Trying to find more Balance

When you hear the word balance, what do you think?  Your work life is in balance with your home life?  You can get everything accomplished on time, easily?  Everything just flows perfectly?  I know there has been the Balance debate for years.  Is it really possible to have perfect balance in your life? 

I would argue that it’s impossible to have true balance.  Well, at least that’s true for me, maybe you’ve figured it out.  And if you have, I would love to have a conversation with you.

I have been thinking a lot about balance lately and I want to share why in hopes that maybe this conversation will resonate with you too.

Last fall, I completed my Life Coaching Certification and jumped in to creating my website, my business cards, and started networking trying to generate clients.  I was ready to ramp up my business and get as many clients as humanly possible.  Then at the beginning of January, I met someone and started falling in love.   This relationship is different from those in the past, we are both on the same page as far as what we want in our relationship, where we want to go, and how we feel about each other.  I focused my attention on nurturing our relationship and really getting to know each other.  In the meantime, of course, I had to continue teaching because you know I still had to pay the rent and feed my cat, and besides, I love teaching!   And my coaching business went on the back burner. 

I was still putting some attention on my business, I networked online, promoted it at one or two events, created postcards to give away, and actually engaged a few clients.  However, I was not putting the effort into it that I really needed to create the business I want.  I haven’t been able to find the time or energy to focus on nurturing my relationship while also nurturing my business, much less spend time with friends too.  I have been finding it hard to find that elusive balance.

I am at the point now, 7 months into the relationship, where things are great with my love.  We are planning to move in together at the end of the year and we have a pretty good rhythm going.  I think it’s time to take some of the energy I have been focusing solely on my relationship, and start focusing again on my business.  I want to make this flourish as much as my relationship. 

Here’s the challenge though, finding the time to get it all done.  I will admit that I’m a procrastinator and can easily find 100 distractions to keep from my work, including Netflix binging.  I mean I’ve had the idea for a blog post series now for months, and haven’t written a word, until now. 

As I write this, I realize that maybe it’s not really about finding the time, but getting more disciplined with my time.  Making the most of each break in my day. 

I would love to hear from you about how you find the balance or maybe I was right at the beginning on the post, that true balance doesn’t exist.  Either way, I would love to hear your thoughts!

In a Funk

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and was in a funk.  Have you ever had that happen?  If you’ve never been in a funk, good for you!  When I say a funk, I mean this general malaise, feeling down but not knowing why.  I don’t want to confuse it with depression, that’s another subject.  Basically, I woke up and could not find a smile, could not find motivation, could not find the joy that day. 

When this happens, I try to find the reasons why.  What is causing this funk?  Why can’t I pull myself out of it?  Why do I wear my emotions on my sleep?  Why can’t I just fake it until I make it? 

I examine what is going on in my life, in my friend’s lives, in the world at large.  Did I get enough sleep?  Did I have a bad dream?  What is the root cause?

The last funk had so many causes.  It started with a bad dream where I discovered my boyfriend had a fiancé.  Poor guy…I woke up pretty upset with him.  Luckily it was just a dream but it didn’t improve my mood.  All day, I was examining what could be the deeper cause. 

Perhaps it was because several friends are dealing with death and grief.  A mother gone too soon, a sister gone after a tragic life, a father teetering in between here and there, another family member taken so suddenly, family members dealing with a cancer diagnosis.  Perhaps it’s the general state of our world. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there has been a lot of crazy stuff going on and it made perfect sense that the funk descended.  Now, what to do about it?  Sometimes I feel like I need to ‘fight through’ the muck and put on a happy face but does that really work…maybe, for a short period of time.  What tends to work for me, is to sit with it, be in it, work through it, take a nap, read a book, watch mindless tv…basically, don’t fight it.  I have found the more I fight it, the longer the funk lasts. 

The big lesson, I seem to have to learn over and over again, is that life will knock you off your feet and sometimes you need to lay there for a little while before getting back up.  Get back up when you’re ready, and if you need someone to help you off the floor, give me a call. 

What do you do when you get in one of these funks?  I'd love to hear what works for you!

It's all about Choices

People often tell me that I'm lucky to be teaching Pilates and Coaching.  They tell me they're jealous of the freedom I have from a 9-5 corporate job.  I listen politely and then politely tell them it's all about choices.

Let me start from the beginning, I was born in...just kidding.  As a little girl, I dreamt of being a ballerina (who didn't) but at around 16 gave up that dream, I was not coordinated enough.  Around that time, we moved from a little town in Virginia to Northern Virginia, outside DC, the big city.  I got involved with Peer Counseling through a psychology class in my new high school, and decided that's what I wanted to do, be a therapist.  When I was selecting a major in college, there wasn't a hesitation.  Virginia Tech had a great BS in Psychology program but I knew I'd have to get a Masters to become a Therapist (now you'd need a PhD, I'm sure).  I loved my Psych classes and was excited to graduate and pursue my Masters.  

