I will fake it until I make it!

All about the escapades and thoughts of a girl who thinks WAY too much for her own good!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Statistics and Internet Dating: It's All In The Numbers!

This is my third attempt at dating on the Internet. I’ve come so far over the years that I’m not even embarrassed to admit it’s my third time. Okay, I’m slightly embarrassed but only because I can still hear the words said to me by well intentioned albeit misguided people, “... Only losers date online!” Ouch! But I digress.

In 2005, when friends first suggested the idea of Internet dating I was a little reluctant. NOT IN A MILLION YEARS might have been my first reaction, but that's so long ago now, who can really remember!

I had not been single for 15 years, and much had changed in the dating world. Plus I had never really "dated" before. I was a serial monogamist who went from high school boyfriend, to college boyfriend, to husband with very little dating in between.

It took me about 3 months to warm up to the idea. And that was only after a friend pointed out that the Internet might be my best option since I worked two time-consuming jobs, never had time to go out, and when I did go out I only went with my guy friends. (Apparently guys will never approach you at a bar if you're already surrounded by guys. Go figure!) And, after my divorce, I had a list longer than my arm of prerequisites for what this next guy must have if I was to date him. Yeah, Match.com's sort capability alone sold the idea for me! 

I started by logging on to do some data gathering and analysis. I first looked at my competition, the women who were my age, to see what types of pictures they posted and what types of profiles they wrote. And what I found was a sea of similarity.  Apparently all of the women in the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area feel as comfortable in a pair of jeans as they do a black cocktail dress. They all have cats- some with the personality of dogs- and they all LOVE to laugh. I’m sorry but have you ever met anyone who actually HATED to laugh? 

Despite a witty profile and some decent profile pictures, I was a nervous nellie when first hitting the send button to pay and activate my account. Would anyone write me? I had visions of opening my profile to see an urgent blinking message, “You have no messages… AND YOU NEVER WILL! AND YOU NEVER WILL! AND YOU NEVER WILL!”

Ahh, looking back now, I was such a neophyte. I wrote back to everyone who wrote me. It didn’t matter if he was short or tall; skinny or fat; too old, or too young. If a guy put himself out there and contacted me, he got an email response back. At first I was appreciative that people even wrote! But after a while, when it seemed that only really old, really fat, or really well… ugly men were reaching out, I started to wonder, “Am I so hideous that this guy really thinks he has a shot with me?”

A friend of mine (I’ll call her Trisha even though that's not her real name) who was well versed in Internet dating explained that it wasn’t that I was hideous, it was all about the numbers. The more women these men wrote to, the more chance they had at getting a response. It's basic sales training really. The more numbers you cold call, the more times you get hung up on, the closer you are to the one person who will say, “Yes, I WOULD like to buy that timeshare in Boca Raton!”

This time, on my third attempt at Internet dating, I was prepared. I had the rules down and I was armed with a healthy dose of self confidence and statistical understanding; It’s all about the numbers! This time I knew not to take things personally. I signed up for a longer membership than before understanding that it could take longer than a month or two to find a guy with whom I really click. I've kept an optimistic and open mind. I’ve dated a wider variety of men than I ever did before (all within what I want in a partner – just more variety in the types of men). And this time I am enjoying every minute of this experience (well, almost every minute).

Throughout all my attempts at Internet dating I have met some really great guys who have helped teach me a little something about myself. One man broke my heart, but showed me how capable I was of truly loving another. One man helped me define the balance of characteristics I want in a guy. And this time… well, who knows what I will learn, but I am not afraid to find out!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Internet Dating: A Guy's Perspective

An introduction:  Today's guest blogger is Dave.  I went to high school with Dave and even though we were friends, I had a HUGE crush on him pretty much throughout high school.  Dave was smart and an athlete.  He had curley black hair with a quarter size patch of grey hair on the back of his head.  I used to sit behind him in French class and focus on him rather than my French lesson.  We had a chance to reconnect during the preparation for our 20 year high school reunion and we've been keeping in touch ever since. He is still very goodlooking by the way!

I was VERY surprised at some of the things he wrote. His comment about not including pictures of where you've traveled because guys think you are high maintenance was an eye opener!

I also felt pangs of, "OH NO! Do guys really think this way?" when I was reading what he wrote.  I sometimes dread how shallow men can be, but then I think about my horror stories of online dating and I become more sympathetic.  There is nothing like getting super excited for a date only to find the guy had posted pictures from 10 years ago, put on 20 lbs and is now challenged in the hair department. 

In the end, most of Dave's sentiment is the same as mine.  Know who you are and what you really want.  Be honest.  Show who you really are.  Believe in yourself as you really are and you will find someone who likes you for you.  So without further ado... HERE'S DAVE!


Okay, let’s be completely honest, size, ummm…I mean looks matter! We all need to feel attracted to our partners and for most of us that begins with appearance, or in the case of online dating the dreaded profile pictures. This week let’s talk about these pictures in terms of what not to do and what a guy (that’s me, Dave) REALLY sees in pictures.

