“In Search of Love Update” On-line Dating!

Objective: Find Mr. Perfect..
Way back in January I made some lofty goals when I announced that I was ready for a new relationship in my life. I had my laundry list of key items. Someone who can make me smile, who appreciates my interests, my dog Monty and my children. To be swept off my feet by a handsome man who appreciates me, and who appreciates life. Likes my friends, I’m looking for a partner who can turn off his thoughts about work and simply focus on the joy of being together. Someone who is truly “present” for me. Who appreciates life and wants to embrace it as much as I do.  I want a man who is comfortable in his own skin and truly able to connect, to let down his “Berlin wall” when it comes to his emotions.  A man like that is able to express and experience love, and understands the importance of commitment. Also, I love music and I love to dance, and I want a partner who shares those pleasures too.

I was well aware that relationships don’t happen overnight, of course. My friends told me how hard to find someone. I needed to lower my expectations. I was prepared.  Let’s “get real” when you reach this point in life if you don’t have any baggage — previous marriages or relationships, children, and so on — then you haven’t lived much of a life. I heard too many horror stories.  I knew a large percentage of the men were looking for a good time, a physical relationship with no strings attached. I really didn’t want to do it. Was convinced that it would not be a good experience. I was NOT going to meet any one.

On-line Dating the New Blind Date! Why not?

First profile pictureMy first step was to sign up with Match.com for only one month and Jdate.com 6-months – it was the best bang for my dollar. Set up a profile on OkCupid, which is a free dating site. I didn’t devote attention to that site, I wanted to get the full value out of the sites I paid for. All my profiles and pictures were the same. I had no idea how it worked.  (Important tip for first timers: make sure you check the unsubscribe box.  If you don’t you are locked in at the price you paid for a year.)

Can people see my profile?

How I thought it would work is that guys would do the “department store” thing” and reach out asking me for my number. Duck soup from there it would be like back to the old fashion traditional way. Didn’t think I would have a problem. How wrong was I? That month my conversion rate Match.com 28% and JDate.com 23%. To calculate conversion, add all contacts like Emails, Winks, IM’s favorites divided by the total number of views. Match.com site boys appeared to like me more.  All of those contacts were not Jewish. That didn’t surprise me because I was never a big hit with the Jewish boys. Some things never change I guess.

What amazed me was the quality of the contacts on both sites. I was not prepared for an over alarming number of “Yummy”, “I know, I know, I’m too young. Still can’t help but stop by to say that you are absolutely gorgeous.” Please it baffled me why someone similar in age to my children would be remotely interested in someone my age. “How would you like to come to PHL for lunch say Thurs? I love the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons. After lunch it will be easy”. For the first time, I felt like a piece of meat. I thought that was not acceptable behavior; I didn’t like the way it made me feel.

So this is where I discovered I’m not popular on-line!

The first month on on-line dating sites was an eye opener. Everyone I knew on the dating sites was doing much better than me. They were getting nice emails from boys and actually talking on the phone. Getting asked out on dates. I came to the conclusion that I was just not popular or the type of girl you wanted to take out based on on-line dating standards.  I needed help. With my BFF’s support and encouragement I took a different approach. Only having to focus on one site JDate.com was less overwhelming. 5 months to go. Back in high school my friends and me would take out the yearbook and pick out the boy we liked. The new updated grown up 2012 version “dinner and a bottle of wine” going on-line and check out boys on JDate.com with your friends. I have nothing to say and failed at flirting. My BFF became my Cyrano de Bergerac emailing the cute boys. Everyone I knew had luck doing this. None of those boys respond to my emails. Who cared we had blast doing it!

My profile is not working. Why not stretch the truth?

A year, 2, ok 4!

