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Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

As I mentioned in last Tuesday’s post I am kicking off this year’s sales and marketing efforts by offering four free chapters (one a week) of Any Color but Beige to my blog readers. Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

Last week, I offered a chapter from the Primary Colors section, and today it’s a chapter from Color Blind. Entitled “Bleeding Hearts,” it focuses on the wake-up call that made me take stock of my life, and then trade in all of the safe neutral tones that colored my existence for a more bold and daring personal palette.

“True Colors,” next week’s free chapter, is all about rediscovering myself and adding color back into my life in ways I could never have imagined. This chapter gave me the book’s subtitle – Living Life in Color.

Finally, in the last installment you will read all about the Exotic Color that was the genesis of this book.

And so – here is “Bleeding Hearts.”   Chapter 10

photo: © istockphoto.com/avdeev007

You know it’s over when you stop talking

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We recreate ourselves constantly whether we realize it or not. It happens naturally as we live our lives. Outwardly we go from daughter, to wife, to mother. We graduate, we work, we earn money, we raise a family and, in the process of living, we raise ourselves. These are the facets of our life that the world sees. We’re “on script” so to speak.

But there are times when the script doesn’t match the internal voice of our character. That is the time we start rewriting our scripts, adjusting our personal narratives and changing ourselves.

Sometimes we make small and incremental changes in dialogue, like learning to say “no” when all our lives we’ve been saying “yes.” Sometimes we change our costumes, like getting into shape and upgrading our looks so we suit our new roles. And sometimes we make fundamental changes, like changing careers, going back to school or leaving the safety and security of life as we know it for the unknown – performing without a net.

Change, and the act of re-creation or reinvention, are never easy. When we’re going through it we often question our motives, our sanity and our judgment –and rightly so. It’s important to make sure that change is warranted because change for the sake of change is counterproductive. It’s like changing four quarters for a dollar – you’re no further ahead than when you started.

Naysayers, family and friends among them, who are stuck in their own personal ruts, will warn you off change and call your decisions into question. Don’t second-guess yourself! Don’t let “analysis paralysis” rule your life either!

Six years ago I recreated my life. As an international color marketer I was busy adding color to everyone else’s life but my own so I rewrote my script, changing my character from a long-time married suburban wife, to a single woman living in cosmopolitan Montreal.

I didn’t do it overnight. In fact, I thought about it for 13 years before making a change that I knew was unavoidable. Once made, I never looked back. Everything changed: my outlook, my attitude and my approach to life. I rewrote my inner dialogue from negative to positive, gave myself a new setting, and added an interesting cast of characters to my love life.

For the first time in years I knew what it felt like to be fully alive. I took my life off autopilot and started flying solo, free to feel the full range of emotions I had been avoiding for years: love, lust, longing, happiness, sadness and, finally, contentment.

Recently I completed my memoir Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color. When I read it, I am amazed at the number of recreations there are in my life. I didn’t realize it as it was happening; it’s only now in retrospect that I can see the metamorphosis, the gradual pushing of boundaries from the safety of a beige chrysalis to a world awash in color. And this is only just the beginning because the one thing I realized when I finished the book was that as long as I’m alive, I’m never really done.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American life.” He was wrong, not only are there second acts; there are encores and lots of them. So take a bow and get ready for the next performance.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/coloroftime

Take A Bow

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Many years ago, I stumbled headlong into an intense affair with a handsome but unavailable Swede. I clearly recall walking down Michigan Avenue arguing both sides of the debate with myself, the yes / no of it all. I still hadn’t made up my mind when later that day I bumped into a male friend, who, sensing my dilemma, offered the following advice, “It’s the things you don’t do that you end up regretting.”

Looking back over the years and weighing up the have done with the have not done, I can honestly say that I feel a greater sense of regret for those things left undone, i.e. not meeting the handsome and mysterious Frenchman in Paris. A little voice in the back of my head questioned that decision the minute he stepped off that train. And he wasn’t the first Frenchmen that I sometimes wonder about.

So what about the other side of the coin? When it comes to relationships, is it possible to still do something and regret it? If so, to what degree? Someone once asked me how many of the relationships that I talk about in my book do I regret? The answer is none. I had high hopes that those magical moments would last. And when they didn’t I felt sad, angry and disappointed.

