Divorcee Life: Becoming Succulent

Yes, you, succulent.  Juicy, moist, luscious, ripe, soft, and tender.

No, this isn't going to be about sex.  And, isn't it funny that, when we read a word like succulent, we don't think about it as relating to how we experience ourselves, but rather think of ourselves as objects of pleasure for others?  But that's another story . . .

This one's about taking care of ourselves, no matter what the outside "weather" conditions may be.

Self-care can be a difficult concept to get excited about, because it sounds like even more work than we're already doing.  Every.  Single.  Day.

But, I'm already too burned out to do more!

Wait, wait!  I'm not trying to convince you to get yourself to a nail salon, or have time-consuming massages, or spend hours at the gym -- or to crowd your already scarce after-work schedule with more self-care chores at home.

I'm talking about self-nourishment that's low maintenance, and using succulent plants as a beautiful example.  Because, if you're a succulent, self-care is easy and fun, rather than having to be a plant that needs all sorts of special attention:  fertilizer, pruning, a precise amount of sun, regular watering schedules . . . .

Nourish yourself from the inside out by embracing what you need.

I love succulents because they remind me that I can be easily and happily self-sustaining.  

Succulents don't do anything extra.  They just retain water in their leaves and stems so that they don't need as much care from the outside.  They nourish themselves from the inside out.

Have you taken a look at any succulent plants lately?  They're shiny, colorful, and bursting with life.  They're not dry, crunchy, or shriveled.  They invite you to admire them.  They look friendly, happy, and juicy.

And, guess what?  Because they have plenty of water inside, they do great in arid, harsh climates and can flourish in dry soil.  They're drought resistant because they've been saving up and taking care of themselves all along.  They hoard that nourishment!  They store that water!

Guess what else?  They're easy to propagate.  These plants have so much surplus love to give that when a leaf falls off, you can just stick it in the ground and a new plant takes life.  No waiting for roots to grow, no babying, no special techniques.

It's almost impossible to kill these plants.  Because they take care of themselves, and they make very good use of the water and care they do receive.

There's a lot to learn from these glossy, happy plants that can deal with the driest, most pitiless conditions.

If you feel that life and circumstances are out to kill you, there's a lot to learn from these glossy, happy, friendly plants that can deal with the hottest, driest, pitiless conditions.

I want to be like them!  (That's why I love to have succulents around my house, and love to give baby plant cuttings -- that I bless with good vibes -- as gifts.)

What does it mean to be like a succulent plant?  A succulent woman doesn't let everything she has slip through her fingers.  She holds something in reserve in case she needs it.  She doesn't have to worry about running on empty or burning out.

It's cash in the cookie jar.  It's groceries in the fridge.  It's moisturizer.  It's a room of one's own.

Why is succulence such a hard sell, when it's what we need most?  Why does it always have to be couched in the language of serving others: "Put on your oxygen mask first.  You can't give from an empty well."

Socially approved self-care versus real self-nourishment.

Why isn't it okay to need what we need in order to feel good?  Men feel great about taking what they need, and forget to think about others unless someone reminds them (and still feel great about ignoring any requests made of them) .   But it's not the same for us.

Why can't we give ourselves what we need, especially if it costs nothing but time?  What if the only cost is listening to our inner voice, and saying "yes" to our preference first, and accustoming others to getting their way after our own deep longing is met?

Society repeatedly tells us, in ways both spoken and unspoken, that a woman's worth is only based on how much and how well she can serve others.  This internalized belief (so deeply rooted that we don't even realize it's a belief -- it's just the "way things are") makes even much of what we think of as self-love or self-care part of our own servitude.  

Part of why we spend so much more money than men do on clothing, cosmetics, fitness classes, and salon and spa services is wrapped up in being desirable to men and being rated acceptable as women.   This way of being-sold-to by fashion magazines and cosmetic companies isn't really about fulfilling our deep needs as women; it's about measuring up.  It's about appearing attractive rather than feeling beautiful.

How all of this relates to feeling better after divorce:

If you came into divorce already depleted and dry, and perhaps didn't feel that you deserved to honor your own needs, no wonder you may feel that you're weak and withering.

