Is There One Secret Formula for a Successful Relationship?

IsThereASecretFormulaForRomanceHer eyes were filled with tears when we got into the car with them to go for our hike. She hid behind big sunglasses and the front passenger seat. The Warrior Poet and I had seen the two of them sitting in a different parking lot than the one we shortly met them at. We instinctively knew that they were having a fight. When we joined them in the car, the tension was blistering. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been in the midst of their conflict, and I daresay it would not be the last.

The Warrior Poet and I often wondered why they continued to weather the strain of such frequent friction. It was obvious they had intensely strong affection and attraction for one another, yet they seemed to be in constant strife. Just because we saw one vision for a happy relationship, did that mean that they weren’t equally satisfied with their one? Is there one formula for a successful relationship?

Read more about what I have to say on the topic at Singles Warehouse here:

Is there one formula for a successful relationship?

 

What if Your Ex Had Been Your Best Friend—Can You Still Be Friendly

BeingFriendsWithEx-300x219Once the anger and frustration after the break-up dimmed, I was starting to actually feel good again. I was getting my groove back, dating again. One guy I had been on several dates with was starting to spark with potential. I was feeling happy and regaining confidence. So when the ex began showing signs of mildly reaching out in friendship again, I was up for it. In this one case, I thought I knew the answer to that age-old question: What if your ex was your best friend, can you still be friendly?

Find out what I have to say about the topic on Singles Warehouse:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2013/03/what-if-your-ex-was-your-best-friend-can-you-still-be-friendly-by-soloat30/

Saying Goodbye to a Pet I Love (For a Man I Love)

IMG_2437As he got under the covers last night to snuggle up against me in bed, I couldn’t help wondering if he somehow sensed that our time together was limited. After six and half years together, through laughter and comfort he’s brought me during so many ups and downs in this period of my life, it breaks my heart to know that I soon won’t have him always by my side.

It’s funny how attached you can become to the furry kids in your life. I’ve had my cat Alexei the longest of all my pets. Mindy was the first cat of the family when I was 10. With the typical Siamese attitude, she turned into a major bitch when she had kittens. Overly possessive of me, she became emotionally and physically abusive of Sabrina, the little girl that we kept.

Forced to give Mindy to another home after two years together, I was left to care for the emotionally fragile Sabrina. She stayed mostly in a large cat condo in the garage that my dad built, too afraid to enter the house with the memory of her mother’s threats still casting a dark. So I spent a lot of time in the garage—or as much time as I could, being an adolescent, busy with school, friends and plenty of extra-curricular activities.

 

One day, I came home to find out that Sabrina was missing. Someone accidentally left the garage door open, and Sabrina had gotten out. We speculated numerous scenarios – she was sick and went looking for a place to die alone; she was curious to see what was outside, and a coyote or fisher cat got her; she got hit by a car; or the least likely of them all, she went wandering for a couple days until a nice person found her and brought Sabrina into their home and family.

 

Whatever the case was, I called for her outside every day for weeks. I cried guiltily, thinking if I was a better cat mom, she never would have gotten out, gotten sick or even had been subject to as much abuse as Mindy dished out when she was younger. But eventually, I made my peace with it.

 

I swore that if I ever had another cat again, it would be under my terms and conditions: Living in the house 24/7, sleeping with me if it so chose, and I would make sure I had the time and ability to give it all the love and attention it deserved.

 

Skip to my mid-20s: My boyfriend at the time saw how much attention I gave to his upstairs tenant’s cat. After we’d been together for a while, the tenant was moving out. So my boyfriend came up with the sweet plan of getting me a cat for my birthday. On top of that, we would get two cats, so they would have a constant buddy.

 

Our two beautiful cats were very different from one another – one outgoing, affectionate and a Mama’s boy; the other introverted, often sleeping under the bed, only coming out to cuddle at night for bedtime, to play with toys or to eat if she heard the sound of a tuna can opening. I was super content to sleep squeezed between my boy and my girl cats, with my boyfriend less than an arm’s reach away.

