Posted: May 11th, 2013 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, joys | Tags: aging, birthdays | 4 Comments »
A beauty to aspire to.
Yesterday a dear friend called and pointedly asked me, “So…how are you feeling about your upcoming birthday?” I got a chuckle out of that, not only because she knows me so well, but also because that is a question one would never be asked before a certain age.
The answer is that I feel great, but I must admit that I did go through some aging angst earlier this year (and I will most likely go through it again). As women my age know, our bodies start to change, and not always for the better. In addition, I was spending time with some particularly beautiful (and somewhat enhanced) women, and that started to make me feel a bit like the frumpy old stepsister.
When I was living in Northampton, I was in a community of very natural, some might even say crunchy, women. The beauty regimes of these ladies tend more towards juicing and yoga than Botox and boob jobs. As I routinely saw in my hot yoga classes, shaving one’s legs and armpits was often considered optional.
However, here in the Boston area, women seem to have a different approach. They are more glamorous. I was once chided for wearing jeans to a holiday party by a woman wearing a black lace dress. (Luckily, the hostess reminded her that she was also wearing them.) They seem to have perkier breasts, smoother faces, and tighter bods. I will confess that it started to make me feel insecure and inferior. I began to wonder why a guy would want to date me when he could have a hottie like one of my friends. After one date with a guy that I particularly liked, I decided that I needed to be thinner (even though I am medically at a perfectly normal weight). So I went on my first diet since I gave them up at 22, which turned me from a healthy and good-natured person to a self-obsessed grouch.
During that brief stint of self-deprivation, my 8 year-old daughter told me that her dad had suggested that she wax her eyebrows when she gets older. I told her that no man (or person, really) should tell her how to be beautiful, which she was very grateful to hear because she said she is fine with her eyebrows. When I posted about this on Facebook, my friends congratulated me for teaching her good values and said that she was lucky to have me as a mom. This praise made me feel a little like a fraud because here I was dieting because I had this insecure notion that a man wouldn’t like me if I weren’t stick thin.
As I told this to a Northampton friend of mine today over brunch, she reminded me that she had written a blog piece about the importance of reference groups. In Northampton she was thrilled to find a truly original rubber chicken purse, whereas when she lived in New York, a Prada purse was what she thought would give her happiness. Her larger point was that our values and desires tend to be influenced by our communities.
Now, I’m not going to start hating my new cosmopolitan friends just because they are beautiful, but I have found myself gravitating a bit more to those who are less focused on exterior beauty and more on inner beauty. Ironically, one of the most beautiful women I know told me that she envied me because she said that I have such an attractive personality, which would never change, whereas her physical beauty would eventually fade.
I certainly don’t want to advocate a polarization between appearance and character, but I did remind myself of the lesson that I learned way back in my twenties (which apparently I needed to learn again): self-acceptance is extremely sexy. I had a weight problem in high school and college that often kept me from dating. When I was 22, I decided that I was never going to feel bad about my weight again. I moved from self-loathing to self-love and was amazed at how many men began to be attracted to me even though I hadn’t lost a pound. Eventually I dropped 50 pounds over five years and never really worried about my weight again. Until now, when I started putting myself under a critical microscope instead of appreciating my strong, flexible, yoga-toned body that yes, does indeed have some softness to it too.
As I reminded myself of my youthful wisdom, I started focusing on being grateful for my appearance. I began to look for signs of my beauty rather than evidence of aging. I noticed my deep-set brown eyes that have lovely specks of green in them, how my face lights up when I smile, my strong yet delicate feet that have pretty high arches, and my soft skin. I could go on, but you get the idea. Within a month, I was feeling so much better about myself. Instead of looking in the mirror with dread, I was delighted to see my own reflection. And I swear to you all, that I look prettier because of it. Or at least, I think that I look prettier, which was the whole point of the exercise because, as many of my friends told me, they already thought that I was attractive.
Here I am in all my glory.
Posted: January 26th, 2013 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, parenting | Tags: detachment, trust | 8 Comments »
Just tell yourself that you want to start blogging more again, and life will certainly give you something to blog about. My ex and I now live in different cities, about 100 miles apart. The kids are with me during the school week, and every Friday afternoon I take them to an Applebee’s right off the Massachusetts turnpike to meet their dad, who then takes them the rest of the way to his house for the weekend. Except for the occasional traffic delays, this system has turned out to be fairly easy.
