Month: April 2011

Challenges of Marriage at Midlife – Part II

Challenges of Marriage at Midlife – Part II

Photo by Bill Ward

Once again I’ve been prodded by a Yogi tea bag to write about marriage at midlife! It is unfortunate that Yogi Tea Company isn’t sponsoring my blog!   Here it is, last night’s before bed tea bag message:

“You can run after satisfaction, but satisfaction must come from within.”

 ~ A Yogi Tea Company Mystic

For the first twenty-five years of marriage I ran after satisfaction. I sought happiness and fulfillment in our relationship and then our children. I sought satisfaction by creating a successful business, by making my yard more beautiful,  my flower gardens more plentiful. I sought improvement and perfection of all of the externals of my life. I micro managed my children’s education and their environment trying to ensure that they did not suffer the things that I had suffered and to ensure that they turned into happy adults who knew exactly who they were. However, life has a way of pointing out our faulty thinking and if we refuse to see it, it keeps hitting us over the head until either we do or we are dead.

Here is a snippet of the story:  

After I finished graduate school I went to work with the intent of building a career. I was also struggling to get out of a bad relationship and recover from a clinical depression. I managed to do both and somewhere along the way I reconnected with an old high school friend who was doing the same thing. Scott and I had always had a comfortable, easy relationship, without romantic expectations or judgment of any kind. We shared our relationship problems and gave each other advice. Above all else, we had fun together.  When we reunited, we quickly picked up where we left off only to wake up one day to discover we were in love and wanted to get married.

I continued to work until the kids were born, but after the birth of my first son, I decided I wanted to be a stay at home Mom. I was their mother and I believed that no one could love them in the way that I could, and love after all is what children really need. Scott and I agreed, so we cut corners and got by on one income until he unexpectedly lost his job.  We tried a variety of less than successful solutions and life was just plain hard. We learned early how little we needed to live, preparing us well for the last economic slump.

Left with few alternatives and mouths to feed, he decided to go into business for himself.  One of our favorite pastimes was to buy a fixer upper to live in and fix it up!  So when he told me he wanted to start a home improvement business I wasn’t surprised and was 110% behind him. Being in business together was a dream of mine, and I was eager to help.  A  home based business also enabled me to work and be available to the children. I designed and printed flyers, the kids helped deliver them and we were off and running. We had to be! The bills were waiting!

Scott is and always has been a top-notch salesman. He could sell elephants to ants. He’s smart, engaging, funny and very convincing without being pushy or obnoxious. He’s the quintessential teacher and as honest as the day is long. He genuinely wants what is best for his customers and they can sense it. Combined with my marketing abilities work came in steadily. Over the next five years we computerized, raised the level of marketing and hired employees. At our peak, and the peak of the economy I might add, we were carrying eight employees and part-time office help.  Sounds like a dream come true, right? Wrong.

Several things went awry.  First, unemployment was so low that laborers of any kind were very hard to find, let alone good ones that were affordable.  Secondly, my husband’s good nature rendered him  ill prepared for the lying, cheating, stealing, drug abusing employees (to put it nicely) that quietly ate up all of his profits and our salary. He could only see desperate, troubled people in need of his help. We went without food so he could pay them on time.

Then, 9/11 hit and the economy tanked. When consumers decide they’d better tighten their belts, one of the first things they cut out are pending home improvements. At the very same time, our foreman left to help his sister run her restaurant.

We had already reached the place where we lived and breathed the business. Now we were financially strapped, exhausted, overwhelmed and felt our backs pressing against the wall. We never knew whether we’d have enough money to pay the bills each month or not. However, we soldiered on, believing that things would turn around, if we just did the right thing and stayed the course.  Our difficulties, common to many small businesses, mounted and compounded and we began to fight with each other. There was no one else to blame!  When you are in business with your spouse, there is no escape. I tried to tell him what to do and he ignored me. He felt powerless. I felt diminished. We rode the waves, and rode them, and rode them, hoping beyond stupidity that we could navigate back to where we had been.

