Friday, September 27, 2013

It All Happens In Due Time

This has been an extended week full of celebration, and on my actual birthday I woke up to a beautiful bouquet of flowers that my brother had sent, together with a very kind message.  I then proceeded to open all my gifts, which were thoughtful beyond belief.  Every single one of my immediate family members checked in, and no one could believe I was doing a trial on my birthday, but I was really looking forward to it-- all we were arguing about was the fair distribution of assets.  It doesn't get any cleaner than that, and I also knew that no matter what, I would end the day going to a nice dinner with my favorite little person in the whole wide world.  So why the tears?

Nine months ago, my grandmother passed away at the age of 97.  I did not shed a single tear at her funeral, and my voice did not even crack as I gave the eulogy.  Since then, however, I have been thinking about her lessons a lot.  She was not just religious, but very spiritual.  She taught me how to pray, and warned me to beware of evil spirits.  She believed deeply in community service and the need to show gratitude for what we have in life.  To her, every day was a blessing, and she always reminded me that death was inevitable, so there was no point in fearing it.  She was so amazingly strong and independant-- never believing she needed a man to complete her, which come to think of it is pretty radical for a woman in her time. (I realize this does explain a lot about me.)

This woman that raised me was actually far wiser than I gave her credit for, until recently.  She never believed in debt, and never became attached to things.  Hers was an incredibly simple existence, which is actually quite genius.  She never got caught up in the drama of others, and never complained when things did not go her way, because she fundamentally believed that everything happened for a reason, and she never deluded herself into thinking that she actually had any power to control others.  All she knew she could ever do was stay true to herself and her beliefs, and that is exactly what she did until the day she died, quite peacefully with a tremendous amount of love and admiration from all those she touched during her life time.

For reasons I cannot fully articulate, these past few months I have really felt her presence, and I've been following her advice a lot.  Everyone around me has noticed a palpable difference, even in some of my writings it should by now be quite obvious.  Somehow, it is as if she knew it was time to let go of her vessel, so that she could perhaps become a freer energy source, and maybe this was her final gift to me so that this way we could be closer than we have been in years, ever since her mind and body really started to decline.

Out of nowhere, the tears began to flow at oddly peaceful times this week, which is a bit shocking to someone who maybe cries once or twice a year.  Luckily, I figured it out rather quickly-- it's because I now have to accept that I will never hear her voice again on my birthday, something I just took for granted for the last 40 years.  I will never again be able to hear her laugh or feel her embrace.  She never got to see me on national tv this summer or see our family's story published in my children's book, not that this would matter much to her, but she was always supportive of my endeavors as long as I was happy. 

I finally understand why people say that after you lose a loved one, it is special occassions and holidays that are the toughest.  I'm just glad people warned me that this is common, and I'm eternally grateful to those that encouraged me to go see her when she first had her stroke, so I was able to say good-bye before she actually left this Earth.   It was easy to let her go then of course, because she was not well.  There was no doubt that it was her time then, just as it is mine now to finally mourn the loss of one of the gentlest souls I've ever met.

Everything really does happen in due time, and as the song says, "it's my party, and I can cry if I want to."  :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10 Reasons to Live Apart, and Yet Together

In the New York Times Real Estate section last week there was an article about couples "Living Apart Together," and it featured a few committed couples (even married ones) that have been together for years, yet they maintain separate apartments, unwilling to give up their real estate.  Of course, I've been asked to comment on what I think of this idea, so here it goes: For those of us over 40 that enjoy our independance, I think this is a genius solution to some major arguments.  Here are the top 10 reasons I think this arrangement would eliminate some major issues between couples:

1. No need to compromise on closet space, decorating styles or put up with a person's lack of taste.  You can each do what you want with your own place.

2. What do you care about another person's mess when it is not in your space?

3. If you hate seeing junk food in your fridge, guess what? No problem! Stock your own fridge with what you like.

4. If you are a light sleeper and the other person is a snorer, super easy solution, go back and crash in your own bed!

5. If you are an early riser and your partner is a vampire, no biggie-- start your day bright and early, and meet up with the vamp when s/he is ready.

6. Money management- what do you care how someone manages their finances if it doesn't impact you? As long as those collection notices are not in your mailbox, not your problem.

