Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Secret to Being Single & Happy

When I was a teenager my biggest fear in life was being alone someday.  Thinking about not getting married used to give me so much angst.  I worried about it all the time.  When I finally did realize that wasn't going to happen, that in fact it seemed more than a few boys wanted to marry me, I started to relax about that whole deal.  And then later I kind of regretted how much anxious fretting I did in regards to the whole thing.  I mean once I recognized the fear was totally unfounded, the years I spent worrying about that seemed like such a big fat waste of time.  Time I could have been doing a lot of other things instead, but which I kind of fretted away in delusional paranoia.

I am not sure that I could accurately articulate to you all the reasons I worried about it.  Partly because within my culture getting married had such a premium attached to it, that not getting married seemed like the worst thing that could happen to a person.  Along with that the fact that most of my peers would get married young and anyone not married and approaching 25 was definitely in "old maid" territory as far as my teenage brain was concerned.  Add in the fact that I had some other psychological issues around abandonment at play and a general lack of self-esteem and it was pretty much a toxic brew.

I currently have a lot of single friends.  For lots of different reasons.  Some never did get married.  Some are divorced.  There is a widow or two as well.

The truth is the majority of the people you know will be single for some portion of their lives.  We don't tend to think about how this really works.  None of the women I know who are divorced planned on being divorced.  No one thinks that when they get married.  Neither of the two young widows I know thought that was something they would be dealing with.  And most of the women who never got married imagined that maybe someday they still would (some of them still do - and they might be right about that, but you can't know).

I've never really blogged about my divorce and I probably never really will.  I don't think that's really a good topic for public consumption.  But it probably needs to be said in light of this particular blog post that it was the last thing I ever wanted to happen and maybe even my worst fear and I was quite happily married.  (and even three years of therapy later I stand by this - I was happily married, and I still think the guy I was married to was a great choice for a husband - sometimes things just go awry).

I think when some of us imagine being single someday (when we are married) and we picture ourselves as little old ladies who are widows and we really have this secret hope that even that stage will be super short - our husbands and us have roughly the same life span is what we like to imagine.  This is the kind of thought process I used to have a least.  Because you know you can't plan it but you have this wish at least.

I guess what I'm trying to say is not only did I worry about being single when I was single when I was a teenager, but I also worried about it while being happily married and wondering when my husband would die.  Singleness was a FEAR I had.

And now I'm single.

So now what?

Well for one thing right away I noticed that many of the other single friends I have are still worrying about being single much like I did during junior high and high school.  It is one of their biggest pre-occupations.

It occurs to me that I have spent so much energy on this fear - on this pursuit during my lifetime and all for what?  For nothing.  The fear did not protect me from the reality.  The anxiety did nothing.

That's not true - it did something.  It made me far less happy than I could have been a various stages of my life.

Somehow, about a year after my break up with my husband I realized something that only slowly worked its way into my brain.

I'm happy.

I think my worst fear happened, I survived and now here I am on the other side of it...strangely happy.

Here is what I'm trying to say.  I'm not happy about being divorced.  And I'm not saying people should necessarily be happy about being a widow or be happy about never having gotten married when they actually wanted to.  But what I am saying is that happiness doesn't have to depend on your dating or marital status.

What I'm saying is that this idea - that your happiness should and does depend on that - is a really really unhealthy one.  It isn't a reliable way to build happiness.

Relationships are nice.  I think love is fantastic.  There's nothing better really than love in all it's various permutations from new love to old love to just plain old intense physical attraction or vanilla companionship.  It's all good!

But relationship doesn't = happy.  I promise.

Sometimes when I talk about this with my single friends they look at me so weird.  They either refuse to believe I'm really happy or they refuse to believe what I'm telling them about finding their happiness from within.  Or they have absolutely no idea how to do that. But most of the time I get the idea from them that they don't believe me that I understand their fear/worry/anxiety about being single.

There is this well of happiness that has nothing to do with other people in your life.  The source of it is actually only you.  This is has always been true and will forever be true.  And I promise if you can tap into that well, you'll never have to worry about a relationship to tell you whether you're happy or not ever again.

And here's another secret that I know is true:  the happiest marriages, the happiest relationships and the most attractive people on the planet are people who already know this.  This is the biggest and best secret anyone will ever share with you.

