Friday, January 30, 2015

dealing with the breakdown before the breakthrough

There's one thing I can almost count on when working with new clients.  It's the breakdown before the breakthrough.

Please don't worry.  It's not the clients who break down!  It's that just as they start making exciting changes in their lives and start feeling hopeful and wonderful, things outside their control start going wrong.

Now, really, these things would be going wrong anyway, but my clients wouldn't have noticed this because they'd still be moving in the same direction as everything that was getting in their way.

But, now that she's discovering who she is, what she wants, and getting excited about life, there can be a big contrast between the path she's creating and where everything else seems to be. 

Suddenly, the car needs repairs, a parent starts getting noisy and nosy ("concerned"), children start having emotional issues ("don't have a life, just keep serving my needs"), and there can even be unexpected stresses at work, which my client wouldn't have noticed as anything different, if she were just slogging through her old reality.

The unspoken (okay, sometimes loudly spoken) message from family and friends, or even inanimate objects in her life is:  Stop it.  Stop it right this instant, and start being the person you used to be.  
The person who cleaned up after us, who sacrificed herself to keep the disfunctional family status quo humming along, the person who did all kinds of unpaid and unacknowledged services at work . . . .  You get the idea.  Maybe you've experienced this.

Before feeling like crying and deciding that there's no use in even trying to live out your dreams, please believe me that there's a reason for sayings like "It's always darkest before the dawn."

Keep moving in the direction of your dreams.  Really.

Do you really want to give in to the pressure and keep living the kind of life you've had so far?  Is grey really the color you want the rest of your life to be?

What's happening right now is just the breakdown before the breakthrough.  It doesn't last long unless you let it.  While some near and dear people may never be on your side, if you stay on course, the people who truly care about you will come to accept the changes.  In fact, a year from now, they'll probably say that they were the ones who gave you the new ideas in the first place!

You may have to reduce contact and involvement with the naysayers, and yes, your parents or a beloved relative may be among the people who keep insisting that you "change back."  It's okay.  You're not in charge of what other people want from you.  But, you can change your expectations of what you want and expect from them. 

Stop expecting them to be supportive.  Yes, I know this is tough, but very, very often, the people you believed would most be on your side are the ones who aren't.  And the kindnesses of near strangers are what carry you on.  So, reach out to people who will become your chosen family (if not your family by birth).

If you're going through a crisis of breakdown before the breakthrough, here are a couple of meditations I like to recommend.  Both are less than six minutes in length, so you can listen to them even during a bathroom break at work : ) .  Sometimes we don't have 10 or 20 minutes for a healing moment!

To calm yourself in times of anxiety and panic: 

And to connect to your higher self for guidance:

If you try these, will you comment and let me know what you think?

I'm sending you love as you hang in there and remain true to what you most desire -- in balance with your current responsibilities and those you love.

Friday, January 23, 2015

you are beautiful, and why other women make this hard for us to believe

A few months ago, I attended a women's circle in which each woman was invited to talk about something on her mind -- in an atmosphere of support from all of the others present.

One woman shared how she had never felt feminine or beautiful, and related several incidents of slights and insults from fellow girls and women that dated all the way back to her teen years.

This woman was strikingly beautiful in my eyes, and absolutely radiant.  After feeling called out on her appearance so many times, I could imagine how innocent comments or even compliments could have been interpreted by her as slams.

For her, it would be a never-ending perception that something was wrong with her.  Unless she decided to change her own mind about herself.

Maybe, like me, you too have been dismayed by the way women can compete and jockey for position, especially when men are in the room.  Maybe you, too, have experienced how insecure women feel compelled to destroy someone else in order to feel like somebody special themselves.

I started this year by making a cute special offer on The Dynamic Divorcée Facebook page.  My Magic Mondays offer was a little pouch filled with You Are Beautiful items:  silver stickers, pinback buttons, magnets . . .

Wow, it was a popular little giveaway!

Women commented about why they wanted to win it, and so many of the comments were about how their self-confidence and sense of their own attractiveness had eroded away over the years.  Often, it was a critical husband who did the damage.  Sometimes it had started in women's families of origin.  Sometimes it was bullying at school.

But here's why lots of women wanted to win my little gift:  Everyone wanted to love and approve of themselves -- and to share with other women that they are beautiful, too.

Have you experienced a lack of support from the women in your life, or even verbal bullying or insults from women whose opinion mattered to you?   I found this article on the subject interesting.

I truly believe that there's another piece to this puzzle:  Making my opinion of myself and my inner and outer beauty more important than what anyone else has to say about it.

