Month: August 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Did you ever see the movie Zoolander, where Ben Stiller’s character thinks he’s “really, really, really, really good looking?”  And he isn’t? Well, I personally think Ben Stiller is very attractive. But that’s beside the point. As we know, everybody’s definition of attractive is different.

Like when Sir Husband’s divorce lawyer saw his ex for the first time and gasped in shock and horror. “Um, that’s not a good fit, not a good fit at all,” she whispered in his ear in court, referring to his divorcee being nearly twice his size, and her looking less than feminine.

People said similar in my situation, Mr. Ex had a foot over me in height and more in circumference. And well, we looked like an odd pair to say the least.

But what never ceases to amaze me, is the difference between people who think they are really, really, really good looking – and aren’t – and those who truly are. What’s that all about?

A long time ago my mother told me that although she was getting older and looked older, she did not feel like she was getting older on the inside. She said she felt the same, just like herself, like she always did, for as long as she could remember.

I found that interesting, because she did not look on the outside like she said she felt on the inside. But it’s true. As I get older (and older,) I still feel like “me” on the inside. Although maybe a little wiser, maybe a little seasoned (or weathered,) and maybe a little more impartial.  But I still feel like I felt when I was in my youth. Like myself.

Does that mean I am boasting attractiveness to the naked eye? For that matter, would I want anyone other than Sir Husband to see me naked? No. And even that takes some courage. Do I think about how I look if I have to undress at the doctor’s office? Yes. I also barely will look at myself if I get a chance when passing a mirror.

This could sound like I have some serious issues with my self-confidence. I don’t, or maybe I do, mostly around my physicality. I never learned to fully appreciate or like my body I guess, which is not uncommon for many grown women. But I don’t think I’m ugly, and that’s a good start.

So what is the deal with people who truly feel attractive when they aren’t? We are as attractive as we feel, they say. But I tend to disagree. I have met some people who truly are not attractive, in looks or in character. Maybe that’s where the fine line is. Our character. If it’s beautiful, then that adds to our outward beauty. If it’s kind, loving, and most importantly – genuine – that helps create an overall package of goodness.

We are always biased by our own limitations of perspective and perception. There are great spiritual masters who can see beauty in everyone without a filtered lens, but most people see what they see on the outside, and are influenced by the outward image before the inner aspects even begin to come to the surface. We’re human, that’s what we do.

But who’s to say that we shouldn’t look in the mirror and think we are really, really, really good looking, even if we aren’t. I have to think our own self-image mirrored both inward and outward is what motivates us, helps keep us going in the directions we go, and even helps define us. But we also need to look at our character. Is that good looking to others?

I’m not sure the question of what constitutes true attractiveness can be answered, or should. But there is one quote that has always stuck with me from the moment I heard it. The intention applies to so many things, including in this case of what we see in others, and how we see ourselves.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Think about that for a bit.

Thank you for these words Wayne Dyer. And rest in peace. You were really, really, really good.

Life’s Long Learning Curve

Thanks to Facebook, I learned some things about myself that I didn’t know. I’m the thinker in my friend’s life, the one who loves you the most in another friend’s life, and the angel. I especially love that one. I also got a good chuckle when my friend said she wishes she believed in angels. But I’ll take it.

While Facebook games are just silly, I took a little pride in coming out on top. Of course who’s to say that I will on tomorrow’s quizzes. But I also heard some other feedback worth noting. A friend told me that my blog posts feel different, in a good way. Lighter and happier. Another friend told me she loves reading my blog until she gets to the ad at the bottom that has a picture of a giant toenail with fungus. Eew. I did not authorize that and will try to fix it. The world of blogging and Facebook has a life of its own.

But now, so do I. It’s taken a long time to figure out who I am and where I fit in to the bigger picture of my story. I’ve always felt like a participator in my life by other people’s definitions – their needs, their intentions, their decisions. And without sounding like a victim, until recently, that’s been the case.