To begin, if you don’t have at least one profile picture, don’t expect much activity. Oh, I’m sure you are a wonderful person and have much to offer, but if I can’t see you, you won’t hear from me. Call me superficial, but I’m not alone on this. If I’m going to put myself out there for the entire world to see, so can you. I will always seek the profiles with photos.

Alright, you are willing to post photos with your profile. I commend you on the excellent choice. Now you are faced with the next task, deciding not only which photos to post, but also which one will be your main profile pic; the one that will entice a guy like me to read on or look deeper into profile. First you must truly decide if you have a recent enough picture with which to represent yourself. I know retro is in, and while posting your high school cheerleading or catholic school uniform-wearing picture will certainly bring many responses, with the exception of a certain mid-western girl that had hers shortened and Velcro put in to make for easier access, most of you don’t still have those outfits. But I digress…and she deserves a whole, spectacular chapter all to herself…oh, yes she does.

If you can’t find a decent and recent pic, don’t just throw one up there. Find a friend and have them take a few for you. If you are willing to post and few and want the greatest amount of good connections, be honest with us (guys) and yourself and post at least two pictures. One should clearly show you face and the other should show your entire figure. Better to have a guy that is looking for an extremely thin gal pass you over than be disappointed or surprised when the two of you meet. If you don’t buy into this logic, that is fine and you probably haven’t read my thoughts on “Body Types” yet. Oh and also, you’d be wrong.

So, take a couple pictures with simple backgrounds and/or at places that are nice but not too extravagant. It may seem like a great idea to post a bunch of pictures of you in exotic locations but this can have quite the opposite affect. You see, we are men! We view things differently from our pragmatic, problem-solving, not just wanting to listen, Martian viewpoint. So while you think you look amazing atop the Eiffel Tower, swooshing the slopes of the Swiss Alps, dinning al fresco in Rome or lounging on some Carribean beach (side note: bikini pictures should only be posted by those that can really pull that look off, or are willing to accept the consequences), we see nothing but the bills for those expensive trips. We imagine you will expect us to take you around the world on our dime just to have any chance to possibly make or keep you happy. Unless you can afford to do these things on your own, and please figure out a way to slide that into your profile, leave those pictures out for now. Remember, it can be a lot of fun to have a handful of such pictures available to send when you start to communicate as opposed to having had “played all your cards” already.

Next let’s look at who is in these pictures with you. First, I recommend that you use pictures that only have you in them and I do this for several reasons. Remember, we are interested in seeing you not others. But, if you do choose to include others in your pictures, think about what you are doing and mind the following.

The obvious faux paus is to include the ex-anything (boyfriend or husband) in a picture. Also the photo-shopped or crudely cut out/smeared out face should be avoided. Come on girls! You have to have another picture you can use…it can’t be that good that you must use it. On this line, if you have a guy friend or relative in a picture you are using, make sure you can put a caption on the photo that explains that the dude is you brother, gay friend or co-worker. And don’t lie about it, if a real relationship develops and then you have to go back and explain that the dude in the Speedo with you in Jamaica was your ex-boyfriend we will only be left wondering about what else you might have fibbed. Hmmm…maybe they’re not real and spectacular???

This may seem hard to fathom but I promise it’s true. I’ve actually looked through profiles of ladies with a half-dozen or more pictures and not known which woman’s profile it was. Don’t make me have to load up all your pictures in an effort to find who is the common denominator in all of them, thus determining whose profile I am viewing. This also ties back into using recent pictures. I’ve had ones labeled (second from left) where I would never have been able to determine it was you! In a ten picture profile, I’ve seen four hair styles, two different lengths and three hair colors! If I wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a police line-up, I’m most likely not going to want to meet you in person.

Fine, you have disregarded my advice on posing solo in your pics and have included others in your profile photos. Luckily you have heard my other pleas and you have not included any exes and you have clearly labeled who is who in each and every picture. I know who you are in each picture and I’d ID you in a hot second in any line-up presented. Think you are all set? Not quite yet my dear. If I want to sell you something, I wouldn’t display it next to better items that I’m not trying to sell. In that vein, quite simply, be the hottest one in your pictures. My biggest laugh came from a makeup artist that posed with the runway models with whom she works…true story! We can be pigs and you don’t want us looking at your profile trying to figure out if there’s an appropriate way to message you and ask: “Hey, is the girl on your left your second picture available, the one in the black dress?

Lastly let’s talk for a moment about animals, your pet or pets. Sure, post a picture walking your dog or holding your cat. Great. List pets in your profile if you’re able as well so those poor folks with allergic reactions to our four-legged friends can be warned off or take their meds before arriving at your doorstep. But beyond that, let it go! Viewing a profile where 9 of 10 pictures show only your pet is a big turnoff. I love fluffy as much as the next guy, but I am there to look at you not them.

