DO have. And I know that. That’s when I have to be ever mindful to just rise out of my little maze of looping thoughts to garner perspective. To realize that my situation won’t last forever. That I’ll find the me-time again, that I’ll find the time to finish my book, that I’m just in a hectic full-time solo parenting and working period in my life with little time for a social life. But it won’t last forever. And I do have beautiful yogis and friends at work who I adore. I am lucky that where I work and what I do is so enjoyable and fills me with purpose. So I mentally need to take a break through 10 to 15 minutes of mediation daily in order to rise up above the dark corridors of my daily looping thoughts or dark lonely moments, to garner perspective.

harrys-maze

Once I have perspective, I can then re-engage and start taking those baby-steps to navigate my way through those pathways again. The lucid dream, like the native indian myth of the hopi man in the maze, was a reminder to me that life is meant to be a challenge. All lives have turbulence. Most people experience sorrow, loss, disappointment, frustrations, and sometimes senseless violence. It’s hard to just keep going in dark times. Isn’t it easier to just sink and say ‘I give up,” get cynical and start thinking ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘why bother?’ But that’s exactly what I have to fight against and picture a positive end result, like a professional athlete visualizes the win. Maybe my end result is just big picture items, like more joy, more love, more time to write, more time to travel…so I just keep going, visualizing that they all start flowing in and getting on my path. And when I’m back in that faithful zone, synchronicity begins: I meet that new friend who is on the same path as me, or that creative opportunity opens up, or that person who supports my vision gives me support that lifts my mood for weeks. It happens and is happening. I remind myself of these amazing synchronicities when I feel blue.

Keep the faith people. (I say this to myself too.) And to my friend, you know who you are, what did Khalil Gibran say? “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I’m here for you.

L. x

Seven Year Anniversary

I received this notice today that seven years ago I registered this blog on WordPress. SEVEN years. Wow. How much have I learned since that day? How much more do I still have to learn, might be the better question, lol! Seven years ago, January 2010. Wow, what a mess. I was the epitome of the southern mantra: ‘fake it till you make it.’ I was sleep-walking through life with an often-sick baby and an 8 year old solo. My husband and I separated October of 2009, but honestly, he had been flying back and forth to Europe since our baby was 5 months old and gone 2 weeks a month anyway. He had been gone long before his physical, permanent presence. I was just catching up to that fact. And, I was trying as hard as I could to not fall apart or fall into despair and bitterness. I found out in October of 2009 he had a double life and a girlfriend in Europe who had been traveling with him to exotic locales across the globe while I was at home with a colicky baby and another son to raise. Enter months of therapy and going back and forth between trying to stay married and rediscovering he still had this girlfriend when he was away—I landed smack into the realization that I was a door mat and just kept clicking a rewind button that propelled me into yet another betrayal heartbreak moment. After three of those events that landed me at 90 pounds and barely functional, our therapist demanded that my ex finally stop swinging between two women and ‘killing’ me. So he left Dec. 26, 2009, after a pretend family Christmas with a lot of phone calls from the girlfriend. Because I’ve been a journalist since I was 18, and writing has always helped me find clarity, I started this blog. But I didn’t actually post a public post until much later. My first post was when my youngest was 2, so I had been a FT single mom for over a year with maybe three weeks off. The post wasn’t very personal, as perhaps I was afraid to BE personal during the middle of a divorce, but it was accurate. It was about mental fatigue and inspired by a New York Times article. I re-read it today and it’s still very current for me. Here it is: BrainDrain.

Seven years later, I still have many moments of brain drain. I needed to re-read the advice list in this old post, as I still do not follow all of it. Brain drain is very real for single parents, as it stems from making too many decisions. Do any of you feel it? I notice that being the sole care-taker and the sole-decision maker for two humans without a break, is exhausting. EVEN when I teach yoga and do yoga. EVEN when I get a good night’s sleep. Things slip. EVEN when I input as many items into my calendar as possible, emergencies pop up and I’m the only one to handle them. (sickness, someone forgetting their lunch, a game getting cancelled, so I have to leave work early to pick up…)

