What to Do When Life is Not As Advertised!

yacht at sea

Did you fall hook, line and sinker, like I did, for the Hollywood version of the way life should turn out only to discover that your life is not actually as advertised? The disappointment and even betrayal that we feel when we see others living the dream in contrast to the way we are currently living can cause us all sorts of inner turmoil.

Self-doubts creep in. What did I do wrong? Maybe I’m not worthy enough. Am I being punished for something I did when I was younger? Is it ever going to be my turn?

Whenever life dealt a blow, or whenever I stumbled and fell, I was always afraid that I lacked the courage to overcome whatever obstacles were in my way. Many years ago, I can remember being insanely afraid to sell my training services to prospective clients. At the time, I was involved in a mastermind with three other women.

Each week I begged and pleaded with the universe to help me overcome my fear. At the same time, I asked my mastermind buddies to please envision success for me. This plea carried on for about six months, but I had no evidence that I was any closer to removing my fear.

A short time later we moved back to my birth city because my husband had accepted a new job. I only had one contact there, so it meant starting my business over. Surprisingly, as I began making phone calls to find new leads, I noticed that my fear of talking to all those strangers had disappeared. I was stunned! Where did all that fear go? It was a miracle!

Well, yes, it was a miracle and a huge relief, but really; I, with the help of my mastermind buddies had seeded the ground for that success which eventually bore the inevitable fruit. You do reap what you sew! What I have learned over many years is that we do, indeed, have the power to shape our lives based on those seemingly far-flung dreams.

Will there still be struggle? Of course. Will we still face pain, heartache, and hardships? Very likely. Reality, unlike most advertisements, offers us the full spectrum of experiences through which we learn.

Today I stumbled across the following piece of wisdom. I’m not sure who wrote it, but I suspect it comes from TUT (The Universe Talking).

“The trick with courage, Sue, is realizing that it isn’t so much about overcoming fear, as it is about not settling for less. And then, it comes as effortlessly as a midsummer’s night breeze.

Or put another way, Sue, it’s about wanting something so greatly that no perceived risk can keep you from thinking about it, and moving towards it.”

How often do we settle for less, then reap even less than that?

These days I find myself at another crossroad as I envision myself reinventing my business and expanding into newer and bigger markets. I’m getting ready to play big, not small.

As this all unfolds, I have been fearful of not being able to fund myself until the new venture takes off. Despite that fear, I shouted my commitment to this larger rich adventure, fully believing that I deserved to be financially supported in this rebuilding phase.

As is quite typical, I had some doubts and trepidation as time went by and nothing happened, but just last week some freelance opportunities came my way to re-fill my coffers – they came supposedly “out of the blue”.

That very thing has happened way too often to believe it’s random. I’m also pretty sure that if my life is not currently as advertised, I do have the power to change that.

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Finding the Love of My Life ©

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Are you one of the lucky ones when it comes to relationships? Early on, you found that one special person and are living “happily ever after”.

I have not been one of those lucky ones. Before we even tied the knot, I suspected that my first love (I married at the tender age of 18) was not the love of my life. But he provided a safe port in the storm at that time. In the eight years we were married, I was able to safely grow and blossom into a much more confident young woman. My dad said, “Well, he never did you any harm, but he didn’t do you much good.” (Dads are so protective!)

After a couple of years of trying to figure myself out and figure out what love was all about, I fell in love with a man whom I thought would be my happily ever after. We raised a wonderful son together and had some good years. But stuff happens. It’s not unusual for relationships to founder because of life circumstances and various traumas. My second marriage lasted over 23 years, but then it ended.

Four years passed before I felt ready to date again. This time I figured, “third time lucky”. And for awhile, I felt lucky. We met on the shores of the online dating pool and were delighted to discover how much we had in common in so many ways. Here I thought was my soul mate. Although I invested heart and soul into our relationship, I was ever so sad when it ended after five years.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating throwing my hat into the ring yet a fourth time. As I reflect on what has gone before, what I don’t want, and what I do want in a new partner; I’ve had an epiphany about the love of my life. I finally realized who it is – it’s not Mr. Right –

It’s me!

All my relationships to this point have been amazing reflections of who I have been in any given moment. Each person showed me facets of my mind, body, and soul that I might not have paid attention to otherwise. Sometimes it felt like the movie, “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”, but really, it helped me to fall in love with myself all over again.

I grew enormously because of each relationship, which of course prepared me for the next relationship.