That’s not to say I didn’t try to find my way, but I felt like I was driving a bumper car on an obstacle course in the dark. Along the way I tried to be me, unsure of my own definition, but seeking myself and my path. In fact I have worked so hard at finding myself, my bookcase looks like a virtual self-help library, and my iTunes is loaded with healing podcasts of every sort.

I recently heard a live podcast about how to find your soul’s purpose, hosted by Deepak Chopra, and guest Jean Houston, a renowned scholar, philosopher and visionary. She said this:

Make a list of all the things that you really do not want to be. And see how many you actually are. And then make a list of who you want to be. And focus on that. Where you put attention is what grows. What you appreciate, appreciates. Practice joy. Get out of the shadows of your own mind.

Tall order to look at yourself in the mirror without some intimidation from what may feel like personal failures at this stage of the game. And easier said than done. 

She continued: 

We live lives with quiet desperation. And each day that goes by it gets worse. Did I do nothing at all, all of these years? Something is missing.

That’s the key. Something is missing. But what? And how do we find it? Turns out it’s easier than I thought. It goes back to that whole thing about joy. Find, do, and live, what brings you joy. I finally figured out how to get out of the shadows of my own mind. But here’s the kicker. What I didn’t realize is that I was already doing that for other people. I have helped bring something positive to their lives regardless of the circumstances – mine or theirs.

Jean went on:

Your life is about everyone else whose life you touch and how you touch it. What you give to another you give to yourself. 

Oops, in the process of trying to give joy, I forgot to live my own. But it’s never too late. I understand it now. After all, I’m the thinker, and the angel, and guess what. I love us both the most.

The Little Wooden Box

The great clean out of our house – per The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – revealed many things that straddled the fence between keep or ditch. The point was to eliminate anything in the house that does not bring joy by owning it. Two marriages and five kids later, there was a lot of stuff that was easily identifiable as joyful, and a lot of stuff that wasn’t.

But it also revealed something else – the items that did not feel like they belonged to us. So in the spirit of returning these less-than-joy-eliciting items to their rightful owner, in this case Mr. Ex, I started a giant bag with his name on it.

As I went through items one by one, surrounded by piles on the floor, his stack grew. Old photographs with his smiling mug, DVDs, music CDs, art projects the kids made, frames, books, and yes, even our old wedding invitation made the cut. While I packed it up, I wondered what he would think of it. But I almost didn’t care, because these were really his items too, ones that made it onto my divorce moving truck at the time. It felt right to give them back.

I thought his Mrs. would get a kick out of the big bag of goodies, and I even put in a few things I thought she might like for her current life with my former husband. Instead, I learned a week later, she was a little miffed by my bag of what she called crap, and wondered why I didn’t just give it away.

I did. To her. And it wasn’t really crap, as she soon found out.

I didn’t know she thought it was crap of course, until she texted me to ask me what the significance was of the small, hinged, wooden and glass decorative box in the bag. There was no significance, other than I went back and forth trying to decide if it brought me joy or not. It was interesting that she texted me about that item, there were many things in the big bag. But this one I had wrestled with. I put it in the bag, then took it out. Then put it in, then took it out – which goes against the KonMari method in the book. I finally realized after several days that it felt to me like it belonged to her.

When I told her there was no significance, other than after much deliberation I just thought it should go to her, she found that interesting.

Turns out his Mrs. has her own blog, that she reluctantly shared with me, and she had blogged about the box.

“Don’t be judgey,” she said when she sent me the link.

I don’t judge, I really don’t.

The post was about the “bag of crap,” and how after a few hours she realized how important all of the things were to her husband. The crap was now memorabilia. Mr. Ex looked at everything and reminisced, and smiled, and laughed, and enjoyed the surprises as he took them out one by one. But he didn’t recognize the little wooden and glass box. His Mrs. said she would take it.