Well I hope that gives you a little insight into your profile pictures and how us guys view them. As always every scenario mentioned here is based on an actual interaction I’ve personally had while online dating. I never mean nor intend any hurtful feelings or ill will towards the women that were involved or women in general. I love women…and just want us to better understand one another and perhaps, just maybe, a few more of us will find our other halfs. Best wishes finding yours…he/she is out there.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Anniversaries are a time when we are reminded to reflect – A time to look back and see what has happened, where we have been, and where we are now.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my former husband's death.  I miss him.  I miss not being able to call him and share a memory, or tell him a story that only he and I would understand.  But this anniversary I am not overwhelmed with sadness about his death. Instead I know I am closer to making my peace with it.

As I was reminded today by a remarkable friend, Steve's time here helped shape me into the person I have become.  Without him I would not be as strong, I would not be as centered, and I would not have grown as much as I have over the last six and a half years.  

That is what I hold on to now – the incredible lesson he taught me.  As hard as it was to learn, it was exactly what I needed and is what keeps me moving forward in life.  Thank you Stevie.  My heart is always with you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Picture Says 1000 Words

Today’s Internet dating topic is the essential profile picture. For those of you not in the know, the profile picture is the number one thing that'll get you noticed online.  Shallow as it sounds a picture really can speak a thousand words... words like, "Don't do it, you'll never get those 2 hours back."  Or "Ya know what, I'm secretly gay so don't get too excited!"

Together with your profile headline, your profile picture can make quite an impression.  In this installment of my Internet dating bliss, I’d like to share some of the profile pictures that have left the greatest “impression” on me.
The people at Match give some tips on how to make good use of photos. Their suggestions are below.
1) Use photos that feature you.
2) Show your best smile.
3) Verify photos are in focus.
4) Use recent photos.
Allow me to add a few more in the interest of helping…
1) How about you don't wear sunglasses and a hat in every picture. I'd like to see your googly eyes and beautiful bald head before we meet!

2) Include a body shot (and may I be as bold as to request a recent body shot). You may have a cute face but I'd like to see if you are either:
A) a midget
B) a fatty.
No body shot = you’ve got something to hide.

3) For the love of Pete, don't post a picture of yourself shirtless (or in your underwear) that you've taken by pointing your camera phone at yourself!  How about we save some things for later!  I'm sorry, but pictures like this give me a serious case of the heebie jeebies.

4) Don't lie about your age. My favorites are the people who lie by 10+ years. For instance this man says he’s 29. Okay maybe he didn’t say 29 but he was definitely off by a couple of years.

So that's it really; just a few tips to help the guys out there meet the woman of their dreams.  Good luck guys.  Hope this helps.

Tune in some time this week to catch my friend Dave's guest blog where he shares his insights on the same topic from a guys perspective.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's in a Name?

Because I’ve been feeling so happy and normal again I’ve decided to jump back in to the wonderful world of dating. So where does a busy woman who has practically no more single friends find men these days? Trolling the bars on her own, you ask? No silly, hopefully I have at least 10 more years before that seems like a viable option! Why, it’s in the not-at-all-humiliating world of online dating, of course! And in true Val fashion it seems fitting that my next series of blogs will focus on my thoughts, critiques, and experiences while Internet dating.

Let me start this series with a discussion on screen names. It’s important to note that the site I’m on makes members select a screen name that is unique so that no two names can be exactly alike and they encourage members not to use any part of their real name. This leaves members in a real quandary as to what name to select. I mean, the screen name and the ever-so-critical profile picture is what can differentiate you from the droves of other people on the site vying for attention. For me, this name can truly make the difference as to whether I will even bother to open a profile or not.  Listed below are a few of my favorites.

• Creamypassion - This one made me throw up in my mouth a little.

• SpiceeItalian4U – Nope, noooooooo, no, no, no!

• Wanttoclimbitall – Ummm, I sure hope you’re into rock climbing because otherwise I wouldn’t touch you with a 10 foot condom!

• godsgreatgift- Dude you have seriously just set yourself up for failure.

• Dred2date – Actually I give him kudos on his creativity on this one because he had a some BIG dreadlocks on his profile picture.

• Mrs73 – I’m sorry, why are you - a GUY - calling yourself “Mrs" anything???

• Butterflymagic – Really... really...

• Lil_tiger – I’m not sure which one I like more – Butterflymagic or lil_tiger?

And your favorite is?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Espirate (Exhale)

That’s how I feel, like I just let out a long, cleansing, hard-earned exhale! Quite simply, I FEEL GOOD! The kinda good you feel down to your core. I feel like me again, but better; more grounded, more secure, more balanced. Best of all it feels true. And I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this feeling; that I am in this place in my life.

One of my biggest fears after my divorce and subsequent breakups with love interests and friends was that I would come away from it a lesser person; that I would be filled with bitterness and resentment, so jaded that I would be unable to see anyone for who they really were. And although I have undeniably had these moments in recent years, that is not me. It is not who I have become.

The truth is I am still able to connect with people on a deeply personal level. I am thrilled to know that not only can I put down the invisible wall that keeps people out so they don't hurt me; I am learning the appropriate times to put that wall up.

