The Dating Game

When we alter our perspective, we change our experience.

*Rebecca was a knockout: green eyes, strawberry blond hair and a smile that lit up a room. It’s no wonder *Jon swiped left on her profile. After several texts on the dating app, they made plans to meet for coffee.

A few hours later, the two hugged and Jon said he would be in touch. 

“You better,” she said, her voice a flirtatious wink.

True to his word, Jon reached out after a couple of days, wanting to “play it cool.” However, his mind was already seeing them go on camping trips with his dog and sitting beside her at an Astros game.

                        After what Jon considered enough “polite texting banter,” he asked Rebecca out for dinner that upcoming weekend.

                        With bated breath, he watched the 3 dots surface on his phone…then stop…then start up again. In what felt like an eternity, he received the following text:

                        I can’t this weekend. I’m heading to a family reunion upstate. But let’s definitely get together the following weekend!!!

Crushed, Jon was grateful the text didn’t allow for her to see the disappointment on his face. Instead, he texted back a no-big-deal thumbs up emoji. 

Jon spent the next week researching restaurants and cool things to do in the area. On Wednesday of the following week, Jon texted Rebecca again:

Hey! Hope you had a great reunion with your family. Does this weekend still work for you?

The beautiful strawberry blond texted back within the hour:

I just found out that I need to fly to LA for a work event. I’m sorry for the confusion. But let’s definitely meet up the following weekend.

Jon felt like his heart strings were being pulled against his will. For the past two weeks since meeting Rebecca, Jon had replayed their long coffee date in his mind like a record stuck on the same groove: the angle of her face as she laughed when he told her a joke about getting older, the excitement she expressed when talking about her love of contemporary art. The way it only felt like the two of them at the coffee bar.

The following week, Jon began looking on the dating app again. A few girls “liked” him, and he started to engage in texts with two of them.

The excitement of meeting Rebecca and their potential was fading.

And of course, that’s when Rebecca reached out to him:

Hey! How’s your Thursday going? I’m back in town. Did you have a fun weekend?

Jon’s veins flooded with a dopamine high. 

Good! I’d love to take you for dinner this weekend🙂

Aw. Thank you. I’m just so exhausted. Let’s shoot for next week.

Online dating makes me think of the Hindu parable of the snake and the rope. A man is walking alone in the desert when he sees a rattlesnake. His heart races and his adrenaline is at an all-time high. But before he runs away, he takes one final glance at that snake, only to discover it’s a rope. Suddenly, all the adrenaline and fear left his body.

Our perception creates our reality. When it comes to dating, the myriad of emotions we can experience can feel so personal, so real. But like the weather in the sky, our emotions are temporary. When it’s rainy outside, we don’t take it personally. Likewise, when we experience a negative emotion, we are not the emotion itself. We can observe it and know that like weather, it will change. We have the power to alter our perception, to see the dating world as a rope, not a snake. 

Jon will never know why Rebecca keeps putting off meeting him again. He will never know “the truth” about why she reached out to him if she’s not interested in dating. But he CAN experience a more enjoyable dating life if he’s not weighing everything like that man walking in the desert: fearful, anxious, considering every interaction with a stranger a matter of life and death.

When we consider dating a game, we don’t take the experience as seriously. We can enjoy the moments themselves. We can change our goal from something less lofty (meeting “the” one) to meeting new people (making new potential friends while learning more about what we like and don’t like).  A game is about having fun, not torturing oneself with what ifs and failed attempts at mind reading.

*Names have been altered to protect the individuals.

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The Ghost and Ghosted

There’s another side to ghosting that is often overlooked but needing our attention.

*Jackie liked her date the way you appreciate a jacket on a cold day: He was comfortable but not someone she saw herself with. However, by the end of their dinner, he expressed he was “smitten” with her.

Despite knowing her attraction to him held a verbal equivalent of “meh,” she felt—what many of us feel at times—an inexplicable pressure to give him another chance.

On the second date, the distance between Jackie’s lack of attraction and her date’s attraction for Jackie had grown. 

“When can I see you again?”

Jackie could feel her throat tighten, unable to find the ability to say the words aching to form:

Look, there is not going to be another date for us. I think of you like a brother. End of story.