Then life smacked me in the face.  

One week after my graduation, my brother, John, was in a tragic car accident.  One week after that, he died.  My life was totally upended and any plans I may have had, were not even on my radar.  Life changed in an instant and what seemed important yesterday, didn't amount to a hill of beans.  I, along with the rest of my family, were in the throws of grief, which is a whole other conversation.  Needless to say, we were all in survival mode.  My future plans were no longer important.  Getting through each day, each moment, was my only focus.  I started working as a receptionist in the company were I worked through high school, it was a fairly simple job and it paid the bills.  

Fast forward a year, I decided to join my best friend on a backpacking trip in Europe so I quit the job and took off.  Looking back, this trip was a life changer!  During the trip, it was a whole lot of fun with some cultural experiences thrown in, and a few hot Italian boys too!  Upon my return, I took some temp jobs, worked in an insurance agency for a couple years and then received the call that would propel me to my next, or is it first real, career.  My old boss called to offer me a position in Personnel.  For you young kids, that's what they called Human Resources (HR) back in the day.  I started in an entry level position and worked my way up.  I loved HR because I was able to put my Psychology degree to work.  Early on it was more about paperwork and benefits but when I relocated to Pennsylvania and was able to shape an HR department from the beginning, that's where the fun started.  Working with employees to help with staff issues, counseling employees on performance and helping them navigate corporate life, that's what I loved.  I worked my way up to a Director position and loved what I did...until it became too corporate and HR no longer helped employees, it was back to paperwork and benefits.  Then I was done.  I made the choice to leave my high paying job, with great benefits to move to North Carolina and join the family business.

The family business was in New Home Construction and had absolutely nothing to do with HR, although I was able to use my experience when we had to select benefits and company policies.  I needed a change from the corporate grind so this seemed like a great choice.  Honestly, family business is hard.  You can't leave all your problems at the office, they tend to come home with you and can create family drama (more than usual)!  While I enjoyed the people I worked with and dealing with (most) homeowners, something was gnawing at me to pursue other avenues.  For awhile, I thought about going back to school to pursue my Master's in Psychology.  This was also around the time, I started thinking about Life Coaching.  Instead, I ended up enrolling in Pilates Teacher Training and going into the world of fitness.  It may seem like an odd choice, and for someone who was not very athletic growing up, it sort of came out of left field.  Now though, with over 5 years of teaching under my belt, looking back it makes perfect sense.  Working with people, one on one, and in classes too, I'm able to use my background in ways I never thought about back in college.  I often joke with clients that you get two for one when taking Pilates, you get a workout and a therapy session!  

Making the choice to leave the family business and start teaching has lead to all kinds of great things in my life.  Not only have I met some amazing people, a few who have become wonderful friends but I've also met my love (I'll share that story at some point).  Teaching has also lead me to the path of Life Coaching.  It is a natural fit for me.  If you had told me 30 years ago, when I was in college, that I would be where I am today, I would have thought you were crazy.  However, looking back now, I see it all makes perfect sense.  The choices I made along the way, have brought me to this point.  

  • Quitting my receptionist job to go to Europe
  • Taking a temp job when I returned.  
  • Going back to my old company for a job in Personnel
  • Moving to PA and taking a Corporate job in HR
  • Leaving the Corporate world to move to NC and join the family business
  • Leaving the family business to become a Pilates Instructor
  • Getting my Life Coaching certification and starting my business

Each step on the path were the building blocks to my current career.  

So when someone tells me how lucky I am to have the life I now do, I politely tell them, it's all about choices!

 

Dating after 40

Dating after 40 is way different than dating in your 20's or even 30's.  First, it's much harder to meet people.  In my 20's, it was easy to meet single people through friends, in a bar, at the beach, because there are still a lot of single people in their 20's.  In your 40's it's much more difficult to meet single people.  Of course there's online dating (which wasn't even around in my 20's) and I've met several people who had success going this route, I have not.  I have had more success meeting people through friends and most recently, through the studio where I teach (he's a keeper, but more on that at a later date).  No matter where or how you meet someone after 40, there are some things you need to know.  Ok, really just one thing, after 40, we ALL have baggage!  The only thing that varies is the type of baggage we carry.

I like to classify the baggage in 3 different categories.