We can't control others' perceptions, or how their own pain and insecurities may influence how they perceive us or treat us.  We're not inside their heads (and we probably don't want to be).

I don't think the unconventionally beautiful woman at the women's circle would have shared those painful, shaming memories if she didn't know in her heart and soul that she was beautiful, she is beautiful, and that she deeply disagrees with those who say she is somehow less than they are.

There's a part inside each of us that wants the way we see ourselves to be reflected back in the gaze of others.  Especially important others.  And, it will be reflected back.  As soon as we feel our own beauty deeply enough inside ourselves.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hello I Must Be Going (divorce upper-middle-class style)

On one hand the 2012 film Hello I Must Be Going gives us the story of an extremely pampered 35-year-old, who has the privilege of holing up with her upper-middle-class parents while the terms of her divorce are negotiated -- or dictated -- by her entertainment-lawyer husband.

On the other hand, much of what's in this film applies to any woman who has lost her self-confidence during marriage (or, as portrayed by the divorcée in this film, never had any sense of her own self to begin with).

I hear, all the time, from my clients about the inappropriate post-divorce hookups and quasi-relationships that they allow themselves to get into.  If this has happened to you, or keeps happening, watching this movie will make you feel better, I think.  (And, getting some perspective about how you can put the brakes on behaviors that hurt you before things get out of control isn't a bad idea, either.  You can schedule a free virtual coffee date with me to talk things over here.)

Maybe part of the reason that women drift into bad places in all areas of their life during and after divorce is that, like Amy, the protagonist in Hello I Must Be Going, their experiences, so far, have been mostly about fitting in to a life that was set into motion for them by others. 

You thought the life you had was what you should have wanted, but you had to leave so much of yourself behind in order to live according to expectations.  It seemed easier just to drift.  And, in fact, it was comfortable enough that you might have stayed there forever, if it hadn't blown up spectacularly on you overnight.

This film is all about those kinds of expectations.  For both the younger generation (Amy) and the older generation (her mother, Ruth).

Hello I Must Be Going free viewing on youtube is here (picture not perfect, but free), or for rent on youtube ($2.99) here.

Don't miss these scenes:
  • After watching our heroine spend the first two-thirds of the film in shell-shocked, self-destructive behavior, at about 1 hour and 10 minutes into the film, Amy's mother finally lets her have it, and we are able to see why the mother had seemed so cutting and judgmental of Amy earlier in the film.
  • At about 1 hour and 16 minutes, see how Amy finally wakes up and smells the coffee during her meeting with the soon-to-be ex.  Check out how she has so obviously put herself in the one-down position in her marriage.  And, keep watching to see how she finally takes control, without anger or malice.
Further fascinating twists and turns in the film's last ten minutes . . .

Bonus material:  Check out the interesting interview with Todd Louiso and Sarah Koskoff, the husband-and-wife team who created all this.  Highly recommended!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Post-divorce dating mistakes: Why only the bad guys seem to stick around.

Well, unless you're just addicted to the glamour and danger
of the bad guy . . . but that's another story.
"I'm treated so badly by bottom-of-the-barrel men, so what hope can I have of a chance with someone better?"  Statements like these have been coming up a lot as I coach my clients, and it goes straight to my heart, because I used to believe this, too.

My advice is:  Don't judge the good guys by the kinds of men you may have been meeting lately.  Don't think that if guys who should be lucky to have you treat you badly that you don't even have a chance with someone better.

And, with compassion for yourself, please just notice that the men you have been meeting and sticking with have a lot to do with who you are at the time they meet you.  Let me explain.

When I was first divorced, and starting to date, I was already feeling pretty worthless and shaken up because of what my ex-husband had put me through.  First, I dated a mentally unstable man who was spiraling out of control.  I stuck with him for a while because I remembered him from years ago, before he was diagnosed as bi-polar -- back when he was a charming, successful businessman.  I held on to that fantasy of who he used to be until I was hit on the head with a virtual brick of recognition that this guy was quickly headed down the drain.  But, it took a couple of months for me to see past the mask to the reality.  Once I did, I was shocked at my self-deception.

Next, I became engaged to another relatively successful man, and even before I said "yes," skeletons were coming out of the closet.  But I continued to sweep his skeletons from the closet to under the carpet.  Because I kept in front of me the image of who I thought he was, and not the reality that he was showing me.  I wanted to live the life of the socially respected wife of a man who wasn't an under-achiever like my ex.  So, I stayed with this guy as he tested me more and more.  I finally had the courage to break off the relationship, but when I didn't find anyone else whom I really loved, I allowed him back in my life.  More than once.