Well, that’s what Jackie wanted to say. Instead, she said:

“Yeah, let me look at my calendar.”

She dodged a kiss with a yawn.

Jackie is a divorced mom with 3 daughters who works full time as a neonatal nurse. She barely has time to date, but the time she spends dating is nothing compared to the physical and mental hours wasted, pretending there is potential with someone. 

A people pleaser, Jackie decided to text Mr. Smitten and tell him she met someone (a lie).

            “I thought that way, I could enjoy a potential friendship with him.”

            Mr. Smitten called her immediately, his voice sounding like someone losing a limb. “Oh man, did you really meet someone else? Oh man. That hurts. But can we be friends? I mean, I’m really attracted to you, but I promise to stay in my zone.”

            Again, Jackie could feel the tightening in her throat. She wanted to say:

What is the point of us developing a friendship when we both know you want more? 

            Instead, Jackie agreed to meet Mr. Smitten for lunch the next day.

            When we try to live for others, altering our lives to satiate others, we are doing two detrimental things:

  1. Telling ourselves (and the world) that we don’t matter.
  2. Hurting the very people we are trying to “protect.”

If Jackie allowed her truth to come out, it would be kind to both parties. Something simple yet direct like:

You seem like a great person, but unfortunately, I didn’t feel that x factor that is so important in a potential romantic relationship. I wish you only the best.

There’s often this unspoken sense in the digital world that the words we use don’t have an effect on people looking on the other end of the screen. Perhaps this is a common reason people in the dating world (and otherwise) “ghost” someone. But people pleasers are just as likely to ghost someone—not wanting to face the potential disappointment they will cause the other party.

Jackie didn’t ghost Mr. Smitten. She lied to him and herself, hiding behind a story to prevent dealing with the potential fallout of truth. In a way, she became a ghost to herself, rejecting the idea that she mattered.

Mr. Smitten deserved to know there was no romantic potential, so he could move on and meet someone who felt about him the way he once did about Jackie.

We humans are wired to avoid pain and discomfort, so it’s no surprise that ghosting offers a “quick fix” to avoid dealing with the potential anxiety that comes with confrontation. But there’s that other, more clandestine side of ghosting we need to watch for as well: lying to ourselves and by extension, the other person in the dating equation. It’s better to rip off that emotional Band-aid now than string someone along, hurting two people in the long run. 

Each of us matters. When we remember this, we stop lying to ourselves and others. The desire for truth eclipses fear of confrontation—the real ghostbuster;-)

*Name changed to protect privacy.

A Different Kind of Love Letter

There’s something powerful about the written word–especially when those words are crafted with the intent to alter the present.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the insightful and engaging, Alicia Elatassi on her Podcast, Vibes by Alicia. While our dialogue focused on feeding ourselves emotional nutrition (the main focus of my book, The Friendship Diet: Clean Out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last), one of the great questions Alicia asked me was:

Where can young women find the willpower to stop accepting emotional crumbs and leave a relationship that isn’t serving them?

Enter Faith. A relatively easy quality to possess in spades when we are flying high, but something fleeting and hard to feel when we are in a bad place—physically or mentally.

Then I remembered the Love Letter I wrote to the Universe. I wrote about the qualities of a partner I wanted, writing the letter in the present tense—not the past or the future. The idea is to write the letter and read it aloud. There’s something powerful about putting your desires onto paper; something energy-shifting about giving voice to the qualities you see in someone before he or she has physically materialized. Since time is a human construct, what matters is consciousness. According to author Larry G. Maguire:

“It is by our perception only that things appear to be, and not to be…. In fundamental reality, there is merely everything existent in a single moment.”

Mini-quantum physic lesson aside, when we reflect on the qualities we want to experience in another partner, we are paying attention, we are going within for answers, we are getting real with ourselves. The qualities we are looking for will not be found on social media or even in your close friend’s Love Letter. This writing exercise is a Love Letter to YOU, a subconscious reminder that what you want matters.

The Love Letter to the Universe can be written whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed—the current relationship status doesn’t matter because YOU are the common denominator. The Love Letter offers a kinesthetic check-in on what matters to you and what you want to experience.

But back to Alicia’s thought-provoking question:

Where can young women find the willpower to stop accepting emotional crumbs and leave a relationship that isn’t serving them?