I changed my profile description several times. Boys don’t like to Moving the tree from Harlem to UWSread too much – less is more is a much better approach. Changed the pictures and added a few. You need to be on the site all the time, be an active participate. I couldn’t and did not do that. Discovered my age was a problem too. NO one is looking for someone my age 55. Except the young boys that think women my age are interested. It did not matter how good I presented myself they were not looking for me. I lowered my age to 51 to see if that helped. Come to find out everyone does it. Don’t be surprised if the guy you are dating is actually 6 years older than he says he is.  Pictures are never as current as they say. Wish the whole on-line experience was more honest and real.  Think the actually success rate would be greater. Michael Buble “Haven’t met you yet” became my theme song.

To my surprise I developed some email friendships with a few nice boys: all geographically undesirable not romantic just flirtatious friends. I started to enjoy talking to boys again via email. I never was good at it and needed to not let my shyness get in the way. I’ve been married with children so long I guess I stopped having funny silly flirtatious conversations. I learned to talk about simple things like movies or favorite food, to exercise schedules, and baseball. Their emails made me smile and blush in a good way.  Like when I was a teenager.  That is when I started to notice the change in me.

I fell in love with ME………

I was clueless and understood something was missing in me. What was missing? More important can I get it back?  I wanted it back! I asked all my dearest friends to help. I had a village… The past few summers I spent in Europe. I really never embraced New York. I have been hiding, afraid, delaying re-entering the world as long as I could. My world was safe, I was protected from being hurt. I was so busy focusing on work and finding me. Yes, healing too. I needed to start being single in New York City. I was so ready to have fun. Life is too short, fun and happiness are just too important. This summer I promised myself that I would stay in New York and look for romance.  Making New York City home my priority. I started playing a lot of tennis at Central Park actively expanded the people I play tennis with. I started playing doubles, which I had not done since I starting playing back in June of 2010. Biking, hanging with friends. Working hard to have a nice healthy balanced life. Laughing a lot. Started dressing like I did in Europe. We always wore sundresses. Even got heals! Dressing like a girl again. I made Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” my new theme song. Boy! It gave me courage. I started to have fun! I made sure I took pictures everywhere I went. You could see me transform. Finally, I had the perfect profile picture. From the instant I posted that picture I became much more popular. The perfect profile picture!Regretfully, the contacts are still discouraging but I have met some nice, interesting boys.  Yes, I have even had some really great dates.

Advice from one on-line dater to another….

I have come to the end of the JDate.com subscription. I will not be renewing my subscription. Why? It’s not for me. I learned a lot in the last 6 months.  I have changed.  What was missing was my “groove”.  That something special inside that makes me sparkle.

Glad I did it though.  It was a very positive experience.  I recommend that others try online dating too.  It takes 6 plus months. Don’t get discouraged. Do it with someone if you can.  Share because it makes it fun! When you give them your number, like in the old days, they don’t always call. It has nothing to do with you. Don’t worry, there are some really nice guys too.

“No sex before the third date,” Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, a great rule about not rushing into anything. I agree never rush into anything. Dating at this stage of my life is completely different. Recently, a male friend talked to me about how men envision the natural stages of dating.
Meet…. Get to Know…. Do you like?…. Pleasure…. Key love each other do or dead..  Guess that means you’re going to see where it goes..

On-line dating was a huge help in understanding the male perspective, I realized there is a miscommunication between men and women. This miscommunication causes unease in the beginning of relationships. With the women I know the order of the natural stages of dating is different. Pleasure is last… Pleasure for most women is for committed relationships only.

It’s important for you to remember the man sitting next to you at that moment may not have your best interest at heart. Especially when you’re not together. The only thing they really want is physical relationship. You really don’t know him.  DO NOT EVER do anything that you would not be able to look your self in the mirror the next day.  Nothing is worth that.

Be prepared to go on a lot of first dates. There is nothing wrong in ending a date early if it’s not working for you.  Be nice and kind but if doesn’t work don’t try. Go with your gut instincts it’s always right.  Have fun! No expectations.

Who will be the next Mr. Perfect?

My friends were right it hard to find someone. No never lower your expectations. That laundry list of key items is “must”. I like to believe that there is special someone. I’m going to continue enjoying my adventure; now open to trust and believe in falling in love. Romance … Happy ever after… Mr. Perfect will make sure I notice him.. I have a feeling he will be able to swept me off my feet… it’s still all about that special chemistry between two people that make it perfect magic….. A bonus, like the icing on the cake.
At this stage of my life that would be amazing!

