I have never been really interested in therapy. I tried it once on the recommendation of a friend. I’d worked with personal trainers before, so I thought therapy wouldn’t be that different. Like an emotional trainer. One session and I realized I had been right the first time. It wasn’t for me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about the death of my real dad. Yes, it was sad and hard. But I went to a grief group as a kid and am lucky enough to have the best step-dad a girl could have. I didn’t need therapy to tell me that.
I had real issues, like fears dealing with money and financial insecurity; and insomnia the entire year my brother was in Afghanistan. Not to mention body image issues, of course. Don’t we all?
I spent a year, maybe more, working on myself. I read every Self-Help book I could get a hold of and read O magazine from cover to cover. I journaled, wrote letters to my child-self, and paid $300.00 for a thirty minute phone call with an expert. I even tried meditating and bought a yoga DVD I never used. I’m sure I felt better about myself, but I still couldn’t sleep through the night or even consider a job without a retirement package.
And then I met someone who changed my life.
I signed up for Brooke’s workshop The Self Centering Woman not sure what to expect. It had to be better than my one counseling session, and it was in a building with a tea shop so I could stop and get a chai and it wouldn’t be a total loss. I had been working on myself for a long time, so I was a little cynical. What could she really do for me that I hadn’t already done for myself?
Brooke led us through exercises to find our hidden rules from society and childhood that were blocking us or holding us back. It was talking, listening, answering questions, and journaling. Nothing too scary. It was like she could see things in me that I couldn’t see and she knew just the right questions to ask. Something cracked open in me during that class and I have never been the same.
I’m re-learning rules that work for me as an adult. I’m valuing myself and my dreams. I am going after what I want and believing in the possibility. I’m taking scary steps that I never thought I was capable of. I’m leaving a guaranteed job and moving to the other side of the country. I’m taking myself seriously as a writer and a business woman. And I sleep through the night. When I look back to where I was a year ago, I feel like a completely different person.
Brooke calls herself a healer or a shaman because she works with energy. I’m not into too much woo-woo kind of stuff, so I think of her as a life-coach and counselor. Or a guru because that’s fun to say and I think of that silly movie with Mike Meyers. And, now I also get to call her my friend.
Working with her over time has made me realize that we can’t do it all alone. It really does take a village. Not just to raise a child, but to raise ourselves, too. To grow as people and live up to our own potential. We are all in this life together. We don’t have to go it alone.
Have you ever worked with a counselor? Life coach? Something more woo-woo like a shaman? Does working with one help you reach your goals more quickly?
As kids most of us count our birthdays as the second most important holiday of the year, right after Christmas. I remember making a countdown to my birthday months in advance and spending time planning my birthday wish list. Gifts, party ideas, cake flavors. I put a lot of time into my birthdays.
In my family we always celebrated for an entire week. It wasn’t just your birthday; it was your birthday week. That meant you got special treatment even longer. The times were good.
As we grow, the important birthdays become rare. After twenty-one, there is twenty-five when you know insurance rates will go down. Not such a big deal.
I stopped making a countdown or sending out my wish list. Some years I didn’t even remember it was my birthday until the day before. A nice dinner with friends was all I needed to celebrate.
And then the dreaded birthday grew closer. I had heard about people having a hard time turning thirty. They called it Dirty Thirty. After thirty you were old, your eggs started drying up, and it was time to buy some wrinkle cream.
But thirty passed me by without any problems. I didn’t feel old or ugly. I didn’t even think about my eggs. There was no joy or excitement in my birthday like back when I was twenty-one, but it wasn’t a bad thing, either. Just another day.
And then I hit thirty-five. That’s when the dread started. The year I wanted to forget my birthday even existed. I couldn’t bear the thought of the question, “How old are you?”
I started to get the Birthday Blues.
I was sad about being another year older.
Then I realized what else that meant I was sad about. Our birthday is a celebration of our life. The day we were born. And another year alive. Could I really be sad to be alive? That should always be a happy thing.
We can’t let worries about getting older take the joy out of our birthdays. We need to channel that child who marked the calendar and told everyone it was her day. Her week.