An internal shift occurs when you write a Love Letter to the Universe. There’s this energetic knowing that the figurative winds have suddenly changed. Faith starts to flow. You can’t look at the list you’ve created and remain willing to accept emotional crumbs. The more you refer back to your list, the more difficult it will be to continue swallowing the status quo. There will come a point when that Love Letter for Mr. Right will feel more real than the boyfriend who stares at his phone throughout dinner.

The Love Letter to the Universe is a powerful honing device when you’ve found yourself living by default, accepting whatever empty calories come your way. When we list the qualities we want in a partner, as if they’re already here in the flesh, we stop settling. We get comfortable walking away from what doesn’t serve us, discovering the very qualities we want in another, in ourselves. And when we love ourselves, we never starve.

Alicia’s Vibes Podcast: https://www.audible.com/pd/Vibes-by-Alicia-Podcast/B08JJM9S9B

The Friendship Diet:  https://www.amazon.com/Friendship-Diet-Yourself-Meaningful-Relationships-ebook/dp/B089GZJ5B5

Source: https://larrygmaguire.com/does-time-exist/

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

There’s a disconnect between what retail glorifies as romance and what romance truly is.

            Valentine’s Day. A time hallowed by Hallmark (the TV channel included), teeming with jewelry commercials, and stores littered with giant pink hearts and boxes of chocolate. Retail stores ply our senses with confectionary romance. 

All that pink can start to look like Pepto Bismol (or make you feel like you need some to quell the nausea from the retail overload).

There’s nothing wrong with the romantic holiday arriving each 2nd week of February. The tricky part comes when we lose sight of the why behind romantic gestures. According to author Kelly Gonsalves:

“Being romantic is about expressing love and dedication in a way that’s intentional, unmistakable, and deeply affectionate.”

The Hallmark Channel and Kay Jewelers offer the image of romance, all shiny and with a figurative (and often literal) bow on top. But a woman could receive a sparkly jewel and not feel an ounce of romance; she could watch flick after flick of cheesy Hallmark movies about “love” but not experience anything more than the gas she incurs eating too many bowls of popcorn.

Our retail-centered modern world offers ways to say you matter to me. But it’s the why behind those acts that make all the difference. When there’s genuine connection, romance can be found in a thoughtful gesture—something as simple as bringing your loved one a coffee made just the way he likes it. When there’s reciprocal authenticity, romance is no longer an annual event cranked out by American Greetings, it’s a regular occurrence.

But what if I’m single? You may be asking. Romance can occur regularly for a party of one. Take yourself for a manicure. Treat yourself to a good book or a massage. Go for a scenic bike ride. Remember: the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself. And just like a relationship with someone else, even the small gestures can pack a significant punch.

Tina Turner’s famous hit, What’s Love Got to Do with It? is ostensibly about a girl telling herself that the boy she likes is only interested in him physically. Yet at the closing chorus, the lyrics speak a different story:

I’ve been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I’ve been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way

What is the girl in the song scared of? What is she trying to protect and why? To love means to experience vulnerability, to accept vulnerability as a way of life, to cozy up to it and break bread with it, to look our fear directly in the eyes, knowing you might get your heart broken. The Hallmark movies, the Jared jewelry commercials—these are fairytale ideas that have nothing to do with watching a loved one go through chemotherapy or losing someone in a car accident. Love takes guts; love means you’re in the ring, knowing there are no guarantees.

What’s love got to do with it? In my opinion, everything. 

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-be-romantic

Proprioceptive Thinking: The Sixth Sense

Lost your way? The Proprioceptive Question will guide you to the answer.

Proprio what? And what the heck does it have to do with a 6th sense??

Last summer, a dear friend of mine (Steve Bernstein, author of Stories from the Stoop) introduced me to a gem of a book: Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice. Co-authors, Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Simon offered a form of meditation through proprioceptive writing. Through a powerful yet simple ritual of writing to baroque music on unlined paper, we possess the ability to create a conduit between our inner and outer world.

But not all of us are writers. Some of us find meditation in running or baking or gardening. So, I began to wonder: Could the proprioceptive method work in other forms of life?

