August 31, 2007

I am Woman, hear me roar!

My daughter wants me to watch a new AMC show on TV that is set in 1960 in the advertising industry. My beautiful curly-haired daughter is 36 years old and is fascinated and amazed at how women were treated then, how the men held all the power positions and the women were the secretaries and were treated openly as second class citizens and sexual objects. I remember working in a doctor's office in those years, never seeing a female pharmaceutical rep and that there were really only one or two female docs in practice.

Times have changed. Women are still not always making the salaries of men in equal positions but they are in every job, from police oficers to leading their own companies. But I and my friends were raised in the 50s, typically by often frustrated women who knew their "place" as dutiful wives, taking care of the children and feeling quite limited in what they could accomplish. And then came the '60s and the consciousness raising and women burning their bras and being vocal and believing they, and their daughters, could be equals with men and achieve whatever careers they desired. They believed women could "have it all."

Just like any political trend, there is a movement from the far extremes of the position, and then a settling in the middle somewhere. Women now realize that they really can have it all, but that it sometimes requires not really doing everything as well as they would like and sometimes living with extreme stress from trying to make it all work. And, strong women that they are, they're trying to find a way to not necesssarily have it all, but to balance what they want to have.

And those of us raised by those '50s moms sometimes still hear their voices in our heads and sometimes we act like them without realizing it, being meek women who subvert our desires and dreams for our men. I've been learning to live a conscious life, being aware of what I do and my motivations, which is not always pleasant since I have to own my actions and be responsible for my reactions. I realized last week that I have been kinda waiting around, being available for the boyfriend, not making as many plans of my own in case that would be a time he had available for me. I'm just amazed seeing this in print, realizing that this strong and modern and independent woman was acting like her mom of fifty years ago! I found myself getting a bit depressed and then figured out that I was being that second class citizen myself, believing that his time was more valuable than my own, waiting for any left-overs that were given.

So I picked myself up, summoned my courage, and told him what was happening, that I was not willing to be a lesser priority than his other activities, that I wanted to be considered first sometimes and that I was not going to accept anything less. I always wanted a relationship where I could really be honest, where I could say to the guy "I love you and you're being a jerk," where I could really ask for what I want and set boundaries and make my needs and expectations known. And not settle for less. There's always that fear of loss or rejection, of course, but this time I didn't let that hinder me at all. Just said it, nicely and without accusation or blame, but just let it all out. Just told him who I was and what I wanted. And, of course, he really had no clue because I had been this nice and giving and tolerant girlfriend and he was surprised. But maybe not so surprised, since my honesty is something he values.

So what happened? Did we get into a fight, that endless and agonizing "you never....and you always...... and you don't......" Did he just withdraw or leave? OK, being the amazing guy he is, he just listened and listened and didn't say a word until I was done. And then he said that having a relationship as honest and caring as ours was very, very important and valuable to him and he appreciated knowing what I wanted and that he had a great desire to create balance in his life and would certainly take my needs, now that he knew them, into consideration.

What are the lessons here? It's important to be real, to be truly who we are. It's important to keep in touch with what's going on inside of us and stop when we have that churning in our guts and figure out what's really going on and what is triggering it. It's important to own our feelings and our reactions and not just blame the other person for the problems. It's important to be willing to take this risk of being transparent, to really show each other who we are and what we want. This happened to us just at that three-month point, where the honeymoon is supposed to end and the reality takes its place and the relationship either goes forward or ends. I'm happy to say that we had a really nice long weekend together. I was willing to take the risk of loss to be true to myself and it worked out great. I recommend it. Be real, be honest, be kind, be vulnerable. We're not our mothers, we really aren't. We may have some of their lovely qualities, but we don't have to live with their insecurities or fears or meekness any more. We are strong and independent and bold women of the millenium and let's not forget it!

August 27, 2007

I do and I don't.

