“You picked HIM!” That’s what a therapist said to me as I was licking my wounds from a failed relationship when I was in my twenties. My reply, “No, I didn’t!” Then I went on to explain that HE approached me and that some kind of chemistry enveloped me. I couldn’t escape. I was caught in the magical web of attraction.

Now more than 40 years later I finally got it—what the therapist was trying to tell me. I did choose HIM. I chose to write his name on my dance card, and then I chose to dance with him until he decided to dance with someone else. He left me. I was left holding the detritus of a fantasy.

I writhed in the grief of abandonment and victimhood for a good long while…actually too long. I claimed my victimhood, made depression my best friend and shrouded myself with self-protection. As much as I wanted another relationship, I wasn’t going to let this scenario happen again. The sad thing is that it happened several more times.

And why was I seeking a relationship anyway? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating under the false premise that if I had a relationship I would be complete. It was the tangible proof I was lovable—a necessary notch in my self-esteem. Without it who was I?

Are You Really Taking Responsibility?

Taking responsibility is not an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been ignoring its role in your life or worse—thinking you’ve been taking responsibility all along when, in fact, you haven’t been.

This notion started coming clear to me just a few years ago. The story begins in 2005, when I started a new career as a Tarot card reader. As destiny would have it, I quickly met and became friends with a Tarot entrepreneur in my area. I was hungry to learn. She offered classes, workshops with renowned Tarot experts and opportunities to read at Tarot parties. Why wouldn’t I befriend her?

About a year later, she suggested we teach a class together using Tarot cards and essential oils to unlock blocks to prosperity. It was a cool idea and since I teach and create classes, I was in. As we developed the class I started noticing her sidelining my ideas. She named the class, wrote the marketing materials and developed the agenda. My job was to say yes and carry out the role she had slotted for me.

Sacrificing Integrity

That insidious feeling of “being controlled” started inserting itself into my psyche. I expressed my concerns, but timidly because I felt beholden to her for all those opportunities previously mentioned that she appeared to offer. Ah, the classic case of sacrificing your integrity in order to get something you believe you can’t get on your own. I saw her as my doorway to new people, experiences and business. Arguing with her that my ideas merited attention wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t jeopardize the relationship if I wanted to get more of the “goodies” she offered.

I am not proud to admit this. On the other hand, this friendship did give me many opportunities to learn more about who I am and how I choose to live my life. We had a friendship for at least nine years and during that time I learned a lot, not only about Tarot but about myself. The control factor, however, became intolerable. I found I didn’t trust her. I didn’t want to share my thoughts and feelings with her. I wanted her to go away. Eventually I went away.

Two years later I learned about the Emotional Freedom Technique, known as EFT or tapping. Because I kept stewing about this relationship, I decided to tap on it. (For those who don’t know about tapping, check out www.thetappingsolution.com.) I held no expectations that anything would happen when I started the tapping protocol.

Midway through lightning struck—a moment of blinding clarity came through. I saw my complicity in this relationship in a way I had never acknowledged before. It was visceral. I had to admit that once again I had written a name on my dance card and chosen to dance with that person. I had been feeling victimized and controlled when I was just as much a player as she. I had agreed to the tacit contract we both signed.

Here’s the Secret

Feeling like a victim takes time and energy. It can suck you dry. I spent an inordinate amount of time perseverating over the shards of this friendship gone awry, resenting her, feeling hurt and, yes, struggling with its loss. The moment I learned of my complicity in that tapping session was the moment I freed myself from those painful emotions. I could move on. I could take responsibility. I could claim my power again. I could independently blaze my own trail in the Tarot world.

Gregg Braden in his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (Hay House, 2008), underscores the point I am making:

“The fact that someone else did what they hadn’t been able to do themselves plays right into their subconscious beliefs of limitation.

When this happens, people tend to look to someone or something else to intervene where they feel powerless. They’re looking for a savior, whether it’s a drug or another person performing a miraculous healing. If we’re convinced that we’re powerless and dependent upon something beyond ourselves in order to have the experience, then we’ll also feel the need to return to that “something” again and again to get what we need. We will, that is, until we realize that we can do for ourselves what is being done by someone else for us. It’s at this point that the savior is no longer needed and we’re truly healed.”

In both cases with the boyfriend and the Tarot entrepreneur, I was seeking completion outside myself. I handed my power to them and deemed them my savior. These may seem like easily reached conclusions, but they’ve taken years to solidify in my mind. I can now pick them up, look them in the eye and claim responsibility for how things unfolded and turned out.

You are going to laugh. I haven’t had a boyfriend for years and don’t have one now. On a few occasions I’ve tried to find him, but no one made my heart sing. And the effort it takes to find THE ONE didn’t seem worth it. I was too committed to building my business ALIGN. So, what motivates me to even write this blog?

It hit me when I was reading a client’s Tarot cards. She wanted to know if she was going to get back with her boyfriend, with whom she had had three major arguments. All three involved her being the target of physical abuse. After the third one, she called the police.

During the reading, my client shared that her father had left her mother when she was in utero. Never having a father, especially in the formative years, leaves an indelible, life-long scull-and-crossbones on one’s heart. The issues it elicits are complex. I can speak to this with some authority, even though I had a relationship with my father until age ten, when he died of cancer.

Abandonment is like a plague upon the land. When the father disappears, it drops a pall over one’s spirit, especially when the grief of loss is not dealt with. In my case, I couldn’t get out from under that pall.

My father’s departure set me up to choose unavailable men. The men whom I found wildly attractive either lived out of town, were already involved with someone else, or were not emotionally available. I kept searching for a relationship that worked, but I could never find one.