So the question is HOW does a person go about doing this?  Well here are my tips

1.  What story are you telling yourself about  your life?  If your "story" is that you'll live happily ever after once you find a relationship, that's not a good story.  Because in that story you spend a lot of time waiting - and let's be honest, waiting for something that might not happen.  And at the very least waiting for something that probably can't make you as happy as you've led yourself to believe.  What if your happy ending is about something else?  Make a list of all the good things in your life.  No matter how small.  Then think about whether it's just possible to see your life as a happy one without the relationship you wanted.  Life isn't so much one big story as chapters of short stories.  Concentrate on the chapter you're in.  I bet you there are happy ways to end this chapter even if there are other chapters you'll be living in the future.  Maybe some of those include a relationship, maybe they don't.  Try to quit focusing on that as your "ending".

2.  What can you do to build your own self-esteem?  Because I can guarantee that's the real issue.  Make a list of all the things you like about yourself.  Then think about ways you'd like to change or improve your life.  Maybe you always wanted to learn to paint, or quilt, or throw pottery.  Maybe you always wanted to be the sort of person who visited the art museum on a regular basis but somehow you never got around to that.  Maybe you would love doing a specific type of volunteer work.  Maybe you need a career change but it's going to require some additional education.  Maybe you just want to paint your bedroom hot pink but you never dared.  Learn to meditate and do yoga.  There are an endless list of things that can actually make your life happier and build self-esteem at the same time.

3.  Do you hate to spend time alone?  Spend more time alone.  Seriously.  Go to the movies alone.  Go to dinner alone.  Go to the park alone.  Go to the library and sit alone and read.  Take a weekend out of town alone.  This fear of being alone is one of the biggest reasons people are scared to not be in a relationship.  As soon as you realize spending time alone - even doing things you normally would have done with other people - is not that bad, and that in fact it might even be relaxing and fun, your view of being alone will substantially change.

4.  Perform service of some sort.  You need to figure out a way to provide service which feels organic to you.  Some way that you contribute that feels good but is something you can do with relative ease.  I say that because you don't want to set yourself up for failure by doing something too hard.  But something that will get you thinking more about other people than about yourself.

5.  Don't isolate yourself from your friends. As important as it is to spend time alone, it's also important to keep in place, and add any additional friendships you might need to feel like you have a lot of support.  Maybe lots of your friends are married.  That's fine.  It really doesn't matter.  Make plans, go to lunch or dinner, buy tickets to something you want to do and buy an extra for a friend, if you think about it I bet there are a lot of people who you like but who you may never have even tried to do something with before.  One day I went to lunch with someone I barely knew, but it was totally great and we learned we had tons in common.  Sometimes when people are single they imagine that married couples don't want to spend time with a single person.  I really think for the most part this isn't very true.  It may be that you don't do the exact same types of things you would have done if you were still part of a couple (I admit, I do miss a lot of the couples "dates" I used to go on - but honestly, it is still possible to stay friends with a couple even when you're single).  I have gone to dinner with a couple who a really like as a single.  What does it really matter?  If you're still friends with both people don't you think they would still like to eat dinner with you just as much as they would have before?

6.  Get involved.   Maybe you avoided taking on extra responsibilities with volunteer activities, professional organizations, or church because as a married person it was hard to spend that much time away from your spouse.  Well, now is your chance to do those things guilt free.

7.  Look for the good things.  I promise you there are good things in being single.  Even if you really miss being in a relationship and have a hard time not being wistful about that - think about what you gained.  Things I gained:  less laundry, no one cares what time I go to bed, I get the tv control all the myself!!! (this is huge), I get to pick out all the movies I see, only I got to pick the car I bought, the closet is all mine, I never have to justify why I bought those shoes/jewelry/clothes I get the idea.  These are small things, sure.  But they are things you can enjoy.  They are things to be happy about at least for now.

8.  I was in a good marriage - so I can't really look back on my marriage and say "wow, that was unhappy, I'm glad that's over", but lots of people I know who are divorced were in a terrible marriage.  There was fighting and unhappiness on a regular basis.  Sometimes it's important to look at the peace you now have and just breathe deeply.  Sometimes, some of these same friends will be sad that since they never did have a good marriage - they desperately want to find one.  I can understand that.  But at the same time I could say that it's a matter of perspective.  When you look at what you lack you can be sad about that.  But when you look at what you've gained, it's a whole different thing.  I could look at what I lack - having been in a happy marriage, and be devastated.  I choose not to do that.  Think about all the little good things - or big things - you've gained.  Don't think about how your life compares to some perfect ideal.

9.  Date without expectation.  When and if you do date  - don't look at these people as potential fixes for your problems.  Date with the idea in mind that you have a happy and good life already, and dating is part of that happy and good life.  Not a means to obtaining a happy and good life.  See the difference?

