Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Letting Go of Regrets

For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 
'It might have been.'
John Greenleaf Whittier

Are you experiencing feelings of regret? Are you stuck in could have, would have, should have thinking? And, are these holding you back from moving forward in your life and towards finding a new romantic partner?

As we near the end of 2010, take this opportunity to examine your life choices so that you may resolve any lingering regrets. This will allow you to step into the new year with a fresh slate ... ready, willing and able to reach your goals.

With your "baggage" tightly packed into the carry-on size, you can think about what you want to accomplish. One way to clarify what you want is to write a Life Mission Statement.

1. Think about what you consider to be the most important to you in life. Choose 3 items and write them down. Here are a few examples, although there are many more from which to choose.
"I want"
...to be content
...to embrace spirituality
...to be indendent in thought
...to be a true friend and for it to be reciprocated
...to be wise or have a mature understanding of life
...to have a pleasurable life
...to have excitement in my life
...to experience world peace
...to find mature love
...to have the ability to make a contribution
...to feel needed
...to feel inner harmony
...to have a comfortable life (security)
...to have self respect
...to be socially recognized

2. For each of the three you have chosen, write down three ways you demonstrate this value in your life and three ways you feel it in your soul. (see the example below after #4)

3. Choose the top answer in each category and use it in the following sentence.
In my life I am committed to _____________, _______________, and ______________. I choose to have that show up in my life by my commitment to ___________, _____________, and ________________. I demonstrate these values through _________________, ______________________, and ____________________________.

4. Read your statement aloud and refine it as necessary. You can start each day with your Mission Statement to help you focus on what is most important to you in life. Then go out and make it happen!

My Top 3 Values: Spirituality, Freedom and Mature Love
How I Demonstrate Each of These
Spirituality: writing, being kind/helpful, meditation
Freedom: walking to my own drumbeat, constructing my life journey, continually learning
Mature Love: behaving nicely, respecting other, listening to others

How I Feel About Each of These
Spirituality: accepting, recognizing my inner knowing, being present
Freedom: remaining uncluttered, connected to nature, releasing expectations
Mature Love: be at peace, be in acceptance, be responsive

Choosing from the above list, my Life Mission Statement might read:
In my life I am committed to spirituality, freedom and mature love. I choose to have that show up in my life by my commitment to recognizing my inner knowing, living a life that is not cluttered with negative thoughts (or by living in a state of positivity), and living in acceptance of my partner. I demonstrate these values through writing, walking to my own drumbeat, and behaving nicely.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 Dating Etiquette Tips

Can first dates be considered an interview of sorts? Although you want to be careful not to grill your date, you are trying to get a sense of him or her and he or she of you.

For better results, here are ten dating etiquette tips.

1. Dress consistently with how you want to be viewed. Messy attire sends the message that this meeting is not important. Put your best foot forward. You are marketing the most important product you have: YOU!

2. Be prompt, or even arrive a few minutes early. This exhibits respect for your date and can also alleviate your own stress. By timing your arrival, you can acclimate to the surroundings and compose yourself rather than rushing in at the last minute and taking the beginning of your time together feeling stressed and anxious.

3. Put your cell phone away. No texting, e-mailing, taking calls, or even sneaking a peek at  your phone in the midst of conversation. Either leave your phone in the car or place it on silent mode and out of sight.

4. Be friendly and greet your date with a warm and welcoming smile. If you are naturally shy, think of it as putting on your 'game face.'

5. Be genuinely interested in what your date has to say. Use active listening skills and ask appropriate questions. Be neither an over-talker, where you jump in before your date even finishes his/her thought, nor a conversation monopolizer who doesn't allow a date to speak at all.

6. Focus on your date. No wandering eyes! This demonstrates respect and interest in the person and conversation.

7. Be aware of your body language. It sometimes speaks louder than your words. You may have a smile on your face, but your body language might be screaming: "I'm defensive." "I'm just waiting for you to say one wrong thing and I'm out of here." or "I'm angry."

8. Don't be argumentative. Consider different points of view as valid. At this juncture, it's just easier to agree to disagree.

9. Think before you speak. Don't blurt out any random thought you may have. This is a virtual stranger to whom you are speaking, and you don't know enough about him/her to be able to gauge a reaction on what may be a sensitive subject.

10. Don't allow the conversation to be all about ME-ME-ME! Although you want to be at your best and show a person who you are and of what you are made, you certainly don't want to hit your date in the head with this information. Consequently, no bragging about your long list of accomplishments and awards, your Architectural Digest perfect home, etc. Let your self-worth be evident in your respectful attitude towards your date, whether you like him/her or not!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How To P.I.C.K. A Romantic Partner

As we grow each day, we evolve into better versions of ourselves. Keep the best of the "old you" and combine it with new talents, thoughts and ideas. 

