Finding Gratitude

We all go through tough times. Some more challenging than others, but none the less life always comes with a dose of reality that shows us that things are never going to be easy. Just when I find myself wallowing in self-pity or feeling like the world is somehow working against me, I hear a story that shows me that I need to shut the hell up and be grateful for what I have. A story of a mother losing her child to suicide, a story of a young man becoming a paraplegic from a car accident, a story of a family losing everything they own in the floods in Houston or a close friend losing a loved one. That is when I put it all into perspective. Seriously, the challenges I’m faced with are nothing compared to tragedies others are facing and I need to be grateful that my struggles are minuet in comparison. My children are healthy and safe, I have a loving family that supports me and amazing friends who make me laugh…what do I have to be upset about? Yes, I have financial stress that makes me feel hopeless at times, but in the grand scheme of things…I don’t have it so bad.

When times get tough we need take a step back and take a long look at ourselves. Do I really have anything to cry about because I can’t find a decent man? Is the world going to end because I’m losing a house that I can’t wait to get rid of? Girl please!  Get a grip.  You sound like a real asshole when you’re boo hooing over something so trivial. Something that I can fix. Something that isn’t affecting the ones I love. Yes, your heart was broken and your family was torn apart, but they will mend. You can heal from divorce and the scars will fade, but death and tragedy leave lifelong wounds that never fully close.

Put everything in perspective and find gratitude for all your blessings. Get off that pity pot and get to work on loving your life and enjoying all the joy that it brings. Self-pity isn’t a good look and you’ll never attract positive things in your life if you’re too busy feeling sorry for yourself and holding on to the past. I’m not saying that divorce isn’t a difficult; it’s taken me years to process the pain and disappointment, but what I’ve learn from all of this is that you have to feel those feelings and then let them go. Holding on to the pain will only keep you tied to the past and like a rope tied to your ankle…you can only move forward as far as the rope will let you. Reach down and untether the rope once and for all. Move forward with your life and look at the past with gratitude. Be thankful for the lessons the past has taught you. Those lessons will bring you closer to what you truly deserve.

On those days when you’re feeling down, take a second look at your life and list all the things you’re grateful for. Wake up each morning with the intention to rebuild your life and become a better person. This is your opportunity to grow and learn from your mistakes; never to repeat the same ones again. Ask yourself what you love about yourself and what are some things you could do to be better.  Give back to others in need instead of living in the pit of victimization. You will grow…you will love again. Be patient instead of desperate. Know that life only brings you difficult circumstances to help you grow stronger and more resilient. Not to break you and make you weak. I am stronger and I am truly grateful for my strength and resilience. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to find my true self and not the one I molded myself into to please everyone else. Find that for yourself and dare to be who you are meant to become.

With Faith, Hope and Love

~Teresa

Breaking the Chains that Bind You

As I sit here feeling alone and longing for my next chapter to begin, I wonder how I break those chains that bind me to my past. Those chains that keep me fastened to the pain that I thought I had overcome. The pain of heartbreak and disappointment. The pain of wondering if my future holds the love that I’ve always longed for…or is this is it for me? Will I find the love that I’ve always deserved or is the past going to haunt me forever? Will the past be the one thing that keeps me from my future? As I look at the house that we built together that’s crumbling down before me, I wonder if I will ever escape these damn chains. I sit outside our backyard looking at the corrosion that grows between the bricks that we built together. The moss and weeds have taken over covering the memories of our dreams. The once clear blue water of the pool our children played in is now a swamp of grey water. The pictures of the past with smiles and hopes of the future tainted by the reality of our present. We are not a family…we are worlds apart. I grow resentful at the thought of him moving on with the life that we dreamed of living together, turning his back on what he left behind. Yet, I know that although the pictures of his new life appear happy, they are tainted too. We once had those happy smiles and the bond of the family that we built, but now we are strangers.

I’ve been avoiding the topic of what divorce does to our children. As I unpack the pictures that I stashed away in the drawer, I look at the faces of my children as they’ve grown and see the innocence that they once had was stolen away. They will never be the same. My daughter who is struggling to find love in this world of deception and lies. My sons who fail to see that by protecting their heart, prevents them from experiencing love. The pain that I have expressed the many nights they’ve heard me cry has tainted the innocence of their first love. They lost the innocence of what love can bring. Divorce changed them and there is nothing I can do to change that. I grew up in a household of two parents that stood by each other and they will never know that kind of trust. They will forever feel the loss of stability and commitment. Not to say, they are void of finding true love, but they will always hold a guarded view of what love can truly be. That is why I stayed as long as I did. I stayed in a broken marriage to try to save them, but I didn’t save them at all. They are a product of lost dreams and broken trust. The children of divorce survive, but they carry the burden of our mistakes. I can never give that back to them and shield their innocence.

The pictures are painful reminders of dreams shattered instead of happy memories. This is the only chain that binds me to my past. I don’t wish for that relationship to be restored. I only wish it didn’t hurt my children. The only bitterness I hold seeing him move on with his new life is that I’m left picking up the pieces of the shattered glass and crumbling walls. I am carrying the burden of the past he left behind long ago.

Once I am free of these crumbling walls and the bricks that I carry on my back, I can be free of this invisible prison. Until then, I am the one that has to piece them together and mend the broken hearts of my children. If you think that moving on and leaving a marriage that is salvageable is the answer to your problems, think about the effect it will have on the ones you love the most. Your children. They are the collateral damage in your mistakes. They are the ones that will be tainted by your selfish decisions to go outside your marriage to fill a needless desire. You’re not just hurting your spouse…you’re changing the trajectory of the lives of your entire family. And for what? Is it ever worth that?  The answer is always “no”. Love is worth fighting for and family is worth dying for. If you break the bond that holds your family together then you surely will be in chains the rest of your life. You’ll see the pain you caused every time you look into your child’s eyes.