10.  Just breathe.  Celebrate your successes.  Look for 3 things that will make you happy or grateful every day and write them down.  Journal.  Persevere.  If you do all these things you will find happiness.  I promise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A love letter about being a mom of teens

Many times this week I have had a conversation or an email exchange with mothers who express worry and fear about "doing it wrong".  Or who are just struggling with parts of parenting that they never are quite sure about.  This post is made in the spirit of encouragement.  

Being a mom - I have absolutely 100% loved being a mother.  Nothing I ever do will compare to it.  I love it so much, I almost feel guilty about it.  Probably because I am no stranger to unmet needs or wishes - there are lots of things I would like in this world which I do not have, and I know there are lots of men and women who would like to have children and don't have them for various reasons - I have a sort of weird guilt about that - that in this one area of my life I feel like I practically won the lottery.   I know I have been an imperfect mother.  But all the moms in the world are with me on that one - we are all imperfect.  Probably the very best most gratifying part of being a mom has been watching my kids turn to teens and then adults (yes, it's true, in spite of feeling like I could still be a teen myself sometimes, I have an ADULT child).  

When I was young I could not have anticipated how this would feel.  I thought having teenagers would be scary and hard.  But really, other than a few minor mishaps, it has been the best part of being a mom.  And I am so grateful for that.  I think I'm a better mom to older kids than I was to my little kids.  I think I have more patience for this type of mothering.  And I'm not even sure why I never had confidence in myself enough to see that clearly except almost in retrospect, but it's true.  I have been a big fat fail at many things some moms are fantastic at.  But the things that have really mattered to me - the things that in my opinion really count - those things I have been successful at accomplishing.  And although I don't really want to necessarily go into a lot of details about where I feel my success lies - I will say that raising children to like themselves and to be confident in who they are, was probably the most important thing to me.  It was the one thing that I was able to keep my eye on as a goal through out my role as a parent and it's still the driving force behind the majority of my decisions.  I've never regretted that and I think the fruit that it has bore is very very good fruit.  

Being a mom certainly means some sacrifice.  But it's also the one way that I have learned to become my best self.  I am so flawed in so many ways, but being a mom has kept me sane and on track in trying to be a better person today than I was yesterday.  I don't know who I would be without it.  Probably the best parenting advice anyone can ever hear is quit being too hard on yourself.  Just stop.  You're going to screw some stuff up.  You're going to say things you wish you wouldn't have and generally be inept beyond what you think is acceptable at times.  It's okay.  

Which is not to say you can't improve.  You can.  Here's what I think is probably one of the single most important thing you can do as a parent:  Ask yourself what is your goal?  What goal do you have for your children?  How and in what ways do you want to affect them?

Your goals and my goals might not be the same and that is totally OK.  But your goal should be something that is for them and not for you.  Nearly all parenting mistakes can be traced back to this very essential thing.  Certainly all permanent damage can be traced back to it.  If you're struggling with this - if parenting is something that meets some unmet need for you and you have a hard time thinking of your children as individuals who exist separately and who aren't here to meet any of your own needs - it's not too late to solve this problem.  

Maybe you are the mom of a teen and all my waxing poetic about parenting teens is not exactly ringing true.  I hear you.  I have not being totally conflict free in the teen zone.  And while I have avoided some of the messiest aspects of the teenage years thus far (knock on wood and all that...), I understand that some moms absolutely adore the baby and toddler and childhood stages and really aren't so much feeling this whole independent person-hood known as adolescence.  Here's what you need to remember - if you rocked as a mom of little people and struggle with the bigger people mode - you probably did so much good in your previous modes that this bumpy ride is a temporary thing.  Relax.  Chances are, everything is going to turn out just fine.  

And let me say one last thing I feel I would be remiss without mentioning.  If you're really struggling as a mom - or if your child is experiencing problems you think are a little scary or particularly challenging, please don't hesitate to get professional help either for yourself or for your child.  It is so gratifying to watch kids involved in a therapeutic process change and grow.  And as a parent, it can be incredibly empowering to deal with some of your own problems in ways that allow you to be your best self for your kids.

And to all moms - new and not so new, above all else remember to laugh, just love them for who they are, and give yourself a break from being too hard on yourself.  Do the best you can, and then take a deep breath and enjoy. 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tips For Making a White Room Work

In some ways I think white rooms are the hardest to make really fantastic.  White is tricky if you want it to look really chic and really great.  Here are the number one ways to make it work.

