The ART of living the life you desire

blog-template-01.png

OR

What to do after you have eaten your way through Italy, prayed your way through India and dreamt of exotic love in Bali.

That’s really the question isn’t it? What do you do after you’ve read the book?

That was what I kept asking myself. What’s next? How do I change this?

So, how did I change my life and end up in Paris (where I do my share of eating and found beautiful love).. I wrote into reality.

Here’s my story

As I have shared in blog posts, at one point in my life, crying wasn’t relegated to the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. I cried everywhere, seemingly all the time.

  • It began when lost my mom in 2008, which catapulted me into a fear state, prompting my painful, guilt ridden divorce (after 5 years and 8 counselors, mind you, I discovered that as great as he was, we weren’t great for each other).

  • This was closely followed by the unexpected death of my step father, then my beloved nephew at the age of 32 (on my birthday), a series of painful losses for my baby sister, (whom I adore and am very close to), and even more painful struggles for my son, (who is my heart).

  • To make life more exciting, well, and since I had to go back to work full time after my divorce, I started a business, my second, if you don’t count teaching yoga for 9 years, (which was both liberating and terrifying, the business, not teaching yoga. That was just fun.)

  • Then, I sold my “forever dream home” (at a significant financial loss), got myself into an engagement that left me $40,000 lighter, right before a fall that shattered my knee and left me unable to walk for four months. But that was just the icing.

  • Finally, for kicks, I decided on a total career change and wrote a book.

  • Then tragedy hit again, as I sat at my father’s bedside, helpless, for several months, until he too, left us.

Every time I went in for routine lab work my physician would ask me how life was. Small talk of course. But, as I laughingly related my life changing moments, she would grow wide eyed and then ask with sincerity if I was ok. I think the time I showed up for an appointment with no shoes (I am dead serious) and then had to go next door, barefoot, to buy shoes, she really started to worry.

But, in all of this, what pulled me out of things I could not change, and yes, change the things that I could, was writing. I wrote. Yes, I am an author. But first, I am a writer.

What I noticed was that when I wrote, I had more clarity, more composure, more joy and more purpose. Whenever I allowed the events of life to stop my writing practice I grew confused, anxious or angry, and then, there came the damned tears again. Argh!!

You see, we are bombarded with over 35,000 images/thoughts/stimuli daily requiring our attention, and often a decision. We miss most of this, thankfully. (Can you imagine what I might have forgotten to put on otherwise!?) But these things, noticed or not, alter our lives, until one day, unaware, we wake up and ask ourselves how the hell we got here.

That is why I write. That is why I am a writer. And that is how I re-wrote my life and wrote my way to Paris. Sound too good to be true? Try it for yourself and see.

I can’t promise it is easy, just simple, and joyful.

Because that is why I do what I do. I help women re-write their lives. I can show you how to do it too.

It is not a fairytale. It is my life.

And this is yours.

Psssstttt… Pixie Dust not required

HOW I GOT TO PARIS: If My Life is So Perfect, Why Am I Crying?

blog-template (1)-01.png

 

It was a year and a half after the divorce. The house had been on the market for 9 months. Rambling around in a 4500 square foot house was wearing on me. Just maintaining it and the acre and a half yard was a huge project. But, it was the emptiness that was taking the greatest toll.

“It’s different now that I see his clothes gone.” My 17 year old son remarked standing in his dad’s empty closet right after S. moved out. He fought back tears. He had initially been in favor of the divorce because of the arguing. I found out later he felt responsible for it, the way children often do.

At the ripe age of 9 he had made a card for us. An orange stick figure holding a bow and arrow with a huge broken heart in the background. It read, “Joy is available to you, but you will break each other’s hearts and it will never grow back.” I kept it as a tearful reminder, a child shouldn't have the burden of keeping his parents together, not that it helped.

We built the house in 1996. As in interior designer, I drew the plans and oversaw every custom detail, including supervising the former engineer turned brick mason/bass fisherman. I am sure he wanted to kill me. For days I watched him, asking him to be sloppier with the mortar and lay the bricks at an angle. “But I graduated with a degree in engineering,” he said in exasperation. “I just can’t make uneven rows.” “Sure you can,” I said smilingly.  

