Being Boswell

I Dated Myself!

About 6 months after my husband and I separated, friends, family, even acquaintances began to ask, “When ya gonna get back out there?” What they meant was, “When are you gong to start dating?” What I heard conjured images of manual labor, hard labor that left me sweating and smelling-pouring concrete in August, re-shingling a roof-also in August, tarring the road…

With those pictures in mind my response to these inquiries came easily, “Why would I want to do that?”

But their question got me thinking…

What if I did date? What if I dated myself?

I knew I needed to introduce the 23-year-old me that married in 1981 to the 46-year-old me that was starting over. We were strangers…there were black holes in me, places of emptiness, that I needed to understand. This time, however, not distracting myself from myself with a new partner but by looking myself in the mirror. Long and hard. I needed to see ME. In order to find my life, I had to look first at myself.

Always up for an emotional roller coaster, I decided to “get back out there,” with me. I just wasn’t sure how. What that would look like?

Expensive dinners for one?

Movies with no one to talk to?

Long drives in the country with an empty passenger seat?

If those were my choices my answer, again, came easily, “You seem like a really nice person, but no thank you.

So I created some self-dating criteria.
* Nothing that made me feel lonelier than I already felt.
* It was okay-actually a requirement-to make it all about me.
* If it wasn’t fun I could leave.
* If it was fun I could stay.
* When I said “NO” I listened-no explanation needed.
* I didn’t have to entertain myself, only listen.
* Send flowers, pick flowers, buy flowers, but always have flowers.

Since it had been soooo long since I had dated, I googled “Questions to ask on a first date.” I stopped before, “Wanna come in for a night cap?” I wasn’t ready to go there quite yet!

Top Google dating question…TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF(MYSELF)?

I journaled everyday to answer this. I talked to myself. I looked at myself in the mirror, really looked, so I could see who I was talking to. I listened to what I was saying. I paid attention, close attention, like I would if there was a potential love looking back at me. Because, actually, there was, and she was me.

My journal entries were no longer about my sadness of an unfulfilling marriage, but of my excitement of meeting me. I began to release my habit of using the marriage to determine my happiness, value, or contentment. At the same time, I noticed how convenient it was to blame the marriage for all of my discomfort. Without the marriage as my “problem” to fix I found my next question…

WHO AM I?

I never really understood this question, I made jokes about it, it seemed redundant somehow, until it hit me between the eyes. Then it wasn’t funny anymore. I went back to the mirror. I looked. Looked some more. And then again more.

Like Robin Williams in the movie, Hook, the lost boys were trying to determine if the adult Peter Pan was really the Peter Pan they knew. After many test questions that Peter answered correctly, one of the Lost Boys approaches Peter. He places his hands gently on Peters cheeks and begins pulling in different directions while looking very deeply into the face before him. Finally, after what feels like a long moment, he exclaims, “Oh Peter, there you are!”

My “Oh there I am” came gradually. And is still coming I might add. I have found this is a fluid question worthy of regular visits. Some of my answers I was pleased and proud of, I am ambitious, I am courageous, I am creative, I am persistent.

But equally important, were the not so attractive truths. I am insecure, I don’t believe I belong, I am picky, I am judgmental.

I knew if I was ever going to be happy I needed to befriend these parts of me. Accept them. Understand them. Forgive them.

I also knew that until I did this for myself I could never do it with another. I would project my disowned parts onto my partner instead of owning them for myself.

Finding me after all these years was thrilling, challenging and humbling. And I knew I wanted more…of me.

So when someone asked, “When ya gonna get back up on that horse?” I could honestly answer “I am having the ride of my life!”

Stay tuned in for part 2!

Patricia Boswell

Seeing opens your heart.

I agree, it was an impulsive decision, I couldn’t, or didn’t stop myself. I didn’t use my logic, engage my rational, or consult our budget to make this choice. I simply followed my heart-who wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. Ever happen to you?

Two weeks earlier I had met a Havanese puppy at the bank and fell in love. I didn’t mean to, I wasn’t even considering a new dog. actually didn’t want a new dog because I was still grieving Jeff, my soul-mate-dog. He adored me and I adored him. He slept next to after my divorce, we shared our transition from country to city living-him having to poop on a leash and me having to pick it, and he was my wing-man when I was dating. If Jeff didn’t like the guy, neither did I.

But there was something about this puppy at the bank that caught my heart. And I couldn’t shake it. So Easter morning of 2015 we drove East on the PA Turnpike stopping along the way at Pet Smart to pick up dog stuff. I knew from past pet experiences that once I held these teddy-bear pups, smelled their puppy breath and rubbed their soft bellies, I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed. And I was right, we came home with Gabriella. Gabbie for short.

Gabbie was a shy pup, slow to trust and warm up to us. As a result I was constantly reminded, she is not Jeff. I knew I wasn’t in love with her. I didn’t recognize myself. I had never hesitated loving a pet. Who was I? Had we made a mistake?

I talked with Tom about taking her back to the breeder. Knowing what an animal lover I am he was also surprised. Thankfully, he held for me what I was unable to hold at the time and said, “No, she is our dog now.” I will always love him for that.

I told Jena that Gabbie and I were not bonding. She casually said, “It’s the hair in her eyes. She can’t see you and you can’t see her. Cut the hair around her face and you might change your heart.” Havanese have hair, not fur, and a lot of it. It is what keeps them looking like puppies even when adults.

I told Jena a story I had heard about someone that cut the hair around their dog’s face and it never grew back. Kind of like my over plucking my eye brows as a teenager and now I carry an eyebrow pencil in my purse. She laughed and said, “I think you should try it.”

So a few days later I decided Gabbie and I were going to have our first serious grooming session. She struggled as I tried unsuccessfully to trim her. She didn’t trust me. Out of fear of hurting her, and frustration of losing to a 3-pound pup, I assertively announced in my best alpha-dog-voice, that I was the human which meant I was in charge and she needed to be calm. She settled into my lap and the fur flew.