  1. Carry-on baggage - these are people who have been divorced for many years and have worked through their issues (for the most part).  They may or may not have kids, their divorce was as amicable as it could be and they have a stable career.  These people are hard to come by but when you find one, it's like finding a unicorn.  You might want to hold on to this one.
  2. Checked baggage - these people definitely have kids, did not have an amicable divorce and were quick to jump into a relationship as soon as their divorce was final (or sooner).  They have done some work on themselves, they have come to terms with their ex-spouse and are able to communicate without too much screaming about the kids.  They have gotten their financial house in order or are on the upswing to doing so.  They most likely learned from their past mistakes and will take those lessons into a new relationship.  Be aware though that old patterns may rear their ugly head...proceed with caution.
  3. Steamer trunks - these are people who have not worked through any of their issues, and they have ALOT! They bad mouth their ex-spouse constantly, they are quick to start dating as soon as they are separated, but they'll tell you they're 'divorced'.  They are either very wounded and need constant reassurance or they're very self-absorbed...and need constant reassurance.  I'd avoid anyone with steamer trunks, but I know you won't listen so don't come crying to me when I turn out to be right.  You've been warned.

You can definitely have success dating after 40, you just have to decide how much baggage you're willing to deal with in the process.  

 

Self-Acceptance

I'm trying to figure out when I started not caring about what other people think.  Maybe it was when I stopped looking for my parent's approval.  Maybe it was when I became comfortable with being alone and decided to stop online dating and let things happen organically (which they did by the way, but that's a story for another day).  Maybe it was when I turned  40 or 45 or last year. I'm not sure exactly when it happened but one day I decided the only opinion that truly matters is mine.  I stopped looking outside for answers.  I realized all of the answers were inside me.  I knew all along what I needed to do, I just needed to be quiet for long enough to listen.  So, maybe I realized all of this when I started my coaching training.  As part of the training we had to be coached as well as practice coaching.  It was during these sessions, that I came up with the answers I needed.  Someone else had to ask the right questions, but the answers were all mine.  

There's a sort of freedom with not worrying about what other people think.  Now that's not to say that I don't care what the people I love think.  Of course, I want to make sure I'm not doing or saying anything that would hurt them or make them stop loving me.  But worrying about how I look in public or filtering what I say so I don't offend some random person, that no longer concerns me.  

Also, along these same lines is accepting my appearance, being comfortable in my own skin.  Accepting the curves and bumps, the lines and wrinkles, the gray hair and random stray hairs.  As I approach 50, I am becoming more accepting of all of these things.  That's not to say, I don't worry about what I eat or slack off on working out but I realize I'm never going to be a size 4 again or weigh 125 pounds.  I'm in pretty good shape and eat fairly healthy, but I still enjoy my red wine and the occasional dessert.  

All of this is to say, self-acceptance is freeing.  When you stop worrying about everyone else's opinion, you have way more time to ENJOY this life!

Abundance

Every January 1st seems like a clean slate, a day to begin new projects, set new intentions, perhaps begin a new career or set new goals.  

What do you want to Begin this year?  What changes do you want to make?  

Perhaps you have new fitness goals, new career goals or new relationship goals.  Perhaps you aren't sure what change you want or need to make.  Are you stuck and don't know how to move forward?  That's where I can help!

We can work together to discover the changes you want and need in your life.  Together we can get you unstuck and send you off on a new adventure.

Send me a message and we'll talk!  

Begin

Every January 1st seems like a clean slate, a day to begin new projects, set new intentions, perhaps begin a new career or set new goals.  

What do you want to Begin this year?  What changes do you want to make?  

Perhaps you have new fitness goals, new career goals or new relationship goals.  Perhaps you aren't sure what change you want or need to make.  Are you stuck and don't know how to move forward?  That's where I can help!

We can work together to discover the changes you want and need in your life.  Together we can get you unstuck and send you off on a new adventure.

Send me a message and we'll talk!  

Be Present - Life Coaching

img_7780 Many years ago, I thought about becoming a Life Coach.  Based on my background, degree in Psychology and years of working in corporate Human Resources, it seemed like a  natural fit for me.  I thought about it and wondered the next best steps, talked to friends and then put it on the back burner.  Meanwhile, I decided to get my Pilates certification and started teaching.  A year or so after completing that training, I thought again about Life Coaching.  I wondered if I really needed to get training or if it's something I could just do on my own.  I did a little research, talked to some friends who had been through different training programs and then promptly put it aside, again.  Then at the end of last year, I started to get serious about researching Coach training programs.  I listened in on information sessions and had settled on a program in the first part of this year.  I was scheduled to get a coaching session with one of their coaches and that was going to be the last step before signing up for their training.  Well, that coach never showed up for our call, not a good sign.  In the meantime, I received an email from another training program, Goal Imagery® Institute.  I sent an email inquiring about a phone meeting to discuss the program, and Marianna (who runs the program) responded within minutes.  We scheduled a call for the next day, Friday, with the next training session scheduled for the following Thursday!  After an hour long conversation, I was convinced and signed up immediately!  Luckily, the class got pushed back a few weeks, so I could wrap my brain around embarking on this new venture.