But that was then.


Presently, the golf course that our community had been built around was covered in foot tall weeds and tied up in lawsuits for the un-foreseeable future. House prices were plummeting. Still, I had to leave the place that was a daily reminder of lost dreams. Not to mention a grueling bumper to bumper drive both ways to and from my office, and the two times I called the police because I heard noises in the cavernous unfinished basement, sure that someone had broken in since my dog would not stop barking at the basement door.

In a last-ditch effort, I decided to make some updates I hoped would help sell my beloved “forever home”. Workmen were installing new granite countertops. It was one of those windy spring days. Somehow in their goings and comings the front door had not closed completely. When they brought the granite in the back, the pressure blew the front door open, creating a sequence reminiscent of dominos. It was one big shit show. I stood by helplessly watching. Finally, after the dust settled, I lifted a large painting from the floor and saw the antique wooden toy horse, a gift from my mom, laying there in pieces. It was as broken as I felt. The tears came again making me wonder if I would ever stop crying.

Six months later, the house finally sold, for less than we paid 15 years earlier to build it. Another bittersweet day questioning everything. The challenge now, 30 days to move into a new place. Although my son was in college at this point, the sting of loss was very present. I wanted a house he could feel happy in.

We found one. 

It was too large and not where I wanted to live. (Note to self, listen to your gut.) Still, it had a luxuriously finished basement complete with bathroom, surround sound and a fireplace, which my son promptly claimed as his. Happy dance.

Moving time.


Despite two months of packing and giving things away, an unfinished, 2500 square foot basement, plus an attic, accumulates a whole bunch of forgotten, or useless stuff. I was staring into 15 years of neglected decisions, in which I had, like Scarlett O’Hara, deluded myself by saying, “I’ll think about it tomorrow”.

At one point while helping me unload the attic my sister cooed, “How precious” over a box of my son’s three-year-old art work (only child and all). When I handed her the fifth box in that sequence however, she raised an eyebrow. “Prolific little sucker wasn’t he?” We both burst out laughing, but obviously, there was far too much I hadn’t let go of.

It was a nightmare. I was still making trips in the car a good 10 hours after the movers left.

At 2 a.m. I was drained of time, energy and options. The new owners would be arriving at 8. I gave the house my best 30 minute “professional clean”.

My final good bye? 

A note letting me know I HAD NOT done such a great job of cleaning! LOL…duh
And this, I later realized, was step number two in getting to Paris.


Closing doors. 

Letting go.
 

And getting rid of things that held me back instead of propelling me forward.

I won’t lie and tell you this was easy.

But sitting here now, I will tell you

it was so worth it.

(PS, I still have a lot of the artwork, just not the ones made with food products! Some things we must keep.)


 


 

 

 

Magic Monday Musings: Who Are You?

blog-template (1)-01.png

What you are about to read is what I call my “12 Step Program”. I borrowed the notion from AA, although it is actually only 9 steps. I didn’t steal AA’s concepts, just the conceptual framework.

After looking at my journey to reach Paris closely, I realized it was a step by step process. I didn’t just wake up one day and say to myself, “Self, today we are going to move to Paris.”

When my journey began, I was so far from even the idea of moving to Paris, if you had suggested it, I would have laughed out loud. I was so busy trying to keep all the balls in the air, do the right thing and fit in, that I didn’t even know what I wanted, much less how to get it. I had all those little voices telling me what I needed to do, what I had to do, what was required of me, expected of me. They whispered in my ear how irresponsible I was to even think of any.

It took me 7 years to get to Paris. The first one was being real with myself. It wasn’t a self absorbed journey. In fact, it was quite the contrary. What I discovered when I finally got naked with my myself about who I was and what I was (and was not) capable of doing, it was like turning on the lights in New York city. I didn’t suddenly have more hours in the day. I simply had more day, because I wasn’t working so hard so be things I couldn’t be.