Once trust is broken, it will never be the same. I wish everyone understood that before they made that selfish decision to go outside their marriage. I wish the look of pain in the faces of your family flashed before you before you decided to crawl in bed with someone else. Surely, you wouldn’t do it if you saw the disappointment and pain you would cause them.

Don’t let your family drift apart…it’s so lonely on the other side. Fight to stay connected. Do everything in your power to remember what it was that made you fall in love in the first place. Don’t focus on what they don’t do and push them farther away. Hold them close and tell them what you need to feel loved because once you drift too far away, the tide will become too strong to fight your way back to each other. Pretty soon you will be traveling in two different directions and you won’t be able to find your way back. You’ll seek attention from someone else and your bond will be gone forever. There really is no way of getting back what you once had after you’ve been betrayed. Some pretend for the sake of the kids, but without trust you have nothing. You live in fear and suspicion which makes it impossible to love again.  The resentment never fades. I know… I tried for three long years and I knew I could never see past the lies and deceit that broke our bond. I couldn’t love him because love is about trust and giving yourself fully to that person. I would never be able to trust my heart to him again and that’s when I knew it was over. Perhaps I never trusted him and held him at arms length….never fully giving him the kind of love I’m capable of giving.

This time will be different. The person I love this time will get all of me. I will never be with another man I can’t fully trust because I’ve learned that love doesn’t exist without it. It is the foundation of all relationships and you must trust that person with your entire heart in order to truly experience love. If you don’t trust the person you’re with enough to tell them what you need in order to feel safe and loved, then the relationship will start to crumble.

If this resonates with you in your current relationship then do all that you can to fight for your family. If you’re like me and your trying to heal the wounds from the chains of your past, then fight for yourself and never give up on love. You deserve all the beauty it will bring.

With Faith, Hope and Love

~Teresa

Learning to Love Again

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting people that share their joy, their pain and their insight with me. I’m not big on superficial, empty conversation…I like to get to the core of a person and see them for who they really are and I want them to see me. Through all these conversations, I’ve learned that as humans we share one very important connection. Love and pain. One person’s pain may be greater than another, but never the less pain always exists. The truth of the matter is we would never experience pain if we didn’t experience love first. The pain comes from the loss of love whether it’s heartbreak, death or abandonment. Sometimes it’s all three.

I recently met a woman that opened her soul to me and showed me her pain. Some people are uncomfortable with others sharing those deep feelings, but I find it to be a gift. It’s a gift to me because it allows me to have a deeper understanding for that person and gives me insight into the pain that shaped them into the person they are today. It allows me to see that my pain is insignificant to those who have lived through much worse and the strength of their survival.

Surviving love and loss is a universal law. In fact, loss allows us to love even more deeply than we have before. Loss can also keep us from ever loving again. I’m realizing more and more how guarded I am with my heart. My pride and unwillingness to ever be vulnerable prevents me from putting my heart on the line. I’m easily triggered if I get even an inkling that a person is not trustworthy. Instead of sharing my feelings and helping them understand why I have those triggers, I’m quick to walk away and close my heart. It’s safer there. I see women and men do this all the time. We avoid relationships that make us feel vulnerable. We’d rather be alone or be with losers that we know are emotionally unavailable because we know what we’re getting ourselves into. We know that these people don’t have the capacity to truly love us, so we pretend that using them for attention is enough. Well, it’s not enough is it?  We deserve to be loved and to share the love we have to give. Sex is empty without it. Life is empty without it.

Learning to love again has been the hardest lesson to learn. I’ve spent the past few years pretending to be healed when in actuality, I’ve been building the fucking Great Wall of China with every person I’ve met. The more I like someone…the more vulnerable I feel…another layer of bricks go up. I’ve come to realize that I have to stop the pretense of being ready to love again and actually be willing to risk it. That’s even hard for me to say never mind doing it. The truth is, I’m truly ready to love again, but I have to find someone that’s deserving of that love. Someone I can trust with my heart. Those people are hard to find because at my age, everyone has experienced some level of pain that prevents them from fully opening their heart and showing their true selves.

After heartbreak, loss or abandonment we enter relationships doing a little dance and playing games that test the other person’s level of commitment. We doubt that this person is truly genuine and look for flaws or any red flags to give us reasons to turn away. I’m guilty of this time and time again. The problem is that I can’t determine whether this is my bruised ego keeping me protected from being with the wrong  person again or is it my impenetrable wall of cynicism.  Either way, the wall is there and it’s shutting out any possibility of love.

What I’ve realized in my journey to learning to love again, is that I’m willing to try. I’m willing to be vulnerable. I’m willing to put my heart out there and I’m willing to be hurt. This is the only way I can ever experience love again. The two go hand and hand. Love and pain. Don’t let fear get in the way of experiencing the joy of being in love and the intoxication of passion. Don’t hide behind your wall of pride or the facade of dating people you know are emotionally vacant and only want you for sex. Those people won’t love you—they will only use you and throw you away like a piece of trash or recycle you when they get a little lonely. You should want and expect more for yourself.  Find self-love and respect yourself.  Realize you deserve so much more than what you have allowed in your past. Be willing to open your heart. You will survive just as you have in the past. Use your pain as a guide to avoid the pitfalls you’ve fallen into along your way. Let them see you instead of hiding behind your pain. This is what life is all about so start living and start loving.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~Teresa

Summer Lovin’

Ahhh… summer. It’s the time for relaxation, fun in the sun and a good summer romance. I think I watched the movie Grease too many times as a kid, because every summer I think I’m Sandra D about to fall in love with Danny Zuko and make out on the beach.  I just returned from our annual girl’s weekend in Portland, Maine and had the best time. Had a little too much fun perhaps, but as summer comes to an end I want to enjoy every minute of it. While I was there, something unexpected happened… I met someone and dare I say he has all the qualities I’m looking for in a guy except for the fact that he lives 3,000 miles away in London. So there’s that minor setback.

