(Dedicated to my friends on the verge of divorce.)
What if, just for today, I loved you for exactly who you are?
What if, just for today, I decided that my joy was my own to create, and not connected to you at all. Today, my joy does not depend on your mood, your smile, your behavior, or you doing the dishes, or any other chore for me. Just for today, my joy, my bliss, is independent of you.
What if, just for today, I decided my job wasn’t to fix you, control you, or try to get you to be more like me.
What if, just for today, I asked for help, but without any conditions or any criticism.
What if, just for today, I decided to give myself to you, with such reckless abandon, that it leaves you breathless and without a clue as to what you did to deserve it.
What if, just for today, I decided that you didn’t need to ‘do’ anything, or ‘be’ a certain way, to deserve some reckless, playful love.
What if, just for today, I remember what drew me to you, what I adore about you, and I tell you what I still see, what I still respect, and what still drives me crazy about you.
What if, just for today, I don’t interrupt you, correct you, or keep record of any past wrongs.
What if, just for today, I let myself be vulnerable and raw? Instead of getting mad, shutting down, turning away or stomping off, I will pause, breathe and say: “I need you. Hold me. I’m sorry. I love you.”
Today, I will not fight with you.
Today, I will focus on being a better me and let you figure out your own journey.
Today, I will respect you enough to make your own choices.
Today, I will love you without worrying about tomorrow, or what ifs.
Today I will breathe deeply and be present.
Today I will be patient.
Today I will listen to my heart and quiet my mind so that I do not feel the need to ‘do’ anything, or react, or panic.
Today I will be grateful for you, for this journey, and for all that we have created: the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful, because it is teaching me something valuable.
Today I will try to realize that I chose you, I chose this journey, this lesson, this experience so that I can grow. You loved me so much that you let us have this, have all of this.
Today, I will hug you because no matter what, we are blessed.
Everything you seek is within. This is what the world’s wisdom seekers say. And it’s true. But that may be hard for you to feel where you are right now. Most of us seek ‘things’ from others. We have been given messages from a very early age that imply someone will save us, complete us, rescue us. The prince on a white horse is you. The angel to save you from your reckless ways and addictions is you.
YOU are the PATH.
To some, that feels like a lonely journey. I understand. This message does not suggest that you live as a hermit meditating your days away by yourself in a remote mountain village. A journey to wholeness does not require such sacrifice. But in order to attract unconditional love, acceptance, compassion, support, forgiveness from others— you must first give it to YOURSELF. As Deepak Chopra says, “You can not receive what you do not give yourself.”
If you look to others to complete you, to fill an empty void, you ultimately become frustrated, disappointed and filled with ego-centric self loathing and victimhood. When we seek external approval, success, money, or another person who may ‘fit’ a long laundry list of what we think we want, we become lost and disconnected to what really matters in life and to our true self.
Ask a cancer patient what is important in life. Another healthy and playful moment with their child? Another hour snuggling in bed with their lover? Feeling sun on her face while sipping tea in a favorite chair with a beloved pet in her lap. Walking with a good friend out in nature. These moments are what fill us up. We connect with our highest self in these times. And we connect on a deeper level with those we love, because we are reflecting our highest selves. We are connecting in a pure, authentic, vulnerable manner.
So we must peel back the layers, the fears, the wounds that keep us from living purely and authentically. Create a loving relationship with yourself first, then you will find your PATH, find your TRIBE and begin connections on deep levels.
One reason people have a hard time keeping connections with others is due to a fear of vulnerability. We fear being judged. We fear being abandoned and hurt because we have been abandoned or hurt in the past. But the reality is that in order to truly love and be intimate with others, we must be free from the chains of fear. We must love ourselves so fiercely that no one can truly keep us from our center again. Then we know that we will always be safe whether alone or with another. From a fierce, rebel heart, we can connect on a pure level.