A short time ago she had inherited an old jar of seashells from my former and her now deceased mother-in-law. She took the shells out of the dirty, old jar and put them one by one in the little wooden and glass box, where they fit perfectly.  She loved it and referred to it as “co-mingled memories” on her blog. She even called the bag of crap a treasure bag.

She sent me a picture of the box and its contents on a text, and I loved it. I don’t have room in my life for discord anymore, of any kind. It takes too much energy and life-force.  During that exchange, I thought for one minute about the past, all the trauma and drama, not forgotten but not so important. I actually smiled when I thought about the man so happy with all the memorabilia, it was nothing for me to pack it up and send a little joy their way.

I thought about that little box today when I walked pass my square, clear glass vase of shells and colorful sea glass Sir Husband and I have collected here. It brings me so much joy. Co-mingled memories mean the most.

An Angel Story

You never know where the day will lead. Or life in general for that matter. But it’s often the little things in our path that can change everything.

I was feeling eager to start and finish my last day at the bookstore. It was a quiet morning, the weather gorgeous, a perfect summer day. The sun was shining so brightly through the window behind the counter it was nearly blinding.

A well-dressed woman with a petite and frail frame came in and walked straight to the counter. I immediately noticed a sparkling pin on her grey silk blouse. It was an angel, filled with tiny gemstones. It was glistening in the sunlight.

She was nervous and fidgety, chatting about why she needed to return the navy blue leather-bound journal she had purchased a few weeks ago for her son, who just left for college. I half-listened, as we take anything back to the store really, as long as it’s not covered in food or clearly worn. She continued to explain the reason for her return with great apologies and I continued to assure her it was not a problem.

She hesitated at the counter after I gave her the store credit.

Do you have any books on grief? she asked.

“Yes, what exactly are you looking for?” I replied.

I lost my middle son three months ago, he was 16 and took his life, she whispered. I had wanted the journal for my oldest boy because I thought it would help him with the grieving, but he isn’t ready.

Tears began flowing down her face.

Please don’t mind me, she said, her eyes fully contacting with mine. I am sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I can’t just pretend and keep it inside.

“It’s fine,” I told her. “And I understand. When my son was 16 he struggled with his own life, but……survived.”

But survived.

She continued to tell me her story, and as I listened I felt myself open up more and more, my heart oozing with love and compassion. I could feel it radiating from my chest. I was extremely conscious of it and just let it be. My eyes too, a bit teary, as we talked for quite some time. No one else was in the store.

Funny thing is, she continued, And I don’t know if you are open to this sort of thing or not…you know, this isn’t just it here on earth, there is so much more out there, so much more, and I know he’s ok because he told us.

I am not only open, I know very well that there’s more. And she talked today as if she were reporting from the heavens. She continued…

He left us a note that said that he chose us as his parents before he was born, because he knew we were the ones that would help him fulfill his purpose on earth. He told us when he was born and looked at us he knew that his time with us would be short, his life with us important to do what he needed to do.

He said that he was full of nothing but love for everyone around him, and he felt it and knew he was loved. But he felt like his mind and his heart were disconnected, and he did not love himself. His plan was to come to earth as our son and help us know love and then go. 

Her cheeks were wet with tears, and they glistened, like her pin.

Everyone was so shocked, he was so kind, so sweet, so loving, almost unbelievably so. Looking back I always wondered why he was so gentle and un-phased by anything other than his poor grades. He was a wonderful person, quiet, he had a few friends. His eyes sent messages of hope and peace to everyone around him, people actually noticed.

The day after the school got the news, they went out and bought boxes of sticky notes, and everyone in the school wrote a note about my son, some wrote to him, some wrote to us, and they stuck them all over the walls in all the halls of the school. Then they took pictures of all of them and gave us a photo album filled with the pictures of the notes, and all the notes in a big box. You can’t even believe what that means to us.

But that wasn’t all of it.

I don’t know if you believe in this sort of thing, but one night our family was all together and we were planning the funeral. And my step-daughter was playing charades with the other kids, and I heard her say, ‘No silly, I’m a turtle!’ Within seconds my aunt came to me, my son’s great aunt, and said, ‘I need to talk to you.’ She put her hand on my arm and held it tightly.

