Confessions of a Serial Ex©

caveman woman

Photo from onlinedatingblog.co

Just as I’ve never held the same job for 25 years, I’ve never been married for that long either – at least to the same man. With three longer term relationships under my belt and the experience of several flings over my lifetime, I’m qualified to put SE (Serial Ex) behind my name on my calling card.

Because I was brought up in the “till death do you part” era of connubial bliss (there were times when I wanted to kill the man I was with sooner rather than later) (oops, did I say that right out loud?!) – anyway – when I walked away from my starter spouse, I felt I had failed. Note: my dad was so relieved that he gave me cash as a happy divorce present! Does it sound as if I didn’t pick so good the first time? What can I say – I was young and naive, with lots to learn.

You need to know that I really like men. I was surrounded by men growing up; I had three brothers and lots of male cousins. I confess that I yearned to be a boy – they got to do all the cool stuff with my dad. They had tons of energy, were strong and good at sports and they didn’t have to do dishes, clean their rooms, or learn how to cook. Men seemed to rule the world, while I watched wistfully from the kitchen window.

Now if you’re under 40 and female, you’re likely thinking, “that’s ridiculous. Men don’t rule the world – we women are as strong as men – maybe stronger!” Actually, I think you’re right, but that wasn’t what was going on in the 60’s and 70’s.

Roles were well-defined when I was born. Dad brought home the bacon and Mom cooked it. Mom wasn’t allowed to have a job outside the house, either – that would have given the impression that Dad was a poor provider.

By the time I was ready to graduate from high school, the world had changed, with the “Father Knows Best” lifestyle of the 50’s seriously disrupted by hippies and feminists. With my first job at 18 and a husband shortly after that, I was confused about how things were supposed to work.

Since I was perfectly capable of earning a living, I didn’t know if I had a right to ask my husband to support me. His inability to hold down a steady job soon confirmed that while I might have had the right to ask for that support, it wasn’t happening anytime soon.

As I now sit on the sidelines of the relationship game, (I’m not sure if I’ll keep following in Liz Taylor’s footsteps or not) I can see what an amazing journey it’s been for me to be partnered with a man. Like any terrifying/exhilarating roller coaster, the learning curve has been steep. (How hard could this be – oh, what was I thinking?!)

I’ve learned lots about myself and a few things about men. Here’s what I’ve learned about the men whose paths have crossed mine:

  • They were often confused about what was expected of them.
  • They were very vulnerable – they just hid it better than women do.
  • They suffered from bouts of depression (maybe because they were hitched to me?)
  • They didn’t understand women, but they couldn’t seem to get along without them.
  • A few of them were damn fine lovers. (Hallelujah!)

As for me, each time a relationship ended, I mulled over what worked and what didn’t, took some time to heal my broken heart, refined my standards and eventually got back in the game – hopeful that the next time I’d score the winning goal and bring home the trophy. So close, I’ve been so close! But as my granddaddy used to say, “Close only counts in horseshoes.”

Now I wonder if there really is anything such as a perfect match – or maybe it’s not about winning the prize but about discovering who we are as a result of playing the relationship game. If I’m honest with myself, I realize that every man I’ve ever had a personal or intimate relationship with was absolutely perfect for me at the time – even if it was a disaster in that moment. And I often learned as much or more with shorter term partners than with the longer ones.

Bottom line – I couldn’t have grown to be who I am today without men. They helped me decide who I was and wasn’t and what I most wanted and what I didn’t want. A masculine male triggers ultimate femininity. There’s nothing more enticing to a man than a woman basking in her feminine energy.

Through it all, I’ve become very comfortable in my own skin as a powerful, sensual, and loving woman.  I’m grateful for all those close encounters of the male kind. To paraphrase an old Willie Nelson song – “…I dedicate this song to all the men I’ve loved before…”

Will I toss my hat into the ring yet one more time? It’s tempting. . . but maybe I’ll think about it awhile longer!