And those who did express interest in me never met my rigid standards of what a suitable partner should be. I rejected them outright. In hindsight, those standards were a defense. Those men were probably quite suitable.

Low Self-Esteem
My Tarot client opened my eyes. When I mentioned that her longing to resume her abusive relationship might be an issue of low self-esteem, she responded with “I have a good job and good friends.” I suspect low self-esteem never factored into her equation of being in an abusive relationship—a relationship that touches her on a deeply intimate level, where job and friends do not gain admittance.

This is an important point that took hundreds of conversations with therapists and friends to gain a foothold in my awareness. Thoughts like, “My father left, I must not be worthy. If I were worthy, he would have stuck around, watched me grow up, been there to support me through the trials of adolescence and young adulthood.” took up residence in my subconscious and ruled my most intimate judgments.

Because my father died of an illness he couldn’t control, getting angry at his leaving didn’t seem legitimate. I had no idea that his early departure affected my relationships with men, or more importantly, my choice of a partner.

My most intimate, emotional development had arrested at age ten. I kept choosing men who weren’t there for me, but who were safe. They were safe because I unwittingly blocked their entry into my heart. My father’s departure turned into a benchmark for all my boyfriends. In my unconscious state, when I met a prospective boyfriend, I suspect my subconscious self would rant, “This man is eventually going to leave, just like my father, so be sure this one will make his get-away, and if he gets too close, you bolt.”

This is where it gets complicated. Low self-esteem is such an insidious, wily character flaw. By choosing a so-called partner who wasn’t committed to having a mature healthy relationship with me or to working through issues on a deeply intimate level (because I wasn’t willing to do it either), I could continue to pursue the father who left me. Even though the relationships I have had improved over time, they never got to the point of a mature trustworthy, long-term commitment.

If certain relationships looked like they might go farther than I anticipated, I would help bring them to a crashing end. And if they looked like they were going to leave, I would preempt them and end it before they could. Since I didn’t have an opportunity to work out the complex psychological issues that occur between a father and his daughter when my father was alive, I used my boyfriends as my lab rats. Believe me, I was not doing any of this consciously, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful.

My Self-Esteem Barometer
My client helped me see how our choice of partner reflects our own level of self-esteem. If he treats me badly and I allow him to treat me badly, then I probably feel I deserve to be treated badly. In other words, I am not worthy of the loving, kind behavior I believe I want and deserve. Like most abused persons, we keep going back to the abuser, thinking we can get what we long for or if we work hard enough, maybe we can even change him/her to love us the way we want and deserve.

We have to move on. That’s why I’ve decided that my next boyfriend will be my barometer. I will pay close attention to how he responds to me when I voice concerns or when we disagree. I will be alert to how easily I can express myself and how honest I can be. When I feel I can trust him and myself, then, maybe, just maybe, I can open my heart and with his hand in mine invite him in. When that happens, my self-esteem barometer will have reached an all-time high, and I’ll be sure to congratulate myself for hanging in there long enough to witness my own monumental growth.

Ask the Question

September 7, 2016

Years ago I was having no luck in the relationship department.  A divorce by the time I was 29 and then several failed relationships followed me well into my forties and early fifties.  I kept telling myself, “I am a nice person. Why can’t I have a decent relationship?”

My blurred vision obscured the fact I was the one constant in each equation.  Years of psychotherapy wrested the cataracts from my eyes so I could see the role I played in every choice and action I made.  If I was going to progress and move beyond my hamster-wheel of failed relationships, I had to ask the question, “What was/is my role in all of this?”

Extracting those cataracts wasn’t easy.  In fact, making sense of what propelled me to choose Mr. X or continue with Mr. Z, felt like scraping wallpaper off a wall.  Issues like self-worth, abandonment and neediness had to be identified and explored for me to understand why things hadn’t worked out.  Of course, wading through all of this was painful.  Oh, my gosh, very painful.

Who Makes The Decision?

Recently a friend of mine shared her relationship blues.  This made me reflect on my own vertiginous past.  Only when I discovered I was the decision maker of my life did I see things differently.

My friend had broken up with a man after dating 10 months.  They had gone back and forth ending it several times.  Finally my friend told herself and him, “This is it!  I am DONE!”  She called it “OVER!”

In this day and age when texting is the premiere way of communicating, he decides to send her a text.  In fact, a complimentary one.  Being polite and not wanting to appear insensitive or rude, she feels obliged to send a thank you.  He returns the text.  She responds and soon the entire exchange turns ugly once again.

Now, you may be scratching your head and asking, “What went wrong?”  It’s easy to make a judgment here.  She told him it was over.  He writes her.  She responds.  However, if it were truly “OVER” for her, why did she respond to the text?  Because when she responded, she chose to continue the conversation.

The Could-Have-Been Moment of Truth

This is where it can get confusing.  By responding, did she somehow want to continue the conversation?  Even though she wanted to end it, perhaps she wasn’t ready to do so.  There were many good parts to the relationship.

When she was deciding whether to respond could have been the moment of truth, had she asked herself, “What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?”  What if she had taken time to understand her own feelings?  A part of her loved what they had together and didn’t want to let it go, but another part of her most definitely did not and was ready to sever the tie.

How can she best be true to herself?  Only she can answer that.  To get the answer, she is best served to take time to sift through her feelings about the relationship in order to understand “What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?”

The Grand Scheme

When we take the time to understand our choices and behavior, we learn why things unfold as they did and do.  We more clearly see our role in each relationship.  We begin to see the red flags when they pop up.  Instead of pushing them aside, we pick them up when they appear and examine why they appeared.