My aunt said, “I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but your son told me that I would know when I got the sign. He has come to me several times since he died. I know it was him, I have seen his face, bright and smiling, and my chest welled up with warmth, with a loving feeling I cannot describe.”

The woman crossed her hands on her chest and held them there as she continued to share her aunt’s words.

“He told me that he wanted you to know that he is just fine, so happy, and beaming love. He told me to tell you all of this as soon as I got the sign, the sign is a turtle.”

The weird thing is, the woman shared as she told her story, the night before he took his own life he was kayaking with his dad and called his dad over to his boat. ‘Look at this big turtle in the water, it’s huge!’ And the next day he died.

I knew in that moment the book she needed from the bookstore. The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan. It is not a book on grief, but a fascinating true story about a young man who reached out to his sister after his unexpected death. The book answers a lot of questions about death and dying in incredible detail and from the unique perspective of the deceased. If you do not believe in life after death or messages from angels, you will after reading this account. It is a powerful, helpful, healing book.

The woman put down the grief books she was holding and said she would just like to buy this one – the one about a young man who died ahead of his time only to tell the story to the world through his sister.

Our encounter today was all meant to be, she said to me, her tears now dry. Thank you so much, your help is beyond words.

We hugged at the door before she left. I don’t even know her name. But my heart radiated with love.

To Thine Own Self Be True

It doesn’t really matter what other people think, it matters what you think. How many times have we heard that? But how often do we believe it.

Or how about, it’s not a competition. Tell that to the rest of the world. We are supposed to be the definers of our own success, not compare ourselves to others, value ourselves. 

Self-value is a big deal, and I’m just learning what that really means. The relationship we have with ourselves is effectively the most important one we have. And not only how we define and think of ourselves, but also how we treat ourselves, is essentially what creates who we are on the inside and who we are outside in the world.

Makes sense. But so much easier said than done, for some of us anyway. Both Sir Husband and I in particular, are really only learning what it means to value ourselves more than the value we place on what others think of us. Big gulp here – putting out on the line that we have allowed others to de-value us on many levels. And we aren’t sure we know why. When did we decide to let everybody else’s needs and desires overrule our own?

Looking back at our histories and growing up, we can pick and choose certain aspects of all the people around us from our childhood and beyond, which may have contributed to the learning curve of our lives. I suppose you can only learn what you are taught, wherever that comes from in your life. People, situations, circumstances, these are the heavy influencers that help shape and define us.

Then there is that person inside, named ME, who takes all of that input and information and assimilates it. Somewhere amidst all the blurry lines we determine our own value, our own self-worth, then we roll with it. I don’t want to confuse self-value with self-esteem, because I always thought I had that. Confidence in myself? Check. Respect for myself? In theory. Value? Not so much.

It became more clear to me when I began working at the bookstore. I tried so hard to like it, and maybe I did for a little while, or periodically. But the messages that kept coming loud and clear from the outside, bumped up against what felt right on the inside. I felt de-valued, as if I did not matter. And I worried that if I addressed it out loud (even out loud in myself,) then I would lose the tiny income it provided, and the few connections I had in our new and very small town. I traded my own self-value for minimum wage and outward image. That’s pathetic.

It was when I started to realize that, that the inner friction got to be too much. Although I’m typically a fast processor and keen observer, I’m slow to take action for myself. The “what ifs” creep in. The inner questioning, “Is it me? It must be me.” As the discomfort grew, so did the realization of my own self-worth. And it wasn’t until I took a giant scary leap and quit, that it hit me.

I gave and gave to the bookstore, and I thought it did not give back. But it actually did. I got a deeper understanding of myself, a better knowing of my value to myself and to society. I met my self-value face to face. And I liked her.