Having a relationship is weird stuff. All my women friends say they want this, but really it's not so easy. There's all that stuff about space and time, like how much do we see him and does he sleep over and does he really need to leave his shoes in the middle of the room and what happened to going out and having fun? And then there's when he does something or says something that a past guy said or did and we just subconsciously get weird about it, like we remember it's what really pissed us off before and was the final straw for the last guy and this guy is doing it and what does that mean now?

And they're guys, you know, pretty simple beings who just want us to be nice to them and talk to them and let them know we appreciate them and get naked with them. Not much fuss to all of that, is there? So I pride myself on being rational and refusing to do the drama-thing and here I am reacting to this nice guy who just wants me to be happy. I see him doing things like an ex and my stomach turns and I start thinking that he's just like the other guy that drove me nuts just because there is this similarity which might not even really be a similarity at all and I'm off being nutty again.

So what happened to that rational woman who wrote that love is a verb, a decision, a commitment to allow the other person to be themself and to grow and to be the best they can be, regardless of their faults. That it's respect and affection in action, not based on feelings or what the other person does or says. And remember that woman who was determined to walk through fear, to be a watcher and learner, to stay strong in her own person? Yow. This is tough.

It's really so easy to just go with this, to point out the things that bug us in the other person and to blame our unhappiness on their actions or lack of actions. It's easy to point out their flaws and ignore our own, to keep our eyes on them instead of ourselves, to run the other way when the uneasiness gets strong. It would be easy to avoid facing our own insecurities and blame the problems on the other person, to just say it's them and not us. It's not easy at all to admit that these things are even going on in our heads, to admit that we fall prey to our ego or our fears or our feelings of impending doom. We're supposed to tell the other person what's really going on with us, tell that person who believes we are kind and sweet what's causing our odd reactions or withdrawal, but all we can think is that they'll hear that and flee. Fast. And then we'll be alone again, regretting our craziness and wishing for another great guy to come along and then, this time, we'll do it right and not react to anything from our past and just be that loving and fabulous women they think we are when we first meet them.

So what's the answer to this? Maybe it's all about fear, the fear that if we are really truly authentic, then we might be unloveable and that people will leave us. That if we are show our humanness, our not-so-healthy places, that we might be undesirable. So we want to be loved, but we're afraid to be loved, we want to be close but we're afraid to be close, we want a relationship but we're afraid to get hurt. I'll leave you with this quote that sums it up: "Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing." – George Sheehan

August 21, 2007

Packages and other gifts.

This computer thing is amazing. When I was born, my parents had just bought their first TV set and the VCR was many years later. Progress was slow and we had the time to adjust to the new technology easily. I remember buying our first fax machine at work and how great an impact it had on our jobs. Geez, now we buy a cell phone that takes pictures, plays videos, makes movies, and sends emails. I remember that we used to see changes in surgical technique a few times a year and now it's hardly a day that a rep doesn't come in with a new screw or rod to show the docs. Now we use a type of navigation where we do an MRI, put the disc in the machine, and the docs can see exactly where they are in a patient's head during brain surgery. I just think it's magic. I want to understand how they put all that info on something the size of a penny and how I can write a word in google and in a second there are two zillion and fifty answers. It's just magic.

What brought me thinking this way? I write this blog, this way of getting to know myself and share my thoughts with you. And, for the most part, I don't even know who you are. Sometimes at my parties, one of you will come up and say that you enjoy reading the blog and I think, you know that person I just met knows so many personal things about me and I know nothing about him. Kind weird, but then it's been good for me to open up, to write about me and learn that it's OK to be revealing.

I especially enjoy your emails to me, how you comment on something I wrote, how it is just what you were thinking or that you were glad I brought up a certain subject that is important to you. I've recently realized that some of us dearly want a "soul mate" but that we seek someone like the Prince on the white horse and are not realistic about who he should be, like he is our age but has to have all his hair and be really tall and make lots of money and make us laugh. And one of you wrote this really cool email to me: I must comment on the "Laws of the Jungle..." blog. First, thanks so much for including this info. I hope the women in WOW take it to heart. Although I'm considered an attractive man by most standards, I'm just a smidge under 6', have a little more avoirdupoir than I should, have a bit less hair than I used to and most of it is gray. I'm no Donald Trump, but have no debts and will retire with a nice income. You'd be surprised how picky women have been, even in your wonderful group. It's time we all changed our value systems a bit. Do nice guys still finish last? Thank you for all you do. Geez, doesn't he sound like the nicest guy?