We can be more objective and begin to choose more carefully with whom we spend time and share the vulnerable parts of ourselves.  It’s all part of the grand scheme of life—learning and evolving.  Let’s not only ask the question; let’s take time to explore our feelings and discover the answer.

Starving and Obsessed

May 13, 2016

As a Tarot card reader, I am given the privilege of hearing people’s deepest desires, searing hurts and glorious dreams. I am honored to be privy to such intimacies.  In the searing hurts category, many come with a broken heart or one that is breaking.  More often than not I wish I could wave a magic wand and say, “You’re healed.”  But it doesn’t work that way.

Countless times people come to me stunned.  Someone they shared intimacies with has now blocked their calls and  texts. That “other person” has vanished without a goodbye or any indication they’ve chosen to recede into the annals of the past.  No discussion, no declaration that “We’re done here!”, no leaving in a huff.

This, to me, is a cowardly, despicable act, and it is so painful to the one on the receiving end.  Maybe the best way to describe the anguish my clients feel is being thrown out of a moving car and left by the side of the road—pretty much like roadkill.  The one left behind asks repeatedly, almost addictively, “What did I do? Why has this happened to me?”

The most asked question clients who’ve been through this scenario want answered is “Will I get back together with him/her?  Is there a chance?”  Some of the more wounded will bark, “That person will never find anyone as good as I am!”  Angry and bereft, they’re left starving for something they thought they had and obsessed with the disbelief they don’t.

The answer is not as simple as many would believe.  Subtleties, nuances and denial come into play.  By the time someone in this state of anguish comes to me, it’s likely it’s not the first time this has happened.  So, what transpired for this to happen again…and again?

Jumping the Gun

Perhaps it’s haste in making a judgment.  I, too, have had such experiences.  Finally with the help of a therapist I discovered I was the common denominator in each scenario.  Switching my focus from blaming the other person to taking responsibility was not a pretty picture.  You might think it was easy to flip the switch, but it wasn’t.

I had to ask myself, “What caused me to pick the wrong person time and time again?”  First, I had to accept that I PICKED the person.  How could this be?  I was always looking for that magical zing.  The zing consisted mainly of the externals.  Was he good looking?  Did he have a good job?  Was he fun to be with?  Was he nice?  When I would meet a Mr. X, the zing had to be there and pretty instantaneously.  I concluded I wasn’t the one choosing Mr. X, but rather it was just a synchronous, albeit magical, encounter.

For the longest time I couldn’t admit I was making a choice based on external factors without getting better acquainted with the internal factors, the true makeup of his character.  I would attach myself to a person I didn’t really know.  I’ve since discovered it takes time to know someone—to really know.

Patterns Set By Our Parents

Now, this is where it gets tricky.  A good therapist can help you see how patterns set by your parents play a role.  For me, my father left an indelible imprint—he died when I was 10.  As an adult I would consistently choose partners who couldn’t be there for me either emotionally or physically or both.

Subconsciously the unavailable man was attractive to me.  I told myself that if I couldn’t keep my father alive, perhaps I could keep my relationships alive with the unavailable man.  I would do this with what therapists call—manipulation.  Unbeknownst to me until I finally wised up, I used manipulation as one of tools in my arsenal to hold onto a relationship.  When I did this, I was a shocked to discover I wasn’t being true to myself.  And I was  exhausted doing this time after time.

The Big Kahuna—I Must Not Be Worthy

The biggest reveal I learned from all this was my sense of self-worth.  If asked whether I was worthy of a wonderful, loving relationship, I would respond without hesitation that I am.  All my clients are, too.  But the subconscious is a stealthy predator.  For reasons we don’t always know, our subconscious self tells us we aren’t and then keeps directing us to the choices that are the perfect fit for fulfilling our diminished sense of self-worth.  For me, that would be choosing the unavailable man time and again.

For most of us, it takes time to understand this.  As our awareness grows, the kinds of choices that didn’t work for us in the past are not worth hanging onto.  We can choose to no longer passively stand by and wait for the other person to direct the relationship.  Instead we decide for ourselves and take whatever steps are necessary to end an unhealthy relationship.  In fact, once we’ve figured it out and we are ready to engage in a healthy relationship, the available partner will show up.  Not always on our timeline, but at a time and in a way that works best for both parties.

 Why Can’t We Bypass All This?

It turns out we all come into this life with specific lessons to learn.  These painful relationships are a catalyst for us to grow physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  The sooner we get the lesson of each painful experience, we can move on.  Other lessons await us.  We progress.

Sometimes, though, we get only a piece of the lesson.  We may feel as if we are back where we started.  We aren’t.  Through each experience in intimate relationships we become more aware of our role in that situation.  We have choices at all times.  Knowing this, we are empowered to change, for the better, for ourselves.

Many people are averse to taking responsibility for what occurs in their life.  Looking within doesn’t seem to be an option.  After all, it’s got to be the other guy’s fault.  Introspection, however, is a necessary step to seeking and keeping a happy, healthy relationship.  Gaining awareness as to why we make the choices we make is essential.  A Tarot card reading can help us go within when we are in a relationship turmoil, or when we are ending or beginning one.

No Response is A Response

October 21, 2014

Have you ever written someone an e-mail message asking a question and never gotten a response?  Or left a voice mail message requesting a call-back?  I can answer a resounding “Yes!” to both.  In most cases the person I am writing to knows me.  We have been friends or had a business relationship, and he or she has never expressed dissatisfaction regarding our connection.  This kind of communication roadblock drives me crazy.

I agree we’re all bombarded by texts, e-mails and voice mail.  No matter what, I still think I merit a response.  One therapist I went to a long time ago, when I was bemoaning a man I was dating who hadn’t called me back, told me the scoundrel had answered me.  It’s called “No Response” or as Greg Berendt and Liz Tucillo so aptly titled their book He’s Just Not That Into You, The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys.  

