Do You Rip The Band-Aid Off? Or Peel It Slowly?

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Do You rip the Band-Aid off, or peel it off slowly?

When we are in a place of what I term “marital fatigue," our life can feel like one big boo boo. We contemplate where we are vs. where we thought we would be and far too often consider it all wasted time. We regret many of the things we haven’t done and mourn the loss of life, or dreams or impact we once hoped we would make on the world.

We feel stuck and we aren’t sure which way to turn. Every day begins to feel like an endless ride at a cheap carnival... the one with flashing lights that makes you dizzy and want to throw up, but you do it anyway.

When we get to this overwhelming place it can feel so easy to just resign and spiral further down into confusion, afraid of making a mistake, or being judged as a failure. We lose sight of the fact that not deciding IS actually a decision. 

But think about it -we didn’t arrive at our current life on a cloud one day. It all came about through a series of seemingly small choices, things that go unnoticed - what do we eat for dinner? What should I wear to work? Bit by bit, we created this life we are so unhappy in, probably without even noticing it. Yes, we had influencers, obligations, circumstances, things that directed us or pushed us one way or another, it’s true.

But this is some really good news, if we want a new life, we can reverse engineer this process. Making small, conscious choices about what we DO want, what we DO like, where we DO (or don’t) want to go.

How many times a day do you say (or think) to yourself, "I don't know what to do"?

2?
3?
10?
50???

If we can ease that phrase, “I don’t know what to do” from our vocabulary and realize that NO ONE ELSE CAN TELL US WHAT TO DO, we can begin to take steps forward. Something, almost any action, then, becomes progress. Until believe it or not, pretty soon we see light at the end of the tunnel.

No, it’s not instant. It’s not the quick fix we so desperately want.

But it is a lifeline. And I can promise you that it will stop you from sinking further and further into the Quicksand Of Fear. 

Let's start to grasp the truth that nothing and no one is ever truly perfect for us. Not a new husband, or the most attentive, fantastic, devoted lover we've ever met. Not a new house, new job, lots of money, a new body, or even a puppy, (although puppies do give us the unconditional love we long for from our husbands and children, so, they come the closest – smile)

Once we can internalize these facts, and make even the smallest decisions to do the tiniest little things that are more in line with where we one day hope to be, like, I don’t know, actually signing up for that class we have always talked about, spending 30 extra minutes to create a meal we really want to eat, going to the movie in the middle of the day like a kid playing hooky from school, or just taking a nap when we are tired, we finally embark on the magical path – and we see that our circumstances are amenable to our actions – changeable, pliant, responsive even. They are not stagnant. “They” are not what is weighing us down. We are not wearing concrete shoes.  Once we understand this, we can walk forward.

How exciting to know we are not failing, it is not our fault we got here, but we have the power to change it!

Circumstances are just that, circumstances. Our thoughts about our circumstances are the triggers for our emotions that will eventually determine whether we release ourselves from a lifetime of despair OR drown in bewilderment and hopelessness. We hold the keys.

Isn’t that wonderful news?

Yes, I know I make it sound easy. And no, I realize it is not that easy. Simple yes, easy, not so much.

Which is what Undone and Rewritten is all about. It’s about steps. It’s about starting right here, right now. You can walk as fast as you want to, run even, toward your new life. Or, you can take it bite by bite and move as slowly as you need to. You set the pace, but at least you begin to walk. You are moving. You’re doing it. Yes, really.  

So, what exactly are these steps I need to take and where do I start, you may be asking? 

You:

  1. Decide whether to stay or go (you know what I mean here)
  2. Feel not just OK, but really good with either decision
  3. Know how to meet and resolve conflict in or out of your marriage (because children/history/friends/in-laws can- and often do - make our lives together a forever thing- married or not, unfortunately)
  4. Know what you want – not just to “be happy” (because what is that really?)
  5. Eliminate guilt, (using tools to squash that ugly little soul sucking monster whenever he shows up)
  6. Become Bold in love, partnership, relationship (yes, even with family, in-laws or difficult friends. I call it the red lipstick approach)
  7. Confidently ask for what you want (the Yes principle)
  8. Courageously say, “Uh, NO” and not feel like a bad person
  9. Make time for creativity, play, community, joy and rest (and in the process become something of a magnet for attracting it)

Sound too good to be true?