 

Our cats survived a few cross-country trips and moves. They survived house renovations and crazy parties. They survived a temperamental human “dad,” who often made life feel unstable. When I finally made the healthy decision t to leave, I was prepared to take my cats with me. I fed them, cleaned their little box, clipped their nails, brushed them, played with them and brought them to the vet. It was a no-brainer that I should take them with me.

 

Unfortunately, my boyfriend didn’t agree. Part of him kept them knowing I could never leave my cats, and thus I could never leave them. Part of him kept them because he would be alone in his big, old house, and at least he’d had feline companionship. I went back and forth for several months, shed many tears over the decision, but I couldn’t stay, and he wouldn’t let me leave with the cats.

 

After I moved, terribly missing my furry family, I made the decision that I could get another cat of the same breed if I accomplished a big creative goal working on my novel. Powered by longing, I found myself trucking through my goal in about a week, instead of a month. That’s when I met the people who had my silver and black-spotted boy.

 

Alexei curled around me like a scarf when I met him, licking my fingers. He gave kisses on the nose and forehead. Alexei came home with me, and we bonded tremendously from the very beginning.

Mom&AlexeiHe has seen me through rough illnesses and medical treatments. He provides entertainment with his vivid expressiveness, both vocally and with body language. He has encouraged me to keep moving around, being an extremely active cat needing tremendous interaction. We’ve wrestled and played “toss and fetch the mouse,” pull the cat in a plastic bag or paper box, and jump on the twitching feather/piece of paper/finger under a sheet. He’s covered me with his purring body when my own body was trembling uncontrollably. He’s licked at my tears. He snuggles up next to me when I am cold, stiff and achy at night. He bugs watches me while I work, forcing the workaholic to take breaks. When I don’t, he resignedly plops down over my legs for a nap.

I’ve always known at some point that I would probably have to find him another home. In a family that travels frequently, paying for cat care when friends and exes no longer can watch him grows exorbitant and ridiculous, so I wind up staying home. But another reason has come along: I’m most likely moving out in a couple months.

The boyfriend is pet-hesitant at best, averse to the care and presumed mess and odor. As for my cat, we’ll be moving to a much smaller place, when Alexei is used to having a big house, garage and full basement to roam. He’s used to being able to sometimes go on supervised trips outside to sprint around and chew on grass with me by his side. Asking him to give up that freedom and the ability to cuddle at night when he’s very much a social kitty doesn’t seem quite fair for an almost middle age cat (he’s 7.)

He’s been in my life longer than any other cat, and I don’t know how I would deal with the loss. It hurts me just to think about it. But the other side of the coin is thinking about a home with another feline playmate, perhaps, lots of room to play, and for me, starting a new life with a man I love and more freedom to travel whenever desire and resources allow. We’ll see how things actually go, but I’m going to need pep talks to keep accentuating the positive.

Upon Turning 35, a Final Look Back

IMG_1866When I first began my pity party path to recognizing and acknowledging the blessings of turning 35, I wasn’t sure how the experience would play out. I couldn’t predict what it would feel like having to come up with 35 truly positive things about my life as it is now, without only citing banal, yet genuine daily items of gratitude that might put you to sleep. To be honest, some days were harder than others—not because I didn’t feel truly grateful for things in my life, but rather I didn’t know exactly how to express feelings into words on a screen.

Yet here on this final day—the day of turning 35—I can honestly say I have earned every single virtual candle on that birthday cake. I cherish all the experiences I’ve had in my life—both amazing and not so great, the ordinary day-to-day and the life-changing moments, as well as the expected and the surprises. They have helped shape and mold me into the person I am today. While flawed, still constantly growing and learning, I happen to appreciate and like the person whom I’ve become.

Upon turning 35, today I am grateful for…

1.I am grateful for having made it through to the other side of some very dark days. I’ve lived through some pretty rough experiences, both physically and emotionally, and I’m proud to be able to say I truly am a stronger and better person for it. Instead of staying in a wallowing, poor-me state that would’ve been so easy to do, I kept pushing ahead, learning from my challenges, and grown to further understand the human spirit. My compassion and empathy for others, while always rather keen, has expanded so much more and is very much broader in scope.