 

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A Little Life – Or so Much More – What Will You Choose? ©

I’ve led such a little life. I have allowed myself to lead this little life, when inside me there is so much more.” From the movie, Shirley Valentine, the heroine is 42 when she realizes that her spunky, risk-taking, outrageous self of her youth has disappeared a midst the layers of a “normal” life.

Just like Shirley Valentine, I’ve had this yearning to be more and do more – I’ve had it all my life. I suppose if I compare my journey to most others, I’ve done my share of scary, outrageous things and achieved quite a lot.

Yet there were many times I applied the brakes on my desires, rather than going full speed ahead. (Sometimes I’d tromp on the brakes and the gas at the same time – imagine the tailspin then!) When I watch what others have achieved, I sometimes feel as if I’ve been standing still.

Phrases that start with, I wish I could… I’d love to…Wouldn’t it be great if…I always wanted to… are all signs of that inner drive to be bigger, to be more than we currently are. What stops us in our tracks from fulfilling our hearts’ desires?

It often starts when we’re young. A dear friend recently shared that she had loved music and art in school, but because she struggled with book-learning, the teachers removed all the activities she was good at and forced her to focus on those weaknesses. She’s done some amazing things despite those set-backs, but it makes me wonder how much more she could have done had the focus been on her strengths.

The story we tell ourselves about who we are plays a role, too. “I’m nobody fancy.” I’m just an ordinary guy.” I recently heard the lyrics to a new country western song that had me bubbling with indignation – o.k. it was rage. He said, “I don’t want to be someone’s super hero, I just want to be an average guy.” Give me a break! My personal belief is that each human being is not only unique but extraordinary in his or her own way. It’s important to acknowledge that specialness in every one of us.

When I first ventured into the online dating world, I can remember reading and discarding an astounding number of profiles that boasted of being ordinary. Mostly they were looking for a good, honest woman who was willing to settle for ordinary. I felt I was so much more than that. It took some time to find extraordinary – someone who wanted as much as I did and knew his own worth.

In the business world, complacency, risk aversion, and too much time in a particular comfort zone can signal the death knell for companies. I believe the same holds true for us as individuals. It’s so easy to get distracted by gadgets, re-runs and external things that have no meaning and add nothing to our lives – far easier to settle for less.

Now don’t think that I’m advocating that we strive to be someone we’re not. But I do think it’s about challenging ourselves, stretching ourselves, and growing ourselves in ways that add to the meaning of our lives. For example, when I was 40, I gave myself piano lessons. As a child, I’d taken a year or two of lessons but I hated practicing, so Mom stopped the lessons. It left me with a yearning to try again.

It was hard work, far harder because I’m better at playing by ear – musical notes on the page didn’t make much sense at first. Imagine my horror when the teacher begged me to play on stage at the year-end recital – along with all those 8-year old prodigies!

My goal was to get up there, play my piece without too many mistakes, and not have a heart attack. Mission accomplished. That was over 20 years ago.

At 50, I enrolled in a stand-up comedy course. Our goal – perform five minutes of our own material at Yuk Yuk’s on Amateur Night. Now that was scary – more terrifying than anything I’d done previously. My fear escalated each week when no one laughed at any of the material I wrote and delivered – it was all crap. Disaster loomed!

I wanted to back out more times than I could count. But I didn’t. I just didn’t invite anyone I cared about to the event. If I was going to make a complete fool of myself, I would do it in front of strangers! None of my fears of impending disaster came true; my routine had the audience laughing and clapping, and it gave me a high that I can still feel to this day. Even the headliner that night commented, “Very funny material.”

The message I’ve taken from all those “out of my comfort zone” experiences is that I am capable of so much more. It isn’t about doing more because I’m not good enough as I am, or that I don’t feel I measure up. Rather, it’s that I feel compelled to do more to show myself that I can do even better than I’m currently doing. I can grow beyond what I first thought was possible for me and successfully venture in many new directions that call to me.

Knowing all this, I also know that I’m still just scratching the surface of all that’s possible for me and for others. Now what about you? Are there things on your bucket list begging you to play, do and be more? Please share – I’d love to hear your stories!