Today it dawned on me that all of this learning and growing within my relationships has been propelling me toward affirming again the most important relationship of all, the relationship I have with myself.

If I allow it, I am my own best friend. When I treat myself and honor myself as I deserve, I come to trust and value the love that I am.

I can never physically abandon me, because I’m always here. When no one else is there for me, I’m right here to comfort and rock myself to sleep. I can call on me any time of the day or night. I can surround myself with all the love I have inside.

Does that mean then that we have no need of relationships? Not at all! Being in relationship is the way we see ourselves as we couldn’t if we were alone. A totally white wall cannot know itself as white until a black thumbprint shows up on its surface.

A woman does not experience ultimate femininity without the presence of ultimate masculinity. Contrast through connection is vital to our own growth.

So now where do I go? Well, part of my plan is to keep honoring my own magnificence as a human being. I’m not any more magnificent than you are, but I am unique – as you are unique; I plan to keep celebrating that uniqueness and keep cherishing the fact that I truly am the love of my life, just as you need to be the love of your life.

And if I’m blessed enough to find someone new and special to share the love of my life with, that will be spectacular!

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

I've Been Thinking Woman

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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!

Help! My “That was Easy” Button is Broken! ©

push buttonDumbfounded, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d put my coins in the vending machine and pressed B 0 – nothing happened. I pressed those buttons again. Nothing! Then I noticed the LED readout: “Make another choice.” I couldn’t see another choice for the chips I wanted. All I could see was the package that wouldn’t drop from its row. My irritation factor rose from 3 to 9.

A young woman came to my rescue. “Pick B 4,” she said. I looked at B 4. Sure enough, it was exactly the same product. Down the chute it came. Easy! I was so grateful.

As I walked back to my chair in the spiritual workshop I was attending, the metaphor struck me upside the head. How many times in my life had I chosen the tough, go-it-alone route, the path of struggle, of bare survival, when I could have simply asked for help?

Was it not time to “make another choice”?

Like a stubborn “I want to do it myself” four-year old, I have been fiercely independent for most of my life. If something wasn’t working, I’d spend hours in frustration trying to figure it out. Some of the time I’d have to give up, but once in a while I’d succeed. Then victory was sweet! See! I did it – all by myself! (Usually the investment of my precious time was not worth all that effort.)

Of course it’s human nature to want the thrill of victory that occurs when we overcome some obstacle. As a Baby Boomer, I hate to admit that my victories with technology have been few and far between. I confess I’m the low tech tool in the high tech shed. It’s not that I can’t learn – it just takes so damn long. Forget the romance of technology.  I demand a divorce. One instance comes to mind.

Take my cell phone for example – please! That fool thing has more apps and buttons than the space shuttle. I sarcastically asked the clerk, “But does it actually make a phone call?”

My friends, particularly the younger ones, keep  me to keep in touch. I struggle valiantly to reply, but my fingers fumble over the tiny keys. Spelling mistakes abound. I hit the send button by mistake. Oops – didn’t mean to say that! I give up and dial the number – sheer relief washes over me when a real person answers. (Note to self – there are no more dials on phones; those went the way of the dodo bird.)

I’m tired of learning curves that are steeper than Mount Everest. I admit it. I long for easy street – where things just magically happen because I wish them to. “Make it so, Number One,” said Captain Picard. Obviously his “that was easy” button worked – at least on T.V.

Hmm. Now here’s a novel idea. What if I ask for help more often instead of being the lone stranger? Might that be the ticket to easy street? It’s worth a try. I think I’ll just make another choice!

I HATE MOTHER’S DAY! ©

 

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“If you can’t be bothered with me any other time of the year, don’t bother coming round or buying me flowers on Mother’s Day!” C’mon, Moms. I bet there isn’t one of you out there who hasn’t felt this at least once, even if you never said it right out loud.

Mother’s Day is tough for many women I know. For some, it’s the only time they get any attention from their families – the older they are, the more invisible they become. In seniors’ residences, the number of cards on the dresser is like a badge of honor and the main topic at the dinner table. Talk to any of the staff and you’ll discover who’s good to their mother and who only comes around on Mother’s Day.

Dear friends have other reasons to have heavy hearts when this day rolls around – one’s oldest son was murdered at this time of year, the others have lost daughters and sons to drugs and alcohol and car accidents.