2. I am so grateful to have found a career where I can use those difficult experiences I’ve been through to help counsel and educate others. I eventually discovered and built my own virtual support groups many years ago. Yet it would have helped me even more to have a personal mentor who was both knowledgeable about what I was going through and who could also help show me how I could improve my health without simply telling me which medications to take and to go get treatments that would just keep me stuck at a plateau. I envisioned this career for so many years without knowing exactly how I would get here, so when it did finally show up, I just about cried. This is what it was for.

3. I am grateful for all the people who have touched my life over the years. My brothers who were my second set of parents, making sure I never got into too much trouble, who kept me humble, kept me in giggles and made sure I felt loved. The teachers who recognized and encouraged my skills and talents, who made sure I had the support to blossom academically. Different friends I’ve made along the way—people to talk, laugh, cry, and share endless memories with. Acquaintances who have crossed my path—casual compliments that meant more to me than I could thank them for. Strangers who have gone out of their way to help me up a mountain or make sure I navigated through a foreign city. Old classmates or family friends who remember something I did or said to them, what feels like a lifetime ago, that made a huge impact on them. The romantic partners who’ve taught me so much about loving and relating, while learning about what makes them tick, shapes who they are and how they love, and revealing so much of the same in myself through my experiences with them. My fellow health coaches who inspire me every single day, and who have been so amazingly warm, uplifting and supportive—you are all beautiful, loving superstars! I could go on and on, but thank you, thank you, thank you.

4. I am thankful for the white hairs. I am thankful for snow fingers and shoulders. I am thankful for the stiff joints in the morning. I am thankful for the reminders of the joy of sports played hard, of a life well lived and a life lived to its fullest. And I know this sounds incredibly strange, but I am thankful for the health issues that have taught me so much about the mind-body connection, about listening to and honoring my body and the importance of self care, a lesson that had to be beaten into me. I am listening. I know. I am ready to move into my next phase of living.

5. I am thankful for yet another year to experience awe. To live life to the fullest. To laugh. To love. To cry. To sing from my heart. To embrace my inner child. To savor what I’ve got. To dream. To go after those dreams and make them my reality. To give thanks for another year, another month, another day, this breath…

My One Week Countdown to 35: To Love and Creativity

To Love and Creativity!

DSC00444Day 5 is Dedicated to My Love

1. I am grateful to My Love for showing me real, unconditional love from a romantic partner. Loving me as exactly, completely me. Loving with kindness, compassion and patience. Love without judgment. Love without co-dependency. Love without jealousy.

2. I am grateful to My Love for being so open, honest and true. For baring everything and letting me in. For letting down any walls that would be so easy to have built up over these years. For giving me the chance to finally feel free to let myself dive in deeply to genuinely feel and give unconditional love.

3. I am grateful to My Love for listening to my dreams, encouraging my dreams and sharing my dreams. He’s even reawakened me to even more dreams, ideas, and visions for the future, as well as outlooks on life, the universe, and the human spirit.

4. I am grateful to My Love for knowing all my secrets, while believing I’m wonderful anyway. J I get misty-eyed knowing the admiration and respect he holds for me, without putting me on a pedestal, and for realizing my imperfections make me perfectly me.

5. I am grateful for My Love for welcoming me into his family of relatives and friends as openly and warmly as he has. I am also very thankful that he has equally wanted to know my own family of relatives and friends.

IMG_1673Day 6: Creativity

1. I am grateful for having never fully given up the inner child’s openness to inspiration and freedom of expression. Whether it’s been through creative writing, music, photography or art, I feel I have always had a toe dipped into that beautiful, blessed well that always feeds my spirit and positively infects the spirits of others.