Yesterday, however, my ex had some car trouble and announced when he arrived that his transmission had died. He was understandably frustrated, it was a bitter cold afternoon, and I felt strange leaving the kids with someone who didn’t have a working mode of transportation. I asked him if we should change the plan or if I should take them back with me, and he told me no and to go on with my normal routine. He said that Triple A would take them to Northampton.
I acquiesced, but my maternal instincts were screaming inside. I felt like I should do something to help them. I doubled back and asked again if I could help. Again he said no. I felt so powerless, as I saw my kids standing by the car while their dad was on his cell phone arranging a solution. I had to remind myself that it was their allotted time with him, and that he would take good care of them and make sure that they all got home safe. Yet I so wanted to do something, anything to make the situation better. So I rolled down my window and told them to get into their dad’s car to keep from freezing (a pathetic gesture but better than nothing).
A couple of hours later I texted them saying that I hoped that they had gotten home. My ex informed me that they were still at Applebee’s waiting for the auto club to come. I texted them again later and found out that they had gotten home at 9 pm about 5 hours after I left.
The situation made me realize how hard it is sometimes to really separate from your former spouse when you share children. I have always thought of myself as doing a good job at this since I lave learned not to fret over the different rules at the different houses and have tended to trust that my ex loves and cares for them well. But seeing them in distress right in front of my eyes was challenging.
Old patterns kicked in. My instinct was to get involved and somehow make things better. But I couldn’t make things better. And moreover, my ex didn’t want me to get involved. He made that clear. So despite the doubts that were gnawing at my insides, I left the scene. I did learn, though, that sometimes honoring someone else’s wishes and doing nothing is the hardest thing of all to do.
Posted: August 23rd, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges | Tags: dealing with conflict | 7 Comments »
For the past couple weeks, I have been mulling over how to deal with my differences with certain people. I have been wondering how to reconcile conflicting desires or ideas in a productive manner. It is fascinating to me how two people can have completely different perspectives on the same set of circumstances. Is it possible to reach an agreement or can we agree to disagree? Is it possible to put hard feelings to rest and move on?
Right now, I am feeling fundamentally unresolved.
Yet as I was ruminating over this, I mistakenly opened a file on my computer that contained this poem that I wrote around the New Year in 2011. It made me feel better so I thought I would share it with you again.
* * * * * *
Can we resolve this argument already?
I want to go to sleep,
But we can’t take our anger
To bed with us to fester.
This was how I was raised,
To believe all must be resolved,
Or else it will grow inside
Of us, and its evil will
Grow rampant like a toxic fungus
And take possession of our hearts.
Yet this approach did not work.
My drive to resolve all conflicts
Led me instead to marital exhaustion,
To endless nights of verbal sparring,
Quixotically searching for our desired resolution.
No wonder I was happier divorced.
The house was once again peaceful,
And I could get uninterrupted sleep
(Well, when the kids let me).
Now I’ve adopted a different approach.
I look inside before I react.
I let petty things go, and
They find their own resolution, in
Their time, in their own way.
One might think that I just
Sweep them under the rug. However
They aren’t there, stealthily waiting to
Ambush me at any turn. Instead
My lack of attention to them
Allows them to evaporate, so gently.
So let it be resolved that…
When irritations, frustrations and disagreements arise
I’ll take a time out first,
I’ll process them externally only when
Absolutely necessary, and after I have
Taken time to cool down and
Refocus my energy, find my center.
And I’ll remember that humor and
Perspective go a long, long way.
Posted: August 16th, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, dating stories | Tags: dating, relationship coach | 10 Comments »
In yoga class today, the instructor asked if we had the tendency to step in the same pothole every day. He was clearly trying to get us to reflect on any persistent habits that are obstacles to our happiness.
I have one. Well I probably have more than one, but one came to mind today. When I am getting to know someone, especially in a romantic way, I often ignore the things that they tell me about themselves. Since I tend to see the positive in people (I want to see the positive in people), when they say something disparaging or negative about themselves, I immediately assume that it isn’t true. That they are just being hard on themselves. That they have a skewed self-image. That I can see their true inner goodness.
Last spring, when I was working with relationship coach Sheila Paxton, she encouraged me to view my dates clearly, as they really are, not as I want them to be. She explained that my desire for a partner often leads me to create a fantasy about someone. Well, many good lessons take a while to sink in, and this was one of them.