It’s tough for kids, too. Some have mothers who mis-treated them when they were little and aren’t nice to be around. Should you still show her respect, even if you don’t feel much for her?

My own mom has been gone since I was 17, so I transferred my attention to my grandmothers while they still lived, and now I have aging aunts and a stepmom whom I send cards to. But there’s still a little pocket of sadness inside because I can’t participate in the idealized Hallmark way.

When my son was about three, I remember feeling so resentful on Mother’s Day because my husband forgot what day it was until mid-morning, then rushed to Safeway and brought home a pot of chrysanthemums – not a flower I ever liked.

It was a tense, instead of a beautiful day, with him feeling guilty and me feeling hard done by. Then we talked about it. We talked about which occasions in the year were ones that we wanted to honor. My mother had placed a special emphasis on birthdays, so that was important to me. Our anniversary and Christmas were the two other days that had significance. We agreed to resist the commercialism of the other designated days and established our own family rituals.

With the pressure off, we had more fun being spontaneous. Since I liked the ritual of breakfast in bed, my family would surprise me with memorable times of French toast and tea on a tray with them beside me. A homemade card from my son added an extra bit of delight.

Paying tribute to all moms who work tirelessly and often selflessly throughout the year is a good idea, but why have we turned it into yet another commercial time of sappy cards, wilted roses and long waiting lines at restaurants? Phew! Got that over with – now let’s get on with our lives – Mom will understand how very busy we are!

Here’s my question – do we use this day as an excuse to ignore our mothers the rest of the year? My grandmother once said, “All I really want is some of your undivided attention.” We don’t need all the hoopla of one day if we already feel special because of continuous regard and contact. A regular phone call to check in or an unannounced drop-by means so much more, especially to seniors dealing with health and mobility issues.

As for me, I like to pamper myself on Mother’s Day. If I can entice a friend – we go to a concert or get a pedicure. My son will be away on his honeymoon. I do not expect a phone call!

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me about Sex©

When it came to the topic of sex, mostly what my mother told me was, “no!” (I think she might have told my dad “no” a few times, too.)

Growing up in the “Father Knows Best” 50s, I learned at a very early age that sex was totally taboo – no talking about it, no touching of private parts, and certainly no experimenting with neighbor kids. Dad never interfered, because Mom’s job was to raise the kids – unless of course we got out of hand and she threatened the old, “you wait till your father comes home!” Poor man never knew what hit him most of the time.

In grade 6 we watched the film in health class about how our bodies would be changing. Naturally, the boys were in one room watching their film, with the girls in the other. I’m sure each group was desperate to know what the other was learning! It was all very mysterious, and I confess to not really understanding what they were talking about. When I took the pamphlet home to my mother, she was annoyed that the school had taken over what she thought was her job.

As my breasts started to sprout, mom could no longer ignore the fact that her only daughter was moving into womanhood. I still chuckle at the girlish giggling of her and my grandmother as I tried on my first bra. When my period arrived, even though I was highly embarrassed, mom showed me very matter-of-factly how to look after myself.

She was right there when I got my first kiss at 15. Too protective to allow me to ride in my first boyfriend’s little Sunbeam, she was the chauffeur for our last date before he moved to Vancouver. He kissed me in the back seat of Mom’s Galaxy 500. I felt like a princess in a fairytale.

We never talked about my changing feelings as a teenager – the dreamy “I’m in love” or the unexpected surge of groin warmth the first time a guy touched my breasts. (Through my heavy winter coat – on a double-date with my older brother – this was the 50’s after all!) Okay, there was kissing, too. I won’t tell you his name, though I remember it well – he had bedroom eyes that caused many a girl’s sighs!

Mom never had the “birds and bees” talk with me, but she and my older brother hovered over me at any sign of potential trouble. I rarely risked her displeasure by stepping out of line.

I wished she had told me what part goes where and where babies come from. Instead, I saw in graphic detail on the big Technicolor screen of the Medical Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal exactly how babies are born and what part of the mother they come out of. I was a shocked and mortified 17-year old. “Well if that’s where babies come from,“  I thought to myself, “I’m never having any!”

But I still knew little about “the one thing” that was on a boy’s mind. I wish she had told me that it was o.k. to pleasure myself, that an orgasm was wonderful to experience, or that multiple orgasms were better than 10 A&W root beer floats. (I finally learned all that in a sexuality workshop when I was 27!)