Let me set the scene of this chance encounter.  The girls and I decided to go out dancing one night and as soon as I walked in I spotted a few cute guys hanging out by the bar. One was tall dark and handsome, one was shorter with long dreadlocks and cute glasses and then there was a light skinned cutie wearing a Yankees hat. Now, picture this, we had just walked about ten blocks in heals to this club or should I say we were speed walking trying to catch up to our friend who thought it was a good idea to drink two Red Bull’s before we left.  I walk in practically panting with sweat running down my back and my hair a frizzy mess. The music was loud, the room was dark and there was a crowd of young twenty-somethings attempting to dance to 90’s R &B, Hip Hop. Let me just say their attempt was failing miserably, but it was fun to watch.

We grab a drink at the bar and move to a little corner of the room and made our own little party enjoying the music. I found myself oddly drawn to the guy in the Yankees hat…especially when the guy wearing it looks a little like Derek Jeter. Now, if you know me then you know that I wouldn’t just pick up a guy at a bar, but my friend spotted them too and wanted me to go over and talk to them. I just laughed and said, “Yea, right…have you just met me?”  She grabs my arm and says, “Let’s go to the bathroom.” (They just happened to be standing next to the restrooms).  As we’re walking over, Jeter is turned and looking the other way and the tall dark and handsome guy says hello with come f**k me eyes. Yes, he was gorgeous but I wouldn’t touch a guy like that with a ten-foot pole. He’s obviously a player and I don’t have time to play with boys. I proceed to go to the restroom and my friend decides to stop and chat, so now I have to walk back to them feeling like a rookie. I’m terrible at striking up conversation with random guys and I just want to run into the bathroom and wipe the sweat rolling down my face smearing my mascara. I reluctantly join in as they introduce themselves. Jeter shakes my hand and says, “How do you do?” in a British accent that has me instantly intrigued. I mean…come on…Derek Jeter with a British accent?? What more can I ask for? The tall one shakes my hand and molests me with his eyes along with every other woman in the place. I turn back to Jeter and ask him where he’s from. He leans in closer putting his hand to my waist and says, “I’m from London visiting my cousin on holiday.” Now I’m getting sweatier and I motion to my friend to come to the bathroom with me so I can get myself together. Of course she wants to me to go back and talk to him and I ask her what the hell I should say because I really suck at this. “Oh just come on!” as she rolls her eyes at me. We walk out and of course the tall one has a beautiful girl by his side, so I just decide to keep walking. Of course my friend, being the ‘wing-man’ that she is stops to tell Jeter that I want to dance with him. He calls my name as I’m walking past and gently grabs my hand. Your friend says you’d like to dance? (In a sexy British accent.) Like an idiot, I respond, “I didn’t say that…she did.”(I’m such a moron). Then I try to recover and make small talk and admit that I’m a little shy when it comes to talking to strange men in  bars. He replies, “you shouldn’t be at all shy…you’re such a beautiful woman.” And now I’m hooked, but of course I have to play hard to get and tell him I have to return to my friends. He says, “I don’t want to keep you from your friends, but do you think you could break away tomorrow so we can spend some time together?” “Perhaps” I replied with a grin on my face as he hands me his phone asking me to put my number in.  I do so reluctantly and walk back to the group and they’re all looking at me with disgust. I told them to relax and that we set up a date tomorrow, so they quickly forgave the fact that I wasn’t still over there talking to him. Long story short, excluding all the juicy details, we spent the next couple evenings hanging out and getting to know each other and he asked if we can stay in touch and see each other when he visits NYC on business. Umm, is the Pope Catholic? Hell yea…I will. Turns out this guy was a complete sweetheart and maybe a long distance romance is just what I need right now. I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket, but I’m open to seeing how it works out. If nothing else, I finally got the ‘summer lovin’ experience I’ve always fantasized about and hopefully he won’t turn into a big jerk like Travolta did in Grease.

With everything going on in my messy life, this is a good distraction. I’m so intrigued by this guy because he leads a pretty exciting life traveling all over the world, but has a big soft spot for his ten-year-old daughter that keeps him grounded. He has a lot of qualities I would look for in a man and although it’s unfortunate that he lives so far away, you never know what could happen. Sure, long distance relationships rarely work out, but why not stay open-minded to the possibility? I believe everyone comes into your life to teach you more about yourself in order for the healing process to take place. Perhaps that’s why he is here. Perhaps he will help me open my heart just a little bit more because my expectation is that there is little chance of this turning into something more. I wasn’t looking for a summer romance, but I’m glad it found me. It gives me hope that chance encounters can happen when you least expect it, but it would have passed me by if my girlfriend didn’t open the door and push me through (literally…she pushed me over to him). All I’m saying is open the doors and let someone in, because they could turn out to be the love of your life or at the very least a great teacher. Let down your guard and trust that taking a chance on love is better than letting it pass you by. Even when a relationship fizzles it leaves memories of good times and brings you closer to what is meant for you.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~ Teresa

Writing Your Own Narrative

It occurred to me recently that two people in the same relationship can have very different perspectives on just about everything. We all know that women and men think differently and don’t perceive the same occurrences through the same lens, but it goes beyond that really. Every time we argue with someone it’s because we want the other person to see things the same way we do. We are right and they are wrong. We often go outside of the relationship to a third party to get validation that indeed we are right, because that third party is only hearing our perspective. Would they feel that way if they heard the other side? Would they justify a person’s behavior if they put themselves in the other person’s shoes? Probably not.