And, so, I think my friend is only partly right. I believe the regret you feel in not having done something is in direct proportion to the desire we feel for the person, object, or activity.   As for regretting the things that I’ve done, with the healing benefit of time, I realize that in spite of the hurt and pain, given the opportunity I would still make the same choices.

Singer/songwriter Adele’s song “Someone like You” expresses it this way:

Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Adele is right of course, memories are better bittersweet than bland, just like dark chocolate or the skin of a plum. And I am better for having tasted them.

No Regrets

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Little did I know when I wrote my previous post, Bird in the Hand that my week in Johannesburg would be a real life variation on the same theme: birds. How strange is that? What was Mother Nature trying to tell me?

First there was my early morning wake-up call at 6:00 a.m. Somewhere in my jet lag induced unconsciousness I could hear honking. I’ve heard of cell phones that chirp but never hotel phones that honk. Now fully awake, I realized the noise was not coming from inside but rather outside on my window ledge.

A pair of bickering black-billed geese, husband and wife, no doubt, had pitched up on my window ledge high above Sandton City on the 14th Floor of the Sandton Sun Hotel. It was my own personal (wake-up) call of the wild.

Bird with a View

How in the world did they get there? And just what were they arguing about at this hour? And why had they picked my window ledge? I got up and went to the window and looked down the ledge to where they sat bickering.

I watched her walk off in a huff. (I guess some things are universal.) He followed her down the ledge honking as if he was trying to convince her of something. By now they had arrived in front of me. It certainly looked like I was in the middle of some domestic squabble. Geese may mate for life but they’re not necessarily faithful so maybe there was another goose – or gander – involved.

I pulled back the curtains slowly trying not to frighten them so I could get a better view of the unhappy couple. Sensing the presence of an intruder, they turned their ire on me. I was about as welcome as the paparazzi at a Hollywood marriage meltdown.

Determined to keep their argument private, he puffed up his chest and spread his wings in an attempt to intimidate me. And then united as a couple they began to peck at the window. I was impressed, and then I realized they weren’t attacking me. They were attacking their own reflections in the window. Having spent their anger on something other than each other, they waddled off to other end of the ledge and I heard nothing further from them. They were back to being lovebirds.

The next day I packed my bags and headed for the comforts of home – my friend Julie’s home in a city suburb – the same Julie whose thought-provoking comment was the genesis for my book, Any Color but Beige. (See Chapter 25) The same Julie who generously whisked me away to the Veld for some much needed downtime last year. The same Julie who hosted a Girls’ Night In to celebrate the launch of the book in South Africa. (More on that later).

I was content to sit in her garden and soak up the summer sun while I watched the brightly yellow-colored birds called weavers build their nests. That day there was one weaver who had just put the finishing touches on his new nest when a curious female alighted on a nearby branch.

(The females are a dull brown but that doesn’t bother the males. Oh to be as free as that female weaver and have the male of the species chase you in spite of your dull plumage. I mean really, ladies, try getting away with a mousy color on the top of your head or half an inch of regrowth showing at the roots.)

At last someone with whom he can share his love nest. The little male weaver wanted to strut his colorful stuff and so he hopped onto the branch next to her and started to make small talk. Like a good female, she studiously ignored him.

When another male tried to muscle in on his girl, our brave little weaver ran him off. When I second male moved in, our little guy ran him off too. How’s that for defending your home and your castle? I heard him chirp. When he returned to put the moves on the female, she failed to return his romantic overtures. He flew up to the nest to invite her in to see his etchings but no dice’ she wasn’t budging.

He looked dejected. The tree was full of nests and so maybe she was waiting for a better offer. Finally, tired of waiting, for what I’m not quite sure, she flew off. I felt sorry for the male but Julie told me that it just may have been a blessing in disguise. Had the lady accepted his offer and flew up to the nest she might have found it lacking and tore it apart bit by bit. He would have to start over and try again until it pleased her. How like life.

And so the little yellow weaver went back to decorating his pad and waiting for the next pretty bird to come along. It’s like his mother once told him, “There are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of birds in the sky.” How like love.