Proprius is Latin for “one’s own” and typically refers to our body’s proprioceptive system. We are regularly taking in life through our five senses, transmitting whatever information comes into our brain, processing “from the inner world of our bodies, the world we alone inhabit.” (Metcalf and Simon). It’s this proprioception that allows us to feel our bodies, as our own. It’s why, when we have a stroke or illness, we can sometimes lose the feeling of literal embodiment. 

The 6th sense is the invaluable gift we all have to synthesize our five senses, reacting to the world around us on a physical, mental and spiritual plane. But we often lose awareness of our 6th sense, even take it for granted while we are healthy. We run on autopilot and can lose the gift of self-reflection.

Enter proprioceptive thinking—a cognitive and spiritual launching pad for those moments when you’ve lost your way, when you’re uncertain about a relationship or a situation, when you’re anxious or depressed. While proprioceptive writing involves handwriting to slow down and answer the proprioceptive questions throughout what is known as a Write, proprioceptive thinking is an opportunity to ask a proprioceptive question—either aloud or in your mind.

So, what is “the” proprioceptive question?

What do I mean by _____________________________?

Think of the above blank as your metacognitive/spiritual Mad Libs:-)Into the blank goes whatever is going through your mind as you draw, talk, swim, cook. 

I’ll give an example from my own life now. Today was spent collecting pathetic drops of water from the spigot outside my house. I was trying to garner enough water to flush a toilet in my home.

My proprioceptive question is:  What do I mean by pathetic?

By asking the proprioceptive question, I am slowing down, using language as a tuning fork for my intuition. Slowing down literally awakens our gut (and our gut is lined with millions of nerve cells that actually “talk” to the brain).

At heart I’m a writer. I can ask the proprioceptive question in my head, but the revelations flow from my pencil.

What do I mean by pathetic? I mean it’s three days without a shower or running water. Pathetic that so many people are living without water and heat and electricity for days now. Pathetic as in sad. Houston, we have a big problem. 

I encourage you to consider the proprioceptive question when you are feeling stressed or confused. The question just might recharge your inner compass. 

An Alternate Reality

There’s a greater reality that technology will never surpass or achieve...

Our perception is everything. How we interpret the world around us and our engagement with it greatly determines our lives in both quality and creation. Check out an Amazon review for almost any product and you’ll discover five star and one-star reviews—for the very same item! Listen to couples—happily married, on the brink of divorce and every state in between—and you’ll hear two different tales regarding the same relationship.

Technology is in the midst of creating an ever-evolving AR (Augmented Reality), where you can simulate life in an alternate world (i.e., bungee jumping in Costa Rica, skiing in Aspen, playing tennis at Wimbledon).  The pandemic has caused us to gravitate to this screen-laden world where attendance is taken virtually or noted in the clever acronym, IRL (In Real Life). Our life lessons are growing more comprised of chats, texts, emojis and screenshares, where an icon is considered sufficient (albeit online) presence.

I’m not knocking the myriad of gifts that arrive as a by-product of our tech-savvy world. I’ll be the first to admit that I love knowing my lessons can be found easily on a universal learning platform that our school uses, lessons that I create and decide when to share with a convenient click of a button. Children with underlying health issues are no longer prevented from engaging in learning now that we offer a streamlined learning program; students can learn at their own pace, replaying a lesson for greater understanding, translating into their first language where necessary.

But there’s a greater reality that technology will never surpass or achieve: the ability of humans to alter their perceptions and by extension, create their own reality. As the late Dr. Wayne Dyer said (author of The Shift

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

The other day, one of my 6th graders sounded palpably upset when I announced an assignment to read a few chapters independently that week. His icon glowed as he spoke:

“I feel so much pressure. My head hurts. This book is hard for me to enjoy.”

The boy is a voracious reader and extremely bright. His voice was tight with unshed tears. The stress he was feeling was his reality, his perceived reality.

I reminded him of how much he loved to read. I asked him what was different this time.

“I like to read at night, under a blanket with my favorite stuffed animal beside me.”

“Then that’s what you’ll do,” I said.

Oh, how he let out an audible sigh. Gone was the shaky, holding-back-tears in his voice. Gone was his perception that the world was closing in on him.

We are no different from my sweet 6th grader. We all possess the power to perceive the best and worst at every moment. My student had perceived me as “safe” to articulate his anxiety, which in turn, created an alternate reality for him. 