I must be delusional, because I thought those people I wrote to or called were into me enough to write or call me back.  I thought they were into me enough to open and read the e-mail I sent, but my best friend informs me they probably deleted it before opening it.  That shocked me.  And, of course, it could have even gone into their Spam folder.  This saddens me more than I am willing to admit.

Why Be Sad?

But, why be sad?  Perhaps one reason is that I gave more meaning to a relationship than it was due.  I feel deeply enough about the interactions I have had with a person that it feels worth holding onto.  In the past I credited myself as a good judge of character.  I thought I knew when a particular relationship was worth my time and energy.  Lately, though, that’s all changing.  Relationships I considered close are not so close.  People’s interests are shifting.  Demands on our time are relentless.

I keep thinking there’s more to it.  When people don’t respond to e-mail messages I send just to them, I start questioning the nature of the relationship.  Somewhere along the way a judgment was made and I wasn’t in on it.  The other person has moved onto other things more tantalizing, fulfilling, and worthwhile, or new demands, even a crisis, may have usurped their time.  He or she no longer sees the need to pump energy into our relationship.  Here’s what’s so disconcerting:  The decision probably wasn’t conscious or arbitrary.

It reminds me of a buffet.  The buffet’s first course has been well picked over and now a second, more delectable course replaces it.  Those people I wanted to hear back from have gotten up to get the second course.  Meanwhile, I’m still eating the servings I loaded on my plate from the first.  I’m not ready to return to the buffet table for the second course.  Or worse, the helpings I took when the first course was served were just too big.  If I had taken smaller portions, I could have gone back for the second round when the others did.

Decision by Others

What troubles me the most is other people’s decision to move on without some sort of closure, without informing me things are changing and what we have will be different from what we had.  This makes me remember the day I came home from school (I was ten) and learned my father had left our house on a stretcher by ambulance.  A neighborhood friend, someone I wasn’t even that close with, told me she had witnessed his departure.  No one told me this would happen.  How could someone else I didn’t even know that well see what I should have seen?

My father hadn’t been feeling well all summer and couldn’t join me for Father’s Day at day-camp.  He was beginning to spend a lot of time in bed away from his medical practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist.  Unbeknownst to me, he was diagnosed with cancer and it was progressing.  Occasionally other doctors would come to the house to see him.  Since I knew these doctors as my parents’ friends, I thought the visits were meant to give support, not to diagnose the progress of his disease.

Things started changing.  Out of the ordinary gestures became routine.  Instead of my mother driving us to school, one of my brother’s classmates picked us up each morning.  People brought casseroles to the house.  Friends stopped by for no apparent reason.  Relatives started showing up.  I thought I heard people whispering, but no audible sounds were heard.  Something was being said, and I knew deep-down it wasn’t good.

Time to Move On

My mother made decisions that affected my two brothers and me.  She took us twice to visit my father during the four weeks of his hospital stay.  The second and last visit was the most disturbing.  One part of his hospital bed was tilted so he appeared sitting up.  An oxygen tent–something I had never seen before I walked into his room–encased him.  I remember he was lucid and carried on a normal conversation, but nothing about the visit was normal.  I couldn’t hug him, kiss him or snuggle up to him.  He was untouchable.  I didn’t understand it.  I was ten, unable to ask questions or figure out what was going on.

On October 13, 1958, my father died.  I knew my father was ill, but I didn’t know he was dying.  No one informed me his situation was so dire.  How could this have happened?  What happened?  If only I had known, perhaps I could have done something about it.  I would have written him letters that might have consoled him.  Or I would have asked to visit him more.  Perhaps I could have been a participant, rather than a side-lined child.  More importantly, perhaps I could have prepared myself for a loss that has colored my entire life.

Those same feelings of being a side-lined child surface today when people don’t answer my e-mails, calls or letters.  I am aware something is no longer as it was, but no one told me what that is.  People are so busy.  Finding the time to let me know that a situation or a level of relationship has changed is not their priority.  I can ask.  I can keep sending e-mails or make repeated calls, but when the answer is “No Response,” I must remember what my therapist said long ago, “No Response is A Response.”  I must somehow come to terms with the silence, accept what is, and let it go.  I know it’s time to move on and be open to what presents itself to me now.

Find Another Lover

August 15, 2014

“Find another lover.”  The late Adolph Ceasar spoke those words at a Smithsonian lecture I attended 30 years ago.  They came ringing back to me this morning.

For those unfamiliar with Adolph Ceasar, he was one of the voices behind the memorable catch-phrase, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste” for the United Negro College Fund.  A powerful actor in films, such as A Soldier’s Story and The Color Purple, Ceasar won recognition when he was nominated by both the Academy and the Golden Globe for best supporting actor in A Soldier’s Story.  While filming his last film Club Paradise, he suffered a heart attack and died shortly thereafter at the age of 53.

I remember he spoke these words with such clarity and fervor, “If your lover leaves you, find another lover.”  I knew he was right, but embracing his advice is another story.  How do you do that?  After you’ve shared such intimacies with another, it feels like your heart has been ripped out of your chest and only a hollow cave remains.  If the breakup is recent, some of us can barely hobble out of bed in the morning, let alone eat, dress and brush our teeth!

I am a believer that loss should be grieved.  Picking up the next day like nothing has happened after a meaningful relationship has ended is not a wise idea.  It’s called denial.  Your feelings must be acknowledged and felt; otherwise you carry them with you wherever you go.  You can pretend you’re fine, but anyone who’s the slightest bit aware picks up on the malaise that swarms around you.  Then you attract the rescuers and repel the more grounded.