The last man who hurt me once asked me “Wouldn’t your life be better off if I just went away and you never saw me again?” At the time, I thought he was being a tad melodramatic, and so I just laughed it off. But now I realize that he was speaking the truth. He knew himself better than I did, and he was warning me. But I thought I was a better judge of what was good for me. Plus, I liked having him in my life.
I am starting to realize that I do this a lot. One guy told me that he was depressed, and I thought, “Aren’t we all depressed at times?” Another guy told me that he was lost, and instead I looked at his academic pedigree and his impressive job. The list goes on and on.
In a very simple way, this is an issue of listening better. Yet it is also a question of accepting what someone tells me. Last night, a guy told me that he was probably going to scare me off. My first response was, “yeah, right,” but then I remembered to listen. So instead of brushing the comment aside, I asked him why he thought that. And I told him that when somebody tells me that, they are usually right.
I am now reflecting upon the numerous times that I have done this in my life, and I am hoping to change that habit, to avoid stepping repeatedly into that pothole. Of course, that man who said that my life would be better off without him was only partially right. It is now better off without him. However, at the time I clearly still needed to learn that lesson, so really, he was a gift.
But now I know, if a guy warns me off, I will heed his warning.
Posted: August 6th, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges | Tags: anger, Pema Chodron | 13 Comments »
For the last several days, I have been dealing with a heavy heart, struggling over how to handle a recent betrayal. I discovered that someone I cared for repeatedly lied to me, playing ever so roughly with my heart.
I have been grappling over how to respond to this, and of course how to blog about it. My first response was to try to hurt him back and to write a scathing piece that would call out what he had done. I actually had a good laugh with some of my friends about this because I had some really creative ideas. One of my friends told me that she loved how I was both honest about wanting to get revenge, yet also clear that I would never do it.
When people hurt us, it is very natural to want to strike back and cause pain in return. However, I am still a firm believer in Martin Luther King’s words that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. If I let my pain change who I am, if I let it lead me to do things that I wouldn’t feel good about, then I am the one who has to suffer that on my conscience.
Giving into my desire to react in anger would just hook me further into the drama that this person ultimately created. I love Pema Chodron’s advice not to “bite the hook” because it just keeps you involved in a space of suffering and anger. I certainly feel that there is a baited hook just dangling in front of my face, deliciously taunting me to chomp down on it. Yet luckily I am not a fish. I have a brain (and more importantly the mindfulness) to resist that temptation because I can foresee where it would lead me.
Chodron warns that when we give into anger, it can make us feel “more afraid and therefore more vulnerable or more subject to being able to catch the anxiety in the atmosphere and spin off into wanting to protect ourselves.” I regretfully admit that one of my first reactions to this situation was to question the nature of humanity, to question my ability to trust others. I knew this would be a temporary feeling because I am generally an optimist who sees the best in people, but I did pass a very dark day or so in which I saw people in a very negative light.
In my spinning, I considered cutting myself off from certain friends and removing myself from the dating scene altogether in the hopes of avoiding anyone who might lie like that to me again. I sat with that emotion, and I talked about it with my friends. And I laughed at myself for allowing one person to color my vision of everyone else. I also actively looked for the good in the people around me. I spent a lovely couple of days with old friends, who love and accept me so deeply. Their friendship and compassion helped me remember how much community and support I really have.
Today my yoga teacher uncharacteristically started us with a seated meditation with our hands over our hearts. She quoted Shakespeare “Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.” I did that and the response was that when I open my heart, I always find others who have open hearts as well. Instead falling into the temptation to distance myself from others, I engaged with them, and I was rewarded by loving kindness. This weekend alone, one friend took me out to lunch, another helped me move a sofa on a very hot and humid day, and several others reached out to me to get together. If I had stayed in anger and fear, I would have missed all that.
So those are the lessons that I have learned so far from a difficult and painful experience. I know better than to let one individual make me bitter. Yet I think that all of us have moments like that, especially when dealing with divorce. When someone you love betrays you, it is easy to lose faith in people, and in love. However, my experience has been that there are always good people out there. You just have to be patient, persistent, and compassionate. When I keep an open mind and an open heart, those setbacks don’t derail me for long. They just remind me to go out and find the beauty that resides in so many people.