What I’ve come to realize is that no one is completely wrong or completely to blame for the demise of any relationship. We all play a part in one way or another or we have allowed the other person’s pain to be an excuse to be cruel or deceitful. We justify or dismiss the lies that this person has used as a free pass for redemption. We have enabled the dysfunction and sacrificed our own joy in hopes that one day they will get better or they will miraculously heal and change. That is why the abused get abused. They create a story in their mind to be the savior to the wretched.  To love the unlovable. After all you can’t love someone who doesn’t love themselves. Those are the people that build the façade of the perfect life to cover the darkness that they feel in their hearts.

I know this is all a little too deep for some, but others know someone in their life that perfectly fit that description. It may be a mother, a father, a husband…or perhaps you.  Everyone writes their own narrative for their life. My own narrative is very different from the narrative my ex has written, yet we both shared the same life. I try to be self-reflective and to see things from his perspective but his narrative does not share the view from my eyes and the pain from my heart. Perhaps, he gets to move on with ease because he never experience the betrayal like I have and the aftermath of those scars.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing the victim; I am simply speaking my truth. I can look back and easily forgive because I know the pain he holds onto that prevents him from opening his heart fully—even to his children. Along this journey to healing, I have been hurt by many, but it has taught me a valuable lesson that I needed to learn. I can thank the people that have turned my life upside down because they have helped me dig deeper to find a strength and peace you can’t find anywhere else.

                                        My eyes are wide open and slowly my heart is too.

What I ask of all of you reading my truth, my narrative—is to see the other person’s perspective for just a moment in order to find understanding and forgiveness. Holding on to bitterness and anger is like poison to your soul. You can’t grow there. You’ll stay small and weak. Being single minded and self-centered is a sign of immaturity and a lack of feeling empathy. It’s like the kids on the playground pointing fingers at others for something they’ve done themselves.

Now that you’ve looked through another person’s lens it’s easier to let it go. That’s the gift to yourself that lifts you up instead of keeping you stuck in the pain and anger. When something or somebody hurts me I always ask myself, ‘Will this hurt the same tomorrow or a month from now?’ The answer is always–no. The pain will always fade. Things that matter today may not matter at all a year from now.

You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and asking why they did this to you. They probably didn’t intend to hurt you, they just couldn’t get past their own brokenness. They did you a favor by setting you free. Now you can find out more about yourself than you did when you were so busy trying to fix them. Move on but forgive yourself when you react to the sting of the residual poison. When you see them seemingly happy with someone new…it hurts…I know, but it’s not because you want that life back, it’s because you want to feel love again. You won’t find that love if you’re still holding on to the past. Also, realize that it’s not a one-shot deal. You’ll have to forgive them over and over and over again. You’ll feel bitter and jealous and want to see them suffer, but you will have to forgive them one more time. Love them anyway. They aren’t yours to hold on to anymore, so let them go.

Write your new narrative and create the person you want to see yourself become. The strong fearless leader, the main character in a beautiful love story or the insightful healer traveling the world. Whatever you want to become…now is your time. For God’s sake don’t keep writing the same sad story as the damsel in distress or the powerless victim. You are so much more than that.

Your narrative can be whatever you want it to be and you don’t have to re-write history. Keep your past where it belongs and use the present as a teacher to help you create your beautiful new future.

With Faith, Hope and Love

~Teresa

Get Out of Your Head

I just got back from my annual girls trip and as I’m relaxing on a beautiful beach looking out at the waves lapping onto the shore, I noticed that instead of taking in the moment and appreciating the fact that I’m finally on the vacation I’ve been looking forward to for months, I’m in my head worrying about all the crap that I left back at home. The checklist of all the things that cause me  stress and worry came with me in my suitcase full of sundresses and suntan lotion. Those little voices in my head just took over and the chatter consumed my thoughts…

“What are you going to do with the house?”

“How are you going to find a better paying job?”

“Where are you and the boys going to live…and what about the dog?”

“How are you going to get your book published?”

“Why haven’t more people joined your blog…how are you going to get a bigger following?”

“How are you going to find a man when you’ve gained all this weight?”

“How are you going to get rid of this flab around your waste when you keep sabotaging your diet?”

“Why am I still stuck…what am I doing wrong?”

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah!!

You know what I’m talking about…those little voices that steal your joy and make you doubt every aspect of your existence. Those little shit heads that never shut the hell up! Then I remember the analogy that Elizabeth Gilbert used in the book that is sitting in my beach bag unfinished and I read it again. She says that she makes space for fear to join her on her journey through life and allows creativity and fear to co-exist. She uses the analogy that she is in the driver’s seat and she will be making all of the decisions. The voices are like little children in the back seat and they can come along for the road trip and share in the adventure, but they can’t make the decisions on where to go or what direction to take…they can’t even touch the radio.

This instantly brings me back to a place of calm and I realize that I can’t run away from my reality and forget about all my troubles, but they don’t have to consume my thoughts. They are there for the time being and they will teach me a great deal about myself, but they will be a distant memory in the near future. They won’t define my entire life, they will only bring me to where I want to be.

Worry and fear live within your mind and if you only listen with your mind you will miss out on the joy and love that lives within your heart.