And don’t get me started on dating. The woman who has her kids full time is treated very differently by men. EVEN by the men who fall in love. Yes, even them. They run away or try to completely control me and change me or my parenting style.  (Example of disrespecting family time with the boys, by calling during dinner, or before bedtime and trying to get me to leave them home alone, yet again, to come over at the last minute.) Some are just not for me, they party too much, drink too much and are not good for my boys, so I don’t go out with them. And some don’t want the ‘responsibility’ that dating someone like me seems to imply, so they try to get me open to booty calls, friends with benefits kind of deal so there’s no obligation or need to truly try to connect. I walk away.  Or they don’t want to compete for my limited amount of time, as the ones I’ve known want me, and only me, and nothing to do with the children. It’s exhausting. I’ve finally stopped trying. I’ve stopped dating altogether. I’m focussed on my yoga, writing my next book and my boys. My boys have only met one man in seven years and that was after we were very serious. My boys come first. They are not a liability. They are the best people I know and I adore them. They have probably saved me from disastrous men. Anyone who would be a bad influence on them, is a no bueno for me. So, dating is easier and harder post divorce. It’s easier because the boys come first and I can quickly see who isn’t a good fit. It gets harder because I just don’t have the time or resources to hire sitters and go out on many blind dates. I’m opting out for now. And that’s okay.

So when a friend, who has only been separated one year, asked me this question a few weeks ago: “When does it get easier?” I didn’t know how to respond. Here’s my attempt:

It gets easier and it gets harder.

It gets easier when the love you had for your ex mutates into a distant brotherly kind of love created out of forgiveness and a willingness to move forward with friendship and gratitude for what is working in whatever type of co-parenting role that evolves.

It gets easier when you start to get to know yourself better and start to explore exactly what interests you. (This is especially true for those givers who try and try to be what their partner wants for years.) So now I unapologetically follow my heart: my yoga, meditation classes, my writing, my photography, my love for music and traveling the way I want to with no need to justify why I’m just not the party girl who loves Vegas, you know? I’m the gal who went to Peru & Spain & Italy & Prague solo. I hiked. I went to ballets, I went to museums, I toured, I lived on a rooftop for a week. I camped. I wrote. I did yoga. That’s more my speed.

It gets easier when you learn to respect yourself and your needs. But this is where it can get harder for the full-time, sole custody parents too. Once you realize your needs, your wants, trying to find acceptance in not getting them met on a weekly basis, is a challenge. With only 4 weeks off a year, every weekend I can fall into a pity-party if I don’t do something for myself. So, I find strategies to give back to me, like hiring a sitter so I can veg and write or go for a run, or get a drink with a friend…I also plan vacations for the few weeks off I get each year. Even if I decide to take them solo, I always meet amazing people on tours and I’m blessed to do exactly what it is I want to do and explore on holiday.

It gets easier when you begin to trust your inner voice, your inner guide, your abilities. I now know that I can juggle parenting, finances, dinners & my work & vacation planning & all that life throws at me while raising two kiddos solo. It’s not easy, but when married, I doubted just about all of my abilities. Now I have more confidence.

It’s gets easier because I’m too busy to engage in drama. I just don’t have time or interest in anything that doesn’t lift another person up. It’s that simple. Anyone who is rude to a waiter, yells at or about another human being, lies, cheats, constantly points out the negative in others, gets hysterical and rants, abuses substances,  etc.  is just not what I want to engage into my life. Of course, drama happens, even within our closest circles, so I try to be kind to myself when it happens, detach, pause, reflect first before responding and then connect to Source for guidance in what I need.

It gets easier because I now value my time more and have learned to set boundaries. Givers attract takers. It’s a universal law. So all the requests of my time, when I’m already drained, are no longer a struggle for me. I only have so much to give. If I don’t give to myself, I’m not valuing myself. I no longer feel the need to give or be there for everyone who calls hysterically or ‘needs’ me instantly. I have to take care of myself, and I still don’t always do it. I’m a work in progress. I work too hard. I do too much. I don’t always remember to eat or take my vitamins, for instance. I have no business trying to help everyone else if the oxygen mask isn’t on me first. So, I’ve learned a lot about how I used to be too giving. Too forgiving. Too easily swayed to volunteer or give more of my time than was good for my health. I’m trying to strike a balance now.

So I’ll end with this final thought for my friend venturing into divorce. Having the rug pulled out from under you with a sudden separation or betrayal may land you on your ass, that’s for sure, but it’s a position with nothing left to lose. You can only look up from there, right? Why not write that novel? Why bother with someone negative or controlling? Why not hike Machu Picchu? It’s also a spot where it becomes easier to let go of expectations and to challenge yourself to become a better you: more mindful, more present, more patient, more joyful, more playful, ever-evolving.  And that’s something to celebrate.