As the reality of his employee’s betrayal sank in, Scott fired all of them and he and I picked up the hammers and paint brushes and went to work alone. We made more money doing so but it was not what either of us had dreamed of doing or wanted to do, nor were we getting any younger! We were, however, too tired to fight, too tired to think, or to act, or to make changes.

He had a heart attack, then a fifteen foot fall from a ladder and I was left caring for him and the children while taking over some of his responsibilities for the business. Then my oldest son went to college, my father died, my mother began to need care, my youngest was looking for colleges and panic attacks became an everyday occurrence, often erupting as I stood, powerless and unable to watch as my beloved husband dangled from a rooftop .   I developed IBS and there aren’t enough antidepressants in the universe to counteract the mood I was experiencing.

I thought I would go crazy if something didn’t change. If he would just get a job, if he would just hire more employees, if he would just listen to me, and let me do more marketing. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t hope. I couldn’t try. I could not obtain the satisfaction I so desperately sought.

Something had to give and finally, not a minute too soon, I realized that I was the one who needed to make a change. I accepted, truly accepted, that I could not change him, nor effectively change our circumstances without his cooperation. It wasn’t a lightning bolt. It was a gradual turning toward myself and turning toward my inner resources. I began to learn bit by bit, day by day, to seek satisfaction within.

Then one day, I found the courage to sit down with him and say, “Scott, I’m not going to work with you and the business anymore”. He looked back at me like I had just told him I was having an affair. Betrayal, anger, fear, disappointment spread across his face and then he said, “You don’t mean it.” But he knew I did. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and I did not know how he would deal with it. We had built the business together but it was destroying us. I knew I could survive financial devastation, I could not survive the senseless loss of our relationship and love. A non-human entity was definitely not worth it.

And so began a period of soul-searching and introspection for both of us. For the first time, maybe in my lifetime, I began to look deep inside myself for direction. That was about five or six years ago. Are we better off today?

I will tell you next time we share a cup of tea.

Aging Abundantly through the Challenges of Marriage

Aging Abundantly through the Challenges of Marriage

I fixed myself a cup of tea before sitting down to write this blog.  I’m a coffee drinker but certain moments call for a cup of herbal tea and this is one of them.  I decided a few days ago, prompted by a comment from one of my favorite readers, to write about marriage and the inevitable transitions that accompany aging as a couple. It fits right in with my difficult relationships series, don’t you think? The truth is, even the best marriages (if indeed they can, or should, be graded) can be perplexing, challenging and often cannot avoid moving into a place of utter disharmony.

As I contemplated where to begin, I took a sip of tea and absent-mindedly read the message on the white tag on the Yogi tea bag. Here is what it said: “Where there is love, there is no question.”  Wow. Maybe I really am supposed to write about this topic!  Granted tea bag messages are just that ~ tea bag messages of questionable origin. After all, no one even claims to have authored these little gems, so I doubt they are grounded in any tried and true research.  Still, the words ring true for me.

My husband and I have been married for 29 years next month. It has been a rocky road due both to personal difficulties and life happenings. There were times when communication broke down entirely and we have behaved in the most unloving of ways, at times we seemed to be traveling in opposite directions and headed for very different places. Neither of us, however, ever seriously questioned the permanence of our marriage. The day we married, we looked into each other’s eyes and spoke to each other’s hearts, and made a commitment, one that at thirty years of age we knew was a challenge to make.  We promised that we would stay by each other’s side through thick and thin. There was no question then, or now, and I believe where there is no question, there is love.

Too many marriages lose their way, most often at the start when such a commitment cannot or is not made with total honesty. I am not morally or spiritually against ending a marriage that is destructive and without love, but if there is shared love and shared commitment, then there is hope. It is up to one or the other, or both of the individuals involved, to find a way through difficulty, unhappiness, and the walls that we erect to ward off hurt.

Relationship difficulties can create such a cloud around the love that we once felt and trusted, that we may begin to believe that love no longer exists. It can quickly lead us to lose sight of the person we truly are and the real person with whom we fell in love and married.  A breakdown in communication may cause so much pain and confusion that we think the only answer is to run away, to start over, to find someone who is easier to live with, or to curl up in a hole and not come out.  Too many couples jump ship too soon, believing that happiness within their marriage is not possible, and that a radical change is the only way out.

