Finding Joy => Finding Love, Part 2: Marriage

Here’s another post that originally started in July 2011. It’s undergone some heavy editing, but the core idea of joy and love remains.

A few years ago I had a couple single folks tell me that a divorcé(e) is someone who was once loved enough to have had someone marry them. My mind is still boggled by this logic, because it seems to discount the possibility that love wasn’t even a factor in getting married. Some marriages happen because “we’ve been together for [insert number] years, I guess I owe him/her,” “he/she asked and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying I wasn’t ready,” family pressure/expectations, a pregnancy. In some cases, marriage is used by abusers as a way to gain control over a partner. Those things don’t constitute love. Obligation and fear, yes. Love, no.

Part of the issue here is that society and the media can really screw with our notions of what makes for a healthy relationship, what constitutes a good, loving marriage, and what love is. I know I’ve had some wacky ideas for a number of years about love and relationships. Personally, I blame “Love Boat.” I should have never been allowed to watch that show. The story lines basically went like this:

  • boy and girl meet, flirt, sit at the Captain’s table for dinner
  • boy and girl look at the stars and share a passionate kiss, then end up knockin’ boots in someone’s cabin (which are WAY bigger on the show than actual cruise ships, as I understand it)
  • boy and girl fight on the Lido deck the next morning over some crazy misunderstanding, with the girl stomping off, nearly flattening Jill in the process
  • boy gets sage advice from Isaac the bartender, while girl flirts with Doc and realizes she can do way better with whats-his-name from the night before
  • boy and girl reconcile and leave the ship arm in arm, telling Julie the cruise director and Gopher they’ll be back on their honeymoon

The truth is more like the Supremes’ hit song “You Can’t Hurry Love”, or Frank Sinatra’s “Nice and Easy.” Love needs time to grow roots and blossom. Rushing to get to the good parts rarely leads to a loving, supportive relationship, much less a lasting marriage. You want all of that? You have to work for it – and it starts with working on YOU.

I try to be compassionate to the men & women I know who want to be married, or in a long-term relationship. But so often the conversations descend into whining and bitching over the dating pool and a big honkin’ glass of self-loathing. Sometimes the self-loathing is couched in “I’m totally fine being single” or “I’m happy with my life,” as if that negates all the whining and bitching. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Because here’s the thing: if you truly are happy, you’re not going to throw any energy at those moments when your phone isn’t blowing up with OKCupid messages or when the person you thought was Mr./Ms. Perfect (and potentially Mr./Ms. Right) turns out to be emotionally unstable, a philandering narcissistic asshole, or worse. If you have faith that, at some point in your life, you’re going to find the perfect partner, those instances of dealing with nitwits will be like a SnapChat image in the big Smartphone of Life: it will (ideally) disappear within seconds.

How do you get to that level of happiness? I recommend a three-step process.

  1. Shut the hell up. Drop the bitterness and the attitude problem. Stop telling the world how upset you are with online dating, with the guys/girls in the town where you live, with navigating relationships. Even if you feel that way, stop talking, tweeting or posting about it, because you’re putting all this negativity out in the world and it’s harshing any possible mellow you could achieve.
  2. Fight your demons from the inside out. Y’all know how I love analogies, so here’s a good one: some of us have nasty demons or dragons inside of us, put there by unfortunate circumstance or choices we’ve made over the years. These creatures demand food and attention, and can be so unruly that often we don’t know how to tame them. Work with a counselor or therapist if necessary to do one or both of the following: a) find your sword that will slay the beasts; b) find compassion to turn those monsters into docile pets.
  3. Open your heart, even if it’s just to the smallest things. Maybe it’s working with those in need, such as shelter animals, disabled veterans or the homeless. Maybe it’s being compassionate to friends and loved ones who are struggling with personal challenges. Whatever it is, opening your heart and filling it with light that comes from being kind to others is the best way I know to show the universe that you’re in a space where joy and love are welcome.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up married if you follow these steps, but at the very least you’ll feel better about yourself. That being said, I’ve seen enough friends find the relationships they were longing for, all because they stopped working against their own best interests and started loving.

Are you ready to try? Isaac thinks so.

Isaac Washington, Ted Lange, bartender, Love Boat, Isaac the bartender

 

 

Finding Your Joy => Finding Love

Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.