I’ve been working hard these days on acceptance and forgiveness. These are traditionally tough things for me. My personal practice in acceptance has been focused on seeing people for who they really are without the filter I usually place on them, and then accepting who that person really is. Acceptance doesn’t mean I let everyone in my inner circle of trusted friends. It simply means I stop filling in the blanks for people. I let them be who they are and in doing so, I let me be me.

Doing this has helped me reduce my resistance to some friendships and raise my barriers to others. And although this practice does not come without growing pains, it has been an exceptionally good thing for me to do, as it has helped me understand and accept the imperfection of others and myself. It also has helped me accept that my feelings are legitimate no matter what anyone else thinks.

I accept with less judgement that I have many different types of people in my life; those who might seriously consider giving up their lives for mine; those who are fun to hang out with every now and again; and those who I can talk to every five years and it’s like we saw each other yesterday.

I am truly grateful for all the lessons I’ve been given over these last few years because they are helping me grow in ways I never imagined. There is so much good in this world and I have so much good in my life that I am truly grateful for. And I am happy, right here -- right now, living in this imperfect moment.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Conversations with my Dead Ex-Husband

It was August 2010. I had been back in the United States for two weeks and was moving into my darling condo which I had rented out for the past year while living abroad. Other than some furniture, wall art, and odds and ends that were sentimental to me I kept almost nothing from my life before Italy. I didn’t mind parting with these things. After all, they were just things and it felt liberating to purge!

I knowingly planned a month-long reentry in the U.S. so I could adjust before starting in my new position at my old firm. I had a lot to do to get my place ready to move back in. First I had to clean, and then fresh paint had to be applied, and then the movers had to bring my boxes, and then I had to unpack said boxes, and then I had to organize the unpacked said boxes, and then I had to buy new stuff to replace the stuff I didn’t have any more. Oh yes! There was a lot to be done.

I was in the middle of unpacking boxes, with my trusty iPod shuffling songs in the background, when the pangs of hunger hit me and I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out some food I had brought with me that morning. When I placed the food on the counter and moved toward the silverware drawer, it hit me. I had no eating utensils! I gave them all away the year before. I quickly remembered, however, unpacking my silver cabinet, a beautiful 9 inch by 15 inch cherry stained box that housed my fancy wedding silver and protected it from the tarnishing affects of the air. I hadn’t used my silver in years. Actually the last person to use it was my former husband who borrowed it over the Thanksgiving Holiday of 2008.

I retrieved the cabinet from the storage closet where I had moved it earlier that day; placed it on the kitchen counter; and lifted the top of the box. I was surprised to find a folded piece of notebook paper placed on top of the silver forks. I lifted it from where it was placed and unfolded it. It was something penned in the hand of Steve, my former husband. My body started to shake. What was this? Had I seen this before? Did Steve put this here? As I started to read the note, I realized it was a poem and my breath quickened.

“To Val,

You took me in
At a time I needed someone to take me in
You rescued me
From a life of inevitable lies and sin.

You made me laugh
At a time when I needed the most to laugh.

You made me smile
An expression I hadn’t seen for a while.

Thank you for saving me
You turned the tides.”

When I finished reading, tears poured from my eyes and my body shook uncontrollably. My mind was racing trying to figure out what had just happened. Had I put this note in the silver cabinet before I moved? Why would I do that? Why would I torture myself like that? Had I seen this poem before? Steve had written me a few poems or songs when we were together, but this one I could not recall. Did I block it out? Was I not ready to hear this message until now? Is it possible that Steve placed this note in the silver cabinet three weeks before he died? Does stuff like that ever REALLY happen? I simply could not make sense of it.

After calming myself down I went back into the kitchen to try to figure out what to do next. Eating didn’t seem much of a priority any more so I went back to unpacking boxes when the REM song, Night Swimming started to play. REM was Steve and my favorite band. Night Swimming is one of my favorite of their songs. I used it on the DVD I made to commemorate Steve’s life for his memorial service. To hear REM play on my iPod while on shuffle was rare. It never seemed to play songs I had imported from my disks, it always seemed to favor the songs purchased from the iTunes store. Then, “randomly” another REM song immediately followed. THEN Steve’s absolute favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen came on and I felt a chill down my neck. I had the overwhelming sense that Steve was there - with me - in my kitchen! Knowing that no one else was there and understanding that I am fundamentally not “normal” anyway, I cocked my head to the side, looked up to the ceiling and said out loud, “Are you here?”

Although I did not hear a voice –aloud or in my head– I felt that he was there. Actually, I should say, I knew that he was there. I was not afraid or freaked out. I felt completely safe, but I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I never had a dead guy visit me before, so I just did my thing; unpacking boxes, washing sheets, and organizing my house. I felt like he was following me around the house, which is funny because that’s what he had a tendency to do when we were first married.

Eventually I started asking him questions.

“Are you okay? Are you happier now?” The feeling I got back from him was yes, he was happy.

“Are you in… heaven?” It sounded weird saying it. The response I felt was “Kind of.” Of course I had no idea what that meant and was not about to pursue it.