It is truly amazing how much energy is required to live a life that we allow someone, or ones, to design for us.

Perhaps you can relate? Or maybe I’ the only one who looks for patterns to connect the dots.

In any case, my goal in sharing this story with you is to help you by pass a few of the steps I took, because what I discovered was that the secret to being me was there all along. It just took a few bumps and bruises. Oh, who the hell am I kidding.. I was skidding down a highway, to go where I thought I wanted to go, but as it turned out, it wasn’t the right highway.

So, if anything I tell you resonates and can help you avoid unnecessary detours, I am happy.

To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I want?
  2. No, what do I really want?

  3. No, seriously, what do I really want?

Don’t freak out about  your answers, and don’t write down what you think you should want. You can shred this as soon as you write it down. This is not a goal quest. This is a gut check.

So, again,

  1. What do you really, really want? If it makes you feel a little guilty, or afraid for saying it, it’s probably the truth. If it doesn’t, dig a little bit deeper.

Maybe you can ask it this way..

What would make your life read like a New York Times Best-selling novel?

Whoa Wednesday - Ever since I moved to Paris

sd-01.png

Ever since I moved to Paris, I have had more than one friend compare my journey here to “Eat, Pray, Love”. To tell the truth they weren’t far off; not to ride on Elizabeth Gilbert’s coattails, or in any way compare my life, or writing ability to hers, but.

I purchased her book months before it became the talk of the town. No one I knew had even heard of it at the time. Maybe that is par for the course living in the deep south. New York phenomena takes longer to filter down to us.

To be honest however, I did not make it through the entire book the first time. I was unable to read past the crying on the bathroom floor scene. It hit too close to home.

Much like Gilbert’s story, from the outside looking in, we were the perfect family. I was married to a handsome, successful business man. We lived in a house everyone envied, which I had designed. We had a great son. I didn’t even have to work. I taught yoga and was back in college for a second degree in art. I spent my days painting, writing and caring for the house and my family. We took frequent, fabulous vacations, staying in four star hotels. What more could I ask for?

That was the question that plagued 80% of my waking thoughts.

That, and the its twin,

“What is wrong with me?”

Because despite a very deep love for my husband, and his for me, I was miserable. At night, wine and hours upon hours of Law and Order SVU had become my best friends. I had every self-help book imaginable. I was in prayer groups, attended bible studies, did volunteer work, exercised and still I exhausted those closest to me, crying about my life. I kept telling myself if we could just make it to 65, we would be sitting on a porch somewhere, holding hands and laughing at the arguments that seemed the current mainstay of our marriage. But another 16 years to get to that point felt like an eternity. We were on counselor number 7 I think, to no avail, when I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I had just lost my mom. All I could think was that I didn’t want my life to end like hers did. Too many unfulfilled dreams.

The ensuing yearlong separation and divorce held more pain than I can recount here.

Crying wasn’t relegated to just the bathroom floor.

I cried everywhere, all the time.

And then the day arrived for us to sign the papers. I will never forget the two of us sitting in my attorney’s office alone while she went to make copies of something. My soon to be ex husband had not even bothered getting an attorney. He had not contested anything and been generous with the settlement. I looked at the very legal documents obliterating what was supposed to be “until death do us part”. My name, Kimberly Anne Benjamin, Plaintiff, VS. It sounded so aggressive, Versus. All I wanted was to stop crying.

I signed the requisite lines quickly and handed him the pen. He looked at me and said, “I never would have divorced you. Never.”

It felt like an arrow to the heart, because I knew he was telling the truth. And yet, the question that ran through my mind was, “So how did you see this working out then? You would just take more solo trips, or stay at our condo at the beach more (Yes, we even had a condo at the beach) while I quietly followed in my mom’s footsteps, drinking myself into an abyss of disappointment and bitterness?”

Little did I know at the time, but, this was my first step.