Don't assume any white wall will do.  Both the quality of the paint and the tone are really important.  Choose a white the same way you would any color - by getting paint chips and looking at them in differing light conditions through out the day.  Don't make a decision too quickly, you'll be happy you took your time!  In terms of quality I am a big fan of Dunn Edwards.  But I also think Frazee paint is really good too.  And I've had some success with the Martha Stewart paints and Sherwin Williams.  

2.  One way to do white is to keep almost everything white - white furniture, white accessories for nearly everything and then adding just a smidge of color as in here with the pastel lights and the yellow artwork.  

You can choose a "white" that has a smidge of color in it - gray, pink, blue, green - it will still be white, but under certain light conditions the slight hue of color will be noticed.  This white is really white with a drop of gray.  

White works well in a room with lots of different textures going on - the wood floors, the textiles, the lamp, the wire fixture, these things all give heft to the space.  And the paintings in this room are great with the colors they add.  

Keep everything - even your colors super neutral as well.  This really gives a restful and cohesive feeling.  The biggest problem I usually see in white walled rooms are where no thought has been giving to the mixing of bold colors and pastels and neutrals - just because the walls are white doesn't mean everything should suddenly be thrown together.  It still needs to be a pulled together look. 

Keeping all the additional art work and furniture to basically one bold color works really really well as you can see in this room with the green furniture. 

Art work, art work, art work!  I saw this all the time, but it's the best way to make a room really look fantastic.  Smartly here they've kept the art to a neutral-ish palette which is in keeping with the feeling of the space and the feel of the eclectic wood table and chairs.  

This is from Reese Witherspoons Ojai California home (I know aren't you jelly?) - nary a pop of color to be had in this room which makes it feels so earthy and restful.  

If you're going to add a pastel color is is perfectly fine to add one or two more. Because they are all so subdued, they all work well together while keeping it as a cohesive concept.

Bold artwork makes the room work well here.  

Attention to detail is important.  Keep things from being cluttered - be thoughtful about what you choose as accessories.  It's the biggest reason rooms end up looking "decorated".  It's the editing that ends up being more important than almost anything - and it's sometimes the hardest thing to do.  

Doing something trendy like hot pink and orange (very on trend at the moment) works really well in an all white room with tons of white background - as in this room where the headboard, bedspread, lamp and mirrored side table keep everything super serene with this boldness added. 

Lots of bold with some black - but with the white table and the white bend it still looks really good together.  

so carefully edited so that you just notice everything that is great - the light fixture and the  chairs are the focus here.  

Go as bold as you want and add as much color as you like once you've reached the basic white background - here, couch, carpet, walls and tables are all white allowing the ability to add as much crazy color as needed.  The result still looks really pulled together and chic.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Strangers I have Loved

When I was in high school and college I had a major crush on this guy:

Lately I have been working on some interesting theories about why we are attracted to some of the people we are attracted to.

I have wondered about many different connections between a few different things.  I'm being vague because I really haven't figured this all out yet.  It's sort of an academic side project of sorts that I think has real potential for being interesting - not just to people who are as interested in psychology as I am, but just to people who are interested into gaining some insight into their lives, maybe their relationships, etc.

Anyway, as I'm formulating these ideas I need to do some research.  Here's where you can help out.

I'm interested especially in women and the men that they have crushes on.  Celebrity crushes specifically.

So here is your assignment.  Who do you have a crush on?  And why?

This isn't just a pop culture question (though certainly, it can be interesting from that viewpoint).  But rather I am truly academically interested in the answer to this question.  I also want to know if you do not have ANY celebrity crushes.  If that's the case - have you in the past?

And also - has your taste changed over time?  As much as I loved Rob Lowe in the 80s I have to be honest that he doesn't really do much for me now.

Friday, February 08, 2013

OBSESSED...(you say that like it's a bad thing)

Okay so a confession of sorts.

Sometimes I find myself obsessed with something.  Like literally obsessed.

Not in the way that a shoe blogger says "I'm obsessed with these shoes right now" or the adorable Brad Goreski who is so fond of saying things like "I'm obsessed with NEON right now".

Brad Gorseki

Because see, the thing is, they are not talking about really obsessing.

And I'm not talking about it as OCD, obsessive/compulsive disorder, which, although it does qualify as an obsession to wash your hands repeatedly or check to make sure the stove is off, is not really just pure obsession either.

And I'm not talking about the Calvin Klein perfume either.  Which does have some pretty alluring commercials.