As I sat at the table for my birthday dinner, surrounded by the people who love me, I saw that hating my birthday would take something away from them, too. Those who love us want to celebrate us and the fact that we are in their lives.
This year, I fed off the joy of the people around me and got into my birthday again. It’s not the age that matters, but the years we have lived and enjoyed. The time we have spent, and will spend, with the people who are important to us.
This year I’m looking my fear of age in the face and taking back my happy.
Happy Birthday to me!
How do you feel about birthdays? Have they lost their fun as you’ve grown up? Any particular birthday that you fear?
I write about women. My characters are strong women, I hope, who grow and change when faced with challenges. It’s all about the journey, right?
But I also know that reading is entertainment. That’s why I read. To get lost in another place or time and get to know some new people. I love the adventure, the fun, the relationships. The same things I love about writing.
There are men in my stories because there are men in our lives. We have fathers, brothers, lovers, friends, and husbands. They are not the central characters in my writing, but they are important.
I’ve talked a lot about men in movies and how we should have something nice to look at. I mean, what is the point of having Josh Duhmel or Daniel Sunjata in a movie if they leave their shirts on the whole time? The women almost never stay fully clothed.
That made me realize that I need to follow my own advice and make sure there are good looking men in my novels. There is no reason a man can’t be smart, rich, fit, and drop dead gorgeous. It is fiction, after all. Kidding! Sort of. There are good looking men in real life, so why shouldn’t there be in fiction, too?
My real life friends are all beautiful women, and I expect no less from my characters. And just like we should have something to look at in the movies, so should they in their story world. Even the walk-through characters can be handsome. The waiter, the security guard, the bank teller, and the valet parking the car can all be nice to look at.
I say, why not?
I can think of all the beautiful men I know, in real life and on the screen, when I’m writing and let them inspire me. Like a hot, male muse. Shirtless, of course.
What do you think makes a man hot? Do you prefer good looking characters, or average looking characters in the books you read?
I’ve noticed a disturbing phenomenon lately. Whenever someone shares hopes or plans they are excited about, people gather around to shower them with negativity. People they may not even know list reasons why their dream can’t happen, or isn’t a good idea in the first place.
My plan is not so crazy. There are already a lot of people living in Miami, so clearly it isn’t an impossible thing to do. But, when I tell people that I’m moving, most of them crap all over my dream. How are you going to find a job? Don’t you know it’s muggy in Florida? What about hurricanes? They don’t just rain on my parade. A little rain I could handle. I’m from Oregon, after all. No. They poop on my parade.
The most recent occurrence was at a party the other weekend. I was layered up and wearing my coat and gloves inside because it is that cold where I live. One of my friends mentioned that someone they knew just moved to Miami and she was all excited about getting us connected. A friend of a friend is a good person to know when you move to a brand new place on the other side of the country.
A man I didn’t know overheard our conversation and decided to give me his opinion. Apparently the look of my face wasn’t enough to stop him. “Miami?” he asked. “Why would you want to move there?” I told him that I like warm weather, beaches, and big cities with tall buildings. He frowned and told me all about some viral video that showed wind tunnels going over sky scrapers in Miami. Clearly, everyone else in the country knew I was making a bad decision.
I could have told him that I didn’t want to hear advice from a man wearing double beige. But I just smiled and nodded and found the first excuse to walk away.
Then someone started in about the snakes. Oh, there are so many pythons in The Everglades. Why would I want to leave Portland? Because I’m not an outdoorsy person. I like the beach and the city, I barely even go to the park. I don’t camp or hike here, why would I start in The Everglades?
I’m getting used to sticking up for my dreams because I know what’s right for me. But it has made me stop and wonder why we go around crapping on other peoples’ dreams.
So what if your friend wants to be a prima ballerina even though she’s never taken a dance class? Your mom wants to start her own business, your boyfriend dreams of playing poker professionally, or your neighbor just bought a bed and breakfast in Mexico? We don’t have to think other peoples’ plans are right, because they are not about us. When people share their hopes and dreams, they aren’t asking for input. They are sharing. That’s it.