Do you have a feeling of deep longing inside?  It's your need for nourishment speaking to you, crying out to you.  It's the signal that you're running on empty.  That you deeply need moisture to nourish the heart and soul of your body so that you can sustain yourself during the dry seasons.

Instead of begging for respect or validation from those around me (and, you know, the more you beg, the less you receive), I want to collect as much good juju as I can from what's already available.  

If the loving, positive friends you desire aren't in your life right now, what inspiring books can you read, by loving authors who seem as if their words are meant only for you?  Hug a bunch of people you meet in the course of your day, and find out who is a great hugger.  Dare to step outside the box of how you normally interact with the world around you.

Instead of feeling like I'm searching hard for what I crave, I want to see what I may have overlooked right next to me.  Who's already offering love, who's already in your corner, what kindnesses can you give to yourself.  What riches are you holding back from yourself that are easily in your own power to give?

Succulent baby steps:

1.  Meditation, succulent-style.  I've been trying to meditate since I was in my 20s, but, to tell you the truth, I had trouble seeing the point.  I didn't care about enlightenment; I cared about happiness in this world.

I found my own, non-traditional way. I like a more body-centered form of meditation, in which you sit still (or you can even do this while walking) and check in with how your body is feeling.  See if your breathing feels relaxed.  See if you feel at home in your body.  Are your clothes comfortable?  Are you thirsty?  Do you need to give yourself a hug?  What can you do to feel more comfortable in this moment?

2.  Say yes to yourself at least once a day.  This is especially important if the answer was always "no" growing up, and dreams have tended to be deferred in your adult life.  You even may have gone on to marry someone who was never onboard with anything you wanted to do.  

Now, you have a second chance to practice saying yes to yourself, especially in little ways that can make you happy.  When you need to get up from your desk and stretch for a few moments, let yourself do it.  Give yourself permission to try something different at lunch.  Say yes to those little desires that may seem foolish to indulge in.  Start finding out the small, easy things that would bring you a sense of comfort and happiness that's much greater than the effort you expend.

3.  Check in to see whether the ways you're currently nourishing yourself are truly nourishing, or are they simply a way to numb the pain rather than something that makes you feel good to be you?

This can be a little hard to figure out, if you're not sure what it means to feel good to be you.  

So let's take a look at those succulent plants again.  See how they look really happy to be who they are?  They're not reaching out, trying to climb somewhere or to go somewhere else.  They're grounded, settled, earthy, and strong.  They don't blow in the wind.  They don't reach out, begging you to admire them, touch them, smell them, or pick them to arrange in a bouquet.

Maybe the first step to feeling like that yourself is to pour yourself a nice glass of water, feed yourself with its loving, succulent, sustaining moisture, breathe, and see what it feels like just to be contented to be you for a moment or two.

A succulent doesn't have to fear the future.

So much of the pain of divorce is in the anticipation of even more difficulties ahead as you enter the single life.  But none of that has happened yet.  As you become succulent, and find ways to be at peace as a self-nourishing being, you can let go of panic over a stressful future that hasn't even happened yet (and that, most likely, will never happen to the degree you fear).

At this moment, you are breathing and you are safe.  You're making yourself as comfortable as possible so that you're making decisions from the best part of yourself, with your own well-being (and that of your children, if you're a mom) foremost in your mind.

You're taking in self-nourishment of every kind so that you don't need to depend on care from external sources.  Because you have all of those inner resources you've stored up, you are at peace for the duration, and you have time to consider what you want to do, where you want to be, and who you want to be with.

As always, I'm sending love to you, and, encouraging you to pick up an adorable little succulent plant as a companion on the journey -- and as a reminder that you can have fun slowly building up your loving inner succulence.

As a footnote, here's a TedX talk from author SARK, in which she talks about succulence, "how to dialogue with your inner critics, give them the love and support they're looking for, and assign them to new jobs, " and much more:

tired of getting the crumbs? put yourself on the A list (or should I say the Bee list).

Have you been wondering what's going on -- why it is that, time and again, you feel like you get the crumbs in your relationships?