!

“Health for a Lifetime” Part II

In Part I of this essay, I wrote about a new Harvard essay offering scientific proof for what many of us have known for years – that eating in a nutritious way and getting regular exercise can prolong your life.  After looking at why it’s so easy to resist this common sense approach to life, I suggested that starting a journal in which you record everything you eat and drink and the activity you engage in each day can provide a framework for the small changes that will enhance your health, energy and lifespan.

One small change you might make in your daily routine is to take the stairs at work, rather than the elevator.  You may notice a few people looking at you a bit quizzically.  Oddly, some people look down on those who walk rather than drive.  After all, they must be thinking, if you’re wealthy enough to own a car, why not use it?  If there’s a perfectly good elevator in our office building, why the heck are you using the stairs?  Years ago, when I first moved to New York, I used to walk everywhere and many people thought I was crazy.  They thought that perhaps I couldn’t afford a car.  It’s amazing how creative some people can be when coming up with excuses to avoid exercise!

At this point, if you’ve taken the bold step of avoiding the elevator and doing a bit more walking, it’s time to start measuring your distance.  When my son and daughter were young, and it felt like I was constantly running after them, I bought a pedometer.  With this handy and inexpensive device, you can see how far you’ve walked each day.  The next step, of course, is to increase that distance.  Stepping into health is all about making small, incremental changes and then taking it a bit further each week.

Now that we’ve made a small change to the amount of exercise you get each day, it’s time to look at what you’re eating.  Once again, let’s start with making one small change.  If you want to start eating healthier meals, the best thing to do is to make these meals yourself at home.  Many people imagine that cooking in their very own kitchen will be infinitely more complicated than going to a restaurant or – horrors! – stopping for a quick, fast food meal.  Cooking at home doesn’t need to be complicated, however.  There are many wonderful cookbooks and recipes that you can find online that consist of three simple ingredients.  It’s time to disengage from a life of “Super-Sizing” your meal and instead find how enjoyable it can be to prepare your own healthy meals.  This is also the only way that you can accurately keep track of calories, and that’s important.

Once you’ve started to make these simple changes in your daily routine, you’re going to start feeling proud of yourself – and you should.  But it’s not yet time to make bold announcements about the amazing way that you’ve reshaped your life.  Keep making notes in your journal about how you’re spending your day, but be patient about sharing your excitement.  You want to savor the rewards of increased energy and a noticeable change in your weight and fitness level.  I suggest that you wait for friends and family to start noticing the “new you” – and believe me, it won’t take long for this to happen.

If you’re a smoker, you may be hoping that I’d forget to address this important subject.  Sorry, but I’m here to tell you what you surely already know.  It’s time for you to kick the habit – and I know it’s not easy to do that.  I was a smoker too, and there was one day that was the turning point for me.  I didn’t try to taper off, but instead I realized that it was time to stop smoking once and for all.  I made a long list of reasons why it was “a must” for me to quit, and I did.  Just like the notes you’ve been taking in your journal, it’s time to take an honest and accurate look at what it means to be a smoker – from the smell of your clothes and the people who avoid you, to the harsh fact that you’re choosing to take years off your life because of this destructive habit.  It’s time to stop – and the benefits that you’ll experience (increased energy, the joy of rediscovering tastes and smells that seemed lost forever) will make you glad you did.

What’s required in order to make these gradual changes is nothing less than a shift in how you look at life.  There can be no doubt that we live in an age of instant gratification.  Infomercials promise us that we can develop “six-pack abs in only 15 minutes,” and commercials for fast food skillfully avoid the subject of nutrition.  If you’re really going to embrace a healthier way of living, however, you’re going to need to start thinking about the long-term effects of what you put into your body as well as the consequences of successfully avoiding exercise.  Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll start feeling the benefits of your efforts sooner than you might expect – and once you reach that point, it will be much easier to stay on track.