So what was Mother Nature telling me this week? Life, like love, is for the birds.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/amrishwad

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Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.  ~Winston Churchill

Telling the truth to a stranger is easy. Telling the truth to a lover is much more complicated and delicate. And in the handful of relationships I’ve had over the last few years, I have yet to meet the man who could speak his own truth. I have always had to do it for him.

My brother Mike shakes his head in disbelief at the sorry state of manhood today, one that requires his sister to “man-up” and do all of the work. But on some level he gets it. Breakups aren’t easy and sometimes they can be messy. Still it’s as puzzling to him as it is to me.

In an attempt to get some clarity, I once asked one of these men why he just didn’t tell me he’d had a change of heart.   He said it was because he was afraid I would get too emotional because I got emotional just asking the question.  I will admit to watery eyes but at least my voice was steady.

The shift from boyfriend to let’s be friends happened so quickly I was caught off guard – thus the watery eyes.  Believe me; I’d rather chew broken glass than break down in front of a man. In most cases goodbyes come as no surprise. The signs are everywhere.

From the male point of view, it seems it’s much easier to be the gradually disappearing man, to show me rather than tell me that he has changed his mind.  As the daily phone calls, e-mails, texts evolveto every second, third or fourth day and then a week or two, you can hear him asking himself, “How much longer do I have to keep this up, so I don’t look like a complete jerk, and she gets the message?”

Sadly, his thought process has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his self- image and his ability to look himself in the mirror every morning. It’s the age-old question of: is it better to rip off the Band-aid with one tug, or progressively, painfully peel it back?

I am an advocate for the former method.  Tell me and tell me now! Gradually peeling the Band-aid back allows all sorts of nasty things to get between your skin and that protective covering you called a relationship. It keeps me wondering, waiting and — worst of all — hoping.  I magnify every contact and examine it for hidden meanings.  Didn’t we just have a great conversation?  Didn’t he compliment me over dinner?  He just said “we…” But false hope is nothing but a false friend.  Don’t count on it.

If you allow the connection to linger, your confidence and self-esteem become infected by doubt.  All of a sudden, you’re questioning your looks, career, even your taste in décor.  And you’ll find yourself asking:  What could I have done differently? What do I have change in order to heal the wound?

Sure, ripping off the Band-aid does sting, whether you do it or someone else does it. But when it’s done, it’s done.  Tugging at it a little at a time only opens you up for a prolonged and painful separation.  Either way the outcome is still the same.

Given the fact that, today, there are so many ways to break up — e-mail, voice mail, texting, via your personal assistant (located in India), and the infamous Post-It note — it really begs the question: Is breaking up all that hard to do?

If you have a good/bad break up story, I’d love to hear about it.

*Excerpted from the book

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/jrroman

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A little knowledge..

 

If  I’ve learned one thing since my divorce it’s  this —  When it comes to having sex,  men are like apples.  All you have to do is pick  one.  Having said that keep in mind what happened to Eve.

 

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/DNY59

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In the last five years of being single, I  have had my fair share of happiness and heartbreak. In the beginning, I had a fairly steep learning curve but luckily I am a quick study. The most important thing I’ve learned is that heart is a muscle; it can be bruised but not broken. So the more you use it the stronger it gets.heartXSmall

Very early on in an effort to “get out there” and see what was happening in the dating world, I signed up on two major dating sites and one matchmaking service. In the last five years I must have met at least 70 men, all but one of whom was “as advertised.” How was it? Well let’s just say I consumed my fair share of coffee. (How do you think I got the name Café Girl anyway?)

All in all, I have to say it was a good experience. In a way, the process reminds me of a job interview and, to some extent, really, that’s what it is. I was at once both interviewer and interviewee. A handfull of relationships made it past the coffee stage to what I call, a “relationship threshold” (approximately 3 months). However, it was at that point, at least for me, that most of the relationships came undone. Either he or I didn’t make the three-month “probation period.”

I have been on both the giving and receiving end of a few exit interviews over the last five years ,and it all boils down to one thing. One of us changes their mind. It has nothing to do with what I did or said said –  mentioning the “c” (commitment) word or asking to meet his friends had little to do with it. I might have thought they were good reasons why things didn’t work out, but they weren’t.