How Can I Be Happy If I’m Not in Control? ©

I've Been Thinking Woman

Photo from: zazzle.co.uk

I confess, I ‘m a closet control freak. One day I might come out of the closet – that’s if I can find my way through all the stuff in there. (I said I was a control freak, not a neat freak!)

As a child, I really wanted to control my world. But I was little and female. Tantrums, in my efforts to be “the boss” were swiftly crushed by my mother. My older brother had way more power than me – and he never hesitated to taunt me with it.

But even he didn’t have the kind of power I thought he had. When he was only 13, my parents sent him to boarding school to shape him up, civilize him so our mother would be proud of his behavior. (He had been acting out, in typical teenage boy fashion.)

Whoa! I thought, “Keep your head down and follow the rules, or the same thing will happen to you!” So I followed orders – “be a good girl, get good grades, and take care of your brothers”. I saw how the world worked. Big people had power. Big people controlled the order of things. It was important to play along until I was big.

So for a while, I played along. I did what I was told – mostly – and the world continued to turn in an orderly fashion – at least on the surface.

Chaos beat down the door of our “Father Knows Best” existence when my mother died suddenly. I was 17. At 18, I’d finished high school; my dad had remarried and moved my younger brothers to Saskatchewan. I was all grown up and on my own. There was no one to tell me what to do.

What freedom I felt to be in charge of my own destiny. I could stay out all night, eat whatever I wanted, and do my own thing. Who-Hoo! In control at last!

Of course that euphoria lasted about five minutes – once I remembered that the food I was so fond of cost money, plus it was a bit too scary staying out all night if I had no place to live. The refraine “No work, no eat” drummed in my head as I pounded the pavement looking for a job, any job.

Then, of course, the big boss was in control. Damn! When would it be my turn?

I thought I could control my first husband, then my second – that was like trying to teach the proverbial pig to dance, it was impossible; and it annoyed the hell out of the pig!

It has taken me many years to realize that while I will never have control over anything, I do have some measure of control over my thoughts and my state. I might never be certain of any outcome or result, but I do have some say about my choices and my actions. (I’m still undecided about my control over my closet!)

While I continue to be disgusted that I have no control, I’ve surrendered to happiness in the moment. At this moment, I have a lovely cup of tea – Earl Grey – with a touch of vanilla and milk. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are singing.

I’m happy – even though I have no control!

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

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More years ago than I prefer to count, I was blessed to have in my personal growth class a young woman by the name of Lezlie. She was eager to learn all about herself and the power within. She proved to be an apt student.

The more often we shared, the stronger the bond became between us – we were certainly sisters of Spirit. We lost touch for a while when I changed cities, but in reconnecting; it was as if we had never been apart.

Over the years, there were triumphs we celebrated and tragedies that we helped each other through. Mostly we connected by email or phone, but the occasional visit found us exchanging book titles and trying to solve the world’ s problems over a cup of tea. By that time, I rarely saw myself as her teacher, and she my student. We were sisters on a whirlwind of adventure.

In 2012, our relationship continued to shift. That July, Lezlie and Ron had dinner with us on one of their rare trips through Edmonton – heading to Hinton for a family re-union. We had such a delightful time; no one wanted the evening to end.

In September, Ron called with the heart-wrenching news that our beloved Lezlie had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had died during surgery. Her celebration of life in Calgary proved that she had become a teacher to us all. I drew strength from the final words she had written, inspiring us to live our lives with joy, passion, and purpose.

More than once since then, have I been blessed with wise counsel from her when she appeared in my dreams.  She gave me the courage to fight on that October when I faced cancer surgery.

Earlier today, Good Friday of 2014, I was reviewing old Facebook messages. (Lezlie was always more embracing of social media than I was!) As I scrolled down, there was a gift from her dated four years before she died – a message I had not seen until now. It was like finding a beautiful gift at the back of the closet that I’d forgotten to open. The message included a poem she wanted to share.

May you find the wisdom that I found in her poem that follows.

One Moment Please

By Lezlie Molyneaux 2008

I take flight and all the world is spinning

Every need rushes in to whack at me.

I cannot grasp one stick to shake at,

For all shake furiously.