Me, I like surprises. I think of all the things I've done in my life that I would have missed if I took the safe route. I might not have traveled by myself to meet friends in Puerta Vallarta, I might not have bought my house on my own, I might not have gone to Paris with someone I barely knew, I might not have taken that amazing parasail ride, and who knows what else. I sure might have never created Wow or these really fun parties that have made my life, and maybe yours, a lot brighter. Maybe we should think of prospective mates like this, like we are open to surprises and that we have almost no preconceptions about what they should be. Maybe we should learn to ignore some of the packaging and wait until we see what's inside. Think about receiving a gift that is wrapped at some fancy store in the shiniest paper and ribbon but might be some silly doo-dad inside that we don't want and some gift that is wrapped in the funny pages with the tape showing and holds inside something that would really make us smile and be happy.

I have a picture of my twin grandchildren walking into a room to see their 4-year-old birthday gifts. They had absolutely no idea at all what might be in those boxes and each time they opened one, they were thrilled, just thrilled, like it was the neatest thing ever. Maybe we should view life, and potential mates, like that, that they might just be the gift we hoped for all our lives. My beautiful curly-haired daughter sent me this quote last week, "Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting gold." ~Maurice Setter. Let's open whatever special gifts that are waiting for us, regardless of how they're wrapped!

August 15, 2007

Now that you got him, what next?

So we finally meet the guy or gal of our dreams and then what? I've read books and blogs and heard lectures and seen relationship coaches, but they all talk about getting the guy. Where to meet him, what to wear, what to say, telephone etiquette, how to lean back and let the guy be the guy and etc. and etc. and etc. But who actually talks about what to do then?

I've heard that we get "settled in our ways" by this age, that we claim to want a relationship but we want it on our own terms. I favor the Woody Allen method. Not marrying a step-child, of course, but that we live apart but close and see each other whenever we want or don't see each other when we don't want. Or we can buy a really, really, really big house and have separate places to hang out in the same house, but I don't think too many of us have that option.

I have to admit that I might have what someone else might call "bad" habits. I like to wear sloppy clothes around the house, stuff that is clean and not stained but is baggy and comfortable. Guys like lingerie, you know that itchy stuff that costs a fortune and turns them on so you get to wear it like a minute and then they ask you to just take it off. And I like to watch TV, stuff that I TIVO and might be embarrased if anyone knew, like reruns of shows I've already seen or shows that are just silly or B-movies. What if the guy doesn't watch TV and wants to do things together, all the time? What if he wants to watch sports or the history channel and you don't? Got a house big enough for two TVs and lots of space in-between? And sometimes I like to eat junk food and read all night in bed and leave my clothes on the floor and not wash the dishes. So there.

And if you're not living together and you're spending a lot of time together, do you have to be together every minute you're together? Can you say you just want to be alone or read or veg out if he's come over to see you? And we women sometimes wake up in weird moods, like we talk and talk about what to do about a certain problem and he helps us to make a decision and we wake up the next day and have a totally different opinion - isn't that going to drive him nuts? Or that we women are soooo giving and nurturing and kind and want to just make everything so nice and then sometimes we just want to be selfish and be a queen-for-a-day and not do anything for anyone - how does a guy cope with that? Or that something bothered us and it takes a week or two or more to get the courage or the words or whatever to actually tell him about it and by then we're really emotional and talking really fast and not making sense - how is he supposed to handle this?

I know, I know, that men are not such fabulous people to always have around. Sometimes they leave all the planning up to us or they bring us flowers at first and then stop once we have sex or they get moody or insecure and react to stuff we do like it's one thousand times bigger than it really is and we're supposed to soothe them and make nice, even though we think they're crazy. And sometimes they stop saying nice things to us, like how they like to be with us or how pretty we are because we must already know this and don't realize that we really have to hear that every day because what they said yesterday doesn't really transfer over to today and they don't want to do that. Or they drink too much or don't take showers enough or stay out late with the guys or complain because the restaurant is expensive when they just bought the newest really expensive gadget.