As always, thanks for reading my meandering prose.

With gratitude,

Laura

 

Lessons from a Frustrating Day

NLeditedheart

photo by @rickylesser

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

God is indifferent, but not uncaring.

The dolphins still play, the sun still sets, the stars still shine, even if I can not see them.

There are trails to hike, trees to climb, clouds to dream under, even if I can not find the time.

When someone steals from me, God is still Good.

If fires rage, God did not cause them.

If he never calls again, God is not to blame. And I am still enough.

We are all in this together. The one who steals from me, the one who abandons me, and the ones who lift my spirits. We are all God’s children. We are all each others teachers.

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

There is much to learn. How did I respond when I didn’t get my way? How did I shake or tremble or shut down by another’s hurtful behavior or frightening choices? Did I stay graceful when speaking my truth?  Can I find gratitude or a lesson within what feels like a never-ending chaos of activity and whirlwind of needs to be met? Did I pause at the end of the day and reflect with kindness? Can I still embrace forgiveness? Can you?

I have much to learn. I am grateful to be able to keep going. It is a miracle I can fall asleep knowing that no matter what happens to me, or to you, God is still Good. Love is still alive. I detach and focus on Love.

Giving to Yourself this Holiday Season

gift2me

I recently read a very cool blog post about Buddhism and giving without any intention of receiving. It was written by a man. A very beautiful soul. And I love his blog: The Accidental Anarchist.

With all that said, it is still abundantly clear that this post was not written for me—or any other American moms with co-dependent tendencies or who are over-giving, people-pleasers. I am laughing right now at how I worded that! See, I’ve been working for about 6 years, maybe more, on my issue with giving till it hurts and people pleasing. I’ve been in a support group about it. I’m a yogi who, in every class I teach, reminds her students to balance their chi: learn to give AND receive. Receiving tells the Universe that you are worth it and that you value yourself and your time. When you allow others to give to you (and that can mean just giving friendship or compassion, not necessarily monetarily) it says that you believe you deserve to receive, that which you also give. Otherwise, when you give and give and never receive, you are telling the Universe that you are not worthy, not entitled to love, friendship, compassion, and trust me, that vibration will be heard loud and clear. You know the person who always throws the birthday parties, or who always gives of her time in a myriad of ways, but THE MINUTE someone asks if they can do something for her in return, she insists NO NEED, DON’T BOTHER. IT’S FINE!, REALLY, I WAS HAPPY TO DO IT! That was me. And I’m now a recovering over-giver. ha ha

Ok, some of you who are reading this may think, well, that’s a  bit harsh in the holiday season. Not at all. It’s in the holiday season—when everyone and every agency and every school is demanding of your time, your money and your volunteering—that you are tested and are given the opportunity to discover whether you are an over-giver, and whether you’re ready to slow down and be kind to yourself. That does not mean you don’t give charitably. I’ve already donated to causes, adopted a family and volunteered at one school this season, and yet, I’m viewed by those I did find the courage to say no to, as not giving enough. It’s time to stop the pressure to go, go, go  and to stop taking advantage of the givers. That may never happen in our frenetic American society. But you and I DO have the power to slow down. It comes with one word: NO. A No to a taxing demand, is a YES to YOU and your family. Trust me.

So, here’s how to identify if you are an over-giver.

These are the two main types of over-giving that drains your chi, your life force, and creates emotional instability, resentment and health problems:

  1. Co-dependent giving:
    * When giving to others never ceases, as people keep asking for more. You are literally attracting more and more takers because that is the energy you are putting out: Others needs are more important than your own.
    * When giving to one individual becomes toxic as they make it clear they might become destitute without your help. They use guilt and manipulation to take advantage of your giving heart. Yet that person’s problems or needs become a burden on you, your family, or thwart you from meeting your own goals or taking care of yourself or your family.
    * You are the go-to person in a crisis. You never lack for friends, yet you don’t confide in many of them. Instead, you are their ear, their rock, their support. For instance, do you always pick up the phone every time a friend is in need, even if you are on a work deadline or it means you won’t be able to run crucial errands or take a desperately-needed exercise class? If this is a one-time thing, no biggie. If it’s a daily or weekly experience, you are stuck in the rut of over-giving due to an insecurity of being needed and, therefore,  are creating distractions to thwart you from following your dreams, achieving good health, or leading a balanced life.
  2. People-pleasing giving:
    *Do you always say yes to every request to volunteer or to help out, then are later filled with resentment when you are exhausted and on the edge of a meltdown?
    *Do you find yourself throwing the biggest parties or fundraisers, yet rushing around filled with anxiety about what others will think, so much so, that you yell at your children while you are putting together the perfect evening to raise money for a school-project?
    *Do you find it nearly impossible to speak your truth or say no for fear of what others will think about you or say about you? And when you do finally find the courage to say no to something or to back out of something or a project that is taxing you, do you feel obligated to give a million explanations to smooth things over?
    *Is your favorite line: “Oh, whatever you want to do is fine.”? In your attempt to be easy going, to be liked, and to ‘go with the flow,’ do you end up always going to the type of movies you hate, or going to restaurants you don’t like just to not make waves?