If I over analyze the situation it’s very easy to blame myself. And I end up asking myself, “What could I have done differently?” In the end, it’s a pointless question because I realize that there’s nothing I would have done differently. It’s not a question of rejection – for once popular culture is right – it’s not me – it really is him. Or I can tell him with a clear conscience: it’s not you, it’s me!

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/FotografiaBasica

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ValentineMost people believe that relationships are based on chemistry.  But in order to see if chemistry or physics work (don’t forget about the laws of attraction) you have to meet enough men to see if there is any chemistry to begin with. So it really starts with mathematics and the laws of probability.

I figured the more men I met, the more probable it was that I would encounter someone to whom I am attracted (physics), and someone who alters the chemical composition of my brain (chemistry).  Although math was never one of my best subjects, I knew enough to realize that doing nothing to meet men would yield nothing.

Normally I shy away from math and science but this is rather simple math.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is I’m talking long odds here.  But I try not to get discouraged because I know it’s the long shots that pay off the best.

After 20 years of settling, I was unwilling to “settle” for just anyone – and so I was prepared to drink a lot of coffee and use my newly acquired experience to make some discerning choices.  I had quickly come to realize that drinking coffee has become the modern day equivalent of kissing frogs.

I had met quite a few men who had dazzled me with their charm.  Could this be him, I wondered?  So soon?  They may have been good looking, wealthy and well educated but they were also cheap and rude to waiters.  In the beginning I used to think that they would improve over time.  But that only happens with wine.

Yes I confess when I had much less experience, I had, hmmm how should I put this, made allowances for behavior I wouldn’t accept from a friend let alone a stranger. There I said it.  How humiliating. But everyone makes mistakes. The good news is, it’s not the mistakes I made, so much as it was the lessons that I learned.

Was I so needy, starved for attention, lonely that I found things acceptable with a stranger that I wouldn’t tolerate in a marriage?  Yes, I guess I was, but not any more.  So what happened?

I stopped taking things so seriously. I decided to have fun.  I didn’t approach every date as if it were my last and every man as if he were my last chance for happiness.  In my age group (middle aged baby boomers) there were plenty of available men out there.  I just had to meet them.  And I did.

So here it is.  If you break 100% down into equal thirds you get 33.3%, 33.3% and 33.3%.  Let’s put aside the .3 % in each third (or the 1% that they add up to) for now.  I’ll come back to that in another post with specific examples.

In the first 33% – I’d meet a man and I think he’s great. But he doesn’t feel the same way about me.   It’s always a little disappointing when he doesn’t call for a second date even though I thought things went swimmingly. Oh well…you think to yourself. There goes a perfectly good date to my niece’s wedding.

In the second one third of the dating pool, he thinks I’m the next best thing since golf and a grey goose martini but alas, he doesn’t do it for me. So I dance around the idea of a next date, and I tell him I’ll be in touch.  Of course I never am.  Okay so right now things are about even.

Finally in this last third, we meet at the café, shake hands or exchange a peck on both cheeks (since I live in Montreal) and we both decide that this is not going beyond coffee.  This is the easiest of all three scenarios because we both can tell the truth without having to worry about hurt feelings.  In fact, these have been some of the most enjoyable dates I have been on because we’re playing for fun and not for keeps.

So where does that leave me?  Well with the one percent accumulated over each of the thirds.  As I said it’s pretty long odds.  (More on that one percent later!) But at this point in my life, I have had enough of settling and compromise so I am willing to wait.  Most people would rather be happy alone than miserable in a couple.  The grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence – but sometimes it’s just Astroturf.

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In BetweenIn the Hollywood version of “The Princess Bride”, Westley (the pirate) is resuscitated and brought back to life.  He marries his princess Buttercup and they ride off happily into the sunset.  Many years ago, when I first read William Goldman’s version of the story he explained that the ending was meant to be quite different. In the real version of the story, Westley dies and there’s nothing to be done.