Radical change may be necessary, but if so, it is a radical change that must first begin inside of ourselves.  No matter what we think is the cause of our unhappiness, the only sure way to ferret out the truth is to face what it is that we are unhappy with about ourselves.  A change of job, having an affair, or leaving our marriage will shake up your life, but chances are good we will still be unhappy when the novelty of change has worn off.

I was in a painful and terrible place almost a decade ago, when life pushed me kicking and screaming into the fire of change. What I thought my life would be at fifty, when I married at thirty, had not come to pass. I perceived myself, my life and everything about it as a failure.  I was deeply unhappy and lived each day consumed by anger and fear. Locked in uncertainty about the future and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, I somehow recognized that it was time to stop looking outside of myself for the answers.

I spent many months frozen on the precipice of change because I was terrified of what moving forward would do to my relationship with my husband. However, there came a time when I could not put off doing what I needed to do for myself and I began my journey. I did not know for certain what our marriage would look like when all was said and done. One of the first decisions I had to face was a decision that I knew in my heart was right for me but one that would radically affect  my husband, both emotionally and practically.

MORE TO COME

Sophie Lumen ~ Artist Extraordinaire

Sophie Lumen ~ Artist Extraordinaire

Sophie Lumen oozes creativity. She lives and breathes her art and embodies the fullest expression of aging artfully that I have yet to encounter. You will find her on Facebook, supporting and loving and inspiring thousands of women who yearn to erase their fear of aging and embrace the beauty within.

During a time when Sophie struggled with depression she wrote three words on an index card: Feed the Beauty and from that has sprung inspirational and moving artwork, two books, an insightful blog, The Art of Aging Creed and so much more. The best way to get to know Sophie is to join her journey on Facebook, buy her book, or place a piece of Sophie’s art in your home. You will be inspired.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Learn the language of your soul

and the power of its beauty,

and you will call forth strength and endurance

that’s been there all along.” ~ sophie Luman

Sophie’s Book Feed the Beauty ~ White Rose invites you to participate in the process the author created for herself as she struggled to listen to her own heart. It began with acrylic paint and canvas where she created “girlfriends out of paint” and called them “Listening Women”. Then she “wrote page after page of poems and exercises I call The Practices” and in so doing became an observer and a listener of my own heart, mind and will. I began to lovingly feed the beauty of my own soul. White Rose is a simple little book about how to slow down for your soul , and Feed the Beauty within you.”

Available in Hard copy or digital. Order your copy HERE.

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Explore your creativity!

Futher Information:
This resource is helpful for finding art classes.

A Meditation

A Meditation

Crossroads by Dorothy Sander

Life demands so much from each of us each and every day. It doesn’t matter whether we are doing what we love to do or have found ourselves in circumstances we hate. We still have to face each day, look fear and uncertainty in the eye, and move forward. If we don’t we can not claim to be truly alive. Our path is seldom crystal clear, even when we  have an inkling of direction. The water is just murky enough to give us pause.

It doesn’t matter whether we are someone who forges ahead with gusto or a person who plods along, agonizing over each step we take. The course is the same. We must make decisions and choices.  Simple, complex, insignificant, monumental choices. Each decision piled one upon of the other, chosen or not chosen, determines who we have been, who we are and who we will be. Our lives are the sum total of our choices, for better or worse.

Most of the time there are no clear, obvious right or wrong decisions and actions, just many shades of gray that we feel as though we are squinting to discern. Perhaps if we chose to give up squinting and trying to “see the answer” clearly, and instead, closed our eyes completely, we might be able to hear the voice of our hearts. That is where our answers lie. Not in someone else’s opinion or even an expert’s advice. No, our truth, our direction can come only from the quiet voice that we too often bury in the noise of externals. Truth speaks more often in feelings and nuances than bold statements. It requires us to be utterly still and to listen.

In stillness alone can we will find the essential meaning of our lives and our purpose for being. It is their we will find the best answer when we face a decision.  It may take traveling through a layer of pain and disappointment and the debris left by lost hope and shattered dreams, but beneath….beneath, is where our answers lie.