While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.

Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.

A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.

It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at Nerve.com says:

Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.

It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.

sunset, Anna Maria Island, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, beach

What helps me find my joy.

 

Whoze Bettah Than You?

Several years ago I met this guy who I’ll call Billy Moretti. He was a dark-haired, muscular Irish-Italian guy originally from Queens and he was smoking hot. The first time we met, I got this jolt in my stomach – the kind of jolt that’s only happened to me twice so far – and we ended up having a very intense, secret-ish fling.

Billy and I had a few conversations about serious topics, such as spirituality and self-esteem. One thing he said to me was a phrase from his old neighborhood: “Whoze bettah than you?” His New York accent made the words even more affirming to me, and I would always say in response, “Nobody.” Sometimes I attempted a New Yorker accent, sometimes I whispered my answer. But I never changed it. I knew what the answer was.

When the Hollaback street harassment video went viral recently, I thought about my experiences in New York and other big cities of walking down the street and having random men make comments or try to engage me. I learned pretty quickly that my tendency to be engaging and kind with people is not a good idea when hoofing it in Times Square, DC or downtown L.A. There are a lot of freaky folks out there. However, I have to admit that the attention was always a little bit flattering. It meant I wasn’t as invisible as I often felt. It suggested that maybe I was doing something right with the way I was dressing or carrying myself if some stranger catcalled me.

I’m not the only woman who’s felt this way. “Sidewalk” is a fantastic animated short by Celia Bullwinkel that chronicles a woman’s life as she walks down the street.

 

Sidewalk, Celia Bullwinkel, animation, animated, cartoon, women, street harassment, self image, female empowerment

GIFs from Celia Bullwinkel’s animated short “Sidewalk.”

In an interview she did with Jessica Goldstein over at ThinkProgress, Bullwinkel talks about what motivated her to make the film. Conversations with her mother about appreciating catcalls “because when you get older, it goes away” and reading Nora Ephron’s essays on aging proved to be a perfect starting place.

I started to really think about how I could make a film that dealt with body acceptance, and how life is more than just how you look or how you feel about yourself being young. Who cares if you get older? Everyone ages at the same rate. We all do it, so why not celebrate it?

 

It’s Bullwinkel’s comment later in the interview that reminded me of Billy’s saying, and how it made me feel back when he was saying it to me.

I wanted to show that, even if it takes you until the end of your life to change your outlook, change your mindset, about who you are, it’s never too late. You can learn to love yourself at any age in your life.

Lately I’ve been on a positive reinforcement and self-improvement kick. I’m wearing mascara and lip gloss most days, even if I don’t go anywhere, because it makes me feel good (thanks to reading an interview with Betty Halbreich, the legendary Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper). I’m talking myself out of negative thoughts about my weight, my looks, all of it. And it’s been working. I feel really good and I feel people are responding to me differently. I’m not getting catcalls, nor do I want them at this point in my life, because I’m finally validating myself in ways I haven’t before.

But I do hear Billy’s voice in my head, and my own voice, too, asking, “Whoze bettah than you?” And my answer is, as always, “Nobody.”

On Running, Self-Esteem, and Validation

After that last post I got some feedback from a few people that was a little defensive. Even though I never said I hated runners, or that I thought they were stupid, my highly satirical post was interpreted as an attack. My original plan was to blow it off.

But then I read this op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. And this response to the WSJ piece at Runner’s World. And I thought about the conversation I had with T-Wizzle about my original post:

Me: I was writing satire à la Andy Rooney, but apparently it was lost on a few people. And I thought my joke about carbo loading was funny.

T-Wizzle: What was the joke?

Me: It was that carbo loading doesn’t have to do with a clown named Carbo offering gun safety tips while speaking only in gerunds.

T-Wizzle: That IS funny.

Me: I knew you’d like that one.

T-Wizzle: The problem is no one ever wants to feel bad. If you’re not validating what they’re doing, then they feel bad and get defensive. It’s called self-esteem because it comes from YOU, not anyone else.

I thought she had a good point. Now, if you’re a runner, or you are intimately involved with a runner, I want you to read this next part very carefully.