Umm, could be, except that is my life today. 

Ten years ago, I was crying on the bathroom floor. Actually, make that everywhere – I was crying at the grocery store, in my car, the self-help section of bookstores, church, at my therapist ('s x 8) office ('s x 8), at my mother’s house...until she told me to go to Wal-Mart, buy a backbone and just DO something besides talk about it (some might call that tough love – LOL – it was just Mom.)

I was even driving 2.5 hours to spend the weekend with my poor baby sister (a sophomore in college at the time – I know, it sounds pitiful) just to cry all over her and her sofa and her roommate and embarrassingly, whoever else showed up.

I was a mess. I mean on the outside it didn’t show (well, except when I was crying). But inside, I was so torn up I once forgot to put on shoes to go to my doctor’s appointment! SERIOUSLY! Had to walk into the office barefoot, and then go the mall next door (barefoot) walk in a shoe store (did I mention I was barefoot) and freaking BUY SHOES! * KIM SPECIAL NOTE – TAG JESSICA WHITT IN THIS PIECE IN THE GROUP POST BC SHE WORKED FOR MY DR WHEN THIS HAPPENED! LOL

So, do you want to be “happy” (again what exactly is that and who creates it for us? Cause I wanna know how to get it, too).

Or do you want to laugh again and be confident, and excited, and adventurous and fun?

Cause that is not a fairytale. That is possible.

 

Here is how you create a really amazing life, regardless of where you are.

I. Rediscover you – what keeps you stuck and spinning AND what lights you up.
II. Enthusiastically toss “husband fixing” aside and use that beautiful energy to get what YOU            want.
III. Wander into self-care – joyful play, recreating community and connection, rest, dream, laugh.
IV. Realistically create a plan to make it all happen.
V. Implement conflict resolution to handle whatever is going on inside or outside your marriage.
VI. Toss anxiety aside, because regardless of what anyone else says, you are clear that you are           making the best choices for you and your family.
VII. Transform your calendar into something that works for you, not against you.
VIII. Energetically go about your life, confident about your direction and the steps you are taking.
IX. Never look back – you don’t need to, because you know how to live and love in a solid                   relationship of give and take, support and sharing.

Doubt all of this is possible, but really wanting it to be true? It is.

And you can have it too.

Because I was once in that place you are now. Remember, no shoes (and according to my mother no backbone, LOL) but lots of sadness, despair, anguish, doubt, confusion and yes, anger too.

I know how easy it is to talk about change, to wish things were different, to think that if only so and so happened. 

But unfortunately, so and so doesn’t know you are looking for him, and even if he did, he can’t make you happy – no matter what he promises. 

We are the ones, the only ones who can make the choice to change our lives. We have to be brave enough to rip the Band-Aid off (and I know you are).  We have to grasp the truth that there is no decision, unless it is a fatal one, is inherently right or wrong. 

Yes, there are societal rules that govern our lives. 
Yes, if we steal and get caught we may go to jail. 
Yes, if we drive drunk we may have an accident that proves fatal. 
Yes, these things are true. 

And yes, there are certain standards of behavior that are considered “good” or “bad” by society or our own rules, we just need to be willing to live with the benefits or consequences of either (and don’t confuse good with martyrdom – not the same thing). 

But that’s all it really boils down to. Every move garners results. Choose not to decide, to stay in confusion, and that is where you will stay.

Choose to make a step toward what you want, and you are one step closer.

9 days, 9 weeks, 9 months or 9 years, you choose. What step do you want to take?

Get details here on how to do it.