Consider your own life and how you perceive it. If there’s an area you aren’t happy with, how might you alter your understanding of it? Each moment is a gift for you to interpret and manifest a different reality.

The Power of Belief

We are Powerful Creators. The question is: What Are You Creating?

We all know that our words matter. Whether we compliment or insult someone or anything in between, our words have an effect on the listener. But before words are spoken or written, there’s an alchemy that’s even greater forming: our beliefs.

  The talented author, O’Henry demonstrates this power in his fictional tale, “The Last Leaf.” A young woman is plagued with pneumonia and announces:

 “When the last one [leaf] falls, I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?” 

Before the young woman [Johnsy] spoke these words, she had already made a decision between her heart and mind. She is so filled with the belief that she will die once that leaf falls that she even interprets the doctor’s message as a fatal diagnosis. 

Yet the doctor’s words regarding Johnsy’s prognosis were far from tragic:

  “She has a chance, if she wants to live. If people don’t want to live, I can’t do much for them. Your little lady has decided that she is not going to get well.”

   Johnsy’s belief that she isn’t going to get well is determining her prognosis, her future.

   While O’Henry’s example of faith in action is fictional, consider Anita Moorjani (author of Dying to Be Me). At 42, Anita discovered a lump in her shoulder and was subsequently diagnosed with lymphoma. After four years, the cancer had attacked her vital organs, and she was in a coma. 

  Anita writes about her NDE (Near Death Experience) where she became aware of what brought her to the current physical state she was in:

    “I also understood that the cancer wasn’t some punishment for anything I’d done wrong, nor was I experiencing negative karma as a result of any of my actions, as I’d previously believed. It was as though every moment held infinite possibilities, and where I was at that point in time was the culmination of every decision, every choice, and every thought of my entire life. Many fears and my great power had manifested this disease.”

   We all possess the power to believe. Many of us do so unconsciously. We are pharmacists, magicians, creators—our perceptions regularly manifesting our reality.        

     The great news: we don’t need to acquire pneumonia or cancer to alter our beliefs. We can choose to believe that things are always working out for us; we can choose love over fear; we can choose to trust ourselves; we can choose faith.

A Latent Choice

The words and images in our minds render powerful consequences in our lives.

We are all familiar with the word choice and how it applies to our everyday lives. We make choices every day, hundreds of times a day, deciding everything from what foods we will consume to the time we go to bed, and everything else in between.

But there’s an altogether different kind of choice we make just as many times a day that plays perhaps an even greater role in our lives: The choice to heed or change our thoughts. That’s right—our mind seems to want to run the show of our lives, making decisions that are not always in alignment with our heart, our inner knowing. These choices occur, if we aren’t mindful (no pun intended;-) in subtle, often unspoken ways. And if these moments of disregarding our inner knowing are said aloud, they’re often done so out of habit, without reflection or even awareness.

As a secondary English teacher, my ears often hear a barrage of self-proclaimed negative statements from students:

“I hate reading.”

“I’m just not a good reader.”

“I’m not good at writing.”

“I’m a procrastinator.”

“I’m lazy.”

Adults often share their own list of self-ascribed truisms:

“I hate exercise.”

“I have a sweet tooth.”

“I’m a spender.”

“I’m not relationship material.”

“I can’t live without my morning coffee.”

Obviously, the list in both cases could go on ad nauseum. Their minds have created these pejorative statements and, receiving no argument from their inner knowing/heart, believe them. The mind is a neutral repository, offering up whatever information you feed it.

According to Rapid Transformational Therapist and TED talk speaker, Marisa Peer (author of Ultimate Confidence): “Your mind does exactly, specifically what it thinks you want to do….It does what it thinks you want.” If we aren’t experiencing what we, in our heart of hearts wants, we need to consider the words we are saying or thinking.

What if we tell our mind a different story? What if we start priming the cognitive pump, using words we think and say that will garner a pleasurable outcome?

Marisa Peer states that our brain only responds to two things: the pictures we make in our head and the words we say to ourselves.

When we make a choice to collaborate with our brain, we are altering our lives in the direction our hearts want to flow. This is not positive thinking; this is proactive thinking.

There’s a famous quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” Your mind is listening to your thoughts; it’s up to you what you tell it