We may think we’re saving them from heart ache or humiliation. Or even just from losing a little money or a lot of time. But it is not up to us to decide. We’re not helping anyone by pooping on their plans.
Now when someone tells me their hopes for the future, I think of how I can be supportive. I don’t try to tear them down. It may not be what I think is wise, but it’s not my dream or my future. I have my own parade to plan.
Has anyone ever pooped on your parade? How do you feel when other people tell you what is best for you? Any advice on how to deal with dream crushers, even the well-meaning ones?
Sometimes when I look back through pictures of myself as a little girl it surprises me how much I really knew. Not in terms of school or life, but about myself. Before I hit puberty I was strong, independent, and I knew what I wanted.
I love dresses. That is something I have just come back around to realize now. I hate having to squeeze myself into pants. Ok, I actually wiggle into them, but that’s not the point. Pants just don’t fit my body the way dresses do. They make me feel confined, strapped down, stuck.
As a little girl, I knew this well. If I was playing outside, I’d wear a dress and a pair of pants so I could climb a tree without scraping up my legs. I spent every season in sandals or no shoes at all. And my toe nails were always painted red.
If I wasn’t wearing a dress, I was in a swim suit. I am a pisces, and that makes me a water baby. I spent a lot of time at the Y in the winter and in lakes during the warm months. But swim suits were not just for swimming.
I wore my Wonder Woman swim suit like a uniform. To the park, to friends’ houses, and even to school. When it got cold, I’d put on a turtle neck and tights and put my swim suit on top. Genius. I didn’t let things like weather or other people’s rules stop me from being me.
Somewhere along the way, that changed. I changed. I stop listening to what I wanted and started trying to fit in. I followed the rules. Jeans and pants were everyday attire and dresses were saved for special holidays or big events. And nothing too pink, ever. That was too girly, too showy, too over the top.
Now I’m looking back to that little girl who knew what she wanted, and trying to follow her example. I love bright colors, flowy fabrics, and dresses. The problem is, where I live it’s always cold and usually rainy. So I went out and bought some long sleeve shirts and tights. No turtle necks for me now.
A long sleeve shirt and tights under my favorite summer dress makes me happy when I haven’t seen the sun for months. I can where what I want to wear, just in layers for the weather. People may ask me where I’m going after work when I wear my fancy feather earrings or my sparkly silver shoes, but I don’t care. I know who I am. I know what I like, and that’s what I’m going to wear. The weather won’t be the boss of me anymore.
That little girl in the swim suit and tights was on to something. I’m going to listen to her. But don’t worry, I won’t be showing up at a staff meeting in a bikini.
How have you changed since you were a child? Are there any things you’d like to bring back? Any lessons learned from the little girl you were?
One of my favorite people is newly single and has been wondering how to meet guys. Sometimes when we come out of relationships we forget what it was like to be single. We get scared that all the good ones are taken. We forget how to flirt.
I thought it would be a good time for a lesson. Flirting with men one-oh-one. It is a two part process.
Step 1: Smile.
Step 2: Say “Hi.”
End of lesson.
Really, that’s all there is to it. There is no need to worry about what to say or how to stand or should you flip your hair. You don’t need to think of discussion topics before a night out or read the section of the paper you find boring. Smile and say Hi. That’s all you need to remember.
Yes, there are variations depending on what image you want to project.
If you want to play hard to get, smile from across the room and wait to say Hi until he comes over to you. To be confident, you can walk up to him and smile. Be the first one to say Hi.
The rest will take care of itself. It will happen naturally if you hit it off or it will become obvious that he is not someone you want to get to know. Then you can walk away and get back to your friends, drink, or basketball game.
And the next time a cute guy walks up to you, smile and say, “Hi” and remember to enjoy the conversation. Focus on whether or not you like him, not the other way around. He’s just lucky you smiled at him.
Have you ever worried about going back into the dating scene? Any horror stories or words of advice?
I used to be afraid of money. I hated keeping track of it because I didn’t want to know how much I didn’t have. The few times I did balance my checkbook or use one of those software programs to look at my budget, it turned out bad. Very bad.
How could I have spent two hundred and fifty dollars on lattes? That just made me feel like an idiot. Did $3.50 really add up that fast?