When I was finished she looked at me. I looked back. We took a moment to see each other for the first time. It’s like we both said, “Oh there you are!” In that moment I was reminded that there is relational difference between looking and seeing. Do you know what I mean?

As the day went on I noticed differences between us. Gabbie watched me as I moved around the room, she didn’t run into the dining room chair when we played ball, she moved closer to me allowing me to cuddle her a little longer and for the first time she asked to go out. I nuzzled her more, talked to her more and I got to know her. Our hearts opened because we saw each other.

Several weeks later I had dinner with Landon. I was distracted at the restaurant, tracking the waitress, noticing the people coming in the door, taking in the decor of the place. I realized wasn’t seeing Landon, 3 feet from me. So I refocused and set my intention to see. And there sat my adult son. Handsome. Smart. Honest. Engaging. I looked for the little boy who wore the blue pajamas and was all arms and legs. Instead I saw my grown up son with the eyes of an adult.

In the movie Avatar, instead of saying, “How are you?” they greet each other saying, “I see you.”

Being seen is a gift.

Seeing opens your heart.

Patricia Boswell

Too many Yes’s make a No

When I moved the Laurel Mountains in 1981 we frequented the Friday night seafood buffet at Seven Springs. It was within our budget and was marketed as an all-the-food-we-could-eat evening. I had never been to an all-you-can-eat-anything, other than my own kitchen, so it seemed like a good idea.

Walking into the banquet room was like my first time in Disney World. I was simultaneously enthralled and overwhelmed. The food laden tables were arranged in a thoughtful, course-sensitive order.

The first was chock full of salads. Pasta salads. Potato salad. Green salads. Cut veggies with dip. Jello salads. Fruit salads. Soups. And cornucopias overflowing with bread and rolls.

Five feet to the left was the meat table. A man in a white coat and chef’s hat politely carved hunks from the heat-light-warmed prime rib, ham and turkey.

Another five feet was the seafood table, my personal favorite. Shrimp. Oysters. Alaskan King Crab legs. Whole lobster (cut in half.)

And last, but not at all least, was the dessert table. Let me say that differently; THE DESSERT TABLE. Enough said-you have all experienced a buffet dessert table.

I quickly learned that the number of YES’S I said to the plethora of culinary treats determined how I felt on the car ride home. Whether every turn, bump and change in elevation would cause me gastric distress. Too many YES’S turned into a NO of being able to enjoy the rest of the evening or sleep that night.

Life is like an elaborate buffet table, filled with YES’S. I love it all! I want it all! It’s all good food, beautifully displayed and it’s there for the taking. All I have to do is say YES and put it on my plate(s).

Over the years I have repeatedly found myself engaged with projects, friends, and organizations, that I say YES, YES, YES, too. I am truly interested when I say YES. Really I am.

But when I get home, and I am quiet enough to hear myself feel, I know…I have done it again. I know because a familiar sensation begins to build in my gut. It’s barely noticeable at first, but slowly I recognize it. Dread. Dread of an over booked life.

And then I ask myself, “Why did I say YES?”

Well, for many reasons.

Because I like the idea or project.

Because I like the people involved.

Because I am flattered to be included.

Because I want to belong.

Because I want their approval.

Because I don’t want to be left out.

Because I want to be helpful.

Because I like saying YES.

Because saying YES is easier than saying NO.

Every YES means we are saying NO to something else. Our time and energy are a limited resource. When I say YES to one more meeting I say NO to that time to write, exercise, hang out with loved ones or simply do nothing.

Saying NO is a loss. Saying YES is a loss. Every choice we make we lose the other choice.

Just something to think about as you head out to the buffet tables of your life.

What will you say YES to?

What will you say NO to?

May your YES’S and NO’S serve you well.

With love,

Patricia Boswell

Rethinking Valentine’s Day

Yesterday, while my dental hygienists hands were in my mouth, scraping away, she told me she was leaving at 2 to attend her 1st grade daughters “Friendship Party,” aka Valentine’s Day party.

Amy distracted me from the drool accumulating in my mouth by telling me about the school’s tradition of Friendship week. Monday the kids got friendship bracelets. Tuesday they wore their pajamas. Wednesday was special hat day, or something like that. I forget what Thursday was, but Friendship week ended with the Friendship party. Ann was responsible for suppling the game prizes.

I was getting the picture. The school was trying to reconsider Valentine’s Day. With no way to engage the conversation, I scrolled back to my elementary school Valentine’s day memories. I saw the Valentine’s boxes each of us so painstakingly created, cutting and pasting, using that white tacky glue that we dug out in lumps. We designed collages of love, friendship and desperation. I feared that my box would not be full of cartoon puppies and kittens with X’s and O’s covering pink and red hearts, asking for, and declaring friendship. Will you be my Valentine?

School Valentine parties highlighted my class status. My sense of self was based on the number of Valentine’s in my box at the end of the party, as well as, who the cards were from. I paid attention to whether the kids deemed popular graced me with their perforated, penny cards. I also noted how my stash compared to that of my neighbors. More than her, I was loved. Less than her, I was ashamed.

Last night my daughter and daughter in law came over after attending a Mary Kay Galentine’s party at Alex and Ani’s. Valentine’s day for gals only. No one attending needed a romantic relationship to be included. You just needed to be a woman.

Truth be told, isn’t it women who really subscribe to Valentine’s Day, anyway? It is a day where we, hopefully, will be told by our love that we are the most special, most loved and most appreciated person in his or her life. Problem is if you don’t have a “love” you miss out.

Sometimes, you miss out even if you have a love. He or she forgets, doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day or is just a dud. As it stands Valentine’s Day can be painful at worst, stressful at best.

Today as I scooped ground sage into a bag at the Co-op, a young woman stood next to me. “I can use the same spoon,” she said, “I need sage too.” She asked me if I knew the measurement conversion from whole sage to ground sage. I confessed I didn’t; that I was a dump and taste kind of cook. I asked her what she was making.

It sounded difficult. Gnocchi with a filling and sauce. She explained she was making it for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. Her gift to him. Then she said, “I hope he likes it.”