So how do we get there? It’s a journey. A journey through meditation, yoga, breath, writing, activity of any sort: running, dancing. For me, meditating has been remarkable. I find stillness and meditate, whether guided with DavidJi or Deepak, or on my own. I feel silence and sit with my feelings and begin to repeat over and over a silent mantra to connect with my light. My favorite is: I AM. SO HUM in Sanskrit. I repeat this over and over and like a whisper from the Universe, whatever follows I AM, I know I already am, but just need a reminder of: I AM LOVE. I AM LIGHT. I AM POWERFUL. I AM ENOUGH…I set my timer to 11 minutes. When I come out of it, I feel connected to all that is and deeply to my eternal light.
Find forgiveness for yourself. Feel what needs to be felt. You are eternal, divine and worthy of love just for being alive. You need not do anything but allow the light in.
Those who have been abused or neglected must feel the wounds to heal them. I know this from personal experience. Find a community, a tribe, a counselor, a support group and begin the journey back home to yourself.
Peace, love, non-violence, acceptance begins with you. You are the PATH. You are a REBEL. You are a Goddess. Nothing that has been done to you—nothing that you have done to cope with your past—defines you. The spark of divine light shines brightly within. Peel back the layers that cover it and shine.
This I know for sure: Love isn’t defined by what someone can do for me or give to me. And it certainly isn’t a prize for being pretty, or smart or playful or wealthy. Love can’t be measured by how selfless I become either. Giving till it hurts, or putting someone else’s needs always above my own, isn’t necessarily a good marker of true love. (Maybe we have no choice with our children, though :-)!) But in romantic love, we have to remember to love and respect ourselves too, right?
Initially love may just spring from a feeling. A spark. Maybe even just from a look, a touch, a kiss. But to sustain love, there has to be more than attraction and chemistry, don’t you think?
Lately my mind has been wandering into existential waters. As I prepare to teach my first Valentine’s heart-opening Hatha yoga class, I find myself grappling with what love is and what love isn’t. I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”
I also believe that love is tied to how gently and compassionately we live—more than by any grand gestures we make. Therefore, I’m leaning toward the definition of love as a type of vibration—a frequency—that effects how we sound and move and treat each other. It also controls how and who we attract into our lives.
So as I focus on what to address in my first Valentine’s yoga class—I realize that I don’t want to just talk about and teach poses to keep our hearts open. Yes, it’s important to trust and be open to new experiences—but without a good dose of self respect and inner core strength, we may just keep staying open to all the wrong people and opportunities. Maybe it stems back to our programming as a child, or by us feeding off of the energy of people who are the closest to us.
Maybe a lot of us may have fallen into lower vibrations due to negative childhood programming—which, if not released, feed and spiral into critical thoughts. These critical thoughts about ourselves and others just end up attracting toxic friends or partners who keep us in this status quo of a negative environment. If it sounds a bit heavy, bear with me and just think about it. How many of us as children have heard conversations from adults like: “For once, can you just listen to me?!” “Why do you always do this?” “Honestly, you look ridiculous.” “If you make it on time, it will be a miracle.” “NOT NOW! Jesus. You always nag me right when I’m on deadline.”
You get the idea. Comments such as these hurt. They place us on a lower frequency of thoughts filled with shame, low self esteem, insecurity, fear, anger, lack of respect—and these ripple into adulthood. Think about the couple who bicker constantly over such trivial things as too much hair in the sink … (Yeah, we’ve probably all been there at some point.)
So my ever-evolving definition of love starts within. How we treat each other—or allow others to treat us—triggers negative frequencies where love can’t live or last. What we mirror, or think, we attract.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts as I wrestle with my definition of love this Valentine’s day:
Love expands. Love elevates. Love enlightens. Love embraces growth. Love accepts. None of this can happen in a sea of critical or belittling comments or thoughts.
Clearly, I haven’t figured it all out. (Who has?!) But I do know that attracting someone kind, healthy and gentle requires that I be kind, healthy and gentle in my words and my thoughts—which includes how I treat and think about myself! This actually requires strength and a trust in my inner voice—as much as an open heart.