Why Remember Adolph’s Words Now?

Why have Adolph’s words come back to me this morning?  You’re going to laugh!  I am grieving the loss of my morning boot camp–an exercise program with a certified trainer four mornings a week.  I had been religious about participating in this boot camp for the past year and a half.  At 5:45 AM I would get in my car, turn on NPR, and listen to this guy who talked about the latest technology trends during the 10 minutes it took to drive to the gym or park, depending on the weather and season.  In early July my boot camp program abruptly ended.

A workout program is hardly a lover, but the lover metaphor can be applied to anything you’re committed to.  Boot camp gave my day structure.  It was the impetus to get me moving.  If you are anything like me, I do not love to exercise.  Walking, yes, but push-ups, lunges, planks, and kettlebell swings, spare me!  Only under the surveillance of a trainer am I willing to subject myself to these kinds of exercises.

In my advancing years, I realize how important it is to move and take care of my body.  Boot camp ensured me that I was at least doing the minimum to keep myself limber–oiling the knees, tightening my underarm flab and staving off the fat that can’t wait to wrap itself around my hips.  Going to the workout room where I live doesn’t cut it.  Learning to use the different machines, adjusting them to the proper weight so I don’t kill myself, and deciding how many reps are demands I just don’t want to deal with.

The Trainers and My Workout Partners

And what about the relationships I developed there?  No, they may not equate to that of a lover, but they remain an important component of the whole experience.  I got attached to the trainers.  They were of such a high caliber.  One, in particular, always amazed me.  She would exercise along with us, counting the reps out loud at the same time.  Meanwhile, I could barely talk as I huffed and puffed my way through each exercise.  The hour was entirely planned with diverse activities, always leaving enough time to stretch and wind down at the end.  Each day had a focus:  cardio, legs, upper body, etc.  It was impressive.

Of course, let’s not forget my fellow compatriots!  Together we groaned, sweated and supported one another.  By the time this gig wound down, only four of us remained.  We knew who wouldn’t be there on Mondays, who was away visiting her parents, or who had a working breakfast or week-long conference to attend.  I would miss them when they couldn’t attend and be delighted when they returned.  Although I didn’t know them well, they all were a part of my morning routine.

The Racquetball Player and the Parking Lot Attendant

Initially I had joined this boot camp in 2004 and consistently sweated my guts out for five years.  Every winter we worked out in one of the rooms of a gym.  To get there we passed racquetball courts where the same guys played week after week.  One man would always say hi and ask how we were.

Due to illness, I had to withdraw in 2009.  I didn’t have the energy or stamina to do the exercises.  So, when I returned in February 2013, the same guys, a little grayer with the occasional ACE bandaged knee, were playing their routine racquetball game.  The same man remembered me and enthusiastically welcomed me back.  I never knew his name, nor he mine, but he made my visits to the gym that much sweeter.

Whenever I left the underground parking lot, I was required to give my ticket to a parking attendant.  Always with a smile at that crazy hour of the morning, she would wish me a good day.  I so enjoyed that one heartfelt minute we exchanged with each other.  Hearing how her weekend went or agreeing how cold it was created a caring connection.

My Time to Find a New Lover

In June my favorite trainer decided to relinquish the boot camp.  She had found more stable, lucrative employment elsewhere and passed the baton to another trainer.  After two days the new trainer discovered the arrangement wasn’t going to work.  She informed me by leaving a phone message and wishing me a “blessed life.”  With the flick of a dial and a quick “Dear John” voice mail, the relationship ended.

Nearly six weeks have passed, and I know it’s time for me to find a new lover.  Like most people who’ve suffered a breakup, I am resistant.  I know, however, I must get out there and explore the options.  I’ve grieved enough.  My clothes are beginning to fit snugly.  My love-handles are gaining ground.  Adolph was right.  If I follow his advice, I won’t have to buy a new wardrobe.


Communication Subtleties

November 26, 2013

I sent my long-time friend a book I thought she would like. She had moved away more than a year ago. Six weeks passed and I hadn’t heard from her. I finally sent her an e-mail asking if she got it. Yes, yes, she did. She thought she had written me. No, no e-mail was sent. It stung.

I sent another friend the DVDs from the final two seasons of a mini-series I had introduced her to. I had been waiting until we got together, so I could hand them off to her. The get-together never happened, so I sent them to her. It turns out she watched the remaining two seasons on Netflix and thought she had told me. No, no she didn’t. It stung.

What happened to common courtesy?

Both relationships have held a lot of meaning for me. I’ve known my long-time friend for more than 40 years, the other for seven. In both cases, we’ve shared intimate details of our lives. I know their families, and I felt close to both of them. I thought they considered me a close friend as well. They probably still do.

Fine Points Worth Noting

My initial reaction was to stop initiating and pull back. I had to think about it more. After all, I am the common element in both equations.

My gestures of sending both the book and DVDs were well-intentioned. To my long-time friend I sent a brief note, saying I hoped she would enjoy the book. We had talked about the author, and she expressed interest in her work. But, here’s the fine point: I never asked her if she would let me know when she got it or, in fact, how she liked it once she read it. In hindsight, I guess no request for a response requires no response. I just expected she would let me know.

With my other friend, we had talked about the mini-series and how much she enjoyed Season 1. When we last spoke she was moving slowly through the episodes of Season 2. I had given her Season 3 and expected to hear from her when she completed it in anticipation of my giving her Seasons 4 and 5. No word ever came. I went ahead and sent her the remaining two seasons.