“Well,” I said as I handed her the spoon and leveled my eyes to meet hers, “if he doesn’t…” She finished, “He’s not worth it.”

“Exactly,” I smiled, feeling very maternal.

All this got me thinking. What if we spent some portion of Valentine’s day considering our relationship to ourselves? What we love about ourselves. What we admire. How we crack ourselves up.

A day that you take yourself out. Or stay in, whatever your pink and red heart desires. Where you feed yourself, by candle light, food you love. Surrounding yourself with people you love, hugging them because it feels good to you. If you like flowers buy some or pick some.

XO

Patricia Boswell

Money and self-worth. A dangerous combination…

Recently I was invited to speak to women about money. This meant I had to negotiate my speaking fee. Said another way, this meant I had to talk about money. How much I thought my talk was worth, which quickly translated to how much I thought I was worth, which ended with my mother’s voice asking, “Who do you think you are?”

Whenever she asked me that, I never seemed to know.

I called my friend Nick, I thought he could advise me because he works in the financial field. He listened as I laid out every detail of who was hiring me, my audience, time involved, over explaining that I didn’t want to offend them by asking for too much, but I didn’t want to ask for too little. I summariezed by saying I needed to know what they wanted to pay me before I could possibly know what I wanted. After all, I didn’t want to be “too big for my britches,” another of mom’s favorites, but I didn’t want to be underpaid either. I didn’t take a breath until I thought he knew everything he needed to know to guide me to the answer.

There was a momentary silence on the phone. Then he asked, ”Patricia, what amount would make you happy?”

I burst out laughing. “Make me happy?” I repeated. “I never even considered that!”

This reminded me of the many conversations I have had with my female clients. She will be telling me about her new love interest. How they met. What they do together. Where they go for dates. What they talk about. I have had this conversation enough times, with enough women, that I can predict where her story will end? I also know because I suffer from the same infirmity. Inevitably, my client wonders aloud, does he like me; are they having fun on the dates?

I usually pause, then ask gently and with very real interest, “Do you like them? Are you having fun?”

Nicks question returned me to me. What would make me happy? I thought about the time I would invest in preparing, presenting, and marketing my speech. I determined what that amount of work was worth to me. Suddenly I knew more about me and what I wanted. This felt like a good place to negotiate from. I knew I might not get what I wanted, but I now understood the importance of asking for what I wanted.

Talking about money often evokes issues of self-worth. It might be that making a boat load of money makes you feel invincible. Or not making what you want causes feelings of inadequacy. Either way, money is impacting your self-worth, for the good or the bad.

So slow down to notice when your money influences “who you think you are.” Take time to deepen your awareness of this and then compassionately disentangle the two. Money and self-worth do not need to be connected.

And the next time my mom’s voice asks, “Who do you think you are?” I will respond, “I think I am a woman who knows what she wants.”

Most of the time…

With Love,

Patricia Boswell

What are Money Dates? How Can They Conquer Your Money Fears?

When my x-husband and I separated, my money fears began to sound like death threats. I tended to be a money worrier anyway, but pulling the plug escalated my chronic worry from “there is not enough,” to “I’m gonna die and my little dog too.”  Although I believed I had stayed in the marriage “because of the kids,” in hindsight, I now know I stayed because I was financially terrified.

Any therapist worth her salt would begin to self-diagnosis at this emotional juncture. So I began to notice myself from a therapeutic lens. Was my fear based in reality? Was I really going to become a bag lady? Were my kids going to starve? Be homeless? Were we going to die?

Probably not.

This soothed me as long as the sun was up. When it got dark my reality felt different. It had shadows. Scary ones that woke me in the middle of the night. I relied on Belleruth Naparstek’s sleep mediation to put me back to sleep; sometimes several times in the same night.

I was scared shitless.

Determined to survive, I sat down one evening with my check book, the months stack of bills, my faux-jewel keyed calculator, and a glass of wine. I lit candles and put a fire in the fire place. I was going to meet my fear head on!

That night I created a budget, estimating my utilities, calculating my necessary spending, identifying my unnecessary spending and taking deep breaths as I found my bottom line. I redid my son’s FASFA form indicating my separated parental status. I went shopping in my closet, finding items I had totally forgotten, so they felt new. I sorted through my freezer determined to use what I had before buying more.

At the end of the evening I sat straighter. I felt empowered. Instead of deprived, I felt abundant. My actions had created in me a sense of unfamiliar financial security.

The next month I did the same. Fire. Wine. Checkbook. Calculator. This time, as I wrote my checks I offered thanks for having the money to pay my bills.  Even though there wasn’t much left over, I had done it! We were warm and fed.

Each month my money and I met, sat down and worked things out. I talked kindly to myself and my money, whispering sweet nothings as I worked. I smiled. I felt interested in my money and how it supported me. I named these meetings “Money Dates.”

Money and I grew close. We began to like each other. We even began to look forward to our time together on our money dates. I had the same monthly income I had from the beginning of the separation, but I felt totally different. My checkbook balance had not changed, but my relationship to my money had. It no longer woke me up in a cold sweat. I now trusted myself and, to my surprise, my money.

Money Dates are a vital part of growing your relationship to your money. Be creative. Have some fun. Invite your money on a date and see what happens. Don’t be surprised if it is not love at first sight. Give both of you some time. Take it slow. Be truthful with one another.

And don’t go to bed mad at one another.

Abundantly Yours,

Patricia Boswell

Sometimes you just have to STOP!

Traveling with Dad meant riding by his rules. He was the driver, so it was his way or the highway…no pun intended. Dad’s rule? Once we left the driveway, we drove until we stopped for the night, needed gas or reached our destination. Whichever came first.

To accommodate Dad’s militaristic travel missions Mom would pack lunches, snacks, cold drinks and, just in case, a pee jar.

One summer vacation, several hours into our car ride west, after a picnic lunch traveling at top speed and a much coveted bottle of cold Coke, only allowed on trips and special Friday nights, I had to pee. Dad never broke speed, his one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a cigarette, his elbow hanging out the opened window.