So, this Valentine’s week, I am defining love as a vibration—a frequency—that I have to tune into. Just like a violinist tunes his instrument in order to play heavenly music, I have to tune my inner strings—my inner awareness—to hear the right chords that allow me to play in a key that allows for a loving and conscious life. Do I speak lovingly and kindly to my loved ones? Do I speak lovingly and kindly to myself? Am I accepting of others? Am I accepting of myself? Am I truly forgiving? These are questions that will help me get in tune—so that I can live in a frequency of love.
What do you think? Does this resonate with you? If not, how do you define love?
So you want to find Mr. Right? It’s simple: stop doing all the wrong (albeit fun) things when you first meet, says Dr. Pat Allen, Ph.D., relationship and communication therapist in Los Angeles. Allen is also the author of several best-selling books including: Getting To I-Do and The Truth About Men Will Set You Free, (But First It Will Piss You Off!)You may be more familiar with her, however, from her multiple TV interviews or her work on the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker where her blunt talk about sex and relationship blunders borders on the comical. Here’s a clip to see what I mean. (It’s ok, go ahead and watch it, I’ll wait!)
I met Dr. Allen in 2009 when I was desperately trying to keep my marriage together. Through a friend’s psychic vision (yeah, I know, but it really happened), I discovered that my husband started an affair when working abroad while I was at home with our six month old baby and his older brother. I try not to focus on all the details of this sordid time, and the time that followed of yo-yo-ing back and forth in this cycle of forgiveness and betrayal again and again. My life had become the car wreck that friends and family couldn’t stop themselves from slowing down to look at. When I think back to that period when I was still breastfeeding and down to 92 lbs from sheer sorrow, I just die inside. So, like a race car driver who refuses to look at the wall when he races, I’m keeping my eyes on the better road ahead.
Just know that three months of therapy with Dr. Allen helped me let go of an impossible situation. She taught me about the male brain and the drug-like effects of dopamine on men who are ascending into places of power. And, I learned that I was too nice, codependent, and had lost my power and my ability to say no in relationships that resulted in mistreatment.
I turned to Dr. Allen to advise all of us single moms who are venturing out into the dating world as newbies. Her books will teach you many things, including how right-handed men think (very interesting, but for another blog) and how you have to negotiate commitment with men and never assume they can be monogamous…which is a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it? So my first question to her on the night we met at her office in West Los Angeles was this:
“What is the biggest tip you can give women entering the dating world again?”
Without hesitation, she replied: “Stop drinking. Pure and simple.”
She speaks in a quintessentially blunt, staccato voice. I’m listening, expecting a more elaborate explanation. When she doesn’t continue I push her for information on this topic as how many women like to have a glass of wine on a first date to take the edge off? The relationship expert explains that a woman can’t size up a man correctly if she even has one drink on the first date or before commitment.
“Wine (on the first date, first meeting) knocks out instincts for her and knocks out intelligence and intuition for him. They go home, have sex and wake up with strangers. The chemistry is all wrong,” Dr. Allen explains.
The relationship guru continues that “you need to be sober to feel chemistry.”
Sexual attraction that builds over drinks isn’t true chemistry, she reminds me.
Ok, I can do that. I don’t drink that much anymore anyway. The other tip for finding Mr. Right might be a bit trickier: NO sex.
And I don’t just mean on the first date, which isn’t an issue for many of us. Dr. Allen says a woman shouldn’t “consummate a relationship” before commitment.
“Don’t have sex without a commitment and don’t make a commitment under the influence,” she explains.
Before having sex with a man, women need to have at least “a gut feeling of the goodness of the person we are with.” That can’t happen under the influence and women bond too quickly with a man after sex—but clearly, it’s often with the wrong man.