Needless to say – whether it’s eating nutritious meals or taking steps to have a happier relationship with loved ones — you’re the one who needs to take action to create a better life.  No one can do it for you.

It’s tempting to seek the help and support of doctors when we’re thinking about moving our life in a more positive direction – and there’s no doubt that there are times when medical treatment is vital – but I’d like to discourage you from seeking out a “diet pill” in order to lose weight or “a patch” to help you quit smoking.  Personally, unless you’re in a very delicate state, I’m convinced that we can each reclaim and improve our health through the kind of small, incremental steps I’ve been telling you about.  Instead of pills, we need decisions.  You need to decide that you’re going to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and that you’ll have water with your meal instead of that “Big Gulp”soft drink.

In Part III of this essay, I’ll focus on why attitude is so important to successfully adopting new, healthier habits – and how these changes can bring a new, joyous edge to your daily life.

 

“In Search of Love”

It has been said that sharing your life with a partner magnifies the highs and lows, and I really believe that’s true.  After my husband Sid’s passing, I spent a lot of time reflecting and mourning the loss of this extraordinary man, and I now realize that I’m ready for a new relationship in my life.  I’m sure that the last thing Sid would want is for me to be by myself, and I miss that feeling of sharing and togetherness.  Having had two bad marriages and finally a wonderful one, at this point I know a thing or two about relationships.

Keeping those lessons in mind, I’m now looking for a man who’s not afraid of commitment.  I want to feel secure that my partner has my best interest at heart even when we’re not together, and I want to feel the same way about  him.  I know that a relationship like this doesn’t happen overnight, of course.

Over the years, I’ve come to see the importance of having some specific qualities in mind when I’m looking for a relationship.  I’ve tried it the other way — getting into a relationship without much thought — and I’ve suffered the consequences.  I know there are plenty of men out there who are just looking for a good time, a physical relationship with no strings attached, and that’s fine — but that’s not what I’m looking for this time around.  I’m looking for someone who can make me smile, who appreciates my interests, my dog Monty and my children.  They’re grown now, with lives of their own, but this is still important to me. I’d love to be swept off my feet by a handsome man who appreciates me, and who appreciates life.  Life is too short, and fun and happiness are important.  I’m also keeping in mind what I don’t want.  I don’t want a man who doesn’t like my friends, because they’re so precious to me and I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include them.  I also don’t want someone who wants to change me.  I like who I am, at long last, and I’m not interested in making any changes.

Love biking along the West Side

Love biking along the West Side

I’m also ready to have fun — and that doesn’t mean in big, spectacular and expensive ways, but in comfortable, day-to-day ways.  I like going to the grocery store together and planning a meal, simply enjoying one another’s company.  Also, with so much stress in our lives these days, I’m looking for a partner who can turn off his thoughts about work and simply focus on the joy of being together.  Having overcome so many challenges over the past few decades, I want to be with someone who is truly “present” for me, someone who appreciates life and wants to embrace it as much as I do.  I want a man who is comfortable in his own skin and truly able to connect, to let down his “Berlin wall” when it comes to his emotions.  A man like that is able to express and experience love, and understands the importance of commitment. Also, I love music and I love to dance, and I want a partner who shares those pleasures too.

I hate to say it, but the list of qualities I’m looking for has become rather long.  I want to share my life with a good listener, who’s kind, and takes care of himself.  I’m looking for a man who is cultured and polite, and — most importantly — who appreciates me for who I am and who loves me as much as Sid did.  If I can find someone who loves me that much, it would be like winning the lottery.  Imagine that!  Some friends have told me that I’m limiting myself by being so particular, and that my long list reminds them of that joke about “the department store where women shop for a man.”  The punch line to that joke, of course, is that by “moving from floor to floor,” and being more and more particular about the qualities the ideal man must have, you ultimately reach a floor that’s empty — because there’s no “perfect” man out there.  I believe the man who’s perfect for me is out there, however, and I’ve decided not to settle for less.