Listen, I'm in the beginnings of a pretty nice relationship with an amazing guy who is kind and thoughtful and sexy and calls me at work to say he's thinking about me and still brings me flowers and makes plans and really acts like he cares a lot. But I just wanted to remind us all that the effort doesn't stop when the Prince kisses the Princess and wakes her up, that the stuff afterward is real and sometimes tough and that we have to be very self-aware of what's going on inside of us so that we don't get mad at the other person when it's really just that we are feeling insecure or need some time alone or haven't really told them what's bugging us. It's not always easy to be with another person, to be vulnerable, to let them see the "real" us, all the while being considerate and kind and looking for the best in them - but I have a hunch it's worth the work.

August 11, 2007

The Ferris Wheel Perspective

I went to the Ventura Fair this week, a "Fair with an Ocean Breeze." I had a great time. I went with my daughter, my 4-year-old twin grandchildren, and another mommy and her twins. Lovely to see the world through the eyes of such innocent little people. The picture is the view from top of the Ferris Wheel ("we'll be verrrrry brave, gramma," said the twins) and it reminds me of how we can see life in different ways, from different views, colored by our preconceptions or expectations.

For me, life has been a journey of coming to know myself, learning who I am and what do I like and what do I stand for. I grew up listening to and believing the views of my parents and siblings, people who needed to see the worst in others and who didn't realize or care that we, especially as children, tend to live up to the expections of others, whether they be high or low. So I've had to recognize these old messages, like I'm stupid or that I wouldn't amount to anything or that I'm unloveable, and contradict them with affirmations, like I'm smart and I'm valuable and I'm loveable, in order to love myself and have peace.

And we can't love others unless we love ourselves. So we date and we have lists of what we want in a man and we meet one after another and we find something wrong with each one. They're not tall enough, they don't have enough hair, they don't make enough money, they don't say the right thing at the right time, and on and on. We find reasons not to let them love us, not to let them into our hearts, and we move on to find something wrong with the next one, all the time yearning for that special someone to love and to love us, to give us that priceless gift of being known for who we are and being loved for being just who we are.

I like to read the blog Dating Goddess: Delicious Adventures in Dating over 40. ( The writer is bestselling author of workplace effectiveness books, speaker and management consultant who has appeared on Oprah, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio and USA Today. Single after a long marriage, she writes about her experiences in dating. In her most recent post, she writes about the book Laws of the Jungle: Dating for Women Over 40by Gloria MacDonald and Thelma Beam and says "I found this to be one of the most interesting books on midlife dating I’ve read in a long while. It is co-written by a matchmaker specializing in people over 40 (Gloria MacDonald), and a couples therapist (Thelma Beam).

Here are the facts from the book:

1) Think there are lots of men out there? In the US and Canada, at age 45 there were 12 single women for every 10 single men. At age 55, there are 15 single women for every 10 men in this age group, and by 65 there are 10 men for 25 women.

2) Think that the guy should make the first move? Midlife women often say: “I’m not making the first move,” or “He has to work hard to win me,” or “I’m not returning his call. I don’t call men.” While this mind set may have worked when they were in their 20’s when there were more men than women, and the woman was in her prime, now in her 40’s, 50’s or 60’s few men will work as hard as they did then. They just don’t have to, as there are more women to choose from. Not that a woman should be easy, but she shouldn’t insist he jump through so many hoops he’ll be pooped.

3) Does he have to be tall or have all of his hair? Midlife women also seem to be picky, their requirements often based on their ex or departed husband, without really a sense that they aren’t in their 20’s anymore. The majority of women say they want someone over 6-feet tall. Did you know that only 14% of men are 6-feet tall? Only 9% are 6′1″? Women of all heights say they want — in fact many say they require — a man who is at least 6-feet tall, even if she is under 5′10″. 45% of men aged 40-49 have some hair loss; 55% of men 50-49; and 65% of men 60-69. Asking for all his hair is like a man insisting that a women has no gray in her hair, or doesn’t dye her hair. It cuts down the options dramatically.