Exercising this virtue with confidence however, takes some practice. Now that I’m aware of self-value, what it looks like and how it feels, it is easier to see it in others. And I’m quickly learning there is a fine line between self-value and self-righteousness. Sir Husband and I are somewhat surrounded by the latter. But we use other’s selfishness an opportunity to learn how to come from little self-value to a healthy level of personal worth. Self-value actually feels good.

And really, don’t we all just want to feel good about ourselves? We just need to find a good fit between our self-value and our actions. If we never doubt and always believe in ME, we might just hit the mark.

Life is about living, learning and loving, says the wise woman. We’re just a work in progress, all the way to the end, so we might as well feel some self-value along the way. We have nothing to lose but ourselves.

The Sweet Smell of A Memory

You know how a sound, or a smell, or a taste will take you back and into a memory within a millisecond? That old General Foods International Coffee commercial was spot on. But it isn’t coffee for me. It’s my yoga mat.

I’ve been doing yoga for 18 years now with the same mat. It has just a hint of a sweet, sticky, rubbery-clean smell that has lingered all this time. It’s feels and smells like home.

The scented memories are welcome, I suffer from a hazy amnesia after years of stress ranging from cancer scares and surgeries to police protection from a stalker, abuse in my former marriage, the list is long. But none of that matters when I roll out my mat. The aroma takes me back to happy times, and one memory that stands out from over a decade ago.

I was attending the weekend-long northeast Yoga Journal Live conference with a friend, and somehow we ended up in the elevator with Rodney Yee. He’s a prominent ballet dancer-turned yogi and known around the world, and at the time was a celebrity to me.

My friend and I could not stop looking at his long, perfectly smooth, jet black hair that was pulled back in a pony tail extending more than halfway down his back. He noticed, and with a smile said, “Wow girls, you have a lot of suitcases for a short weekend, what on earth did you bring?”

Gasp!

A perfect icebreaker in a crowded elevator, we chatted all the way to the 16th floor. He was one of the nicest, down-to-earth people I met that weekend. Not only was his celebrity status erased, I got to know him enough from taking his classes that a couple of years later I participated in one of his yoga specials for PBS. I easily go back to some wonderful times in my mind when I roll out my mat.

I love yoga. I have not taught it, but have studied it and shared it, and am still studying. The difference is that I not only do yoga, I apply it to my entire life. It was the first thing that ever felt good after years of joint-pounding aerobics. It was like a drug then, and still is. I have never felt so relaxed, so tuned in, so aware, and so worked-out at the same time.

Yoga is sensory, and changes you in subtle ways that stick with you beyond a keener sense of smell. I enjoy a more relaxed face, softer eyes, a taller stance and better posture. A longer spine, looser hips, a leaner torso, and a sturdier stance. I feel my feet grounded and solid, toes sort of kissing the floor. Did you even know your toes do that? Who really feels their feet on the floor? Yogis do.

You could call it a healthy addiction, I have practiced almost daily since I started, no matter what else is going on. It’s part of the definable foundation in my life. So when I stand on my mat, solid and grounded, soft and aware, and I get that little scent, I smile. For me, yoga is the essence of life.

Have A Little Faith

Before we headed out on our desperately-needed mini vacation, the weather forecast was bleak. Rain rain rain would be hovering over our mountain retreat. Much to our surprise, the sun was shining when we arrived. Our hope elated, we felt a resurgence of positive relief, that I’m sure was due to more than the weather. We were finally able to relax.

The next morning we woke up to a drizzle, but since it was expected, we carried on with our determination to enjoy our change of scenery. We headed out to breakfast, the rain now coming down with fervor. As Sir Husband backed out of our parking space at the inn he went a little too far and we heard the crunch over the downpour.  Uh oh. He had accidentally backed into another guest’s car, and put a sizable dent in the bumper.

He didn’t take it too well, he prides himself on his driving and should. We weren’t really sure how it happened, other than we were wedged in almost to the point in a V-shaped parking lot, and hit the car opposite to us in the same position. It was in his blind spot. And it was pouring.