No, I'm talking about being so interested in a particular topic or person or television show or whatever that you literally think about it every time you have a free moment.

When I was a legal secretary my boss used to observe that I would occasionally become super pre-occupied like a dog with a bone about something specific.  Finding something that was lost was a big one.  Or trying to figure out how to do something on the computer that we weren't able to do.  It could be anything that captures my weirdly often ADD attention span.  It's like I'm ADD but able to specifically and super focused on one thing while ignoring everything else at the same time.

Sometimes this serves me well.  Like when I'm really really interested in Alfred Adler and his theories and I'm also presenting a power point on him in class that week.  This is like kismet for me - because all the best things converge at the same time and allow me to be actually really good at something that I want to be good at for a moment.  Last week this happened when I presented on Yalom and Existential Theory.  I did the full 20 min presentation with no notes and felt totally 100% confident about my ability to just talk off the cuff about this man and his theories.  It's so great to be in a grad school program that actually caters to my interests.  Seriously.  Who can't love being in school and earning a degree in an area that literally fascinates me to no end.  Sometimes I even get a little anxiety that 2 years plus a year of internship is not nearly enough time to learn everything I want to learn.  (but no, I'm not going to get a PhD - though that would probably also cater to my obsessive characteristics well).


But that was last week.  This week, even though I've done my homework, and worked on my talk for church and researched what jobs are available in my field and and worked on my group project - even though I have managed to be semi-productive, I have OBSESSED about Sons of Anarchy and Charlie Hunnam pretty much all week.

Charlie Hunnam

And by obsessed, I mean obsessed.

In every spare moment (and some that I did not have to spare - like giving up sleep to catch up on the show) I have thought about the show, looked up interviews with the writer and the cast, or watched the show.  5 seasons worth of show guys.  I don't even want to get into how many hours that entails or how much sleep I haven't gotten because of it.  I am powerless to resist.  I'm 3 episodes into season 5 and I'm so freaking sad that it will be over in 10 episodes and I'm stuck waiting til like next fall with all the other schmucks for it to start up again.

I did this once before with Mad Men.  I watched all four or five seasons of that show last year in pretty much a week.  It was totally crazy pants.  And I obsessed over Don Draper too.

Don Draper/John Hamm
I have not a clue what this says about my personality.

I used to feel really bad about being such an intensely curious person.  Because I think that describes my obsession - I just get super interested in a specific thing and really really curious and I can't stop myself from gorging on information about whatever that thing is.  I used to think this was a personality flaw.

My old boss used to say he wished he could dictate what my obsession could be - he would remark on my inattention to certain details while spending too much time on things he could have honestly cared less about.

It's a problem sort of I guess.

But I choose to embrace it.

Hopefully soon I'll become obsessed with ethics in mental healthcare (one of my classes) rather than a tv show about outlaw bikers.

But I'll enjoy this face in the meantime.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Lia Sophia - Perfect Valentines Gifts

I have some good ideas for valentines gifts if you're looking for ideas.  Impressive without spending a fortune.

Men, I'm talking to you.  These are the kind of gifts that women and girls wish their boyfriends and husbands would choose for them.  I'm telling you these are pretty much fool proof.

The abloom ring is so cute, encircled with flowers and encrusted in pave set cz's and crystals and silver plated.  The only thing you have to figure out is her ring size.  $58

This eternity band in cut crystals is so gorgeous.  $88 Seriously, you can't go wrong with this.  

Everyone loves this ring.  It's stunning in person.  The greek isle ring is a blue stone cz, which mimics a blue diamond.  $68

Photos don't really do any of the jewelry justice in my opinion, but this ring especially is FAB in person.  Lemon Chiffon - a yellow stone cz which mimics a canary diamond.  $88

This silver buckle up bracelet is so trendy and darling.  $48

This set of bracelets are so darling - they all go together, or can be worn individually.  Each bracelet is slightly different.  Gold plated with crystals.  $108

Raise the Bar necklace is demure, and modern.  It something you could wear every day.  In silver or gold with crystals.  $38

If you know your wife or girlfriends specific taste is a little more bold, geometric, flashy, or trends towards pearls and lace there are lots of other options.  You can view all the jewelry here, on my lia sophia site by clicking on "browse our jewelry".  

If you're interested in ordering, I'm putting in a valentines order this week so that it gets here in plenty of time for the holiday.  If you're not in Phoenix, I'll happily ship it to you in time.  Email for details or with questions.


Related Posts with Thumbnails