4) Do you require that the guy be “slim, slender, fit?” The data shows that 75% of people aged 45-74 are overweight. So if you insist on this, you’re eliminating three-quarters of the population.

5) Want a guy with lots of money? Women often say they want a successful man, stating they want someone who makes over $100,000/year. Even if their ex or late husband didn’t, or if she makes one-third of that. In the 45-64 age group, only 9-10% of men make six figures.

By no means am I saying that we should give up our values or pick someone who isn't a good fit. But, if we spend time getting to really know ourselves and to really love ourselves, we will be more likely to pick a mate based on the really important things in life, like the quality of his character, the depth of his compassion, and the size of his heart. We are all drawn to people who are confident and who seem to be comfortable in their skin. If we are happy and content with our own life and we have grown past our heartaches and bitterness into people who care about others, we will attract someone similar.

The Dating Goddess wrote an earlier post about what to wear on a first date to "build rapport" and talked about showing cleavage or not, dressing provocatively or not, and I wrote a comment that said, "What to wear? For sure, something comfortable and something that I feel good in. What else? A big smile, a cheerful attitude, a kind spirit, and an open heart! That’s what draws a man to us, I promise." Let us be people who love. Ourselves first, and then a fabulous mate!

August 7, 2007

A Special Place - A Guest Post by Kathy Keane

To my loyal and new readers: Please enjoy this guest post by my wonderful new friend Kathy Keane:

On my 50th birthday, in September of 2002, I decided the best gift I could give myself would be to forget, for awhile, about finding a compatible man who loved himself and who could love me for the person I am. It was nearly three years after my divorce, which was followed by several disappointments with on-line and off-line dating, including flying across the country to meet the “one who got away” 23 years before and returning home astonished and saddened at how such a warm, happy guy could have become so bitter and sarcastic.

When I made the decision, I thought for a moment about what my life would be like, when I’d no longer feel compelled to scan the world of men, wondering if that the attractive guy at the conference wine-and-cheese party or in the checkout line at Trader Joes could be “the one.” How would I spend the hours I’d previously squandered perusing online dating websites, later returning home to hug my dog after yet another dreadful coffee date? What would I do those weekend evenings I’d previously spent wishing yet another blind date suggested by a well-meaning friend would end?

An image of a wonderful room I didn’t recognize alighted for a moment in my mind. But with it came a feeling I couldn’t easily forget, a feeling of incredible tranquility and joy. After sharing the story of that image with friends, I couldn’t help wondering if such a Place could really exist.

I knew from the dazzling light shining into the room that it was somewhere in the desert, but since the image was what I’d see while sitting in the room, I couldn’t see out the windows for any landmarks or other clues about where it could be. And none of my many desert travel destinations in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico or California seemed to click with the image. Amazingly, the next day I was able to create the image once again in my mind and within it, “walk” to the window, where I saw a morning sun over the ocean. That’s when I knew, if it existed, that this Place was on the Sea of Cortez, the ocean that caresses, and sometimes crashes into, the east coast of Baja California, Mexico.

I’d fallen in love with the Sea of Cortez many years before. But the Baja peninsula extends for over 800 miles. It could take years to find this Place! That’s when logic took a front seat to whatever spiritual awakening was happening inside of me. I couldn’t afford to retire yet, and when I did would miss friends and family in the U.S. if I moved to Loreto, a gorgeous quaint tourist town crowned by rugged mountains but a grueling two-day drive or $300 round-trip flight from Los Angeles.

So I got out my maps and found San Felipe, the first town south of the border town at Mexicali. Years before, I’d been to San Felipe, which swarmed with tourists on weekends and was now sprouting with American housing developments. It was impossible that the peaceful Place I’d seen in my mind existed in San Felipe. But I noticed the names of several small communities south of the town. I logged in to the San Felipe website, emailed a realtor, and had a phone number to call the next morning for a family selling their house 35 miles south of town. I decided to make the drive three weeks later, when I was invited, via another email, to a party in the tiny town of Puertecitos, 20 miles south of the house. I figured if the house just wasn’t my Special Place, the party would provide opportunities to ask around about other beach houses for sale nearby.