If you feel like I’m being harsh, just know that this tough love article is written as a reminder to myself. 🙂  To some extent, I was the woman above. And to this day, I still find it hard to say no to someone, or to back out of a volunteer gig or an activity without feeling insane amounts of guilt and without giving a million excuses. (One of my favorite books on this topic is Women Who Love Too Much, check it out!)

For instance, this past Tuesday I had been running since 6 a.m. After getting lunches done and getting kids settled for school, I worked at a yoga studio from 8:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. Then I raced to pick up my youngest from his school, then dropped him at his chess club, then raced to my older son’s soccer game. I missed the first half, sadly. It ran over, so I was late to pick up my younger son from chess, but thankfully, one of the moms stayed with him. Then we raced home, only to recall my older son had a therapy appointment he almost missed, so we raced back out. As I dropped my older, my youngest reminded me that it was also Cub Scouts night and that I was to stay for an additional hour to plan the mistletoe fundraiser and the Christmas party. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and just said “Nope, not doing it.” I was calm, but just decided enough was enough. My youngest said that his friend’s parents would be mad if we quit the Scouts again. (this had happened last year and they begged me to try again as it ‘is so good for teaching morals to young kids.’ I took a deep breath and told him that we just can’t make everyone happy. I need peace. I need stillness. My house was a wreck. There were dishes in the sink, laundry piled high and I really wanted to cook a healthy meal and help with homework and get my youngest to bed on time. I needed to meditate. I needed to edit a manuscript. I needed at least an hour to myself. I had no desire to be in the Scouts den until 8 p.m. and then race home exhausted, eat pizza and crash into bed late, feeling resentful. If the Scout leader and his wife get angry, so be it. I’m exhausted.

As we sat at the table that night my youngest looked up at me and said, “I accept your apology mom. It’s ok. You can’t do everything.” What a sweetie. He really loves the Scouts. He really wants to do camp outs. But mommy really needs some sanity, some quiet, some balance. I can’t be racing about constantly. I had to fight every urge in body not to write a super apologetic note to the scout leader. I don’t need to. It’s just not the right time for our family. Nothing more is needed to be said. What I have learned is that giving a ton of explanations to takers is like giving a bone to a dog. They will chew and chew on it, giving you all the reasons why you can still do what is causing you anxiety or draining you. Why? Because it serves their needs.

Earlier this year I bowed out of an additional yoga training I was in. I so wanted to do it. But it required three days of nearly 6 hour sessions, 2 – 3 classes to take each week, reports, etc. This came at a time when some drama hit my family that was super stressful. That, on top of my increasing editing work load and all the other classes I teach. Plus, my older son’s soccer schedule ballooned into daily practices and 3 – 4 games a week. I was drowning and exhausted and becoming drained.

Will my friend who led the training ever understand? Probably not. But that’s not the point. My health and emotional well-being was taking a toll.

So, it’s been a long road to learning this hard lesson. I can’t do everything right now. I must give to myself. Even if I don’t give to myself at the same level of giving to others (what full-time single mom ever does?!) at least my needs, my health, my life goals, are on my to-do list. Just knowing my needs deserve to be on the list, is half the battle.

My challenge to you, dear friends, is to put yourself on your to-do list this holiday. What can you do for yourself? How can you fill your heart so that you feel abundant and joyful and grateful? When we are depleted, it’s hard to give with open arms joyfully.

Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have the funds to spring for a massage or a mani-pedi. That’s ok. Take a walk. Ask a friend to watch the kiddos and go for an exercise class or to a movie or write in a journal at a coffee shop while sipping foamy hot chocolate. Find something that feels luxurious and just allow yourself to have that. A bubble bath while reading. Take one hour off and give to yourself. Or even better, say no to one request from a taker, even if that means you lose that friendship. You are making space for yourself and for more compassionate and thoughtful people to come into your life.

Happy Holidays!

With love & light ~

Laura xo

Becoming Gracefully Strong

beachballet

I dare you to find an athlete who is stronger than a a petite graceful ballet dancer. I remember working with football players when I danced and one linebacker growling at me: “This is HAAARD!” as he tried to leap. Yes, it is hard. Ballet dancers, especially, know that grace and strength come from hard work on oneself. The strongest person in the room is not always the biggest person—it is the one who can endure the most, who can continue to try to dance, even when in pain. Here are some more thoughts about strength:

Strength is never loud. It isn’t controlling. It isn’t angry. Or forceful. Or threatening. A strong person doesn’t hurt another for his own gain. Words of strength never belittle, or bully, or make fun of another. A truly strong person doesn’t boast, hold grudges, manipulate, or try to get even.

A strong person has already surrendered, accepted her situation and her role in it completely, and has forgiven her teachers—especially the cruel and harshest ones. This must happen before she can then begin the process of becoming strong. For me, it’s a process that will likely continue to unfold for the rest of my life. Today I saw a picture of myself from six years ago and it shocked me. I must have been 85 to 90 lbs, although I was trying to hide it wearing a baggy skirt and boots. Holding my nearly 2 year old in my arms, I was faking a smile. All the emotions flooded back in. I was broken hearted, tired, scared, worried, fearful. I had been taking care of two boys alone for nearly 16 months and I was with friends and trying to pretend that everything was OK. I was in a nasty divorce with an ex living abroad with his girlfriend. My mother was slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Some friends and a few in my and my ex’s family  were telling me things like I wasn’t capable and should give up. They reminded me that it was too hard; that I’d fall apart; that I would fail; that no one would want me with kids full time; that it wasn’t financially feasible to pursue a career in my field AND take care of them solo; that LA was too expensive; maybe I should take my ex back, etc. etc.  The fear and anxiety and anger and victimhood and martyrdom swirled around inside me like a raging storm. Until one day, while exhausted on the yoga mat in savasana (meditation), it all finally stopped. I could hear a little whisper that said “ENOUGH.”

This rock bottom place allowed me to sit still, acknowledge the people-pleasing storm I had allowed myself to create, and to realize that it was time to walk away from the drama. As the fog lifted, I began to listen more to that inner voice and to take baby steps into finding my strength and my core vision. If you are finding yourself knocked down by a sudden turn in life or are just unsure of your path, these steps may help. I’m sharing them with the humble intention that I may be of service. Steps to Find Your Strength:

