I’ve been single for several years now and I’m okay with that. I did the math and figured out that I’ve been paired up 87 percent of my adult life, so a little time off has proved to be a good thing. This time alone has given me the chance to get to know myself better.
Just like any relationship, improving the connection I have with myself takes work. The classes at the Finishing School for Modern Women is certainly part of this journey. Especially in the beginning, many of the classes I created were on topics I struggled with or wanted to improve. Researching and writing classes helped me better understand where I was and how I wanted to move forward. Talking with other Modern Women in class always gives me clarity and helps me understand that I’m never really alone in what I’m thinking and experiencing.
I’m never truly alone in many other aspects of my life too. Between my loving, supportive family and close, dedicated friends and Jack, my loneliness therapy poodle, I have an incredible support network I can depend on when I need them. I’m also fortunate to have an amazing therapist I’ve worked with off and on for 90 percent of my adult life, who helps give me insight to heal past traumas and build resilience to avoid new ones. The hardest things about being single in the beginning for me was feeling like no one had my back, and not having a sounding board to discuss what I’m thinking and working on, to make big decisions or give me a reality check. Feeling like I’m in it alone. What I found are there are a lot of people in my life to help me. I just had to reach out.
I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be single a lot lately. Of course, Valentine’s Day always spurs those thoughts in us single ladies, but adding to that prompt this year, was the recognition of an important anniversary for me. As of last week, it has been five years since I made the decision to end my 24-year marriage and leave my husband. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, and not one I took lightly. It took me seven years to try everything I could to make things better. Then, when I finally owned up to the fact that things would never change and were actually getting worse, it took time to work up the nerve to leave and start my life over again. Even though it was tough, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Taking that action put me on the path of understanding myself and falling in love with who I am. I’m not saying it’s been easy, because it’s been one of my biggest life challenges. But the reinvention has been worth the struggle. The only relationship we’ll have over the course of our entire lifetime is with ourselves, and we owe it ourselves to make that relationship a great one.
My friend Marva posted something that really caught my attention on Facebook. She was cleaning house and found a broken bowl that she’d been keeping. She hadn’t wanted to throw it away because it was a wedding present – one she had bought when she married herself, vowing that she’d never leave herself for anyone else again. I understood exactly what she was talking about. It’s too easy to leave ourselves when we’re partnered up. I’ve compromised too much of myself in the past, and don’t want to do that again. It made me wonder what my wedding vows would be to myself? What would yours be?
Learning to love ourselves, despite our obvious flaws and quest to always be a better person isn’t easy. I’ve come up with some strategies that have helped me and naturally I’m willing to share my secrets with you. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate yourself by giving yourself some love:
Pay attention to the “Joy Suck” rule.
For many years I’ve tried to live by the rule that if something is sucking the joy out of my life, it’s got to go. This gets especially hard when it’s someone you love. Putting the love we have for ourselves first, makes the action we need to take obvious. Life is too short to be miserable and if something is sucking the joy out of our life, you can change it. You owe that to yourself.
Learn to be comfortable about being uncomfortable.
When the worst thing I can imagine happening, happens in my life, it always amazes me that it ends up not being the worst thing that could happen. It’s often means I get new coping skills or that something new opens up in the place of what’s gone, or that I get to reinvent myself to make my life even better than it was before. Desperately holding on to the status quo, so I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable for a shortish time, was killing my potential for overall happiness.
Tell yourself, “I love you.”
One day it dawned on me – I tell people I love them all the time, but when was the last time I told myself that? Since that day, I look myself in the eyes in the mirror at least once a day, when I’m putting on makeup or doing my hair, and tell myself, “I love you.” At first it was a bit uncomfortable, but the way it has affected my attitude is profound.
Change how you listen to love songs.
At the peak of my sadness, I was driving down the street and a love song came over the radio. I can’t remember what the song was, but I remember thinking, “This is a love song from me, to me.” Since that time I listen to love songs differently. Music is incredibly healing. Songs like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor has been a healing anthem in my life more than that once and “Stand” by Sly and Family Stone always gives me strength.
Work on resting happy face.
This is something new I’m trying. We’ve all heard of “resting bitch face,” when our expressions tend to look perturbed even when we’re just relaxing. I’ve decided to try “resting happy face.” Every time I think about it, I try to turn up the corners of my mouth slightly and smile rather than automatically having a slack expression on my face. I’m amazed at how it makes me feel. Just smiling raises my spirits.
Build your support network.
In the Embracing Change class we talk about how to thrive through change, and I share my thoughts about having a safety net by building a support network. We don’t have to depend on any one person to be all the support we need. We can pick and choose other people, based on their strengths and our needs. Whether we’re single or not, I think we need to have multiple “Touchstones,” people who bring us comfort and help us feel safe and loved. We need “Sounding Boards,” “Frolickers”, and “Truth Tellers,” who help us face the truth, whether we asked them to our not. If there are gaps in your safety net, it’s time to fix it. Remember, you don’t have to be alone. You have friends at the Finishing School.
Lately, I’m feel like I’m reaching a new, deeper level of peaceful love and understanding for myself that’s hard to explain. I’ve never been more confident in who I am, where I’m going, and that I’m on the right path. I’ve been surprised to discover that this feeling I have for myself, extends to other people in my life too. Realizing a greater love for myself, has helped me love others more deeply.
I realized the other day that I’m quite content being on my own now, and that it would take someone very special to make me want to change that; Mr. Right rather than Mr. Right Now. I know that when the time is right, the right person will come into my life, but I’m not worried about that. I know I’ve already found the love of my life – and it’s me.
I love you.