It took me awhile to learn that, not only has the dating game changed a great deal from when we were young, but there's another important factor as well.  (Actually, I could write a book here, but, let me just pick one point to share.)

We've all heard the adage, "We teach people how to treat us," but many of us don't pay attention to how we present ourselves to potential dates.  (And, how we present ourselves tends to reflect the agony and self-doubt that's on the inside.)

When a divorce is still fresh, and we're still feeling off-balance, we tend to attract partners who are similarly out of control in one way or another.  We may be meeting good guys as well, but they don't stick because they see red flags on the very first date with us.

Here are a few of my post-divorce dating mistakes.  Do any of these sound familiar?
  • I realized that I had regaled men with stories about what my ex-husband had done to me.  (Male-think:  Wow, wonder why her husband cheated?  Maybe she wasn't good in bed?  Or maybe she has a terrible temper, or . . . ?  There must be something wrong with her.)
  • I would mention how I had been determined to be so fair in my divorce that I left with practically nothing.  I wanted men to know that I wasn't a money-hungry barracuda. (Male-think:  What an idiot!  She gave her ex an easy out, and now this woman would be my financial burden?)
  • I had also talked about the valiant struggles I was going through with my business at the time -- actually making wry jokes about how one thing after another was failing in my life, and how brave and strong I was to keep going in the face of all this.  I wanted them to know that I was a person of character.  (Male-think:  This girl's trouble.  I'm a man, so I have lots of choices at this age.  I can easily find a better deal.)

I could go on.  It sounds pretty harsh, but this is how guys talk and think -- even the good ones.  I know, because I have many men friends, and I've been the only woman in the room enough times to hear what men really say.  All I have to do is bring up the topic of dating, and then sit back and listen. 

A man can be a knight in shining armor.  For the right woman only.  And he's not looking for the damsel in distress -- beware if he is.

Here's my point:  In so many of my coaching calls with clients, the number one thing they need is to be taken step-by-step toward getting their lives in order to become (and own that they are) attractive, loving, powerful women who are easily able to see their beauty and embrace it.  No apologies for being the prize that you are.

I say to my clients:  Sure, keep dating, but you'll be hitting the same kinds of walls until you become the person who naturally attracts the kind of man you want to have.  In fact, you'll know that your radiance is shining brighter as the men you meet rise in quality.  When you recognize a good one, he'll stick around, wanting to show you that he is worth your time.  (Learning to recognize the good ones is the subject of another story, but I often assist on this in my coaching, too.)

But, I'm not a dating coach.  I'm a divorce recovery coach, who gets you to the place where you're ready to meet the man of your dreams.  My job is to assist my clients in feeling better and more confident every week.  When that starts to happen, topics of conversation on dates won't betray you as a pushover or victim.  Because that pushover won't even exist anymore.

Friday, January 2, 2015

try just one new thing: find it on my youtube channel

Sometimes, getting unstuck can start with trying just one new thing.  While you're trying to figure out what your life is supposed to be about post-divorce, the task can seem sooooo huge.

Where do you start?  Why even try?  It's so tempting to pull the blanket over your head and hibernate until it all passes.  Except that it doesn't.

Youtube can be a great source to find that one simple technique or practice that might resonate with you.  Just a little something to hang onto and get you started.  One baby step at a time.

Baby steps are what this blog is all about.  And my coaching practice is, at its core, about holding a client's hand and helping her to see the exact steps that will bring her to the life she wants to have.  First, I help her identify what that life would look like.  Then, we see how it can be possible.  Then, my client (with my support) decides on the baby steps and starts to take them.  We're together every step of the way to celebrate the victories and decide what to do when a set-back occurs.

But, you may think you're not ready to seek out help.  Yet.

In the meanwhile, in addition to this blog, I have a selection of expert videos on my youtube channel with techniques that range from breathing practices to yoga to foods that relieve stress.  Of course, you can also have fun searching youtube to find your own "one new thing."

You'll also find some valuable resources from me on my channel.

Here's where you can hear my story in an interview on the Women Warriors radio show (plus some great strategies on preparing to be loved and finding the guy of your dreams post-divorce):

And here's an online workshop with me (originally given as part of the teleseminar series Find Your Fire):

If you've found a video with a technique or tip that has really helped you, and that you'd like to share with The Dynamic Divorcée community, please comment!