Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ALONE: The Peace and the Power

This is going to be a difficult post; I mean, difficult for me to write and say what I mean in a way that doesn't make us all want to run screaming out of whatever room we're in.

This has to do with being alone, finding peace with it, and finding the power within it. Because, ultimately (and this is where I don't want you to run screaming out of the room), we all are.


In Confessions of a Mediocre Widow I wrote, "There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Alone is something you choose. Loneliness is not." 

I remember the moment I wrote that; it was something that just popped up on the screen as I was feverishly typing away and I recall thinking, "Did I just think that??? My God. It's so true!"

I don't ever remember actually thinking that about loneliness before I wrote it and now that I look back...it's funny that I had that epiphany when I did. I was in what I thought was a stable relationship, so that really shouldn't have even been on my mind.

Believe me - you don't to venture into this labyrinth hidden under my highlights. It's a scary place to be.

Little did I know that being in a relationship has nothing to do with being alone. After all, it doesn't matter if you're in a rock-solid marriage...you're still alone. You alone interpret each moment of the day that happens to you and only you. Yes, I realize that being married or having an amazing support system means that you have people around you. But, again, only YOU are living with you.

You are alone.

Stick with me. Really. Because this isn't meant to be an "oh, woe is me, I'm all alone" moment. Coming to terms with your aloneness and truly embracing it is incredibly liberating. Why?

Because by realizing this, you'll know that you have 
all the tools you need to keep moving, regardless of outside influences.

My Podcast Addiction

My kids are really sick of this, but I have been on such a podcast kick lately. And I don't really
care what they think because I'm tired of listening to Ed Sheeran 24-hours a day (I would venture to say that he's probably pretty sick of himself as well). Anyway, I've been through professional podcasts, historical, how things are made, and podcasts that string a series of "mindful" words together that really don't make any sense, but the tone of the host lulls me into a stupor that makes me think that they do.

My favorite series has been Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday. (As an aside...don't you miss Oprah???? Ugh. I do.) She's picked fascinating people to interview and the exciting thing is that I'm years behind on the series, so right now I have a never-ending supply of podcasts cued up (much to the irritation of my children).

I recently listened to her discussion with Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun I'm vaguely familiar with because she's quoted everywhere and every therapist I've seen (and I've seen my plenty) has shared her wisdom.

In the interview, I was shocked to hear that our young adult lives (in our 20s) were a little similar: She had gotten married as I had at the age of 20 - straight from her parents' house to her husband's house. Now, beyond that our stories deviate (she's been divorced twice), but she said something that truly struck a chord with me.

That until her second marriage failed she said she had never realized how "attached I was to having somebody else confirm me. In other words, it didn't come from inside me. It came from someone else's view of me." That from the time she was 20 until she was 35 she was "somebody else's person." And that now she doesn't have that "need to be confirmed by someone from the outside."

And that's where our stories come together again.

Being Alone Completely Changed Me

Now, I'm not a Buddhist nun (never say never), but that truly resonated with me. And the more they talked about being alone - but not in the way we've come to label it - I realized how truly empowering it is.

I think that anyone who has truly been through something catastrophic has had a sense of this, but most don't actually embrace it as they should. I came to this realization years after Brad died in the throes of a grief spell.

As I sat on my bed, sobbing so hard I could barely breathe, I mentally ran down the list of people I could call. I'm fortunate that my support system is wide and deep, but as I thought about all of those wonderful people...I realized that they couldn't help. No one else could work through this, but me.

That's not a defeatist attitude. Really think about it. Yes, we go to therapy (and we should. I LOVE THERAPY), but what that is is someone asking the right questions for us to come to terms with and work through our own personal solution. If we've had a physical injury, we have people around us who will help us with healing and physical therapy, but it's our own body that's doing the work.

What I'm trying to say is that, while we have countless means of support and help...we alone carry the tools to get through what we need to.

It is within us.