Mom moved into action. She was on pee duty. She knew the drill and she didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps it was a little distraction to the monotony of Route 80 or perhaps she considered her options. Supervise and assist her 6 year old daughter peeing into a jar or let me do it myself and take our chances on my aim.

She climbed over the front bench seat of our white Rambler Station Wagon with the agility of a gymnast, pee jar in hand. She settled in between my brother and I and opened the repurposed Hellman’s Mayonnaise jar. I also knew the drill and dutifully went along with this absurdity.  After all, what did I know? I assumed cars came equipped with pee jars, just like AM/FM radios and power steering.

I filled the jar. I felt very much relieved, I had an empty bladder and had peed as successfully as my brother. I hadn’t spilled a drop.

Mom’s approach to waste removal was to toss the contents of the jar out of the window. I guess the number of fluid ounces of a mayo jar would not accommodate the entire trip with two kids aboard. I always wondered about the car behind us when mom did this. I think I asked about this once. I don’t remember if anyone answered. With all the car windows open it was hard to hear each other, so we didn’t talk much. I am not sure what our reason was for the same behavior at home.

So mom positioned herself for another successful toss. But, for some reason, this time, instead of throwing it out of my window, she reached into the front seat and threw it out of her window. Aerodynamics forced my still warm pee back through my open window where Mom and I unsuspectingly sat. We were drenched.

This was not supposed to happen. No one said a word.

Dad pulled over.

Sometimes you just have to stop!

XO

Patricia Boswell

How Long Do Birds Live?

The truth is, I never really thought about it. I never wondered. Even though I am attracted to birds. I watch them. Talk to them. Welcome them into my day as messengers from Spirit. I never wondered about them.

So as I sit on my couch, watching a Red Headed Woodpecker bang his head against the same old tree, I wonder what else is in front of me, every day, that I look at without seeing? Without understanding. Without curiouslity. When did I stop wondering?When did I stop asking?

As a child I drove my parents MAD with my wondering-unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing about me that maddened them. I wanted to know where God lived? And if Heaven was in the clouds, and planes could fly though the clouds, why didn’t all the people in Heaven fall through the clouds? I wanted to know how to decide something when there were always at least two choices? And, what makes something Good or Bad? And, if the earth was spinning why couldn’t I feel it? And, where do birds go to die? I never saw a bird just dead from old age. A cat may have gotten it. Or a car windshield. But I never saw a bird fall dead from a tree limb, or drop over mid step.

I think my curiosity resurfaced because I was sitting still. Warm cup of morning coffee in hand. No where to go. Nothing to do. (I delude myself, it is 5 days before Christmas and there is a ton to do. Denial is a beautiful thing!) But as I sat, I began to wonder about the New Year. How/what did I want to live, feel, do in 2016? As I wondered, looking out of the front window, I began to see. Really see. The birds.

I remembered I love to wonder. I love to move slowly, take time, ask questions. And, I really love the answers!

So, with Google at my literal fingertips I Googled “how long does a Robin live?” I was so fascinated, and so enjoyed that feeling of satisfied curiosity, that I Googled “how long does a Bluejay live?”

Birds live much longer than I thought. Robins live 4-5 years. The oldest banded robin lived 13 years 11 months. Blue jays live about 7 years, the oldest studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 ½ years old. One captive female lived for over 26 years.

Now you know too!

Have a WONDER FILLED Holiday,

Patricia Boswell

Retirement…Resmirement…

Have my friends always talked about retirement and I didn’t notice or is it that we are all old enough now that it comes up as often as our hot flashes, knee replacements and acid reflux?

Either way, I have noticed it is a common topic, especially at dinner parties. I listen, as only a therapist does, with interest and curiosity.

Where seems to be the first topic of retiremental discernment* discussed. Ideas of places to retire fill the room. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere inexpensive. Portugal. Mexico with other x-pats. Near their children. Or grandchildren.

What is the next topic. Usually because I can’t stand it anymore and I have to know. “What will you do?” I ask a little too intensely. I can tell because the speaker startles, like when you start to nod off and wake yourself up as your chin heads for your chest.

I ask because am hoping someone will have a great idea. One that I can consider if I stop doing what I am doing.

“Not Work,” they say with a lilt that sounds more like a question than a statement.

“But WHAT will you do?” I press on. Another trait of a therapist. We want to understand.

“Oh, I don’t know. Read more. Travel,” their voice trailing off. I am not sure if they are enraptured by a vision of themselves relaxing on a white sand beach, margarita in hand,   the book Retirement for Dummies, dogeared and highlighted, sitting beside them or they are noticing their plan seems a bit dull.

As I listen intently to my dinner-party-friends musings, trying to find the place in me that wants to read and travel more, I come up empty. I just can’t seem to find my desire to stop doing what I am doing.

Maybe, I wonder, I am not old enough to be thinking about retirement. But my friend, sitting across the table who is younger than me, is actively looking on-line for retirement friendly places. Or, perhaps I am not confident I can afford to retire, so I unconsciously protect myself from disappointment by not entertaining the possibility. “Expect nothing and you shall not be disappointed,” echoes in my head. Or could my high tolerance to discomfort be masking my secret wish to throw in the towel?

Yesterday I was talking with my dear friend Kathleen. We raised our kids together. Not to mention each other. She is thinking about her retirement. I listened. Interested. Brainstorming possibilities. Places? What she would do? When?

In a quiet moment she asked, “What about you? Do you think about retirement?”

Without thinking, I heard myself say, “I feel like I am just hitting my stride. I’m creating the career and life I’ve always wanted and I want to do more…so leaving it for another kind of life doesn’t fit for me right now.”

Wow! I didn’t know that!

I love when I happen upon my clarity. When I listen to myself and find my answers. I didn’t know how satisfied I was with myself and my life.

When I was in my 40’s, an astrologer told me I was a late bloomer. That it wouldn’t be until my 50’s that I would move into my life’s purpose in a full and felt way.

I think she was right. I am so glad to be here.