After 6 months of comprehensive and practical training, I graduated from Goal Imagery® Institute as an Holistic Life, Career & Executive Certified Coach.  I am so excited to be on this journey and partnering with clients to maximize their personal and professional potential.

I will be launching a website soon for Be Present Coaching, so be on the lookout. I decided on this name, because to be a good coach, you must LISTEN and BE PRESENT in each moment.  I'm really looking forward to working with many different people from all walks of life.  If you or anyone you know, is interested in coaching, please comment here or send me a message.  I would LOVE to work with you.

If you're still not sure about coaching, here is a great explanation from ICF...

“Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives. Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.” International Coach Federation (ICF)

Out of the Shadows

IMG_6674This photo of Allie starting longingly outside sums up how I was feeling this winter.  Wanting to be outside but yet needing my solitude.  Wanting to hide yet to be seen.  It was a contradiction on so many levels.  I wanted to start dating again but didn't want make to much of an effort.  Then when Spring came, something shifted, I wanted to get out and play more.  So I started the online dating again, started hanging out with friends more, started walking and getting outside more and feeling social again.  Then Summer showed up and I felt like hiding again.  Not that I didn't want to be outside or with friends, but I got discouraged with the online dating.  I saw two ex-boyfriends that got me thinking about my choices in life.  So I went into reflection mode, although I do that all the time, somehow it felt different this time.  I unsubscribed to the dating sites, I stopped dating anyone and cleared out my social calendar.  I sat by the pool by myself, avoiding the social activity happening on the other side.  I needed my solitude.  This past holiday weekend though, I went down to the pool and actually felt social.  I met new neighbors, I reconnected with some old neighbors, one even told me he was happy I was out of hiding, and I really enjoyed myself.  I even met some single neighbors, so we'll see what happens there.  I feel more open to possibilities, more open to life, and more open to love... Then yesterday, I had a past life reading which was fascinating to say the least.  And if you don't believe in that stuff, that's cool, but I do and so am totally blown away.  I'm still reflecting on all of it...a Revolutionary War soldier (for the British), a French courtesan...all had interesting lessons.  The first life was the most incredible though and that is the woman I have been working to reclaim, without even knowing it!  I'm not going to share too much about her but just knowing that she was a strong, intuitive, secure Elder woman who was an equal with the men in her tribe, well that gives me an inner strength.  She was a storyteller too which of course has me thinking more about my writing.  The more I reflect on her, the more I see myself coming out of the shadows and reclaiming that part of me.  I feel like I've been hiding too long...it's definitely time to let go of the fear, trust myself and live THIS life to the fullest.

 

49 Lessons Learned by 49

FullSizeRenderI turn 49 today and quite honestly that number is so strange to me.  My mother is supposed to be 49, not me!  I sure don't feel it and most people tell me I don't look it either, whatever that means.  As I reflect on the last 49 years (ok, really the last year), I think about all of the things I've learned.  Some lessons have taken a lot longer than others!