“Why did you do it Steve? Why did you do this? Did you know you were going to die?” He told me (without saying a word) he was tired. He didn’t realize how much his death would affect everyone.

After the third day of feeling like he was following me around my house I asked him playfully why he was still here. I told him I was okay and after that I no longer felt his presence.

I chuckled at the irony of what was happening. I mean, I was having a conversation with the spirit of the person who would be the LEAST likely to believe that a conversation like this was possible. The man himself would have called me a nutcase!

Since then I‘ve felt Steve’s presence a couple of times over the last year; most recently when I met up with some very good friends of ours that we met before we were married. Again the awareness of his presence was triggered by a song; this time Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen. This was one of Steve’s favorite songs and it was the song we walked into our wedding reception to. I felt him in the restaurant when I got up to walk to the restroom and I just had to smile because I knew why he was there.

Obviously, I’ve heard a ton of Bruce Springsteen (or other sentimental songs) over the years since Steve’s death. These songs occasionally inspire a memory of him, but feeling his presence is very different from a memory.

I know how this all sounds. I am sure that most people would explain this away as something that was manufactured in my mind so that the unfinished business between he and I could be resolved. I understand fully this could be the case; that I so desperately wanted closure with him that my mind played tricks on me. But the thing is I don't care! I don't care if it was real or manufactured in my mind, because it did give me peace.

I don't harbor feelings of resentment against him for dying before we could be friends again. I’m not mad at him for drinking his life away. I don't beat myself up anymore because I didn’t do enough to help him. After all, he wrote me this amazing letter letting me know that was not the case.

I can now remember the best of Steve, not the worst. So to me, it doesn’t matter whether I put that letter in the silver cabinet and have absolutely no memory of doing so, or whether he placed it there three weeks before he died. What matters to me is the peace that I received. Without a doubt I know that Steve forgives me, and I forgive him. But most importantly, I forgive myself.

So, you can call me crazy for having conversations with my dead ex-husband but I will call me fortunate for being in a place in my life where I can accept this gift.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Three Books That Have Changed My Life

Recently, I read a book that changed my life. I can say that now about three books; The Four Hour Work Week; Eat, Pray, Love; and Many Lives, Many Masters. Each one, without a doubt, and for very different reasons has affected the course of my life.

I am usually skeptical when a person tells me that a book has changed their life. I find myself asking that person how the book has changed their life. I do this because I have found there are people out there who just hear that expression and repeat it without:

A.) Having read the book, or

B.) Really being able to articulate how they feel about the book so they just use another person’s words (i.e., “It changed my life”).

Either way, I have limited free time, so if I’m going to read a book I like to determine whether it’s really worth my time and money. So to back up my claims, let me explain the reasons I say each one of these books has changed my life.

I read The Four Hour Work Week in late spring of 2008. I was in what I thought was a strong relationship for the last 16 months, but I was feeling unfulfilled in my work life and craving change. I was reluctant however to give up the salary I was earning while working for a prominent consulting company in Washington, D.C.

Although the title can be somewhat misleading (it’s not focused on working 4 hours a week), the book discusses several concepts including work life balance, how to make a living doing what you love, how to better manage your time, and how to have the most interesting life possible.

The author gives excellent tips, tools, and real world examples of how to determine what you really like to do and create a viable living that is in line with your “likes”, how to change careers, and how to work remotely from anywhere in the world while still making your current salary. He also answers any excuses you may come up with on why his techniques won’t work for you. I loved that part. His philosophy - No excuses! Anyone can do it, you just have to want it.

The book gave me an understanding that I wasn’t alone in feeling unfulfilled in my life even though I had a good job and a satisfying relationship. It provided inspiration for me to change my worklife, and gave me the tools I needed to move my life from work-work-work to experience-experience-experience. Immediately after reading it, I started thinking how I could travel/live in Europe for longer than 2 weeks at a time. Three months after finishing the book I decided to move to Europe. This book gave me the inspiration AND the tools to do it.

I read Eat, Pray, Love in July of 2008. Although I had been in what I thought was a fantastic relationship with a British man since January of 2007, I had been going through the process of a divorce from my husband of 6 years since May of 2005 and things were tough for me emotionally. Actually, ironically, the day I read the last page of this book was the last time I ever spoke with the British Bloke.

Eat, Pray, Love discussed the agony the author went through after leaving her husband and deciding to take a year off to write about spending four months in Italy, four months in India, and four months in Bali.

Besides being able to fully relate to the pain of divorce and the need for something more in life, I was intrigued when reading about the author’s travels (especially Italy because I had always wanted to visit). More so, this book changed my life because it royally pissed me off! I was completely green with envy when reading it because it was the book I wanted to write three years earlier when my former husband and I separated.

Eat, Pray, Love was the first book I read about divorce that in the most real way possible talked about the raw emotion involved when your marriage ends, the indescribable emptiness you feel, the deep sense of failure and embarrassment you experience, and the debilitating struggle you go through afterword to redefine yourself.