2. As much as I complained about how my little fingers hurt, I am eternally grateful to my father for teaching my brothers and I the fundamentals of beginner’s blues guitar. “Betty And Dupree,” “Frankie and Johnny” and “Step it Up and Go” will be forever burned in my memory. But even more, the joy of hearing sounds come through my fingers and out of my voice birthed a lifetime love affair I will forever nurture.

3. I am extraordinary grateful for my opportunity to have (very independently, ha) record an album in my youth…actually, with my big brother, there are two albums floating around, aren’t there? And I’m extremely grateful for all the ways I’ve performed, from open mics to shows. I’ve made great friends and fans. Thanks to those who continue to encourage me to keep getting back out there.

4. I am grateful for Mrs. Jan Augusta for being the first teacher to tell me that I could write. I’ll never forget that story about “Magic Shoes” that inspired a lifetime of living in my imagination, and spending hours upon hours trying to translate it to paper (or computer). I’m grateful for my mother for reading to me all those years, for teaching me to read at such a young age, and for giving me a love of libraries. I’m grateful for those who’ve fed my adult literary adventures. From my parents to one of my oldest friends Jenn who once threatened me “Finish this story, or I will kill you!” From my writing critique partners, especially Laura Tien, to the different writing groups/classes with such amazing writers as fellow classmates. To that boyfriend who read every. Single. Story. I’d. Ever. Written. Trust me—even at 18, it was a LOT to the one who read my most recent novel, whose judgment I trust with my life.

5. I am grateful that my life continues to my lead me to a career that embraces my use of my creativity more and more, whether I am teaching old fogey music to hip, young kids, writing articles about inspiring people who touch people’s hearts, taking images that capture awe or sharing my story so that others can relate. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

My One Week Countown to 35: Dedicated to the Ones I Love

living-with-parentsDay 3 is Dedicated to My Parents

1. I am grateful to my parents for taking me back into their home when my health got too bad for me to live on my own (with or without a partner). And for the times when live-in relationships deteriorated… 😉

2. I am grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they have made occupationally (my mom transitioned to telecommuting full-time to keep an eye on me when my seizure-like episodes were at their worst, happening a dozen times a day), financially (when money was tight for me, they made sure I had my medication, gluten-free and dairy-free foods and the most important bills—when they discovered they were delinquent—paid) and with their time (healing from a seizure-like disorder, I am unable to drive until I have six consecutive months without an episode, so my folks have been driving me to doctors’ appointments, to run errands, to see boyfriends and friends and for social and work events—when I was editor/reporter for my town, my dad drove me everywhere in my town to cover news almost every day of the work week.)

3. I am grateful to my parents for making me feel safe and supported during the scariest point of my illnesses. If I fell, they were there to catch me. If I needed someone to help me care for myself in day-to-day living, my mom fed, bathed and clothed me. If I needed to vent my frustration, they were there to give me a shoulder to cry on, arms to fall into.

4. I am grateful for my dad’s unflappable belief that I would get better. While fear caused temporary blindness at times, he always had faith that I would keep getting stronger and find myself back on my feet again. He was right. He encouraged me to keep fighting, to keep looking for answers, to never, ever give up. Both my parents have always believed in me and been my biggest cheerleaders, and I credit much of my successes to the faith they’ve had in my talents and abilities.

5. I am grateful that my mother has not only been a parent to me, but also one of my best friends. I go to her for advice, for cheering up, for reassurance and unconditional love. I love that I can also be an ear for her, that she trusts me enough to share what she’s feeling when she is comfortable doing so. I am so thankful that our together time is as important to her as it is to me, whether I am 3000 miles away or a hallway down from her.

IMG_0535Day 4 is Dedicated to My Friend Carly

1. I am grateful to Carly for becoming that friend I can talk to every day, beginning at a time when I felt very alone with the challenges I was dealing with. I believe we’ve helped each other a great deal to get through our health battles.

2. I am grateful that Carly is the kind of person who will pop up and surprise me at a doctor’s office because it’s been too long since we last got to see each other. She had recommended I see this highly regarded specialist, who is located closer to Carly’s home than mine, and she wanted to make sure that everything went well. Seeing her face touched me more than words can say.