7. Dividing up chores- not something you even need to discuss because you are each responsible for your own domain.

8. Tv junkie vs. quiet reader?  No need to battle this one out-- you can each retreat to your own place for a little personal time.

9. Procrastinator vs. task master wars should be minimal given each person's ability to control his/her own schedule, except when coordinating dates or vacations together, and if you can't even do this then you shouldn't be together.

10. High versus low sex drives- now this one is a biggie.  Hopefully these couples can find a comfortable pace that works for both, but certainly the time apart should help the one with a lower drive recoup, while the other one can just store up some excess energy for the next round.

All these things might seem petty, but they add up and can ruin relationships that once were so much fun.  Also, the older you get, the harder it is to compromise on some of these things.  Living with someone 24/7 is just tough, and although we all want to be loved, that doesn't necessarily mean we need to share a bed with that person every single night. 

It took me a long time post-divorce to get used to sleeping in my bed without lining up the pillow next to me so that it felt like someone was there.  Now, I love having my own bed, and I have no problem telling someone to head home because I've got an early morning.  That my friends is progress!    So, what do I think about living apart while staying together?  As long as it works for the two people involved, fantastic.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

When I started blogging almost 3 years ago, I didn't set out to become the Carrie Bradshaw of divorce, but apparently word around town is that this should be my new nickname.  Kind of fitting then that at last night's charity event, I am the one who won the "Sex in the City" basket, which included a cute pair of golden, glittery shoes that I'm dying to wear some day soon.  But what is really funny is to see people's reaction when they learn something about me that wasn't on any Facebook post, tweet or blog.  They start to wonder if they missed one of my updates, and this is when I get to clue them in that not everything goes online. 

Despite what you might see on the internet, no one leads a completely charmed life.  We all have our crosses to bear, and not everyone needs to know about this stuff-- that is what your inner circle is for, and these should be people that can maintain your secrets.  Once you have worked through the hardship, by all means share the good news with everyone, but try to fly under the radar with your crap.

Personally over the years, I grew tired of all the bad news I would hear all day at work, only to come home to more bad news on tv, and these days it really has gotten worse.  A few years ago I decided not to add to this negativity, and I wish everyone would do their part to do the same.  There are enough sad stories out there.  What we all need is a little inspiration, a reason to keep going and maintain some hope in a brighter future.  Apparently, I am not alone in this line of thinking, and for those wanting a quick read with some tips on how to develop a more positive attitude, I highly recommend Dr. Wayne Dyer's book, Inspiration.

Ever since I can remember I always heard people talk about karma, but it is only through the years that I've really come to understand what this means.  We really do reap what we sow, and everything is not always as it seems.  As a young attorney, I was so eager to fight for justice and make sure that the truth prevailed in court.  Only over time did I learn that not all battles can be won inside a courtroom, and there may be other forces at work that I don't know about.  In my 20's I stupidly believed I had the power to make things right.  It is only now in recent years that I humbly realize I  can't control anything other than my own actions, and it is with this in mind that I've come to understand, discretion really is the better part of valor. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Seize the Day- It Really Makes All the Difference in Life

There are a million books out there about how to be happier, get more out of life, increase productivity, etc., and if I had to summarize them all for you it would be with 2 words: Carpe Diem, which is Latin for seize the day.

Most anxiety stems from worrying too much about the future, and depression from dwelling too much on the past, so try to spare yourself all this grief and just enjoy the moment!  Staying present takes effort, but with practice, it can be done, and when you get there try to pay attention to those special moments when certain life-changing opportunities arise, and then don't freak out or psych yourself out, just go for it.

They say people benefit from real life examples that help illustrate various theories, so I'm going to share 8 significant moments in the last 30 years that changed my life completely, and it was all about being at the right place at the right time and then seizing the moment:

1. Gymnastics- At age 11, I happened to walk by the YMCA gym during a rhythmic gymnastics exhibition, and I was struck by the beauty of the ribbon and the dance movements.  I went home that night and begged my mother to let me enroll in their classes.  By age 18 when I retired from the sport, I was an Elite Class I national gymnast, ranked among the top 20 in the U.S.