I was talking to a friend about this the other day. He was feeling helpless, trying to support another friend and not knowing what to do. I gave him suggestions - meals, listening, all the good stuff - and then ended with, "But really - he's going to have to just go through this. No one else can do it for him. Be there and be present. But understand that what needs to happen is beyond your control. It's his process."

There was a silence on the other end of the phone. "That's the smartest thing you've ever said," he replied. "You should write about that."

"Oh, for crying out loud," I said, rolling my eyes. "I wrote a whole book about it!"

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The "I'm Sorry" Epidemic: Why women should stop apologizing for existing


I'm sorry, but we need to stop apologizing for everything.

I apologize for EVERYTHING and it's driving me nuts. It's like this ridiculous reflex; it just pops out of my mouth before I even have a chance to think about it. "I'm sorry" is constantly on the tip of my tongue, ready to dive out for the most inane reasons.

I've always known I've done this, but as I've gotten older it's gotten worse. I don't really remember apologizing a lot as a child. Yes, now that I think about it...I was a very unapologetic kid (my parents will attest to that).

But this apologetic nature began building at some point so that now I'm a 41-year-old woman who will probably say "I'm sorry" about the Kennedy assassination.

Well, I am sorry about that. It was a very sad thing. But it wasn't my fault.

Here's the thing: I'm a naturally apologetic person, but I'm also getting to be a cranky middle-aged woman who is more likely to say what I think and not care about the outcome. So, if you and I are playing chicken in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store and I'm the one who ends up moving...I'll probably say, "I'm sorry."

And then immediately feel pissed off about it and walk away before I ram your cart into the display of green beans.

So, I guess I'm getting aggressively apologetic.

I can certainly pinpoint where this comes from for me:

  1. I hate conflict and will, for the most part, do anything I can do avoid it...even if it means taking the fall for something that wasn't my responsibility.
  2. I have an insecure streak in me that I've been battling for a while, but am getting the upper-hand on. Ahhhhh...the joys of aging and caring less.
  3. I cannot stand it when people feel bad (even if it's due to something that had nothing to do with me), so I will apologize, hoping it will make them feel better.

No. More.

Here's the awesome thing about where I am lately: I have found myself working within a group of incredibly strong women. I mean, we all have our weaknesses, but we call each other out on stuff that we're doing - such as apologizing - in a way that makes me more attentive to what I say, how I say it, and the impression that I'm giving professionally.

But, you know, in a good way. It's not like we all sit around and circle each other's fat or anything.

So, one of these women, who happens to be a client who's evolved into a friend, will actually yell at me when I do it. Like when some sort of technology fails us and I say, "I'm sorry" I will immediately hear, "What the hell are you apologizing for???"

And you know what I'll do then?


Seriously. It's a problem.

But I've figured out a solution!

I read this article recently where the author said that she and her friends came up with a phrase to replace "I'm sorry" so they don't say it anymore. They say something like "Sookie" which is all well and good if you're constantly apologizing in front of the friends who helped you come up with this code.

Say that to a potential client and they might think you're drinking on the job.

My solution is this: I don't say anything at all.

Yes! It's a conscious effort on my part to STOP those words from rolling out of my mouth and I've found that if I don't say anything and allow a pause to happen...it's truly a powerful thing.

First of all, people hate pauses like that. It makes them feel slightly uncomfortable. But it kind of gives you the upper hand. Rather than blurting out an "I'm sorry" you provide this interesting space in the conversation that will probably do one of two things:
  1. It will make you come across as competent because you're not bumbling all over yourself before you speak your thought-provoking next sentence that hasn't been weakened by an apology.
  2. If the other person is in the wrong...they might actually apologize to YOU.

The power of silence

I have learned that sometimes silence is the most powerful tool we have when interacting with other people. You learn more, using words economically makes people want to hear what you have to say, and, if you're in the middle of a heated argument, just sitting back and letting the other person rant usually defuses the situation quicker.