XO

Patricia Boswell

I Dated Myself!

About 6 months after my husband and I separated, friends, family, even acquaintances began to ask, “When ya gonna get back out there?” What they meant was, “When are you gong to start dating?” What I heard conjured images of manual labor, hard labor that left me sweating and smelling-pouring concrete in August, re-shingling a roof-also in August, tarring the road…

With those pictures in mind my response to these inquiries came easily, “Why would I want to do that?”

But their question got me thinking…

What if I did date? What if I dated myself?

I knew I needed to introduce the 23-year-old me that married in 1981 to the 46-year-old me that was starting over. We were strangers…there were black holes in me, places of emptiness, that I needed to understand. This time, however, not distracting myself from myself with a new partner but by looking myself in the mirror. Long and hard. I needed to see ME. In order to find my life, I had to look first at myself.

Always up for an emotional roller coaster, I decided to “get back out there,” with me. I just wasn’t sure how. What that would look like?

Expensive dinners for one?

Movies with no one to talk to?

Long drives in the country with an empty passenger seat?

If those were my choices my answer, again, came easily, “You seem like a really nice person, but no thank you.

So I created some self-dating criteria.
* Nothing that made me feel lonelier than I already felt.
* It was okay-actually a requirement-to make it all about me.
* If it wasn’t fun I could leave.
* If it was fun I could stay.
* When I said “NO” I listened-no explanation needed.
* I didn’t have to entertain myself, only listen.
* Send flowers, pick flowers, buy flowers, but always have flowers.

Since it had been soooo long since I had dated, I googled “Questions to ask on a first date.” I stopped before, “Wanna come in for a night cap?” I wasn’t ready to go there quite yet!

Top Google dating question…TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF(MYSELF)?

I journaled everyday to answer this. I talked to myself. I looked at myself in the mirror, really looked, so I could see who I was talking to. I listened to what I was saying. I paid attention, close attention, like I would if there was a potential love looking back at me. Because, actually, there was, and she was me.

My journal entries were no longer about my sadness of an unfulfilling marriage, but of my excitement of meeting me. I began to release my habit of using the marriage to determine my happiness, value, or contentment. At the same time, I noticed how convenient it was to blame the marriage for all of my discomfort. Without the marriage as my “problem” to fix I found my next question…

WHO AM I?

I never really understood this question, I made jokes about it, it seemed redundant somehow, until it hit me between the eyes. Then it wasn’t funny anymore. I went back to the mirror. I looked. Looked some more. And then again more.

Like Robin Williams in the movie, Hook, the lost boys were trying to determine if the adult Peter Pan was really the Peter Pan they knew. After many test questions that Peter answered correctly, one of the Lost Boys approaches Peter. He places his hands gently on Peters cheeks and begins pulling in different directions while looking very deeply into the face before him. Finally, after what feels like a long moment, he exclaims, “Oh Peter, there you are!”

My “Oh there I am” came gradually. And is still coming I might add. I have found this is a fluid question worthy of regular visits. Some of my answers I was pleased and proud of, I am ambitious, I am courageous, I am creative, I am persistent.

But equally important, were the not so attractive truths. I am insecure, I don’t believe I belong, I am picky, I am judgmental.

I knew if I was ever going to be happy I needed to befriend these parts of me. Accept them. Understand them. Forgive them.

I also knew that until I did this for myself I could never do it with another. I would project my disowned parts onto my partner instead of owning them for myself.

Finding me after all these years was thrilling, challenging and humbling. And I knew I wanted more…of me.

So when someone asked, “When ya gonna get back up on that horse?” I could honestly answer “I am having the ride of my life!”

Stay tuned in for part 2!

Patricia Boswell

Seeing opens your heart.

I agree, it was an impulsive decision, I couldn’t, or didn’t stop myself. I didn’t use my logic, engage my rational, or consult our budget to make this choice. I simply followed my heart-who wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. Ever happen to you?

Two weeks earlier I had met a Havanese puppy at the bank and fell in love. I didn’t mean to, I wasn’t even considering a new dog. actually didn’t want a new dog because I was still grieving Jeff, my soul-mate-dog. He adored me and I adored him. He slept next to after my divorce, we shared our transition from country to city living-him having to poop on a leash and me having to pick it, and he was my wing-man when I was dating. If Jeff didn’t like the guy, neither did I.

But there was something about this puppy at the bank that caught my heart. And I couldn’t shake it. So Easter morning of 2015 we drove East on the PA Turnpike stopping along the way at Pet Smart to pick up dog stuff. I knew from past pet experiences that once I held these teddy-bear pups, smelled their puppy breath and rubbed their soft bellies, I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed. And I was right, we came home with Gabriella. Gabbie for short.

Gabbie was a shy pup, slow to trust and warm up to us. As a result I was constantly reminded, she is not Jeff. I knew I wasn’t in love with her. I didn’t recognize myself. I had never hesitated loving a pet. Who was I? Had we made a mistake?

I talked with Tom about taking her back to the breeder. Knowing what an animal lover I am he was also surprised. Thankfully, he held for me what I was unable to hold at the time and said, “No, she is our dog now.” I will always love him for that.

I told Jena that Gabbie and I were not bonding. She casually said, “It’s the hair in her eyes. She can’t see you and you can’t see her. Cut the hair around her face and you might change your heart.” Havanese have hair, not fur, and a lot of it. It is what keeps them looking like puppies even when adults.

I told Jena a story I had heard about someone that cut the hair around their dog’s face and it never grew back. Kind of like my over plucking my eye brows as a teenager and now I carry an eyebrow pencil in my purse. She laughed and said, “I think you should try it.”

So a few days later I decided Gabbie and I were going to have our first serious grooming session. She struggled as I tried unsuccessfully to trim her. She didn’t trust me. Out of fear of hurting her, and frustration of losing to a 3-pound pup, I assertively announced in my best alpha-dog-voice, that I was the human which meant I was in charge and she needed to be calm. She settled into my lap and the fur flew.