2. Andover- At age 13, I was minding my own business in homeroom at JHS 185 in Queens when I got called down to the principal's office.  There was a recruiter from the Oliver Scholars Program that wanted to meet with me about the possibility of a scholarship given my test scores, which had me at the top 10% for students in NYC, and the fact that I was a minority in honor roll.  Again, I went home and begged my mom to let me apply, and this is how I wound up with 3 free years of tuition at one of the country's best private schools in New England.

3. Marriage- I came home from a year in Spain, and by chance met a man, who is 5 years older than me, in New York the summer before I was returning to finish my studies at Georgetown.  We stayed in touch, and 4 years later he became my husband.  We stayed together for 12 years and had a child together, and even though the marriage did not last, I am eternally grateful for all those years and our experiences together.

4. Legal Career- It was not until after I graduated from GW Law that I realized how much I really wanted to pursue a career in family law, and while I was awaiting my bar results and working at a general practice firm, I happened to write a letter to Robert Liotta, who was considered among the best DC divorce lawyers, requesting a meeting.  As soon as I got sworn in by the bar, I started working for him, and he became the best mentor I've ever had the last 15 years.

5. TV & Radio- I never dreamed of having my own tv show or doing radio for a year, and yet when these opportunities presented themselves, there was this strange feeling that came over me, and I just had to go with my gut.  It turns out, this was the best way for me to share my ideas about a kinder approach to family law on a much broader scale than ever before.  This week, I just aired my 50th tv episode, and most of the shows I've done related to my field are on Youtube, which can be viewed by anyone around the world.

6. Social media- I never intended to sign up for Linkedin, Twitter or become a blogger-- but my friends all encouraged me to do so, and it turns out these have all become great ways for me to further share my ideas about healthy relationships, the challenges of dating, and work-life balance.  With over 900 contacts on Linked In, I've had some of my blogs go viral, with a very recent one about Top Ten Signs You Are Falling Out of Love reaching over 650 viewers.  I guess people like to know that I feel their pain.  Yes, indeed I do.

7. Finding Family- In Jan. 2011 I happened to find my uncle's contact information, which was on a tiny business card that I'd been given 20 years ago.  I instantly tried the number on the card, and by an amazing act of grace, he happened to still work at the same place, and he agreed to help me reconnect with my father, who then flew to DC in Feb. 2011 to meet me.  Since then, I've been blessed with the love and warmth of this amazing extended family, and it is this part of my journey that has brought me such peace in the last few years.

8. Children's Book- Gina the Gymnast was my son's idea, and it would never have fully come together without my chance encounter of my co-author, Pia, who is a fellow Georgetown alumna.  We both volunteer a lot for our alma mater, and at a recent event I was sharing with her my frustration at all the challenges I was facing with the publishing world and finding an illustrator.  Having just gone through this herself with her own book, she agreed to help me, and this is the only way I was finally able to release the book last month.

I am eternally grateful to all those that helped me along the way the last 40 years.  No doubt, it has been a wild journey-- especially the last few years, and let me be totally honest if someone had handed me the script 30 years ago and said this is the role we want you to play, I would have probably said "no way- it's not possible."  But by not focusing on the entire journey, and just taking baby steps each and every day, it all worked out okay-- well almost, I'm still working on the finding a life partner piece. :)

Who knows what the future holds for any of us?  All I can tell you is that the hardest game to play is the one you have to play inside your own head-- you have to psych yourself up for challenges and not allow yourself to wallow in self pity whenever you suffer a setback.  You need to learn to ride the waves yourself-- it's not something anyone can actually teach you despite all the great works out there.  Until you put the theory to practice, it's all useless information. 

Now go have some fun, and seize the day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words

Most of us can talk a pretty good game, but do your actions match your words?  If you keep saying you are sorry, but you don't change your behavior, most rational human beings are eventually going to stop believing you are really sorry.  If you keep making promises, and then you break them, most will eventually walk away because the pain of dealing with constant disappointment is simply too great.  This is just food for thought on a more personal level, but today I want to go much broader, focusing on community involvement.

If you are really committed to a cause, it is through your actions that you really prove it, not just words.  By now, I can only hope I've proven my commitment to promoting healthy relationships, education and helping families.  These are my causes, which is why the last 15 years I've volunteered so much for the DC court, local bar assocations, and my alma maters.  The last 5 years, I have really enjoyed lecturing at the law schools and interacting more with students, meanwhile thanks to the media I've been able to share my ideas on a much broader level, especially through my published works and appearances on tv and radio.  All these efforts have been made possible through tremendous support from my friends, and for that I am eternally grateful, but let's be real, I can't change the world by myself and I'm not going to live forever, so I really want to encourage everyone in whatever capacity you can to do your part to help improve our society.