We told the innkeeper that we accidentally put a dent in the bumper of the silver Toyota Camry in the lot. Of course our Jeep was fine. She notified the guest, who within moments met us in the lobby and graciously exchanged information with us, although I think she was silently fuming. Oddly the rain disappeared almost that instant. The sun came out. Then the cosmos intervened.

Turns out the innkeeper’s son is an auto body repair person, and does it for a living. She told us he would be happy to take a look at it, possibly even fix it on his day off the following day. We felt a sense of relief, and figured it would cost us less than our insurance deductible to pay him directly. We wanted to avoid insurance. The car owner reluctantly agreed.

Did it ruin our vacation? No. Did it ripple our happy and relaxed undercurrent? Yes. But we used it as an opportunity to practice a more zen-ful approach to life. There wasn’t much we could do about it other than let it play out, and try to go with the flow – not necessarily our strong suit after the last few years of exhaustive turmoil. So we went about our vacation business as best as we could, and let the powers that be do their thing.

The next morning when we met with the innkeeper’s son (whose name just happens to be the same name as Sir Husband’s son – we took that as a good sign,) he said he could easily fix it. We held our breath as he shared his estimate.

“$60.00,” he said.

“Wait, how much? $600.00?” I asked.

“No no, $60.00. I can fix this quickly and easily at the shop in about two hours.”

(WOW!) “Ok great! Thank you so much,” I said calmly while feeling quite ecstatic.

And again, the car owner reluctantly agreed.

It suddenly felt as if the whole thing had been orchestrated. Whether you believe in the Universe and its workings or not, and we do, this flowed seamlessly from the moment we hit the car. It almost felt like it was meant to be – you know that feeling you get when you don’t understand something but also feel a sense of quiet stillness deep inside.

After the auto body man drove away in the car, its owner went about her vacation business, and we went about ours. When Sir Husband and I returned to the inn later that day, the innkeeper said it was done, and we just owed her son $60.00. We took $100. cash out of our wallets, put it in an envelope, sealed it and gave it to the innkeeper. We felt an urge to pay him extra. She gave us a receipt and said she’d let us know if the car owner found the repairs acceptable.

The hours went by, we heard nothing. Sir Husband was long done sweating it, I was the one who wondered if the woman was ok with the work. Her bumper looked perfect, but you never know what people will do. He told me let it go, it’s done and fine…I wanted to hear that for real. Later that evening I went back to the innkeepers office to see if the car owner was happy with the repair.

“Oh yes,” she said. “It’s fine. And my son said to tell you thank you so much. He was overjoyed when he opened the envelope,” she said. “Now he can buy back-to-school clothes for his daughter.”

I get it now. It was all Divine intervention.

Funny how life works sometimes. It didn’t rain another drop the entire time we were there. And a little girl has some new clothes.

A Little Wine Turns Back Time

On the way back from our short but sweet weekend getaway in the hills outside of Boston, we made an impromptu stop in a tiny college town where Smith College sits. We didn’t stop there for Smith, though we ended up seeing five prestigious Massachusetts colleges all packed into the same 15-mile radius. While this was educational for Sir Husband, he was now along for the memory lane ride with his bride.

This was my old stomping ground, although I did not attend any of these schools. I had been to the area many times for yoga retreats and when my oldest went to summer camp there almost 10 years ago. It hadn’t changed a bit. My life and I, on the other hand, have. A lot.

The difference now was that I was able to share with Sir Husband, some of my best memories from one of the overall worst times in my life. I have been eager to do that a lot – share my old life with him – to somehow make him a part of it even though we lived disconnected lives, hundreds of miles and many years apart.

We parked the car and I worked to get my bearings and my sense of direction as we strolled the charming, historic streets filled with students and families. And while the memories didn’t flood back, the sense of familiarity excited me as I recognized the scene. I couldn’t stop telling Sir Husband everything that I wanted him to know and feel. He shared in that enthusiasm, from a different perspective. It was all new to him.