The spinning is becoming tortuous.

I can’t remember who I am.

Then

One tiny feather floats

Between the blades sharpened dangerously.

My eyes blink, yet I am wary

One moment I shake ….

I breathe

One moment I shudder…..

I breathe

One moment I close my eyes

I breathe …..

I breathe

One moment I am totally protected

In a blanket of downy white

One moment – I am

I am.

Dearest Lezlie,

Thank you for transcending time and space to share your wisdom and teach us your truth. We are bountifully blessed as we remember that we are all students and teachers of each other.

Photo courtesy of How to raise your vibration blog

Three Lies Single Women Tell Themselves©

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Single, heterosexual women, both young and old, can fall into a pit of despair because of the lies they tell themselves.

Lie #1: I Don’t Need A Man

We often adopt this lie as truth in the aftermath of a break-up or a disastrous relationship with a man. Our hearts are broken; we’re seriously disillusioned with the whole male-female connection. I’ve been in that exact place more than once.

After each of three long-term relationships ended (I guess I’m a serial Ex now) my pit of despair seemed too deep to crawl out of.  In my anger and grief, I damned all men to hell and proceeded to learn to live without them.

In true women’s lib fashion, I bought myself a cool power drill and other even more interesting power tools. I was determined to need no man’s help. Well, maybe it would be okay to let them change my flat tire. And I might need a little help with some heavy lifting or moving.

After my second marriage (of 23 years) ended, it took three years of that focused independence before I began to yearn for a little more intimate male involvement – dinner, a movie, hot sex (I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that last one!).

I missed the romance – the electric regard of a man who was giving me his undivided attention. I hadn’t felt intensely female for a while, a feeling one can only get from direct masculine interest. I longed for that shiver of anticipation over a first date, and the chance to share that excitement with my girlfriends. (Heaven knows they needed some reward for listening to all my whining!)

Lie #2: I Need a Man to Complete Me

Time was passing, I wasn’t getting any younger, so I began to worry about being alone for the rest of my life. I believed I needed a companion, a lover, a man to share my days with – in my desperation, I believed that I would be nothing if I wasn’t part of a couple.

A big danger exists if you buy into this lie.

You may be desperate enough to settle, like I did initially, for the first guy who comes along who seems acceptable. Phew! Somebody wants me. I had hoped to avoid the online dating pool and all its perceived misery, so I got involved with someone totally unsuited to me and my goals in life. When I finally came to my senses, I had a devil of a time getting him out of my life.

Women are not wired for the love ‘em and leave ‘em habits that guys seem to get away with. We get so wrapped up emotionally that we’re easily scarred – oh, and don’t forget about our tendency to want to fix every guy that’s broken. “Oh, I’m so sure Mr. Right Now or Mr. Trainable could become my Mr. Right.” Well, okay, if you have a hundred years or so and more patience than God.

Trust me, I’ve hooked up with over half a dozen “lost boys” over the years. They never changed – they just got irritated when I wanted them to change or grow. Not only have I decided to never bring another one home, I plan to avoid them altogether. I’ve learned the hard way that the only one I can “save” is me – and now I know that I’m worth saving!

The key to avoiding this lie is to accept your own wholeness as a woman. You came out of the womb complete. Even though you’ve grown and transformed from a baby into a woman, your completeness has never changed. You may want a partner to enhance or enrich your life, but you don’t need one to feel complete.

Lie#3: I’m Not Good Enough to Attract the Right Man

Most of us can easily finish these sentences with all the negatives in the dictionary: “I’m not….” I’m too…” Not recognizing your own greatness as a woman is more harmful to your psyche than anyone else’s opinion of you. Maybe when your last relationship ended, your ex said mean things that cut you to the core. His opinion should carry no weight – only your opinion counts.

If you’re feeling unworthy, what could happen if you’re “lucky” enough to attract a really great guy?

If you don’t go into the next relationship feeling whole, you’ll never believe that you measure up, despite what this great guy tells you. You might even start looking over your shoulder for his next girlfriend after you – self-sabotage at its worst!