When I was finished she looked at me. I looked back. We took a moment to see each other for the first time. It’s like we both said, “Oh there you are!” In that moment I was reminded that there is relational difference between looking and seeing. Do you know what I mean?

As the day went on I noticed differences between us. Gabbie watched me as I moved around the room, she didn’t run into the dining room chair when we played ball, she moved closer to me allowing me to cuddle her a little longer and for the first time she asked to go out. I nuzzled her more, talked to her more and I got to know her. Our hearts opened because we saw each other.

Several weeks later I had dinner with Landon. I was distracted at the restaurant, tracking the waitress, noticing the people coming in the door, taking in the decor of the place. I realized wasn’t seeing Landon, 3 feet from me. So I refocused and set my intention to see. And there sat my adult son. Handsome. Smart. Honest. Engaging. I looked for the little boy who wore the blue pajamas and was all arms and legs. Instead I saw my grown up son with the eyes of an adult.

In the movie Avatar, instead of saying, “How are you?” they greet each other saying, “I see you.”

Being seen is a gift.

Seeing opens your heart.

Patricia Boswell

Too many Yes’s make a No

When I moved the Laurel Mountains in 1981 we frequented the Friday night seafood buffet at Seven Springs. It was within our budget and was marketed as an all-the-food-we-could-eat evening. I had never been to an all-you-can-eat-anything, other than my own kitchen, so it seemed like a good idea.

Walking into the banquet room was like my first time in Disney World. I was simultaneously enthralled and overwhelmed. The food laden tables were arranged in a thoughtful, course-sensitive order.

The first was chock full of salads. Pasta salads. Potato salad. Green salads. Cut veggies with dip. Jello salads. Fruit salads. Soups. And cornucopias overflowing with bread and rolls.

Five feet to the left was the meat table. A man in a white coat and chef’s hat politely carved hunks from the heat-light-warmed prime rib, ham and turkey.

Another five feet was the seafood table, my personal favorite. Shrimp. Oysters. Alaskan King Crab legs. Whole lobster (cut in half.)

And last, but not at all least, was the dessert table. Let me say that differently; THE DESSERT TABLE. Enough said-you have all experienced a buffet dessert table.

I quickly learned that the number of YES’S I said to the plethora of culinary treats determined how I felt on the car ride home. Whether every turn, bump and change in elevation would cause me gastric distress. Too many YES’S turned into a NO of being able to enjoy the rest of the evening or sleep that night.

Life is like an elaborate buffet table, filled with YES’S. I love it all! I want it all! It’s all good food, beautifully displayed and it’s there for the taking. All I have to do is say YES and put it on my plate(s).

Over the years I have repeatedly found myself engaged with projects, friends, and organizations, that I say YES, YES, YES, too. I am truly interested when I say YES. Really I am.

But when I get home, and I am quiet enough to hear myself feel, I know…I have done it again. I know because a familiar sensation begins to build in my gut. It’s barely noticeable at first, but slowly I recognize it. Dread. Dread of an over booked life.

And then I ask myself, “Why did I say YES?”

Well, for many reasons.

Because I like the idea or project.

Because I like the people involved.

Because I am flattered to be included.

Because I want to belong.

Because I want their approval.

Because I don’t want to be left out.

Because I want to be helpful.

Because I like saying YES.

Because saying YES is easier than saying NO.

Every YES means we are saying NO to something else. Our time and energy are a limited resource. When I say YES to one more meeting I say NO to that time to write, exercise, hang out with loved ones or simply do nothing.

Saying NO is a loss. Saying YES is a loss. Every choice we make we lose the other choice.

Just something to think about as you head out to the buffet tables of your life.

What will you say YES to?

What will you say NO to?

May your YES’S and NO’S serve you well.

With love,

Patricia Boswell

Rethinking Valentine’s Day

Yesterday, while my dental hygienists hands were in my mouth, scraping away, she told me she was leaving at 2 to attend her 1st grade daughters “Friendship Party,” aka Valentine’s Day party.

Amy distracted me from the drool accumulating in my mouth by telling me about the school’s tradition of Friendship week. Monday the kids got friendship bracelets. Tuesday they wore their pajamas. Wednesday was special hat day, or something like that. I forget what Thursday was, but Friendship week ended with the Friendship party. Ann was responsible for suppling the game prizes.

I was getting the picture. The school was trying to reconsider Valentine’s Day. With no way to engage the conversation, I scrolled back to my elementary school Valentine’s day memories. I saw the Valentine’s boxes each of us so painstakingly created, cutting and pasting, using that white tacky glue that we dug out in lumps. We designed collages of love, friendship and desperation. I feared that my box would not be full of cartoon puppies and kittens with X’s and O’s covering pink and red hearts, asking for, and declaring friendship. Will you be my Valentine?

School Valentine parties highlighted my class status. My sense of self was based on the number of Valentine’s in my box at the end of the party, as well as, who the cards were from. I paid attention to whether the kids deemed popular graced me with their perforated, penny cards. I also noted how my stash compared to that of my neighbors. More than her, I was loved. Less than her, I was ashamed.

Last night my daughter and daughter in law came over after attending a Mary Kay Galentine’s party at Alex and Ani’s. Valentine’s day for gals only. No one attending needed a romantic relationship to be included. You just needed to be a woman.

Truth be told, isn’t it women who really subscribe to Valentine’s Day, anyway? It is a day where we, hopefully, will be told by our love that we are the most special, most loved and most appreciated person in his or her life. Problem is if you don’t have a “love” you miss out.

Sometimes, you miss out even if you have a love. He or she forgets, doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day or is just a dud. As it stands Valentine’s Day can be painful at worst, stressful at best.

Today as I scooped ground sage into a bag at the Co-op, a young woman stood next to me. “I can use the same spoon,” she said, “I need sage too.” She asked me if I knew the measurement conversion from whole sage to ground sage. I confessed I didn’t; that I was a dump and taste kind of cook. I asked her what she was making.

It sounded difficult. Gnocchi with a filling and sauce. She explained she was making it for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. Her gift to him. Then she said, “I hope he likes it.”