Paris was still seven years away. Between then and now I would sell two houses and remodel three. I would start another business. I would become engaged to a man that depleted a big chunk of my settlement, for which I am still paying. And go through some very gut wrenching moments with my son. But that too was a part of the journey. A part of getting down to the very basic question,

“What do you want?”

Followed closely by

“What do you want badly enough to go after?”

Here, today, this is what I want. Living in Paris. Helping women realize their dreams.

We all have stories. We all have journeys. We all have choices. Some of the stories are beautiful and happy. I have lots of those. Some of the choices don’t turn out the way we hope.

But then, a lot do. We are always moving. As someone wise once said, “Everything we do either takes us closer to where we want to go, or further away.”

What choices are you making today?

Are they taking you closer, or further away?


If you want to hop on a quick call to tell me your story, I promise I will listen. And then we can talk about how to get you from pain to laughter.

Until then

À demain et Bisous!

Tantalizing Tuesdays in Paris: Brunch Anyone?

blog-template (1)-01.png

Soooo, last week I began what was supposed to be a series outlining the 9 important steps to help you write your book, AND re-write your life in 2018. I got a bit derailed, as you will know if you read my other blogs.

I am going to pick up now with the steps, but first, here’s a glimpse into my life before we get down to business. And invite you, where ever you are to join me.

Paris, the City of Lights and love… and lovely Sunday afternoons….

My fiancé is an amazing cook (I know lucky me.. living in Paris with a handsome Frenchman that cooks! Life rocks!) Yesterday we had some friends visiting from the states and shared with them a very common Sunday event – brunch.

Here are some photos!

 

A simple meal of shrimp (cravettes en  français) in a bed of grapefruit with homemade mayo, lightly grilled scallops with fresh herbs, baked eggs with ham, onion and peppers.. and of course, Champagne!

All topped off with fresh croissants, chausons de pomme, pain du chocolate and strong coffee.

Wish you were here?

So do I!

So, let’s talk about how you make things like this a part of your life. Want to?

Picking up where we left off in writing the book of your dreams and opening your life to all your dreams…

3: Step three – make it real.

If you knew you only one week to live (yes, I know a bit dramatic, blame it on Bronnie – see quote)

In her book, “The Top 5 Regrets of Dying” palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware says, “…when people look back clearly on it (their lives) it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even half their dreams and had to die knowing it was due to choices they had made, or not made…”

That doesn’t have to be you. Start today.

What would you do today, this very morning, or afternoon, or where ever you are?

Anything short of a last-minute vacation to a tropical island (which if you can afford and have the time I highly recommend too!) needs to go into your calendar, like now.

Your life is one big adventure. I like to call it an odyssey. It will be what you make of it. Without being too cliché-ish, make every moment count.

How much of your life do you spend joyfully? Peacefully? Laughing? Smiling? The key to going for the wild dreams is to begin to put the small ones in now, bit by bit.

 

If writing a book is something you have always longed to do, start it today. Put writing time into your calendar, every day. Respect, and keep those appointments the same way you keep appointments with clients, the dentist or your boss.

Download my Free Writer’s Tool Kit, and check out this other great book

“Story Genius” and start.

Just start.

To Recap the first three steps to a fabulous 2018:

  1. Spend some time alone. Get in touch with the dreams you left behind.

  2. Repurpose Your Calendar, adding self-care and dream pursuit in as appointments not to be broken (this would include writing time).

  3. Make a list of your top five interests. Those things you typically neglect for “more important obligations” Decide to pursue one of those this week.

Additionally –

Set up a writing space where you go to write, put a sign on the door, or your desk, or tape the area off with masking tape and hang this sign there

“AUTHOR AT WORK – DO NOT DISTURB – BACK IN A HOUR”

Unless someone is bleeding, the house is on fire, or some other act of nature occurs, I promise the world will still revolve on its axis without you for one hour..

This may not come easily. It may seem scary and nerve racking in the beginning. You may feel you are neglecting your duties. You may go into this kicking and screaming.

But go.

Don’t be afraid.

I am here.

I see your bravery.

I am applauding you with each step.

Bisous à Paris!