  1. Listen to you inner voice. This requires finding stillness. In the beginning, it required power yoga, running and biking with tunes. I had to exhaust my body before I could get out of my head, lay in stillness and meditate. Find what works for you. A walk in the woods or on the beach alone. Lighting a candle and sitting in the dark. Taking a bath and closing your eyes while taking deep breaths. Just listen without judgement and allow whatever needs to surface, to surface. Maybe that requires journaling. But make this an alone exercise. No chatting with friends who may try to sway you.
  2. Acknowledge. Be honest and own up to your role in your situation. Do this without being too hard on yourself. But it’s important to not always be pointing fingers at others and playing the victim. What role did you play? For me, I was co-dependent and other’s happiness was more important than my own. Another’s vision for my life, was more important than my own. What role did you play in your current circumstance?
  3. Accept. Accept your life, your circumstances, your family members, your loved one, right now, for exactly what it is and who they are. Try to change nothing about circumstances or people. Do this without bitterness, without blame, without shame, without judgement. It’s hard. But just try it.
  4. Surrender. Surrender your life to a higher power. If you are not religious or spiritual just surrender to all that is. This is your way of saying, ‘I surrender to something more powerful than myself to help me, to guide me, to let me know that I am not alone.’ For me, it felt powerless at first. But once I surrendered, and asked my angels for guidance, I started to see where I did have power, over finding my own way, finding my own voice, following my heart, finding my courage. … Surender first, you’ll love what then comes.
  5. Dream. Start to dream. Make vision boards. Just go through magazine pics and cut out what you like. If you’ve been controlled for a long time,  it may be hard to even know what you like. This is fun. What designs, what colors, what music, quotes, etc. do you like? What do YOU WANT? It’s a step towards saying you are WORTHY and DESERVING. Make lists of dream jobs, without attaching to them and see if they are all in a creative field or analytical or health-oriented field. Focus solely on what you like, what you’d love to explore: Italy, Greece, India? Put those pics on your board without a thought about finances. This is dream time. Have fun. Play your favorite music while you do it.
  6. Trust. Trust the Universe, God, a Higher Power to take care of you. Say affirmations every morning in the mirror: I trust the process of my life. I trust that my life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. I have faith that I will always be taken care of. I trust my voice, my vision, my heart. I am capable and I trust I am led and guided every day. I am safe. I am loved. I am abundant. I trust that only those people who want the highest good for me will float into my life. I trust myself. I trust the Universe. I trust, therefore I will not try to force anything, opportunity or person. Those people and opportunities meant to be in my life will float in with ease and grace.
  7. Take Baby steps. This is where I mainly live right now. (I did a cha-cha with Trust for years, ha ha! And I know I still have more dances with trust in my future!)  Just know this: Strength isn’t loud or forceful. It doesn’t require perfection either. It just builds by taking baby steps in the direction of your heart. It requires courage. So, for me, it meant writing another chapter, then another, until my novel was finished. It meant that I had to have thick skin for rejection and edits and to then send my novel out to more editors and publishers.
    It also required taking multiple yoga trainings, trusting my voice, finding confidence, and teaching class after class. Both writing and teaching yoga are equally frightening to me. But how wonderful is it that six years ago I whispered to myself that someday I’d like my career to involve my writing and teaching yoga. I love the creative and cerebral and spiritual aspects of each. One allows me to go inward and have the alone time I crave and need. The other provides the community and family and social outlet that I also need to thrive. As a single mom without much support or family or free-time, it’s critical that I take care of my health and not become a hermit by being alone too much. It’s the Yin and Yang of my existence. I love my life so much. I’m still taking baby steps. Another book to write. Yoga classes in bigger studios to tackle. Maybe a yoga retreat? Maybe more ways to explore my trust issues with loved ones…It’s never ending. Where can you take baby-steps today? Do you want to apply for a new job? Want to explore going back to school? Want to join a MeetUp group to go hiking or attend music or art shows? Take a few baby steps and see what emerges.

    With LOVE & LIGHT,

    Laura

 

 

How NOT to be both Mom & Dad

footprints

How many of you  have heard such sentiments as: “Poor thing. You have to be both mom & dad to your children. It’s tough. Your kids need a male influence.” Or something along these lines that make you feel as if you, alone, can not possibly raise children successfully. It’s scary isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you feel like you aren’t enough? Like you aren’t capable? Like you are insufficient and can never be sufficient until you find that MAN. But that kind of thinking can render a whole lot of hurt if you start to desperately just let any MAN into your children’s lives.

Listen to me clearly: YOU ARE ENOUGH. And when you find the right man to make YOU happy and who will be a good influence on your children, then you can let that person into your wonderful family. But for right now, protect that family and know that your parenting style can, and will, be enough to raise successful humans.

Yes, it’s true that the single parent with sole custody has the daunting responsibility of being the enforcer of discipline, as well as the care-taker, the champion, the soother, the cook, the maid, the tutor, the driver, the cheerleader…their everything.

But why make it Mom AND Dad? I find that offensive. I know plenty of wonderful dads who are just as compassionate and patient as any mom I know. So I’ve come realize that I just need to embrace a new version of discipline. I am not both Mom and Dad to my boys. I am the sole parent of my children and I have to find a way to discipline that is true to myself, commands respect, yet is still feminine and caring and mothering. It’s possible.

So to be clear, my children do have a father. He lives in Europe and is really much like a cool uncle. He sees them 4 weeks a year and it’s always on vacation. So no schooling, no carpooling, homework, discipline, soccer games, back to school nights, sick days, etc. But, and lets be super clear, I’m very grateful for his support.

I’m lucky. I know many single moms whose husbands left and never looked back and never sent one child support payment. That is just incomprehensible to me.

So, I’m lucky to have some financial support. Yet I still do all the parenting and I’m learning that I’m just not great at discipline. It’s not my strong suit. So I need to ask for help. And I’m doing that. As well as stepping into my own shoes.