Then you go in there with your economical words and close the argument when they've run out of steam.

This pause before apologizing...it really does work. The result of it has been that I feel like Superwoman every time I get through a conversation or email without apologizing AND the other person gets to interact with the capable person I know is inside me somewhere.

So ladies - put on your big girl panties and get out there and unapologetically do what you're capable of.

Just know that if you run into me at the grocery store you better watch out. 'Cause from now on I ain't movin'.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I was nothing. And I needed to be someone.

It's funny how much things have changed over the years.

I used to love writing dating blogs because they would ALWAYS get the most discussion and traffic. So, note to you: If you're ever trying to build an audience, talk about your love life. Because people have a LOT of opinions.

But I challenge you with this one not to look at it as your typical blog about dating and relationships, even though it seems like that's what the subject is. The truth is, this blog is about ME and who I've become...and less about the men who have helped me get here.

And by "help," I mean broke me down to the point where I had to build myself back up again. However, I'm hoping that you'll see by the end of this blog that it really wasn't their fault.

Well, maybe it was a little bit.

My God. I should have NEVER started dating when I did. But I couldn't help it. I put on a brave face and told everyone I knew that it was no big deal, that I was just out to meet people and have fun.

I don't know if I was intentionally lying to them. I KNOW I was lying to myself.

Three kids at home under the age of 6, I was DESPERATE for adult interaction. But it was more than that. I'd never really been single before in my life. I ran through a string of boyfriends in high school, met my husband in college, wrapped my self-worth up in a package labeled "SECURE RELATIONSHIP," and went on my merry way.

By the time I was widowed at the age of 31, I'd never been alone.

My entire self was determined by who I was coupled with. I wasn't me - I was someone who was married to an astronautical engineer. Who was I if I didn't have that???

I was nothing. And I needed to be someone.

"Being someone" meant being in a relationship. So, for a while I bounced from one to the next, some lasting longer than others, but all making me feel like utter shit when they didn't work out. Sometimes it was my fault. Sometimes it wasn't. But every attempt left me feeling more and more broken.

Until two years ago when I'd finally had enough.

I seriously couldn't do it anymore. I was so tired. So defeated. So absolutely terrified that my worst fear was going to come true.

I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.

Now, we're going to fast forward a bit. I don't feel like that anymore. I really don't. I've made peace with myself, found myself, accepted myself, and, yes, sometimes hated myself. But I've become my own best company.

Every once in a while I think about getting back into dating because I don't think I've ever been in such a healthy place before. I am completely content with my life and who I am and I think, "Maybe I'm ready." So, I'll start paging through online dating sites and then...

...I'll pull up the local dog shelter. That's right. I think I'd rather just get a dog.

I've been trying to pinpoint what it is I really feel about dating. First of all, it's exhausting to think about. But if I had to choose ONE WORD that describes how I feel about dating it would be this:


I feel used up by all of those previous relationships. Sometimes I feel like I just don't have anything left to give; those guys took it all.

But here's the part that's my fault: I LET THEM.

You know that old Eleanor Roosevelt saying, "You can't make anyone feel inferior without their consent"? That's absolutely true. Because what happened at the beginning of my attempt at dating was that I let these people run all over me. I tried to make myself into the person they wanted and when it didn't work out, I thought I hadn't tried hard enough or there was something wrong with me.

All because I didn't know who "me" was.

I put myself in so many situations that I never would now, all because I didn't have a strong sense of self. Which makes sense because when you're newly widowed...how do you know who you are anyway?

And this isn't just about dating. This is true for friendships, family relationships, and work situations. When something has left me feel defeated again, I ask myself, "How did I allow that?"

It's hard to accept our own part in situations that seem so unfair. And, honestly, there are just times when we get screwed over, right?

But we have to grow from all of it, find our boundaries, and find ourselves. Because if we don't have a sense of self and stand up for who we are (judgments be damned)...

...we're the ones who have to live with the outcome.