That’s the thing with reconnecting with someone from your past. There is a drive, sometimes even an urgency, to take them into the former chapters of your life, turning each page with them, bringing it all to life in the present.

We decided to eat in my favorite restaurant there, a vegetarian cafe with food that does not seem or taste vegetarian. I think Sir Husband had almost had enough of my babbling about all of it, when he realized they didn’t have hamburgers. He looked at the menu for a long time, which is completely out of character for someone who is usually very easy to please. Then he stopped and looked up at me, paused in thought, his face perking up.

In this little college town, in the middle of nowhere in Western Massachusetts, they sell his favorite New York wine by the glass and bottle, a label you can’t really find anywhere. A tiny little winery, in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, ships its wine to this cozy vegetarian restaurant where we just happened to stop at the last minute on the way home from our swift weekend getaway. It was kind of shocking.

Of course we ordered the wine, and from the minute it arrived, it took Sir Husband down a similar path to mine. The bouquet brought him to one of his favorite places. The color, the body, the taste, it resurged in him the same excited familiarity I had just been exhibiting when we got out of the car. He ate his lentil and portobello mushroom burger with verve and enjoyed every bite. Our experiences on this day completely different, yet the same, at the little table for two where we had never been together.

After living in Massachusetts for more than two decades, I had always hoped my kids would go to one of the colleges in this area. They didn’t. But instead of dreams lost, it was memories made here, when I got to walk along the sidewalks of the little college town with my favorite husband, and have his favorite wine, and make a whole new chapter that belongs just to us.

That’s the thing about life. The stories on the pages will change, and usually when you least expect it.

Poor Little Rich Girl

“Poor little rich girl!” my mother said to me the other day. It was in jest, we were talking about the gap between my princess-type personality and my income. I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult to grow up a certain way and be afforded certain privileges and not even realize it, and then not have that same type of bank account in adulthood.

That is just the thing. I never knew that my family was in the upper middle class. No, not the elite, not extreme wealth, but enough to have a nice home in the suburbs, a summer home in New England, a car on my 16th birthday, a pool and hot tub that were the envy of the neighborhood, a paid-for college education, and plenty more where that came from.

But I didn’t feel rich. I felt normal. I did not judge the way anyone else lived, whether in a bigger or smaller house, I did not even really pay attention to it. I did not judge what kind of cars people drove, or if they had a bigger boat. It didn’t matter. It just was.

Until it was lost. Skip ahead a couple of decades when I found out that that my six-figure income IT executive husband at the time had gambled away our entire life behind my back. It’s not an uncommon story, and shit happens. But for the first time in my life I realized that I had money. And lost it.

The reality of that sunk in when my now ex-husband – who swore on his life he would provide for me and our children forever if I just granted him a divorce – lied. Lying comes naturally for a gambler, and they don’t even realize they are doing it. They believe their own lies, whatever those are in the moment. But this isn’t about that. This is about how it feels to realize that you are on your own financially for the first time in your life, and you have gone from the haves to the have nots. It’s painful.

That actually sounds petty in a way because the old adage “money isn’t everything but it helps,” is true. Money really isn’t everything. I know that now after marrying the man I have been connected to forever, in ways beyond understanding. I know unconditional love now, and I love it. And with our bond and union, money doesn’t matter. That’s not to say there isn’t conflict outside of our magic bubble, there are dragons in our midst who try to rape us of our financial security, what little there is.

But it isn’t those dragons that get us. It’s the haunting of my own.

Sir Husband and I were sitting on our special little rocky beach where we disappear together and collect sea glass as often as we can. It’s a tiny inlet a couple of miles from us, almost private in its location, at the end of a winding dirt road through a forrest of tall trees. The giant rock formations make a great place to sit and watch the sea, and a long  dock extends out for dinghies to moor, or for a little jump into cold water on a hot day.