  1. BE PRESENT!  Enjoy each moment.
  2. You need to learn to be happy being alone, before you can be with anyone else.
  3. Do not expect anyone else to make you happy, it's an inside job.
  4. People aregoing to judge you and it's none of your business (one of my favorite quotes ever)!
  5. You are never too old to learn something new or change your career path.
  6. You must be honest with yourself in order to be honest with anyone else.
  7. You must deal with sorrow in order to know JOY.
  8. Dating in your 40's is HARD!
  9. Do not make someone a priority if you're only an afterthought (not the exact quote but still another favorite).
  10. Do not settle for anything that does not fulfill you.
  11. It is way better to be alone than lonely in a relationship.
  12. In a relationship, don't settle for anything less than you deserve.
  13. But...be realistic about relationships...they're not easy!
  14. Be kind to yourself.
  15. Don't ever say anything to yourself that is demeaning or degrading...you wouldn't say it to someone else, would you?
  16. REMEMBER...You are doing the best you can with what you know at any given moment.
  17. Dance whenever you feel like it!  Ask my classes, I dance all the time!
  18. Sing at the top of your lungs...in your car...alone...you sound great!
  19. Listen to music, as loudly as you want, until your neighbors complain.
  20. Accept people where they are, not where you 'think' they should be.
  21. Accept Yourself where you are too!
  22. Learn from your past but don't dwell in it.
  23. Have FUN with whatever you do, even cleaning the house...yeah I still don't do this one!
  24. Nurture your friendships.
  25. Express gratitude every day.
  26. Light candles for no reason.
  27. Celebrate the people in your life.
  28. LAUGH loudly and often.
  29. SMILE at everyone you meet, you may change their day.
  30. Look people in the eyes when you talk to them, even strangers.
  31. Don't judge other people, you have no idea what is going on in behind closed doors.
  32. Keep your body and mind active.
  33. But some days, chill on your couch and binge watch Netflix.
  34. Jump in puddles barefoot; don't ruin your nice shoes.
  35. Buy nice shoes, you are on your feet all day and your feet will thank you.
  36. Get massages, facials, pedicures, etc...you deserve it.
  37. Change the oil in your car regularly.
  38. It's not the end of the world, if your house isn't clean or the laundry isn't done before you go have some fun.  It will all be there tomorrow.
  39. Experiences are more important than stuff.
  40. Your thoughts DO effect how you feel.
  41. You have to create the abundance in your life.
  42. No one can FIX your issues, you have to do it yourself.
  43. Movers exist for a reason, hire them.
  44. Don't have expectations of anyone else - this is a hard one!
  45. Life is too short sometimes but then in other ways, really long!
  46. Pets are family members, period.
  47. Loss is part of life but it really sucks.
  48. No matter how long someone has been gone, you'll always miss them.
  49. Life is a PRACTICE.

So here I am entering my 50th year on this planet and while I've learned so much, I know there is so much more to learn.  I look forward to the new lessons yet to come.  And I would love to hear some of your life lessons!

Begin Again

IMG_6561Each Spring, it seems I need to replace the plants on my porch.  I let the ones from last year die off in the winter.  It's never intentional, it just happens.  Well lack of water and protection from the winter cold is what actually kills them but that's never my intention. These new plants remind me that we have the choice to begin again.  We can begin again every day, every minute, every second, if we choose.  If I wake up in a crappy mood or cranky, I can choose to continue down that path or make a shift and change my perspective.  And some days, I stay on the path of crankiness and hey, that's ok.

As I approach turning 49 this Friday, I have been thinking about all the ways I begin again. This blog is one place I tend to begin again and again and again.  I take these long unexpected breaks but the writing always calls me back.  It's been over a year and while so many things have happened in that year and 4 months, some things remain the same.  I'm still in the same home,  still teaching Pilates, Allie cat still wakes me up too early in the morning, and my family are all doing well.  Some things have changed though and reflecting back, there have been some huge changes!  I began and ended a relationship, both of my parents lost their precious fur babies, my sister graduated from college and started teaching kindergarten, my mother 'retired' from her corporate job and I started an Holistic Life Coaching program.  I have also begun the online dating process again.  So I'm almost full circle to where I left you last year.  Although so much has changed.

I'm a bit lighter in my approach.  In the past, I was looking for "the one", that relationship that is going to last the rest of my life.  I'm not saying that wouldn't be nice, of course it would but it's just not my focus.  Although if it happens naturally, then bonus!  I'm dating, yes, dating.  I'm meeting new people and seeing what develops.  I'm having fun and not jumping into anything too quickly.  Enjoying the ride.  Most have not gone past a first or second date and that's ok.  We will see what happens and I hope to share more here.

And so, I begin again.

 

Online Dating Part Two

Two years ago I joined an online dating site.  It was quite eye opening.  You're basically shopping for a date.  Once I got into the flow of it, I had a few first days and I think one second date.  During the whole online thing I met someone through a mutual friend.  The online dating stopped.  Now here I am two years later giving it another shot.  Several friendsphoto encouraged me with 'why not, what do you have to lose'.  And it's true, what do I have to lose.  I'm ready to find love so I need to be open to it in any form it may take.  It is challenging to decipher the guys who are serious and those who are just trolling.  It's like a job, sorting through profiles, emails, likes, winks, etc.  But I've decided to just go for it. There are several guidelines I have set for myself.  When I'm interested, I'm going to send an email and if he responds, we'll see where it goes.  If he's not, move along.  No hurt feelings.  When someone reaches out to me and I'm not interested, I'm going to tell them right away.  No need to string anyone along or settle for anything that doesn't feel right.

Who knows what will happen.  Maybe I'll meet someone online but maybe I'll meet them in the grocery store or coffee shop or walking down the street.  I will be sure to share more here.