This may sound odd coming from a blogger, but I love old-fashioned courtship.  Back in high school, a boy would approach a girl to ask for a date — never the other way around.  As much as I enjoy social networking here on the Internet, I’m not really interested in an “e-courtship.”  I like getting together in person.  Although the way that men and women interact has changed so much over the years — mostly for the better — I think that most men still prefer to be the one asking for a date, and that’s comfortable for me too.

At this point, you may be thinking that I really have my act together, but I must confess that the “dating scene” scares me a bit.  My friends are often telling me how hard it is to find someone they really care about.  They’ve also told me to lower my expectations because a man isn’t going to want a woman who brings “baggage” to the relationship.  My belief, however, is that if you’ve reached this point in life and you don’t have any baggage — previous marriages or relationships, children, and so on — then you haven’t lived much of a life.  A first date is not the right time to talk about my past, of course, and I certainly don’t plan on doing that.  Besides, I’m looking for fun and the joy that comes with getting to know a new friend for the first time.  If we hit it off, and we start spending more time together, there will be plenty of time to talk about all that later.  I don’t want to compare notes on our past relationships, at least not on the first date.  I want to take things slowly, so the relationship has a chance to develop naturally.  Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, had a great rule about not rushing into anything.  She said, “no sex before the third date,” and I agree.  As for the baggage, I think you should leave it alone until the fifth date.  If you make it to the fifth date, and you’ve found someone you still want to continue seeing, then I think you can start talking about your past in more detail.  For the time being, all of my baggage is in storage.

If you see the man I’m looking for out there, please let me know.  I’m not anxiously and desperately looking for him, however — and after all these years, I’ve decided not to change who I am in order to accommodate a relationship that’s not quite right.  As much as I’m looking for a new relationship, I’m not willing to make any changes.  In some sense, I think of myself as “starting from zero,” and it’s an exciting feeling!

frog in hand –

I know that there are a lot of women out there looking for a man, and I realize that I’m not the young, sexy girl I once was.  Still, I’m proud of all that I have to offer — including the wisdom I’ve gained from countless challenges, and a determination to make each and every day something special.  I also know that if I don’t find that man I’m looking for, I’ll be okay.  For me to share my life, I need a partner who is just as enthusiastic about engaging with life as I am.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At this point, finding love would be a bonus, like the icing on the cake.  I’ve finally come to a point my life where I appreciate myself, and I’m enjoying the experiences and people who come into my life every day.  One day, perhaps one of those people will be the man of my dreams!

“The Power of a Moment: Part I”

Maui Hotel view

Sunrise

I woke up in Maui to sunshine and a warm sea breeze.  As I luxuriated in my plush hotel bed, my husband was taking our children for a walk.  Though everything was as it should be, the only feeling I remember having at that moment is guilt. Yes, my life was perfect, but I wasn’t happy.  Yes, I loved my children madly, I loved my husband, and I was in the middle of a dream vacation, but I wasn’t fulfilled.  Something was wrong and I didn’t want to admit it to myself, so instead of recognizing that moment of premonition for what it was, I wallowed in my guilt — feeling that I was not properly grateful for all that I had been given.

Pool Side

Pool side Maui

Sometimes we just know that something is wrong.  In a single moment, we look at our lives and realize that something is off. But we don’t know what to do, so we push this feeling away, shove it down underneath our routines and our obligations and all the things we think we’re supposed to be doing and feeling. And we let that feeling or intuition stay there… at least until it forces its way out.

Six months later, my husband walked in and told me that he was leaving me.  That was the moment my life turned upside-down. Though abrupt development turned out to be the right thing for our family, the way it all came about was traumatic for me. And I know today that if I had listened to my gut back in Maui and taken action, much of that trauma could have been avoided.

The people I admire most are the ones who can look at themselves honestly and admit when they’re not happy.  Instead of bottling it up or feeling guilty about it, they say to themselves, “There’s a reason I’m not happy and I need to find out what it is and do something about it.”  These people are always great communicators.  They talk to their spouses and their children and friends, and they communicate that they’re not doing well.  In this way, they are able to work through their unhappiness and forge change in their lives in ways that are healthy and productive.  Unfortunately, for most of my life, I wasn’t one of those people.