I simply could not put the book down. It resonated with me more than anything I had ever read. And after reading it, I wanted my own year to recover. I wanted my own year to travel. I wanted my own perfect ending. And goddamnit if she could do it so could I!

In August of 2008 after my recent break up with the British idiot - which meant a second cancelled trip to Italy; the first trip scheduled for my five year wedding anniversary was cancelled because my former husband changed his mind about wanting to leave the country - I made the completely "irrational" decision to sell my stuff, save every dime I earned, give up my career, and move to Italy.  A little over a year later, I did it.

My 10 month Italian adventure would have never happened without the tools and inspiration offered by the authors of the books mentioned above.

I recently finished Many Lives, Many Masters (spring of 2011). I believe the greatest impact this book will have is yet to come, but I can say without equivocation it has changed my life already in many positive ways. I am eternally grateful to the author for having the courage to write it.

I also have admit it’s hard for me to discuss this book and its impact in a completely open forum such as a blog because I know that it opens me up to ridicule, controversy, anger, and condescension.  But to not do so would be a disservice to the message of the book and would leave an unexplainable gap in how I got from the place I was before (read blog entries Growing Pains from Feb. 2010 and Growing Pains - Part Due from March 2011) to where I am now in the late spring of 2011.

Okay, so let me get this out of the way... the book is about reincarnation. Are you still with me? If so, hold on because, in reality, it’s about much more than that. And you certainly don't need to believe in multiple lives to take wonderful things away from this book. Hopefully I can explain its message and impact without sounding like a complete lunatic.

Many Lives, Many Masters was written in the early 1980s by Dr. Brian Weiss, a prominent doctor in the field of Psychiatry. Dr. Weiss went to Columbia University for his undergraduate degree and graduated from Yale Medical School. He did not believe in reincarnation or anything that could not be scientifically proven for most of his life. That is until he took on a patient he calls Catherine who changed his life forever.

Catherine was suffering from a number of phobias and anxieties that were deeply troubling her and affecting her work. She was desperate and badly in need of assistance. Dr. Weiss treated her with the best scientific treatment he knew how to provide for nearly 18 months to no avail, as Catherine’s health and life was not improving.

Desperate to help his patient, he researched alternative methods of care (remember this is the early 80s) and asked Catherine if she would be open to hypnotism and regression therapy. He explained that, when done properly, a person can be regressed to their childhood to determine the root causes to anxieties or problems that are taking place in the person’s present life. And by realizing those events, the patient can understand the source of the pain/issue, confront the pain, and ideally find resolution through acceptance, forgiveness, and healthful coping mechanisms. Through his research Dr. Weiss found that patients often found relief from anxieties immediately upon the realization of the source of the issue.

Despite remembering in her first session that she was molested by her father, and pushed off a diving board into deep water when she could not swim, Catherine’s anxieties/fears did not abate. Dr. Weiss was confused and asked if she would be open to trying hypnosis again. Luckily she said yes. This time, after she had been hypnotized, he started the session by saying something like, “Okay let’s go back to the source of this phobia”.

It was then that Catherine started talking about her life during the time of the Great Pyramids in Egypt! She described her clothing and the things from that life in great detail. Dr. Weiss was confused and in disbelief, but he continued the session to see where it would go. Catherine was able to recall the time of her death when she was a slave who was being buried alive in the tomb of her master to accompany him into his “next life”. She described her passing as being pulled toward a brilliant white light, and then feeling absolute and total peace. I'm sure by now, we've all heard similar descriptions from stories of near death experiences.

When Dr. Weiss brought Catherine out of hypnosis, she was able to describe everything she saw with complete detail as to what she said before. Dr. Weiss was blown away, but not convinced the experience was real.

After several sessions where Catherine described former past lives, Dr. Weiss admitted that although he could not prove these experiences were real, he could also not turn his back on what was happening. The fact was, Catherine’s health and life were improving significantly after each session, and he could not find a legitimate reason to stop the regression therapy.

The lives that Catherine described were wildly fascinating and I think completely worth the read even if you don't believe a word of it.  However, I want to focus more on the overall message of this book and the impact it’s had me.

After several sessions where Catherine was able to regress to a former life and conquer a fear or phobia in her present life, she started speaking in a voice that was much deeper (both orally and intellectually). Dr. Weiss was confused and through a series of questions was able to gather that Catherine was channeling this deeper voice; that it was a presence that was not of Catherine now, nor had it ever been. The voice described itself as a “Master” or a soul that has reached a high level of spirituality.

Catherine never remembered any of the conversations that Dr. Weiss had with a Master or any other soul that was not her own. Additionally, she did not like to hear the audio tape Dr. Weiss made of the sessions because they freaked her out. 

After a series of fascinating encounters with the Masters that Dr. Weiss describes in the book and subsequent books (even if you don't believe them) he is able to paint a picture of an afterlife (which I won’t describe because I don't want the good I took from the book to get lost in an argument of religious dogma) and provided an overview of the core lessons we must learn in order to advance our spirituality. The core lessons that each soul needs to master are summarized below:

• Love - The book describes love as the purest and most important thing to master. It’s described not as an abstract concept but an actual energy or spectrum of energies.