3. I am grateful for the way that Carly always tells me exactly what she thinks and feels about something. Even when it’s about my behavior, and it’s not always something I want to hear, it’s usually something I need to hear. That honesty is absolutely refreshing and invaluable in a friend.

4. I am grateful that Carly always calls to check up on me after a big event, whether it’s a first date or a chemo appointment. She remembers when my niece was born, the significant relationships I’ve had since and before we’ve known each other and she always asks after my parents. I don’t ever have to guess whether she cares or wonder if she knows what’s going on in my life.

5. I am grateful that Carly puts up with my moodiness and occasional reclusiveness. I know it can be very tough for her as it’s very important that there is daily connection with her closest friends. I appreciate her giving and forgiving heart.

My One-Week Countdown to 35: Day 2

Better late than never:

Later this, I will be turning the big 3-5. I know, it’s hard for even me to believe it, but it’s true. While I know it’s not exactly over the hill, as a never-been married woman with no kids, it makes me feel pretty damn old if I think about it too much. So to silence the ridiculous screams of “spinster” and “cat lady” in my subconscious, I’ve decided to count the days until my birthday with 35 reasons why I am filled with gratitude that I am a perfect age.

Each day I will be listing off (at least) five reasons why I’m thankful to be me at this particular point and time in my life. They will be in no particular order. For the last week, I’ve been thinking of 10 things I feel grateful for each day, so I am hoping this will be no sweat. If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think.

1. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

The-Kindness-of-Strangers-mdnI am a proud bookworm who frequents our small-town library easily once a week, if not more. I’m a familiar face to all of the librarians, and I became friendly acquaintances with several of them while I was editor/reporter for a town publication, as I covered events at the library frequently. When I grew too sick to continue working that job, the librarians were concerned as I stopped coming in. When my parents would come to collect books for me, the librarians would express their best wishes and hopes for my continued recovery.

Once I was back on my feet, my regular visits to the library resumed and the women working there expressed joy to see me doing better.  One of those women soon became especially friendly. As soon as I walked into the library, she’d walk back to the book holds to get any books borrowed from other libraries that were waiting for me, and she always greeted me with a smile and friendly words.

One day during snowy weather, the library was still open and I got a call that some books were ready for me to pick up. This librarian offered to drop them off at my house, saying she drove by my house on her way home anyway. Surprised and grateful, I watched as she walked quickly through the wet precipitation with books and CDs in a plastic bag to hand off to me. I thanked her warmly for making such a kind gesture.

She just did it again when I had no transportation to get to the library all week. When I saw her, she said, “Any time you don’t get her for a while, I figure I can just bring your items on hold to you. I drive by your house every day to and from work, and bringing my son to school and back. It’s my pleasure.” Someday soon I will have to think of something very thoughtful to do for her.

2. I am grateful for the generosity of friends

It can be difficult to maintain friendships when your health (and sometimes mood) has so many ups and downs. Plans get canceled necessarily at the last minute. Some friends become frightened by what they don’t know—as I’m overcoming a seizure-like disorder, friends have anxiety that they’ll have to deal with an episode and not know what to do—while words like chemo can be triggers for other friends. Add that on top of the already hectic schedules that arise when the majority of your friends are 30 years and above, navigating marriages or long-term relationships, families, either working at home or at an outside office and other societal obligations.

Anyway, there was a local woman in publishing who had been keeping her eye on my work for a couple years. When she started a group for getting alumni together and allowing them to keep in touch and tied to their hometown, I was mildly curious, but I noticed most of the people involved were much older than I. Finally, this year, this woman reached out and encouraged me to come to one of the monthly events, promising that they were young at heart. So I did.

It turns out that this woman is one of the most giving and generous people I know. She’s driven me around when I haven’t had rides, helped to find me a music gig to get me back to performing again, plus she’s constantly going out of her where to do kind things for all the people she cares about in her life. She’s a networker who connects people because she truly enjoys helping people make their dreams come true.