I don’t hate runners. Not at all. I understand that training for marathons and other races is intense. It’s a big world out there, though, and there is so much happening, and I know all you runners are so much greater than the sum of your pedometers. If you feel the need to broadcast your training regimen because it helps you stay motivated and feel accountable, that is absolutely your prerogative. But I’ll be honest: I care about you as YOU. Not as runner you, or philanthropist you, or computer geek you. All the parts of you are not as important to me as the complete package.

In the last few months I’ve noticed the lengths I will go to for validation. I want people to praise me ad nauseam. I want accolades and acclaim for my writing. But that doesn’t happen. There is no algorithm or SEO keywords that guarantees I’ll be validated 100% of the time for 100% of my work & activities. That’s where the self- part of self-esteem kicks in. I’m the only one who can validate me 100% of the time. This has been a very difficult lesson to learn.

I’m still going to make jokes about anything & everything. Not everyone will think they are funny. I’m still going to write, because it’s part of my identity. Not everyone is going to like my articles, stories, poems, blog posts. But as long as I am okay with me, as long as I’m loving who I am regardless of what I’m joking about or writing, it doesn’t really matter who is a Moxie fan or who isn’t.

So keep on doing what you’re doing, whether you’re running, walking, writing, reading, eating chips, or watching TV. I’ll go do my thing. And when we meet, whether it’s virtually or in the real world, let’s just enjoy each other’s company, validation not required.

If You’re Gonna Feng Shui Your House, Better Feng Shui Your Head, Too

On Saturday night I found myself in Ms. Chick‘s bedroom.

Wait. That didn’t come out right.

See, she’s been having a dry spell with dating, and I wanted to see if I could help her out.

That still didn’t come out right. Or my mind is just constantly in the gutter.

Some background: several years ago, T-Wizzle turned me on to feng shui, the Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment. She had met and worked with Karen Rauch Carter, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, a practical, easy-to-use feng shui guide for people who don’t want to be bothered remembering a lot of details about what belongs where. I bought a copy of the book, figured out how the bagua aligned with my current apartment, and started moving my crap around. I had been having serious issues in different areas of my life and wanted to do something physical that might help change things.

feng shui, bagua, Black Hat feng shui

Basic bagua layout for your home. Image courtesy feng-shui-tips-for-wealth.com

And my life did change. I started dating, my relationships with family members improved, I made some great new friends. I found a new home for Angel, my cat who was aggressive and miserable living with me and my other cat, Mossimo. I bought a new car that I absolutely loved. I gave feng shui a lot of credit.

But the truth is, I had been feng shui-ing my head as well. I had started using affirmations and other techniques to help reset my brain to stop being so negative and cynical and nasty and being more open and compassionate and fun. And it made a huge difference. Because I’ve learned that there’s no way changes can take place in the real world until you change the way you think about the things that bother you.

I can’t sum up everything I did to feng shui my head in one blog post. But here are my basic suggestions:

  • Write down on a piece of paper what’s not working in your life. I have an old list that reads: “My love life is nonexistent. My new friendships are not as nurturing as I would like. I don’t feel motivated to write or be creative.”
  • Write down on another piece of paper what IS working. Love your job? Have a great bunch of friends? Car running beautifully? Write ’em down.
  • Go back to the first piece of paper and consider what attitudes are behind those not-working items. The key is to make sure you stay focused on yourself. For me, my love life was nonexistent because deep down I believed I was unattractive and undesirable because I am fat. It had nothing to do with the men I was interested in or had dated in the past. It was all about me.
  • Install mental updates. Your internal self-esteem software obviously needs a bug fix, so it’s time to fix that. Write some affirmations about your inner and outer beauty, make peace with your inner child, get a close friend to help you work out your shit. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with T-Wizzle working out my shit – and in turn I helped her work out her own.
  • While you’re working on these affirmations and feeling super positive about yourself, start moving stuff around in your home. Carter’s book is a great starting point. Some folks may need a professional consult, which can be expensive but if you have the money it’s well worth it.

Back to Ms. Chick and her bedroom. She had an empty laundry basket in the Love & Relationships section. I pointed at it and said, “That needs to go, unless you want to continue having nothing happen with your lovelife.” (If it had been full of dirty laundry I still would have said she needed to move it, because then she’d be dealing with – you guessed it – guys with a lot of dirty laundry.) She moved the basket and according to a tweet I got from her tonight, things have already started shifting. But I’m willing to bet she started shifting her attitude about dating, too.