• Patience

• Non-Judgment

• Faith

• Compassion - sympathy for the suffering of others

• Empathy - the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties

Other Messages (Some of these should sound VERY familiar if you are presently or were raised in a Christian-based faith):

• It is wrong to kill for any reason.

• Our soul and spirit last forever, they are immortal. Only the human form is temporary.

• Every human being is divine. Every human being has worth.

• Souls are reunited with one another in the spiritual plane. (It’s much deeper than this, but again, if you are curious you should read the books).

• Everything must be balanced. Co-existence and harmony have been mastered by nature but not by humans.

• We are on the earth to learn. We never stop learning or growing in this life or in the spiritual plane.

I know many Christians could think this message is blasphemy or evil because it does not come with all of the dogma of most major world religions, but if you listen to the messages of the book (or series of books) with a truly dispassionate heart and mind, it is the same pure message that is taught in most organized religions of the world. However, this message is without all the hypocrisy that comes with organized religions that, in so many ways, have distorted the pure message over time for whatever (moral or unmoral) reason.

Quite simply, this book has restored my faith in something bigger (which was no small accomplishment). Ridicule me, roll your eyes, or smile over the lessons. Either way, I feel whole again and I’m thankful that I have opened myself up to concepts that may be a bit unconventional or opportunities that may not be the norm. But then again, if you know me at all, I believe you would not be surprised by my openness to these concepts, as I am a bit unconventional and quite honestly not all that normal.

Despite me feeling a little weird admitting this to anyone and everyone who may read this blog, Many Lives, Many Masters has reminded me about what is important in my life, about what I want to focus my energy on, and about how I want to keep growing as a person. Because of this book I feel empowered to move on to the next phase of my life as a stronger, more balanced, more inspired person.

It never ceases to amaze me how a book - the simple thoughts or experiences of another human put into written word - can make such an impact on the lives of others. So here’s my rhetorical question to you, what book(s) have you read that have changed your life? AND HOW HAVE THEY CHANGED IT?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Growing Pains - Part Due

It hurts when people don’t like you. Whether it’s a guy that breaks up with you, or a friendship that ends, or a family member who just doesn’t get you; it hurts. Over the years I have been faced more and more with people who don’t like me. I believe this is partially because I’m more jaded than I used to be. I’m less agreeable and I speak up more when I am not happy or feel slighted. I’m not exactly sure when this started happening. Maybe it’s just a result of getting older. You know, like how senior citizens seem to say whatever they want without thinking twice about it because they feel like they’ve earned the right to do so after all they’ve been through.

I think I’ve just changed a lot due to the events that have shaped my life over the last six years and I’m still working out the kinks of all this “growth.” Well, my friend Maggie calls this era of my life growth, I call it insanity... I hope she’s right.

Over the last several months I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about losing close connections with my friends in DC. What really hurts is feeling so insignificant in their lives. I’ve never felt this way before. But when I came back from Italy it felt different; like I didn’t matter, like everyone had their set lives, and I didn’t fit in anywhere. This caused a lot of unhappiness in my life. I was - and still am - struggling with the culture shock of being back. And much to my chagrin, I’m learning it can take years to feel comfortable in your own skin again after a move like mine.

Lately I’ve been reaching out to some of my old friends to reconnect. Most have been receptive but some, you can tell, are meeting up only because they don't want to be rude. This stings more than a little. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to not beat myself up and worry that I am not a good person, or that I’ve done something wrong to make them not want to hang out with me.

But then I think about the people in my life that I don't want to hang out with on a regular basis, and I am reminded it doesn’t mean they are bad people or even that they have done anything wrong. It just means for one reason or another they are not who I want to surround myself with all the time. I try to remember this when I get paranoid about feeling so disconnected to people here. People have their own lives. They are living them. No biggie.

I still look at some people in my life and wish I could be more like them; nicer, sweeter, more accepting.  I’m driving myself crazy with this struggle to be less who I am, and more like others. The reality is, yes, I can be sarcastic, and jaded, and self-centered, but I am equally funny, and honest, and supportive. And I don’t ask for more from my friends than I give - ever.

Although I get frustrated that I still struggle with this, I’m accepting myself more and more for who I am. And, yeah, even though it hurts to know people don’t like me ultimately it’s okay, because I like me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mio Amore

I don't know your name
Or what you look like
Or when we will meet
But I believe in you
I know that you exist
And when we do meet
I will love you all the days of my life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Valetta Stone

Color me bitter! Label me jaded! I do not care! Lately I’ve found myself in several situations where I cannot be completely honest with men about what I’m truly thinking. Of course there are many reasons for this, but the most compelling is I would come off as a royal bitch and feel guilty about it for days afterward. Given this, I do what any smart, self-preserving woman would do when speaking with mal-informed or blissfully unaware men; I smile sweetly, speak in a slightly softened voice, and say the complete OPPOSITE of what I am really thinking.