In a Word - Love

IMG_4006For the past 4 years, I have chosen a word of the year.  Or more accurately the word has chosen me.  Last year my word was TRUST.  I had to learn to trust myself again; trust my instincts; trust in other people; trust in the Universe; trust that I was on the right path.  Looking back at 2014, Trust was the perfect word.  I did learn to trust my instincts, I listened to my gut (or maybe they were my angels & guides, right Grace?!) and I made some necessary changes to put myself on the right path.  I moved to a place that has opened up my social circle to include people I probably never would have met.  I've become more involved coordinating events and bringing people together, which is something I had always done but had lost that part of me for awhile.  I feel like I'm back on track.  I'm so much more comfortable in my own skin and am trusting myself and my choices. This brings me to my word for 2015, LOVE!  Again, this word has chosen me.  For awhile I wanted the word to be Abundance but nope...it kept coming back to LOVE.  Doesn't it always come back to love though?  I ended my year trying to spread more love, to myself and to others.  I'm more open...to meeting new people, trying new things, having new experiences, and most important, to finding LOVE...the romantic variety.  I am ready!  How do I know I'm ready?  Because I am really comfortable being single, I enjoy my own company, I have learned to love myself and I am taking care of myself - emotionally, financially and physically.  I don't NEED to have a partner in this life, I WANT one.  I know because I'm ready to receive love in my life.  I've been really good at giving love but found it harder to receive it.  I'm ready because I know I will choose only the best and am not willing to settle (any potential partner will choose only the best too).  I'm ready because I'm open.  Open to the possibilities, open to the disappointments, open to the good, open to the bad, and most important open to falling in love.

Yes, this will be the year of LOVE for me...and I hope for you too!

 

Vulnerability...Rocks

photo When I wrote the draft of my last post, I had an introductory paragraph that explained why I was writing the post.  My lovely friend Amy edited my post and suggested I eliminate that paragraph or move it somewhere else in the post.  She thought it would be much more powerful to open with the line...I have herpes.  I got a huge lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach but I edited the post and hit publish before I could overthink it.  However, when I shared on Facebook, I did alter the way I shared it.  I was still nervous about having the first sentence show up in my FB feed.  A minute later, I changed my mind.  I knew that if I was going to be vulnerable and not care what other people thought I needed to put it all out there.  But when I went back to FB, I was already getting comments and they were AMAZING!  I actually started crying...happy tears.  The comments were so supportive and encouraging.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but I was blown away by everyone who took the time to comment on my FB post and my blog.  Then there was the email I received from the student who gave me the extra push I needed, after reading my post...

That's awesome to hear! Thanks so much for your reply back. I went to your site and read your latest blog. Wow. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to post, but I think that you did a very honest, a very brave, and a very important thing. Not just for you, but for others as well. I hope that it has lifted a weight off of you, and I hope that it will help you to open up, as well as reciprocate.

Thanks so much for writing and for sharing the Safe Sex guide! I really enjoy your blog, and you have a wonderful talent as a writer. Good things will come from this. Best of luck with everything in your future.

I also received many private messages from other people who have dealt with the stigma of herpes.  They shared how they were ashamed and weren't putting themselves out there for fear of the reaction from a potential partner.  I had conversations about other "shameful" things people have done or experienced.  It was as if the clouds had parted and the light was shining in.  People who felt they couldn't share with anyone, could now share and I imagine it lessened their fear, made them feel less alone, and that they didn't feel like they needed to hide in the shadows anymore.  This is what I hope they felt by telling me their story.

My wish is that we can all continue to share our stories without worrying about what anyone else thinks.  We can let the light in, be honest with each other and support each other...hold each other up.  That is my wish for all of us.

"Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen

 

A Stigma

photo I have herpes.

Just writing that down is freeing and terrifying at the same time. I’ve shared this information with my dearest friends and I don’t have a problem discussing it in person, (although I do tend to change the tone of my voice when I say it, herpes, like a whisper), but telling the world at large is a bigger deal.

Most days, I really don’t think about it, but as soon as I start dating it’s like a dark cloud that hangs over me. Even though 1 in 4 people have herpes, there is still a stigma attached. Anytime I hear a joke about herpes, I cringe. And, of course, anytime I start dating someone I feel the need to share this information almost immediately. Maybe it’s a test to see how compassionate or honest or brave the person is. Will it change the way they look at me? Will they want to move forward?

The man I fell in love with last year…he asked questions, did his research and we had a very loving, active, safe sex life. But my latest dating experience was different. We met through a friend; he was intriguing so I was interested. Since he lived a bit of a distance from me, we talked quite a bit on the phone and it seemed we could talk about anything. On the third date I told him about the herpes. He had married young and was married for twenty-five years, so he had not had any exposure to any information about herpes. We discussed it further; he did some research and was surprised to find out how prevalent it is. It did not, however, deter his interest in me. When we finally did have sex, he still had some questions, but we used protection, and all was good. Or so I thought. While we were still lying in bed, his fear began to mount. He brought it up, we discussed it again, and I explained that herpes does not define me, it’s something I have and something I have to deal with but if we were careful, he wouldn’t contract it. He still felt afraid and needed to try and wrap his head around it. I said that was fine, to take his time.