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Dreams Can Come True

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I just spent a weekend in Chaingy, a beautiful little village about an hour by train from Paris. It is the home of my in-laws, and right out of a storybook about the French countryside. Both my mother and father-in-law are avid gardeners and my mother-in-law is an artist both inside and out, as well as being an extraordinary cook.

You see, currently my husband, who has his own business has a three-year contract working outside this little hamlet and for convenience and financial reasons lives there during the week, while I, alas, must stay in Paris in order to remember I am not on a perpetual vacation!

To say that visiting there is a delight is a gross understatement. My in-laws are gracious, adorable and very inviting, despite they speak no English (or very little) and I am forced to listen intently to conversations and practice my struggling French (globberish my father-in-law calls both his English and my French – a random language that combines the two, often rather badly)

But despite this seemingly fairytale existence, there are still challenges. The language for one. And the constant feeling of living out of a suitcase – and never taking exactly the correct wardrobe for the occasion (Sunday is a dress day for example), or perpetually forgetting some essential I was sure I packed (this past weekend it was mascara for example – don’t ask).

It also is not ideal in that my husband and I have little or no alone time together unless he makes the tiring two hour drive to Paris in traffic after a long week in a challenging job. So, not all sunshine and rainbows.

This past weekend was even a bit more challenging (beginning with a cancelled train –  transportation strike, again don’t ask – that necessitated me getting up at 5 am, and then sitting on the new train at the station, which was of course delayed for 40 minutes – because of, yes, the strike.) Can you say welcome to the not so fabulous parts of France? 

Anyway, this was the annual family reunion, the last one to be held in Chaingy. My in-laws plan to move to the south of France next year. As you can imagine, since this house has been in the family for four generations and my mother-in-law was actually born here, that there was a special fondness and need for this event to be more than a typical gathering. Old photos were pulled out and examined, memories and teasing to be shared. 

And - Me with 21 other people, most of whom were new to me, who guess what, also don’t speak English. Add to that my mother-in-laws penchant for beauty and perfection – which in France requires three plates, three glasses, two forks, three knives of varying size/use and two spoons, per person. Don’t even get me started on the correct way to serve aperitifs before the meal, cold first, hot next, served by one or other of those present, so on and so forth. 

But, guess what, this was not only for a lunch and afternoon chat. This is France after all, the home of 2.5 hour meals on a normal basis. No, this soiree extended well beyond dinner into the dark hours of say eleven o’clock that night. So, you can multiply everything above by two. 

I had roughly 10 hours to make a faux pas, excluding the roughly 30 hours before hand of preparation; and I was only in it on the tale end not the three months Pauline and Jean-Paul had spent in preparation, nor the three weeks Christian had spent helping, trying out recipes, cleaning, etc.

So, the morning of, my nerves were on edge. Did I mention I typically fail to bring the appropriate attire? It was hot, as in 89 degrees in the sun (or shade, as I tried to place myself) of social time. And Pauline is the epitome of understated French chic, with beautiful blue eyes, a slim build (which she watches intently by eating very small portions without deprivation) and that French ability to wear pale green linen shorts, a delicately cut blouse and pearl bob dangly earrings without looking overdressed; or disturbed by said heat as she flurries through the cooking and serving, with the most delightful smile on her face as if she were simply  reclining on a beach somewhere. Meet my new family. Did I mention that I am an extreme introvert, uncomfortable with lots of new people in an environment I not only can’t escape, but am often the focal point of? I was ready for wine at 9:30.

But then the most interesting thing happened. I had a beautiful time. We all began with causal conversation around a tray filled with a variety of nuts and olives and a pitcher of sangria, served traditionally by the men in the group (I learned during my wedding weekend that it is considered very rude for a woman to have an empty glass. Now that is a welcome to France I can appreciate. I also learned upon arrival in France, that no one reaches for an aperitif without first serving the other guests, not gender specific.) 