I think she didn’t share any of that with me for a couple of reasons. First, she either had never experienced some of that, or she just didn’t have the words to talk about it. The second, more important reason was that she never got the chance, because she died suddenly when I was 17.

All her history – her thoughts, dreams, feelings and experiences were gone in an instant. Over time, her sister shared some of what she knew of my mother’s single years. How she’d narrowly escaped rape by the high school principal in grade 11. She quit school because of that, though she’d always wanted to go to university. My grandfather never forgave her for quitting – she couldn’t tell him why.

During World War II, she worked on the tarmac at Bowden, Alberta where they trained the British fighter pilots. She fell in love and got engaged to one of them, but he was killed. She had a beautiful soprano voice and sang on the radio, with my aunt accompanying her on the piano.

She was a talented writer with a great sense of humor. She wrote little skits that the curling members performed at the Derrick Club. All I have of her writing is a letter she wrote to my grandmother from her hospital bed when my youngest brother was born. My brothers and I laughed when I shared it with them recently.

I only knew my mother while I was a teenager – with all the edginess and accompanying angst. I missed getting to know her adult to adult. So when my own son was born, I was determined that he would have written evidence about his birth – what I was thinking and feeling and what he meant to me.

I started writing him letters. As the years passed, I made sure to write at least one letter on his birthday so he would feel the essence of me at that age. I tucked them away for when he was older.

Now at 64, because writing is both my passion and my vocation, I feel compelled to document my history – a memoir of sorts. I hesitated for a long time because I thought I had to be someone “important or famous” to publish a memoir. Now I realize that I have a treasure trove of stories and something of value to share. I don’t want to leave this world without some kind of mark to show that I’ve passed this way.

As I move to a more reflective time of life, I believe it’s an honor, a privilege, and part of our duty to share our thoughts and wisdom for the generations to come. Our sons and daughters have a right to know where they came from, so they can decide where to go from here. My mother died too young to write any of those words, so I have written some of them for her – as I will write my own story for my son. (I confess I didn’t tell him much about sex either!)

If you are a Baby Boomer, or you still have parents, I encourage you to write your story and their stories – before it’s too late. Our children need your wisdom, and they need to know their roots.

“I’d Rather Stay Single than Settle!”©

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“What’s with these guys, anyway?” a friend recently lamented.  Single again after a nasty, long term relationship, she had cast her line into the online dating pool.

Bemused and disgusted, she related tales of guys with lengthy lies, poorly written profiles, and lousy pictures who railed at her because she dared to question and test out whether or not they were for real. One man accused her of being a man, not a woman.

Her reply, “Well, I have been told that I have more balls than most men, but I’ve never been accused of having a penis!”

Another man wrote her that once they met for the first coffee date, he expected her to commit permanently – no testing out of any kind would be allowed. When she shut him down, he tried to re-connect using a different name (but the same photo – duh!). At that point, she was pretty sure he was ready to be committed alright – to a padded cell!

Then there was the guy who penned story after story about all the women he had dated in order to convince her that he was God’s gift to women. He’d already been married four times.

My friend got super diligent with her tests. If the guy was from far away, she requested a photo of him holding a newspaper from his city with a current date. Some actually complied, others she never heard from again.

I shook my head in amazement. Not much had changed in the ten years since I’d tried online dating. Who needs to watch contrived ‘reality’ shows on TV when you can just fire up your computer and participate in the electronic dating scene. That brand of truth really is stranger than fiction!

Is it any wonder that we develop trust and commitment issues when faced with a big puddle of whiners and losers? Is the single set so desperate to connect that any lie is justifiable in the battle between the sexes?

After I related a couple of my own horror stories, my friend and I talked about the necessary, but somewhat painful sorting process. I was relieved when she told me that she didn’t take it too seriously, and was actually having fun testing out these guys whose stories made her laugh in amazement. She was accepting the occasional coffee date, but made sure she was safe while doing it.

Too many women I’ve talked to are so frantic to hook up that they shut off their creep-o-meters and suffer through the inevitable dating disasters. And that’s not just younger women, it’s women in their 50’s and beyond.

It’s scary to think about living alone because Mr. Right is in hiding. I get that – been there – sent that t-shirt to charity. But I’ve also experienced  the pain of the high price tag when I settled for Mr. Wrong.

Since I’m not willing to use my precious time right now in my own ‘single again’ life to re-enter the dating pool, I will live vicariously through my friend’s dating adventures. Where else will I find such great material for my next blog!

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