I looked forward to sharing our impressions of the characters, story, and acting. That sharing never happened. In fact, it seemed like a double-slight to learn that she had watched the remaining seasons on Netflix, when I said I would lend her them when she was ready. Here’s the fine point: I never requested she let me know her impressions or how she was progressing through the series. Again, I just expected she would share.

Healthy Interpretations

I wanted something from each friend—acknowledgement and appreciation. Only after I prompted them did a response come. The fact that these two incidents occurred in fairly close succession gave me pause. I started asking myself: Did they hold me as close as I was holding them? Probably not. Were they on to other things? Had these friendships lost a few degrees of intimacy? Probably yes, on both counts.

Even though both friendships still exist, their hue does not shine as bright for me. I felt a loss. Although no one has left anyone, I felt like I was the one left behind. Both women are married, rich in friends, interests and activities. One has moved far away, and the other doesn’t live all that close to me. Could proximity be another reason things changed? I wasn’t sure.

I’ve given serious thought to all of this and came to a few conclusions. All things, especially friendships, have a season. People come into our lives for a reason. When the reason has been fulfilled, the season has been completed. That’s just the way it is. The key for me is to see each friendship for what it was and is. When it no longer mutually serves both parties, it’s time to let it go where it needs to go—onto the back burner of my life. That doesn’t mean we don’t connect anymore. The connections become less frequent, less intimate, a few less fingers touch the pulse of the other person’s life.

In the past I would feel the loss and stew in the rancor of my perception of being left behind, wondering what happened and feeling pained by absent responses. Now I understand the purposelessness of wallowing in these emotions. It’s up to me to acknowledge the change, grieve the loss and open myself to life’s offerings and opportunities.


Right about the same time I sent the previously mentioned items to my two friends, I sent a gift to another friend, who lives several hours away from my home. The package was intended as a surprise. Upon receiving it, she wrote me a quick e-mail to tell me she got it and how much she loved it! Her response was a sharp contrast to the ones I’ve already mentioned. Her enthusiasm was palpable even in a short e-mail message. Apparently proximity doesn’t have anything to do with friendship. If someone cares about you, s/he will let you know.

Where does that leave me? Moving on…where the energy is flowing, where it feels good and where the relationship is mutually beneficial. One of my favorite authors Eric Butterworth clarified the whole situation when he wrote, “Sometimes the best way to get along with people is to get along without them. Let go…and walk on.” After writing this blog, I am ready to walk forward and that feels good.

Intimacy, LTD

January 4, 2013

IntimacyThey were a striking couple. Dutch. In their 30s. He was handsome and she lovely. I had the pleasure of meeting them more than 10 years ago when I visited my best friend living in London at the time. All of them, my friend and this couple, were “ex-pats,” working for international corporations.

Living with “ex-pat” benefits can make international living exciting, although not without individual challenges. The couple wanted to get pregnant at the time. At first it wasn’t happening, but after some angst-ridden ups and downs, their first child was born and another followed. He moved up the ladder, and they moved to Moscow where he continued his corporate work.

Now in 2013, back home in Holland, he has a girlfriend. The husband and wife have formally separated. The children see their parents apart. What happened to this bright-eyed, brilliant (as in light) couple?

Doing the Best We Can

It’s so easy to blame the guy and say how horrible it is he’s hooked up with a girlfriend. But, it’s just not that simple! In fact, it’s complex.

It takes time to know someone.

It takes time to know someone.

What I’ve learned in the past 60+ years of being on this planet is that we are all doing the best we can. It takes time, sometimes lots of it, to know a person—to REALLY know a person! We think we know those people we’ve hung out with, especially those for long periods of time. Then, BAM! Who is that person? You say, “He isn’t the one I fell in love with!” or “…who married my sister! He’s never acted like this before!”

The couple in question did get couples counseling. Apparently, that discussion yielded clarity. He’s determined he couldn’t go back to his married life. He’s clear he wants to be with the girlfriend. And in astonishment, we ask, “How could he do that after two children and years of being married to a truly lovely person?” Here’s the answer: He couldn’t stay in the marriage. He just couldn’t. I suspect he did the best he could.

I will say outright, I know no details. I have no idea of the dynamic between the husband and wife. I am writing about this with no knowledge. So, you may rightly question my writing a blog about this relationship. In response, I say the details don’t matter. The outcome tells the tale.

It’s a Question of Intimacy

ChoicesThe outcome boils down to intimacy. They had the option of continuing to work on the marriage with professional help. He could have spent time reassessing his marriage vows and the concept of commitment. He could have taken, and probably did take, a good hard look at his children and the upheaval a divorce will impose on them. He could have “done this” or “done that,” but in the end, it doesn’t matter. He felt he had to leave.

Being intimate is maybe the most challenging task before us in this life. It means being honest about ourselves—first with ourselves and, next, if in relationship, with another. This guy ran into a roadblock, where he probably had to tighten his belt and face difficulty. He had choices. He chose to stop working on the marriage and start something new. Working on the marriage is just that—work. Starting something new can be fun, exciting, and, more than anything else, distracting. When we’re distracted, we don’t have to focus on the issue that’s been troubling us, at least while we bathe in the deliciousness of distraction. Oh, when we do, it feels so good and yet so fleeting.

The Need to Move On

Sometimes we believe we can’t tighten our belts anymore. We can’t face the music. We can’t deal with the work that needs to be done. So we find ways to distance ourselves from ourselves or from others. After all, why are so many people struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction or workaholism? People can’t be intimate with themselves. Admitting vulnerability is just not something they do. Instead, they deny their frailty and refuse to be honest with themselves.