So, after small chit chat, and formal introductions, which my delightful mother-in-law did as each guest arrived, presenting me as if I were Meghan Markle, hot hors devours were served, one tray at a time, as a procession moved in and out of the house like a determined colony of ants.

An hour and a half into the revelry, lunch, a first course of salmon tureen, a mackerel pate and a pork tureen, served of course, The wine flowed with the conversation and I was surprised to discover that I didn’t struggle as badly as I imagined.

I must have had 15 people ask me multiple times, “Ç ava Kim?” (is everything ok)? And most tried to engage me in some form of communication, which we all laughed and eked through together.

As soon as the entrée plate, as they call the first course in French, was removed, the main course was served, roast or turkey with ratatouille and potatoes au gratin. Once finished that plate removed for a smaller one used for bread and a cheese. And finally, desert- (oh, forgot that plate) a choice of sorbets and sugar cookies. 

Whew, after about 3 hours, one is stuffed, (something else you never, ever say in France – stuffed. You are basically calling yourself a thanksgiving turkey).

Have you ever been in that situation? Perhaps you are very unhappily married and the thought of a gathering like i described would be more like your seventh circle of hell. Or perhaps you fantasize about an event like that and long for the closeness and laughter of joining your husband and his family for a beautiful day?

How do you imagine your future? What would be a fantasy day for you with loved ones? How would  you spend your time? Who would be there? What would you be doing? What makes it special?

Think about it and jot a response below – and remember, dreams can come true. This is my third marriage. I lived many years before experiencing the wonder of this past weekend. I am proof that it is never too late to make joy a reality – but don’t expect that even the most beautiful events come about just by longing for them. You have to make efforts to make your dreams come true. What are you doing right now to make that happen?

 

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Whose Time Is It?

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So, last week I shared with you how much more we as women need attention and affection than men. It seems hardly fair that they have twice the receptors for serotonin creation that we have, and therefore don’t need that “extra” contact, but then it also explains why men are content to often just be in the same room with us watching television and feel that is time shared.

Now as for us, I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that sitting on a sofa in front of the tv is very intimate. But again, simply because of the way we are hardwired, men do.

Does that make sense then why they are so puzzled when we tell them we need more time together and they rattle off a seemingly ridiculous list of the hours we sit on the sofa together?

Which brings me back to the topic, whose time is it anyway? It’s ours. We decide to sit there with them, most often hoping that they will turn off the TV and look at us the way they did in the beginning of our relationship and have deep, meaningful conversation that yes, may or may not lead to physical intimacy.

We sit, and we wait, and we wait. We wait for something that most likely will not happen. But, and here is the important thing to remember – we are waiting for them to be like us. And they just aren’t.

I experienced this same phenomenon with my husband this weekend. We are currently in a transition period that will eventually lead us to a move to Orleans, a beautiful little city about 1.5 hours outside Paris.

But for the moment, what that means in real terms is that we only see each other on the weekends. And so, being newlyweds, one might imagine that when we see each other there is nothing but great physical intimacy and fireworks for two days, right? I mean yes, we are in our 50’s, but we aren’t 90 after all.

But here is what happened this weekend. Both of us, currently under the buzz of work, me planning the retreat in September and doing the web classes twice/week and him with a new contract, are going non-stop during the week and then one of us has to travel to see the other (two hours on Friday and two hours on Monday morning). So, when the weekend rolls around we are both tired and ready to collapse. Being opposites, meaning male and female, we each have a different idea of what that means.

For me, nonstop sharing and intimacy sounds great, interspersed with naps, walks and wine. For him it means down time, not having to do something on someone else’s schedule – he is staying with his parents during the week for proximity and cost reasons, so he is on either their schedule or a work schedule Monday through Friday. He wants a little freedom to just be, to work on creative projects or just read. So, this weekend I mistakenly took that to mean he just wanted space and time to relax. For him that means me being present in the room, just present, just sharing space with him. For me, sitting on a sofa and watching TV, especially TV in French where I understand about 20% of what is going on, and because he prefers the news or documentaries, is almost like torture.