 

This relates to overcoming heartbreak as well. After you’ve been hurt and betrayed, those little voices of fear want to keep you safe. They are the little voices that tell you to guard your heart and tell you not to let anyone in because they will hurt you too. The little voices of fear that tell you that opening up to someone isn’t safe. They’re sneaky little devils that tell you you’re not good enough for that person. They whisper in your ear telling you that person couldn’t possibly love you because you’re not skinny enough or young enough or sexy enough.  They whisper lies that tell you that person isn’t trust worthy and there must be something wrong with them so that you turn away.

You see, in order to truly heal you have to get out of your head and think with your heart. Love lives in a special place in your heart that you can only access if you are willing to be vulnerable. If you allow your mind to take the wheel then you will continue to be alone on your journey.  Those bratty little voices will take over and cause you nothing but fear and worry where you will feel safe from harm. The mind will keep you stagnant, but the heart will bring you to your destination. You just have to trust it.

As I sat there watching the waves roll in, I realized that surrendering to the process is the only way to move forward. I can’t control these things in my life, and I don’t have to let them control me. All I can do is accept they are here to teach me and guide me to the place I am meant to be. I have to trust that every day I move just a little bit closer to where I’m supposed to be and faith in the path that will lead me there. You will find your path to love and fulfillment when you make that decision to get out of your head and lead with your heart.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~Teresa

Bent Not Broken

I recently celebrated my 45 birthday. Damn… is that hard to say. Getting older is even more daunting when you’re single because you are way past your prime and well on your way to being an AARP member. I’m not one to get depressed on their birthday, but I do get a bit reflective. I reflect on the past several years and wonder how the hell I got here.

If you asked me on my 40th birthday where I would be in five years, the answer would have been very different. I was just finalizing my divorce and although it was scary, I had hope and excitement planned for my future. I would’ve told you that I pictured myself in love with an amazing guy who was my best friend. I would’ve told you that perhaps my career had taken off and I was financially secure doing something that I loved. I would’ve thought by 45, things in my life would be going my way and I would have put the pain of the past behind me.

Well, sadly none of those things has happened. In fact, the opposite is true. Everything has gone down the shitter. I’ve had a string of disastrous dates, crappy boyfriends, not so great sex and I’m broke as hell in a dead end job. Again…how the hell did I get here??!! I did a fucking vision board and not one of those “visions” has come true! I’ve been living in this state of purgatory waiting for one good thing to happen in my life to help me make sense of it all. I’m getting sick and tired of waiting. Where is my silver lining? Where is my happy ending? I can’t even get the “happy ending” with a good sex life for God’s sake!

Then I get off my pity pot, stop my ranting and raving and realize that nothing happens by accident and this is all a part of my journey. I take a step back and look at all the things I am blessed with in life. I have a supportive loving family, three beautiful kids that I adore and an amazing group of friends that fill my life with laughter, unbelievable support and love. I have EVERYTHING I need. Everything that is truly important in life and I am grateful for my wonderful life. I went through these hard times to learn something I needed to learn. If I hadn’t gone through the pain of my unhappy marriage, the ups and downs of divorce and the devastation of losing my job…I wouldn’t have found my love of writing. I wouldn’t have shared my story in order to heal and help others. I wouldn’t have found the depth of my strength and perseverance to make it through life’s challenges. I learned that I’m bent, not broken.

You see, all the heartache and challenges in life are here to show us who we really are…our purpose. For some, it might be the wake-up call they needed to get out of a toxic relationship that made them feel unloved or unworthy of love. For others, it may be to find your passion in life and to focus on loving yourself, so that someone can love you the way you deserve. For me, it was both. The real truth is that I was stuck in purgatory during my marriage. I didn’t know that I deserved better. I didn’t know that it was stifling my own dreams and potential to become who I was put on this Earth to be. This is my silver lining….this is my happy ending and I don’t need a man to feel complete. I am complete all on my own. I am enough…right here…right now. That’s the lesson I needed to learn at 45 years old and I’m grateful for all that it has taught me. Find your lessons and believe that the scars on our hearts are proof that we did not break.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~Teresa

How To Spot the Red Flags

After being on the dating scene for over five years, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about how to spot the ‘red flags’ a mile away.  I’d like to say that I am pretty good at seeing through a person’s bullshit in the early stages of dating and was able to see the writing on the wall before I got in too deep. I always listened to my gut and let my instincts tell me whether this person was good for me or not. Now looking back, I realize that I was protecting myself from being hurt again, so I was dissecting every possible flaw they had as a reason to push them away. A good friend of mine says I’m cynical when it comes to love and relationships and perhaps there is some truth to that statement. I’m trying really hard to be more open to a person who may not seem like the love of my life on the surface but could have the potential of making me happy.

So how do you decipher between good instincts and the hard protective wall you’ve built up over the years?  How do you know if you’re just trying to avoid feeling the devastation of betrayal or fear of rejection again? Well the simple answer is…you don’t. It took me years of countless dates to realize that I was being too critical, because I’d be damned if anyone was going to fool me again.  I would find the slightest little things to convince myself that he wasn’t my type or he was a little shady—I even thought about running background checks on them after I stalked them on social media.

Granted I was right about most of them, but there were a few that now, in hind sight, I’m kicking myself for letting them slip away.  If you follow my blog, you know that I only wrote about the complete disaster stories, but there were ones in between that I should have given a chance. Unfortunately, I was a little too gun shy to let my guard down and way too cynical.  I still consider myself as having good judgement when it comes to spotting scum bags, but its’ the good ones that make me question my bias against men.