Writing a check is easy, but actually taking the time to connect with young minds is a truly special gift that all of us are able to make-- whether it is agreeing to be a mentor to someone from your former schools, being a chaperone on a field trip for your child's class, or picking a local non-profit that helps those in need.  Thus far, out of 48 shows that have aired, I've featured 10 organizations that help families in our area, including:

     The Self Help Center in MoCo;
     Living in Pink;
     National Institute for Relationship Enhancement;
     Living Classrooms;
     Becky's Fund;
     College Tracks;
     Parent Encouragement Program; and
     Junior Achievement.

There are more scheduled for this season of Making It Last, and I hope these episodes will inspire others to get a bit more involved in helping families in our community.  The best way to show you that these experiences are immensely rewarding is to try and showcase some of the amazing work these groups are doing.  This week's episode with Junior Achievement, which promotes financial literarcy for kids in grades K-12 is particularly dear to me, as I got to share my own experience as a volunteer this spring.  Hope you enjoy the show & for more info on JA check out:


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Helping Kids Make Sense of Nonsense

As most of you know, I don't sugar coat things, and when I talk to kids, I like to keep it real-- obviously in an age-appropriate manner.  So, when I was watching the news last night with my son, and we heard the various accounts from the survivors of the Navy Yard shooting, I did not switch to the Disney channel, but rather we watched until the end and then I let him ask me questions. 

Interestingly enough one of the first ones was whether I had to work in DC, because he thought it might be safer if I just worked from home.  It was with great sadness that I could see the concern in his eyes, and yet I flat out refused to let him think that we can just hide from all the dangers in the outside world.  We have to accept that anything can happen at any moment, and this is exactly why you have to live life to the fullest, each and every day.

Bad things happen every single day, yet I definitely think we are seeing a spike in violent behavior because so many feel disenfranchised these days.  The divide between the rich and poor is so vast, and thanks to the information age, we can all see exactly how much the "haves" and "have nots" lead drastically differently lives.

Social media is great in some ways, but I'm sure it can really make many feel ostracized, especially if they don't have many friends on FB or contacts on LinkedIn.  Today, we can track all sorts of things that you never could see before-- the great parties, pretty vacations, huge family gatherings.  I happen to love seeing all of this, but imagine if these things highlighted everything you don't have?

There is a lot of anger out there, and few with good coping mechanisms.  These coping skills have to be taught early on-- how to discipline your emotions and channel your energy in a positive way are things that can be taught, and the sooner the better.  If we could all take a little more time to teach the little ones about what matters, and that they shouldn't worry about what others are doing, this will go a long way in the future for all of us.

These days, my motto has become "Keep It Simple Stupid."  A simple life, with simple needs is the best way to stay out of trouble.  Easier said than done in the DC rat race, but heck, at least I'm trying!

Whatever you do, try not to avoid difficult conversations with kids-- they need your help to make sense out of all this nonsense.  One great resource is  "Raise Your Child's Social IQ," which was written by Cathi Cohen, who did a tv segment for me last year.  After the Boston Marathon incident, I did another segment with Steve Stein, who offers some great tips for talking to kids about tragedies. Here is the link to that show:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saying Good-bye Is Never Easy

It may take two to say "I do," but you only need one to say it's over.  This is a harsh reality that many of my divorce clients grapple with during our first meeting, and often the one leaving gets villified for being the one to abandon his/her family, break the vows, and take the easy way out.  But let me just stop right here-- the easy way out is not so simple, and leavers will often have a tremendous amount of guilt and doubt to work through long after the divorce is over.  It may take them years to recover emotionally and/or financially after calling it quits, and yet the only regret is usually not having pulled the plug sooner.  Why?  Let me try to help you understand things from this perspective...