Math was never my favorite subject and I always told myself I’m bad with numbers. People have their strengths, numbers aren’t mine.
Every time I walked up to a cashier and handed her my debit card a knot formed in my stomach. Even if I knew I had plenty in the bank, I was always terrified my card would be declined. I’d be left standing there like a moron who can’t count. People would come from all over the store to point and laugh.
Ok, so I was a little dramatic in my fear. But the fear was real.
Luckily, I have a friend who is good with money. She used to work at a bank and she’s a big fan of Suze Orman. She sat me down and gave me a money talk. It was part Jack Handy from SNL. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh-darnit people like you. The other part was WWE Smack down. She had to knock some sense into me. I didn’t need to wait for a man to save me, I could save myself. I needed to get my stuff together and know where my money was going. Stop paying the credit card company money they didn’t deserve and build up a savings account.
She literally sat with me at the computer and helped me set up an online savings account. Then she helped me do my taxes and make a budget. And she gave me one of her Suze Orman books to read for homework.
With her guidance and advice I paid off my debt, built up a savings account, and bought my own condo. Now when I sit down to pay my bills every month I feel smart and strong and independent. I have enough money to pay all my bills, save, and live the way I want to. When I know what’s in my bank account I’m not afraid to give the cashier my debit card. I know the little screen is going to accept me.
It’s a good feeling. Self worth through budgeting.
But last week the fear came back. I went in to my local credit union to set up a business account. It is time to take myself seriously as a writer. I wasn’t asking for credit. Or a loan. I wanted to give them my business, my money. So why did that knot in my stomach come back?
Am I still afraid of money?
I was able to get through that meeting at the bank. I left with my very own business checking and savings accounts. The card in my wallet made me feel more professional as a writer. Someone to take seriously. But I still need to work on my relationship with money.
So I did what I always do when I have a problem. I bought a book. This one is called Making Peace with Money by Jerrold Mundis. I’m only two chapters in, but I can already tell how good it is. It isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about how I feel about money.
Yes, I have feelings about money. We all do. And now it’s time to work on that. Me and Money, we’re going to couples counseling.
How do you feel about money? Have you ever had an issue with it?
So the big day is coming up. Valentine’s Day. When everyone in a relationship looks forward to romance, candy, and maybe a gift. And everyone who is single gets a great big reminder as we sit home alone and watch re-runs.
Even children understand the concept. When one recently asked me who my valentine was going to be, I tried to be clever and avoid the subject by suggesting he be mine. The kid looked at me like I’d told him the Power Rangers were breaking up and said, “You’re supposed to go on a date for Valentine’s Day.” Then he walked away shaking his head.
Every year up until now, I would’ve agreed with him. I always made plans.
In a relationship, I’d expect some big deal that usually just turned into dinner. And maybe a movie. I would always build it up in my head so that the real thing could never be good enough. Candles, flowers, music, love poems, and later a bathtub filled with rose petals. Doesn’t happen that often outside of Hollywood.
Then there were the single years. Like the break-up that comes on February 10th, which we all know is just an excuse to get out of Valentine’s Day. You always get back together in March, once the pressure is off. Those are the times when V Day turned into a single-girl backlash holiday. We’d get together for an Anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. Maybe joke about calling it VD and how lucky we were that we weren’t going to catch it. Martinis and dinner and talking about how great it is to be single. And how much men suck. And couples, they suck too.
Obviously I wasn’t happy to be single if I had to say it so loud, and hate others in the process.
Well, this year is different. I don’t have a romantic date and I’m actually ok with being single. I don’t need to make big I-Hate-Valentine’s-Day plans. Because I don’t hate it. I can let the lovers have their day. I will get cute cards from friends and kids. There will be candy hearts, chocolate, and teddy bears that make kissing sounds when you squeeze them. Valentine’s Day is just going to be about having fun.
There will be a time when I get to have a Valentine’s date, but until then I’m happy to spend the day just being. This year, my valentine is me.
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day when you’re single? In a relationship? Does it ever live up to the hype?