Nine of Swords

Nine of Swords

Recently I read Tarot cards at a party. One woman drew the Nine of Swords. As you can see from the picture, a person sits up in bed with his hands over his eyes. He can’t see the beautiful spread that covers the bed nor can he see the swords neatly arranged on the wall to his left. I asked if she had trouble sleeping. She immediately said yes and explained she is so consumed by her work that she gets up at 4:30 AM and arrives at the office an hour later in an effort to get her work done. She admitted she often ends her workday late, sometimes at 7:30 PM.

I asked the woman how she was feeling. Although I can’t remember her exact response, I do remember the despair and desperation she expressed. I counseled her to start drawing boundaries around the work she could do and get help from her supervisor in handling the rest. I was adamant that she needed to take care of herself, otherwise she would get sick. Later I learned the woman was unhappy with the reading. She heard the truth but couldn’t face it. She was going to find another Tarot reader to get a more congenial interpretation of the cards.

In Conclusion

Facing the truth is hard. Admitting to vulnerability usually hurts. We don’t want to see any fissures in our armor. But what if we do? Just like the guy mentioned above, we have choices. And what if we choose to stay right where we are and deal with whatever confronts us? I believe there’s something really good on the other side of the confrontation. Confronting the block allows us to pierce a veil. We shatter another defense. We move to a deeper level of intimacy. We see our humanness. We gain wisdom. We are more conscious of who we are and what we can offer. We are more authentic.

Bev Hitchins © 2013

Intimacy Be Dammed!

September 2, 2011

Intimacy is such an elusive concept.  One minute you think you have it and the next it’s gone.  It feels so good when you’ve got it.  You just want to sink into it and bask in its comfort and safety.  But, watch out!  When it departs, it can leave a hole in your heart a mile deep and wide.  Where did it go?  Here are two real-life examples to illustrate what I am talking about:

Scenario 1:  A woman takes her boyfriend of two years on a trip to meet her family.  Upon their return home he breaks up with her.

Scenario 2:  Man A is attracted to Man B.  Man B responds up to a point until he meets a woman 20 years his junior and begins to spend the majority of his personal time with her.

The Dam Analogy

In both cases, a give-and-take process occurred.  One person gave, the other received and vice-versa.  In a mutually beneficial relationship, the give-and-take process maintains enough of a balance to be rewarding for both individuals.  Intimacies are disclosed comfortably and freely.     

I liken intimacy to a lovely, warm shower—water flows on us cleansing all our fears and inhibitions, even if for a moment, so we can be totally present to and vulnerable with the other person.  However, when our feelings for that other person turn intense, the flow of water can become so fierce and overpowering that it causes disruption. 

Here’s where my dam analogy comes in.  Knowing certain parts of a dam may help make my point.  A spillway is the section of a dam designed to pass water from upstream to downstream.  Many spillways have floodgates designed to control the flow through the spillway.  The spillway can be gradually eroded by water flow.  When erosion occurs, water may encounter cavities in the spillway, or if there is turbulence, water may flow over the spillway.  Either could lead to the dam’s failure.

The level of intimacy we expose in relationships is reflected by the thoughts and feelings we share.  Some of those thoughts may be the most trivial, while others our deepest, darkest secrets.  We begin by testing the waters with one thought, almost like opening a floodgate partway.  If received in a way we find acceptable, another thought or feeling is shared and then another.  The intensity increases—just like water when a dam’s floodgates are open all the way.   

We All Have Our Limits 

In Scenario #1, the woman took the risk of introducing her family to her boyfriend.  She knew that any unresolved issues among family members or dysfunction within the family constellation would be exposed, but she believed that two years of building a relationship with her boyfriend would allow them to withstand any discomfort either one might encounter.  Her floodgates were wide open; water roared down the spillway. 

For reasons we are not equipped to identify, the boyfriend couldn’t keep his gates open. He couldn’t reciprocate the woman’s open gate policy.  What he saw or felt immediately before, during or after the trip triggered him to close his gates.  Bam!  No discussion, no exploration of what happened—just the jolting slam of floodgates closing.  When they returned home, he bolted.

Shocked and in a state of emergency because of the unexpected turn of events, the woman now had to seal her gates, but the rapidity of the water in her dam made it difficult and exhausting.  The clarity she had about the relationship before the trip was shattered.  The effort to close her gates felt Herculean.    

In Scenario #2, Man A and Man B were exploring an intimate relationship.  The gates were open, maybe only part-way, but open nonetheless.  Perhaps Man A’s gates were opening a little wider when Man B turned in another direction.  This left Man A struggling to close his gates in the midst of gushing water that had been slowly gaining momentum.  We can only guess that Man B had been stemming the flow of water in his dam before he closed his gates.

What Happened?

It would be easy and also unfair to cast judgment on any of these individuals.  What happened in both scenarios has happened countless times throughout history and continues to happen around the world.  What is relevant to all of us is the exploration of boundaries around intimacy. 

All four of these individuals deserve credit.  They invested in an intimate relationship.  Somewhere along the way the boyfriend in Scenario #1 and Man B in Scenario #2 couldn’t go any further.  It became too scary.  What they may have felt being asked of them—no matter whether real or illusory—couldn’t be given at that point in time.  In fact, whatever got stirred up felt so scary, they had to reject the relationship outright. 

As for the woman in Scenario #1 and Man A in Scenario #2, they were drawn to these relationships to learn more about themselves.  It was good the woman brought her boyfriend to meet her family.  She discovered the limits of her relationship sooner than she would have liked, but had she continued the relationship, it was inevitable she would have confronted them down the road.  Man A did the same.  These discoveries are painful but infinitely valuable.  If heeded, the lesson learned in each one will not be repeated.         