So, I ended up for a large percent of the weekend in my office writing/working. He interpreted that to mean I had work I needed to do and asked if I would prefer he not come to Paris for the weekend. There was nothing malicious in his intent. He was just feeling that I was preoccupied and perhaps needed time to work or worse, didn’t want to spend time with him. Why? Again, because I wasn’t sitting on the sofa with him. It didn’t matter that I had scrubbed the house or ironed, yes, ironing is big in France, our bed sheets, washed his clothes, gone to market for staples I had not bothered to buy for myself in his absence or spent another two hours ironing on Saturday.

What mattered to him was time with me. What mattered to me was time connecting.

Had we talked about our expectations in a more clear, non-defensive way, we both might have enjoyed our precious time together a whole lot more, if you get my drift. Instead, we were both feeling a bit neglected, unappreciated (he had driven 2.5 hours –in bad traffic and had to get up at 5:30 this morning to go back. Did I mention he is not a morning person?). He made sacrifices just for me, that I didn’t recognize or appreciate in the way he needed.

I, on the other hand, don’t cook, clean as much or keep the traditional French schedule in his absence, so for me to do those things, and yes, iron, (did I mention ironing? Let me say it again – ironing. Oh, and it was 92 here this weekend, and no A/C IN PARIS – SERIOUSLY. Talking about a sacrifice- from my perspective anyway.) I was doing things I didn’t really have or want to do FOR HIM. But what he wanted was just me.

And there is the rub – time invested hoping for a certain response and then being sad or disappointed when we don’t receive it.

How much better spent is time invested in being clear about what we want/need/like don’t you think?

If you want to know more about how you can find your happiness regardless of what he does or doesn’t do, I am teaching only two more classes, check them out!

And until later, as always, Bisous!

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The Science Behind Our Needs

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According to research, the two main reasons for divorce are “lack of communication…” and “libido”. Probably no big secret.

We automatically assume that women are the ones who want communication and men are the ones wanting sex, and if our husbands would simply communicate with us, we would want more sex and voilà, problem solved. As they say in France, c’est tout (that’s all or that’s all there is to it.) To a large degree that is true.

But here is how that works, according to Dr. Stephanie Estima, who specializes in brain optimization and functional neurology. She explains why our relationships often fall apart.

Take that lovely chore, the proverbial dinner – the one we are so eager to prepare early in our marriage, looking up recipes, making everything just perfect only to have our husband come home tired and not even say thank you (insensitive jerk, right?)

I don’t know about you, but that one thing landed me in tears more often than anything else.

The problem is that there is way more going on than we understand. We have no idea what is motivating us to make this special for him (we just call it love) or why it affects us so deeply when he shrugs it off (we call this lack of love typically). But here is what is going on chemically inside our marvelously created brains.

The left side of the brain, the logical, linear part (what we normally call the male brain) is where we find the feel good chemical dopamine. One of the two chemicals we need to “feel” happy.

The right side, the creative, passionate side (all female, right? smile) is where serotonin lives. We need serotonin to create dopamine. Pretty simple so far.

But here is where it gets more complicated - we can raise our own dopamine levels. But - we can’t raise our own serotonin levels. That stinks right? It gets worse. Men have 50% more serotonin receptors than women. Say what?

Yep, that means we truly, chemically need twice as much serotonin to create dopamine as men do. And (according to this very scholastic article) it must come from outside of us.

Boom. We aren’t demanding, whiney, overly emotional creatures, we just need serotonin! We do things for our husbands because we love them, yes, (or did at one point) BUT – we are also doing it to get something we need too.

It is a rather complicated chemical dance that Dr. Stephanie does a much better job of explaining than I do. (link if you are interested in the whole article.)

So, what happens when we don’t get the S. boost we were hoping for from our husband? We withdraw, get angry, perhaps resentful, or as I suggested above, cry. Which in turn invites criticism from guess who. Lots of fun times.