I had a remarkable dream a few weeks ago. It’s not entirely strange for me to have lucid dreams with deceased parents or grandparents of my friends. I guess I’m one of those receptors. My mother, who passed in May, as well as my former father-in-law, has come into many of my dreams lately, too. So, when a good friend’s father, who passed recently, came into one of my dreams, it didn’t seem all that strange. He was pointing at his son’s enormous shoes. I knew who it was because they were skate shoes with green and red and black and enormous. My friend is very tall. He then pointed at the sun and then at the beach. I saw a child trying to step into the footprints already marked on the sand. A small foot trying to fit into big prints, stretching legs as far as possible to make it happen. He then smiled at me and shook his head. (In my dream.) The waves washed away the prints, showing the child that he shouldn’t be following illusions.  I then saw my friend growing up and instead of trying to fit into his father’s prints, he was starting to embark on his own path, with no prints before him, trusting his own vision, his own thoughts, his worth. There were no prints in front of him to follow, he was making his own prints, fresh, unexplored, unique, not trying to be anyone else, or embark on another person’s journey, or meet anyone else’s expectations. He was making his own way. Before I woke up I heard, ironically, in my friend’s voice, not his dad’s: “Step into your own shoes.”

WOW.

So Powerful.

I can’t say exactly what this will mean for my dear friend. But for me, it’s about my children and how I parent them. I can’t be an enforcer like a typical dad, or their dad, who could be tough in a good way. There are no bedtime quarrels with their dad, for instance. Their dad would never have to sacrifice me time, like I tend to do… But I do need find a way to garner balance in the household. It’s no longer OK for me to go to bed each night at 10:30 p.m. because my youngest keeps being ‘frightened.’ And, of course, when he finally goes to bed, I still have to clean up and do other chores. It’s exhausting.

And, it’s no longer OK that every morning my youngest has temper tantrums about going to school, potentially making me late for a new job. It’s also not OK that my youngest screams about brushing his teeth or going to soccer practice or games. My life has a lot of drama due to my youngest. But guess what? My youngest never had a father. His dad was traveling by the time he was 3 months old and left by the time he was 8 months old…He never had that fear of ‘what will dad say or do when he finds out?’ like a lot of children have. So, I have to figure out a way to garner balance without giving up my own personality which isn’t one to instill fear.

OH, but how I need to have peace in my household. I need self care. I need respect from my youngest and also some personal space. This past Friday a friend needed to talk with me on the phone. My son kept getting up and making excuses as to why he was scared and it was 10:30 p.m. before I could call my friend back. It’s been 7 years of very little me time. I deserve to be able to get to work on time, to read, to call friends, and to b r e a t h e. I know that IF my ex husband was the sole parent, he’d have them ship shape within a week because he just wouldn’t put up with so little time for himself. And they’d get that straight away.

So, it’s been a wake up call for me. And my friend’s dad seems to care.

No, I can’t discipline the way my ex might. But I can discipline with love and compassion and calmly the way I feel comfortable. I can step into my own shoes.

So, that means telling my little guy he has no ipad or utube videos until he can stop screaming about going to school, hitting me about going to school, or having tantrums over brushing his teeth, or going to soccer. He has to respect me. But I *have* to stay calm, loving, not make it personal, and stick to my guns by taking away what he cares about most: his ipad. I was so worried for so long about him not feeling loved or valued or wanted. But now I see that I can still discipline in a responsible way without making it personal and being loving. I have to stay calm.

And, in the meantime, I’ve started a new rule that my ex agreed to (hip hip for little victories!) that I take one Saturday off a month). Even if that means I go down the road to a hotel and veg. … My ex & I will share nanny fees. I no longer go 3 – 4 months without a day off or the ability to sleep in one Sunday a month!)

And I think my boys will appreciate me more because of it.

 

So, here’s to little victories and BIG AHA moments. It’s a learning process. I still have so much to learn. … And am so grateful for the process and who shows up to support me on this journey. The Universe is amazing. And so filled with L O V E.

With Love & Light ~

Laura xo

 

Struggling to Surrender to What IS

As I write this, it is a beautiful Sunday morning in California. I am trying to be grateful for all that I have. I so want to go for a walk on the beach, or for a run, take a yoga class, or just walk into town for coffee. But I can’t. My oldest had a sleep over, my youngest is still so very scared of ever being alone. He’s nearly 8 and my clingOn. I fell asleep with him last night as he was scared to be upstairs alone, without his big brother. He’s just my super affectionate, sensitive clingOn.

