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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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