Imagine you walked down the aisle thinking you were the luckiest person in the world.  You were marrying your best friend and thought you would spend the rest of your lives together and be happy.  And things may have been really good for a while, and there was a lot of fun and laughter in those early years when you were both still young and relatively carefree.  Yet, ever so slowly, things started to change, and soon you found yourself in the position of being a nag.  Or maybe the stress of work or raising kids created this huge wedge between you that just kept growing over time.  Maybe someone with poor coping skills developed an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or worse became abusive, violent and had huge anger management issues.  Perhaps neither of you were aware of underlying psychological issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar or a borderline personality disorder that only surfaced after the marriage.  Some things truly come to light only after years of being together, and not all disorders can be fixed with some prescription for a "happy pill." 

The more upset you become about your home life, the less capable you become in other areas of your life.  These situations will take a toll on you, and you may find you've lost your appetite, that your immune system is compromised, or that you've become increasingly irritable by the tiniest of things, and you wonder how did I lose my sense of humor or zest for life?  As the disappointment grows, and you cease to feel special at home, you will become increasingly aware of the fact that you are living a terrible lie.  Keeping up the facade will become unbearable, and death may even start to seem appealing compared to the torturous existence of living with a ghost-- a person that looks like someone you once loved profoundly, but that person has long since died.

If you try your best to address the issues in your relationship, but find yourself getting no where, you will eventually hit rock bottom, and I promise you there will be a moment where you will ask yourself, "how can I continue to live this way?"  Only by hitting rock bottom will you then realize, I've got to go.  You have to leave, in order to save yourself.  It's not that the other person is necessarily "evil" or "bad" it is that co-existing together has ceased to be a viable option.  The last thing you want to be is Mr. & Mrs. Twit in R. Dahl's book, where that lovely wedded couple wound up killing each other.  And so you leave, so that both of you can live.

Having left several situations myself, and after 15 years of helping others through their divorce, I am telling you from all these experiences that leaving is never easy, but then again doing the right thing is rarely easy. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's Your Kryptonite?

The other day, I was talking to one of my girlfriends about the various opportunities that have presented themselves in the dating world over the past few months, and it was really funny when I mentioned a younger man, she instantly perked up and leaned in to warn me, "watch out- those young ones are like kryptonite."  I laughed out loud, and then assured her that I'm actually well aware of my kryptonite-- brainiacs in their 40's with light eyes, who clearly work out and dress well.  For someone that always seems to have something to say, I promise you a few of these guys have rendered me speechless at first glance.  Luckily, I recover quickly.

Whatever your kyptonite is, I encourage you to learn to be really aware of it, and then do your best to not let your emotions cloud your judgment.  Life is about learning to discipline your emotions, unless you want to lead a completely chaotic life that always makes you feel out of control.  If you feel this way, it is because you have relinquished too much power to others, and you have not figured out a way to rein in your emotions.  This is not a skill they teach in school, it's something you have to learn over time with experience.  Sadly, some never learn this lesson.

Too many people yield to the temptation of instant gratification without thinking through the long term consequences.  Instead of getting caught up in the moment, buy yourself some time to think through the cause and effect of a particular action.  Not enough people do this, and that is exactly what I then have to deal with every day at work-- cleaning up major messes, and let me just add that I'm not a miracle worker, and some really unfortunate results can never be undone.

Think (not with the lower part of your body) before you react to something or act on an impulse.  There is a lot of temptation out there now, and a booty call is just a click or text message away for most. Just remind yourself that for every action, there will be a reaction.  Do a cost/benefit anaylsis, and ask yourself seriously, does the good outweigh the bad? 

Each choice we make will come with some loss, that is just a fact of life.  But what you need to be able to do is live with the choices you make, each and every day-- and remember, you don't operate in a vacuum, others will also be impacted by your choices, and loved ones should be part of your equation. 

Get to know your kryptonite, own it, and then find a way to immunize yourself from stupidity.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Post-Divorce Dating 101

There is a definite difference between guys & girls when it comes to post-divorce dating.  Most of my female clients cringe when I mention it, whereas most of my male clients jump right to that issue before I've even gotten to the point that dating while you are still married can be a tricky issue legally, let alone emotionally.  Why such a stark difference?  Well, mainly because women are more likely going to take a bit longer to process their emotions, and the loss associated with the divorce.  Guys on the other hand, well let's just say they are far more apt to look for love in all the wrong places while they sort things out.  I'm not knocking the strategy at all-- I actually quite understand the need to conquer and rebuild the ego quickly, and to be honest, girls may want to take a page from their book and get back on the scene sooner rather than later. 