Instead, I was one of the people who gets hit with a trauma and just wants to stay in bed. After my husband left, enjoying my life was hard, if not impossible.  I struggled to hold things together, to take care of my children and pay my rent, and I was sinking under the weight of it all.  And then one day I had another moment.  I reached the point where I had to decide whether I was going to make it or whether I was going to give up.  I realized that I liked who I was and I loved my children, and I didn’t like the way my life had been going. And more importantly, I realized that I didn’t have to continue letting this event ruin my life.  I decided that I would not spend another minute being a victim of my own inaction.

I know for a fact that there are a lot of other people out there today dealing with the same feelings that I dealt with.  Most of us put those feelings in a box and bury it deep inside.  The essential truth, however — a lesson that I had to learn the hard way — was that in time, that box has to open, and the longer you wait, the more self-damage you’re going to do.  I know that we’ve been taught that we’re supposed to think and feel and behave a certain way, but sometimes we just can’t do that anymore.  And it doesn’t get us anywhere to deny that.  If we continue to do the same things day after day, it’s not fair for us to expect different results.  Instead, all we get in return for our perseverance is anger and bitterness and loneliness.  Those negative energies have an effect on us – mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Those negative energies literally make us sick.  But the power to heal ourselves is in our hands.

Iao Needle

Iao Needle Iao Valley National Park

When my children’s father told me it was over, I felt as if I was being thrown off a tall waterfall with jagged rocks at the bottom.  And when I survived that fall, I felt like a fish out of water, flopping everywhere and gasping for air.  I was an emotional wreck and became someone I didn’t even know.   I was all by myself, I didn’t know what to do, and I needed release.  So I talked and talked to anyone who would listen, sometimes even to a wall.  This felt good at first, but later I was mortified at what I’d done.  Instead of sharing what I was going through with the right people, I shared it with anyone, and it was embarrassing having these people know the intimate details of my life.  In retrospect, the entire situation could have been avoided if I had only listened to what my heart was saying that morning in Maui.

Life is not a light switch.  Learning to listen to yourself and make a change in your life is not an overnight process, and you have to be prepared to really work at it.  It’s not easy to teach yourself that there is nothing wrong with you, and that there’s nothing you should feel guilty about.  When you have a moment of clarity, the important thing is to communicate to the right people.  I knew when I was lying in bed in Hawaii that my life was wrong.  That realization wasn’t a mistake.  The mistake was not discussing these feelings with my husband and working through it together, even if that meant divorce.  Instead, I hid my feelings, and when my husband blindsided me, I was plunged into insanity.

If I could do it over again, I would have controlled the insanity.  I would have communicated my feelings right away. I would have done what I now call “getting naked” — load my iPod with happy songs and go for a walk, read a self-help book, and talk to my girlfriends about anything besides my trauma.  This for me is the recipe for recovery.  My walks give me time to be introspective and work through my feelings. My books give me support and advice.  And my friends are there to keep me grounded.  Talking with my friends gives me the chance to take a break from life’s challenges, and just be silly for a few minutes.  It’s a great way to remind myself that life is not always hard.  And if all that wasn’t enough, I would have had no trouble turning to a therapist who would listen to me without judgment.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the challenging moments in my life, it’s don’t settle.  If you settle for what you have and don’t go for what makes you happy, it will eat away at who you are and change you into someone you don’t recognize anymore.  I know because it happened to me.  None of us can escape the trauma that’s a natural part of life.  Marriages end, loved ones die, and jobs move on without us. Sometimes our moments are more subtle, just a feeling we get when things are supposed to be perfect but we know they’re not.  Either way, the key to minimizing the pain and being aware of life’s great lessons is through communication and trusting in ourselves.  We don’t want our sons and daughters to make the same mistakes, so we need to set the example by sharing our feelings and working through them together. When we start making the right decisions for ourselves, it’s not just a moment anymore, but a gift – a gift of investing in who we really are and in our own happiness.  And that’s a gift that you can only give yourself.