Intimate relationships that end or are altered abruptly merit further exploration.  Issues residing in the shadow parts of ourselves are probably the reason why relationships become untenable.  If these issues aren’t examined and dealt with, they stay with us like dusty, dirty piles of untended clutter.  More importantly, they keep us from being intimate with ourselves—the most valuable relationship of all.

Intimacy is a tricky business.  Making sure the efficacy our spillway is maintained and gauging when and how wide to open our floodgates takes practice.  Perhaps by taking more time to test the waters, we can get a better idea of how to manage them.  When we can manage them effectively, we can be intimate with those who value us as much as we value ourselves.  Is it time to inspect your dam?

Bev Hitchins © 2011

Harboring anger and resentment can be consuming.  I didn’t realize how much until one day I just got tired of doing it. 

My Forgiveness Story

My neighbor and I share a small garden between our two stoops.  One year we were going to plant a garden together, but somewhere between the digging and the planting, something went wrong.  Either she didn’t like what I was doing or I didn’t want to take her directives.  From that time forward hostility colored our every exchange.  I made a concerted effort to avoid crossing her path.  Sometimes that meant waiting until she drove off or until she shut her door after arriving home.

The mature person would have put the issue on the table and asked the other what had caused this strife, but neither one of us could make that concession.  I guess we felt more comfortable holding onto the dastardly images we painted of each other so we could justify our anger. 

My First Attempt—A Feng Shui Cure

A couple years into our acrimonious standoff, I tried to change the dynamic between us.  Using a Feng Shui cure, I planted two rocks in the garden—one on her side and the other on my side—connected with a red string.  Each rock had the word “Harmony” painted on it.  I had hoped this ancient cure would ease the tension between us.  More importantly, I knew it signaled my first step in getting off an angry merry-go-round. 

I am not sure the Feng Shui cure worked.  Nothing seemed to change except that a day of reckoning did finally come.  I was leaving my home one morning months after I had set the cure in motion.  As usual, when I lock my door, I usually end up facing her stoop.  That particular morning I got a good look at her stoop.  The thought came rushing in, “This mental anguish between you and her must stop!”  How?  I wasn’t sure.  I still felt angry.  I wasn’t about to sit down and talk to my neighbor.  Not yet.

My Second Attempt—Getting Biblical

During this time, a Bible passage came to my attention. 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  –Matthew 18: 21-22:

I started thinking, “What if I write a statement of forgiveness 490 times?”  I could do 70 statements a day for seven days and see what happens.  I wanted to resolve this issue once and for all.  I wasn’t ready to do it face-to-face, addressing it spiritually had potential.  I devised the statement:  “I forgive my neighbor and myself for past hurts.”  I thought I should include myself as well since I was one of the two players in this scenario.  

I began writing on Sunday.  By Wednesday things started happening in my condominium apartment. 

A Punctured Pipe Serves as Catalyst      

My bathroom is right above hers.  Since our units are more than 60 years old, the aging pipes often get clogged.  On Wednesday, the fourth day of writing my forgiveness statements, a member of the condominium staff snaked my clogged bathroom sink.  The next morning I took a shower.  What happened next changed everything.

I got an angry call from my neighbor.  The snake-job the day before had punctured my shower’s drain pipe, causing major leakage onto my neighbor’s bathroom ceiling.  By Friday afternoon the condominium management notified me that I could not take a shower or bath until after the weekend.  Since Monday was Veterans’ Day that meant Tuesday was the earliest I would be able to shower in my own home.

The Turning Point

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Faced with no access to bathing facilities, I got a knock on my door from my neighbor.  Since the first signs of leakage, we had had several conversations during which I expressed my concern and apology for this terrible inconvenience and damage.  She stopped by to inform me she was going out of town for the holiday weekend.  Knowing my predicament, she offered me the keys to her condo and gave me an open invitation to take showers or baths while she was away. 

This was mind-blowing!  After years of hostility, the logjam had been broken.  The keys were a peace offering, and I accepted them.  Although I still had feelings to deal with that kept me from showering in her condo, I knew progress had been made.  I completed the final set of sentences on Saturday.  I had been freed.  I could now move beyond the anger and resentment to a place of acceptance. 

Timeline Summary                       

Days 1-3     Began writing forgiveness statements each day

Day 4         Condominium maintenance man snaked sink pipe

Day 5         Shower leaked into neighbor’s bathroom

Day 6         Forbidden to shower; Received keys

Day 7         Completed writing forgiveness statements

Why Call Forgiveness a Clutterbuster?

So much of the clutter we carry around is intangible.  It’s mental, emotional and spiritual.  The resentment aimed at my neighbor occupied my thinking every time I left or entered my condo.  I would get annoyed when I heard loud voices or hammering from her unit, when she hosted parties, and even when she had a patio put in her backyard.  Whatever resentment conceived during our “garden altercation” mushroomed into a resentment that permeated everything I witnessed her doing.  It felt like a fungus I couldn’t control—until I realized I could control it.  I could expurgate it!

Anger and resentment are like deceptive lovers.  They cling to us and, in an odd way, comfort and protect us, much like material clutter.  We become co-dependent.  By holding onto them, we shield ourselves from the truth that we are the ones in charge of our own feelings.  Debilitating feelings left untended color our vision and deafen our hearing.  In the end we can’t see beyond the situation or hear our inner guidance.  We get stuck.

These days my relationship with my neighbor is peaceful and harmonious.  Recently she chided me for not telling her I had been ill for a week.  She said she would have made me soup and checked in on me had I let her know.  Thanks to forgiveness, our relationship has been healed.  I can now focus on something more positive than anger when I leave or enter my condo.  I can greet her with a light heart.  It feels wonderful.