In his abridgment of this lovely little tale, Goldman learns and passes on a valuable lesson, “Sometimes life is just not fair”.  As someone who is used to the proverbial happy ending, I should have taken issue with that ending but at the time, I found some comfort in the fact that someone had finally told the truth.  And so like most 21 year olds, I filed that bit of wisdom away for use at a later date.

A few years later, I was walking by a downtown skyscraper when I passed a bag lady holding a sign that read:  $1.00 for a piece of my mind.  Naturally as I was, and still am to some extent, in a hurry, I thought the sign said $1.00 for peace of mind.  I guess you could tell what kind of a day I was having.  So, rather than acquiring what I thought was peace of mind through some charitable act…she gave me a piece of her mind with this advice.

“Hey girlie, ain’t no such thing as a Hollywood ending.”

What?!  As a newly minted career girl (pre Sex and the City) and someone who was just starting out on her life’s journey, this did not give me peace of mind.  Of course I knew she was right but somehow there had to be an exception, at least for me.   I had conveniently forgotten William Goldman’s adage on life.

I quickly learned that there were no exceptions, no eleventh hour cavalry rescues, and no knights in shining armor.  The truth is that people die, promotions don’t materialize, the castle is drafty and the prince runs off with the scullery maid. In the second act, your job gets outsourced, you gain weight in strategic places, lovers lie and children keep coming home.  So much for happily ever after.

Happily Ever After, it’s like one of those Zen koans… there is no there, there.  What does that mean?   I think too often we make the mistake of believing that happily ever after is a place, a destination, an end point.  But it’s not. If as they say, life is a journey, then the best you can hope for are little pit stops of happiness along the way.  Are we there yet, we used to ask our parents. No! There is no there, there.

For me life is like a book. It’s one continuous narrative and the best and only thing you can do is to be the author of your own adventures or misadventures, such as the case maybe.   Write your own script, don’t let someone else write it for you, make a decision (any decision), if it’s the wrong one, you’ll fix it.  Give yourself permission – and don’t let analysis/paralysis rule your life.  Fonce*, as my French friends would say.

Of course I came to this realization a bit late in life.  But then again I was always something of a late bloomer.  In fact, it’s only in the last 5 years, since my divorce, that I’ve been acquiring a new perspective on life.  Sometimes it’s fun, other times puzzling and many times it’s damn hard.

I’d like to think I’m a littler bit wiser, rather than worse, for the wear and tear on my soul.  And by and large I am.  The mistakes are fewer, the pleasures simpler and the “down time” a whole lot less than it used to be.

At the end of the day – I have realized that many of the steps forward you take, you take by yourself.  Sometimes you get a little help along the way, that’s why God invented your mother, sisters, daughters and girlfriends.  (Sometimes I think God should have quit while he was ahead). And then of course there are those other steps, too … you know, the ones that  have you going round in circles or just plain backward.  Unfortunately, those steps are yours alone … every single one of them.

The good news is, as a woman you can always stop and ask for directions.  But that’s not an easy thing to do especially when you’re trying to show that you’re calm, confident and in control. How can you ask for help when you’re trying to live up to a role that you think everyone expects you to fulfill….that of Wonderful Woman.

That is especially true for me.  A lot of people (friends, family members and acquaintances) often tell me they live vicariously through me.  And I must admit that on paper it all looks pretty exciting and maybe even a little glamorous.  And sometimes it is — but most of the time it’s a lot of work and sometimes it’s a little lonely.

I have traveled the world for my job and have lived in a couple of very lovely cities. My name actually sounds like it belongs to a character in a novel (and I guess in a way it does). But things are not always as they appear and that’s why I decided to write this little memoir – to set the record straight for myself. Because sometimes I am in danger of believing my own press and it’s always better to be humble than to be haughty – it’s a much shorter fall when things don’t work out.

I am now 50.  50!  When did that happen?  I often think about what Canadian born  comedic actress Marie Dressler once said.

By the time we hit fifty, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important.  We have learned to take life seriously, but never ourselves.

Sometimes when things feel a bit overwhelming, as they do now, I try to take Marie’s advice and focus on those things that are really important while not taking myself too seriously.  Like Marie, I don’t really want or need the drama.  I much prefer a good comedy.

photo: © istockphoto.com/VladLo

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