“Overcoming Loss One Step at a Time”

I’ve experienced my fair share of challenges and tragedies, but nothing quite prepared me for losing my husband to heart disease.  With my kids grown and moved out by the time my husband passed, I suddenly woke up one day and was alone, responsible for everything and yet feeling incapable of doing even the most basic tasks.  I could not plan a thing. I could not figure out how to eat.  Just breathing was a task.  I couldn’t think clearly, couldn’t figure out how to move forward.  It was a crushing loneliness – unadulterated despair – and I simply couldn’t face the challenge of crawling out of the hole I was in.  I was emotionally dead.

My children gave me the strength to face each day.  I realized that seeing me in that state was not healthy for them; they needed to learn how to move forward after a tragedy.  So I knew inside that I needed to be a good example, to gain my strength and move forward.  I decided to treat my grief like an illness.  Yes, I needed to take some time off to recover, but I would rebound from this.

IMG_2690I reached out to my friends because I needed to talk, and they were there for me.  But eventually I realized that they couldn’t be my only lifeline.  Everybody who goes through a tragedy needs people to talk to, but I realized that if I kept talking about the same thing over and over, eventually they wouldn’t want to hear it anymore.  It was just too depressing to bear.  So I realized that I didn’t want to wake up seven years later and still be talking about the same thing, still be trying to find a reason to justify why my husband – the love of my life – was taken from me so soon.  I realized that I would never find a reason, and so I instituted a self-imposed statute of limitations.  I gave myself a year to wallow in my sadness, to figure out how I wanted to live the rest of my life, and then I needed to move forward, become my own lifeline.

I started by taking stock in myself.  How was I taking care of myself?  Did I need therapy to deal with what had happened?  I began by putting one foot in front of the other, baby steps.  The hardest thing was learning how to live by myself, so I went back to the basics.  Instead of eating at restaurants every day, I went grocery shopping and cooked my own dinner.  Instead of staying in the house, I forced myself to go for a walk every day.  Instead of spending each night in a daze of insomnia, I forced myself to sleep.  I realized I needed something to keep me busy, so I started taking tennis lessons, something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child.  And tennis made me smile.  Walking made me smile.  Just getting out of the house made me smile – encountering a happy dog on a street, seeing children laugh – these things helped me get back on track.  It was hard, at first, but I realized that if I stayed inside, I just felt sorry for myself.  I got more and more depressed, I gained weight, I just felt miserable.  And that’s no way to spend a life.

Recovering from loss is a working process – you have to experiment and you have to try things and you have to be brave.  You need to work through your stress and anxiety.  For me, walking was the key that allowed me to assess my pain and think it through.  It’s amazing what you can overcome by just being in the sunshine with positive music playing on your iPod.  I found that twenty minutes of this was all it took to put me in a better mood, so no matter that I didn’t feel terrific most days and didn’t want to leave my house, I forced myself to do it every day and I was surprised how much it helped.  Suddenly not only was I feeling better, but I was looking better too. I shed that waxy indoor complexion, and then one day I looked in the mirror and I was myself again.

Sometimes we have to take a period of time and isolate ourselves to make ourselves stable.  I was not ready immediately after losing my husband to move forward, and there was no shame in that.  I needed that time to process, to plan, to get a grip on myself and my emotions.  I needed to talk it out, and I needed to create a new life for myself.

When you’ve experienced a tragedy, in order to move forward you need to rise above yourself.  You need to figure out what’s next so that you can start working toward it.  Start by looking at yourself from a stranger’s point of view.  Identify your areas of opportunity and put them in black and white on a piece of paper.  I looked at my life and realized that I had all of the freedom and opportunity of a 21-year-old, but I also had a lot more experience and wisdom under my belt.  I realized that I still had a list of things that I wanted to do with my life, things I wanted to enjoy.  I forgot about that list for a while, but it was never really gone – I just needed to look for it.