This is science at work. If a woman is attracted to a man, the hormone oxytocin is released into her body, which heightens the sense of touch and orgasm. If she drinks and then has sex with a man that she knows little about, she can become addicted to him. This makes her disregard any red flags that she would have normally picked up on—such as drug use, a history of infidelity, sexual addiction, mental illness, anger issues, financial instability, etc.
“The problem with oxytocin-based addictive bonding to an inappropriate man is that the intellect is relegated to a secondary status in choice and judgment. The good counsel of parents, friends, religious leaders and psychotherapists is of no benefit. Addiction to oxytocin as a pleasure takes over,” Dr. Allen says.
Ok, Dr. Allen’s advice makes sense to me. But, like a lot of things in life, it might be harder to put all of it into practice. I always wait to have sex with a man until I feel a bit of goodness about him, and never on the first date. I remember hearing about the “3 Date Rule” when living in New York. Do you guys know of that one? Well, waiting until the third date to have sex is complete rubbish, according to Dr. Allen, unless you just want to have fun and don’t care whether you end up abused or in a long-term relationship.
What do you think single moms (and single women in general!) out there? I ran across a couple of great single mom blogs recently where this debate is raging. MsSingleMama.com, (who rocks, btw!) often writes about her dating adventures and chats with other single moms about the importance of having sex. In a forum asking how long it had been for her single mom readers some moms wrote in that it had been 18 months or even 2 years! Wait, these are gorgeous, smart, savvy, young women. What’s going on here? Well, most of us just won’t bring a man home to the kiddos. And, many of us are completely gun-shy after the heartbreak of our divorces. Dr. Allen says we all need to know that “No man is monogamous.” (Why this should be reassuring is hard to get right away!) A line from our interview that is so apropo for this is: “The man you’re afraid of is THE MAN.”
All men want to cheat, but not all do, she says. In order to find the good guys, the ones who will cherish and love you and feel horribly if they hurt you, you need to weed out the bad.
As a recap, here are Dr. Allen’s top tips to successfully find a good guy:
Don’t drink on the first date, even one glass of vino, so you can determine chemistry and listen to your intuition.
Don’t have sex on the first date, ever.
Don’t have sex until a firm commitment, so you don’t bond with the wrong fella.
Don’t drink with your new man until you have a commitment.
Why does she insist on these rules? Because you have to have true chemistry, compatibility and great communication to make a relationship work. “You will know in three minutes whether you have great chemistry with a man,” Dr. Allen insists.
Ok, I think I have three minutes.
And, she says give a potential good guy at least three dates in order to realize whether your intellect is disregarding him prematurely. But don’t drink on these dates!
Well, I’ve got three minutes and three evenings to spare. … Maybe I can tip-toe back out there after all. How about you? Do you think you can follow her rules? Do you even want to? Please chime in!!
A wise friend told me this and I’ve repeated it to several women recently. I’ve had so many conversations over the past three weeks with a variety of new and old girlfriends who seem be to stuck or tempted by the grass is greener ideology. For instance, one married woman lamented to me that she was a bit jealous of my single status. “I miss getting butterflies while getting ready for a new date! I miss the first kiss, the romance. You’re so lucky.”
Another married woman said to me that she was tempted to cheat. “I can’t stand the monotony. I get criticized for not making a stellar dinner. He points out if I’ve gained a pound, but just sits and watches football and drinks too much. Where’s the fun in that?”
I understand. Really.
Interestingly, it’s not always rosy for the separated and divorced women out in the dating world. Some of my divorced and separated friends seem to be on collision courses. In their frantic search for a new man, they are with people who have addictions or just treat them poorly because that’s who they are. I can’t quite get it.
“I just can’t be without a man,” said one woman who is with the wrong person and knows it. (A person addicted, mentally unstable and unable to NOT hurt her.)
“But maybe he’s treating me this way because he’s confused,” said another who is putting up with so much cruelty from a man that it’s unbelievable and too painful for me to watch anymore.