Or, with self-esteem issues, you might decide to sell yourself so short that you lower your standards and attract all manner of weirdos. (And then moan to your friends that there are no decent guys!)

The truth is, you are good enough right this minute. To confirm this, take a fearless inventory of all the things you like about yourself – you should be able to come up with at least 100. Include your talents, skills, strengths, values, physical attributes, passions etc. When you get stuck, ask trusted friends, colleagues, and family members to add to your list. (You’ll be surprised at how much they value you.)

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make any changes to improve yourself or your image of yourself – I encourage that. But do it from a desire to grow, not because you feel deficient!

Once you start valuing yourself and you’re feeling more at home in your own skin, you become much more attractive to the opposite sex. Then, and only then is it time to cast your line into the dating pool!

What other lies have you told yourself as a single woman? If you have friends who struggle to break free of these lies, share this article. It could save them from a relationship disaster!

Wishing you freedom, wisdom and fun! …Sue

2014 – A Year to Move Forward!

IMG_1111As 2013 came to a close, I found myself looking forward, with a great deal of relief and excitement, to the dawning of a new year. It had been a brutal year, fraught with big changes in more areas of my life than I thought I had energy for.

Yet, here was another opportunity to explore where I’d been, and more importantly; decide about new pathways and goals and plan my action steps accordingly.

Even as a youngster, I felt that my life was geared for something more, something bigger than I could then imagine. I still feel that way, believing that, despite a long list of accomplishments to date, I haven’t yet lived up to all my potential. So how will I live up to that potential? The current catch phrase is all about ‘re-inventing’ oneself, which is like a make-over only more from the inside rather than altering a person’s outward appearance.

Re-inventing means changing. Changing from the old to the new often means releasing or letting go of the parts that no longer serve. Whether it’s old habits and beliefs or an abundance of old files and office clutter, letting go can be a huge challenge.

In my home office, I started by ruthlessly purging files of old information and memorabilia – pages I hadn’t looked at for years but just kept packing around. Next were drawers, cupboards and my desk – what I kept was properly re-organized and filed. As I worked to toss that old baggage, the pieces inside cried out for one last look – so I’d open the bag – big mistake!

Because change seems to be both scary and very hard, I was tempted to hang on to some of that old, familiar stuff for just a little while longer. Kind of like an annoying relative that I couldn’t bring myself to say no to.

Courage and a vigorous commitment to the new vision for my life are the two tools I’m using to continue to set myself free.

As my office and living space began to look clean and clutter-free, I started making lists of what was most important to me – what I treasured, how I wanted each day to unfold, where I would find the most fulfilling work, and how I would build in peace and joy for my body, mind and soul. What new thoughts and habits would I need to focus on?

Here’s where the courage comes in. Courage is needed when it comes time to take the action steps necessary to make those new dreams and visions come true. It can involve many fears and much uncertainty because I can’t see the future, and I may not yet know how to get where I want to be – I only know what I’m striving for.

My commitment to getting there sure helps. That commitment builds when I examine the risks of doing or not doing versus the rewards of achievement. I know I will need patience, persistence, and compassion for myself anytime that resolve weakens.   May all your dreams and goals for 2014 come true. Trust me – you’re worth it!

2010 A Year of Choices

IMG_9150The number of choices each of us makes during any given day is astounding: what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat, what route to take, where to go for coffee, which piece of work to tackle, who to call, how many e-mails to send/respond to, whether to go out at night or not, and so on, and so on.

Then, of course, there are those times when ‘no choice’ is also a choice. That’s when we let others choose for us: where to take us to celebrate, what movie to see, what plans our bosses have for us etc. I know that I choose most of my activities based on what I want or what I think will make me happy. We’re constantly faced with opportunities to choose between what we want and what we don’t want.

The longer we’ve been on the planet, the more experienced we are at making action-oriented choices. As I ponder my goals for 2010, I see before me a fascinating array of new choices to make. One of the more interesting choices has been triggered as I read Esther and Jerry Hick’s book, Money and the Law of Attraction. In the Teachings of Abraham, they strongly recommend the choice of positive thoughts over negative thoughts – suggesting that we focus our thoughts on what we want, rather than dwelling on what we don’t want or don’t have.