So, as I sit on the couch with gluten-free pumpkin bread in the oven, filling the house with wonderful smells, I wonder why I am still struggling today? I put on Star Wars Attack of the Clones for my little guy, in order to give myself time to read, to write, to garner focus and gratitude. Laundry is going, we have another soccer game later. I’ve been through worse, so much worse.

Yet for some reason, I still struggle today. Maybe it’s because my tank is empty? And maybe it’s because I no longer accept that it’s okay for me to be ‘on’ for two, three months without help. Plus, I took on more writing assignments than I should have this week, requiring that I sit for hours with stressful deadlines. I also taught 6 yoga classes, turning down 4 requests to sub… but still, I took on so much more work than I’m used to that my back went out. It’s almost better now. I know how to apply therapeutic RX to my back from my yoga training, but it’s still been daunting.

So what’s a full-time single mom to do? I refuse to wallow. If I get triggered, like I am today, I am aware of it, I accept it, and I surrender to the feelings, asking that they be lifted. Tomorrow will be Monday. School will begin, I’ll teach two yoga classes, I’ll have yet another deadline for a magazine. That is much easier for me to deal with for some reason. Today, longing to get fresh air and have some me time, is starting to do me in.  I look over at my adorable 7 year old and I remember this tug and pull of being so in love with him and yet still feeling ‘stuck’ for years. Weekends were so hard when he was a baby. I didn’t ask to do this parenting gig alone. It’s been 7 years…So when I remember those days, those months without help, I start to wonder what the Universe’s plan is for me. You know? I did go out this weekend, but saw myself through the eyes of someone who chatted with me. The man could not believe that I had the kids full time. He was ‘shocked.’

“How are you fucking sane?” he asked me, then told me that he had his kiddos every other weekend only and that he could never date someone like me who gets 4 weeks off a year only.

It was upsetting. I don’t accept this version of me, or his pity for me. I called a friend yesterday and told her how much I adore my life. This man said if he couldn’t go ‘out’ every weekend or play golf  his life would be too hard, he could never live my life without getting suicidal. I get that. But my life has so much more meaning than he could understand. So I don’t accept his view of me or his pity.

So, today, I mentally start to take note of all that I have to be grateful for:  I have two amazing kids that I’m very close to. They have goals and hearts of gold. My oldest volunteers, teaching his brother’s AYSO team, and works so hard to make straight As and to be a soccer star—wanting to garner a soccer scholarship. My youngest wants to save the world. Literally, he wants to be a scientist who can save the planet with an environmental discovery to clean the air, protect our forests and get us off our dependency on oil. My novel is with a publisher right now. SERIOUSLY! Crossing fingers the editor green lights it…I’m teaching yoga, and have a wonderful new boss within the yoga community who has a vision and presence I adore; whose goal is to expand awareness and reduce violence in our world. I’m going to India over New Years with this boss and other soulful yogis. My life is full and rich. And no, I won’t attract a needy man who only wants a woman who has a lot of free time to give to him. And that’s ok.  I’ve given to others for so long, and still do, that to let a needy or selfish man go is very ok in my book. I am happy to not go into that spin of trying to be something I’m not for someone else’s needs…. And yet I can be realistic and feel my tiredness today. With my ex in Europe and no family here, I will have many more years of doing this solo parenting gig. And, at the same time, I’m also beyond lucky to have them. It’s the yin and the yang of my existence.

It’s just, today, right now, I’m desiring a little freedom. Like a long ride up the coast to take a hike, or the chance to take a walk on the beach. And I need to be OK with just wanting that, needing that.

I read today that struggle comes from the Ego. When we demand that God must be heartless and unfair because there is suffering in the world, that is the Ego. When we get angry or bitter or resentful because of others’ suffering, that is the Ego. When I feel sorry for myself, or fall into bitterness, that is the Ego. Instead, I choose to take a deep breath and to ask that I can let go of my Ego, from an unwillingness to let go of my struggle, from my lack of trust in the process, from my lack of acceptance today for what is. I can surrender to these feelings, ask that they be lifted by a merciful God and then walk into grace by helping someone else.

That’s my goal for today. …

But I still plan on hiring a sitter or calling a friend later so I can take that beach walk. 🙂 I am no longer a martyr.

Thank God for little miracles.

With love,

Laura