Just as you would take care of friend who was sick or working through their own loss, take care of yourself.  Encourage the woman you see in the mirror to keep on living.  Tell her you love her and that it will be okay.  Give her hope and hold her hand when she is doubting.  And when things just seem too much to bear, tell her to lace up her jogging shoes and get out to the park.  She’ll never know what she might find.

“Loving Life at Fifty”

I had no idea that this part of my life was going to be so rewarding.

Growing up, I was taught that, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  Over the past fifty years, that expression has run through my mind more times than I’d like to count.  That’s exactly what I focused on each and every day, for more than 50 years, as I applied a thick layer of makeup to my face to hide a disfiguring birthmark.  When my first husband left me, stranded and alone with two kids in a foreign country, I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  When I couldn’t pay my rent for three months and had nothing to feed my children, I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  And when years later the love of my life passed away and left me alone, again I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”

During those low moments, I had no choice but to take a deep breath.  I needed change and the only thing that any of us can really change is ourselves, so I knew that I had to find a place to gain control of my life.  I needed professional help.  I needed to assess who I was, what I was doing, what I wanted for me.  Some days I didn’t think I’d ever come out from below zero.  When I finally did, I decided that just making it wasn’t enough for me.  I was going to really live.

There’s a point at which we need to put away our baggage and learn to live despite it.  We can spend our days feeling badly about the cards we were dealt and making excuses for why our life is the way it is, or we can move on.  What you do with a challenge is entirely up to you.  You can take it as an opportunity to make yourself better, to grow and move forward, or you can let it tear you down.  Never let it tear you down.

Rid yourself of negativity and stand tall.  Feel good about who you are because no one else is going to do that for you.  If you’re waiting for somebody else to give you permission to love yourself, you could wait a lifetime.  Don’t wait any longer.

I’ve worked with women for most of my life, developing support groups.  I spent much of my life feeling that I was alone, and that I was the only person going through the hardships I was experiencing.  But the more I looked, the more I found other women who were exactly like me struggling with the same challenges I was.  When I decided that I needed to go to court to get my children’s father to support them financially, I didn’t know that there was an estimated 6.1 million women who were mired in the same system, and millions still who hadn’t yet begun their fight.  So I started a support group for women going through divorce.

In sharing stories with other women, it became obvious to me that so many of us are held back by thoughts that other people put in our heads.  People tell us that we are worthless, that we are weak, and that we aren’t deserving of love or consideration or support.  These people aren’t worth having in our lives.  We need to keep telling ourselves, “I deserve to have a good life.  I am good person.  I can have a successful career.  I am a good mother.”  And we need to listen to ourselves.

You know you’ve done a good job.  You can feel it all the way down to your toes.  You should not doubt yourself.  When someone tells you that you did not do a good job, you need to pause before internalizing that.  Why is this person saying that?  Are they insecure about themselves?  Does the negative comment they’re making towards me make them feel better by putting me down?  Oftentimes, the answer is yes, and so we need to throw that negative comment right out the window.

Believing in yourself brings you somewhere special in the middle of your heart, in your soul.  When you feel good about yourself, you attract people who are like you.  You have a bounce in your step and people notice you because there’s an energy that you bring, an aura around you.  You laugh more.  You start doing things that you never thought you could.  You treat your body well.  You eat right and you enjoy eating and you exercise because it feels good.  You have the courage to speak up, to take on new and exciting adventures like travel or tennis or art.  You find yourself able to reach farther than you ever thought you could.  You’re finally able to create the life you want, and to enjoy that life.

Maybe this – the years following fifty – is the period of our lives that is our best.  I’ve had a lot of challenges, but I’ve also had a lot of opportunities, because I realized early on that there’s no perfect way of doing anything.  For me, fifty marked the beginning of appreciating who I turned out to be.  I’m a late bloomer, but I’ve learned that it’s never too late to start feeling good about who you are and what you have achieved.  Fifty is an opportunity for all of us to finally become who we were meant to be, to break through the reins that others have placed on us and go after what we really want.  I know I have an exciting future ahead of me and I’m lucky to be fifty.