Some might argue, as I once did, that we have absolutely no control over our thoughts – they just plant themselves in our minds because of what we’ve seen or what has happened. Besides which, what we think doesn’t really have any bearing on what happens to us, does it? Well what if it does?

According to Wikipedia, “The Law of Attraction argues that thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) can affect things outside the head, not just through motivation, but by other means. Essentially, “if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it”, but putting a lot of attention and thought onto something you don’t want means you’ll probably get that too.”

Hmm.  Since I can only speak to this from my own experience, let me say that whether the Law of Attraction has been “scientifically” validated or not, I do know that when I think good thoughts, happy thoughts, I feel better. And when I feel better, I actively look for other thoughts and things to support me in feeling even better. It becomes a lovely upward spiral filled with happiness, joy and wonder. The opposite is also true. When I think negative, unhappy thoughts, more of those come into my head. If I let it continue, my feelings spiral down into a pit of despair, worry, loneliness – well, you get the picture.

But, you say, life is tough – I have no job, no money, not enough food in the frig, people are in pain all around me. True though that may be, it doesn’t change the fact that you still have the power to choose what you think and feel about every condition. Our thoughts will trigger a variety of emotions.  According to David R. Hawkins in Power vs Force, it has been scientifically proven that the words we use to describe emotions have the power to either energize us or zap us of our strength. The most life-giving word is enlightenment, followed by peace and joy.  Shame, guilt and apathy are the most debilitating.

Why would anyone want to hang out in the misery that negative words cause? For example, if my life is sailing along in a wonderful direction but some of my friends are really struggling, I am tempted to feel bad, sad, and/or guilty. If I do that, not only do I dim the light of possibilities that I could hold for my friends and family, it dulls the glow of me feeling great about what’s good about my life. To dwell on that negative seems to be such a “lose-lose” position for all concerned. Why would I want to feel less than, just because of others who aren’t where I am? If everyone’s in the pit, who is left to pull us out?

A number of years ago, a dear friend called in great distress with the news that she had lost her business. This vibrant, take-charge woman was just beside herself with pain and worry for her future. On my way out the door to her house, I grabbed a book from my shelf to loan her.  As women do, I listened  with great empathy to her story, but felt somewhat helpless in the face of it all. So I gave her the book I’d brought, suggesting it might be useful. One day later she called with such a joyful note in her voice. That book (Even Eagles Need a Push by David McNally) was the lifeline she needed to pull herself up. It was onward and upward from there.

Though I may feel bad initially over someone’s situation, when I make the shift and focus my thoughts to how strong, resourceful and determined humans are in the face of adversity and how much I admire their courage, that support holds a much greater potential for forward movement than choosing to wallow with them in the muck of despair. Plus, the gift of rocky road ice cream can change someone’s state of mind in just one spoonful!

Which leads me back to choices.  If one of my goals for 2010 is to feel good in every moment, then I will work to consciously choose my thoughts about any given situation. If bad things happen, I can ask myself, “What is it that’s good about this situation?” or “What will make me feel a little bit better?” Every small shift to the positive opens a doorway to better things.  Then, if I think of a positive action to take, however big or small, that, too will support the ‘feel-good’ vibrations.

The other choice I will continue with is to disengage from the media negativity.  Sixteen months ago, my mate and I decided to cancel our cable and only use the TV for DVDs.  As a result, I haven’t watched the evening news for quite some time (my grandmother called it watching the doom and gloom). I get brief snippets from the radio when listening for the traffic report, but mostly, the pain of things I have no control over does not enter my life. Call me crazy, but this one action has added tons of time to spend on activities that make me feel just great – such as writing this article!

One other thing I do to boost my feel-good meter is subscribe to daily e-mail meditations that lift my spirits and start my days off right. As TUT.com says, “Thoughts become things. Think only the good ones!” What thoughts will you think in 2010?

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal use, providing credit is given to the author, Sue Paulson, and it is not altered in any way.