But this day the inlet had a small crowd. A few families with kids and dogs and beach chairs were scattered around the pebbles. The late afternoon sun was so bright that the glare off the water almost hurt my eyes. Sir Husband was busy looking for sea glass, but I stopped when I noticed what was going on. It was that time of day when big boats sailed up to the floating dock and parked, to pick up the families on the shore. It became clear to me after the third one rolled in and stopped long enough for beach goers to grab their things and walk out on the dock to their boats, get in, and sail or motor away.

It knocked the wind out of my sails and I don’t know why. It reminded me of something deep inside, like desire and dreams, loss and reality. It reminded me of what I had and how easy it was to live comfortably, although I never even realized it. I live comfortably now, just differently. A trip to the homeless shelter recently reminded me of that. I have a home, closets, clothes, food, a car, and a husband who adores me, and whom I adore.

And I stand in my truth with I say this, I would never trade the love and life I have now for what I had. Because it isn’t about the money. It’s about having a marriage and and life with someone who you love from the depths of your soul, and who loves you back the exact same way. It’s about being treated like a princess regardless of the jewels on the crown. It’s about giving, giving back, giving love. It’s about having what matters, not not having what doesn’t.

Poor little rich girl is exactly right. And here’s the gift. This lucky little girl has it all, and finally realizes her riches. I’ve got the bigger boat.

The Feminine Bond

I was invited to a lovely jewelry party by a new friend, who I took an instant liking to. We have gotten together a couple of times, and I enjoy her vibrant energy. I met her through another friend, who is equally dynamic. They are happy and fun and I am glad to have new friends with whom I share a sense of connection.

However, I’m not a fan of girly party get togethers. I may be unique in this regard, although I was even like this as a child. Whenever I was invited to a slumber party I bagged out as often as I could, or got a stomach ache half way through the evening and asked to go home. Am I a homebody? Not really. Anti-social? Not at all.

The theme carried through much of my adult life. Although I don’t get a stomach ache at an event anymore, I just am not the Tupperware, jewelry, spa, or book club party kind of gal. But I feel weird saying no. What if they don’t like me if I don’t go to these events?  I don’t want to be crossed off the friend list. And what if I want to go sometime in the future and they stop inviting me? People and life can change, I want to keep my social options open.

The women who have them seem to love them. They rave about their get togethers, evenings away from their husbands or children, gabbing with other women, looking at things to buy. What am I missing? Am I an odd woman out? Am I a bad friend?  I don’t feel like I am.

Women in general I think, tend to feel a social pressure to conform or adhere to unwritten codes of the feminine bond. Even if it’s not at the surface, I think it goes back to when we were little and sought out our friends to play with on the playground, or eat lunch, or sit next to on the bus. We want that sense of likeness, even affection.

But it goes beyond the feminine bond. I also feel a pressure to purchase at these parties. After all, that’s why we’re there. I’m not saying I don’t want a one-of-a-kind Pampered Chef kitchen gadget. But I really don’t. I love jewelry but I have plenty and prefer it as a gift on an occasion from someone special. A spa party is fine, but I like to keep my hygiene preferences private. And I lean toward frugal. I love a bargain at Nordstrom Rack or TJ Maxx. Can’t help it, I am who I am.

Maybe that’s the bottom line. I am who I am. Like me or leave me. Maybe it’s really me I struggle with, inside. A need to be accepted, a desire to not hurt anyone’s feelings, an intention to fit in and belong, even if it’s uncomfortable. I don’t have low self esteem, and I’m confident and strong. But I feel a pressure to participate, so I say yes, much to my chagrin.

I actually like hanging out with my husband, I missed half my lifetime with him, and now I don’t want to miss a minute. I love doing things with friends as couples, relaxing at home on a weeknight and especially on a weekend. I love having flexibility to decide at the last minute because my body doesn’t always cooperate.

My gal pals who are reading this will know who they are, and I feel bad even putting it out there. Worse yet, now my secret is out. Please don’t hate me. We still share the feminine bond, which I know is really all about understanding.

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