So I told these women in my life two things (not that I’m a savant, but taking time off from men can really clear your head!)
Two: (aka Gloria Steinem): “A Woman Without a Man, is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” Think about it. (By the way, I was reading Steinem’s book Revolution From Within in the kitchen of a newspaper where I was reporter in Maryland back in 1992/93 when the publisher walked in, looked at me, and said, “Shit.” He spit out his tobacco in a nearby trash can and continued, “I knew you were smart, but now you’re going to start asking for a raise. Put that Steinem crap away and get back to work.” KID YOU NOT!)
I know I can’t help my friends with their serious issues. (And I understand them as I recognize them in myself.) I can’t make them see that they are lovable. I can’t make them see that they are beautiful. I can’t make them understand that instead of quickly demanding a man commit to them, they might want to take a breather and decide whether or not that new man is worthy of their commitment. How do I help them realize that they are wonderful and deserve love that doesn’t hurt?
I guess I can’t do that. I can only take care of myself. So, I’ve decided to take a time out from men. Why not? This past month four married men propositioned me. (Seriously? What is UP with that?!)
Anyone who knows me well knows that even the most chiseled man couldn’t get my number if he has a wedding ring on. And there lies another problem … many men nowadays just take them off.
But this isn’t the main reason why I’m taking a time out. I’m not as jaded as I could be! No, I’m just exhausted. So thank you to the friends who want to set me up on dates, but no thanks for now. Taking care of two kiddos solo 24/7 is tiring. I love them dearly and thank God for my boys every day. But there’s only so much space in my life. I’m giving it to them (and me) right now.
Secondly, I’m the personality type (cough, can you say co-dependent?!) that puts another person’s needs WAY before my own. I’ve done it my whole life. Maybe you can relate to that one? I tend to wrap myself around the important person in my life and cater to their needs and put my own very far down the list. It’s time to get re-introduced to myself. I had no idea how bad it was until I was on the phone with one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for 25 years. Here’s how the conversation went:
“I’m SO excited! I’ve decided to hire the nanny and go away for a weekend.” I say to her six weeks ago. (She knew I had been brave and broken up with my first boyfriend since my ex-husband. It’s hard to walk away, but I’m learning to take care of myself.)
“Great, where are you going dare devil,” she replies.
“I have no idea.”
“I know. I’m stumped. I can’t even think of what I want to do or where I want to go.”
There’s a brief pause.
“Is this the same girl who traveled nonstop solo, taking new reporter jobs in random places just to travel. The girl I’d have to track down constantly, who moved to New York on a whim to write and who has at least 25 addresses in my address book?”
“Um, I think so. It’s just been so long you know. I’ve been in lockdown with the kids for two years, I can’t think straight.”
“Yeah. It’s crazy. You don’t even know what you like anymore. But I know who you are and what you like. Wow, you are so lost. Go somewhere, hole up and write.”
I hung up with her and thought about that.
Wow. I really couldn’t think of where I should go or what I should do with any time off. It’s like I had become the caged bird in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea.
At the last minute, I decided to cancel the solo trip for financial reasons, but it got me thinking, I really need to get back to the basics. Instead of taking what little time I have to go out on dates and to search for another someone in my life, I’m better off writing, working out, going to Al-Anon (long story) and getting to know who I am again. You can’t build up strength on a shaky platform.
So, I’ve decided not to heed the warning of one man whose argument to begin an affair with him started with the fact that I wouldn’t be this attractive forever—presumably to be able to attract the likes of him … How sweet right? Be still my heart.
No, I’m going to take the risk of mother time creeping up on me and adding a few more wrinkles and thwarting hot prospects from entering my life in order to focus on … well … me. For once.
If you’re one of those single mommas who are spinning like a top in the dating world, what do you think? Can you try a time out for sanity’s sake too? Let me know how it goes and please share your tips of survival if you are still venturing out in this crazy dating world. Lots of love and luck to you if you are! x
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com