At whatever rate, and through whatever method you decide to jump back into dating, just be kind to yourself.  It is going to take some time to re-learn the art of flirting, especially with all the advances in modern technology.  Trial and error is the only way you will find your mojo, but if I can suggest one thing it is that you try to do no harm.  Be conscious of where you are, and where others may want you to be.  Don't promise more than what you are capable of and don't demand more of others than what they can give you at the moment. 

We all need to feel human and loved, but navigating the playing field can be tricky.  There are a couple of popular blogs I've written that are a great intro to dating again:

Dating in the 21st Century;
The Kiss of Death When Dating; 
5 Tips to Playing 20 Questions;
The Secret to Surviving the Dating Game;
Safe Sexting; and
Why Smart Women Date Inappropriate Men.

This past week on my tv show, I had psychotherapist Shari Pfeffer cover some tips on how to approach dating in a much healthier, less harmful way for everyone involved.  She highly recommends divorced individuals may want to look into a non-profit group called New Beginnings, and I will be featuring this organization in upcoming segment later this year.  In the meantime, here is the link to our show on show on conscious dating:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why Does Marriage Counseling Fail So Often?

I have not kept track with complete accuracy, but over the last 15 years in my divorce consults I can safely estimate that over 75% of my clients have sought counseling long before they ever came to see me and decided to call it quits.  This begs the question then, with so many great resources, including seminars and books out there about how to make your marriage last, and so many skilled professionals ready to help couples work through their issues, how is it that over 50% of these couples still wind up getting divorced?  The answer is quite simple: they waited too long. 

When too much damage has been done to a relationship, there comes a point where you just can't turn back and undo all those little acts that on their own might have seemed minor, yet when put together, grossly tipped the scales in favor of getting out and ending the pain rather than staying in and risking further injury to your ego or mental health.

According to Dr. Peck, it is normal to fall out of love-- but as soon as that honeymoon phase ends, that is when the real work needs to begin.  As soon as you find that your partner is starting to irritate you, you can't dig your head in the sand.  You have to be honest with yourself, and the other person about what is bothering you, otherwise it will not just get better on its own.

When you find yourself flirting with others, staying late at work, or going out solo with your friends because you'd rather avoid going home at all cost-- this is exactly when you need to actually get your butt home and figure out how you can change the dynamic of things.  Waiting for things to improve on their own is simply not going to happen.

There is definitely a point of no return, especially once you've come to the point that you no longer care what happens one way or the other.  Why? Because the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.  Once I've lost respect and shut off my feelings towards someone, good luck trying to get me to care again.  No amount of spark plugs are going to re-start that engine.

In life, while doors may shut in our faces, I always try to look for those windows of opportunity.  In love, you really have to grab hold of those windows and push them open to breath new life into your relationship.  If you see conflict as a potential for growth, and you are willing to ask yourself and your partner tough questions, I believe you can work through issues and get to a better place by understanding one another more deeply.  But if you wait too long, and with each argument you find yourself resenting the relationship more and more, I promise you those scales will tip, and they will tip fast, to the point where things will be beyond repair. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Open Marriages & Outsourcing

Let me state upfront that I completely lack the capacity to be in an open marriage, and I will venture to say that almost no one walks down the aisle thinking they will have an open marriage or will need to outsource their sexual needs.  However, long after the honeymoon phase is over, things do start to break down-- especially around the 7 year mark, which is when 50% of all divorces occur.  At this juncture, some people find it easier to maintain the status quo at home and just have others meet needs that aren't being met at home. 

Outsourcing happens a lot, and of course I only see the 50% that finally decide to call it quits and get out of their marriage, but I am well aware of the fact that many others just continue to sleep in separate bedrooms and lead separate lives under one roof while agreeing to an open marriage.  Many of my clients have admitted to maintaining a separate lives arrangement for 3-9 years, often applying a don't ask don't tell policy.  I guess to them ignorance is bliss? 

When pressed as to why they'd stay in this kind of situation for so long, the most common excuse is that they stayed together because of the kids.  Really?  I don't quite understand that-- because what behavior are you modeling for your children by staying in a loveless marriage?  Are you trying to instill in our youth that if something is comfortable and easy, you shouldn't rock the boat, even though you are dying on the inside?  Is the message you want to send that money matters more than your integrity or happiness?