Lately, however, this practice has left me feeling on edge and unfulfilled. So, in true passive aggressive fashion, I've created a little cipher to help the men in my life better understand what I’m really thinking.  Think of this as my own version of Rosetta Stone, but instead I’ll call it “The Val-etta Stone.”

You are too much = You are a COMPLETE wanker!

No silly = Hey Dumbass, you’re totally missing the point!

You are too funny = You’re an IDIOT and I cannot believe I have to tolerate your lame ass!

I’m not mad at all = I’m MAD AS HELL, but I’ll never give you the satisfaction of knowing that.

I’m frustrated by your comment = Are you really that fucking clueless?

I don't know what to say = You just don't fucking get it, and I am tired of repeating myself.

I'm sorry if I confused you = I'll take the blame so your HUGE ego does not get bruised.

No worries if you can’t do it = I don’t expect you to get off your lazy ass to help me anyway, so don't feel guilty. I'll just work it out myself as per usual!

I’m expecting The Valetta-Stone to hit the market sometime in early June!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Year In Review 2010

Wow! What a year. When I think back upon it, I get a little overwhelmed. I’ve already been back for five months. FIVE MONTHS! It seems like the time has passed in the blink of an eye. I had forgotten how fast your life passes you by when at least eight hours of your day is automatically committed to a regular activity.

It’s also interesting to see how much I have aged since my return to the States. My deep forehead wrinkles and dark under-eye circles are back; the unfortunate by-product of a face squinted at a computer screen all day. I found the fountain of youth in Italy y’all. It’s 10 hours of sleep a night, fresh food that is not poisoned with chemicals, great friends, and making love to a gorgeous Italian man on a regular basis. Yep, that’ll take 10 years off your face pretty quickly.

I’ve been hearing a lot of “year-end reviews” over the last few weeks. I missed these summaries at the end of 2009 as I didn’t have a radio or TV and never thought to look it up on CNN.com. I forgot how interesting I found these summaries.

You’ll all be interested to know that there was a major shift in the music industry from 2009 to 2010; with Lady Gaga closing out this year with the second most popular song and Ke$ha coming in first with Tik Toc. Apparently last year Lady Gaga’s “Poker face” was in the coveted top spot, and Ke$ha was in second! Tough break Lady G… tough break!

I also discovered during this year-end summary that the charming young woman who spells her name with a dollar sign does not pronounce her name “Key-sha” as I had originally thought, but Kesh-ah, like the Kesh in Marrakesh. Ahhhh, kids these days! Just wondering, does anyone name their kids Kim, or Amy, or Lisa anymore?

Apparently the end of 2009/beginning of 2010 saw the end of Jake Gyllenhaall and Reece Witherspoon as a couple. I just found this out by the way. I had no idea! And now apparently he is stalking Taylor Swift? Isn’t she like 18 years old or something? Hey, wait! Isn’t he 30 years old? Does that make him a LION?  All this celebrity stuff is just too much to keep up with, so let me just focus on me from this point on forward.

I learned a lot about myself this past year, surprising myself in many ways; some good, some bad.

This was the first year I felt the emotion of jealousy. Yeah, that emotion sucks! I also discovered I am moody. I’m not sure if I just realized that I was moody, or if I picked up the emotion over the last year. Either way, that was not the most pleasant realization for me as I had always prided myself on being a happy and upbeat person most of the time.

This year I also released myself from that burden of being positive and upbeat all of the time. That was a great thing to let go of, and OH MY GOD what a wonderful feeling to discover my real friends actually like me even when I’m moody, or complaining, or not being the life of the party all the time! Yes! Yes! Yes! My Italian friends were one of the very good things for sure!

I returned to my home country with a renewed gratitude for the everyday “luxuries” I have here; affordable heat; a clothes dryer; long HOT showers with a shower curtain or door; people speaking English.  After being back in the U.S. for about 2 months I realized how much personal value I derived from working each day and feeling as though I’m good at my job. I actually love what I do for a living, and enjoy going to work. That was a pretty great realization. I mean, who gets to move to Italy and realize they like their real life better than their dream?

Although I feel my home is in the United States, I feel fortunate to have experienced the lifestyle of Italians. I miss so many things from my life there. I miss the absolute beauty in almost everything that surrounds you- from the architecture to the food displayed at the corner market. I love the passion in the way the Italians talk, in the way they touch, in the way they eat. Italians know beauty, they know food, they know wine, and they truly know how to live. One of my goals for 2011 is to maintain this passion for life as I redefine my life here.

The best thing I learned about myself this year is that I really like the woman I have become. I am so much more comfortable in my own skin now. Maybe this is a result of the last five and a half years, maybe it’s my year abroad, maybe it’s the result of turning 40, or maybe it's all these things. Either way, I make no apologies for who I am. Yes, I can be intense. I can be a total pain in the ass. I expect a lot from people. Love me anyway! And if I’m not your cup of tea, that’s okay too. You’ve gotta do what’s right for you.

Happy New Year everyone, I wish you a year full of friendship, gratitude, and fulfilled dreams!