She’s a giver of the greatest kind. A night owl, she’ll get up especially early to drive you to a job interview at 9 a.m. She’ll think of you when she has extra tickets to an artistic event she knows you’d be interested in. She’ll even drive you to the hairdresser just so you can look especially nice for your boyfriend and a large holiday party. I am so grateful to her for generous spirit—not just because of everything she’s done for me, but because she inspires me to keep giving, whatever position I happen to find myself in life.

3. I am grateful for the Soul Beauty challenge.

A fellow health coach and another great inspiration to me, Christy Foster, runs Soul Carrot Health Coaching at http://soulcarrot.com . As part of her own birthday, Christy ran an empowering, uplifting and enlightening program called Soul Beauty, which invited women to dig down deep inside themselves, to address their insecurities and fears, acknowledge what makes them unique and special and to be bold about their own beauty—from the inside out.

The sense of community that has grown from this program continues long past its official end. I continue to learn and grow from other women’s journeys and by answering some of the questions posed, forcing me to shine a light on my own blocks. Most recently, Christy posed the following question to us: If there was ONE thing you could do without feeling judged, what would it be? I had quite a few things that came to mind, but for the last few months, I’ve been itching to play around with my appearance. Apparently a lot of other women in the group felt similarly. We shared similar concerns—we felt we that we were “too old,” that changing how we looked on the outside too “radically” might not fight into a professional environment, or that dealing with more conservative friends and family who disapproved were a deterrent.

PinkHairA tattoo, something I could hide more easily, is too expensive right now. I am being extremely particular about the design, which will be more of a mosaic of tattoos. So while going to get my hair done on Friday, I got into a conversation with the hairdressing talking about the challenges of doing certain hair procedures on dark, naturally curly hair like mine. That’s when she mentioned an extremely convenient, newer option for bringing new life to my hair, at my own pace, in my own home. It didn’t take much for me to say, “I’m going for it!”

This is what resulted. I got overwhelmingly positive response. And best of all, I feel amazing. And, as Christy said to me, it looks like ME.

4. I am grateful for the unconditional support of friends like @thecrazymagnet.

Though we live 30000 miles away from one another, I feel like he is one of my closest friends, and we can share more intimate details, as well the everyday happenings in our respective lives. Though I know it can be hard for him to give objective advice when I come to him frustrated over different things going on in with me, especially with regard to dating and relationships, he still listens like a trooper, gives me his brutally honest opinion and is there to support if things don’t work out as I had hoped or expected. He’s also been great at keeping me entertained during those days when I couldn’t much more than leave the bed.

5. I am grateful for my improved communication skills in my relationship.

Last week, the boyfriend and I got into a disagreement, mainly because I was feeling taken for granted, mainly neglected, during a time that meant a lot to me to feel connected. I also felt my intelligence and experiences within the same discipline that he also is exploring, albeit in a different direction, were not recognized, honored, and therefore, when he spoke of his study, he spoke down to me as if I couldn’t understand the same underlying process our two passions. My frustration was building up over this and a couple of other things for maybe a week and a half before I had a talk with @thecrazymagnet, and I realized I couldn’t wait until I saw the boyfriend on the weekend to communication.

"ms. understood", conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

“ms. understood”, conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

Normally in the past, this would be considered as confrontation. I’d be too frightened to talk to my own boyfriend about my wants and needs for that either he didn’t really get it so couldn’t fix it, or that he did get it, but wasn’t really willing and able to do anything to change it—“That’s just how I am.” Unfortunately, we used the workday, which is the worst way to hash out a discussion, especially over IM. After some miscommunications and both of us equally frustrated, I finally took a breath. This is what I mean to say…I felt hurt that you did this because…I worry that you don’t take me as seriously in our conversation topics as you used to…And then I listened. Because the best thing I have learned while being int this conversation, is that when you’re with someone with whom you can so honestly and openly how you feel and what you fear, you are increasing the chances to be understand. Instead of just communicating to be understood, be both strive to really hear and listen so that we can understand. Makes a huge impact on the health of our relationship.