It’s been over three weeks now, without any communication at all from him. It is disappointing, but I know I’m in a good place because I am not letting this deter me in any way. Honestly I don’t blame him for his fear. A herpes flare can be very painful but there are ways to minimize them. There are prescription drugs available and I take a Lysine supplement every day that boosts my immune system. I’m also experimenting with essential oils. The oil that has been known to help with flares is the Melissa oil. How funny is that?!

So now you know the most personal thing you could possibly know about me. I’m hoping that this post will resonate with some of you and may help anyone who is dealing with some sort of stigma, whether it’s herpes or something else.

I have been debating discussing this topic for a while now but I was afraid of what other people, including you, would think of me.   But I kept waking up, writing the post in my head. Then recently, I received a random e-mail with the title “An idea for your site” and this opening sentence, “I hope I've found the right person to contact. In doing some research for a project in my human sexuality course, I found your page here…my project is based on spreading awareness of important sexual issues in our society. I've chosen this comprehensive guide on safe sex as the focus for my project.” I’ve also been working really hard in letting go of worrying about what anyone else thinks (a daily practice, I must add). And this is the ultimate test in not worrying about what anyone else thinks.

For those of you who are single, married, in a committed relationship, whatever your status and are concerned about STD’s, here a link to reference site I was emailed as part of a class project. The only think this student asked was for me to share the link on my site. I’m still not sure what made him choose my site but it was the catalyst to me sharing this information.

If you want to start a dialogue or have questions, I’d be happy to do that too. In the meantime, I am hopeful and confident that there is someone out there for me who will accept ALL of me.

Some Days...

photo Some days...

  • the road seems long with no end in sight and then you remember, there is no destination, just the journey
  • you get a phone call with news that someone you love is in the hospital, side effects from chemo forcing her to bed rest...and you can't quite process it all
  • you get a sudden wave of sadness thinking about a lost love, even though you've moved forward, at least you think you have
  • you watch the news and your heart hurts from seeing all the pain in the world and yet you still think love is the answer
  • the clouds roll in and as hard as you try you can't outrun the rain
  • your mind tells you tears need to fall and yet they don't seem to come
  • you get complimented on your teaching and it makes the long days totally worth every second
  • you push through the day with little sleep but plenty of energy then the next day you get plenty of sleep but can barely make it through the day
  • you focus a little too much on the scale and not enough on how healthy and strong you are
  • you are so grateful that you didn't have surgery because now your back feels great
  • you realize you are so lucky to have this life.

 

Taking it Lightly

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Part of the reason I moved to this new apartment was to meet new people and hopefully start dating again.  Since my break up last year, I've had exactly one date who was a friend of a friend and it was clear from the get-go that neither of us had any interest.  So last weekend when I ran into one of my neighbors and he clearly expressed interest, it was refreshing and totally flattering.  We've hung out a couple of times and while there is an attraction, it won't go any further than friendship (with a bit of flirting thrown in).  Why?  Because I've made a rule that I will only get involved with someone who is totally single, already divorced or if they are separated, then it's only a matter of signing on the dotted line.  I've had a bit of experience with men who were separated but not divorced and it never ends well.  He's only recently separated and clearly not in a place to be dating, so we'll stick with rule on this one.

I'm hoping to meet more new neighbors and maybe one of them will turn out to be more than friends, we'll see.  Just the other day, one of the girls in the leasing office mentioned that maybe I should get lost on the fourth floor because someone new moved in that I might be interested in.  Haven't met him yet but I may just have to hit the wrong button on the elevator.

This move has been the right one for me.  And even if my dating life doesn't improve, that's ok, my social life has and spending time with friends is way more important anyway.  Although I think I may wander up to the fourth floor just for fun.

 

Settling In

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It's been a really long time since I've written here.  There are various reasons for the absence, one of which is that I moved and have been settling in to my new home.  It is totally the opposite of where I lived before.  From a 100+ year old house to a brand new apartment.  You would think it would be challenging getting used to all the new sights and sounds.  Some of my neighbors are loud but somehow I find that comforting.  I was a bit isolated in my old house which is exactly what I needed at the time.  Now, the social aspect of this new home is exactly what I need.  I'm loving all of the great amenities here and my apartment is beautiful and I'm slowly meeting new people.  I'm within walking distance of work and the pub and the coffee shop...convenient to everything.  There's still a lot of construction going on so I've gotten used to their 6am start time.  I figure the earlier they start the quicker they'll be done.  I overlook the pool which is going to be beautiful...when its finished!