“Well,” I said as I handed her the spoon and leveled my eyes to meet hers, “if he doesn’t…” She finished, “He’s not worth it.”

“Exactly,” I smiled, feeling very maternal.

All this got me thinking. What if we spent some portion of Valentine’s day considering our relationship to ourselves? What we love about ourselves. What we admire. How we crack ourselves up.

A day that you take yourself out. Or stay in, whatever your pink and red heart desires. Where you feed yourself, by candle light, food you love. Surrounding yourself with people you love, hugging them because it feels good to you. If you like flowers buy some or pick some.

XO

Patricia Boswell

Money and self-worth. A dangerous combination…

Recently I was invited to speak to women about money. This meant I had to negotiate my speaking fee. Said another way, this meant I had to talk about money. How much I thought my talk was worth, which quickly translated to how much I thought I was worth, which ended with my mother’s voice asking, “Who do you think you are?”

Whenever she asked me that, I never seemed to know.

I called my friend Nick, I thought he could advise me because he works in the financial field. He listened as I laid out every detail of who was hiring me, my audience, time involved, over explaining that I didn’t want to offend them by asking for too much, but I didn’t want to ask for too little. I summariezed by saying I needed to know what they wanted to pay me before I could possibly know what I wanted. After all, I didn’t want to be “too big for my britches,” another of mom’s favorites, but I didn’t want to be underpaid either. I didn’t take a breath until I thought he knew everything he needed to know to guide me to the answer.

There was a momentary silence on the phone. Then he asked, ”Patricia, what amount would make you happy?”

I burst out laughing. “Make me happy?” I repeated. “I never even considered that!”

This reminded me of the many conversations I have had with my female clients. She will be telling me about her new love interest. How they met. What they do together. Where they go for dates. What they talk about. I have had this conversation enough times, with enough women, that I can predict where her story will end? I also know because I suffer from the same infirmity. Inevitably, my client wonders aloud, does he like me; are they having fun on the dates?

I usually pause, then ask gently and with very real interest, “Do you like them? Are you having fun?”

Nicks question returned me to me. What would make me happy? I thought about the time I would invest in preparing, presenting, and marketing my speech. I determined what that amount of work was worth to me. Suddenly I knew more about me and what I wanted. This felt like a good place to negotiate from. I knew I might not get what I wanted, but I now understood the importance of asking for what I wanted.

Talking about money often evokes issues of self-worth. It might be that making a boat load of money makes you feel invincible. Or not making what you want causes feelings of inadequacy. Either way, money is impacting your self-worth, for the good or the bad.

So slow down to notice when your money influences “who you think you are.” Take time to deepen your awareness of this and then compassionately disentangle the two. Money and self-worth do not need to be connected.

And the next time my mom’s voice asks, “Who do you think you are?” I will respond, “I think I am a woman who knows what she wants.”

Most of the time…

With Love,

Patricia Boswell

What are Money Dates? How Can They Conquer Your Money Fears?

When my x-husband and I separated, my money fears began to sound like death threats. I tended to be a money worrier anyway, but pulling the plug escalated my chronic worry from “there is not enough,” to “I’m gonna die and my little dog too.”  Although I believed I had stayed in the marriage “because of the kids,” in hindsight, I now know I stayed because I was financially terrified.

Any therapist worth her salt would begin to self-diagnosis at this emotional juncture. So I began to notice myself from a therapeutic lens. Was my fear based in reality? Was I really going to become a bag lady? Were my kids going to starve? Be homeless? Were we going to die?

Probably not.

This soothed me as long as the sun was up. When it got dark my reality felt different. It had shadows. Scary ones that woke me in the middle of the night. I relied on Belleruth Naparstek’s sleep mediation to put me back to sleep; sometimes several times in the same night.

I was scared shitless.

Determined to survive, I sat down one evening with my check book, the months stack of bills, my faux-jewel keyed calculator, and a glass of wine. I lit candles and put a fire in the fire place. I was going to meet my fear head on!

That night I created a budget, estimating my utilities, calculating my necessary spending, identifying my unnecessary spending and taking deep breaths as I found my bottom line. I redid my son’s FASFA form indicating my separated parental status. I went shopping in my closet, finding items I had totally forgotten, so they felt new. I sorted through my freezer determined to use what I had before buying more.

At the end of the evening I sat straighter. I felt empowered. Instead of deprived, I felt abundant. My actions had created in me a sense of unfamiliar financial security.

The next month I did the same. Fire. Wine. Checkbook. Calculator. This time, as I wrote my checks I offered thanks for having the money to pay my bills.  Even though there wasn’t much left over, I had done it! We were warm and fed.

Each month my money and I met, sat down and worked things out. I talked kindly to myself and my money, whispering sweet nothings as I worked. I smiled. I felt interested in my money and how it supported me. I named these meetings “Money Dates.”

Money and I grew close. We began to like each other. We even began to look forward to our time together on our money dates. I had the same monthly income I had from the beginning of the separation, but I felt totally different. My checkbook balance had not changed, but my relationship to my money had. It no longer woke me up in a cold sweat. I now trusted myself and, to my surprise, my money.

Money Dates are a vital part of growing your relationship to your money. Be creative. Have some fun. Invite your money on a date and see what happens. Don’t be surprised if it is not love at first sight. Give both of you some time. Take it slow. Be truthful with one another.

And don’t go to bed mad at one another.

Abundantly Yours,

Patricia Boswell

Sometimes you just have to STOP!

Traveling with Dad meant riding by his rules. He was the driver, so it was his way or the highway…no pun intended. Dad’s rule? Once we left the driveway, we drove until we stopped for the night, needed gas or reached our destination. Whichever came first.

To accommodate Dad’s militaristic travel missions Mom would pack lunches, snacks, cold drinks and, just in case, a pee jar.

One summer vacation, several hours into our car ride west, after a picnic lunch traveling at top speed and a much coveted bottle of cold Coke, only allowed on trips and special Friday nights, I had to pee. Dad never broke speed, his one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a cigarette, his elbow hanging out the opened window.