Maybe it's really been driven home to you when you see how well your ex is treating the new woman in his life -- doing things for her that he never did for you.

Too many of us have been taught that a good woman presents herself as the one who never asks for anything.  The problem is the disappointment that follows when she gets exactly what she asked for:  nothing.

Pretty soon, we begin to believe, ourselves, that good things happen only to someone else, and we expect to receive second or third best . . . or nothing at all.  We expect that the man in our lives will forget significant dates, fail to come through on his promises, and will disappoint us again and again.

Men pick up on this.  They, often unconsciously, give you what you've asked for.  And, sometimes, what you're unwittingly asking for is to be treated as a doormat.

If, in your new, post-divorce life, your conversation is an unremitting drama of things continually going wrong for you, the men you meet may very well think of you as an attractive liability -- one whom they can't afford, no matter how engaging your personality or attractive your appearance.

If the first and continuing impression you give out is not that of a high-quality, high-value woman -- someone he would be extremely lucky to have as his own -- you're headed for the kind of treatment you received from your ex-husband . . . all over again.

Fake it 'till you make it:  You have to start somewhere.

You may feel tired and beaten down, and you may wonder whether anyone worth having will really want you.  You may be settling for bottom-of-the-barrel dates -- or men who are already taken -- simply because you have nothing to prove to them.  It may feel safer to you than facing rejection by a guy you feel you can only dream about having.

When you stand on your own two feet and prosper on your own, having a fun social circle of friends you're proud of, and a job you really like, you begin to become the woman who will seem a very good match to the kind of man you'd actually want.  The kind of person who may seem like a stretch to you right now.

The Bee List:  The Queen Bee List

The problem with the kind of man who is attracted to the always-in-crisis kind of woman is that you must remain a victim for him to stay interested in you.  You have to be in the one-down position.  But that's not who you want to be anymore.

If you want to be the Queen Bee, you have to surround yourself with honey.  When you think of it that way, it's sounds like fun, doesn't it?  It does to me -- and I gather in the honey every day.

Mmmmm, how could you start surrounding yourself with honey right now?  Making yourself feel so good that everyone wants to be around this fascinating, uplifting, joyous, multifaceted woman.

Yes, it will take some effort to go from feeling as you do at this moment to becoming the Queen Bee of your own life, but what's the alternative?  When I think of the 50 Shades of Grey, I don't think about kinky sex; instead I think about how grey life is when you feel you have to give up hope of the good life that so many other women have, and instead live a life of, "Well, things could be worse."

What's your next step? 

Read any of the posts on this blog.  Most of them give a few "try me" steps toward giving yourself the respect you deserve (so that others in your life will respect you, too).  Or, you could have a get-acquainted call with me!  It's free, and we can talk about what's going on for you.  You can catch me here.

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8 Secrets to Wake Up Feeling Great

What are the toughest times of day for you as you begin life post-divorce?

Most of my clients say that the worst times in each day are often bedtime and first thing in the morning.

Because morning is so crucial to having a successful and happy day, I wanted to share some of my strategies for getting out of bed in the morning with a smile on your face.

These are some of the real-life habits I developed back when I felt my life was over, and I was engulfed in grief and remorse 24/7.  For me, mornings were actually worse than evenings because I found that I had the greatest number of negative thoughts as I lay in bed in those first waking moments before arising.

Maybe you feel the same.

Want to feel happy and hopeful every morning rather than full of dread?  You can, and all it takes is about 30 minutes of preparation, one time only.

So, here are the questions you're going to ask yourself to prepare for creating a happy morning.  Can you list at least 3 responses to each of the questions below?  Five responses or more are even better!

The questions:

1.  What do you like best about mornings (even if you're not a morning person)?

2.  What activity do you super love love love that you're hardly ever able to fit into your day (maybe you just wish you could read a fascinating book for a few minutes)?

3.  What completely new at-home activity have you been meaning to try for years, but never got around to it (a craft, a recipe, a beauty treatment, bonsai, explore your feminine sexuality . . . )?