My anticipation was spilling over as I neared the house, but when I drove up and saw its funky outside, with peeling paint and rusted screen doors, my heart faltered. But when I walked into the living room, I saw that light! And that morning sun over Sea of Cortez was right outside the sliding-glass door. With tears about to spill over, I told the owners I was going to buy the house. “You haven’t seen the rest of it!” they chided. Of course, it didn’t matter, but I was happy that the front bedroom also had an ocean view—I could look at the ocean from my bed!

I was already in love, but the next morning it was head-over-heels, camping at the shoreline in the back of my truck and watching a pink-and-gold sunrise splash over the tidepools.
I hired local reliable contractors, who fixed up and painted the house while I was in the U.S., and I made a commitment to spend a few days there each month. I’d pack the truck the night before leaving with my latest purchases in home d├ęcor and an ice chest full of healthy food. I’d often work until after midnight on invoices and emails, then arise before 5 am to miss the morning traffic through San Diego. But I never, ever cancelled a trip; getting there was essential to my peace of mind.

When I arrived during each visit at my Special Place, which I now call Home, I unpacked the truck and took a long walk down the beach, rarely seeing anyone except my 82-years-young neighbor Louie and Jefe, his yellow Lab Retriever—I’ve never met a dog with such a smile! And I’d spend long hours at my patio table, covered in a tablecloth of Mexico-bright colors. At first I’d sit down with a book to read or report to review while I had my morning coffee or evening glass of wine. Then, I’d notice the waves and how the quickly the colors of ocean changed. It was slate blue in the morning, turquoise at mid-day, and lavender, then silver, at dusk. And the unbelievably high and low tides, and the winds and variations in cloud cover, created other hues, ripples, swells and whitecaps.

I watched. And looked. And listened to the incredible wave sounds—sometimes it seemed the Sea of Cortez was breathing with soft sighs. And my book or report remained unopened. I felt the stress of the previous month and the eight-hour drive (despite good books-on-tape!) overpowered by that feeling of peace and joy that accompanied the image in my mind. I tell friends that my Special Place is where I learned to simply SIT, to just BE and to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Place.

Life was good before I bought the house, but it’s so much better now! My environmental consulting business was eight years old by then and I was blessed with its success, but I’d been working well over 60 hours a week, most of it at the computer. I was exhausted, and since I was delegating to subcontractors most of the field surveys that inspired me to start the business, it wasn’t fun anymore.

But finding my Special Place taught me to say “no” so I could reduce my workload and extend my visits to a week or longer. Now, my work here is very busy in the summer, when, coincidentally, it’s too hot and humid at Home. But I only accept projects I enjoy and work an average of 20 hours a week winters.

I’ve also made several new friends in Baja that I’ll visit in August at their summer homes in the U.S. And I’ve upgraded to a newer, larger home that also stole my heart when I walked in; it’s a five-minute walk from the other house. Friends love my potluck parties since I’m on a bluff with a wide patio overlooking the long empty shoreline to the north. We sip margaritas and munch home-made goodies (no Costco chocolate cakes or lasagna here!) while we watch the moon rising over the sea, and the aisle of sparkling water it reaches out to us.

I hope to retire at my Special Place, at least part-time, someday soon. In the meantime, I’ve been blessed to meet Ellen with her heart of gold and to find Wonderful Online Women. After eight months of once again abstaining from the dating world, I’ve met some wonderful, emotionally mature men through WOW activities, as well as online, since WOW and Ellen have enhanced my self-confidence with men.

But now that I’ve found that Special Place, will I ever find that Special Guy? A special guy who would love that Special Place as much as I do? I hope so.