One example is the guy I dated a few years ago who was a middle school teacher in a town about 30 miles away from me.  Looking back, I can see that he was probably a really nice guy, but if I’m honest I really didn’t give him a chance. On our first date he was a complete gentleman and took me out to dinner. He was funny, smart and a good family man, so I knew he had potential. The second date was dinner and a movie, but the third date he invited me out with his friends to watch an MMA fight at the casino. Now, at the time I thought it was too soon to be introduced to his friends and didn’t think an MMA fight was very romantic, but he knew I was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so I guess he thought it would be something I was interested in. It turned out we had a great time and all his friends were great, but he kept making comments that I was “too classy for him and his friends”.   I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a complement or a judgement.

Sure, his friends were a little rough around the edges, but I would never judge anyone based on socio-economic status alone…I genuinely thought they were great people. He didn’t need to have a fancy house and booshie friends to impress me. I just want a good person to spend the rest of my life with.

We continued to talk, but on the fourth date, he invited me over to cook dinner and wanted me to watch his basketball game at the local rec center.  He was a decent cook and an even better ball player, but he blindsided me by not telling me that his family might come to the game to meet me.  I was sooo uncomfortable!  I barely knew this guy and felt that he was moving way too fast for me. He didn’t even introduce us until after the game, so the woman that was sitting next to me making small talk was actually his sister. I was so embarrassed and slightly annoyed.

I quickly let it go, but this is when the red flags started to wave. We went to a local dive bar where his team hung out after the game and had some laughs about how his sister and niece approved of me even though I thought they were strangers at the time. The guys on the team started in on him for putting me in that situation, but I could tell he was genuinely surprised they had shown up. As it turns out, his sister was just being nosy and tends to be protective of her little brother.

As the night went on, I found myself doing what I always do and analyzed everything he said. He told me stories about his father being a drug addict and exposing him and his sister to a lifestyle that no child should ever see. I found compassion for him, but I had to admit that I wondered if we just came from two different worlds. It began to snow pretty hard that night as we left the bar and because the drive was long he offered to have me spend the night.  Normally I would have taken my chances with driving into a ditch rather than stay at a guy’s house so soon, but I trusted this guy because I could tell he was very sweet despite being brought up in a dysfunctional home.  He gave me his room and he slept in his daughter’s room.  The next morning he brought me breakfast in bed and told me how beautiful I was– even with bed head and no make-up on. (I knew he was full of shit.)

I left later that afternoon after he cleared his driveway for me and I knew that this relationship wasn’t going to last. Why, you ask? He was too good to be true.  Even though I trust my instincts and knew he was probably a genuine guy, I kept thinking he was trying too hard.  That was the red flag.  A man that tries too hard to impress you usually has hidden skeletons in his closet that he doesn’t want to reveal. They will come out eventually, but they will have a spin on them that he only sees from his perspective.

We went out a few more times (okay maybe once more) but ultimately I was right. He had done things to disrespect women in his past that I would never tolerate. He was a good father, but resented the fact that he had to pay his ex-wife child support. When I argued that it’s his responsibility to help support his girls financially, all he could see was the resentment for his ex-wife.  That my friend does not fly with me and shows me that he lacked integrity. As a single mother myself raising three kids on my own, I felt like he wasn’t a good man if he felt like he didn’t have any obligation to support his children. I broke it off shortly after that conversation.

As women, we want to see the good in the men we are dating that we often overlook the glaring red flags. You can tell a lot about a man by how he talks about his past lovers. (One of the tricks I’ve learned along the way). My advice to all women is let the walls down enough to be open to love, but really listen to what a man says.  More importantly, pay attention to their actions.  At first they want to wine you and dine you, but as time goes by, you need to start peeling back the layers to see beyond the sweet talk. People are very good at telling you what you want to hear and boosting your ego, but the real truth is shown when you read between the lines. There are 5 things you should ask someone you’re dating to avoid the pitfalls of falling for the wrong person:

  1. Ask them how they feel about their past relationships.
  2. Ask them what they are you looking for in a relationship. What are your turn-ons? What are your turn offs?
  3. Ask them about their relationship with their kids and/or family.
  4. Ask them if they’ve ever cheated in their relationships.
  5. Ask them where they see themselves in 5 years.

Now, the important thing to know is to not only to listen to what they are telling you, but listen to what they’re not telling you.  Listen to the tone of the conversation. Are they willing to share openly or are they negative and defensive? This is how you can spot the red flags. A person who is honest and trustworthy will be reflective of mistakes they might have made in the past and take responsibility for their own choices. If they don’t ‘own it’ then that means that they haven’t learned from it.  A person who lacks emotional intelligence will place blame on everyone else and deflect any responsibility of their own. Always listen to your gut. If your intuition is telling you something is wrong or you don’t like the way they treat you—get out now! Yes, people can change, but only if they’ve done the work and take responsibility their mistakes, so that they can break the pattern.  If they treated other people badly in the past and justify their behavior they will do the same to you. Always remember my favorite quote:

“When someone shows you who they are….believe them.”

                                                                                                                                ~Maya Angelou

 Yes, I may be a tad mistrusting and slightly cynical, but I’d rather be that way then end up in another shitty relationship with someone that doesn’t treat me the way I deserve. It’s not being cynical it’s being smart. It’s not being closed off it’s knowing my self-worth. Call me a cynical bitch if you want to, but I know that someone who’s kind and good will see beyond that tough exterior and love me despite my deeply afflicted soul. (At least I hope so).

With Hope, Faith and Love,

~Teresa

Are You Feeling Stuck?