Mom moved into action. She was on pee duty. She knew the drill and she didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps it was a little distraction to the monotony of Route 80 or perhaps she considered her options. Supervise and assist her 6 year old daughter peeing into a jar or let me do it myself and take our chances on my aim.

She climbed over the front bench seat of our white Rambler Station Wagon with the agility of a gymnast, pee jar in hand. She settled in between my brother and I and opened the repurposed Hellman’s Mayonnaise jar. I also knew the drill and dutifully went along with this absurdity.  After all, what did I know? I assumed cars came equipped with pee jars, just like AM/FM radios and power steering.

I filled the jar. I felt very much relieved, I had an empty bladder and had peed as successfully as my brother. I hadn’t spilled a drop.

Mom’s approach to waste removal was to toss the contents of the jar out of the window. I guess the number of fluid ounces of a mayo jar would not accommodate the entire trip with two kids aboard. I always wondered about the car behind us when mom did this. I think I asked about this once. I don’t remember if anyone answered. With all the car windows open it was hard to hear each other, so we didn’t talk much. I am not sure what our reason was for the same behavior at home.

So mom positioned herself for another successful toss. But, for some reason, this time, instead of throwing it out of my window, she reached into the front seat and threw it out of her window. Aerodynamics forced my still warm pee back through my open window where Mom and I unsuspectingly sat. We were drenched.

This was not supposed to happen. No one said a word.

Dad pulled over.

Sometimes you just have to stop!

XO

Patricia Boswell

How Long Do Birds Live?

The truth is, I never really thought about it. I never wondered. Even though I am attracted to birds. I watch them. Talk to them. Welcome them into my day as messengers from Spirit. I never wondered about them.

So as I sit on my couch, watching a Red Headed Woodpecker bang his head against the same old tree, I wonder what else is in front of me, every day, that I look at without seeing? Without understanding. Without curiouslity. When did I stop wondering?When did I stop asking?

As a child I drove my parents MAD with my wondering-unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing about me that maddened them. I wanted to know where God lived? And if Heaven was in the clouds, and planes could fly though the clouds, why didn’t all the people in Heaven fall through the clouds? I wanted to know how to decide something when there were always at least two choices? And, what makes something Good or Bad? And, if the earth was spinning why couldn’t I feel it? And, where do birds go to die? I never saw a bird just dead from old age. A cat may have gotten it. Or a car windshield. But I never saw a bird fall dead from a tree limb, or drop over mid step.

I think my curiosity resurfaced because I was sitting still. Warm cup of morning coffee in hand. No where to go. Nothing to do. (I delude myself, it is 5 days before Christmas and there is a ton to do. Denial is a beautiful thing!) But as I sat, I began to wonder about the New Year. How/what did I want to live, feel, do in 2016? As I wondered, looking out of the front window, I began to see. Really see. The birds.

I remembered I love to wonder. I love to move slowly, take time, ask questions. And, I really love the answers!

So, with Google at my literal fingertips I Googled “how long does a Robin live?” I was so fascinated, and so enjoyed that feeling of satisfied curiosity, that I Googled “how long does a Bluejay live?”

Birds live much longer than I thought. Robins live 4-5 years. The oldest banded robin lived 13 years 11 months. Blue jays live about 7 years, the oldest studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 ½ years old. One captive female lived for over 26 years.

Now you know too!

Have a WONDER FILLED Holiday,

Patricia Boswell

Retirement…Resmirement…

Have my friends always talked about retirement and I didn’t notice or is it that we are all old enough now that it comes up as often as our hot flashes, knee replacements and acid reflux?

Either way, I have noticed it is a common topic, especially at dinner parties. I listen, as only a therapist does, with interest and curiosity.

Where seems to be the first topic of retiremental discernment* discussed. Ideas of places to retire fill the room. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere inexpensive. Portugal. Mexico with other x-pats. Near their children. Or grandchildren.

What is the next topic. Usually because I can’t stand it anymore and I have to know. “What will you do?” I ask a little too intensely. I can tell because the speaker startles, like when you start to nod off and wake yourself up as your chin heads for your chest.

I ask because am hoping someone will have a great idea. One that I can consider if I stop doing what I am doing.

“Not Work,” they say with a lilt that sounds more like a question than a statement.

“But WHAT will you do?” I press on. Another trait of a therapist. We want to understand.

“Oh, I don’t know. Read more. Travel,” their voice trailing off. I am not sure if they are enraptured by a vision of themselves relaxing on a white sand beach, margarita in hand,   the book Retirement for Dummies, dogeared and highlighted, sitting beside them or they are noticing their plan seems a bit dull.

As I listen intently to my dinner-party-friends musings, trying to find the place in me that wants to read and travel more, I come up empty. I just can’t seem to find my desire to stop doing what I am doing.

Maybe, I wonder, I am not old enough to be thinking about retirement. But my friend, sitting across the table who is younger than me, is actively looking on-line for retirement friendly places. Or, perhaps I am not confident I can afford to retire, so I unconsciously protect myself from disappointment by not entertaining the possibility. “Expect nothing and you shall not be disappointed,” echoes in my head. Or could my high tolerance to discomfort be masking my secret wish to throw in the towel?

Yesterday I was talking with my dear friend Kathleen. We raised our kids together. Not to mention each other. She is thinking about her retirement. I listened. Interested. Brainstorming possibilities. Places? What she would do? When?

In a quiet moment she asked, “What about you? Do you think about retirement?”

Without thinking, I heard myself say, “I feel like I am just hitting my stride. I’m creating the career and life I’ve always wanted and I want to do more…so leaving it for another kind of life doesn’t fit for me right now.”

Wow! I didn’t know that!

I love when I happen upon my clarity. When I listen to myself and find my answers. I didn’t know how satisfied I was with myself and my life.

When I was in my 40’s, an astrologer told me I was a late bloomer. That it wouldn’t be until my 50’s that I would move into my life’s purpose in a full and felt way.

I think she was right. I am so glad to be here.

XO

Patricia Boswell