The decision to divorce is not an easy one, but if you can't fix the relationship you have with your spouse, then why wouldn't you leave?  Kids are resilient, and they will be fine as long as you keep it together. (See Dr. Emery's book "The Truth About Children and Divorce.)   Children are not stupid, and they can often sense that their parents are miserable.  Who wants to subject a child to growing up in a tense environment?  More than anything, they need stable, healthy parents, who can model good behavior and loving relationships.  You don't need an intact marriage to do this, I see it done every day by hundreds of divorced parents. 

Ultimately, I find open marriages and the tactic to outsource certain needs is just a short-term fix, whereby you are delaying the inevitable, and perhaps the reasons for doing this are based on some false assumptions.  Divorce is painful, no doubt, but no one has ever died from a divorce.  Meanwhile everyday we see people die much earlier than anticipated as a result of stress, anxiety, and depression-- so really it isn't just about choosing happiness in my opinion, it's about choosing to live, with greater honesty and integrity to boot. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Swimming with Sharks

The other day, one of my guy friends told my son that he is like a shark, and that "sharks constantly have to stay in motion so that they don't sink."  Hilarious advice from one of the best sharks I've ever met, and yet in my opinion he missed the mark here.  It is my experience that people stay in constant motion precisely because internally they have an issue with just being still.  Often I find that those that are always on the go are either avoiding thoughts about the past or they are way too anxious about the future, and so they are running around like chickens with their heads cut off most of the time, not taking a moment to just breath and enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty of their current surroundings.

How do I know all of this?  Because I was once a shark in constant motion, and only in the last decade have I mellowed and come to enjoy downtime.  It is my son that has calmed me down, and because of him I learned to appreciate the simple joys in life, like his laughter.  Of course, seeing this  softer side has thrown some of my shark friends for a loop.  I get it-- how could they ever understand that one of the best gamers has opted out of the games both at work and at home?  Well, a lot had to do with the realization that DC's shark tank isn't a safe place to raise a guppy.

My attitude shift towards becoming a more peaceful warrior did not happen overnight, but slowly over the past 8 years in my post-divorce life, I have had to re-evaluate everything.  I've had to give up attachments to a lot of things, not just tangible items, and question deeply seeded notions of what people define as mainstream "success."

Professionally, after 15 years of litigating some of the worst divorces in town I've grown tired of feeling like Macbeth with my hands covered in blood.  As I've continued to develop a more hollistic approach to divorce in my work life, it has gently taken hold in my personal life as well, which is why many of my friends were not at all surprised this summer to see me reading such books as Buddism for Beginners, The Four Agreements, The Laws of Spirits, and the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. 

It is a difficult process to let go and find the courage to live your own life, and no one can tell you the exact path your journey will take or how long it will be before you find your way to true freedom, but the experience is amazing and one that many have written about extensively to provide others with inspiration.  This blog is my humble effort to share some of my own stories so that others may find their own way over time.  But in the meantime, let's be real.  There will always be sharks out there, and many will remain sharks forever, so unless I want to leave the shark tank, I have to come to peace with their true nature, and luckily I have.  

Both on and off the clock, I still swim with sharks every day.  Truth be told, I've grown up with them my whole life, so I get them and I actually like them-- I love their brilliant minds, energy and power.   Professionally, I respect them and in the dating world, well let's just say I find them hilarious.  Always on the move- these sharks are some of the best story tellers around!   I just have to make sure to keep my guppy out of the shark infested waters-- that may be mommy's playground but not his.

Even certain grown ups should stay out of the shark tank.  Swimming with sharks is not for the feeble, that's for sure. While those sharks whiz by you, you have to stay centered and be true to yourself.  It's easy to get thrown off kilter and get caught up with the constant motion of those around you, but you need to keep in mind that it is okay to take a break, go at your own pace and make your own rules. 

One last thing I'll say about swimming with sharks:  They are dangerous creatures that can't be tamed by others, and that fact will not change. So, every now and then, you may want to find a dingy that can appreciate you physically as a human being and not a killing machine.  It's totally okay to do that-- just don't confuse a dingy with a life boat!