Everywhere we look there are images of beautiful women. In magazines, on TV, in the movies. They usually meet the same standards: thin, young, and blond. There have been a few changes in what is beautiful over the past few years. Hair and skin can be a little darker. Ethnically ambiguous is ok, but thin and blond is still the best. Heidi Klum, Giselle, and that girl from the latest Transformer movie. They are beautiful.
Once every few years a magazine will include a picture of a “normal sized” woman and everyone will get excited. She is probably a size eight and considered plus size. And she won’t be in a mainstream magazine for another few years. Then the fashion critics give Octavia Spencer a Best-Dressed award and say she “knows how to dress for her figure.”
And we wonder why we all feel the pressure to eat less, work out, and stay wrinkle free.
But if we look at the women in our lives and think about who we consider beautiful, we would find a very different answer.
My friends are all beautiful in different ways. I have a tiny, pocket sized friend who has the most infectious smile. Another friend has perfect corkscrew curls and skin the color of cinnamon. One has the cutest button nose and another has bright green eyes that make everyone stare. They are all regular women and they are amazingly beautiful.
When I think of each of them separately, I think of features. What stands out on them. But when I picture them all together, I can see the source of true beauty. It shines from inside them. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You can see it in their eyes. They actually sparkle. Their skin glows like they wear some sort of shimmery moisturizer. And don’t get me started on their smiles. It’s like they smile with their entire bodies.
Yes, my friends are freaking gorgeous. More beautiful than most of the women on TV and in the magazines.
Because beauty is more than having a flat stomach or professionally styled hair. Real beauty comes from confidence, from knowing and loving who you are. There are actresses and models who radiate beauty. Think about it, you’ll see what I mean. The ones who you look at in the magazines and think, “Damn, she looks good!” They are the same kind of beautiful as you and me.
Beauty shines on the outside, but its source is deep within.
Pick up a mirror and look at yourself. Really look. You’ll see that I’m right. Beautiful.
How do you define beauty? What do you think of the media interpretation?
Tomorrow, Friday February 10th, please check out August McLaughlin’s blog for the Beauty of a Woman Blog fest. There will be links to other blogs about beauty and a chance to win prizes, including a kindle. I hope you check it out.
We all lead very busy lives. We have work, chores, and errands. And some of you even have kids. Sometimes it’s hard to take the necessary break and go out with a friend. Girl time.
One of my Bestie’s and I went out for girl time in the evening for the first time since her baby was born. We had been doing afternoon outings so her hubby could stay home with the baby and she wouldn’t feel guilty leaving him with a sitter.
Things are different at night. The restaurant was packed with other adults. Couples on dates, groups of women with fancy drinks in martini glasses, and guys drinking beer and watching some game. It was nice to be out in the real world again.
We sat down and ordered. Coffee for me, ice tea for her. We just didn’t feel like martini’s. Maybe being out was celebration enough.
We started talking like we usually do, but this time the topic was different. We didn’t talk about my job or her kid, we didn’t talk about guys or politics. We started talking about ourselves.
Sometimes we look at each other’s lives and think the other person has it all. She has a husband, a baby, and doesn’t have to get up and go to work. I am so lucky to have my own space, to sleep in on the weekends, and to do what I want to do when I want to do it. The grass being greener, and all.
But when we take a closer look inside, it seems that there is one big thing women have in common. Whether married or single, a stay at home mom or a corporate executive, we all need something of our own. A passion, something that lights us up inside and makes us smile. Something that is just for us.
I have my writing, but I’ve been afraid to take it seriously. My friend is ready to find her thing. So we talked.
We talked about the things we love doing, our hopes, and our dreams. Our voices got louder and our hand motions more animated. I laughed so hard my face hurt. She had to wipe her eyes. People at the tables around us looked over. My friend said, “They probably think we’re drunk.”
That just made us laugh harder. A cup of coffee, an ice tea, and some girl time was all we needed.
She went home to start a list of everything that brings her joy. I went home and signed up for a class on writing for magazines. We all need something of our own. And spending time with each other can be just what we need to find it.
Do you have something of your own that brings you joy? Does time with your friends inspire you to move forward on your dream?