Can you understand why - IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT and NO, YOU ARE NOT FAILING.

The problem is that when we pull back, pour all of ourselves into our family, stop doing things that we enjoy, stop creating, leave our community of women, we are drowning. We have no exterior resource for serotonin. We are exhausted because we truly are depleted.

But, if we focus on us, turn our energy back to discovering what lights us up, connect with other women and find a resource to give us what we so desperately need we are no longer as dependent on our husbands for this external stimulus.

Ironically, by taking the focus (and therefore the pressure) off our husband, we suddenly become far less impacted by what he does or doesn’t do. We “need” him less. Surprisingly enough at this point, we often become more capable of seeing and sometimes even appreciating the things he does do “right”. When this happens, (being gracious and generous by nature), we share our appreciation, (which feeds his need for appreciation and very deep desire to please us).

This whole pattern ironically re-sparks his interest and often creates modifications in his behavior. I.E. husband “fixed”.

Now this all sounds incredibly simple, it is a bit more complicated. However, before we toss our husband overboard, isn’t it worth investigating how we can impact our own needs apart from him, before we pull the divorce lever?

It might save your marriage.

It might not.

But one thing it will do for certain. You will know you, what step to take, what makes you happy, what you need in a long-term relationship, and how to get your needs met.

If this sounds intriguing because let’s face it you “Can’t Live This Way Anymore” and you want to know how to find your joy, whether you “fix” him or leave him – join my webclass. Only two left, July 5th and July 10th. Grab your spot here.

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How Paris Changed My Life

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Paris, Paris, Paris -- just saying it out loud evokes images of the Eiffel Tower, Audrey Hepburn, sidewalk cafes, art and romance.

 

My 9 month program kicks off with a retreat in Paris.

Here’s why:

My first trip to Paris occurred in my late 20’s post-divorce. I came almost on a whim because I lacked just enough credits for in interior design degree (the one I had abandoned in favor of the marriage I was now divorced from) to graduate. And guess what, a summer in Paris would give me the necessary credits. It was a win -win, getting over a broken heart, seeing a city I had always dreamed of and finishing my degree.

I boarded the AirFrance flight and was immediately blown away by the service (the attendants wore white gloves back then and served everything in real china).

Halfway across the Atlantic however, I began to get nervous. Although my classes, through Parson’s SD, NY would be in English, what about the rest of the time? How would I get around, get what I needed, etc?

I suddenly lost my bravado. I was 27, all alone. I was going to a completely new and unfamiliar place, where I did not speak the language and knew no one.

My mind started doing what it (and all our brains do) best, trying to keep me “safe” by keeping me in the familiar. By the time I landed I was sure I had made a huge mistake.

I was wrong. My brain was wrong. Everything that told me not to come was wrong.

Paris changed my life, not just the city, the experience. I made friends I still occasionally hear from. I saw things I had previously only read about. And I discovered things about myself I never could have learned any other way.

That is why I am inviting you to step out of your comfort zone, do what I like to call “pattern interrupt”. If you feel like you just can’t live the way you are anymore, take the 9 month journey. Start in Paris and Untangle your marriage, your dreams and your life. Allow yourself to begin to write the life you want to live.

Getting on a plane alone to fly somewhere you have never been requires courage, the belief to know you have things to do and places to go, and the moxie to do it.

Once here you will be surrounded in a cocoon of support, you will see things you have never seen, or, if you have been here already, you will see them in a way you have not experienced. You will discover more about yourself in 5 days than you have in the last 5 years. You will leave after 9 months knowing what to do, and with the confidence that yes you can do it, whether that means staying or going. Why? Because you were brave enough to take the first step.

So what, my lovely, are you going to do with your “one wild and precious life”? Fill your cup in Paris, with me, with us. Because you can’t give back if there is nothing left.

Join me for my next webclass, I Just Can't Live Like This Anymore: 3 Secrets to Joy Whether You Fix Him or Leave Him.

 

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