4.  What totally silly physical activity are you way too depressed to even think about doing right now, but some part of you smiles to think of how crazy it would be to jump out of bed in the morning and do it?  (Think jumping around with earphones while listening to your favorite high school party song -- on one hand, no way, you feel way too awful to do that, but you've been feeling awful for so long that you're ready to try any fool thing in order to feel better.)

Okay.  Have you answered the four questions above?  You now have a little list of items for each of the four questions.  Now, you are ready to create a magical start to your day that will powerfully shift those dreadful morning mental and emotional states.

Just one more pre-planning step:  Circle all of the possible activities that take 15 minutes or fewer to perform.  Or, see how you could break some of those activities into baby steps, and fit something fun into about 15 minutes.

Preparation:  

1.  For your first try at this, decide to set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you usually do.  (Get to bed a little bit early if necessary.  It's really worth a try!)

2.  Set your alarm to a favorite, uplifting song, and not a buzz-tone from your alarm clock or phone.  Make the song something that has a lot of girl-power to it.  (And definitely nothing that reminds you, in any way, of your ex-husband, or any ex for that matter!)  Are you thinking, "I have *no* idea what kind of music I'd like to wake up to"?  Check out this girl power playlist from Pop Sugar (that has many of my own favorites).

3.  On your nightstand, or next to your pillow, scribble a little note of your wake-up activity for the following day.  (You pick two responses from the four questions above.  For example, if you love to see the sunrise, then check out tomorrow's sunrise time, rise five minutes before sunrise, go outside, and see it.  Or, if the sunrise is not visible from your house, pull up one of my favorite sunrise videos on your phone.)

4.  Just choose two things from any of the four questions above and have them ready to go.  If you're going to dance it out for three minutes, have your song cued up.  If you're going to read a few pages of a book you've been dying to dive into, have the book in bed with you.  If you're going to try that relaxing facial mask, throw the ingredients together the night before.  Here are some great recipes.  

Make it a gift to yourself to have whatever it is prepared the night before.

You'll feel as if someone is really taking care of you.  And, it's true.  That person is you!  Keep it simple, but know that preparing your tomorrow is a key way to love yourself up!

And, it's morning:

5.  Alarm goes off (with cool, inspiring song).  Do the first activity on your note-to-self next to your bed.  Do it, even though for the first 30 to 60 seconds you are groaning, your eyes are rolling, and you do. not. feel. like. it.

6.  Check in with yourself.  How do you feel?  If you feel great, then ignore activity #2 and move ahead with your day.  Yay!  If you're still feeling like a very sad grumpasaurus, move on to activity #2.  Yes, I know, you still may not feel like doing it at all.  But it's just 15 minutes more (or maybe fewer).  By the time you finish that one, there's a 99% chance that you are set up for a happier day.  Don't you want to find out if that promise is true?  Then try activity #2 on your note-to-self.

7.  If you do this for a week, swapping out various activities from your list, you'll find out which ones really make you feel wonderful.  Keep those on your "magic mornings" list, but also add new stuff you'd like to try to your list.  And, please let me know how it goes!

Mwah!

.8.  Bonus goofiness.  I dare you to try this one:  Before you get out of bed, pretend you're a beautiful, powerful, in-demand diva (because, you are, but you might not know it yet).  Say aloud five times, "I am a goddess, and I now create my day!"  If this sounds totally preposterous, at least you'll laugh before your feet hit the floor.

The Dynamic Divorcee

I'm excited to announce the birth of a new venture:  The Dynamic Divorcee!  It's time for me to start sharing all I have learned as I recovered from my post-divorce odyssey, which has taken me on a journey that I could never have expected.

But it was not until much later that I found so many midlife women shared the same tedious and time-consuming trajectory.  Without quite knowing it, this journey often involved getting themselves back to where they were before marriage:  That place where they were at full power, full flower, and in charge of their destinies.

The Dynamic Divorcee is dedicated to shortening the wandering-in-the-wilderness process and giving you easy, concrete tools to put your emotional life back on track so that you have the desire and ability to take the next steps on your unique path.

Want to know my story?  It's here.

Want to know how you can receive more information about The Dynamic Divorcee:  my e-zine, and invitations to free workshops?  Here you go.