Moving can be stressful, which it definitely was for the first couple of weeks.  Now I'm loving it but I'm still trying to find my rhythm.  It seems that I can only focus on one big goal at a time.  The past 2 months, I've been focused on my health and fitness.  I have totally neglected my writing.  I'm even enrolled in an amazing course, The Conscious Booksmith, that I periodically check in on but I've put off actually doing the work.  I know that I need to do the work, I'm not sure why I'm not.  I'm trying to sit with it all and not beat myself up and do what I can when I feel the time is right.  This, I'm sure you all know, is not very easy to do.

So as I sit here on my balcony, listening to various construction machinery at 7:30am, I'm just letting it all flow.  Taking one step at a time, starting now by writing this post and hoping that sparks more writing.

"We can choose to start over in this very moment, there is no need to wait for a new year or a new month or a new week." - Madisyn Taylor, Daily OM

 

Suffering Silently

IMG_5535 Dealing with chronic pain over the last year has been eye opening for me.  It has made me more patient, more empathetic and a better teacher.  I have learned how many people suffer with some sort of physical pain every day and do so without a bit of complaining.

Over the years, I was really good at keeping my feelings inside for fear of burdening anyone else.  When my brother died, my parents were concerned because I wasn't sharing my feelings with them, they didn't see me cry.  I got really good at stuffing down my feelings until they exploded in one moment.  When I announced I was getting divorced, everyone was shocked because I was really good at keeping my feelings hidden, no one had a clue anything was amiss.  Slowly, over time, I've gotten better about sharing.  Maybe its age, maybe its a lot of hard lessons, or maybe its the people in my life.  I think its a combination of all of these things.  I'm no longer afraid to share feelings for fear of burdening people because they want to listen, they want to help.  How do I know this?  Because I want to do that for other people and I have an amazing group of friends who are always there.  Are there times when I worry if they really want to hear me cry anymore over my breakup or cry about the chronic pain, of course I do.  But I am getting better at sharing in spite of my fears.

Even here on this blog, I've shared things I'm planning on doing and then turned around later and changed my mind.  Last post, I told you I was planning to have surgery to get rid of the herniated disc in my back.  I was convinced that was the only solution for me.  Last week, I changed my mind.  I'm trying a different route and if that doesn't work, surgery can always be rescheduled.

What I've learned about sharing stories, feelings, pain, is that there is someone out there who can relate in some way.  I always wonder if people think I'm crazy or annoying but it doesn't stop me from sharing anymore.  They will always think what they want but by sharing my stories, my feelings, my pain, I may be helping someone else who is too afraid to share.  I know for sure that I'm helping myself by sharing.  I'm no longer suffering silently.  I'm actually not suffering at all because the more I talk about it, the more free I feel, if that makes sense.  I'm no longer stuffing my feelings down creating more internal strife.

I guess the point of this post was to let you know you are not alone, you don't have to suffer in silence, you can share your feelings, your fears, your pain and there is always someone willing to listen.

Moving Forward...I'm Ready

IMG_5524 Almost three years ago, I moved into this house.  I walked in and fell in love and knew I had to be here.  And for all this time, that tire swing has hung in the tree.  Then one day on a whim, I decided to look at a new place to live.  I've been feeling the pull to make a change and as soon as I saw these brand new apartments, I knew it was time.  That evening when I got home, the tire swing was on the ground, it was a sign.  This house has been a exactly what I've needed, a place where I've learned to be alone, a place where I've fallen in love and healed from heartbreak.  Now its time to move forward to a new home.  It will be the complete opposite of where I'm living now.  Going from 100+ year old house with a yard to a one bedroom brand new apartment in a big community will require some adjustment, but its time for a change.  I'm ready.

For just over a year, I've been dealing with chronic pain, starting in my low back and radiating down my left leg.  I've tried chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture and even resorted to a cortisone shot but nothing has worked.  Even pain meds do nothing.  I finally relented and had an MRI to discover a herniated, bulging disc, was referred to a neurosurgeon and decided its time for surgery.  I've never had surgery nor been a big fan, but decided if it could eliminate this pain with little downside, then its time.  Time to move forward pain-free, I'm ready.

Exactly one year ago today, I met him.  What a difference a year has made.  He helped me re-open my heart, broke it wide open and now I'm ready to move forward, find love again.  I actually have a date tonight.  It seems weird on this day but its time to start again.  No longer afraid to fall and get hurt because I know I can get back up.  I'm ready.

I'm ready...to start again, for little changes and big ones too, to move forward.