WRITING UP A STORM by Celia Leaman

WRITING UP A STORM by Celia Leaman

Celia Leaman, the author of Writing Up a Storm, is not only a prolific fiction writer but a skilled instructor of the craft of writing. She was one of my first and best writing instructors at Writers Online Workshop from Writer’s Digest and has become a dear friend. Celia is a kind and compassionate teacher who understands the tender heart of the writer, but she is also passionate about using language and structure correctly so as not to take away from the writer’s  intent and meaning.

Growing up in England , she has a delightful sense of humor that weaves its way through her book and gets the reader through difficult patches. Each page is infused with her obvious love of the craft of writing and one can’t help but be infected.  Celia’s creative spirit refuses to rest, whether she is writing a book, gardening at home on her little Canadian island, spinning wool or creating her charming felted critters to sell at the local market.  Celia creates and adds beauty to the world everywhere she goes and is an expert in helping others do the same.

Writing Up a Storm is the perfect companion for anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You willwant a copy of it in your library. A Global eBook Award Nominee for 2011, Writing Up a Storm is available in both paperback and e-book.

For more information or to purchase your copy of Writing Up a Storm, visit Celia’s Store on Lulu.

CELIA’S NOVELS

  • Mary’s Child – Kitty grows up feeling she doesn’t belong to the couple who call themselves her parents, so when she meets the man who makes her feel as though she does belong, she follows her dream. But that dream becomes a nightmare when she discovers who he really is.
  • Past Present I: Web of Lies – It isn’t Anne Graham’s dream of becoming a best-selling author that makes her go astray, but the older, worldly man who promises her success who leads her down the wrong path. Watching her every move is a sinister beholder, who will kill the person he loves rather than see Anne succeed where he has failed.
  • The Winnowed Woman – Just how much can one person bear? In The Winnowed Woman, through essays, poems and recollections of less happier times, we are shown how one woman arrives at accepting the changes that come knocking at her door. Divorce can happen to anyone, female or male. It isn’t the event that is the challenge, but how a person deals with it.
  • Unraveled – No one could be more innocent than Millicent, who has always kept the promise of her wedding vows until she finds she has been grossly deceived. Casting care to the wind, she embarks on a new, exciting journey that will lead to an ultimate destination of fresh love and self-fulfillment.

For more information visit Celia’s website: Still Writing

Bubble Busters

Bubble Busters

Photo by Jeff Kubina

I doubt there is a single person alive who has not, at one time or another, encountered a bubble buster. You know, that person who too often you choose to call when you’re all excited about some new idea or adventure you’ve dreamed up, and when you share it with them they say, “What would you want to do that for?”

I loved my mother, God rest her soul, but she never genuinely shared my enthusiasm for anything.  She was my original bubble buster. I think that’s half the reason I married my husband. He’s about the most enthusiastic person you’d ever want to meet. He’s my one man cheering squad. Sadly, there will always be bubble busters in our lives. Some may even be bubble crushers. Some may even live under the same roof with us. But there is a way out. There is a way forward.

The best possible way to protect ourselves from people who bring us down and try to steal our dreams is to be grounded in who and what we are. Forget about trying to change them, or make them understand, or convince them that what you want to do is the best possible thing for you. Just convince yourself. Believe in yourself. That’s all that really matters. I know, easier said than done. But is it?

What it boils down to is a matter of “attention”. Where are we focusing our attention? Are we wasting precious energy trying to change the other person? Are we wasting our moments fuming, angry and venting about how misunderstood we are? Or, are we turning our attention away from the bubble buster and back to ourselves and focusing on what we believe to be true. In the quiet moments, away from the confidence smashing people, we know who we are. Rest there. Live there. And bubble busters will lose their power over you.

Separating ourselves from the expectations and opinions of others is a complex issue, but we are at an ideal point in our lives when we can take more time to get to know ourselves. It is time to engage in the things we love to do and spend more time with the people who lift us up and less with those who just don’t “get” us. Each little step we take to affirm who we are takes one more weapon out of the hands of the bubble busters in our lives.  (Thank you Andrea!)

This is the first in a series of blogs I will be posting on dealing with difficult people. Stay tuned.