Personally, I can't let go of that high school English teacher inside of me. Therefore, I need to give you a mnemonic device to help you remember four terrific characteristics that are desirable in a potential partner.

Use this criteria to help you P.I.C.K. a mate.

This is someone who is enthusiastic about life. He/she looks at the sunny side and sees obstacles as opportunities. He/she wants what he/she has at the moment and lives in gratitude about it.

This person adheres to a moral code, which is one that meshes with yours.

This person acts with steady continuity. His actions and words are always the same.

This is a kind, compassionate, sympathetic person who shows concern for his/her fellow man and the world at large.

Although these are not the only qualities for which to be on the lookout, they certainly are a good foundation upon which to build. 

Happy P.I.C.K.ing!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Dates Can Be Fun!

If you haven't dated in 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years, the prospect of doing so can be a little daunting. The rules have changed and you may need a refresher course. One way to learn is to jump right in and get on-the-job training!

If you change your perspective, this "training" can be fun, rather than anxiety inducing.

I could never understand why people don't like first dates. I thought they were great. Each one is a chance for a do-over. Now, a do-over is my most favorite concept, which I learned when I was 15 years old. I was sort of nerdy and unpopular in high school, although I knew others just weren't seeing the inner me. I was put in a box at a young age, categorized by my peers because that is how people usually relate to each other. No matter how I changed, no one would look at me with fresh eyes. When I went to a summer camp where no one knew me, I decided that I would be a smilier version of myself  -- "Ellen Lite!" 

My do-over worked. I was popular, dated the boy every other girl wanted and learned that we each can be so powerful in our own lives, if we take the initiative. I've used this concept of the do-over my whole life, recreating or reinventing myself many times over. To read the entire story of "The Do-Over", which is the first chapter of Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story, click here.

Consider looking at a first date as the ultimate do-over. Each time you get rejected, examine what you think went wrong and then change it the next time around. I'm not suggesting that you become someone you are not, but refine your technique, maybe clean yourself up a bit in regard to language, clothing and hair so that you put your best foot forward. Learn how others see you and if you don't like the way you are coming across, make the appropriate changes. 

Additionally, keep the following first date tips in mind.
1. SMILE!!!! Be positive.
2. Neither monopolize the conversation nor be as quiet as a mouse.
3. Use active listening skills, verbal and non-verbal. That means no wandering eyes.
4. Be present. In the TV show, Parenthood, the main characters who are having marital problems see a therapist. To remind the husband to be present, he recites his mantra, "I hear you and I see you."
5. Be careful with your words. If something can be taken the wrong way, it will be. Thus, first dates are not a time for sarcastic remarks.
6. Use your best manners, which includes avoiding blue language.

Most of all, just have fun and accept the date for what it is and nothing more, which is a chance to connect to another person and learn about him/her and yourself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who, What, When, Where and How

Losing a mate from death, divorce or break-up is a "press pause" moment. You can compare it to pausing a recording on your television. Your life as you knew it gets derailed and so you step off the platform and take pause to figure out the facts of your life. In order to do this, you can act like a reporter on assignment by asking the five basic questions of who, what, where, when and how.

Who are you now? You are no longer a couple, but you don't really feel single.

What are going to do now that you are alone and all the circumstances of your life have changed?

Where are you going to turn? Everything seems foreign now. Think of it as a foreign film where you have to read the subtitles to understand what is going on, but either the words are blurry or it's going too fast for you to make sense of it. 

The question of where can also be taken literally. Where are you going to live now? Work now? Many widow/ers or divorced persons need to move out of their homes due to financial difficulties. Others need to go back to work to support a family.

You may question WHEN are you going to feel normal. Sorry to say, the definition of normal has changed. Now there's a new normal for you to get used to.

You may wonder, HOW am I going to get through this time. Do I have the necessary "tools" to help myself?

Let me ask you a question. What would you do if you were going to do something that you had never done before or hadn't done in a long time? You would probably look for an instruction manual or do some research to get the tools to complete this task successfully. Yet, we beat ourselves up for failing to feel better after trying to mourn our loss without any instruction on how to do it in a healthy manner.

Society just doesn't teach us how to deal with loss. It's brushed under the rug. We feel awkward around it and the bereaved are sometimes treated as if they have a disease. Working on your grief is even referred to as grief recovery. Were you ill that you needed to recover? It's more a journey we take of introspection and questioning (such as the five I posed above) to get to the other side I like to call renewal.

How to reach this seemingly elusive and far-away renewal? Well, I'm sure you have heard of the three R's in regard to learning. I have three R's that you can utilize to spur you out of mourning and towards renewal:  Rethink, Reconfigure and Refresh. 

As you review your answers to the questions of who, what, where, when and how, think about how you can redesign (and then reconstruct) your life to be able to welcome new life and new love into it.