For now, I’m making wonderful new women friends. And I’m really enjoying the dating world, this time without feeling intimidated or jaded, or afraid that I’ll ignore those red flags and fall for someone who’s not the perfect match. Anyone who makes the slightest dent in my joy is not for me! And I’m feeling so incredibly blessed that I followed that split-second vision and, because of it, found more joy and serenity and feel more love inside than I ever imagined was possible!

August 5, 2007

Love and Marriage

I went to a wedding last night. I'm always amazed at how my life works. I have a new friend who I met by recently inviting some women on to join Wow. It's hard to make friends at our age, really hard, like where would we meet them and probably they don't have time for someone new and how much would we have in common? But, lucky me, I have several new friends and I really like them a lot and already they have enhanced my life in special ways. So, one of these ladies invited me and my new boyfriend to come to the wedding of her son and I was delighted. First, that a new friend thought enough of me to want me to join her at an event so close to her heart. Plus, I thought it would be fun for me and the new BF to go to a dress-up event and socialize and dance. And it was.

Having been married, not so happily, and then divorced, I have a lot of mixed feelings about weddings. It's hard to be optimistic about a new marriage, considering my past and how many friends have been badly divorced and the statistics and all that. But I wanted to go with a joyful attitude, so I spent part of the day reading "Courage, My Love" by Merle Shain, a "meditation on the very nature of love itself." She writes about our yearning for love, our need to make up for love not given to us as children. We seek and find love, only to want someone else, or we find love and it fails us, so we leave and blame the other person. She writes that we think love is supposed to "make us feel whole and happy, rich and beautiful and even thin, and if it doesn't we think we married the frog instead of the prince and take steps to trade him in" and that we "expect a lot from love - often a lot more than we expect from ourselves." She quotes Mark Twain who wrote that love is "the Master Passion, the hunger for self-approval." Her real premise is that we look to love to validate ourselves, to prove we are OK, to prove that we are valuable and loveable, but that it is "your own love you are looking for, not anybody else's" and that we can seek and find who we think is our perfect mate, some who "sees the person you want to believe you are" but that "if you don't give yourself approval, they won't be able to do anything much for you, no matter how much they try." She writes that there are three stages to love, starting with that "Some Enchanted Evening" experience in which we bring all our hopes and expectations from the past to the present, and that often these have little or nothing to do with the person we have just met, but is more a figment of our imagination. She writes that romantic love is an "infirm thing, made from equal parts of hope and it an opiate, a petition, a malady, it is not anything of love." The second stage is when we realize that we are both human, that we have flaws, and that we aren't the fantasy we created ourselves to be, so we often abandon each other, saying "what did I ever see in him?" The third stage is an honest view of the reality of the person we have found and who has found us. And that, creating a "we" requires that we keep the "I" alive, knowing that the person isn't a illusion we have created - "it's often easier to flesh out someone with your own creativity and fall in love with what you've made, the real joy is understanding and accepting and loving what you find."

So I went to the wedding feeling grounded, knowing that I have learned what Merle writes from my own experiences, that to love and be loved requires authencity, really being ourselves which again requires knowing ourselves. And that love is not just a feeling, because feelings come and go, that that it is a verb, an action, and intention. It requires being invisible, allowing our real selves to be seen, trusting that the one who loves us as we really are will be patient while we continue to grow and even give us credit for trying even when we don't get it right.

Still, I was not sure whether the couple entering this commitment understood this reality at all. It was a lovely wedding and my friend was glamorous and beautiful and joyful, surrounded by her happy children and friends. And to my great pleasure, it sure seemed like the bride and groom, even in their youth, had created a love that was based on friendship and liking each other and respecting each other. From what I could see and hear, they really knew each other well and had a great appreciation for the wonderful qualities in each other but also desired to see the other succeed and grow to be better people.

And me? I had the best time! I was so happy to see my friend joyful, I was thrilled that her date was a friend of my new BF and that she'd met him at my last party, and I was happy to be part of such a lovely and touching experience. But most of all, I was happy because I'm finally with a man who knows me, the real me, and seems to think I'm pretty terrific. And he dances!!! Ain't love grand?