One thing I’m never going to do is candy coat the fact that divorce sucks. I’m also never going to lie to you and tell you that after you do xyz and have given yourself a couple years to work through it, you will magically feel back to normal.  The truth is you will never feel ‘normal’ again. Life as you know it will never be the same again and that is exactly what you have to accept. Quite truthfully that is the hardest part and the reason why some people stay stuck.

Trust me, I’m speaking from experience, just when you think you’re over it…something happens to smack you in the face and remind you that you are SO not over it. For example, my ex-husband just bought a big beautiful new house with his new wife at the same time the kids and I are losing our home.  To be perfectly honest with you it really pisses me off. I’m sorry I can’t help it and I’m not going to deny my feelings about it. I really want to be the bigger person and be happy for him, but I can’t help to wonder how someone could not care that their children are struggling and just move on with your own life taking fancy trips, buying expensive cars, a brand-new motorcycle and leave their family drowning in debt with a house that’s underwater? Well, this is when I go through a 3-step process to let go of these negative feelings.

The first phase I call the “Owning it Phase.” You have to get real with your emotions and own it. We all have that inner bitch that wants to trash talk them and wants to see them suffer, but that’s your lower level thinking and you have to rise above it. It’s important to identify the feelings and not beat yourself up over feeling badly about what triggered it. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re jealous, be jealous. Allow yourself to cry about it or throw something if you have to…just don’t hold it in and deny the feelings. That could lead to long term problems like depression or needing to enroll yourself in anger management classes.

The second phase is when you ask yourself, “So, what can I do about it?” The answer is nothing…absolutely nothing.  All you can do is feel the anger and resentment and move past it as quickly as possible. I call this the “Acceptance Phase”.  This is point after you have dealt with the negative thoughts and feelings that you recognize that it doesn’t do any good to hold on to all those negative feelings. You have to take a step back from the emotions and look at the bigger picture, so you can find acceptance and gratitude for all that you have. For me, the bottom line is, I know I don’t want that man in my life and if it means that I have to struggle on my own, then I’ll do it with a smile on my face and faith that everything will work out just fine. I can accept that he has moved on with his life and I have too. I refuse to let him and his decisions get to me and give those negative feelings any power.  There is nothing I can do to change it, so why bother holding on to the resentment? I visualize my own future with positive intent and I know that material things (even a big beautiful house) does not make you happy.

The next phase is the “Releasing it Phase.”  Personally, I go out in nature or find a quiet place in my house and I use a type of meditation to release the feelings. I find that higher level thinking that allows me to let go of the negativity and allows me to wish him well.  I look at him as a part of my family and that will never change. After all, you may not always like your family but you still love them.

Recently, I stumbled upon an online class titled, “Manifest New Love” by Jennifer Grace, find the link here. Now some of you might find the title a little corny or “out there” but I always listen to these types of things for research and insight. Well, there was an exercise she walks you through that blew my mind.  She asks you to close your eyes and picture yourself in an open field with your feet deeply planted in the ground. She walks you through this visualization that has you imaging that there is a cord attached to your solar plexus. For me, the cord was like an umbilical cord, for others it may be a chain or rope. She then says to look up and suddenly you see your past love attached to the cord a few feet away. You look at this person and say, “Thank you—I forgive you” and repeat it three times.  Next to you on your left is something to cut the cord and when you cut it, your past love turns and walks away.  Now, this is where I couldn’t believe what came to my mind…I found myself reaching out saying “don’t go.”  I told this story to my friends at brunch the other day and they were shocked! My good friend hit my arm and said, WTF??!! I laughed and said, “I knew you would have that reaction and believe me, I was shocked too!”  Not in a million years would I think I would EVER have that reaction.  I thought I had done the work…I thought I had let him go…I thought I was over it until I realized you never get over it and you never truly let go.  We have children together and we will be bonded together through them for the rest of our lives. Now, don’t get it twisted, this doesn’t mean that I want him back or that I’m still in love with him—on the contrary, I just realized that I still need him to be present for our kids because I love them. He is a connection to them that only he and I share. Mind blowing, right?  I thought so too.

As painful as it may be, it’s so important to process all of this stuff in order for you to get “unstuck”. This is  allowing more space in my life for that new love to come in. In order to feel lighter and free from the past, you must really feel the pain, the sorrow, the fear and then let it go. Holding on to it only leaves you stuck carrying your burdens like a large boulder on your back. It’s time to let them go and cut the cord.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~Teresa

What Not To Do On a First Date

I’m gearing up for the dating season and what better way than to reflect back on some of my own ‘first date’ disasters and use them as a guideline for what NOT to do while giving solid advice on how to have a successful first date.  I was actually inspired by a new show produced by Ellen DeGeneres, appropriately called “First Dates”.  I absolutely love this show! Not only because I can totally relate to the struggle of going on a first date, but also because I love to be a voyeur into other people’s dating experiences.  The first show is a must see…it made me laugh, cringe and sob all in one episode. The premise of the show is to bring complete strangers together in a restaurant in Chicago and film them on their first date. Sound like your absolute worst nightmare? I thought so too at first, but now I’m considering signing myself up for the show. (I’m dead serious.)

They bring people together from all different walks of life and set them up on a blind date to see if they will find love.  Some dates are complete flops while others have an instant connection. There was one older couple that had both lost their spouses and this was their first date in many years. The woman had talked about living life to the fullest after she grieved her husband and had a bucket list of adventures that she wanted to share with someone special. One of which was flying in a hot air balloon. The gentlemen was a down to Earth self-proclaimed  nature lover who spoke of how he cared for his dying wife with such love and compassion that the woman took his hand from across the table and said, “I love you” with tears in her eyes. The moment they shared was so touching. I found myself balling my eyes out, realizing that it really is never too late to find love. The show followed the couple months later and showed them flying in a hot air balloon and very much in love. My heart felt so full of hope watching that episode, but also made me realize that you can’t predict whether two people will find a connection or not. It made me question whether it’s always ‘love at first sight’ or can you initially not see a person in a romantic way until you’ve grown into love with them? What I’m learning is that neither one is always the case when it comes to love.

I’ve seen both situations play out differently than expected. You can have two people that had an instant connection on a first date, but then the relationship crashed and burned.  Then another situation when I’ve seen two people put each other in the “friend zone” and they ended up falling in love like the movie  ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (which is one of my favorite movies of all time).

I know what you’re thinking…you didn’t know I was such a softy did you? I guess I’m feeling like love is in the air because its’ spring time and the fact that quite a few of my friends have gotten engaged recently. Believe it or not, I’m much more open to finding that kind of love again and would even consider marriage again. (I know…shocking).   I use to say I’d never get married again, but now I wonder if it would be a possibility when I find that someone special.  Perhaps it’s just the next step you take to solidify your commitment to each other. I’m happy with being like Oprah and Stedman or Goldie and Kurt, but maybe just maybe there will be wedding bells in my future. Don’t think I’ve lost my senses and the cynical bitch you know and love has fallen into La La Land; I just have a new perspective on love and want to open my heart to the possibilities…that’s all. First I need to find a date I suppose…

This brings me to my list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to first dates:

  • Don’t seem too eager or desperate to find love. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again…appearing desperate is a complete turn off and people can smell it a mile away. Instead of smelling pheromones all your date will smell is BO.
  • Don’t talk about your ex unless you are asked about them and be sure to keep it short and sweet. If you talk about your ex too much or about how horrible they are, you’re telling the other person you’re not over them. This can make you sound bitter and negative and that’s not the vibe you want to put out on a first date…or second…or 50th….
  • Don’t brag or talk about yourself the whole time. I know this is hard for some of you because you’re wired to be the peacock fluffing your pretty feathers, but you just end up sounding self-absorbed. Be a good listener and ask questions about the other person. It’s not all about you boo boo.
  • Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself and don’t try to morph into what you think this person wants you to be. Being authentic and sincere is much more attractive than being phony and superficial…unless you are inherently phony and superficial yourself.
  • Don’t be too honest. Yes, be yourself but don’t tell them all your bad habits or share your opinion about everything. Remember, opinions are like assholes…everybody has one.
  • Don’t talk about politics, religion or money. Sure, I want to know if you’re a Trump supporter or a bible banger before I agree to go out with someone but beyond that …keep it light. There is nothing romantic about talking about these topics, especially on a first date.
  • Don’t drink too much on the date. You should have no more than 2 drinks on a first date, otherwise you’ll end up having drunk sex or acting like a fool instead of letting them get to know the real you.
  • Don’t talk about your kids all night and pull out pictures of your last vacation. This goes for Fido and Fluffy too. Yes, your kids and pets are adorable but let’s face it…no one really wants to scroll through five hundred pictures of them on your phone.
  • Don’t use your phone! This is so rude! Keep your phone in your pocket and if you have to text your nosy friends to let them know whether you need them to send that ‘emergency text’ (wink wink) then do it in the bathroom to avoid suspicion.
  • Don’t fight over paying the check. Fella’s, I’m sorry but if you want a second date or to retain your reputation …you’re paying the check. Ladies, don’t be fake and reach for your wallet offering to pay…you know damn well you’re not paying for this date, so stop being phony. Yes, even a feminist expects the man to pay and that’s not going to change until women are making equal pay to men. 😉
  • Don’t go past kissing on the first date. Fella’s don’t be a pig (like the guys I’ve been out with) and keep your hands to yourself. Ladies, don’t be too easy and sleep with a guy on the first date. Men like the chase so make them wait. Sex complicates things, so if you’re just looking for sex then just be honest about it, but if you’re looking for more, then keep your pants on until you get to know each other. Besides, anticipation is way sexier—trust me.
  • Don’t wait to call or text. I love when a guy texts me after a date to see if I got home safely or to say they had a nice time. If I don’t hear from you that night or the next day, I’m hesitant to go out with that person again. To me it shows that they aren’t thinking of you or considerate of your feelings. This is a big no no in my book.
  • Don’t play games. Put on your big boy/girl panties on and be 100% honest about how you feel. Don’t try to save their feelings by stringing them along—just tell them that you’re not interested or tell them that you are interested.  There is nothing worse than playing the guessing game and wondering if the person is feeling the same as you.
  • Don’t keep calling/texting without following through with a date. I’ve had so many guys that keep in contact with me, but they never do anything about it. This makes no sense to me. Is this a modern day version of a pen pal? Please just ask to go on a date for goodness sake! The worst thing that could happen is they say no and you move on…your ego can take it so just make a move.
  • Don’t keep texting or calling if they don’t respond. If I haven’t text you back the last four times you text me then take the damn hint and stop trying to contact me. If I’m ignoring your call, ignoring your text, ignoring your FB message and ignoring your DM on IG can you please take the hint??!! I’m NOT interested.
  • Don’t be too serious. Have fun on the date and enjoy getting to know someone new. Dating is exciting—even the bad ones…at least you have something to laugh about with your friends the next day (or write it in your blog like me lol).

Well, that is all the DON’TS and I’m out of time to write about all the DO’s, but all you need to DO is be yourself and go into the date with an open mind and an open heart and you’ll do just fine. Good luck with the search for love—I hope it finds you soon.

With Faith, Hope and Love,

~Teresa